Mobile First Cloud First

A blog by Geert van der Cruijsen on Apps, Cloud & ALM

Session videos to watch from Build 2017 for Mobile developers

It’s been 2 weeks since we had a great week at Build 2017 in Seattle. In the weeks after Build all recorded sessions came online on Channel 9. I’ve created a list of all things relevant for (Xamarin) mobile developers ranging from the new Xamarin announcements that made the headlines to some other sessions that you might have missed but can be relevant for mobile developers.

build

Lets start with the basics:

Keynotes of day 1 & 2

Although the first day didn’t have that much mobile stuff in it it did a good job on displaying where Microsoft is aiming for in the future. AI is a big part in this and AI can also be big on Mobile so it might still inspire you to build great new innovations. The Second day was the day of Windows and also contained all the mobile stuff.

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/KEY01 & https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/KEY02

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“With great power comes great responsibility – Satya Nadella –  build 2017”

 

Xamarin

Xamarin had a bunch of sessions where they announced new things and showed their roadmap.

Xamarin: The future of mobile app development

When i first looked at the Build sessions i was about to skip this session. Sure James + Miguel are great presenters so that’s almost worth to watch but i expected this to be some Xamarin introduction. Luckily Miguel mentioned that this wasn’t the case so i was there. In this session Miguel explains what Microsoft is trying to achieve for mobile developers and they show all the new cool tools & bits for developers. a must watch! i especially like the bit where they demo the live player and the fastlane integration.

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8103

 

Visual Studio for Mac

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During the keynote Visual Studio for Mac was already announced but in this session Miguel and Joseph go through more of the details of Visual studio for the Mac and what the future for this IDE will look like.  Joseph and Miguel were clearly having fun on stage. Bunch of Hackers!

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8095

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What’s new in Xamarin.Forms

The third and last session held by Xamarin folks was about Xamarin Forms. Nobody less than Jason Smith explains about what is to come in Xamarin Forms 3.0 such as performance improvements,  and the FlexLayout which is an awesome feature for building apps across multiple device sizes. Some other things Jason mentioned were css like styling, one time binding and improvements in the listview

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8099

 

Mobile Center & Visual Studio

Mobile center is a new product that together with VSTS should cover most devops teams in a full devops solution for mobile developers. Here are the key sessions to watch regarding mobile center:

Visual Studio Mobile Center: Ship mobile apps faster

The major session by the Mobile Center team is a must watch if you are thinking about using mobile center.  Thomas Dohmke and Keith Ballinger explain all the new features of mobile center like UWP support, Push notifications and store deployments

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8072

 

Visual Studio Mobile Center and Visual Studio Team Services: Better together for your Mobile DevOps

This session by Simana Pasat explains what mobile center does and how this fits together with VSTS.

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/T6079

 

General C# & .Net

Build is not only about mobile development. There are several other sessions that are not specific for mobile developers but can be really useful for mobile developers since we still code in C# and .Net right?

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Three Runtimes, one standard… .NET Standard: All in Visual Studio 2017

Scott Hanselman and Scott Hunter gave a great presentation on .Net Standard and .Net core. important changes coming to .Net in the coming year. If you’re not up to date with what .Net standard is all about this session has your covered. Next to that the 2 Scotts are just generally funny so worth a watch even if you’re already an expert on .Net Core and .Net Standard 2.0

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8001

 

The future of C#

This session is a classic Build session that Mads and Dustin do every year. When i read the session abstract it made me laugh: “We’re Back!” it stated as this is a Build classic i remembered back from when i was at Build in 2012. This year they showed all the new features of C# 7 but also the road ahead of C# 7.1, 7.2 and C# 8!!

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8104

 

SignalR .NET Core: Realtime cross-platform open web communication

Damian Edwards and David Fowler explain the future of SignalR. SignalR was already a way of building real time communication between several devices but this was always a bit unreliable and wonky, especially on Mobile devices. With SignalR Core they are focussing on a complete rebuild from the ground up and looks really promising. I think this will be used a lot after it’s GA somewhere later this year

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8078

 

Cognitive Services

Cognitive services and AI were a major topic at build.  Here are some videos (next to the keynote) that might inspire you to use cognitive services in your apps

Computer vision made easy: From pre-trained models to Custom Vision, Microsoft Cognitive Services has you covered

Computer vision is a super cool topic and it’s so easy to implement. In this session Anna Roth shows you the possibilities of cognitive services related to computer vision

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8020

 

Using Microsoft Cognitive Services to bring the power of speech recognition to your apps

Next to computer vision speech recognition is another cognitive service that really blows my mind how far we’ve come with technology in the past few years. Watch this session for everything about speech recognition in your apps

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8092

Project Rome

Project Rome is a really interesting project for mobile developers and most mobile dev’s i’ve spoken at Build or after Build still didn’t have any knowledge about it. Project Rome focusses on inter device experiences for apps which is something that is going to be huge in the future is my prediction.

bill buxton

Cross-device and cross-platform experiences with Project Rome and Microsoft Graph

This session gives a good overview of what is possible by using Project Rome. Vikas and Carmen gave lots of demo’s and explained the why, the what and how of project rome

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8025

 

App engagement in Windows Timeline and Cortana with User Activities and Project Rome

Project Rome goes hand in hand with the Microsoft Graph and the addition of User Activities and Devices to the Microsoft Graph. In this session Shawn and Juan describe how you can engage users cross device by using the features of Cortana and the new Windows Timeline.

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8108

 

Bots

“Bots are the new apps”. it’s a sentence i’ve heard quite often in the past year which was unofficially called “the year of the bots”. Is this mobile tech?  I’m still not convinced this will replace native mobile apps but it’s a great addition to cover certain mobile moments.

bot framework

Bot capabilities, patterns and principles

I visited this session and i have to say i really liked it.  Mat Velloso and Ryan Volum give some real life examples of how you could set up a bot and what design patterns you can use to set up a good bot. Even if you’re not a bot developer this might inspire you to build some small bots or integrate them in your apps.

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8010

 

Windows

UWP was a big topic at Build as it is every year. although i haven’t focussed on this much during this year of Build since i was at all sessions above here focussing Xamarin and other Mobile or Azure related topics there is still quite a big list of videos worth watching is you’re building UWP apps.

The first major announcement that i really liked was the Fluent design system. Although i’m a dev i really love good design and these kind of systems really help me to build great stuff. I absolutely loved Metro (back when it was announced) but Microsoft didn’t upgrade this design language that much up until now.

 

fluent design system

Introducing Fluent Design

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8066

Build Amazing Apps with Fluent Design

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8034

 

Other sessions on UWP development:

What’s new and coming for Windows UI: XAML and composition

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8100

Windows Store: Manage and promote apps your way

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8098

App Model evolution

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8004

Nextgen UWP app distribution: Building extensible, stream-able, componentized apps

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8093

Ten things you didn’t know about Visual Studio 2017 for building .NET UWP apps

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8096

XAML custom controls for UWP: Start to finish

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/B8035

 

 

These sessions should cover quite some of your spare time to get you fully up to date of current mobile development in the Microsoft space. I really like listening to some of them during my commute. Did i miss any important sessions? please let me know in the comments.

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I had a great time at Build in Seattle so hopefully to see you next time.

Happy Coding!

Geert van der Cruijsen

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Created an open source VSTS build & release task for Azure Web App Virtual File System

I’ve created a new VSTS Build & Release task to help you interact with the (VFS) Virtual File System API (Part of KUDU API of your Azure Web App). Currently this task can only be used to delete specific files or directories from the web app during your build or release workflow. It will be updated in the near future to also be able to list files or to upload / download files through the VFS API.

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The reason i made this task was that i needed it at my current customer. We’re deploying our custom solution to a Sitecore website running on Azure web apps using MSDeploy. The deployment consists of 2 parts: an install of the out-of-the-box Sitecore installation and the deployment of our customisations. When deploying new versions we want to keep the Sitecore installation and MSDeploy will update most of our customisations. Some customisations however create artifacts that stay on the server and aren’t  in control of the MSDeploy package that can cause errors on our web application. This new VSTS Build / Release task can help you delete these files. In the future this task will be updated with other functionality of the VFS API such as listing, uploading or downloading files.

The task is available in the VSTS Marketplace and is open source on github.

Let’s have a look how to use this task and how it works under the hood.
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Building, testing and deploying precompiled Azure Functions

Azure functions are great to build small specialized services really fast. When you create an Azure Functions project by using the built-in template from the SDK in Visual Studio you’ll automatically get a function made in a CSX file. This looks like plain old C# but in fact it is actually  is C# Script. When you’re deploying these files to Azure you don’t have to compile them locally or on a build server but you can just upload them to your Azure Storage directly.

In the last update for Azure Functions the option to build precompiled functions was added. Doing this is actually pretty simple. I’ve created a sample project on Github containing a precompiled Azure function, unit tests for the function and an ARM template to deploy the function. Lets go over the steps to create a precompiled Azure function.

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It’s 2017: Test automation is not optional when building mobile apps!

Note: although this post focusses on mobile app development using Xamarin it also applies to other native mobile apps built in Swift, Java or even web apps. it’s 2017! whatever you are building get started with Test Automation!

As a consultant working for Xpirit i get to see a lot of different customers which I help with my expertise in building mobile applications to improve their mobile apps. Something I noticed in the previous year is that continuous delivery is a hot topic and companies and teams focus on deploying apps automatically to their testers through hockeyapp or even to the stores in beta and / or production.

In agile scenario’s (and come on who isn’t doing that currently? Every company or project I visit is saying they are agile or doing Scrum although some only do dailies and call that scrum 😉 ) In the current world it is really important to be able to release often because you want to be able to adapt to customer needs which are almost always changing and evolving.

Implementing a Shift left Quality Model

Test Automation is a process that does not belong to the developers or testers alone. It’s something that has to be in everyone’s mind from Product Owner to Developer and Tester. Automated tests can help you lower regression test effort but investing in Test Automation can really help you make a shift left focussing on quality earlier in your application development process.

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Created an open source VSTS build & release task for Sitecore.Ship

At my current customer we’re implementing an Azure environment which also contains a Sitecore application. We’re using VSTS to for all aspects of the application development lifecycle from agile planning to source control and automated builds & releases. In the release pipeline we can use the out of the box Azure web deploy build steps to deploy our code to our web app which is a Sitecore instance. The next step is to be able to also deploy the Sitecore content we created as code using TDS to our Sitecore Site.

Sitecore.Ship is an open source project which makes it easy to deploy Sitecore .Update files to your Sitecore Instance. It is created by Kevin Obee and it can be found here on Github

in our Build we build our TDS projects using MSBuild to generate .Update files which we can then deploy in our release pipeline to Sitecore. There was one problem however which was that there was no build task to do this. Since my role at my current client is supporting all the development teams in improving their continuous delivery process i decided to create a task to make their life easier.

sitecoreship
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Fix “App may slow down your iPhone” popup for Xamarin apps

For a while now (september 2015)  Apple requires apps that are submitted to iTunes to be 64 bit. When building your app for the simulator this isn’t required because app doesn’t go through the Apple screening. Since iOS 10.1 update however Apple added a little popup that checks if an app supports X64 and otherwise will show you a popup telling: “[App name] may slow down your iPhone”. It will only show the error message once and is meant for old apps which are added to the store before september 2015 and are still on peoples phones/tablets who need to update to X64.

Popup message: [App name] may slow down your iPhone

Screen Shot 2016-11-08 at 22.09.46

The fix is quite easy. just set the iOS build to support X64 also when building for the simulator.

Xamarin Studio

in Xamarin Studio go to properties of your iOS project. by rightclicking your iOS project. -> iOS Build tab  -> make sure that Supported Architecture for each configuration contains X86_64 or i386 + x86_64

Screen Shot 2016-11-08 at 22.08.58

Visual Studio

in Visual Studio right click your iOS project and select properties. -> go to iOS Build -> Advance tab ->make sure that Supported Architecture for each configuration contains X86_64 or i386 + x86_64

Screen Shot 2016-11-08 at 21.45.38

 

Although this is a small issue i got some questions by new developers what this message meant. so hopefully this blogposts helps those who were questioning why this message is showing up all of a sudden.

Happy coding!

Geert van der Cruijsen

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Adding an Azure web app to an Application Service Environment running in another subscription

Web apps and Api apps  in Azure are great, however when using them you have to agree to have them connected to the internet directly without the possibility of adding a WAF or other kind of additional protection (next to the default Azure line of defense). When you want to add something like that you have to add an Internal Application Service Environment to host your apps so you can control the network access to these apps.

App Service

However adding an Application Service Environment is quite costly if you are only running a few apps in them. (Minimum requirements for an Application Service Environment are 2 P2’s and 2 P1’s to run the Application Service Environment (ASE)

In our case adding an ASE was fine except that we have a scenario where we have quite a lot of subscriptions and most of them are quite small running only a couple of apps in them. Adding an ASE for each subscription was going to become a bit to costly so we came up with the idea of creating 1 central subscription called “Shared Services” where we would host things that multiple departments could share such as WAF functionality, the VNet, the Express route and also the ASE.

After creating the design we ran in to some problems actually implementing it because we weren’t able to select an ASE in another subscription which was part of the same enterprise agreement when creating an App Service Plan or Web App in Azure.  After checking it seems that this is a limitation of the Azure Portal and we had to use ARM templates to create our web app. This didn’t matter because we were planning on using ARM templates anyway. so we started to give it a try.

At first we had some trouble adding the ASE as our hosting environment. we tried adding the “HostingEnvironment” to point to the name of the ASE in our other subscription but this did not work and we kept receiving errors like “Cannot find HostingEnvironment with name *HostingEnvironmentName*. (Code: NotFound)”

ASE erorr message

 

After that we tried to remove the “HostingEnvironment” property and only set the “HostingEnvironmentID” to directly link to the full resourceID of our ASE. this did get our hopes up because we were able to deploy the web app, however it was running on the P1’s that were part of the workerpool of our internal ASE but it still had a public dns name and was accessible from the internet. I guess we weren’t supposed to created it this way. so i asked help from the Microsoft product team and they pointed me to the right correction.

It all boils down to using a newer API version of the Web App and App Service Plan ARM template API than that are generated in visual studio when building ARM templates. we had to use apiVersion: 2015-08-01

in here we can set the “hostingEnvironmentProfile” to the full resourceID of our ASE for both the App Service Plan as the Web App. Next to that we also have to set the sku to the correct worker pool within our ASE.

Now when we try to deploy our ARM template it will actually create an App Service Plan and Web App in another subscription than where our ASE is running. Nice!

Hopefully this post will help you when you run in to the same problems i did when trying to deploy web apps in an ASE using ARM templates.

Happy Coding / Deploying

Geert van der Cruijsen

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Techdays 2016 slides & Recap

Last week 4 and 5th of October Microsoft organized Techdays in the Netherlands and the full Xpirit team was there as platinum sponsor. We organized lots of cool things such as the Techdays Minihack zone where people could get hands on expierence and compete for cool prizes.  Xpirit was also the supplier of the official Techdays app which we open sourced during Techdays. The source can be found here on github: https://github.com/XpiritBV/app-evolve

 

As Xpirit we delivered 17 sessions and had 7 speakers on the event.  I delivered 2 sessions on Xamarin topics. Here are the slides for the sessions. The Videos are coming later (and will be in Dutch).

Xamarin Test cloud – From zero to hero in automated UI testing

Session abstract:

Looking at the mobile device landscape it became almost impossible to do manual testing on all types of devices that your customers use. Not even thinking about what your app looks like on some very rare Android devices. To ensure great quality of your apps you’ll have to introduce automated UI testing and Xamarin Test cloud can  be the tool for the job. During this session Geert will show how to  start building automated tests for mobile apps to demonstrate the features of Xamarin test cloud and how it could help you in your app development cycle. ‘Geert will give best practices and tips on what to test and what not to test and how to structure your tests. Join this session if you want to ensure your apps look great on all devices.

Slides:

Video: (in Dutch)

 

Techdays 2016 app: Behind the Scenes

Co-presenter: Roy Cornelissen

Session Abstract:

Every conference needs a good mobile app. During this session Roy and Geert will take you through the story of how they’ve built the Techdays 2016 app for iOS, Android and the Windows platform using Xamarin.Forms. They will show you cool stats of the app, it’s architecture, cool features we added and how we added them and lessons learned while building this app.

Slides:

Video: (in Dutch)

 

Next to all the cool sessions and minihacks we’ve delivered at Techdays we also launched a new issue of our magazine “Xpirit Magazine”. this magazine contains a lot of cool technical articles written by my colleagues and me. We handed out the magazine to everyone at Techdays but if you missed it you can still get a free copy (either pdf or FREE hardcopy)  here: xpir.it/magazine-3

XpiritMagazine_cover_large-1 (1)

articles covered:

CONTINUOUS DELIVERY 3.0
■ Continuous Delivery 3.0 – The next ‘next step’
■ Release management, from technical to functional practice
■ Infrastructure as Code
MOBILE
■ Mobile Innovation – Don’t wait for the ‘perfect’ app
■ Exploring the Microsoft Bot Framework
■ Continuous Delivery 3.0 for Mobile apps
ALM
■ Extending your Build and Release pipeline
■ Technical Debt you application Lifecycle
■ Doing testing right
CLOUD
■ Containers on the Microsoft platform: the full picture
■ Conquer the world with Azure Machine Learning
■ How to accelerate your choices using data

 

Hope to see you next year on Techdays. Xpirit will definitely be there!

Geert van der Cruijsen

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Upgraded my blog to Project Nami on Azure

My blog has been running on WordPress in combination with Microsoft Azure since the start. I always disliked the fact that i had to get a MySQL database using ClearDB to host it but it seemed the only way. A few days ago i made some mistakes and kinda broke my current blog (i won’t bother you with the details 😉 ) and had to do some reinstalls. Since quite some time passed i thought it might be good to do some research in the current possibilities of using native azure components for my datastorage.

the first thing i found was using MySQL in app with your Azure web app. This removes the dependency of ClearDB but you’ll still have some limitations such as being limited to a single instance and no features for access your database remotely.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 08.28.08

more info on MySQL in App preview:  https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/appserviceteam/2016/08/18/announcing-mysql-in-app-preview-for-web-apps/

When i looked a bit further i found another cool project called “Project Nami“. Nami stands for Not Another MySQL Install and is a fork of WordPress that changed the database layer to talk T-SQL so they could add SQL Azure as the database layer.

ProjectNamiLogo

Installing it was pretty easy. you can just get it from the Azure Marketplace when you search for “WordPress” or “project Nami” and after that it was installed in a few minutes.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 08.33.16

I have to say the performance is great! the initial costs seem to be lower than they were before and my blog seems to be a lot more responsive. I really liked the upgrade to Project Nami so thought I share it with you so you might consider making the same switch if you are still running wordpress + mysql on Azure.

One downside of my screwing up my previous blog instance is that all comments are kinda lost. so thats why you might not see any comments on my older posts anymore.

Geert van der Cruijsen

 

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Xamarin DevDays Amsterdam Recap

Yesterday  we organised one of the many Xamarin DevDays events in our Xpirit office in Amsterdam. It was great to see many people show up on such a sunny day in the weekend (Some of them coming all the way from London to attend this event here).

The day was split into 4 parts.

 

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All slides, samples and labs  can be found on github here: https://github.com/XpiritBV/dev-days-labs

Even if you weren’t at the event  the labs might be to interest of you because they contain some really nice detailed steps on how to create a Xamarin.Forms app including a Azure backend.

 

Xamarin Apps

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Marcel kicked of the day by explaining how to build true native apps using the traditional Xamarin approach.  How we can share up to 70 to 80% of our code while still having all features we would have when building native apps in Objective-C, Swift or Java. By building apps using Xamarin you have the possibility to use all the native tools to build your UI, you can create storyboards for iOS, define your Android UI in AXML and on Windows you can create your UI in XAML. These native UI’s connect to your business logic which you can write in C# and can be the same for all platforms.

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 13.01.45

Marcel also talked about the performance and how Xamarin apps can often even beat Java or Objective-C apps in performance. This is possible because on android the Mono runtime is sometimes just faster as the Java runtime on Android devices.

There are also some differences on how  your code will be compiled and published to the different devices. Android makes use of  Just in Time compilation in combination with IL code while on iOS a ARM-Binary is created using Ahead of Time compilation to build true native apps.

Screen-Shot-2016-08-28-at-13.02.02 (1)

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Xamarin.Forms

Then it was my turn to take the stage to do an introduction on Xamarin.Forms. Xamarin forms is library built my Xamarin to increase code sharing even further. you could go up to 99% code sharing with Xamarin while your apps still look and perform natively.

Xamarin forms is a UI framework that creates an abstraction on top of the UIs for Android, iOS and Windows and will let you design and create these UIs in your shared code which will then be turned into real native UI components when you compile for iOS, Android or Windows. if you use things like Tabbed pages the tabs will be placed at the bottom for iOS because that is what iOS users expect, and for Android it will create beautiful material design tabs at the top of your screen.

Screen-Shot-2016-08-28-at-13.02.36 (1)

You can define your Xamarin.Forms UI using XAML or C# and there are over 40+ pages, layouts and controls available.

Screen-Shot-2016-08-28-at-13.02.55 (1) Screen-Shot-2016-08-28-at-13.03.05 (1)

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Xamarin + Azure

After lunch Roy told a great story on how azure can help you speed up the development process of building your mobile backend with all the features that come with Azure.  We zoomed in on Azure Mobile apps and al the components that help you create mobile back ends and adding offline data synchronising between your mobile and the mobile backend with just 4 lines of code!

Screen-Shot-2016-08-28-at-13.03.59 (1)

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In the afternoon we spend some time with all the people who attended on building the labs or discussing different Xamarin questions. It was great to see all the people who were new to Xamarin being able to pick this up so fast and were able to write a simple app in a couple of hours.

If you missed this Xamarin DevDay in Amsterdam make sure you check the posts by Xamarin where they announce more of then during the coming months. Xlevelupmobile_logorgbpirit is also organising another Mobile development related event on 22nd of September together with AFAS. This FREE event is called LevelUp Mobile and we have great speakers like  Brechtje de Leij (mobile strategist and expert),  Laurent Bugnion, Jorn de Vries of Flitsmeister, Johan Gorter & Rick Hoving from AFAS Software & Roy Cornelissen and me From Xpirit . Sign up here: http://www.levelupmobile.nl

Happy coding! Geert van der Cruijsen  

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