Andrej Tozon's blog

In the Attic


Windows Phone 8 and our “localized” keyboard layout

This is a rant (somewhat).

Windows 8 features a nicely convenient on-screen keyboard, which is mostly useful when using on a touch device, like a tablet. I’m quite often using it on my Surface, when my touch cover is not attached.

Now, let’s take a look at a Slovenian layout of this keyboard:


The keyboard layout is QUERTZ, with South Slavic layout, standardized in the 80’s and used in Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and other (at that time) republics of former Yugoslavia. That means there are five additional letters on there. Letters č, š and ž (circled green) are part of all South Slavic alphabets, while đ and ć (circled red) are not in Slovenian alphabet.

Although this is a Slovenian keyboard layout, the presence of non-Slovenian characters is far from annoying or discomforting – besides the fact that there are also other (English) characters present, we’re used to this layout and have adopted it a long time ago, plus sometimes those characters come in rather handy.

But again, those red characters are not part of Slovenian language and that’s why I was surprised to see the Slovenian on-screen keyboard on my Windows Phone 8 (taken on my Nokia Lumia 920):


It struck me weird that Microsoft would, out of five Slavic characters, pick the two that are not part of the Slovenian alphabet.

Taking another look at the above Windows 8 keyboard layout - notice how š and č are right next to  p and l? Wouldn’t it be natural to take this exact layout  to the Phone keyboard? So now, out of 28 letters on Windows Phone keyboard, there are 6 of them that aren’t in Slovenian alphabet – q, w, y, x (English), and ć, đ (Croatian/Serbian Latin/Bosnian).


Of course, you can also (besides typing a combo of c and ˇ) access all letters by pressing and holding down the base letter, which gives you more options – and - behold č as the first option:



Fix please?

Announcing a new user group

Dear Slovenian developers and UI enthusiasts, mark your calendars for 8th of November 2011 as that’s the day we’re launching a new user group targeting the UI/UX professionals.

SIUX LogoSIUX – Slovenian UX User Group – a sister user group (or a Siamese twin group as we fondly call it Smile) of now years-running SLODUG, Slovenian Developers User Group (SLODUG), where we’ll focus on technologies and areas like WPF, Silverlight, HTML5, Kinect, Windows Phone, Windows 8; talk through their visual and interaction design aspects; explore user interface examples, usability and related factors.

SLODUG and SIUX will share their members and meeting place. As mentioned, the first, inaugural meeting, will take place on Tuesday, 8th of November 2011, starting at 17h. Two talks are scheduled for the meeting: Developing for XBox Kinect by Sašo Zagoranski and Metro: the UI of the future?  by me. The meeting will take place in Microsoft Lecture room at Šmartinska 140.

Full agenda:

17:00: Intro & announcements
17:15 – 18:00: Developing for XBox Kinect, Sašo Zagoranski / Semantika d.o.o.
18:15 – 19:00: Metro: UI of the future?, Andrej Tozon / ANT Andrej Tozon s.p.
19:00: Discussion over pizza &  beer

We’re also looking for speakers – if you’re interested or  know anybody from the field, please contact me and we’re schedule your talk in one of our next meetings.

Hope to see you!

Until then, you can follow us on Twitter or join our Facebook group.

New Windows Phone App: MapSnapper

My latest Windows Phone application was published to the marketplace a few days ago:

MapSnapper is a simple utility application that utilizes static Bing maps feature to capture a favorite piece of Earth with your Windows Phone.

In its essence, the application lets you navigate a map of the world, using aerial or roads view, zoom in and out until you find  that perfect place you wanted to take a snap of. After taking a snap, the application serves you with not a bitmap image of the snapped location, but the link to a static Bing image that will correspond to the specific view you were looking at when taking a snap. You can specify the dimensions of the final snap and share the link through the email.

MapSnapper_10-10-2011_9.27.36.416   MapSnapper_10-10-2011_9.27.47.822

I developed the application because I needed to get to a number of specific links to certain Bing static images for some other application I’m doing. This application helped me a lot so I decided to make it public. It’s free and you can download it from the Windows Phone marketplace right now!


  Get MapSnapper



Please let me know if you find the application useful.

Twedge, a simple Silverlight 4 twitter widget

Today’s brief IM conversation about twedge reminded me about this project I put together in the last minute for a local conference last May. Twedge is a simple twitter widget, build with Silverlight 4. You can  specify some colors, time interval and search terms for displaying tweets through the InitParams, making it somewhat configurable. Uses layout states to  display the tweets, allows text selection and highlights links, #hashtags and @names.
I wanted to finish it properly before releasing it to the Codeplex, but with that not happening any time soon, I decided to do it regardless.

So there it is, twedge on Codeplex.

Run the live version

Watch Silverlight TV videos, pinned to full screen

One of the “annoyances” with Silverlight (and similar browser plugins) is with watching a video in a multi-monitor set up – you would pop out your Silverlight video player to full screen on one monitor and continue working on your other monitor – which would cause your video player to return to its normal size, ruining your watching experience. Well, that was the case until Silverlight 4 came out. Silverlight 4 supports “full-screen pinning” in a way that you can choose the Silverlight 4 app to remain pinned to full screen on one monitor even if you focus your work on the other.

Unfortunately, (the regular) Channel 9 still doesn’t use Silverlight 4 which means you don’t get this option of full-screen pinning, but guess what – Channel 9 is in a process of refurbishing and a preview of the new site is available at the This is good news for us because they’re using Silverlight 4 for their player, which basically means you can watch your Silverlight TV full-screen pinned simply by prefixing Silverlight TV show’s URL with the word preview. For example, show 40: You Are Already a Windows Phone Developer is available on

However, there seems to be a lag with publishing new content, resulting in shows not being available on the preview site at the same time as on the regular time. At the time of this writing, it appears that Show 40 is the last one available on the preview site, with shows 41 and 42 remaining on the regular site only. Anyway, it’s good to see Channel 9 going Silverlight 4 – hope to the new site up and running soon.

Putting Silverlight tweets on the map

Twitter Maps application was updated last night to allow embedding custom Twitter maps on web sites. The process of creating a custom Twitter map is fairly easy, these are the steps for creating a Silverlight tweets map.

1. Go to the Bing Maps site, click on the MAP APPS button and select the Twitter Maps application:


The Twitter Maps application will open, showing you the location of the most recent tweets in your area. Of course, only geotagged tweets will be shown on the map.

2. Click on the plus sign on the left side to open the Search Filters panel:


3. Type “silverlight” into the keywords field and click Submit:


4. Click the Embed in your site button, found at the bottom of the left column:


… and the embedding dialog window will show up.

5. Select Anywhere for the Map Location and check that the Current Filters is set to “silverlight”:

image6. Copy the provided HTML code into your site.

And this is how this Silverlight tweets map looks like:

Using different filters and settings will get you a whole lot of alternatives for creating your own Twitter map. With geotagging getting more popular by the day, your maps will be getting richer along the ride.

Shidonni - Silverlight-based creative playground for your children

I stumbled upon this really nice Silverlight application today – Shidonni is a sort of social networking application for creative children – it lets them create their own animals, put them in a world that they’ve created, feed them with the food they’ve drawn and share them with their friends on the internet. A wide range of games is available, where children play with their own creations and compete with each other.

The application seems to be around for over a year now, but there was this extra which caught my attention. Since last November, Shidonni offers a service of making real plush toys from your child’s creations!


Shidonni appears to be one of the larger freely available Silverlight applications out there on the net, its features making it a good use case for Silverlight.

Developers, please mind the locale!

I’m observing this really irritating trend with new software lately…

I followed up on a couple of tweets today to try the new Silverlight application everyone was RT’ing of. Clicked on the link and the loading animation began. Seconds later, it… stopped.


Then I noticed an icon in IE’s left bottom corner…


The following detailed message confirmed my assumptions about what caused the error:


“Input string was not in a correct format”!

I’m sure that if you live outside US/UK and follow Silverlight community, you have encountered this error before. For example, I’ve been to at least two online events in the past year, with live streaming content delivered over a Silverlight player, which displayed this very same error when launched.

Here is the list of some other apps that I’ve worked with recently, that have been showing the same symptoms. To name just a few:

Silverlight Bing Maps, specifically the Twitter app – can you find the difference between these two links?


The first link uses a dot as a decimal separator and will work for English locales, while the second one uses commas and will work for non-English locales (speaking generally). Note that URL will be converted to the default format when application is loaded, probably throwing you somewhere in an ocean, if the numbers weren’t in the expected format.

Live Labs Pivot (desktop app) will crash on startup when locale is not set to English.

Six-Degrees Search is the application I’ve tried to run today. A Silverlight app, based on the EntityCube entity search engine and being developed by Microsoft Research. Regional settings need to be set to English locale for application to load correctly.

Mentioned software might be labeled Beta or prototype, but that hardly justifies the fact that developers didn’t support non-English locales from the very start. Therefore I’m taking this blog post to appeal to all Silverlight developers, especially those working with regional settings set to English natively:

Please, make your applications respect local regional settings as early in the development as possible. Silverlight may be cross-platform and cross-browser, but developers, not taking local regional settings into the account, don’t even make it cross-locale.

Just in case anyone encounters a weird behaving application, showing symptoms described at the very top of this post, this is one of the things to try first: The most likely cause for the above error is a wrong date or number format. Changing your local regional settings will probably help:


Windows 7 Launch talk: Building cool applications with MS Expression tools

Windows 7 launch day was fun. I gave a talk on Expression tools (and related) – here’s the PowerPoint slide deck for those who asked for it:

I used Expression Blend 3 to build a photo viewer application, which I’ll blog about later; key points here were designer-developer workflow + using sample data and behaviors.

I blogged about the Microsoft ICE last year and I used that exact sample I’ve used in that blog post, but with one difference: did you know that by installing ICE on your desktop will, you can stitch panoramic (or large composite) photos right from your Windows Live Photo Gallery? It’s as easy as selecting the photos and click on the Extras menu item:

Create Image Composite...

Yet another option for stitching a bunch of photos together will give you the Deep Zoom Composer(free and not listed as an Expression tool, but sure looks and feels like it), which has similar features and much more compositing power (different zoom levels, layers, etc.)

And for closing I briefly showcased Expression Encoder 3 and IIS Smooth Streaming.

Yup, fun.

Enable GPU Acceleration with Expression Blend 3

Last night, while working on a sample Silverlight application with Blend, I asked myself – where’s the Use GPU Acceleration option? Sure you can set the parameter on a Silverlight object directly in HTML or enable it through Out-Of-Browser Settings in Visual Studio 2008, but how about Blend?

The answer is that Blend enables GPU Acceleration automatically when one ticks the Enable Application Outside Browser option.

Enable Out-Of-Browser

And what’s with the Preview Application Outside Browser option? Let’s see what happens when we run the application from Blend.

Blend 3 prompt

Uhum… Blend asks that we should install the application first. OK, we’ll click Yes and run once again, still in the browser. Once started, right click, install the application and close it. Now the application is installed and the project is configured to run it out of the browser. From now on, every time the application is started from Blend, it will run out of the browser with GPU Acceleration enabled.