Add a Live Tile to a Project Siena App

Posted Posted in Windows 8.1


Microsoft Project Siena is a really cool tool. Basically, it’s a Modern App that allows you to BUILD Modern Apps almost ready for uploading to the Windows Store. A small amount of customization work can be done in Visual Studio 2013 to tweak settings, but MS Project Siena is really a visually driven tool that builds complex JavaScript and HTML apps.

One of the few things it (currently) does not do (in Beta 2) is provide a Live Tile experience. There’s an active Project Siena TechNet forum and Ronan Monaghan came up with some code using that, when inserted into the proper file, provides a Live Tile. As it turns out, you don’t need to visit unless you have a web site and want a pinned live tile function for site visitors.

All you need is a properly formed RSS feed which you insert into the “template” below, replacing text in red with your own feed for your app. In fact, you can use a different RSS feed in each of the five slots if you have multiple feeds for your app.

var notifications = Windows.UI.Notifications;
var recurrence = notifications.PeriodicUpdateRecurrence.HalfHour;
var urls = [
new Windows.Foundation.Uri(""),
new Windows.Foundation.Uri(""),
new Windows.Foundation.Uri(""),
new Windows.Foundation.Uri(""),
new Windows.Foundation.Uri("")
notifications.TileUpdateManager.createTileUpdaterForApplication().startPeriodicUpdateBatch(urls, recurrence);


Once you have personalized the template, open init.js in the JS folder inside Visual Studio and insert the code above any existing var statements as shown in the screen shot below.


Once you’ve finished any other customization work inside Visual Studio, if you pin your app to your Start Screen, you’ll see the Live Tile functioning. Below is a screen shot of two of my apps showing Live Tiles in action.


That’s all there is to it. While there isn’t any additional customization available for the Live Tile (as there would be if you built from scratch using Visual Studio), this quick and dirty work around will give your app a little something extra to offer.

No guarantees that this will work for every RSS feed and all the usual disclaimers apply – edit the project’s init.js file at your own risk and create a backup first.


NASA Historic Photos App Now Available

Posted Posted in Windows 8.1


Since its creation in 1958, NASA has been taking pictures of the Earth, the Moon, the planets, and other astronomical objects inside and outside our Solar System. Under United States copyright law, works created by the U.S. federal government or its agencies cannot be copyrighted. (This does not apply to works created by state or local governments.) Therefore, the NASA pictures are legally in the public domain. One of the best organized collection of images and information is available on Flickr, as part of the Commons project at Organized into 60 Albums (or Sets), the collection contains some of the very best images and accompanying information on NASA through the years.

I’m a real space buff, and have spent hours viewing bits of space exploration history. Flickr has done a great job of packaging information within 60 categories and it struck me that this content would make a great Windows 8.1 App. I ‘ve been working on this app for a while, and I’m happy to announce that my new free app, NASA Historic Photos is now available in the Windows Store. 

I’ve included the very best of the 60 albums into a Windows 8.1 app that contains 60 scrollable galleries with descriptive information. I’m hoping that other space aficionados find it useful.

The home screen contains a menu, presented as a scrollable gallery. Scroll through the 60 items with touch or your mouse and then select an individual gallery to view.

main menu

Once you’ve selected a gallery, you can navigate with touch or mouse. I’ve constructed the app so that the individual items within each gallery should “snap” into place as you scroll. Below is a sample showing one of the galleries. You’ll see an image, an accompanying description (if available) and the date published (not the date of the event, which I hope to add in a future release).

gallery 1

When you’ve finished viewing an individual gallery, select the Home button to return to the main screen and select another gallery. You’ll find galleries for all the missions, Apollo, Gemini, the Space Shuttle and lots more. Below is another sample gallery.

gallery 2

You’ll find hyperlinks to the source material below the images. Just click or tap to open in your browser.


Please download NASA Historic Photos  at and let me know what you think on Twitter @barbbowman (or even write an app review).

Bringing the Smithsonian Experience Home

Posted Posted in Windows 8.1


A few weeks ago I was thinking about some of the wonderful places I’ve seen briefly but never revisited. It struck me that with widely available Internet connectivity,many of the places I journeyed to physically when I was younger might  be experiences that could be reimagined, at least partially, via the power of the Internet. I’ve always been a space buff (which was the incentive to build my two recently release NASA related apps) and I’ve also had a lifelong fascination with Archaeology and Natural History, the Oceans, and just about anything historically related to the world we live in. In my opinion, the collections housed by the Smithsonian Institute and its diverse programs was a natural choice for a Windows 8.1 app. Nothing can replace an in person visit to all the Smithsonian venues (time consuming for sure and travel/expense involved).

The various Smithsonian web sites offer more details and information, but again, there are multiple sites and entrances to all of this superb content. I envisioned a hub based experience with galleries for home users that captured a small part of the experience for home users and the result is my newest app, ‘Smithsonian at Home’. Ten galleries are included which will update as the Smithsonian adds and changes content.

From the Home screen main menu, ten galleries are available, the Smithsonian Photo of the Day Gallery, Smithsonian Travel Magazine, SmartNews on Technology and Space, SmartNews on Science, Latest News, Smithsonian Exhibitions, Wildlife, SmartNews History & Archaeology, SmartNews Arts & Culture, and the current Smithsonian Photo Contest. Select any tile from the Home screen to visit a gallery. All galleries are scrollable via touch or a mouse.

home screen

Galleries will show an image, caption, date added, and if available, brief description. Beneath each gallery item you will find a link to the original content on the web hosted at one of the Smithsonian web sites. Here are some screen shots of a few of the galleries:

Photo of the Day

photo of the day

Latest News

latest articles

SmartNews History & Archaeology

smartnews history and archaeology

Please download at and let me know on Twitter @barbbowman if you like it!

My Space Images from NASA is REALLY Complete

Posted Posted in Windows 8.1


Thanks to everyone who provided feedback. I’ve done a couple of iterations and the feature complete version of Space Images from NASA is now available. The version number (Charms, Settings, About from inside the app) will display V1.1.0.5. If you have an older version, you can manually check for updates in the Windows Store. There will be another update soon but it is cosmetic only.

New in this version:

The Home screen for the app now includes the content from “On the Station” – the latest news from the International Space Station in a gallery (both text and images)

new home screen

NASA Astronomy Images and Space Images from NASA’ JPL are pulled via a behind the scenes Bing search and no description/caption is available, however, you now can display the source image in Modern IE by tapping or clicking an individual image in the Gallery. The browser will launch and fetch the image (some of these are quite large and will not appear instantaneously).


launch in browser

Space Images from NASA App Available Now

Posted Posted in Windows 8.1


Microsoft Project Siena Beta 2 arrived Tuesday afternoon with some new bells and whistles and refinements. I’d been thinking about a way to pull in some space images from NASA, and the arrival of Beta 2 provided the incentive. Thus, my Space Images from NASA App was born. MS Project Siena let me build an app in less than an hour using the Bing Search API to pull general images and I used REST to pull the NASA large image of the day.

Release 2 (now in the store) features three Galleries”

NASA Image of the Day


NASA Astronomy Images


Space Images from NASA’s JPL


I really should have subtitled this post “continuing my love affair with Microsoft Project Siena”.

Please try out my (free) Space Images from NASA App.