Azure, Cloud, Development, Featured, ITPro, Product Announcements, USCloud, Windows

Rock Paper Azure Redux

Have you heard the news? We’ve recently raised the stakes with Rock Paper Azure game. This cloud-based coding challenge is back for just six weeks – and anyone can win! Simply get your Windows Azure account, and build and upload a bot (or re-boot your existing bot if you’ve already built one). Tweet about it with #AzureRPS to @RockPaperAzure and you’ll be automatically entered to win one of five weekly prizes. When the dust settles, we’ll enter each week’s top 10 bots (60 total) in a random draw for one of three grand prizes.

  • 1st Prize: A Surface tablet.
  • 2nd Prize: A 4GB Xbox 360 with Kinect.
  • 3rd Prize: A Kinect Sensor for Xbox 360.

Don’t have an azure account? Get a FREE 90-day trial at http://aka.ms/thecloud.

Don’t have an existing bot? Build a new one by visiting the Getting Started page on the Rock Paper Azure website.

Full details can be found at the Rock Paper Azure website, located at http://www.rockpaperazure.com/

Android, Azure, Cloud, iOS, Open Source, USCloud, Windows, Windows 8, Windows Azure Mobile Services, WP8

WNS Badge, Toast and Tile Reference

Using WNS as part of your Windows 8 Store app? Digging into Windows Azure Mobile Services?  The Windows Notification Service is a key part of the Windows 8 platform and really great apps know how to use Push Notifications to make their great apps awesome.

Here’s a reference I got from my teammate Nick Harris showing off all the variations of Push Notification messages you can send to a Windows 8 machine, either manually from your own code, or from node.js scripts in your Windows Azure Mobile Services.

Toast variants: http://aka.ms/wnstoast

Tile variants: http://aka.ms/wnstile

Badge variants: http://aka.ms/wnsbadge

For the Mobile Services developer, these manifest themselves in the node javascript code something like this:

var parms = {
    image1src: 'http://link.to/myimage.jpg',
    image1alt: 'Alt tag for my image',
    text1: 'Text to put into the notification'
};
push.wns.sendToastImageAndText01(channel, parms);

Check out these links to learn what badge, tile or toast message options are available, and choose the one that makes the most sense for you and your app.

Azure, Cloud, Development, ITPro, Open Source, Startup, USCloud

Activating your BizSpark MSDN Azure Benefits

Every BizSpark member has a set of Azure benefits that come with their MSDN subscriptions. These benefits are outlined in the graphic below:

azure msdn benefits

Activating your Azure Benefits is a simple process requiring just 3 steps:

  1. Activate Windows Azure Subscription
  2. Download the Developer Tools: Windows Azure is an open and scalable platform for building amazing applications in the cloud. To that end, we have multiple Open Source SDKs for various platforms and technologies. Here are some convenience links to getting all the tools you’ll need:
  3. Get the Training: The Windows Azure Training Kit includes a comprehensive set of technical content to help you learn how to use Windows Azure and SQL Azure. The training kit has updated content for folks using either Visual Studio 2012 or Visual Studio 2010 tool sets. It also contains plenty of content to help you learn features currently in preview such as Windows Azure Virtual Machine, Windows Azure Virtual Networks and Windows Azure Media Services.

Simple, right? BizSpark members – follow these steps and get your benefits activated today. Once activated, download your favorite SDK and get busy building amazing applications in the cloud!

Azure, Cloud, Development, Open Source, Startup, USCloud, Videos

Microsoft DevRadio: Community Corner – Why I Switched to Windows Azure

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Dev Radio: Community Corner

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Principal Architect for Excolo Group, Casey Watson on how Casey recently made the switch from Amazon EC2 Cloud Services to Windows Azure. Tune in to hear us chat about the reasons why he moved over to Azure as they discuss IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service) key differences and benefits.

Next Steps:

Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, Zune, or RSS

Register for our Windows Azure Hands-on Lab Online (HOLO) events today!

Virtual Labs:

Download

Azure, Cloud, Development, Featured, ITPro, Open Source, Silverlight, Students, USCloud, Web, Windows, Windows 8, WP7, WP8

BizSpark for Startups

My good friend and colleague Taylor Cowan has begun working on a blog post series entitled “25 Ways Software Startups can use BizSpark”.  Even if you haven’t already formed a company around your latest great idea, Taylor’s series will help you understand how startups can take the best advantage of all the amazing features that BizSpark has to offer. Today was Day 6 (I know, I’m a little behind) but there are still 19 more days to come!

Tune into 25 Ways Software Startups can use BizSpark at http://taylorcowanonline.com

BizSpark, for those that don’t know, Microsoft® BizSpark® is a global program that helps software startups succeed by giving them access to software development tools, connecting them with key industry players, and providing marketing visibility.  The program also includes access to Windows Azure, a flexible, comprehensive, and powerful cloud platform for the creation of web applications and services.  In addition, BizSpark offers technical support, business training and a network of over 2,000 partners to connect members with incubators, investors, advisors, government agencies and hosters.  Since it was established in 2008, more than 45,000 companies in over 100 countries have joined BizSpark.

Here is the BizSpark membership critera:

  1. Privately-held company
  2. Less than 5 years old
  3. Earns less than $1M US per year
  4. In the business of developing software (on any platform, with any language, for any type of device)

That means, if you are building a Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8 application that you intend to sell on in their respective marketplaces, you qualify for BizSpark and can get access to ALL of those amazing benefits!  Contact Taylor today via his blog at http://taylorcowanonline.com to find out more about joining the BizSpark family today!

Azure, Cloud, Development, USCloud

Solving Real-world Problems with Windows Azure Web Sites

One of my peers, Brady Gaster, has released a blog post series on solving real-world problems with Windows Azure Web Sites. Windows Azure Web Sites, as I’m sure by now you already know, is our hosting platform for web applications in Windows Azure. With three levels of service, WAWS offers a number of ways to quickly and easily deploy web sites to the Azure cloud. You can start small and scale as your application needs change and traffic increases.

You can see a list of the posts on Brady’s web site at the following URL, but I’ve copied down some abstracts for each post to make it easy for you (and me) to find them later.

http://www.bradygaster.com/solving-real-world-problems-with-windows-azure-web-sites

And here’s that list of articles:

Multiple Environments with Windows Azure Web Sites
In this post I demonstrate how to have production and staging sites set up for your web site so that you can test your changes in a sandbox site before pushing your production site and potentially causing damage to it (and your reputation). If you’ve wondered how to gate your deployments using Windows Azure Web Sites, this is a good place to start. You’ll learn how to use Windows Azure Web Sites with a GitHub.com repository and some creative branching strategies to maintain multiple environments for a site.

Managing Multiple Windows Azure Web Site Environments using Visual Studio Publishing Profiles
This post takes the same sort of scenario as presented in the first article. Rather than use GitHub.com as a means to executing a series of gated environment deployments it focuses on the awesome features within Visual Studio for web publishing. Specifically, you’ll see how to use publishing profiles to deploy to multiple Windows Azure Web Sites, so that a team of peers responsible for releasing a site can do so without ever needing to leave Visual Studio.

This post also takes a look at the idea of release management and how this solution answers the question of doing proper release management with a cloud-hosted web site. If you’ve wondered how your SDLC could fit in the idea of continuously maintaining a series of environments for gating your releases using Visual Studio’s super-simple publishing features, this is a great place to start.

Connecting Windows Azure Web Sites to On-Premises Databases Using Windows Azure Storage Bus
This post introduces the idea creating a hybrid cloud setup using a Windows Azure Web Site and the Windows Azure Service Bus, to demonstrate how a web site hosted in Windows Azure can connect to your on-premises enterprise database. If you’ve been wondering how to save data from your Windows Azure Web Site into your local database but didn’t know how to do it, or if you’re thinking of taking baby steps in your move toward cloud computing, this post could provide some good guidance on how to get started.

Azure, Cloud, Dallas, Development, Events, ITPro, Students, Texas, Training, USCloud

IaaS Bootcamp in Dallas

Whether you build apps or support the infrastructure that runs the apps, the cloud can be a really big place. For some, it’s a natural evolution for their application and infrastructure to embrace the power and scale of the cloud. For others, it’s a journey that has to begin with a single step.

Windows Azure provides that first step with a scalable, flexible platform for deploying your applications your way. With our Infrastructure as a Service platform (IaaS) called Windows Azure Virtual Machines, you get the flexibility to choose between Windows and Linux with full control over the operating system configuration and installed software, matched with the portability of Hyper-V disk images. Windows Azure Virtual Machines provide the perfect environment for meeting all of your Infrastructure-as-a-Service needs.

To learn more about our Infrastructure as a Service platform, we invite all developers and IT Professionals to join local Microsoft cloud experts as they introduce you to the Microsoft Cloud Platform, dive deep into Windows Azure Virtual Machines, and help walk you through a hands on demonstration of the power of IaaS on the Windows Azure platform.

WHEN: December 17th, 2012

WHERE: Microsoft Office in Dallas

REGISTRATION: http://aka.ms/iaasdallasreg

All participants registering for the event will get a FREE 90-day trial of the Windows Azure platform and services, including access to the Virtual Machines preview. Simply visit http://aka.ms/TheCloud to take advantage of this FREE offer!

All participants to successfully complete the lab and demonstrate their running application to the instructor will be put into a drawing for a $500 gift card to the Microsoft Store, among other prizes!

Azure, Cloud, Development, Events, Featured, ITPro, Online, Training, USCloud

AzureConf

On November 14, 2012, Microsoft will be hosting Windows AzureConf, a free event for the Windows Azure community. This event will feature a keynote presentation by Scott Guthrie, along with numerous sessions executed by Windows Azure MVPs and community members. Streamed live for an online audience on Channel 9, the event will allow you to see how developers just like you are using Windows Azure to develop applications on the best cloud platform in the industry. Community members from all over the world will join Scott in the Channel 9 studios to present their own ideas, innovations inventions and experiences. These presentations will provide you the opportunity to see how your peers in the community are doing great things using Windows Azure offerings like Mobile Services, Web Sites, Service Bus, virtual machines, and more. Whether you’re just learning Windows Azure or you’ve already achieved success on the platform, you won’t want to miss this special event. For more information on Windows AzureConf or to register for the event, please visit http://windowsazureconf.net.

While you’re waiting for the conference to kick off, here are some helpful links to prepare your mind, body and soul for the Windows Azure experience:

SO – Get out to http://windowsazureconf.net and sign up today!

 

Azure, Cloud, Development, Events, Product Announcements

Windows Azure Fast!

Enter to win a trip to Las Vegas for you and a friend plus track time with some of the world’s fastest cars! Just upload a short video telling us how Windows Azure made your apps or development faster.

This is how we do it:

  1. Visit www.meetwindowsazure.com/fast and check out some of the videos on how people are going fast using Windows Azure
  2. Grab a flipcam, video camera, phone or whatever is in front of you and record a short video discussing (or showing) how you are doing something fast using Windows Azure (5 minutes or less)
  3. Upload your video to the site
  4. Spread the word to the rest of the community, and encourage people to vote for your video.  Blog with pointer to campaign site (http://bit.ly/AzureFast1) and tweet using #AzureFast (case sensitive)

To get your eukaryotic cells separating the chromosomes in their nuclei into two identical sets, check out the worlds fastest rapper laying down an awesome Windows Azure groove:

Azure, Cloud, Development, Product Announcements

New Azure SDK and Services Updates

Some AMAZING new updates to Windows Azure were announced yesterday. I LOVE the rate at which new and improved features are being added to the Windows Azure platform, and I think you’ll find these updates particularly compelling. In a nutshell, here’s what was announced:

iOS Support for Windows Azure Mobile Services

The team released a native iOS SDK is for developers programming in Objective-C on the iPhone and iPad platforms. Included in the SDK are support for all the same features you get with the Windows 8 around data storage, dynamic schematization and authentication. Each Mobile Service can actually support *all* available clients, which now includes iOS, and it does NOT require a separate Mobile Services project for each different client. You can get sample code for each platform from the Mobile Service simply by toggling a switch:

While the release is still in development, and should not be considered a “final product”, the bits are pretty solid and the sample app worked for me without issue. I’m looking forward to them adding support for Notifications, which is missing from this current release, but should be coming out soon.

New Authentication Providers

Supported in both the Windows Store and new iOS bits, a set of new authentication providers have been added to the Mobile Services SDK. New providers include Google,  Twitter and Facebook, to augment the already existing Microsoft Account capacity.  Using the new provider model is really simple – first, you update the Mobile Services portal with the API keys that correspond to the types of authentication your application supports:

Then, you add code similar to the following, to process the login with the selected authentication provider:

private MobileServiceUser user;

private async System.Threading.Tasks.Task Authenticate()
{
    while (user == null)
    {
        string message;
        try
        {
            user = await App.MobileService
                LoginAsync(MobileServiceAuthenticationProvider.Facebook);
            message = 
                string.Format("You are now logged in - {0}", user.UserId);
        }
        catch (InvalidOperationException)
        {
            message = "You must log in. Login Required";
        }

        var dialog = new Windows.UI.Popups.MessageDialog(message);
        dialog.Commands.Add(new UICommand("OK"));
        await dialog.ShowAsync();
    }

}

Pretty simple!

Service Scripts Update

Some great new functionality is now available in the Mobile Service script layer.  These scripts are triggered off of any CRUD operation on a Mobile Service’s table and can already handle doing data and query validation, filtering, web requests and more.  The update now brings script access to blob storage, service bus, table storage, and more.  In addition, SendGrid and Twilio are now modules that can be called from the scripts, giving developers the ability to send emails (SendGrid) or SMS text messages (Twilio) whenever a script is fired.

Updates to the Windows Azure Training Kit

Along with all the updates to the SDK, there are also some updates to the Windows Azure Training Kit.   With this latest refresh, the kit now contains 38 presentations, 24 demos and 47 Hands-on Labs.  Speaker notes have been added to may of the presentations, and man of the labs have been updated to reference Visual Studio 2012.

SO GO GET IT ALREADY!

If you don’t already have a Windows Azure account, sign up today for a FREE 90-Day Trial at http://aka.ms/thecloud and get to work trying out some of these cool new features! You’ll get access to all the Windows Azure services for 90-days with a “spending limit” cap put in place once the trial expires to make sure that your credit card is not charged for any services without your explicit permission.  It’s a no-risk offer that you should jump on ASAP!