Category Archives: Microsoft

On Leaving Microsoft

I left my role at Microsoft quietly in October this year.

At the time I thought I was going to write a longer post about it then and there, but then an entire month went by, and I didn’t do that! In fact, I didn’t write much of anything for a while.

Part of me wishes I could say that I left the job for some ethical reason, because there are people out there right now with some valid ethical concerns about MS business practices. I support those people. But that’s not really the reason the job stopped being right for me.

In general, I am really proud to have worked at Microsoft. I enjoyed most of my time there. I loved the people I met there with whom I collaborated and still consider many friends. I’d consider going back to Microsoft in fact, after taking some time and if I was welcome, but the role itself would have to be right.

About a year-and-change ago I made the post that my title had changed from Evangelist to Engineer and with that came some changes to the job. At first those changes happened slowly. I was sanguine about it because the job had always changed. Basically every July there was a re-org, big or small, and with that came some updates to my responsibilities. For a time, the Evangelist job was the exact right job for me. But after a while it started to shift from a job with a regional focus, to a job that involved a lot of additional travel. This was also great at first, but the amount of time I spent on airplanes made my health suffer a bit, which is something I’m still rebounding from.

Still, I stuck with the role a bit more. Gradually, all the things I liked about the job, or that I excelled at, were no longer part of the job. I went from focusing on the success of students and startups (areas for which I have passion) to focusing on the success of other large corporations. The role had some games and VR component, which are areas in which I have expertise, but I had to keep fighting to get work like that and less and less of it was crossing my lap. At first, as per my post, I was working on Games and AI, and then slowly I was not really working on those things. Finally, there came a point where I was actively discouraged from taking any more speaking engagements at conferences.

I was looking to shift to a role internally that would align to my passions and be more suitable. But all the roles that were coming across my line of sight were other B2B roles in areas where I would have to learn from the ground up. I think the people that started as Evangelists, but had a background in what I’d call traditional enterprise development, had a smooth transition to the engineering role. But I’m a largely self-taught developer with a heavy focus on game design, 3D modeling, and UX. There was no place here for me that really felt right.

Many people asked “what’s next?” and the honest answer is that I needed this time to recover from a little burnout and find my creative passions again. I am very grateful to my spouse for giving me the time and space!

It’s hard for me to say what I could’ve done differently, or what other opportunities I had, that might have kept me at Microsoft longer or found me a better position there. Rather than dwell on the past I would like to be pleased with what I accomplished and move toward the future.

I am actively interviewing and I am officially on the market! I also have a lot of fun small creative projects in the works that I am going to be releasing in small doses as the year ends. If you would like to work with a creative person who loves video games, loves accessible design, who has spoken internationally and been published in some thoughtful books… please check out my Linked-In or reach out to me directly on Twitter.


What Is: Microsoft Cognitive Services

Lately I’ve taken an interest in Microsoft’s Cognitive Services suite, and given some talks about Cognitive Services around the country. Since it makes sense to take some notes on this process, I’m going to write a couple of blog entries going through some of the services available and some sample code for people who want to try it out. Before I start doing that, I’ll just write a brief intro about what Cognitive Services are and why they’re pretty cool.

Cognitive Services used to be called Microsoft Project Oxford. Since its debut it’s expanded to include more features. This is a suite of intelligent APIs that work cross-platform to provide intelligent data such as facial recognition in images, voice recognition of speakers, and video stabilization. There’s a variety of APIs to explore here. You can access the APIs from any kind of app that you want to interface with them, though I have been coding in C# the most lately so that’s what I’ll use in examples.

You might already be familiar with Cognitive Services already if you tried out the How-Old.Net website back in May of last year. (I recall this going viral, then a big scare about if Microsoft was saving your images and violating privacy, but… the site doesn’t save your images, so don’t worry if you want to play around with it.) There’s also another favorite, the Fetch app, which is at It can recognize breeds of dog, or tell you what dog it thinks you are…


It thinks I’m a poodle.

You should check out all the APIs that are available and just play around. I particularly have fun with the Image Analysis. It’s pretty smart, though it’s not always a hundred percent right which is why it gives off a confidence rating whenever it analyzes a picture. What impresses me as well is it recognizes a pretty amazing variety of celebrities, including people from television and Broadway. Also, I will stealthily point out to you that it judges pictures on their Adult Content and Raciness Rating, which has lots of practical and impractical applications.

As an Interactive Fiction fan, I’m also really excited about the possibilities in the natural language understanding API. With my background, I think of it as a potential for a much better text parser for a conversational IF. I’m going to be approaching a new project from that angle.

If you want to do more than just play and use these in an app, you’ll need a Microsoft account to log in and get API keys. (It’s the “My Account” button in the top corner.) I’ll post step by step later, but if you can’t wait, you may also see me at Philly Code Camp this Saturday discussing them! Maybe see you this weekend!

Fixing A Frowny Face on the Raspberry Pi

This post is to document a weird error for posterity. But first, some background:

We’ve been working for a while on a device that uses the Raspberry Pi 2 running Windows 10. It’s neat! If you want more information about how to install Windows 10 on a Raspberry Pi 2 or 3, go here:

Windows IoT
Basically, the steps are:

  1. Get Pi
  2. Get an SD Card for the Pi
  3. Download and install Windows 10 on that SD Card
  4. Slip that card into the Pi and boot
  5. Connect your board to a network (I used wired at first, but a wireless gadget can work too)
  6. Deploy code to the board

The first few steps of getting Windows up and running are really straightforward!

But:  I encountered a problem sometimes. Folks told me it’s worth it to write this entry in case other people run into that same problem.

Windows 10 worked great for me when my Pi was plugged into the wall. However, I’m creating a device that I want to be portable, so I’m powering the Pi, and the Pi’s tiny screen, with these portable power supplies that run on AA batteries. They work great! Mostly!


However, the battery drain on the device from running an entire computer and a small monitor was more than I initially imagined. And batteries don’t die evenly. When the battery power is low, but not entirely dead, the Pi might give the impression that it’s working even if it doesn’t actually have enough juice to work. When that happens, it will start dropping off the network, not allow you to push code, and then, finally, it will lose Windows.

When that happens, you might get the dreaded Frowny Face error.

This error is very mysterious. A frowny face definitely tells you something is wrong, but it really doesn’t help you understand what.

I did find the frowny face hilarious though. My Pi is currently in a 3D printed case that has a small window, so the frowny face made it look just like Game Boy from the Captain N cartoon…


Sorry, I’m showing my age. I think this is also a character on Adventure Time?


It’s the same character, people; it’s amazing! Only mine was, as I mentioned, frowning.

Anyway, I discovered that the problem, essentially, was that the Pi had some power, but not enough power. When it didn’t have enough juice, it wasn’t able to boot up Windows 10 after all. All it could do about this was be sad! The problem was fixed when I simply replaced the batteries in my portable power supply. I rebooted Windows, and I was able to push code again. But since it seemed like it was sort of working, I’m ashamed to admit it took me quite a while to figure out that the problem was the power supply, rather than Windows or the SD card. This is especially true because it doesn’t all fail at once. First pushing code stops working, then Windows stops working, as the power gets lower and lower. So if you do get the frowny face, don’t despair! Try getting more power and the Pi will work again.

Happy hacking!

Fragments: Design for Mixed Reality

Anyone who knows me knows how extremely excited I was for the HoloLens, the Mixed Reality device being developed by Microsoft. When I saw the live demonstrations of the device, I knew I had to have it.

All that being said, as excited as I was about the HoloLens, I was excited about it for reasons beyond my usual. HoloLens has  tremendous potential in the fields of science, medicine, construction, education, and engineering. I was not really sure how it would fare as a gaming device, however. It seemed likely that casual games could find a home there, but could a device that overlays holograms onto the real world be home to a deep narrative experience?

Well, now I’ve played the game Fragments on HoloLens, and I am convinced.

Continue reading

Raw Tech on Channel 9

Since this summer, Microsoft Evangelists have been working hard to put more content on Channel 9, Microsoft’s home for tutorial and video blogs.

Today, I uploaded a short video, a ten-minute summary of the hour-long talk I gave at CodeMash about mobile game design! I hit the highlights and go over some tips about mobile design I’ve learned from years of observation. Check it out here:

Channel 9: Design Tips for Mobile Games

The Raw Tech blog series is a series uploaded by Evangelists like myself. There’s been so many new videos uploaded it would take days to watch them all now, but some stuff that might be of particular interest to people who read my blog:

Dave Voyles talking about making a digital games portfolio

Sarah Sexton discussing Unity and Visual Studio

Stacey Mulcahy on using a Breadboard (important stuff for beginning Makers!)

There’s also some great podcasts for your listening pleasure like Tobiah’s Be Indie Now and Dave’s Indie Dev Podcast. I like podcasts when I’m cranking on work on the second screen.

This year, I’m going to help contribute to more game content on Channel 9, and Livi Erickson’s awesome AR/VR show!


How to Make your First Windows 10 App

Because Windows has been slowly transitioning from one app model to another, I found it tricky at first to find Windows 10 specific resources. I started playing around with the Windows 10 specific universal app creation tools recently. Now I’m creating this quick guide to help you make your very first simple Hello World app targeting Windows 10. Hopefully you’ll find this quickstart useful, and then you can move on to using some more complex samples to create more complex apps.

1. Open up Visual Studio 2015. (Community 2015 here is free.)

2. In the file menu, choose New Project – > BlankApp Universal Windows.

3. Name the new project HelloWin10. At least, that’s what I did. What you name things initially in XAML is important because references use exact names and if you can’t keep track of names things will be broken. So be sure that whatever you call it you’re comfortable with still using it throughout the project. If you choose to call it something else, make sure that you replace any references to HelloWin10 in the code below.

4. In your MainPage.xaml.cs have this code:

using Windows.UI.Xaml;
using Windows.UI.Xaml.Controls;
using Windows.UI.Xaml.Navigation;

namespace HelloWin10
public sealed partial class MainPage : Page
public MainPage()

private void HelloButton_Click(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
DisplayText.Text = "Hello, world";

5. In your MainPage.xaml have this code:

<Page x:Class=”HelloWin10.MainPage”

<Grid Background=”{StaticResource ApplicationPageBackgroundThemeBrush}”>


<Button Content=”Click Me” Click=”HelloButton_Click” />

<TextBlock x:Name=”DisplayText” FontSize=”48″ />




6. Test your app by clicking the green arrow or going to Debug. An app screen should appear (if you are on Windows 10). Here the Click Me button calls HelloButton_Click so it displays the text Hello World.

Yeah, so it’s not much of an app, but you gotta start somewhere. In the future I’ll make some more robust apps using data from the web and from Azure and show you those processes too. I’m working out of these files on GitHub and I’ll create a few branches. If you see that the code on GitHub has a little more in it than just Hello World, that’s because I’ve also integrated Template 10 by Jerry Nixon which has a few additional features. It’s not necessary to get started, though!

For learning more about C#/XAML, check out Virtual Academy.