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Mike Benkovich is a former Microsoft evangelist who has spent his career helping developers explore and apply new technologies to solving information challenges. His website www.benkotips.com provides developers with resources to get started and work with technologies including cloud, data and devices. Follow him on twitter @mbenko.


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Issue with Xamarin Forms–InitializeComponent does not exist-Xamarin XAML is not Windows XAML

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/benko/archive/2015/02/02/issue-with-xamarin-formsndashinitializecomponent-does-not-exist-xamarin-xaml-is-not.aspx

Have you ever tried to reuse code by adding existing files to a project? In Visual Studio this usually works, with the file getting put into the right location, associating the editor based on the file extension. I’ve been working on a Xamarin Forms project which allows me to use XAML to create the UI and C# for the code behind. This enables me to leverage my skills and experience building Windows and Windows Phone applications on iOS and Android. The problem came when I would include an existing file into a project.

image

The error: InitializeComponent does not exist – makes me wonder what’s wrong with the file? First things first, I checked that the namespace and class names matched. Next I tried commenting out what might’ve been invalid XAML syntax with the thought that maybe it wasn’t compiling right. No luck. Finally I compared the file to another that was working (I added myWorkingForm.XAML and guess what, no error in that one!). Both had the same namespace, both had the same class name declared as public partial (meaning it’ll compile the XAML + the C# into a class).

Finally I was down to looking at the compiled objects folder…and I saw that while myWorkingForm created an interim file myWorkingForm.xaml.g.cs the one that came from the file I included did not. I decided to look at the shared project’s projitems file (which is what lists the types of files in the project). I discovered that Visual Studio assumes that a XAML file is Windows XAML, not Xamarin XAML. In the projitems file the XML showed that adding the existing file associated it as a Page, where the other file that worked was marked as an Embedded resource (see below).

<ItemGroup>
  <EmbeddedResource Include="$(MSBuildThisFileDirectory)Pages\myWorkingForm.xaml">
    <SubType>Designer</SubType>
    <Generator>MSBuild:UpdateDesignTimeXaml</Generator>
  </EmbeddedResource>
</ItemGroup>

<ItemGroup>
  <Page Include="$(MSBuildThisFileDirectory)Pages\TestForm.xaml">
    <SubType>Designer</SubType>
    <Generator>MSBuild:Compile</Generator>
  </Page>
</ItemGroup>

To make it work? Manually change the myproject.projitems file (in the solution explorer open the containing folder then edit the file with notepad) for TestForm.xaml to use the EmbeddedResource tag, matching that for myWorkingForm.xaml. This causes the build to use the Xamarin compiler and generate an interim file TestForm.xaml.g.cs. Problem solved!

Happy Coding!    (originally posted on www.benkotips.com)

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Setting a schema for the database in Azure Mobile Services

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/benko/archive/2015/01/14/setting-a-schema-for-the-database-in-azure-mobile-services.aspx

I’ve been working on a project using Xamarin.Forms and Azure Mobile Services for a while, and one issue I came across that wasn’t entirely clear is how do you work with an existing database, yet support updates to the tables and be able to deploy to different environments (like Test, QA and Prod)? Hopefully I can shed some light with this post.

Azure Mobile Services is a feature rich cloud service that promises to take care of some of the complexities of building connected mobile apps. It supports things like 3rd party federated identity, push notifications, logging and more. With the original node.js release it supported JavaScript configuration for the CRUD operations against a table along with a dynamic schema that adapts to the request received via REST. In the .NET release they replace node.js with the ability to roll your own logic in C# and handle the data interaction with WebAPI type controllers. It requires a bit more work, and handling the database changes can be confusing.

Fortunately I’ve found a couple articles that help illustrate how this is done (on MSDN), but it doesn’t specify how to handle ongoing updates. To make it work for my scenario I either needed a way to support data model changes to a .NET backend mobile service, but have a consistent schema name when I move between environments. In the second article they show how to enable code-migrations, and to replace the default database initializers, by using the NuGet package manager and modifying code in the WebApiConfig.cs file. The steps were:

  1. Use NuGet Package Manager to Enable-Migrations
  2. Add a starting migration
  3. Update the WebApiConfig.cs file to use a DbMigrator to update the context instead of calling the default initializer

    public
    static class WebApiConfig
    {
    public static void Register()
    {
    // Use this class to set configuration options for your mobile service
    ConfigOptions options = new ConfigOptions();

    // Use this class to set WebAPI configuration options
    HttpConfiguration config = ServiceConfig.Initialize(new ConfigBuilder(options));

    // *** BENKO: Enable database migrations for the service
    //Database.SetInitializer(new MobileServiceInitializer());
    var migrator = new DbMigrator(new Configuration());
    migrator.Update();
    }
    }
  4. Test local and confirm it’s working

I added a couple additional changes to set the schema name for my app in the MobileServiceContext.cs file (in the Models folder).


protected override void OnModelCreating(DbModelBuilder modelBuilder)
{
// *** BENKO: This is what sets the schema name to the service name...
string schema = ServiceSettingsDictionary.GetSchemaName();
schema = "mySchema";
if (!string.IsNullOrEmpty(schema))
{
modelBuilder.HasDefaultSchema(schema);
}

modelBuilder.Conventions.Add(
new AttributeToColumnAnnotationConvention<TableColumnAttribute, string>(
"ServiceTableColumn", (property, attributes) => attributes.Single().ColumnType.ToString()));
}


I also need to make sure to create the schema on my database instance in SQL Azure and grant rights to the service user account. You can get the user account using SQL Server Mgmt tool (expand the users of the database node, or by running a SQL Script to select name from the SysLogins table of the master db. Once you have it you will need to create the schema an grant rights to it. Assuming the service user is ABC123Login_myServiceUser, the script looks like this:



create schema mySchema

-- Grant specific access rights to use based on Schema
GRANT
SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE,
ALTER, CONTROL, EXECUTE,
REFERENCES, TAKE OWNERSHIP, VIEW DEFINITION
ON SCHEMA::[mySchema]
TO [abcdefghijLogin_democityUser]

When you publish the mobile service it will attempt to update the database using the schema provided. If there are error you can use the service’s logs to figure out what’s missing. By specifying the schema name instead of using the service’s name I’m able to deploy to multiple environments but integrate this data with my other applications.

Happy Coding! (originally posted on www.benkotips.com)

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Some Common Xamarin.Forms XAML Control Properties

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/benko/archive/2014/12/29/some-common-xamarin.forms-xaml-control-properties.aspx

imageXamarin.Forms is an attractive option when building cross platform apps, but for an old XAML developer like myself it can be a challenge to get the nuances of the grammar and syntax right. For Windows I’ve depended on tools like Blend and Visual Studio Intellisense to help me understand what’s possible. Moving to Xamarin XAML is sometimes tedious because while I can use the intellisense from the C# code behind file it’s not there yet in a designer. While there’s some posts out there that compare and contrast how to move to Xamarin XAML from Microsoft XAML (like this one from TCPWare by Nicolò Carandini), I still wasn’t finding what I was looking for. This post is an attempt to iterate thru some of the core proprties of interest for many of the controls I use, and to catalog them here for current and future reference.

1/3/2015 : Update, added more controls to list -

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First some common properties – Some common properties to most controls include:

  • x:Name : The control name that can be used to reference the control from code
  • AnchorX, AnchorY : Positions control within the layout
  • HeightRequest, WidthRequest : The requested size of the control if the layout allows
  • MinimumHeightRequest, MinimumWidthRequest : The minimum size allowed
  • HorizontalOptions, VerticalOptions : Layout options for the control, include values Start, End, Fill, Center, StartAndExpand, EndAndExpand, CenterAndExpand
  • BackgroundColor : Color of background
  • Rotation, RotationX, RotationY : Rotation properties for rendering control
  • Scale : Scale value

Label - Displays text on a page.

  • XAlign, YAlign : Text alignment property…values include TextAlignment.Start, TextAlignment.Center, TextAlignment.End
  • TextColor : Color of text and background…can be named color
  • Font : Attributes of the font, such as Bold, Italic, Large, Medium, Small, Micro, 
  • LineBreakMode : Used to determine label’s text wrap properties. Values include CharacterWrap, NoWrap, WordWrap, HeadTruncation, MiddleTruncation, TailTruncation

TextCell - Displays text and detail subtext in a single control

  • Text : The main text to display
  • TextColor : Primary color of the text
  • Detail : Subtext displayed below main text
  • DetailColor : Color of secondary text

imageimageimageBoxView - Similar to Rectangle in Windows XAML. Used to display a box with some color on a page.

  • Color : Color of box
  • Opacity : Value of opacity…
  • IsEnabled, IsFocused : properties of Box

Entry - Similar to TextBox in Windows XAML. Used to get input from user.

  • TextColor : Color of text and background…can be named color
  • IsEnabled, IsFocused, IsPassword, IsVisible : Values that drive entry behaviors
  • InputTransparent : Determines whether to show input
  • Keyboard : Type of keyboard to show, possible values include Chat, Default, Email, Numeric, Telephone, Text, Url
  • Placeholder : Text to display when there is no value entered…displayed in grayed out mode
  • Text : Value of control

Image - Display an image. Includes common properties and:

  • Aspect : Scaling of image…stretch or fill. Values include Fill, AspectFill, AspectFit
  • IsEnabled, IsFocused, IsLoading, IsOpaque, IsVisible : Drive behaviors of image control
  • Source: This is where the image is sourced from…can be local resource or online.

ImageCell Displays an image and a TextCell

  • ImageSource
  • Text, TextColor
  • Detail, DetailColor
  • IsEnabled

Button - Used to trigger event processing in response to user’s actions

  • BorderColor, BorderRadius, BorderWidth : Values to control the border of the button
  • Command, CommandParameter : Values for the command to be executed when clicked
  • Font : Attributes of the font
  • IsEnabled, IsFocused, IsVisible : Values to drive button’s behaviors
  • Text : Text on the button
  • TextColor : Color of text on the button 

ActivityIndicator. An indicator that shows there is an action processing and the user needs to wait for it to complete

  • Color : Color of the indicator
  • IsEnabled, IsFocused, IsRunning IsVisible : Values to drive activity indicator’s behaviors

ProgressBar. Used to display how far along a process is

  • IsEnabled, IsFocused, IsVisible : Values to drive the control’s behaviors
  • Progress : Value to show completion…I think this is a value from 0.0 to 1.0

TimePicker. Used to select a time value

DatePicker. Similar to TimePicker, but used to select a date

  • Date : The date value of the control
  • Format : Format to display, using standard C# formats

Switch. Used to input whether a boolean property is true or false

  • IsToggled, IsEnabled, IsVisible, IsFocused : Drive control’s behaviors

SwitchCell. Displays a label and a switch

  • Text : The text of the label
  • On : A boolean value of whether the switch is toggled
  • Height : The height of the control

ViewCell. A basic layout control that displays an item in a data template. Does not have the basic properties.

  • Height : Height of cell to display

StackLayout. Similar to a StackPanel in Windows XAML, used to display items in a stack. Has the common properties as well

  • Padding : The area around the layout, displayed as an integer or series of values “left, top, right, bottom”… i.e. “20,0,0,0” means left margin of 20, zero on other sides
  • Spacing : The area between items
  • Orientation : Horizontal vs Vertical

Grid. Layout in Columns and Rows, using various spacing options, such as fixed, Auto and Star – *

  • RowDefinitions, ColumnDefinitions : Same as Windows XAML
  • RowSpacing, ColumnSpacing : distance between columns and rows, defaults to 6 px

ListView. Container for collections of items…

  • ItemsSource : The data collection used to populate the list
  • SelectedItem : If an item is selected in the list
  • IsEnabled, IsGroupingEnabled, IsVisible : Drives list’s behaviors
  • RowHeight : Height of item’s row
  • HasUnevenRows : A flag that indicates row height varies
  • Triggers : connects an item to a behavior
  • ItemTemplate : Binding template for item’s display
  • GroupHeaderTemplate : Binding template for list’s header

 

Happy Coding!

image

(originally posted on www.benkotips.com follow me on http://twitter.com/mbenko)


Working with Xamarin Forms and Navigation

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/benko/archive/2014/12/17/working-with-xamarin-forms-and-authentication.aspx

I'm creating a Xamarin.Forms project, using XAML for markup that includes an authentication page when the app starts. I am using a TabbedPage (also tried CarouselPage) as the container of my main UI and plan to have several pages displayed. The first page (myDashboard) checks to see if the user has authenticated and if not I want to display a modal login page. When they return I would like to load data based on their user id.

What's happening is that the Dashboard page loads and is immediately overlaid by the myLogin page, but then all the DisplayAlerts show in succession before I do anything. When I call PopModalAsync() on the login page the OnAppearing method doesn't continue, which indicates to me that the await call had no effect in interrupting the process flow, as if it's already completed the calls after the PushModalAsync() call. (I plan to remove the DisplayAlert calls when it's working as expected.)

My code looks like this...in the App class:


    var mainPage = new TabbedPage() { Children = { new myDashboard() } };
    return mainPage;
    

 

In the myDashboard() class:


    protected async override void OnAppearing()
   {
       base.OnAppearing();
       try
       {

           await DisplayAlert("Alert", "OnAppearing Start", "ok", null);

           if (App.context.IsLoggedIn == false)
           {
               await Navigation.PushModalAsync(new myLogin());

               if (App.context.IsLoggedIn == true)
               {
                   // await LoadData();
                   PageLabel.Text = "Hello " + App.context.UserInfo;
               }
           }

           await DisplayAlert("Alert", "OnAppearing LoggedIn", "ok", null);

           await LoadData();
           await DisplayAlert("Alert", "OnAppearing Complete", "ok", null);
       }
       catch (Exception ex)
       {
           var err = ex.Message;
       }
   }
   

What am I missing?

It appears that because this code is in the OnAppearing() event which is called during a Pop or a Push that the behavior isn’t what is expected. I found an approach in the Xamarin Forums which wires up an event to the login page to send an event and then subscribe to it from the caller (see how-to-navigate-between-contentpages). I removed the code in the OnAppearing event, reserving it for handling core initialization and if the user is logged in I’ll load the data. To implement this approach subscribe to the event in the constructor of your main page…


    public myDashboard()
    {
        InitializeComponent();
        MessagingCenter.Subscribe<myLogin>(this, "LoginComplete",(sender) => LoadData());
    }
    

Then in the login page add code to send the message right after calling PopModalAsync() to close the window.

    
    public async void OnButtonClicked(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
        var rc = await DisplayAlert("Alert!", "Logged in as " + myPhone.Text, "Ok", "Cancel");
        if (rc == true)
        {
            App.context.IsLoggedIn = true;
            await Navigation.PopModalAsync();
            MessagingCenter.Send<myLogin>(this, "LoginComplete");
        }
    }
    

It works, but is there a better way?


CloudTip 15-Avoid a gotcha in naming projects with Mobile Services

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/benko/archive/2014/12/15/cloudtip-15-avoid-a-gotcha-in-naming-projects-with-mobile-services.aspx

Short Answer – Don’t use special characters in a Mobile Service’s project name when you create it, the local SQL won’t be able to open the database and you may spend a lot of time figuring out why chasing down false leads…

The Long Answer…

In my last role at Microsoft as an Azure Evangelist I posted a series of cloud tips, which were intended to be quick tips for using the latest tools & services. This one is the next in that series, and focuses around some esoteric gotcha’s that come up when you’re following a convention for organizing your solution in Visual Studio. As you probably are aware you can have multiple projects in a solution, and one approach for keeping them organized is to follow a naming standard that uses a dot-syntax to keep related related things in their right spot.

For example if my project is a solution to a to-do list, I might create the solution called “TestData”, and within that solution have a project for the web called “TestData.web” and a shared project called “TestData.shared”. Following this convention it makes sense if I want to add a data service project I might call it “TestData.svc”, right? When I try this out and build it, I was finding an error that took longer to expose than I had planned, and that’s the focus of this post.

image

I started with this solution and added some custom classes to the data tables to work with my TestData and found that I was getting  errors. The Mobile Services project type includes a testing page that allows me to try out the service and test the calls to my data, which is great. But I found that I was getting an error when I was running the project without adding or changing anything…Isn’t the stuff supposed to work “out of the box”? Instead I get the error - “The database name 'TR_TestData_svc]_TodoItems_InsertUpdateDelete' is invalid. Database names must be of the form [<schema_name>.]<object_name>”. What does this mean???

image

Don’t do this…

It looks like something’s not right with EF, so I tried updating my NuGet’s to make sure I have the latest packages…Right click the project explorer and go to the NuGet page and try update packages…this is the wrong thing to do because the template was created using specific versions of specific packages, and while some can be updated others shouldn’t.

This time I get an error that the JWTSecurityTokenHandler is broken. After some digging I found a StackOverflow post that answers this.  In particular I find that EF is unhappy with the latest MobileServices entity versions so in the NuGet Package Manager I need to uninstall the WindowsAzure.MobileServices.Backend packages and install the specific version 1.0.342.

Do this…Don’t name your Mobile Service project with special characters in the name

The problem isn’t with EF or out of date packages, it has to do with the local database name not being recognizable with the dot-syntax naming convention (another StackOverflow post). In the web config you can fix it by removing the period in the names, or you can do what I did which is just recreate the project without the dot name and test to confirm it’s working, and then rename the services project in the solution.

image

And it works! Time to go and write some code.


How to detect an iOS device when working with Xamarin and Visual Studio

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/benko/archive/2014/12/03/how-to-detect-an-ios-device-when-working-with-xamarin.aspx

Xamarin + WAMS = Happiness (well, most of the time)

imageFirst some background…I spent the last couple months trying to figure out the best approach for cross-platform development stuff. After some research and working thru some POC’s with Apache Cordova, Native and Xamarin we decided to go down the path of Xamarin as the tool of choice. We did this for a few reasons, including that we can use C# for the code, that with Xamarin Forms it supports XAML as our markup which has a native backend for handling responsive design, and because we would like to have one set of code running across the different device platforms, and we can go deep on a platform to light up features as needed. For learning it there’s a nice set of xamples you can start from in GitHub that show working demo apps.

Secondly we’re using Azure Mobile Services (WAMS) with the .NET implementation so we can customize the authentication process to suit our needs (more on that in another post). The Node.js implementation is fast, but it has its limitations when we have multiple environments, need to work with specific 3rd party libraries, and we wanted to be able to debug completely offline. The new generation of WAMS with .NET does this by providing a WebAPI style implementation that lets me run the service locally and have complete control. All is good.

To build for iOS the configuration requires not just Xamarin but also a mac build machine. I went to Best Buy and found a reasonably inexpensive mini device, and with some cable magic I can connect it to a spare monitor and set it up. It takes a bit of configuration and creation of accounts with Apple to get it working as a dev machine, including registering with the developer program and getting a certificate to build with. The documentation on Xamarin’s site is pretty good on this.

All is good, and I’m able to build out the examples and deploy to my Windows Phone and Android devices, but when I try to detect an iPad (attached to my mac-mini build machine) it says no devices are attached.  When I click the drop down list of debug devices it shows the iOS simulator options. I don’t see the iOS device I have attached to my build machine! What to do?

image

Searching the issue finds some ideas, but after an hour or so of restarting Visual Studio, the mac, and reconnecting the build host and then restarting Visual Studio I find that sometimes it sees my device but then quickly switches to the simulator as the only options to test on. I prefer to run on real devices (a result of attempting to use the Android simulators and waiting in vain for them to start), and also I don’t have the monitor hooked up to the mac except when I turn it on to log in. I found this Stack Overflow post which further down had a nugget of info that solved my problem.

In a multi-project solution in Visual Studio the place to look is the configuration manager. Right click on the solution and open it up. Change the iOS project from iPhoneSimulator to iPhone and Bang! your issue is solved.

image 

Now when I look at my targets for the iOS project it shows my device.

image

All is good. Happy Coding!


Email Exploit No.9 You got Voicemail

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/benko/archive/2014/09/08/email-exploit-example-1.aspx

I want to help people be aware of some of the scams going on. Lately I’ve been getting a number of emails that are needing some attention.The latest phishing scam example is fairly clever, disguising itself as a voicemail received by outlook. It includes text with a bogus phone number and a link to a zip file they want you to open that includes the exploit. Notice that the from email says Microsoft Outlook Voicemail which might be a real source of stuff for you, but the actual email is from the domain “documents233.com”!

 

image

 

Taking a closer look at where this comes from you can run a Whois to see the registration information on the domain…which shows the domain is owned by some company in China! Should you open this up? Only if you want to install their virus on your machine, because the attached zip is an executable that wants to install stuff when you run it.

 

image

Just saying…always be careful what you click!

-mike


Avoiding Hacker Trix

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/benko/archive/2014/08/20/avoiding-hacker-trix.aspx

ExtremeHackerThis week we're doing a session called "Avoiding Hacker Trix" which goes thru some of the top web exploits that you should be aware of. In this webcast we will cover a variety of things including what we call the secure development process, cross site scripting attack, one click attack, SQL Injection and more. There are a bunch of links we cover, but rather than having you copy these down I'm providing them here...

Links from the slide deck:


Upgrading to Developer Preview of Windows Phone 8.1

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/benko/archive/2014/04/14/upgrading-to-developer-preview-of-windows-phone-8.1.aspx

Preview for DevelopersWoot! I’ve got it, the new preview release of Windows Phone 8.1. Since the announcements at Build where they introduced the next generation of apps for Windows and Windows Phone I’ve been working to get the tools and start the learning process to be ready to build for the new devices. If you’re looking to do the same there are a few steps to follow, but it’s not that difficult, although it takes some time and a couple steps to complete.

Here’s what you need to do…

  1. Get a Windows 8 phone. This can be any wp8 device, I’ve been using Nokia devices lately. The 820 is nice and I like the size and format.
  2. Register as a developer on http://create.msdn.com – this is the developer portal where you can get started building for Windows. There is a registration cost of $19 if you’re not in the program. Another option is to register with App Studio – where you can literally create an app in minutes and have it running on your device.
  3. Download the phone registration tool to unlock your device for development. This is included with the tools for Windows Phone download.
  4. Unlock the phone
    Developer_Registration_Tool
  5. Install the preview app on your phone
  6. Check for updates and install them on your phone…it will walk you thru the process

The preview app allows your phone to download the bits and install them. You may need to check for updates (in the phone settings) a couple times, but when you do it will do the necessary work. I found that it took me more than an hour to complete (make sure your phone is charged before you start) and I had to run the check for updates 3 times to get all the prerequisites to get to the 8.1 install, but persistence paid off.  Now it’s time to start building some universal apps.

Ok, Cortana, what next?

Mike


Are your servers bleeding?

Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/benko/archive/2014/04/10/are-your-servers-bleeding.aspx

Here's What You Need to Know About the 'Heartbleed' Bug That's Attacking Millions of WebsitesLooking at the news today I came across an article about how the latest exploit Heartbleed has the tech community in a frenzy. This is a flaw in OpenSSL which is used to encrypt data communications between a client and a server. The server software OpenSSL is used to create an encrypted channel designed to protect data going back and forth. Because Microsoft is a proprietary company (although it seems they’ve heard the Open Source clarion and is going that way), it builds and licenses software that it sells to customers for use in their systems. It has therefore developed its own SSL technology and does not depend on open projects like this one. Instead it uses its own technology called SChannel to encrypt traffic.

The question of whether Azure or other Microsoft Servers are affected can be answered by saying that if you’re using Microsoft’s servers and technologies you should be ok. If you are running a Linux VM in Azure then you are not running a Microsoft Server, you’re running Linux, and you need to check if that OS uses OpenSSL and if it needs to be patched. If you are running software on Windows that uses OpenSSL instead of SChannel then you may be vulnerable.

You can check if your site is vulnerable by using one of several test services available, including Qualys SSL Labs. More information on the vulnerability can be found on the CERT site (CERT is a division of the Software Engineering Institute SEI that focuses on providing information about software vulnerabilities) http://www.kb.cert.org/vuls/id/720951.


Benko Blog

CloudTip #17-Build Connected Windows 8 Apps with Windows Azure

imageYesterday in Dallas we had Scott Guthrie (@ScottGu) and the Azure team put on a great event at the Irving Convention Center to show off what’s new in the Microsoft Cloud story and to dive into getting started with the tools and services that make it work. Chris Koenig did a great job of coordinating the event and Adam Hoffman, Clint Edmonson and Brian Prince all pitched in with sessions about Virtual Machines, Web Sites and how to work with the services.

imageMy talk was on Building Connected Windows 8 Metro applications with Windows Azure, and we showed how to use the Camera UI to upload images to Blob Storage, Geolocation to add a point of interest to a SQL Azure database and then add a pin to a Bing Map, and finally add Notification Services to update the Live Tile. It was a lot of code and I promised to share it here, so if you’re looking for the link to download it is http://aka.ms/dfwWin8Az.

Here are some notes to be able to build out & deploy locally and then migrate the services to Azure…

image- This project is designed to run locally against the Azure Storage Emulator and SQL Express. It can easily be modified to run as a cloud service, see steps below.
- Do a CTRL+SHIFT+F to search for "TODO" to find all the places where you need to personalize settings
- I've included the script MsdnDB.sql which should be run against a local instance of SQL server, or against a cloud instance.
- You should download the Bing Map VSIX installer to add functionality for Metro. Download the latest from Visual Studio Gallery here
    http://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/0c341dfb-4584-4738-949c-daf55b82df58

- I used several packages to enable notifications. These included
    For MyApp  --> PM> Install-Package Windows8.Notifications

    For MySite --> PM> Install-Package WindowsAzure.Notifications

                   PM> Install-Package wnsrecipe

- To deploy to the Cloud
  1. Create an Azure Web Site from the Management console, then download the publish settings from the web site dashbaord
  2. Create a storage account and update the web.config of MySite with appropriate storage credentials
  3. Create a SQL Azure database
  4. Run the create script MsdnDB.SQL (included) against database
  5. Update credentials in web.config of MySite
  6. Change MyApp MainPage.xaml.cs URI's to point to your site instead of localhost:19480
  7. Run the NuGet Packages from Package Manager console
  8. Register your app for notifications on https://manage.dev.live.com/Build
     - update the Package Name reference in Package.appxmanifest
     - Add the SID and Client secret to the SendNotification method in LocationController.cs


Enjoy!
-mike

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Did you see Windows Phone 8 Preview?

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 #16-Meet the new HTML based Windows Azure Management Portal

Windows Azure has seen a number of upgrades. The latest announced today, along with a series of events to showcase and explore the features and capabilities of the Microsoft cloud platform (http://aka.ms/MeetAzMB), clearly shows the move towards simplicity, ease of use, and the speed to which you can get started with Azure. While I can’t cover it all in a single post, this is meant as an introduction to the new portal and in future posts I will explore various aspects and features that you can use for building scalable, durable and performant information solutions. A number of things were announced on the Azure blog (blog url) including some key ones around IaaS, Virtual Machines, Web Sites, and the Application Galleries.

HTML and AJAX Based Interface

The new portal runs on HTML and JavaScript, which means it can render on any browser that supports the core HTML functionality. This is great if you need to access it from a mobile device or tablet that doesn’t support plugins like Silverlight. The next thing you notice is that you get an at-a-glance view of all your running services, storage and networks.

image

Easily Create New Services

Adding a new service is as easy as clicking “NEW” on the bottom left corner of the screen and then making a selection of what you want to create. In addition to Cloud Services (formerly called Hosted Services) and storage, you can also create Virtual Machines, Web Sites, and Networks. These generally include a quick creation option which provisions the service with minimal configuraiton, but both Web Sit4es and Virtual machines include a “From Gallery” option which allows you to select a starting point to build from. 

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This includes content management applications like Umbraco, DotNetNuke, Joomla, Das Blog, mojoPortal, and WordPress, or a Virtual Machines that already have SQL 2012 Eval, Windows Server 8 Beta, SUSE Linux, or Ubuntu installed and ready for your deployments. You can also save your own machines as starting points or upload your own VHD.

Yes, I did just say Linux. Running on Azure. In the Microsoft Cloud. Notice that the list of available images includes these as well as images I created!

image

The new dialogs walk you thru all the steps collecting the needed information in an easy to follow logical order to get the selected services up and running. Quick and easy, but where can you see the status and updates on these configuration tasks? That’s where the notification area at the bottom of the screen comes to bat. It provides a comprehensive spot for seeing summary and optionally more detailed information about your changes as they happen.

image 

Monitoring and Diagnostics

Beyond the provisioning of new services and configuration tasks you also can get great monitoring information about resources used by your cloud instances. By selecting a provisioned instance, clicking the name takes you to a details page where you can get deployment and configuration settings including database connection strings and more. You can quickly see how much usage you’ve used out of the available allocation that is part of the subscription.

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You can easily get started today, just go out to http://windowsazure.com and try out the 90 Free Trial, or if you have an MSDN Subscription you can get compute time, storage and a lot more as part of your subscription benefits.

Enjoy!

-mike

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How to install Win 8 Release Preview from an ISO image

imageThey just announced that Windows 8 Release Preview and Visual Studio 2012 Beta is available for download (see http://aka.ms/Win8ToolsMB) . If you’re wondering how you can create a bootable USD stick to install it on your machine here’s some instructions to get you started…

The easiest way to convert an ISO file to a DVD in Windows 7 is to use Windows Disc Image Burner. On a PC running Windows XP or Windows Vista, a third-party program is required to convert an ISO file into installable media—and DVD burning software often includes this capability. One option is the USB/DVD download tool provided by the Microsoft Store. You can also download Windows 8 Release Preview Setup, which includes tools that allow you to create a DVD or USB flash drive from an ISO file (Windows Vista or Windows 7 required).

Also from the download page is a link to download the tools, which includes the Express SKU. Check out details on http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/11/en-us/downloads.

I’ve covered it before, but in case you want to install with Boot from VHD there are some commands worth looking at. The first is where you press SHIFT-F10 during the install when it asks where you want to install to in order to create an expandable VHD on the fly.

c:\Windows\System32> diskpart

Microsoft DiskPart version 6.1.7601 
Copyright (C) 1999-2008 Microsoft Corporation. 

DISKPART> create vdisk file=c:\vhd\win7.vhd type=expandable maximum=50000

100 percent completed

DiskPart successfully created the virtual disk file.

DISKPART> select vdisk file=c:\vhd\win7.vhd

DiskPart successfully selected the virtual disk file.

DISKPART> attach vdisk

100 percent completed

DiskPart successfully attached the virtual disk file.

DISKPART> create partition primary

DiskPart succeeded in creating the specified partition.
  

At this point you can ALT-TAB back to the installation process and you should see your new partition Then in the installation process you will see your new disk in the list of installation target options. Depending on the OS you may need to go back and run BCDEDIT to configure the boot loader to know about and offer the option of booting to your new VHD.

c:\> bcdedit /copy {current} /d “myVHD”

Copy the CSLID that is displayed and then run…

c:\> bcdedit /set {CLSID} device vhd=[C:]\vhds\vhdname.vhd

c:\> bcdedit /set {CLSID} osdevice vhd=[C:]\vhds\vhdname.vhd

c:\> bcdedit /set {CLSID} detecthal on
  

Enjoy!

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CloudTip #15-MEET Windows Azure

imageThe Cloud comes in many flavors, types and shapes and the terminology can be daunting. You’ve got Public vs. Private. vs. Home grown. You’ve got compute, storage and database not to mention identity, caching, service bus and many more. Then there are the several players including Microsoft, Amazon, Rackspace, Force, and too many others to list them all.

That’s a lot to learn, but if you’re curious to see what’s been happening with the Microsoft Cloud and get a feel for the direction things are heading then you want to check out the recently announced Microsoft event “Meet Windows Azure” live in San Francisco on June 7, where the people who are in the drivers seat will take time to share their space.

While the details are sparse so far you can get more information on http://MeetWindowsAzure.com , as well as follow the happenings on twitter. It looks like an interesting event you won’t want to miss. With people like Scott Guthrie it’s sure to be full of great examples of what and how you can get started with Windows Azure and learn more about what you need to know to get started today.

Check it out today!

-mike


CloudTip #14-How do I get SQL Profiler info from SQL Azure?

Your application is running slow. You need to find out what’s going on. If you’ve used SQL Profiler on a local database you might be familiar with how you can capture a trace of database activity and use it to figure out where your resources are going. The visibility makes it MUCH easier to tune a database than sorting thru a bunch of code. The question is, what do you do when you’re moving an app to the cloud?

If you’ve wondered how you can get Profile information from SQL Azure, the new online management portal for SQL Azure has been updated with design, deployment, administration and tuning features built in. The Overview screen provides quick links to the different areas of the portal, as well as easy links to help information from msdn online. You can get to the portal either by going to the Windows Azure management portal on http://windows.azure.com and after signing in going to the database section and clicking Manage, or simply browsing to your database name – https://<myserver>.database.windows.net where you substitute your database server’s name for <myserver>.

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When I log in I can see my databases and get information about size, usage as well as the ability dive into specific usage. From there I can go into designing the schema, functions and code around my database. If I swap over to the admin page though, I have visibility into not just database size and usage, but also a link to query performance. Clicking this takes me to where I can see profile data from queries.

image

I can sort and see which calls to the database are most frequent as well as most expensive in terms of resource usage. Further I can select one and dive even deeper to see the execution plan and statistics around the calls. This information is key to making decisions on indexes and design of a well performing database.

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In the query plan I can look for table scans or other expensive operations and if it make sense determine whether additional indexes would be useful.

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Nice!

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

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.


Try Azure for 90 Days Free!

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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Easy Money
Want to win some easy money? We have a sweepstakes, where we are giving away seven $50 gift certificate each week until June 14th. Just enter once, and you are in each drawing until the end.

To enter, you must do all of the following:

If you are selected as a winner we will need your Azure subscription ID to verify your Windows Azure subscription. Limit one (1) entry per Windows Azure subscription overall.

The official rules are posted on here.

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Get your App into the Windows 8 Store!

imageRecently, the Windows Store blog announced that in the next significant Windows 8 preview release they will be expanding their global coverage with 33 additional app submission locales for developers.

Our store services are ramping up as planned--and of course the plan includes ramping up developer registrations to enable app submissions to the Windows store. Today, you need an invite “token” to register. This begs the question - How can YOU get a token?

It’s easy! If your app is ready and you want to be among those developers who get to submit to the store early, simply attend one of the 100s of free Application Excellence Labs that DPE and Windows are holding around the world.

Follow these steps to get invited to an App Excellence lab:

1. Contact me (mike.benkovich@microsoft.com) for instructions on how I can nominate your app for an excellence lab.

2. Create a really great Windows 8 Metro style app (or game) immediately. Get it as ready as if you were submitting to the store.

Hopefully, there will be a lab near you. Right now, we have labs in 40+ countries and we may be adding more.

Of course, coming to the lab is not all you have to do. I have to go back to step #1: You need to have a compelling, functional app that follows our UX guidelines, our performance best practices, and our store certification requirements2

The lab is a 4-hour engagement with a trained Microsoft Services Engineer. This person will run your app through a series of tests based on a quality checklist to ensure your app is (or will be) in top-notch shape when you submit. You will also get a chance discuss ways to make your app even better and you will get answers to any questions you might have.

If your app meets the criteria, then booyah! You get a token to register your developer account and (once you have been verified and all that) you will be able to submit your app to the Windows store.

If your app does not meet the criteria, nothing is lost. You will still end up with a much better app3 and you will be able to submit it when registration opens for all developers.

Good luck. We are looking forward to seeing your apps and helping you to make them great!

Prepare For the Windows Store

ü  Get your app into the Windows Store! - Register and create your app profile found here http://aka.ms/CRReg

ü  Download and install the Windows 8 Consumer Preview 

ü  Download and install the Visual Studio 11 Express Beta for Windows 8

Additional Resources

ü  Stay connected with our Windows 8 Evangelists? Visit their blogs to keep informed about all the latest news, updated information and local events you can attend.

·         Jennifer Marsman

·         Jeff Brand

·         Clark Sell

·         Jared Bienz

Test your app before submitting with the Windows App Certification Kit (WACK)