Introducing the PASS Event Browser App for Windows Phone

Well, I was trying to get a new Windows Phone application created, certified, and up on Marketplace in time for the big PASS Summit 2011 this past week, but sadly, the timing just didn't work out right. 

Note: I discovered that it can easily take the full week that they warn you about to get through the certification process and up on Windows Phone Marketplace--even longer when you fail a basic certification (like the "light theme" one--d'oh!). This makes me feel pretty confident in the quality of Windows Phone apps (I've never tried submitting apps to iTunes for iPhone or for Android, so I don't have a basis for comparison). I plan to write more about this in the future.

OK, now enough of my whining...on to to the app!

From the minute that I read Allen Kinsel’s blog post about the existence of a public OData feed for PASS events, I knew that this data feed could be the basis of a really nifty Windows Phone application—a sort of PASS events browser. This app could really be an effective tool to leverage the strengths of OData to provide a simple, data-driven experience on a device. In fact, this idea so affected me that I ended–up writing just such an application….

Introducing the PASS Event Browser for Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango)

The application that I ended-up creating is called the PASS Event Browser. For the non-SQL Server folks out there, PASS stands for Professional Association for SQL Server—an independent, user-led, not-for-profit association dedicated to the SQL Server community. PASS sponsors numerous events around the globe (including the just completed PASS Summit, the big dance for SQL Server professionals). All of the session and speaker information for such events are published into an OData feed, which is consumed by my PASS Event Browser.

Getting the PASS Event Browser for your Windows Phone

The PASS Event Browser is now available in the Windows Phone Marketplace as a free download. You can either search the Marketplace from your phone for PASS Event Browser, or you can have the app sent to your phone from the official Marketplace page.

Note that due to limitations in the OData client for Windows Phone 7, I ended up having to upgrade the PASS Event Browser to only run on the new Windows Phone 7.5 release (code-named “Mango”) so that I could use a better version of the OData client library (which also now ships in the Windows Phone 7.1 SDK). Hopefully, by now most of you have had your Windows Phone devices upgraded to Mango. If not, try syncing your phone (and you can find other tricks on the web to force your phone to upgrade if your carrier still hasn’t pushed it down to you—just Bing it).

Using the PASS Event Browser

While the Summit is the event that everyone is excited about this week, the OData service actually contain information about multiple events (I hope that these will be maintained and expanded throughout the year). You can see in the first screen that there are three events in the data service (although only two have session data):

Event item in the main page.

When you click on the Pass Summit 2011 item, the event details page is displayed, which enables you to filter or search for sessions:

SessionFilters  SessionSearch
Browse or search for sessions in the selected event

It’s really difficult to navigate all (as of this writing) 202 sessions in the 2011 Summit, so we load a set of filter values from the Sessions feed. This enables you to select one or more filters by category, level, track, and date. You can also submit search phrases—or use both at the same time. Hopefully, this results in a more manageable list of sessions displayed in the sessions page:

Sessions page displaying the sessions with XML in the description or title

Selecting a session, displays session details, including speaker information, in the a details page:

SessionDetails  SessionDescription  SessionSpeaker
Sessions detail panorama showing detailed session information, and handsome session speaker and XML expert, Michael Rys

Links from the session details page open the individual session information and ratings pages in the Summit site.

Anyway, kudos to David Yang and the other folks at PASS headquarters for allowing me to leverage some of the graphics from the Summit 2011 site in this app. It really makes a Windows Phone app look slick to use a Panorama control with decent graphics, as I mentioned in a previous post. In a subsequent blog post, I plan to discuss the design of this application and some of the issues that I ran into while creating it. I also may end up posting the source code to the MSDN Developer Samples gallery. I have some ideas on improvements to make before next year's PASS Summit, and I am welcome to any feedback you have if you download and try it out.


Glenn Gailey

(Follow me on Twitter)

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