It’s a good day for proponents of an open internet: The Federal Communications Commission just approved its long-awaited network neutrality plan, which reclassifies broadband internet as a Title II public utility and gives the agency more regulatory power in the process. And unlike the FCC’s last stab at net neutrality in 2010, today’s new rules also apply to mobile broadband. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler laid out the basic gist of the plan earlier this month — it’ll ban things like paid prioritization, a tactic some ISPs used to get additional fees from bandwidth-heavy companies like Netflix, as well as the slowdown of “lawful content.” But now Wheeler’s vision is more than just rhetoric; it’s something the FCC can actively enforce.
“It [the internet] is our printing press; it is our town square; it is our individual soap box and our shared platform for opportunity,” said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel during today’s open commission meeting. “That is why open internet policies matter. That is why I support network neutrality.”
It seems we have come along way in what seems a short amount of time. Actually its a lot longer than I care to think about. Now a days I spend my time knee-deep in databases and data entry forms and lets not forget, reports. Data, data, data. But there was a time when such things were the last thing on my mind. Dare I say it something much more frivolous and fun. Games. Back when people were writing software in their bedrooms (we weren’t called developers then) and games weren’t multi-million pound productions with hundreds of people working on them. For the record I didn’t have my first computer in the bedroom. It was for the whole family and used the TV in the front room. It was a Commodore VIC-20. Which later was ungraded to a Commodore 64 and then an Amiga 1000.
But writing code has always been fun and I had to have a go at my favorite arcade game of the time, Donkey Kong. I never got very far playing on it. It’s still pretty damn hard when I try playing it with MAME. But its only got 4 levels so they’re not going to let you do it quickly. I had already got one game coded on the VIC-20. A breakout clone. Even managed to sell a copy of it to a friend. Actually he wanted to buy it. There was definitely a shortage of good quality games at the time. If I remember correctly it would only get every brick if I allowed the ball to go through a wall once or twice. Certainly made it interesting to play.
Wanting to do better next time I aimed higher. This time I had designed a new font for the game. This was essential for a VIC-20 game as custom fonts were used to display graphics. The Mario like character, the Kong character, platform, everything, was a character in a font or made of several characters. That meant I could use that font designer we typed in from a listing in Compute magazine. Of course we typed it in. There was no Internet, we couldn’t download it. There was nowhere to download it from. Program source code was printed in magazines and people had to type it in. Of course they had to make sure they typed it in correctly, or they would be playing an entirely different kind of game. A bug hunting one. A lot more frustrating and not nearly as much fun. Some of those listings were hexadecimal assembly code. They even had special software to make typing that in that bit easier. But you had to type those in first of course.
I liked the designing graphics part. That was definitely fun for me, and it made the creation of the code to make them move about the screen more interesting. After all what would you rather watch, a funny little man running around the screen or the letters “A” and “B”. As we were moving characters or symbols around the screen this wasn’t smooth pixel movement. This was move a graphic 8 pixels a time for every step. But hey those were the days. Moving graphics around the screen a pixel at a time was more complicated for the old VIC-20. It could be done but that meant manipulating the custom font in real-time to map a graphic to a set number of characters. This meant some very clever code in assembler. I wasn’t quiet at the stage yet. But I didn’t let it stop me from going ahead and coding my version of Donkey Kong. Of course I couldn’t call it that. So I came up with the name Logger. After all those do look like logs rolling down the platforms.
It didn’t seem long at all before I had a working game written in BASIC that only had one screen and only one log-rolling at once. But it worked and it was only my second attempt at coding. So I was quite proud.
Around this time a new magazine had started to be published in the UK called “Computer and Video Games“. Or C&VG for short. As there weren’t a great deal of games to review they, like other magazines, published the source code of games for the readers to type in and, cross their fingers and, hope it worked. I thought why not send mine in. A month or so later I received a copy of the magazine in the post and a cheque for 10 pounds. Much boasting to my college friends followed. Can’t remember if they were impressed or not.
Why this trip down a very long memory lane? The guilty confession is something that you are probably guilty of. Googling yourself. You haven’t done that? Really? Of course not. Lower down my search results was something I hadn’t seen for sometime. Site’s have cataloged nearly every game you can think of. This particular site (GB64) had not found “Logger” in the magazine but in a book. As apparently it had been collected with many others and reprinted. They even had a screenshot. How about that. You can even download it from here. Well, it saves you from having to type it in.
Microsoft Garage is an initiative at Microsoft that works like an internal accelerator, taking ideas that employees have outside of their ordinary day jobs and turning them into real apps. The first batch broke cover last October, and now there are nine new projects making their official debut today.
These include a mobile app that lets software engineers check in on Visual Studio Online projects in a secure way without having to be on the company intranet on their notebook; a weather app designed for use in China that offers air quality reports customized for each user; and a conference call management app that can pull meeting ID and pins from invites and automatically enter the details to connect you to your call with a simple tap or voice command.
DevSpace, Your Weather and Join Conference are the apps Microsoft highlighted in a blog post announcing the new slate, but a few that might be even more useful for some users include Keyboard for Excel, which replaces your software keyboard with something specific to Excel, for optimal input of figures and formulas. The SquadWatch app, another Garage production, provides real-time location on friends and family who agree to take part, much like a Find My Friends for Windows Phone.
Other new apps that have already broken cover but that are re-launching with new features or updates in this batch include Mouse without Borders, which allows you to control multiple computers with a single mouse and keyboard; Developer Assistant, which offers a way to browse and re-use code snippets and samples from Visual Studio; Picturesque Lock Screen, which puts Bing home page pictures on your Android lock screen, as well as direct search and call/text notifications; and finally Torque, which gets updates that let you define Android shake behavior to trigger a range of actions, including voice search, calls, dictation or app launching.
Microsoft’s Garage is producing some of the most interesting software to come out of Redmond or any of the MS satellite offices in years, and this collection is no exception. Fostering innovation in an organization that size, which in many ways depends on stability and an innate conservatism is no small feat. Garage has managed to produce some interesting stuff you probably wouldn’t see come out of Microsoft’s main businesses, so it’s definitely helping to reduce the risks associated with large, slow-moving corporate entities.
I’ve always liked Microsoft OneDrive and this could be a good way of sharing your files between your web apps and mobile apps. I’ve had a little project on the back burner for a while. Maybe a reason to dust it off now.
Despite recent partnerships with Dropbox, Box and other cloud storage solutions, Microsoft isn’t giving up on OneDrive: the company is today launching a new API for the platform.
The new tool lets developers integrate OneDrive right into their apps; the API supports Windows, iOS, Android and the Web. It also brings some new features, such as:
Allow apps to retrieve new changes to files and folders with minimal sync calls
Resume uploads of files up to 10GB
Customizable file thumbnail images for better design integration
Previously, developers had to use the Live SDK in order to integrate OneDrive into their apps; though that will still work, Microsoft is encouraging developers to shift towards the new API because of its new features.
Interested developers can check out the new API at Microsoft’s hub.
The good thing for developers who use Microsoft tools is there is no shortage of those tools. If you’re just starting out there is now no shortage of tools that will help you without having to throw you in at the deep end. Still there is a lot to learn but where to start has gotten a little easier.
Microsoft Imagine connects you with the tools and knowledge you need to create, code, and develop your ideas. So whether you’re new to coding, studying it in school, or planning for your career, you can dream big, build creatively, and boldly bring your ideas to life. Microsoft Imagine Access is students all-access pass for the software tools they need, no matter their skill level or experience, and all at no cost.
It’s fairly easy to find friends and family if you have an Android or IOS device, but finding your pals with a Windows phone? Not so much, unless you come across the right third-party apps. That may not be a big challenge for longer. Spanish site Microsoft Place has detailed an as yet unreleased service, People Sense, that will let you share and track locations with other Windows phone owners. The basic concept is familiar if you’ve seen Apple’s Find My Friends, but there’s a stronger emphasis on reaching out — you can call or message contacts in-app, and even get directions if you’d like to meet face to face. People Sense is still in private beta testing (it’s listed as “Buddy Aware” at the moment) and has no clear release date, but it won’t be surprising if the software plays a role in Windows 10.