# Friday, 15 May 2015

Xamarin is a familiar name to mobile developers. The company is known for its tools that allow developers to build applications that will run the same code-base on Windows, Android, and iOS devices, making it easier and faster to build cross-platform applications. This spring, the folks at Xamarin are travelling across America delivering a series of Dev Days - a combination of classroom training and hacking.

The tour kicked off Saturday in Chicago, where I was happy to attend and participate; and Microsoft was happy to sponsor by providing the space.

James Montemagno of Xamarin began with an introduction Xamarin development, followed by an introduction to Xamarin forms. Afterwards, I showed the audience how to use Azure Mobile Services build a backend data store for a Xamarin app. Finally, Michael Stonis - a local Xamarin MVP and instructor at Xamarin University - delivered a presentation on applications for wearable devices.

Of course, there was plenty to eat - most notably Chicago-style stuffed pizza.

You can learn more about Xamarin Dev Days, see in which cities they are scheduled, register for these events, and even request a Dev Days event in your town at http://xamarin.com/dev-days.

Most of the afternoon was spent hacking. Attendees could either build an app of their choice or they could work through a set of labs provided by Xamarin. A few people left after the lectures ended, but many stuck around until the end of the day to put to use what they learned in the morning.  About 70 people attended and most came away with an improved understanding of the platform. And with a full belly.

Friday, 15 May 2015 04:48:41 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The first Ignite conference was not what I expected - at least my experience was unexpected.

Ignite is a a new conference that  replaces Tech Ed North America and a few other national technical conferences. In its inaugural year, it was scheduled at the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago, which was lucky for me because I recently moved to Chicago.

I wanted to attend and I tried everything I could think of to get a ticket to Ignite (short of actually buying one, of course); but I had resigned myself to watching from the sidelines. However, the evening before Ignite began, I received an email asking if I could work the Office 365 booth at Ignite. I accepted and was excited to attend. I spent Sunday night learning all I could about Office 365,

I was overwhelmed by the interest in Office 365. The steady stream of attendees did not trail off until Wednesday afternoon. Serving 5 hours a day on booth duty made it difficult to attend any sessions before Friday morning; but I did get a chance to explore the Expo area, where dozens of companies and organizations showed off their products and services.

The Expo ended Thursday, so I was able to attend a few sessions on Friday. I saw presentations on Windows 10 management, ASP.NET 5, and Automated Testing.

By one measure, I missed much of the conference because I wasn't able to attend any sessions Monday through Thursday. But I spoke with a number of smart people in the Expo Area and exchanged quite a few ideas, which was a big success. And I was forced to ramp up quickly on Office 365 development in order to perform my role as a booth babe. They even let me wear a shirt with the word "Expert" on the back.

Overall, I learned a lot this week, which is the primary reason I attend these concerts. Oh, and also Fall Out Boy. The Fall Out Boy concert Thursday night was pretty good.

INETA
Current and INETA board members at the Ignite Expo

Donovan
Donovan Brown speaking at Ignite.

FallOutBoy
Fall Out Boy in concert at the Ignite conference

Tuesday, 12 May 2015 20:02:44 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 11 May 2015
# Saturday, 09 May 2015

I first became aware of INETA – the International .NET Association - when I was running a .NET user group in the Detroit area. Every once in a while, they would offer us some free books, software, t-shirts, and other prizes to give away to our members.

Later, I was asked to become a Regional Mentor for INETA, which meant that I approved new user groups for membership (mostly just verifying that the group actually existed and held regular meetings) and that I provided advice for user group leaders and new groups in my region. For about a year, I hosted a monthly call with local user group leaders and I corresponded frequently with new leaders, giving them advice on running a group or find speakers. At one time, I covered Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, but I later delegated some of those states to others who wanted to be involved.

In 2012, I joined the INETA Board of Directors, where I served for about 2 years. I was impressed with the dedication of a team that volunteered so much time to help out the developer communities spread across the US and world. It was a great experience.

My point is that INETA has touched my life in significant ways. I was a beneficiary, then a proponent, then an active member of the leadership team. I learned a great deal; I made many friends and contacts; I and my user group benefited from their programs; and I contributed in a small way to the success of the organization. Their speaker program has helped me to travel to a number of user groups and helped me bring to my group speakers who might not be able to travel as far.

Last week, I learned that INETA is coming to an end. President Julie Yack announced on the organization's blog that, after 13 years, they would close down at the end of 2015. With no steady stream of revenue, the group could no longer afford to finance the programs they wanted to. I was saddened to hear this news but I'm happy that INETA was so successful for so long.

I'm grateful to all those who volunteered to make it so successful for so long - particularly those with whom I worked directly. And I'm grateful that INETA helped so many people who went on to volunteer and help others, which magnified their efforts.

And I'm glad I was a part of INETA. It's a badge I wear proudly.

Saturday, 09 May 2015 13:02:08 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, 07 May 2015

Throughout this past semester, teams of Purdue University students built projects with controllers, circuit boards, and other hardware. On Friday May 1, the teams gathered at Wang Hall on Campus to show off their finished projects. I was invited to be one of six judges to select the best projects.

I got to see some amazing projects. For example:

  • 2 robots playing soccer controlled via multiple users on the Internet.
  • An unmanned tank-like vehicle with sensors to map out walls and terrain (this could be sent into a disaster area that is too dangerous for people).
  • An electric car that automatically followed a light path and stopped and whistled at any object that interrupted that path.
  • A motorized reclining chair for the lazy person on the go.
  • First place ($1000 cash)went to a student who created a custom keyboard as a controller to play his game "TagPro".

Much of the funding came from General Motors, but Microsoft Recruiting sponsored as well.

I didn't see a lot of Microsoft technology but I saw some very clever ideas for both hardware and software.

This was the first Spark Challenge and the organizers were confident that it was successful enough to justify planning more.

Overall it was a great opportunity for me to see the potential of these college students.

IMG_1184
Robots playing soccer

IMG_1205
A car that follows a beam of light

IMG_1224   
The winners are announced

Thursday, 07 May 2015 14:33:19 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 04 May 2015
Monday, 04 May 2015 14:22:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, 03 May 2015

5/3
Today I am grateful for a late dinner last night with Dave​, David​, and Anna.

5/2
Today I am grateful for all the cool student projects at Purdue's Spark Challenge yesterday.

5/1
Today I am grateful for lunch with Mike yesterday in the Loop.

4/30
Today I am grateful that my mother is now living in Michigan close to my siblings.

4/29
Today I am grateful for a long walk and a sushi dinner with Oksana last night

4/28
Today I am grateful for my new mattress. And a good night sleep.

4/27
Today I am grateful for a tour of historic St. Michael Catholic Church in Old Town yesterday.

4/26
Today I am grateful to spend time with old friends at MSU yesterday.

4/25
Today I am grateful to spend yesterday with my mother.

4/24
Today I am grateful I have time this week to catch up on some long-overdue items.

4/23
Today I am grateful for a safe drive to Michigan late last night.

4/22
Today I am grateful I passed my first Microsoft certification exam in over 6 years.

4/21
Today I am grateful for 5 miles of walking yesterday.

4/20
Today I am grateful to see so many cool projects at MadHacks in Madison, WI this weekend.

4/19
Today I am grateful for the Chicago Code Camp yesterday and all who made it happen.

4/18
Today I am grateful for an evening at the movies last night.

4/17
Today I am grateful for dinner last night in Dallas with Anna and Elizabeth.

4/16
Today I am grateful for a first-class upgrade on yesterday's 4-hour flight.

4/15
Today I am grateful for all the WinJS and Azure Big Data stuff I learned yesterday.

4/13
Today I am grateful for a nice weekend with pleasant company.

4/12
Today I am grateful for an evening at the spa last night.

4/11
Today I am grateful I was in town yesterday and able to attend my first ToastMasters meetings in months.

4/10
Today I am grateful for lunch yesterday with Manohar.

4/9
Today I am grateful to spend an evening with Oksana.

4/8
Today I am grateful for dinner last night with Cory in Kansas.

4/7
Today I am grateful for a chance to attend Royals Opening Day at Kauffman Stadium yesterday.

4/6
Today I am grateful for Easter dinner with my family yesterday.

Sunday, 03 May 2015 14:20:02 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The Microsoft Build conference kicked off this morning with a keynote that lasted nearly 3 hours and included announcements on Azure, Office 365, Windows 10, and HoloLens.

Personally, I was most excited to hear about Azure SQL database pool and Data Warehouse, the Cortana integration on Windows 10, support for Chrome extensions in Microsoft Edge (formerly "Project Spartan") and the potential of virtual reality apps with HoloLens.

The keynote was recorded and will be available soon (along with all Build sessions) http://www.buildwindows.com/. I encourage you to watch for yourself, determine the topics that most interest you, and watch breakout sessions that dive deeper into those topics.

Below are notes I took during the keynote. This is by no means an official list and I may have misheard some things. But I think it will give you an idea of where Microsoft is headed the next few months.

Azure
    Docker for Windows
        Multi-containers
        Mix and match Windows & Linux containers. Run on any server
        NEW: Ability to debug .NET app in Linux deployed in Docker
    Azure App Service
    Logic Apps
        In Preview Portal
        Uses "Swagger" applications
        Visual workflow? Similar to ITTT?
    Visual Studio Code
        Lightweight IDE
        Version of VS that runs on Mac and LINUX
        free
        Available today
    SQL Azure
        Elastic database pool
            combine multiple "databases" into 1 db pool
            Manage all databases together
                Modify schema of every db
                Update statistics of every db
        SQL Data Warehouse
            Quick and easy to create
            Import data from any data source
                e.g., SQL DB, Hadoop, SAP
                From Azure or on-premises data
            Create reports with Power BI
            Use Azure Machine Learning to analyze data
            Auto-Scale in seconds
            Can independently adjust compute & storage
        Azure Data Lake Service
            store and manage infinite data
            saved in original form
            exposes data using Hadoop HDFS API
Office
    Sway
        Tell a story with Office documents
    Outlook plug-ins
        SAP and Linkedin: Look up info on contact & their companies
        Schedule plug-in from Uber
    Unified Office365 API Endpoint
https://graph.microsoft.com
        Returns data as JSON
        Drill into details of "graph"
    Web SDK for Skype
        Embed Skype into your app
Windows 10
    Easier to discover apps in store
    Windows Store for Business
        For customers or students
        Supports other payment methods (e.g., Purchase Orders)
    Win10 was a free upgrade for 1st year
    Goal: 1 billion Windows 10 device in 2-3 years
    1 binary and 1 code base on multiple platforms (Phones, tablets, PCs, Xbox)
    Web Sites can use Windows 10 tools (e.g., Live Tiles, Toast)
    .NET and Win32 apps in Windows store
    Android apps on Windows Phone
    Objective-C code will compile in Visual Studio on Windows
    Windows Spotlight
        On lock screen
        Learn of new features
    Cortana
        Natural language
    Microsoft Edge
        Windows 10 browser
        Formerly Project Spartan
        Written as a Universal App
        Runs Chrome extensions
    Continuum for Phones
        Any screen can be a PC (e.g., Phone)
    Hololens
        Windows Holographic
            Universal apps in Hololens
            Pin apps to walls in virtual world
        Makers can integrate HoloLens virtual world with real-world devices
Satya Nadella: Our goal is to move users from needing Windows to choosing Windows to loving Windows

Wednesday, 29 April 2015 20:06:29 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Almost everyone (including me) will agree that it is a good idea to back up your Web App. Azure makes it very easy to do so.

Azure allows you to manually back up your Web App and any linked database or to schedule a regular automated backup. Azure backups are stored to Azure storage.

To begin, you must have an Azure Storage account. If you have not yet created one, see my post on creating a new Azure Storage Account.

Navigate to your Web App by selecting the WEB APPS icon in the left menu; then, selecting your Web App.

Note that these features are only available if your Web App is using the STANDARD Pricing Plan Tier. You can modify your Pricing Plan Tier on the SCALE tab of your Web App.

Click the BACKUPS tab (Figure 1)of your web app to start managing your backups.

Backup01-BackupTab
Figure 1

Manual Backup

To Manually backup your Web App, do the following

1. Select an account from the STORAGE ACCOUNT dropdown list, as shown in Figure 2.

Backup02-StorageAccount
Figure 2

2. If your Web App has one or more linked databases and you would also like to back up those databases, expand the INCLUDED DATABASES dropdown and check all the databases you would like to backup. An example is shown in Figure 3.

Backup03-IncludeDatabases
Figure 3

3. Click the BACKUP NOW icon at the bottom of the screen (Figure 4).

Backup04-BottomMenu
Figure 4

Azure will back up all the files (and optionally any associated databases) of your Web App at the time specified and afterwards at the frequency specified.  The files in your Web App will be zipped and stored into a Blob Storage account of the selected Storage Account.

Automated Backup

Manual backups are great if you want to backup your app right now; but, chances are that you will want to back it up on  a regular basis so you don't have to worry about it. Use the same BACKUPS tab to schedule a backup at regular intervals.  To do this, you will perform the 3 steps above in addition to a few others.

To schedule an automated backup, do the following:

1. At the AUTOMATED BACKUP toggle switch, select "ON", as shown in Figure 5.

Backup05-BackupOn
Figure 5

2. Select an account from the STORAGE ACCOUNT dropdown list, as shown in Figure 6.

Backup06-StorageAccount
Figure 6

3. At the FREQUENCY field, enter the number of days between each scheduled backup, as shown in Figure 7.

Backup07-Frequency
Figure 7

4. At the START DATE fields, select the date and time to perform the first backup, as shown in Figure 8.

Backup08-StartDate
Figure 8

5. If your Web App has one or more linked databases and you would also like to back up those databases, expand the INCLUDED DATABASES dropdown and check all the databases you would like to backup (Figure 9).

Backup09-IncludeDatabases
Figure 9

6. Click the SAVE icon at the bottom of the screen (Figure 10).

Backup10-BottomMenu
Figure 10

 

Azure will back up all the files (and optionally any associated databases) of your Web App at the time specified and afterwards at the frequency specified.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015 14:07:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 27 April 2015
Monday, 27 April 2015 13:40:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)