Using MS Project Siena for Rapid App Development

Posted Posted in Windows 8, Windows 8.1


The first truly visual tool for developing Windows 8 apps has emerged from Microsoft. Project Siena (beta) is a Windows 8/8.1 Windows Store App that enables you to create a Windows 8 Store App for Windows 8/8.1 users from a Windows 8.1 or 8.1 RT device. Because it’s a Windows Store app, this means you can indeed use your Surface RT or Lumia 2520, etc. to create functioning apps. It’s a very cool tool and has a very short learning curve. You can read about see how an app is created start to finish and access the complete reference list of supported commands and functions online.

I have been interested for quite some time in creating an app for my photos displayed on my web site, but never found the time to do so in Visual Studio. I decided to see what Project Siena could do for me. I’d been thinking that Project Siena would be a neat way for photographers to deliver customized wedding albums, or even sell their services. Make a few templates, then use them for specific jobs or contracts. Provide them as part of a wedding/photography package etc. to current or possible future clients.

I sat down to try a proof of concept using Project Siena one morning and found it was very intuitive.

The first step was to decide what to display in the app. Since I already had the photos on line, I wanted the app to display the photos from the Internet and not store them locally. I created an Excel sheet for each category and saved each sheet to my SkyDrive storage. Using the photos already available online provides a way to minimize the size of the app and also (after thinking about this for a bit) a way to change out content on the fly. I’ll get to that in a minute. I knew I might need both a list of thumbnails (already on my website) and full size photos (already on the site), so I created a basic template that I could search and replace or paste in the real data.

siena excel

While currently the template uses numbers, my real image names on the site don’t, but the next time I add or change photos on the site, I’m going to rename the images in each category numerically. If I do this, every time I change out a photo on the web site, the change will be reflected in the app. I’ll have to keep the number of photos the same in each category as on the spreadsheet for this to work but it’s an interesting concept. I used this template to create s separate Excel sheet for each category and created a table in each sheet.

The first step in building the app was to import my data sources, and I quickly imported all five Excel sheets.

I wanted the app to look something like my photography website, so I re-used graphics I already had saved. And I selected a color scheme similar to what I use on the web.

siena photo app

I created a screen for each of the five categories and an About screen that is accessed when the name of the app is touched/clicked. On the screen for each gallery, I added navigation (a back button), and specified that OnSelect, it should navigate to the Home screen. Then, I added an image gallery, which I styled the way I thought it should look and specified the corresponding data source which would auto fill the gallery.

build siena

Since I could copy and paste elements between screens, I really only had to style the image gallery on each individual page. So for rapid visual development, this was way cool. And really fast.

A few quick steps to create and style Windows Store icons and Tiles from a single 245×245 px PNG image and I was ready to “publish”. For now, I’ve created an appx file which can be installed from an included PowerShell script, but there are options to run a cmdlet that you can download from Microsoft to turn into a full blown Visual Studio project for publication to the Windows Store (you will need a developer account to do this).

You can download and install the app from the Windows Store if you’d like to check it out!

My Photo Site plus Lightroom and a new touch friendly design

Posted Posted in iPhone, Photography, Windows 8

My personal website at has been my photography gallery site for quite a few years. The last time I redesigned it, I used Adobe Muse (while it was in beta) to easily use Jquery for galleries and lightbox effects. It’s been in need of an overhaul for a while, especially since functionality was sometimes degraded using IE 10/11 with some of Adobe’s cloud based javascript hosting. Buying into Creative Cloud to use the released version of Muse to see if things had improved was not my cup of team.

The included HTML Gallery template in Lightroom 5 is too simplistic for my tastes and I started looking around for web gallery plugins. I viewed a lot of demos and used some trials where available. The one that seemed the most useful to me was Turning Gates TTG CE3 Gallery plugin but I couldn’t find a trial, so I spent a few hours looking at demos. Based on what I saw, the $25 price seemed like a bargain.

The initial learning curve on this plugin took a couple of hours, and I certainly haven’t explored or used all the features, but once I had figured out what I wanted and started saving user templates, actually building the site (V1, usuable but not the final) from already saved collections was easy and fast. And it was far better in V1 form than the one created in Adobe Muse, so it is now online. It’s hosted on a Microsoft IIS Sharepoint public facing server, so while there are some neat looking auto indexing features, they aren’t available to me since they rely on PHP.

The site now works beautifully with touch enabled computers and devices. The galleries are swipable. Even on a non touch computer, you can use a mouse to drag swipe through each gallery (or use the nav arrows). Included in the functionality is a mobile version.

new site 0

When entering the site with my iPhone, a fast loading screen (left, below) is displayed. Selecting the left icon displays the menu (right, below). Selecting the icon on the right displays the page, like the two above.


newe site1

Once a specific Gallery is selected (such as Alive) you can view either portrait or landscape and can swipe through the current gallery. The “X” returns to the previous screen.

photo gallery scroll

I’m thrilled with this Lightroom plugin and the first version of my new personal site. And it can only get better as I work on

Microsoft Fails at Windows 8 Support Incident

Posted Posted in Windows 8


On August 18, we opened a support case as a result of a growing thread in Microsoft Communities: where the basic issue was the Windows Store returns Sorry this App is No Longer Available in error after installing KB2862768 which was part of the August 2013 update roll-up for Windows 8 RTM.

This case has been mishandled every step of the way. Microsoft should be ashamed of their outsourced paid technical support. This would be a hopeless situation for anyone with no technical skills who would count on Microsoft to supply accurate and understandable support. I have supplied repro steps, a video capture of the bug and pointed out many others similarly afflicted. Most people I know would have given up. This is a bug, pure and simple. It needs to be acknowledged by the core Windows team. If their plan is to ignore it as it is fixed in Windows 8.1, they should so state. And yes, uninstalling the KB does fix the issue. How hard could it be for Microsoft to officially acknowledge this in the KB itself?

Below is a chronology of the horrendous experience. I still don’t have confidence that the issue is on anyone’s radar. Last names, email addresses and phone extensions have been removed to protect the guilty.

Case number: 113081810672507
Case created: 8/18/2013 2:38:23 PM
Case title: Problem with getting apps after August update rollup
Product: Windows 8 Pro

Several hours after opening the case, the following was received:

Thank you for contacting Microsoft Support. My name is Rahul xxxxx.  I am the Support Professional who will be working with you on this Service Request. You may reach me using the contact information listed below, referencing the SR number 113081810672507.

If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know.

Thanks and Regards



Rahul xxxxx |Support Engineer | Microsoft Windows Core Setup Team | Extension – xxxxx | Mon-Fri 9 Am – 6 pm PST | xxxxx


That was followed by an email stating:

Issue Definition: As per the issue description it seems that you are facing some issues on the Windows 8 Pro machine after installing the KB 2862768 and the error message that you get during the process is "Sorry. This app is no longer available".

Scope Agreement: Once we are able to resolve the above mentioned issue then we will consider this issue to be resolved.

We will now begin working together to resolve your issue. If you do not agree with the scope defined above, or would like to amend it, please let me know as soon as possible. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

At 6:51AM on August 19, I emailed repro steps:

repro steps – I can do this on either my Surface Pro with Windows 8.0 or my desktop with Windows 8.0. Neither has ever had the 8.1 preview installed. It can be any app, including inbox apps or third party apps. This will happen when searching for an app as shown below or from any store or email link. I am using a web search to clearly illustrate. Does not matter if Bing or Google. This issue disappears if the mentioned KB is uninstalled.

  1. search for an app. example Microsoft finance Windows 8 app




2. search will find the app on then select that link






3.  The page opens to that app which has the standard View in the Store button. Select the View in Store button






4. Windows Store opens and displays Sorry not available. CLOSE the windows store (wipes down on tablet, pull down with mouse on desktop)





5, Open the Store and search for Finance. Immediately found. Select the App



6. App opens normally in Window Store



I called Rahul and attempted to discuss the issue. The accent was so thick and the grammar so bad that I found the conversation nearly incomprehensible.


Then, on August 20, 12:14am, the following email was received, as if the case had been not opened and with worthless advice:

Greetings of the day. Hope you are doing good.

My name is Kush xxxxxxx xxxxx and I am a Duty Manager with Microsoft.


First and foremost, I would like to apologize for the delay caused from our end in contacting you within the promised TAT. We are experiencing unexpected influx in case volume because of which we have not been able to assign an engineer on this case. 


We are working on this uncontrollable situation and would assign a resource as soon as we have someone available.

Meanwhile please use the following URL  to run Microsoft Fix it Solution Center ,that will finds and fixes many common PC and device problems automatically. It also helps prevent new problems by proactively checking for known issues and installing updates. Fix it Center helps to consolidate the many steps of diagnosing and repairing a problem into an automated tool that does the work for you.

We really do appreciate your understanding and patience regarding the same.


Thank you for choosing Microsoft Professional Support.



While replying to this mail please “reply to all” on this mail thread.


Kush xxxx xxxxxx

Duty Manager (EPS PRO)

 xxxxxxxxxx | Mon–FRI 1PM–10 PM PST

Next,  at 11:41AM August 20, I responded to the email above my replying and including every email address on every email received thus far:

This email is alarming. We heard from a support person. I emailed the repro steps below. I then called Rahul and spoke with him, although I cannot say with confidence that there has been any further action. Please have someone phone me now at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

Then I telephoned Harpreet Xxxxx who holds the title Sr. Support Engineer and discussed the issue.


As discussed, please find my contact information in the signatures.


Thanks & Regards


Harpreet xxxxx| Sr.Support Engineer | Microsoft | Sun – Thu | 9 am – 6 pm EST


Dial the number corresponding to your country followed by my extension:    xxxxx


|United States/Canada: +1-425-704-3638 |UK: 0808 2349667 |Ireland: 1-800-760647 |Australia: 1-800-151075 |New Zealand: 0800-451917 |Singapore: 800-1205517 |Malaysia: 1-800-815217 |South Africa: 080-09-83720 |India: 1800 266 3050 |

Harpreet’s English was better, at least. He stated he would try to setup a repro. At the end of his shift, he replied he could not repro.

I just did the repro on the Windows 8 machine by installing the suggested update and restarted the machine. I could not reproduce the issue at my end.


However, the machine on which we tested is not joined to domain. Could you please check if the machine on which we are experiencing the issue are joined to domain? If they are then try removing them from domain and then install the update. Please reply to all if it works. My shift has ended so please reply to all with results.


Thanks & Regards


Harpreet xxxxx| Sr.Support Engineer | Microsoft | Sun – Thu | 9 am – 6 pm EST


Dial the number corresponding to your country followed by my extension: xxxxxxx


|United States/Canada: +1-425-704-3638 |UK: 0808 2349667 |Ireland: 1-800-760647 |Australia: 1-800-151075 |New Zealand: 0800-451917 |Singapore: 800-1205517 |Malaysia: 1-800-815217 |South Africa: 080-09-83720 |India: 1800 266 3050 |

I’m not joined to a domain. Where did he get that idea?

So then I used Camtasia from Techsmith to document the issue in a video, uploaded it to SkyDrive and replied with

this time I repro’d with the Microsoft Windows 8 photos app
I will be available today until 10:30am ET and from 2-4 ET for further discussion.

I received an Out of Office. So I called the next highest guy on the list, Prabhneet. I then followed with this email:

Per our discussion, Harpreet was able to repro this issue. You stated you would send me an email in the next 5 minutes confirming this had been reproduced and stated you would send a second status update before you left for the day. I did not receive the email you stated you would send in the next 5 minutes.
This case has not been handled well, first Rahul xxxxx  responded and was supposed to follow up but did nothing. The I emailed again and engaged Harpreet, who apparently has gone off on leave without escalating.

August 21, 3:04PM, received from Prabhneet:

Sorry for the delay as I was searching my internal database to find more information regarding this issue.


As per Harpreet he was able to repro the issue in his lab and he has confirmed that with KB 2862768 we get the error “Sorry, this app is no longer available"


I have already sent mail to my seniors regarding this issue.

Then I received:

As Harpreet mentioned that you go to and search for app. Then you select View in Windows Store Option and this is the time when you get error message.


Now do we face same issue if we directly go to Windows Store from Start Menu and search for app.




Prabhneet xxxxx

and I replied:


No. the bug is

1. open web browser either metro or desktop and use Bing or Google and search for an app.

2  the link that search finds is at – we do not open and search there as that is forbidden.


3. once the link in the format  is clicked, a page opens ON and then


4. click the View in store button sorry no longer available is displayed this is not related at all to searching directly from within the Windows Store.


One of my first emails had screen shots Not only did I provide screen shots, today I provided a video capture clearly demonstrating the issue: I do not have issues searching from within the store I do not know how I can make this any clearer. There may be other ways that this error can be reproduced but what I have supplied is 100% reproducible.

And received the following:

Hello Barb,

I have totally understood the issue and repro steps.

I was just trying to isolate that if we are getting the same issue while trying to search for apps directly in Windows store.

I am not denying the issue and we will definitely work towards the resolution.

I have already forwarded the details to my seniors and they needed this information to confirm if that issue is only when we try to search apps through Google/Bing as you have mentioned or even with Windows Store.





 After 4 days of silence, I sent the following on 8/25:
Status update?
And received the following reply:

Hello Barb,


I received reply from backend team that they were also able to repro the issue in lab.

They are currently working on it.


I will check with them on Monday and get status.


Either me or Harpreet will call you tomorrow and update you.


Thanks and Regards


Prabhneet xxxxx

Technical Leader – Server Performance Team


At 4:20PM, Monday, 8/25, I sent the following:

4.20pm ET and I have not heard from anyone. What is the status? Please send EMAIL update.
At 5:38PM, I received the following alarming email, showing the total incompetence of the Support System:

Hi Barb,


Please click on the link below from the affected Windows 8 machine and follow on-screen instructions to run the diagnostics:


This diagnostics would collect few logs which the Debug Team will analyze. We would share the analysis accordingly.



Thanks & Regards,

Harpreet xxxxxxx

Sr. Support Engineer|Windows Server Performance Team |    xxxxxxxxxx


 And I replied:

I just received the following inappropriate response to this issue which you admit you can duplicate. This s an issue caused by the stated KB and you folks are trying to make me jump through unnecessary hoops. Why am I receiving this kind of request? Why have you not sent the promised update or communicated with me. Prabhneet, I would like to speak with YOUR supervisor.

Out of curiosity, I looked at the troubleshooter and becoming more enraged, sent the following email:

Run the diags on the systems you used to repro the issue. This is a ridiculous request. I have uninstalled the KB which as you know fixes the issue. You have two repro’s in house. There are others in the thread on Microsoft Communities with the same issue.


And then I sent:

Further, the troubleshooter you asked me to run is TOTALLY irrelevant. The issue occurs as documented even for apps that are not installed and have never been installed. Collecting appx logs and other information as documented has nothing to do with the issue. Try reading: which is what this troubleshooter supposedly does.

Please escalate to the next level of support since you do not seem to understand the issue.


Next I received the following from Harpreet:

This troubleshooter is only meant to gather the different set of logs from the affected machine as per the KB article. Regarding the issue, the concerned team has already been notified. If it turns out to be a bug then the OS Team will definitely work on it . But we do not have any time line to let you know that when the solution will be provided.

And I replied:

Again, the issue is irrelevant to any apps/environment on a local machine. You already know that you can do a clean install and install all updates and repro this. 
And received the following:

Hello Barb,

We have discussed this case with people in higher level in Microsoft.

As I had mentioned in my last email that they were also able to repro the issue.

They are working on this issue and trying to isolate why Windows is showing this behavior.

As it involves product team it might take some time to get reply from them.

At this point of time we do not require logs as we can repro the issue at our end.

I want to assure you that engineers in the concerned team are working on this issue and as soon as I get any update, I will let you know.

Thanks and Regards

Prabhneet xxxxx

Technical Leader – Server performance Team


Technet Windows Forum Reader App Released

Posted Posted in Windows 8, Windows 8.1

After creating a Modern UI App for the Windows and Surface Communities, I decided that it would help me keep up with current topics in Windows if I created a similar app for Microsoft’s Technet Windows Forums.

Coming from a world of text based NNTP news readers, I missed the speed of quickly scanning through Windows topics that I previously enjoyed. I created these programs after Microsoft discontinued the backend for a NNTP Bridge program created by MVP’s which resulted in the loss of a fast way to browse and help out in the forums. I hope others find them useful.

My Technet Windows Forum Reader relies on feeds provided by Microsoft, which is currently limited to 20 articles per specified target.

Because this is a feed based app, new posts/replies need to be made in the web browser. To view an entire thread, view an individual article and then select the hyperlink which will open in Internet Explorer so you can participate fully.

Microsoft sends items to a feed based on activity, which included replies, edits, marked as answer – any change made. The feed display reflects this.

The app is available at




Main Program View


landscape main screen




Snapped View with Internet Explorer thread view


snapped subjects on left ie right

How to Associate Your Web Site With Your Windows Store App

Posted Posted in Internet Explorer, Windows 8, Windows 8.1


(And how to light up Get this App in Modern UI IE 10 or 11)

I previously posted an article on how to associate your web site with a pinned Live Tile. Today, I’m going to provide some information on how to associate your web site with your Windows Store Application so that visitors can automatically see that you have an app for your site and navigate directly to it in the Windows Store if they wish to install it.

You may have noticed in Windows 8.0 or 8.1 that using the Modern UI version of Internet Explorer that when you select the wrench icon on the AppBar, an entry named Get this App appears, but is greyed out for most sites.

As of today, when you visit you will see that the site is now associated with MsMVPs Blog Reader in the Windows Store. If the App is not already installed, Get App for this site will light up in Modern IE. If MSMVPs Blog Reader App is already installed, Switch to MSMVPs.. will be displayed



Enabling this is easy to do (I had to hunt around to find a site actually using this as it is not really documented anywhere.)

I added two lines to header.php in my wordpress theme:

<meta name="msApplication-ID" content="App" />
<meta name="meta name="msApplication-PackageFamilyName"content="25241Digitalmediaphile.MSMVPsBlogReader_m2thxh7x439cm" />

The first entry should be exactly as listed above. The second entry is obtained by examining a computer where the app is installed and getting the name from

C:\Users\YOUR USER NAME\AppData\Local\Packages



If you are using the Windows 8.1 Preview and Modern IE 11, and don’t have my app installed, you will see

ie get app when not installed

And on Windows 8.0, using Modern UI IE 10, you will see


ie10 shortcut menu

As you’d expect, when you select Get app for this site, The Windows Store will open and display MsMVPs Blog Reader and you can install the app.