|The Ultimate Coder challenge continues and it looks like the contestants are getting down and dirty. To add to the spice I now have in my hot little hands a prototype next-gen Ultrabook loaded with Windows 8 with which to test actual applications. The unit is a pre-production test unit, so it will never actually be on the market, nor is it meant to be a perfectly polished example of the genre. The fact that they provided the sort of power cable you'd find on power tools, and the lid is rubberised so that (a) you can get a good grip on the thing, and (b) it probably bounces when dropped, speaks volumes about the kind of torture to which they are expecting it to be subject. It makes me want to look at them with big, wide, innocent eyes and reassure them that I won't break it. I promise.
I am deliberately not investigating the new Ultrabook features on the demo unit. In fact I'm deliberately not even trying to find out which features it has because I want the contestants, through their apps, to teach me. I want to discover the features, and I want to be amazed. I am, however, re-familiarising myself with windows 8 and The Design Formerly Known As Metro (DFNAM) UI. I'll say outright I'm not a fan of the schizophrenic Desktop/The DFNAM UI split personality.
As a reminder: central to this quest is requirement that contestants "create apps that take full advantage of the performance advances, graphic excellence, touch and sensor technologies of the latest Ultrabook™ computers". This is a competition and while an awesome application that blows me away gets points, only an application that takes full advantage of the unique abilities of an Ultrabook running Windows 8 will win. Showcase the platform, not your application, and prepare to get out of your comfort zone.
As has been a theme, Lee is tromping through with steel shod boots where angels fear to tread. The man is crazy, and I dig that about him. If you are looking to develop Windows 8 applications, follow Lee's blog. He's starting from basics - commenting out windows.h, building (and failing to have success with) static libraries, multi-core development, sensors, DirectX 11 and everything that comes with that.
George and Suresh are continuing with their MoneyBag rewrite. They have progressed to the point where a preview is available, but the download requires registration and no registration email made its way to my inbox. So, as much as I'd love to comment on what they've done hands on, I can't. However, they have continued to provide extensive details on how they are progressing and the challenges they are facing, and have provided a checklist of Ultrabook features they are targeting. Not all Ultrabook features centre around sensors and jet-packs. These guys are focusing on the subtler things such as instant on, touchscreens and Smart Connect.
John at Soma games are discussing what they are using more than how they are supporting Ultrabooks. In particular they posted that they will be using the Unity 3D 4.0 engine - which is an interesting gamble since it hasn't been released yet. While it's great that the Unity 3D 4.0 engine will support the DFNAM UI, I would like to have heard more on how this ties in with their application really showcasing the Ultrabook experience. They demoed touchscreen, DFNAM support means it plays nice with Windows 8, and Unity 3D should push the GPU hard, but I'm hoping there will be some other sensor or power management or notification based component of the game that makes you think "this is a great game on a PC, but it's killer on a Ultrabook".
Sagar have hit another seemingly unnecessary roadblock: ambient light sensor support need the DFNAM. They are also having NFC sensor issues on their Ultrabook, which just continues their run of bad luck. Part of the challenge in this competition is that it's being run on pre-production hardware and so driver support may be immature. I know I ran into a wall trying to get a new touchpad driver, so I'm hoping their contacts at Microsoft and Intel will come through with the goods. At least the accelerometer is working for them.
Andreas is plugging away at his language training app. Since he's chosen to use HTML, issues with building libraries, using native code, and all the fun with sensors is a non-issue. Although, that's a double-edged sword since it limits his ability to really show off what an ultrabook can do.
We'll see what everyone has up there sleeve next week.
The Code Project | Co-founder
Microsoft C++ MVP