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, 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!

Design, Development, Product Announcements, Web, Windows, Windows 8

GameSalad Embraces Windows 8

I know this has been in the oven for some time now, but I just got the email confirmation this morning that GameSalad – creators of the popular “no coding required” game development environment – now support publishing to the Windows Store!  I’ve used the GameSalad environment a bit, and although I’m a far cry from ready to publish a game, will say that it is crazy easy to build games with this platform.  All the stuff I was always concerned about keeping up with on an XNA-based game simply goes away as you dive into the GameSalad Creator product.

Game development is basically a set of drag-and-drop operations that you perform against a set of objects in your environment. You drag in images, videos, sounds and other assets and wire them up to “actors” that do activities within your game. You can use a simple rules engine to assign different behaviors to the actors and make them perform in your game in any way you can imagine.

And, as they say – that’s not all!

In addition to being able to publish your game to the Windows Store, GameSalad also allows you to publish to iOS (iPhone an iPad), Android and HTML5 as well – making your single investment in game development pay off with 5 separate targets! Awesome!

Download your copy of GameSalad Creator today and get busy building some amazing games!

Azure, Cloud, Development, Product Announcements, Web

WebMatrix 2 + Windows Azure

WebMatrix 2 shipped this week with some new Windows Azure-related features!

For all the details, visit http://blogs.msdn.com/b/windowsazure/archive/2012/09/06/webmatrix-2-is-released-new-windows-azure-features.aspx

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Download Windows Azure Web Site applications to WebMatrix
    Windows Azure allows you to download your existing Windows Azure Website project into WebMatrix to work on locally or help you create a new project from the Application Gallery, or from a set of pretty cool templates.
  • Publish to Windows Azure
    Once you have an application downloaded, created from template or application gallery, or created from scratch, you can use WebMatrix to publish right back up to Windows Azure. You can import publish settings as downloaded from your Windows Azure Website dashboard, and publish right back up to the cloud. It’s really simple to use, and WebMatrix, like Visual Studio, is smart enough to only push the changed bits back to the cloud, optimizing the upload performance and getting your changes up and running as fast as possible.
  • Publish your Database
    Your application have a database with it? No problem! In addition to your published code, WebMatrix can also publish the scheme or database with your application

Congrats to the guys on the WebMatrix team! WebMatrix does more, of course, than just support Windows Azure applications, but you can learn more about that on the Web Matrix website as well as the new release announcement.

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!

Dallas, Design, Development, Texas, user group, Web

UI for Geeks at Dallas ASP.NET

On Tuesday, April 24 from 6:00pm-9:00pm at the Microsoft office in Dallas, the Dallas ASP.NET User Group is hosting Dr. Tobias Komischke and Jason Beres from Infragistics for a session on User-Centered Data Visualization (a.k.a. UI for Geeks).

Topic: User-Centered Data Visualization (a.k.a. UI for Geeks)

In this code-focused talk, you will learn how to create high performance, expressive data visualizations that run on the browser, as desktop apps, and on devices like iPads, Windows 8 tablets and Android tablets. At the end of this talk, you will understand the techniques, tools and technologies you’ll need to implement effective visual experiences.

Speaker Bios

  • Dr. Tobias Komischke is the Director of User Experience at Infragistics and is responsible for the UX design consulting business.
  • Jason Beres is the VP of Product Management, Community, and Evangelism for Infragistics.

Registration

You can register via EventBrite at http://dallasaspnetapr2012.eventbrite.com/, or send email to rsvp@dallasasp.net

As a special incentive to attend, this month the User Group will be giving away one whole MSDN Subscription. Each member who brings a guest will receive one extra door prize ticket per guest, which will increase your chance of winning!

Azure, Cloud, Dallas, Events, Houston, Silverlight, State of .NET, Texas, Web, Windows, WP7

Free “State of .NET” Events!

Two Locations – Houston & Dallas
  • Dallas:   Tuesday, May 24, 2011  1:30 – 4:30 PM
    Microsoft Dallas Office –  7000 SR-161 (George Bush Turnpike), Irving, TX 75039
  • Houston: Thursday, May 26, 2011  1:30 – 4:30 PM
    Microsoft Houston Office – 2000 W Sam Houston Parkway S, Houston, TX 77042

Brought to you by Microsoft, CODE Training & EPS Software, this free afternoon event presents an unbiased look at the current and future development with .NET. Join Microsoft Regional Director and MVP Markus Egger, for an afternoon of free and independent information about current Microsoft development technologies! What is the state of .NET today? Which of the many .NET technologies have gained traction? Which ones can you ignore for now? What other Microsoft technologies should you include in your development efforts? This event is completely free of charge and is designed for developers as well as IT decision makers. Specific prior knowledge is not required. Attendees of this event will come away with a clear understanding of which technologies to use for various technical challenges.

Topics will include:

  • Cloud (Azure & others)
  • The State of Services
  • IE9
  • HTML 5
  • Windows Phone 7 and other devices
  • ASP.NET MVC, Razor and jQuery
  • Visual Studio Async
  • Productivity Power Tools
  • Various .NET Framework Topics
  • Visual Studio LightSwitch
  • and more!

Dallas Signup Link– Tuesday, May 24, 2011  1:30 – 4:30
Houston Signup Link– Thursday, May 26, 2011  1:30 – 4:30

Development, Web

Visual Studio Async CTP vs. ASP.NET MVC 3 Tools Refresh

If you try to install the ASP.NET MVC 3 Tools Update announced at MIX11, and you had previously installed (and then uninstalled) the Visual Studio Async CTP or the Visual Studio Async CTP (SP1 Refresh) installed, you might still get this error message:

Blocking Issues:

This product is incompatible with the Microsoft Visual Studio Async CTP. Please uninstall the component, then try to install this product again.

If you do, I have a solution for you!

Simply uninstalling the Async CTP isn’t enough to get past the checks that the MVC 3 Tools Update is looking for.  To get past this issue, you’ll have to go Registry diving and perform some minor surgery.

DISCLAIMER: I am suggesting to you a solution that worked FOR ME, but might not work for you. I am NOT with Microsoft support, and will NOT warranty your system if you do this, or some other crazy thing and brick your computer. This is definitely an instance of “it works on my machine” and your mileage may vary. Use at your own risk. Void where prohibited. Please drink responsibly.

With that out of the way – the operation is actually pretty simple:  start Regedit, navigate to the following registry key and delete it:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Installer\UserData\S-1-5-18\Patches\8BC707D3F85BD0B3F9C439FAC38EAE2E

Make sure you’re deleting the entire key from the tree view, and not just the parts from the details view.  If you’re nervous about doing this, you can always right-click on the key and export it to your computer before you delete it.

And that’s it!  After the key is gone, re-run the installer and you should be good to go.

 

Many thanks to Kevin H for using the force to track down this orphaned key for me and helping me get past this annoying blocking issue.

Design, Development, Events, MIX, Open Source, Silverlight, Videos, Web, WP7

Getting ready for MIX11

Mix0321_220_ch9[1]The cool dudes and dudettes at Channel9 have started a series of videos leading us up to MIX 11. Each video is only about 10 minutes long, and they’ve got some interesting sounding topics. AS of this post, here are the titles with links to the sessions

Click on these links to see the individual shows, or you can subscribe to their channel to stay up-to-date.

SO – visit the Channel9 site and watch these videos, get all pumped up for MIX11, and visit http://live.visitmix.com and get your registration complete!  I’ll see you there Smile

Development, Product Announcements, Web

IE9 RTW and Developer Contest!

BAK_RTW_728x90

At 11:00 CST tonight, heralded with much fanfare at Austin’s annual South by Southwest Interactive, Microsoft released the final bits for Internet Explorer 9! In honor of #9, here are 9 facts you might not know about IE9:

  1. IE9 is the fastest adopted beta in IE browser history.  With over 40M downloads and a usage share on Windows 7 well over 2% globally, IE9 adoption has more than surpassed expectations.
  2. IE9 is enterprise ready.  IE9 has the highest LOB compatibility pass rate of any product in Microsoft’s history –  99% – coupled with one of the lowest IE helpdesk contact rates (number of helpdesk calls/number of installs) to date (data is based on Microsoft’s own internal “dogfood” testing).  And for our customers, IE9 is ready to go with their Windows 7 deployments.
  3. IE9 has the fastest JavaScript engine in the industry.  Script is one of many factors in performance. On a commonly used micro-benchmark, IE9’s improved JavaScript performance now holds the top spot in the industry, an improvement of almost 18 times from IE8.
  4. IE9 is the only fully hardware-accelerated browser.  All graphics, video and text in IE9 are hardware-accelerated.  We re-architected IE9 to take full advantage of the Windows PC.  IE9 was the first to introduce this concept and other browsers have been scrambling to catch-up.  See the difference for yourself.
  5. IE9 treats your favorite sites like apps.  The site is the center of attention in IE9’s new frame.  When you pin a site to the taskbar, your experience is even better.  Over 250 of the world’s top sites have already taken advantage of Jump Lists, notifications, and thumbnail previews to make their sites more app-like.  Web site publishers are seeing close to a 50% increase in engagement from their IE9 customers through pinned sites. 
  6. IE9 protects against 99% of socially-engineered malware.  Malware is the #1 threat on the internet today.  With Microsoft SmartScreen and the new SmartScreen application reputation feature in IE9, no other browser comes close in protecting consumers from these real-world threats.  IE9 is 33 times better than Chrome and over 5 times better than Firefox. 
  7. IE9 is the only browser with integrated online tracking protection for consumers.   Microsoft changed the browser and industry landscape with the introduction of IE9’s Tracking Protection, providing the only built-in browser solution protecting consumers today.
  8. IE9 is leading with site-ready HTML5 support.  IE9 is all in when it comes to delivering developers new standards-based capabilities with HTML5.   Microsoft co-chairs the W3C HTML5 working group and during the IE9 release has contributed almost 6000 test cases to the W3C and international standards bodies.  Currently, IE9 has the best conformance with W3C HTML5.
  9. IE9 has had the strongest press in IE history:   Here is a small sample of what reviewers are saying:

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I’ve been using IE since the first internal betas were announced (remember those without any chrome at all?) and I’ve been VERY happy with performance, feature and reliability. I know you will too.

Download the final version of IE9 today!

Windows© Internet Explorer 9

But wait – there’s more!

If you’re a web developer, as I expect most of you are, Microsoft is running a developer contest!  Push HTML5 to its limits and compete for over $40,000 in prizes. The Grand Prize winner will receive $9,000 in cash and a fully-loaded trip with a Golden Ticket to the Future of Web Apps Conference in Las Vegas on June 27th.

Find out more and enter today at http://www.beautyoftheweb.com/#/unplugged

Awolnation, Ra Ra Riot and Hellboy