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!

Development, MVVM, Open Source, Videos, Windows, Windows 8

Microsoft DevRadio: Community Corner – Update Controls for Windows 8 app Development

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Dev Radio: Community Corner

I recently had the  pleasure  to interview wicked smart Microsoft Client App Dev MVP Michael Perry as part of the Microsoft DevRadio show to hear about the amazing work he’s done on an open source databinding framework called  Update Controlswhich can help Windows 8 app developers simplify their code by automatically discovering dependencies so that you won’t have to manage them in your view model.

Next Steps:

Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, Zune, or RSS

If you’re interested in learning more about the products or solutions discussed in this episode, click on any of the below links for free, in-depth information:

Websites:

Videos:

Virtual Labs:

Download

Azure, Development, Open Source, Product Announcements, Videos, Web

Announcing TypeScript Preview for Visual Studio

Today, Soma announced on his blog the preview release of a new, open source project called TypeScript.  TypeScript adds optional types, classes and modules to JavaScript so that developer can make better tooling for large-scale JavaScript applications.  TypeScript comes with a cross-platform compiler that allows developers to code in TypeScript and output standards-based JavaScript for any browser or host.

Along with the language features of TypeScript itself, Microsoft is also announcing the release of an extension for Visual Studio 2012 which provides a cool tooling experience with Intellisense, refactoring support and as-you-type error reporting, just like you’d expect from Visual Studio.

You can learn more about TypeScript via the following links:

Go get it – it looks really cool!

Azure, Cloud, Development, MVVM, Open Source, Silverlight, USCloud, Windows, Windows 8, WP7, WP8

Scaling Collaborative Applications

One of our local MVPs, Michael Perry, has written a great article about scaling collaborative Windows 8 applications with Correspondence and Windows Azure.

Azure is a great way to quickly deploy and scale your web sites. Correspondence is a rich framework for bringing collaborative experiences to multiple platforms. When these two come together, amazing things can happen.

http://qedcode.com/content/scaling-collaborative-applications-azure-and-correspondence

For those that don’t know, Correspondence is Michael’s innovative collaboration framework for occasionally connected smart clients and web applications. Correspondence is hosted on CodePlex at http://correspondence.codeplex.com/ and samples can be found on Michaels blog at http://qedcode.com.

Azure, Cloud, Dallas, Development, Events, Featured, Open Source, Students, Texas, Training, user group, Windows 8, WP7

Upcoming User Group Meetings

There are a couple of great-sounding User Group meetings coming up this week that I thought you all might be interested in:

Windows Phone App Developer Group – DFW Dallas TexasSeptember AT&T Mobile App Hackathon Education (Dallas)Friday, 5:00 PM Sep 14
Dallas PHPAn Illustrated Git PrimerTuesday, 7:00 PM Sep 11
DFW C++ User Group, meeting at NCR’s officeLeak Free C++Tuesday, 6:00 PM Sep 11

If you a new to Git, I highly recommend attending the PHP User Group’s presentation. The speaker and I have had numerous conversations about Git, and he does a really good job of explaining the basics. I was going to go and try to ask some of my newer questions about different workflow strategies, branching and such, but a prior family obligation is going to keep me from attending any groups on Tuesday night.

If you’re a Windows Phone or Windows 8 developer, I’ll also recommend the AT&T Mobile Hackathon. I’ve participated in these before and they are very well run by the gang over at AT&T and I know you’ll have an amazing time participating. The prizes are usually pretty good too, so bring your great idea and be ready to crank out some code!

These are just a couple that popped into my Inbox this morning, but there are plenty of other amazing activities to be found around TX, OK, AR and LA – just check http://southcentralcommunity.com and http://communitymegaphone.com for more details.

Development, Open Source, Windows, Windows 8, WP7, WP8

Starter Kit News

Couple of quick announcements about the Starter Kits I’ve been working on over the past year:

First, I just made an update tonight to the Windows Phone Starter Kit for Schools (a.k.a. the Windows Phone Starter Kits for Schools, Organizations, Teams, Clubs, and Just About Everything Else). Since Google recently decided to discontinue their Weather API, I needed to find another source. I was using Bing originally, but the Bing API requires developers to pay a subscription fee to access the API after the first 5,000 transactions. Instead, today I switched over to a free Weather API from http://www.worldweatheronline.com. World Weather Online allows for developers to get a free account providing current conditions as well as (up to) a 5-day forecast.  For this starter kit, that would fit perfectly! I made the updates tonight in both the GitHub repository as well as the MSDN Code Gallery so you can get it from either place.

Second, I’ve been getting a LOT of questions about Starter Kits for Windows 8. Many people have asked if there are any plans to create Win8 versions of all the existing Starter Kits. So far, there has not been any plans, but I think I might be persuaded to start working on some, if I could find some interested community members to work with me.  The primary ones to move over would be the Starter Kit for Schools and the Starter Kit for RSS, as those are the 2 most popular Starter Kits of the bunch. There are quite a few bits that would need to change considering the new UX with Windows 8 Store Apps, but I think it’s perfectly manageable in a relatively short period of time. After all – these are starter kits/sample code – not completed applications. There is every expectation that people will need to make additional customizations as well as UI updates before submitting the applications for publication. If you are interested in helping out with this, please let me know and we can get to work straight away! There might even be a prize in it for you for getting the code completed and published 🙂

Azure, Cloud, Development, Featured, Open Source, Product Announcements, Web

Windows Azure Web Sites

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Azure Spring Release

 

Similar to the way I went about learning Windows Phone, I’m going to use my blog as a place to chronicle my experiences with the newest Windows Azure capabilities, as announced recently at our MEET Windows Azure event. Hopefully everything will be clean, crisp and clear, but as with all emerging technologies, sometimes there are always slight bumps in the road, and I’m sure I’ll hit most of them. I’ll do my best help you navigate around or through the bumps as best I can based on my own learnings and (hopefully) your comments.

So as my first post, I’ll provide a brief tour of the new HTML-based UI and show how to deploy a new application – based on a template – into the new (and very exciting) Windows Azure Web Sites feature. For this demo, I’m going to pick on WordPress, because I use it for my blog, as well as the GiveCamp.org website and have become a fan of its features over the past couple of years.

I realize most of you won’t have the luxury of starting with File->New and many of you won’t necessarily want to deploy something out of the gallery, but this is a good, simple place to get started introducing the tools. Watch for more “real world” scenarios later on in this series.

Azure Account

As with all the demos in this series, you’ll have to have a Windows Azure account in order to follow along at home. There are a couple of ways to get started with your Azure account – but the easiest way is to sign up for a FREE 90-Day trial. The 90-day trial is completely FREE and even comes with a convenient “Spending Cap” (initially set to $0.00) to prevent you from accidentally spending money 🙂  If you really like the services provided by Windows Azure, and want to take on some more features or usage levels beyond the scope of the free trial, just remove the spending cap and you’re good to go!

Once you get your account all set up, navigate over to the new Management Console to get started by visiting http://manage.windowsazure.com.  If you somehow ended up at the old management site (http://windows.azure.com) you’ll need to “opt in” to the new management portal as it’s not currently the default (as of this writing). It’s easy to do this – just click on the “Visit the Preview Portal” link at the bottom of the existing Silverlight portal UI:

Also, as of the time of this writing, you’ll have to specifically ask for access to the Web Sites feature. You do this by clicking on the New button at the bottom (the great big + symbol) and hovering over the greyed-out “Web Sites” link. This link will take you to the Azure Account Management page and allow you to request access for the preview features:

Click the “Try it Now” button to request access to the features you want.

New HTML5-based Management Portal

OK – Now that we’re in the new portal, let’s talk about that for a minute. Although I was a big fan of Silverlight (and I’m sure you were too) we actually got some comments from users of Azure about the Silverlight UI for managing your account.  With the way technology trends are shifting these days, we agreed with those comments, and decided that it made much more sense for us to migrate this management console over to HTML5. HTML5 gives us much broader reach in terms of browser and platform support, since not everyone had Silverlight installed, and is especially important now that Windows is no longer a requirement for building and deploying applications into Windows Azure! (more on that in future posts).

Here’s a screen shot of the new HTML5-based Management Console

Right off the bat you’ll notice that the Management Console is much cleaner, and more Metro-ified than its predecessor. Down the left-hand side, you can see all of the choices you have for utilizing the various Windows Azure services including Web Sites (which we’ll dive into more detail here), Virtual Machines, Cloud Services (which is what you’re all previously used to as Windows Azure Web Role and Worker Roles), Storage and Networks. You can view everything all-up from with “All Items” option, or select an individual service to see just those items. My list is empty because I just set up my account, so let’s go in and create a new Web Site!

Windows Azure Web Sites

In addition to the dedicated Web Role infrastructure that you can deploy with Windows Azure, Windows Azure Web Sites provide a simple, low-cost way to get your applications up and running in what is the equivalent of a Shared Hosting environment.

To get started, just select “Web Sites” from the primary navigation, and choose the “Create a Web Site” link.

When the link is clicked, a data entry window will jquery up from the bottom and give you the options to create a new blank site (Quick Create), create a blank one with database support (you can pick from SQL Server or MySQL) or create from the Gallery.  For this demo, we’ll pick the 3rd option (we’ll look at the others in future posts).

When you select “From Gallery”, the following dialog pops up to allow you to pick open of the open source applications that we support natively in Windows Azure Web Sites.

Like the Web Platform Installer, which was the inspiration for this process, the Find Apps for Azure dialog shows all the available web apps that you can install.  You can scan through the entire list, or filter based on Blogs, CMS, etc. For our purposes, we’ll scroll down to the bottom of the ALL list, click on WordPress and press the right arrow button in the lower-right corner of the dialog. This will take us to the  following “Configure your App” page.

You’ll need to enter a unique endpoint to use, but you can always use custom DNS settings to hide this very technical-looking URL from your users. You also have the chance to select an existing database (if you have one) and a deployment region. As per Windows Azure Web Roles, you will want to select a region that makes sense for the users of your application – if you know that all your users are located in Texas, for example, pick South Central US.

Once you have the details entered, press the right arrow button to go to step 3. This takes you to the New MySQL Database page:

From here, you can select the name of the database as well as the Region. Name is up to you, but it does need to be unique. I would also not change the Region, except to make sure that it’s located in the same region as your Web Site. Putting these in different places will increase the network latency between your app and its database, so it almost never makes sense to have these names differ. On this page, you also have to agree to the ClearDB’s legal termsIANAL, but I took a glance at it and it looks pretty straight forward to me. YMMV, and all those other terms…

Once you’re done accepting the terms, click on the check mark to begin provisioning your app. You can watch the status go from creating, to deploying to (hopefully) running in less than a minute!  Take THAT, Windows Azure Web Roles!

Remember the name of the unique endpoint you first entered when creating your app? Well, it’s listed here and serves as a button, complete with navigational arrow,  to take you to the details of your service. Click on it (mine is “ChrisKoenig”) and see the following details page.

This page deserves some explaining.

Section 1 at the top is a graph that will show a bunch of statistics related to your application including CPU time, number of requests, data in and out and HTTP server errors. This is LIVE data, so if you press the refresh button at the top/right, you’ll see the data change as your site gets visitors and activity.

Section 2, under “usage overview”, shows additional details around your account’s resource consumption with data points that highlight the current app, but show data for all your web sites.

Section 3, under “quick glance” has a bunch of links to helpful information such as connection string settings, publish profiles, and Git/TFS publishing settings as well as status, details and other useful information.

I will discuss more on the Git/TFS stuff in future blog posts, but for now it means this – deploying your Azure Web Site application can be as simple as “pushing” to an Azure-hosted Git or TFS repository. The command “git push azure master”, for example, will deploy a new version of your website directly to Azure – live and in color.

You can click through the other items on the toolbar including Monitor, Configure, Scale and Linked Resources.

  • Dashboard is the current (default) view.
  • Monitor gives you a more detailed view of the real-time monitoring for Windows Azure Web Sites.
  • Configure allows you to specify the version of the framework you’re using, turn on and off diagnostics, control default documents and more.

 

  • Scale allows you to “scale up” your website beyond the shard hosting model provided out of the box. You can switch to a “Reserved” mode as well as increase the instance count of your web site from 1 to 2 or 3 servers. Beyond this, I suspect that you’ll have to migrate to a Web Role in Azure.

 

  • Lastly, the Linked Resources page shows any referenced resources, such as a Storage Account, or (in this case) a database.

These configuration settings are a great new addition to the Azure environment and make it a LOT easier to manage your web sites than ever before.

Show me the Site!

At this point, all of your configuration settings should be complete (even though it’s worth pointing our that we didn’t actually need to change anything – we left all the defaults in place) you can view the results of your work by clicking back on the Dashboard tab, and clicking on the Site URL link under the “Quick Glance” section:

From here you should see a new browser window open with the WordPress configuration page launch just as if you’d installed it the hard way.

From here, you enter the Site Title, User Name, Password, etc. just like you would for any new WordPress installation. When you’re done, you have a working Azure-based WordPress site ready to go!  You can update the code via Git/TFS, FTP or Web Deployment tool in Visual Studio or Web Matrix!  SO SIMPLE even I could do it 🙂

What’s next?

In the next installment of this series, I’ll look at taking an existing WordPress application and migrating it over to Windows Azure Web Sites without using the Gallery. We’ll have to save off and script our old site, create a new Azure-based MySQL database and manually publish to Azure through FTP or GIT.

Should be fun – so see you next time!