8BitDo controller input in MonoGame (and Steam)

And you thought this blog was dead? I’m back 🙂

To business: I recently bought two 8bitdo Nintendo Controllers (8Bitdo Crissaegrim NES30 PROnes30-pro to use with RetroPi (works like a charm by the way).

However, to get them to work on my computer was something else.

The controllers don’t talk very nicely with your PC, so Steam and Monogame basically say ‘$$$$ you’ when you try to use the controller. However, the solution came in the form of this nifty tool: x360ce.

Ok, now what? Play steam games?!

The thing to know with x360ce is that you need to place the executable in each folder of the game(s) you’d like to play with your computer.

Paste the exe there, launch it, let it create the necessary files, test the controller and presto: you can now launch the game (from within steam if you also want your steam controllers to work) and the games will now detect your controller as if it were an Xbox 360 controller. (protip: this also works if you’re using the controller wireless, even with two of them connected without wires)

Pressing lots of stuff on the controller and simultaneous trying to take a screenshot...not easy, try it yourself!

Pressing lots of stuff on the controller and simultaneous trying to take a screenshot…not easy, try it yourself!

Monogame as well?

Yup, the same trick here. Simply put the x360ce exe in your debug/bin folder, launch it, and suddenly you can type fancy code such as (source) :

 if (capabilities.IsConnected)
            {
                // Get the current state of Controller1
                GamePadState state = GamePad.GetState(PlayerIndex.One);

                // You can also check the controllers "type"
                if (capabilities.GamePadType == GamePadType.GamePad)
                {
                    if (state.IsButtonDown(Buttons.A))
                        Exit();

Hooray for this. On to toying around with this sweet nostalgic controller

Twoway databinding to a MongoDB collection in WPF

I’ll show how to have a two-way databinding between a templated listbox and a MongoDB collection.
I’m finally got around toying with MongoDb.What I’ll show next might not be the most correct way, but it works for me.

Setup

I have a Listview defined in XAML with a datatemplate:

        <ListBox Name="mylistbox">
            <ListBox.ItemTemplate>
                <DataTemplate>
                    <TextBox Text="{Binding Naam, Mode=TwoWay}"></TextBox>
                </DataTemplate>
            </ListBox.ItemTemplate>
        </ListBox>

I created an Entity class (can be a composite if you wish) which is is simple POCO with INotifyPropertyChanged implented. This Entity class well be serialized to my MongoDB collection as-is. Explained here, for example:

        public class Entity
        {
            public string Naam { get; set; }
        }

Retrieve the data and databind

Next up, we need to retrieve the data using a query (coll being my collection a retrieved earlier on (not shown)):

var query = coll.AsQueryable<Entity>().ToList();

The ToList part is important.This will ensure that we get a simple list of Entity objects as our ItemSource and not an IQueryable, otherwise the next part won’t work.

Write changes to database

You can now edit your data in your listbox and once you are ready, you can update all the changes to your MongoDB collection:

            foreach (var item in mylistbox.ItemsSource)
            {
                coll.Save(item);
            }

A C# Portable Class Library to talk with Smappee API

I wrote a small C# portable class library (.NET4.5/WP8.1/Win8) that allow users to talk with the Smappee API.

Smappee-with-Hand

Intro

I recently bought a Smappee and I really love the device. It enables me to track the power usage of all my devices throughout the house and I even found some nasty buggers who consume way more than they should. Currently only Android and IPhone users can really benefit from this device (the my.smappee.com webapp is too lightweight to really utilize the full power of the device).

I’m planning on writing a simple Windows Phone 8 app (and perhaps Windows 8) to have some basic information Smappee data on my phone. Unfortunately the API is pretty meagre (you can’t access everything needed), so I won’t be able to recreate the existing Android app. The full API documentation can be found here.

Getting started

Before you can use the public API, you will first need to request the credentials (client_id and cleint_secret) from Smappee, explained here. Once that is done, you’ll also need to have an active my.smappee.com account, which you can create using the Iphone or Android app (you can’t do this through the website unfortunately). These 4 credentials will be needed to access the API.

 Where is the goddamn code?

The actual code for the PCL is hosted here: https://github.com/timdams/Smappee_API_CS

Two projects are added:

  1. SmappeePrototype: A simple console-app that shows how to use the lib
  2. SmappeeAPITD: the actual PCL. I use JSON.NET for the parsing, which is the only external dependency.

To use the code, make sure you have all the credentials at hand, you can then start querying the API once you build the PCL and added it to your project:

            SmappeeAPI dll = new SmappeeAPI("yourClient_id",
               "yourClient_secret", "yourmysmappee_username","yourmysmappee_password");

            await dll.RetrieveAccessToken();

            var serv = await dll.GetServiceLocations();
            //Ask consumption of last week of first smappeedevice retrieved from ServiceLocations
            var resk =
                await
                    dll.GetConsumption(serv.serviceLocations[0].serviceLocationId,
                        DateTime.Now.Subtract(new TimeSpan(7, 0, 0, 0)),
                        DateTime.Now, SmappeeAPITD.Aggregation.Hourly);

 

What’s missing

This code was build a few minutes ago and a lot is missing. Specifically:

  • No exception handling whatsoever
  • The Actuator duration can’t be set, because the API has a strange way of doing this (you can give only the value 300,900,1800 or 3600 , specifying the time in seconds the actuator
    should be turned on. Any other value results in turning on for an undetermined period of time. )
  • No logic is added to refresh the token once it’s expired.

Book review: Windows Phone 8 Game Development

6807OT“Sir, I want to be a game developer, what do I do?” is a question I got asked a lot during classes. The honest answer I usually give is :”work hard, keep trying and never stop trying”. I’ll keep on answering this, but I might also recommend a new book that has recently arrived titled “Windows Phone 8 Game Development – A practical guide to creating games for the Windows Phone 8 platform” by Marcin Jamro (Packt Publishing).
Remember the big bad-ass books by Andre Lamothe on (3D) Game programming, where many aspects of game programming were discussed? This new book has the same approach: more is better, plain simple.

A first glance at the index will immediately show the author is trying to describe all aspects of game development, not only the game (engine) coding itself, including social interaction, webservices, publishing, etc. What especially triggered my attention was chapter 3 titled “Mvvm design pattern”, a pretty ballsy approach because up until now I haven’t seen a single book on game development where this pattern is even just briefly mentioned.
Throughout the hefty 394 pages, the author will show how to (re)create a full-blown 3D space , asteroid-like shooter from the ground up. This is both good and bad news: bad because it means most chapters will depend on code of the previous ones, good because it shows how interdependent a lot of aspects are when developing a game. Many books who use this approach (i.e. build an application from start to end) sometimes fails because a) some important code-parts are missing or b) the code is to complex: the reader misses the keypoints the code wants to convey and thus loses time trying to get the code to work AND understand.
I haven’t made the game itself so I can’t vouch for the fact that a workable game can be made following this text but the code itself in the text is well-documented and clear.
A nice addition is the fact that a hybrid approach is used: managed code to harbour the menu/UI-related stuff, and a native part for the game itself. The game itself is written using DirectX, whereas the main game menus are in plain XAML (hence the MVVM approach mentioned earlier).

The text itself is very detailed, every step is explained, but sometimes a bit redundant: the author even explains how to place controls from the toolbox in your designer and how to debug using locals, autos, etc. A tad overkill? On the other hand, this makes the book ideal for anyone new to c#/xaml programming. So it could actually be used as an fun, introductionary book for experienced non-C#-developers who never used Visual Studio.

And yes, a lot is tackled: even augmented reality (AR) is in it: GPS coordinates of other players nearby are used to show their actual location when watching through the camera of the phone.
So in overall: if you need a primer on 3D/3D game programming for Windows Phone 8, this book is a must-have!

A clickable Windows Phone slider

The default behavior of the Windows Phone Slides control doens’t allow a user to click on the slider where the value should be set to. Instead, tapping anywhere on the slider will simply result in the slider incrementing by it’s default or given incrementsetting.

Following small piece of code shows how to have the wanted behavior by responding to the Tap- event of the Slider (named mySlider in the following codepiece).

        private void UIElement_OnTap(object sender, GestureEventArgs e)
        {
           if (mySlider.Orientation == System.Windows.Controls.Orientation.Horizontal)
            {
                var pos = e.GetPosition(mySlider).X;
                var width = mySlider.ActualWidth;
                mySlider.Value = (pos/width)*mySlider.Maximum;
            }
            else
            {
                var pos = e.GetPosition(mySlider).Y;
                var height = mySlider.ActualHeight;
                mySlider.Value =(1- (pos / height) )* mySlider.Maximum;
            }
        }

A powerpoint .pptx to Latex .tex convertor tool

A colleague of mine is making some very nice Latex-based presentations, including a dynamically generated section-overview on each slide. Since all my current slidedecks are made in Powerpoint I started working on a small tool that converts .pptx to .tex latex files. (make note: this tool won’t work with oldschool .ppt files!)

Clipboard01
The tool is far from done. But the basic functionality is there. Currently the tool converts a .pptx file to a  .tex and keeps the following slide information:

  • All titles
  • All text/bulletitems
    • Including identation
  • All section headers
  • Option to include hidden slides
  • All images
    • Each image is extracted and save as a separate file

I’m using the Open XML SDK 2.0 which allows more easy parsing of .pptx using C#. More info on how the tool was made might show up here some day.
Other features that I’d like to include is the ability to export the notes (shouldn’t be a problem) and some simple text formatting information (bit harder).

You can download the sourcecode on github: https://github.com/timdams/Pptx2Tex

Adding a search contract to the Windows 8 Calibre frontend

In this post I will show how simple it is to add a search contract to a Windows 8 Store app. This contract allows the user to search within your application from anywhere in Windows 8 using the search charm.  We will use my Calibre frontend app to show this. Check this video to see the raw action of what we are making.

What we are building: the search in action after querying for books with "brown" in the authorname.

What we are building: the search in action after querying for books with “brown” in the authorname.

This is the second post of my quest on writing a Windows 8 Store app for Calibre. The previous post can be found here. Read more of this post