Thursday, February 21, 2008

XNA - Games for the Zune

Well there are always questions about an handheld game device from Microsoft. Well this isn't it. But what the XNA team did announce today is that XNA Game Studio 3.0 will support creating games for the Zune. And yes there will be multi-player games using the Zune's built in networking. Now that should be interesting. The announcement on the XNA blog is here. There is also a FAQ on the Creators Club web forum. Read the FAQ here. One thing of note is that your games will have access to non-DRM music on your Zune as well. That should make for some interesting mash up games.

But there is more. What about people being able to distribute or even sell their home grown games though Xbox LIVE Marketplace? Yep, that is coming as well. The announcement on the XNA blog is here with an FAQ here. Looks like some sample community games are available now and "will be playable for a very limited time." Get them while they are free people!

Personally I'm pretty psyched about the Zune games. I got a Zune for Christmas and some casual games to play on it interests me quite a bit. I like the idea of students having to learn how to deal with limited screens and limited memory as well. Nasty of me isn't it?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

DreamSpark - Microsoft Gives Software to Students for Academic Use

OK so it is already all over the blogosphere that  Bill Gates announced a new program called DreamSpark to give software to students. (The official press release is here BTW) So I'm kind of late to the party already. Channel 8 is going to be a key source for developing news on this project so you may want to keep looking over there.

In fact to kick it off there is an interview with Bill Gates (in case you were wondering who that guy with Max Zuckerman was) talking about the program and about the future potential of software.

So what is being offered? Glad you asked!

Microsoft developer tools.

Microsoft designer tools. Expression Studio, including:

Microsoft platform resources.

  • SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition
  • Windows Server, Standard Edition (Yes, Windows Server Edition!!)

There are two key FAQs.

A couple of questions have come after that. They are probably in the FAQs but maybe you can't wait or maybe they are not. Yeah, that's why I was waiting to blog so I could answer more questions. No really! OK maybe not  but it works out well that way.

What about high school?

It's coming. It has a high priority as the next step. Bill Gates says it will happen and that commitment appears several times in the press release and in other official statements. I'll have more information about this as things get settled and information becomes available.

How do students learn how to use this stuff once they have it?

I've got a few resources listed here and I am working on getting more listed. So return often. And if you have some to recommend please leave them in the comments.

  • Beginning Developer Learning Center - a great place to start with videos, tutorials, and projects for learners of all ages.
  • Coding 4 Fun - Lots of fun projects most with step by step instructions and many with videos.
  • MSDN Forums - These are the forums the professionals use but beginners are welcome and there are lots of people willing to help with technical questions. A lot of students and faculty members are already there asking the tough technical questions.
  • XNA Forums - If you want to learn how to develop video games with XNA this is the place to ask questions.
  • Channel 8 and the Channel 8 Student Union - lots of information in the videos there and lots of good discussion in the forums of the Student Union.

What about faculty? What about classroom/course use?

Microsoft is retaining their existing programs for getting software into the classroom and for course/faculty use. The MSDN Academic Alliance program (MSDN AA) is great for getting software for teaching labs, including a lot more than DreamSpark offers students, into the hands of faculty. Also there is the IT Academy program. If you are a faculty member who teaches IT/CS or related topics you really want to check those programs out. MSDN AA and IT Academy are both programs that already include high schools in case you were not aware of that.

Faculty can also get access to software though the Faculty Connection sites.

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Science and Engineering Links

Did you know that next week is National Engineering Week? Well it is. So in honor of that a few links.

Check out the Try Science web site - Sponsored by IBM. There you will find a list of science competitions by a wide range of sponsors and for a number of different age groups.

Last week I wrote about Maker Faire. If you are interested in science and engineering taken for fun and excitement check them out.

Last year I had the following links which appear to still be good.

Discover Engineering Online
Introduce a Girl to Engineering - This year's date for this is the 21st BTW
The Sightseer's Guide to Engineering

Engineering is fun, interesting and a great way to change the world. Spread the word!

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Build, Craft, Hack, Play, Make!

It looks like Maker Faire is starting to ramp up for this coming May. I'm trying to see if I can justify a trip out to California for it this year. Last year a couple of my friends worked the event showing off some really cool stuff and had a great time. Maker Faire is sort of s geek version of a county fair. It is a cross between a big county fair and a science fair with an emphasis on making things that are fun and interesting as much if not more than practical.

There is a "call for makers" out now. You can find out how you can show your own interesting projects there. I borrowed some information from the call for makers page and put them below but you should go here if you are interested in taking part.

Maker Faire Bay Area Entries: Deadline March 12, 2008
Key Points:
  • Entries Due: March 12, 2008. Space is limited, please submit your entry early!

  • Maker Faire Tryouts (See below): February 17, 2008, The Exploratorium, noon – 4pm.

  • Notification of Acceptance: Entries submitted by March 12 will be notified by March 19.

  • Maker Bay Area: May 3-4, 2008
    Hours: Saturday 10-6 pm; Sunday 10-5pm.

The Bay Area Maker Faire for 2008 will be May 3-4, 2008 in San Mateo, CA.