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A software architect, Azure expert, and former Microsoft evangelist, Mike Benkovich dedicates huge amounts of his time to helping his fellow developers and burgeoning programmers learn about new technologies and platforms. Mike’s website equips developers with tips and resources to help them get to grips with technologies including cloud, data and devices, and he produces online courses covering areas like Azure enterprise development and serverless computing. Mike is also a chronic sharer of puns, so head over to his Twitter feed if you’re after a laugh (or a groan).

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Playing with MSFT Mobile DevOps story end to end

@MikeBenkovich 07/21/2016

Building code is always fun, especially when you get to work with new technologies and cool tools that make our lives as developers easier. One of those concepts that is driving a lot of organizations is that of DevOps, which we will define here as an approach for automating and  connecting work done with released software. In this article I’d like to show how to connect some of the tools available from Microsoft to work with mobile applications. This will include Xamarin, Team Services, HockeyApp and Azure Mobile Apps.

The process flow

  1. Create a Team Project – myXamarinDemo
  2. In Visual Studio create a Xamarin Forms with XAML and PCL project
  3. Add the solution to source control (use GIt and navigate to select the team project you created)
  4. Commit & Sync
  5. In Team Services add a build definition (Xamarin.Android template)
  6. Remove the steps that activate and deactivate the license, then queue a build
  7. In VS droid project add HockeyApp.droid component and code to register app

 

 

DevOps is


Did you see Windows Phone 8 Preview?

@MikeBenkovich 06/20/2012

It’s been a busy week by anyone’s estimation. We announced new capabilities in Windows Azure, a new Windows 8 Tablet called Surface, and now Windows Phone comes to the front.   Some great stuff has been announced around the future of Windows Phone yesterday. Here’s a summary of the core 8 features which include:image

Multi-core processor support: As reviewers have noted, Windows Phone runs buttery smooth on phones with a single processor. But piggybacking on the Windows core provides support for multiple cores—so we’re ready for whatever hardware makers dream up.

Bigger, sharper screens: Windows Phone 8 supports two new screen resolutions—1280x768 and 1280x720, opening the door to amazing new handsets with high-definition 720p displays.

More flexible storage: Windows Phone 8 supports removable MicroSD cards, so you can stuff your phone with extra photos, music, and whatever else is important to you, and then easily move it all onto your PC.

NFC wireless sharing: If you haven’t heard the term “NFC” yet, I’m betting you soon will. This emerging wireless technology lets phones share things over short distances. In Windows Phone 8, it helps make sharing photos, Office docs, and contact info easier—just tap your phone another NFC-equipped device. How cool is that?

Internet Explorer 10: The next version of Windows Phone comes with the same web browsing engine that’s headed for Window 8 PCs and tablets. IE10 is faster and more secure, with advanced anti-phishing features like SmartScreen Filter to block dangerous websites and malware.

Wallet: Windows Phone 8’s new digital Wallet feature does two great things. It can keep debit and credit cards, coupons, boarding passes, and other important info right at your fingertips. And when paired with a secure SIM from your carrier, you can also pay for things with a tap of your phone at compatible checkout counters.

Better maps and directions: Windows Phone 8 builds in Nokia mapping as part of the platform. Our partnership will provide more detailed maps and turn-by-turn directions in many countries, plus the ability to store maps offline on your phone so you can work with maps without a data connection.

Cooler apps and games: Basing Windows Phone 8 on the Windows core will unleash a new wave of amazing apps and especially games, for reasons

For a more detailed write up check out the blog post here:

http://windowsteamblog.com/windows_phone/b/windowsphone/

You can also check out a recording of the summit here:

http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Windows-Phone/Summit

Great stuff coming, stay tuned!

-mike

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CloudTip #13-What do you need to know to get started?

@MikeBenkovich 05/17/2012

imageThere are many ways to learn a new technology. Some of us prefer to read books, others like videos or screencasts, still others will choose to go to a training style event. In any case you need to have a reason to want to learn, whether it's a new project, something to put on the resume or just the challenge because it sounds cool. For me I learn best when I've got a real project that will stretch my knowledge to apply it in a new way. It also helps to have a deadline.

I've been working for a while now for Microsoft in a role that allows me to help people explore what's new and possible with the new releases of technology coming out at a rapid pace from client and web technologies like ASP.NET and Phone to user interface techniques like Silverlight and Ajax, to server and cloud platforms like SQL Server and Azure. The job has forced me to be abreast of how the technologies work, what you can do with them, and understanding how to explain the reasons for why and how they might fit into a project.


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In this post I'd like to provide a quick tour of where you can find content and events on Cloud Computing that should help you get started and find answers along the way.

Part 1 - Get Started with Cloud Computing and Windows Azure.
You've heard the buzz, your boss might even have talked about it. In this first webcast of the Soup to Nuts series we'll get started with Windows Azure and Cloud Computing. In it we will explore what Azure is and isn't and get started by building our first Cloud application. Fasten your seatbelts, we're ready to get started with Cloud Computing and Windows Azure.
Video; WMVMP4 Audio; WMA Slides: PPTX

Part 2 - Windows Azure Compute Services
The Cloud provides us with a number of services including storage, compute, networking and more. In this second session we take a look at how roles define what a service is. Beyond the different flavors of roles we show the RoleEntryPoint interface, and how we can plug code in the startup operations to make it easy to scale up instances. We will show how the Service Definition defines the role and provides hooks for customizing it to run the way we need it to.
Video; WMVMP4 Audio; WMA Slides: PPTX

Part 3 - Windows Azure Storage Options
The Cloud provides a scalable environment for compute but it needs somewhere common to store data. In this webcast we look at Windows Azure Storage and explore how to use the various types available to us including Blobs, Tables and Queues. We look at how it is durable, highly available and secured so that we can build applications that are able to leverage its strengths.
Video; WMVMP4 Audio; WMA Slides: PPTX

Part 4 - Intro to SQL Azure
While Windows Azure Storage provides basic storage often we need to work with Relational Data. In this weeks webcast we dive into SQL Azure and see how it is similar and different from on-premise SQL Server. From connecting from rich client as well as web apps to the management tools available for creating schema and moving data between instances in the cloud and on site we show you how it's done.
Video; WMVMP4 Audio; WMA Slides: PPTX

Part 5 - Access Control Services and Cloud Identity
Who are you? How do we know? Can you prove it? Identity in the cloud presents us with the same and different challenges from identity in person. Access Control Services is a modern identity selector service that makes it easy to work with existing islands of identity such as Facebook, Yahoo and Google. It is based on standards and works with claims to provide your application with the information it needs to make informed authorization decisions. Join this webcast to see ACS in action and learn how to put it to work in your application today.
Slides: PPTX

Part 6 - Diagnostics & Troubleshootingx
So you've built your Cloud application and now something goes wrong. What now? This weeks webcast is focused on looking at the options available for gaining insight to be able to find and solve problems. From working with Intellitrace to capture a run history to profiling options to configuring the diagnostics agent we will show you how to diagnose and troubleshoot your application.

Part 7 - Get Started with Windows Azure Caching Services with Brian Hitney (http://bit.ly/btlod-77)
How can you get the most performance and scalability from platform as a service? In this webcast, we take a look at caching and how you can integrate it in your application. Caching provides a distributed, in-memory application cache service for Windows Azure that provides performance by reducing the work needed to return a requested page.

Part 8 - Get Started with SQL Azure Reporting Services with Mike Benkovich (http://bit.ly/btlod-78)
Microsoft SQL Azure Reporting lets you easily build reporting capabilities into your Windows Azure application. The reports can be accessed easily from the Windows Azure portal, through a web browser, or directly from applications. With the cloud at your service, there's no need to manage or maintain your own reporting infrastructure. Join us as we dive into SQL Azure Reporting and the tools that are available to design connected reports that operate against disparate data sources. We look at what's provided from Windows Azure to support reporting and the available deployment options. We also see how to use this technology to build scalable reporting applications

Part 9 - Get Started working with Service Bus with Jim O'Neil (http://bit.ly/btlod-79)
No man is an island, and no cloud application stands alone! Now that you've conquered the core services of web roles, worker roles, storage, and Microsoft SQL Azure, it's time to learn how to bridge applications within the cloud and between the cloud and on premises. This is where the Service Bus comes in-providing connectivity for Windows Communication Foundation and other endpoints even behind firewalls. With both relay and brokered messaging capabilities, you can provide application-to-application communication as well as durable, asynchronous publication/subscription semantics. Come to this webcast ready to participate from your own computer to see how this technology all comes together in real time.

Enjoy!

-mike

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Cloud Tip #5-Secure your settings in Web.config with Encryption

@MikeBenkovich 04/02/2012

In Windows Azure and especially with SQL Azure we need to store passwords to access things. I wanted to show how you can encrypt the web.config file by adding code to the global.asax file. The cool part of this is that using this technique you can secure application specific settings like connection strings and other data in the unlikely event that someone is able to get a copy of the configuration file (like by copying it to a thumb drive from the host machine or something similar).

The basic logic is to create a variable that points to a configuration section, then checking that the section is protected (i.e. encrypted). If it isn't, then call the ProtectSection method to encrypt the contents. The server uses the local DPAPI (Data Protection API) to encrypt the configuration section with a machine specific key, so only that machine can decrypt the contents. The code to add to the global.asax.cs file in the Application Start event for this is:

protected void Session_Start(object sender, EventArgs e) 
{ 
    EncryptSection("appSettings"); 
} 
     
private void EncryptSection(string sSection)
{
    Configuration config = System.Web.Configuration
                             .WebConfigurationManager
                             .OpenWebConfiguration
                             (Context.Request.ApplicationPath);

    ConfigurationSection configSection =
        config.GetSection(sSection);

    if (!configSection.SectionInformation.IsProtected)
    {
        configSection.SectionInformation.ProtectSection
        ("DataProtectionConfigurationProvider");
        config.Save();
    }
}

Happy Coding!

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Cloud Tip #2–Finding Cloud Content that works for You

@MikeBenkovich 03/29/2012

imageThere are many ways to learn a new technology. Some of us prefer to read books, others like videos or screencasts, still others will choose to go to a training style event. In any case you need to have a reason to want to learn, whether it’s a new project, something to put on the resume or just the challenge because it sounds cool. For me I learn best when I’ve got a real project that will stretch my knowledge to apply it in a new way. It also helps to have a deadline.

I’ve been working for the last several years now for Microsoft in a role that allows me to help people explore what’s new and possible with the new releases of technology coming out at a rapid pace from client and web technologies like ASP.NET and Phone to user interface techniques like Silverlight and Ajax, to server and cloud platforms like SQL Server and Azure. The job has forced me to be abreast of how the technologies work, what you can do with them, and understanding how to explain the reasons for why and how they might fit into a project.

In this post I’d like to provide a quick tour of where you can find content and events on Cloud Computing that should help you get started and find answers along the way.

First on my list are the webcasts we’ve created that are 1 hour long sessions on the various aspects of a given topic. For Cloud Computing and Windows Azure I’ve got a list of several on my web site (www.benkotips.com) including a 27 part companion series we called “Windows Azure Boot Camp”. The first 10 webcasts in this series cover what you would see at a boot camp event (www.windowsazurebootcamp.com).  This spring we started a new series called “Cloud Computing Soup to Nuts” which is a developer focused get started with Windows Azure and the related services. We’ve recorded 6 webcasts as part of that series and will be adding more as we go forward. We just added 3 more for April including:

4/3 : Part 7 - Get Started with Windows Azure Caching Services with Brian Hitney (http://bit.ly/btlod-77)
How can you get the most performance and scalability from platform as a service? In this webcast, we take a look at caching and how you can integrate it in your application. Caching provides a distributed, in-memory application cache service for Windows Azure that provides performance by reducing the work needed to return a requested page.

4/10 : Part 8 - Get Started with SQL Azure Reporting Services with Mike Benkovich (http://bit.ly/btlod-78)
Microsoft SQL Azure Reporting lets you easily build reporting capabilities into your Windows Azure application. The reports can be accessed easily from the Windows Azure portal, through a web browser, or directly from applications. With the cloud at your service, there's no need to manage or maintain your own reporting infrastructure.  Join us as we dive into SQL Azure Reporting and the tools that are available to design connected reports that operate against disparate data sources. We look at what's provided from Windows Azure to support reporting and the available deployment options. We also see how to use this technology to build scalable reporting applications

4/17 : Part 9 – Get Started working with Service Bus with Jim O’Neil (http://bit.ly/btlod-79)
No man is an island, and no cloud application stands alone! Now that you've conquered the core services of web roles, worker roles, storage, and Microsoft SQL Azure, it's time to learn how to bridge applications within the cloud and between the cloud and on premises. This is where the Service Bus comes in—providing connectivity for Windows Communication Foundation and other endpoints even behind firewalls. With both relay and brokered messaging capabilities, you can provide application-to-application communication as well as durable, asynchronous publication/subscription semantics. Come to this webcast ready to participate from your own computer to see how this technology all comes together in real time.

If you’re looking for a conversational 30 minute show that covers Cloud topics I suggest checking out Cloud Cover on Channel9. This show features Azure experts including Ryan Dunn, Steve Marx, Wade Wegner, David Aiken and others who work closely with the product teams at Microsoft to learn how to use the latest releases.

Live events are a moving target depending on when you read this post, but we try to keep a list of upcoming Microsoft Events for developers on http://msdnevents.com. As we schedule them we add the events to this hub and you can find them by date and by location with a map of upcoming events. Another place to check is the demo page I’ve created on BenkoTips which shows not only upcoming events (aggregated from Community Megaphone, if you add it there it should show up on the map) but also User Group locations and links to their sites. That’s on http://benkotips.com/ug, then use the pan and zoom to focus the map on your city. Pins get added with the links. If your User Group data is out of date, send me an email & we’ll get it fixed.

We’ve got a series scheduled to run in thru May 2012 for Cloud Computing called Kick Start, which are a 1 day focused event that takes you thru the content from Soup to Nuts. The current schedule includes:

As to books I’d suggest checking out Sriram Krishnan’s book Programming Windows Azure: Programming the Microsoft Cloud, or Brian Prince’s book Azure in Action. If it’s SQL Azure that you’re after then Scott Klein has a great book called Pro SQL Azure (Expert’s Voice in .NET). I am also partial to the Patterns and Practices team’s book on Moving Applications to the Cloud on the Microsoft Azure Platform.

Finally you need an active Azure Subscription to get started. You can activate a 90 Free Trial by going to http://aka.ms/AzureTrialMB and get the tools at http://aka.ms/AzureMB.

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Starting out

@MikeBenkovich 06/16/2004

In the beginning...

A long, long time ago. I can still remember how that music used to make me smile. I know that if I had my chance, that I could make those people dance and maybe they'd be happy for a while...

- Don McClean (?)

How about a little American Pie? I like to throw down a few lines of verse to get the thoughts flowing when I sit down to do a little writing. Sort of sets the mood.  I guess that this song reminds us to look at the possible, and to remember the good times that were and the ones that will be. In the software industry we've definitely seen some challenges these last few years, but I think that the changes we're seeing, and the trends that are in the air will bring a resurgence or rennaisance in the software development industry.

The last few years have forced businesses to change how they view the world in order to remain profitable. Cutting costs, canceling projects, holding off on hiring have been the hallmark of the last couple years. But recently we are seeing that manufacturing is starting to get more orders. As stability in the world economy settles in, companies are starting to hire again. Projects that have been on hold are being released into the development stream and we are starting to see the sun rise again. But how can we make sure that we get a piece of that pie?

The secret, my friends, is to be efficient. To take advantage of the tools at our disposal to be more productive. Application blocks are a great idea, and are available in the public domain. They are stepping stones that allow us to build off a solid base and deliver our projects quicker. In the current MSDN Event series we talk about using the Exception and Configuration management blocks, as well as the Updater block which allows us to add the self updating functionality.  You can download these blocks by clicking on the links above. The blocks come with documentation on how they're built and quickstart sample applications that show them in use.

Other ways that we can reduce the development costs and be more effective is to take advantage of new products such as SQL Server Reporting Services. This new product gives us the ability to rapidly create and deploy business reports with our applications  and to simplify so many of those tedious tasks surrounding the simple job of reporting. Sure we have the information, but lets make it available and useful. Besides the great authoring environment that integrates with Visual Studio, we can manage the scalability, performance and delivery of the reports by simply configuring the caching, subscriptions and security of individual reports.

In order to continue to bring home the bacon, we must demonstrate that it is more efficient to have the developer working hand in hand (if not face to face) with the business in designing and building solutions. The new RAD features of Whidbey & Yukon promise to significantly reduce the amount of code required to perform basic functions. For example, have you ever written code to see whether or not a specific machine is currently connected to the network? If you're at a cmd line you can run the PING command and see whether it times out. But to implement that programmatically requires some complicated code. At the Des Moines User Group meeting last week someone had an example he had written to do just that. The code for the ping function was 140+ lines. In the .NET 2.0 we can use the “My” object and write the same thing in one (1) line of code (!!!). Do a little exploring and you find that this new object provides a tremendous amount of intelligence about our current runtime environment.  Sure, there's a lot of other cool features of Whidbey (like the automated layout guidelines, refactoring, etc) that will make rapid prototyping a reality, but until you actually have a chance to see it in action, you won't really appreciate the impact these advances will have.

As the developer becomes more productive and is able to provide the solutions that businesses require, they will start to ask better questions. Our goal then is to be at the front of the wave that is passing through the industry, so that maybe if we're lucky we can catch it and ride until we get to where we're going.


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