Windows Azure: Free Developers Course


Windows Azure is a key part of Microsoft’s “Cloud” strategy moving into the future but of course, it needs people to use it and develop for it for it to be truly successful. They are piloting a new way of training developers & architects Azure, via self paced, web based training…best of all it’s FREE!

The method is one that I’m quite familiar with which aims to offer the best features of classroom training without the hassles and expense of travel, hotels, being out of the office for days etc. It utilises:

  • Interactive Live Meeting sessions with a tutor
  • On-line videos
  • Hands on Labs
  • E-Learning
  • Weekly Assessments

to cover off the topics, and you don’t need to go anywhere! The course lasts for 6 weeks from:

May 10th – June 18th

and covers:

Week 1 – Windows Azure Platform
Week 2 – Windows Azure Storage
Week 3 – Windows Azure Deep Dive and Codename "Dallas"
Week 4 – SQL Azure
Week 5 – Windows Azure Platform AppFabric Access Control
Week 6 – Windows Azure Platform AppFabric Service Bus

and did I mention it’s FREE?!

This is aimed at developers, architects, programmers and system designers and recommends at least 6 months experience programming in .NET and Visual Studio.

It will take around 4 to 5 hours a week to research and complete the tasks and there are timelines etc for submitting the work. However, successful completion gets you a “Microsoft Certificate of Completion” :-)

This is a new approach from Microsoft and one that I hope will be expanded out to other product areas.

Register:

You can find more information and sign up here:

https://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=1032449971&Culture=en-GB

If you’re technically minded and interested in Azure, sign up…and get any colleagues/friends that would be interested to sign up too!

I’ve registered and am looking forward to it so hopefully I’ll see you there :-)

Windows Phone 7: Unlocking the Emulator


Windows Phone 7 is going to be with us later this year but it’s still a fair way away. Don’t fret though, there is a way to play with Redmond’s upcoming mobile OS…Unlock the Emulator.

Gizmodo have got a great, easy to follow guide on what you need to download etc to get up & running…find that here. It only took about 15 minutes to get up & running and that includes the download time and re-starting the machine, so it’s not particularly arduous!

I’m now going to take a look through the various screens, sections and folders of the WP7 emulator and see what’s hiding. This post will be resplendent with screenshots of course :-)

Homescreen:

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The 1st hub is

“People”:

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Clicking the “+” next to “all” allows you to add new people to your contacts:

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Social networking is also handled by this hub and the default accounts available to set up are:

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Click any of those, enter your address and password and setup begins.

The next hub is

Messaging:

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Not a huge amount to show for the Messaging hub really :-) Onto the

Calendar

You get the standard “day” view:

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but I’m a big fan of the “Agenda” view:

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It makes it nice and easy to see what you’ve got coming up. Also, the homescreen hub shows upcoming appointments:

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Up next,

Internet Explorer

Here’s this very blog as viewed in “Desktop” mode on WP7 IE:

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Here’s Bechtle’s UK site:

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and here’s Gizmodo:

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One new addition that I’m very pleased to see is this:

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You are now able to open multiple browser windows at the same time, and switch between them:

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This is one of my favourite things about mobile browsing on my Android phone and something I definitely wouldn’t want to lose in my next phone, so it’s great to see it in Windows Phone 7.

The extra settings screen in IE:

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Pin to Start does what it says on the tin and pins that site to your start screen:

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That’s the Microsoft site in the bottom corner there.

“Settings” doesn’t bring anything up at the moment, at least not for me.

The next hub is one of the most exciting:

XBOX Live & Games:

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Don’t ask me why the New York Times is classed as a game but click on it and you get:

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You can see the easy “Try” & “Buy” options there, a huge improvement over app interaction in previous Windows Mobile editions.

I can’t get the Emulator to connect to Windows Live, so I can’t explore the Xbox integration any further. I have asked Twitter if it can be done though!

Our next stop is:

Pictures:

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The extra settings button gives you:

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Again you can see sharing as an integral part of the OS. Currently its only option is text messages but I assume that, once set up, your other social media accounts (Twitter, Flickr, Facebook etc) will appear there too.

This next hub is the one I am most excited about…Microsoft mobile devices, welcome:

Zune:

I’ve been using the Zune desktop software for a few months now and I love it. It’s cool, clean, sexy, swish, awesome and fully featured…to be able to continue that experience on my mobile device will be fantastic!

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It’s not just the look and UI (User Interface) of Zune that I’m a fan of, there are 2 main things and the first is:

Marketplace

Clicking the link above takes you to the Marketplace, where you can see:

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So a huge range of media available to purchase directly from your mobile…awesome :-)

The arrow at the top right of the homescreen gives you access to the other features of the OS:

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The “Convert” option is a nice addition, I use the new conversion features of the Windows 7 calculator a lot so I’m definitely a fan of this:

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All the Office Mobile Apps are there but there’s also a “Microsoft Office” option, allowing access to all the programs at once:

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Excel:

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A new feature that shows the direction MS are taking with Office integration can be found in the “personalize” section in Excel:

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This is a clear tie in with Sharepoint and one that will be welcomed by many mobile users and fits in well with the Office 2010/Wave 14 message of Increased Productivity.

Word:

Word has got an easy to use commenting feature:

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and there’s the option to send files directly from Word:

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Sharepoint:

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This gives you quick and easy access to your corporate Sharepoint sites from your Windows Phone 7 device.

The settings for the Sharepoint Client are:

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Built in support for UAG (Unified Access Gateway) isn’t something I was expecting to see, but perhaps isn’t surprising.

OneNote:

OneNote currently gives this error message:

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This is the first time I’ve seen Skydrive integrated into any other Microsoft products, and I think it’s a great idea. The 25GB of free storage sitting in Windows Live is under-utilised by almost everyone I know which is a shame, as SkyDrive is a brilliant, and generous, offering.

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OneNote has lost none of it’s rich media inclusion in the mobile version, with the ability to add pictures & audio recordings right on the device.

Powerpoint:

Oddly, Powerpoint isn’t listed in the Office App but it is still there! However there are no .pptx’s built into the emulator so there’s nothing for it to open:

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All in all, Office on Windows Phone 7 certainly looks a lot sleeker and easier to navigate than on Windows Mobile 6.1.

Other apps in the OS include:

Maps

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That is a very well rendered image of the London Eye in the Windows Phone 7 Maps app.

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The above shows that it’s very clear and well designed application, easy on the eyes and easy to see where you’re going.

Camera:

One camera setting I really like is the top one:

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Being able to wake the phone up with the camera button will allow you to grab those snaps that little bit quicker…which can be the difference between a great picture and a picture of nothing!

Settings:

The settings menu shows that Microsoft MyPhone, the online backup service Microsoft released last year, is now integrated into the Operating System rather than being a separate add-on.

Myphone Features:

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Themes:

If you’re not a fan of the dark default theme, you can brighten it up as so:

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System Info:

This gives a screen familiar to PC users across the world:

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ands also:

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The “Shortcuts” menu also gives you access to the file structure:

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I think it would be a good idea to keep these in the final version of the OS; it makes it more consistent with the desktop Windows experience and is also usual to many users. However, Jason Chen of Gizmodo said something similar and Long Zheng said he was a “moron” who deserved to “be sacked” so I’ll stay away from that hornet’s nest ;-)

Conclusion:

There are still bits of the OS that aren’t present in the emulator as well as a few areas that are a bit glitchy, but that is to be expected with something that isn’t even a beta but simply an expanded emulator!

However there are plenty of things in here that make it clear this is Microsoft’s greatest Mobile Operating System ever. Gone are the confusing menu layers and different styles of previous Windows Mobile editions and in are smooth, sleek lines of the new Metro User Interface. I’m an Android user now and am pretty pleased with it but Windows Phone 7 has a real chance of winning me back…however, it’s going to be all about the apps at the end of the day. My HTC Hero is an e-book reader, a barcode scanner, a food tracker, a translator and more…if Windows Phone 7 can’t be all those things, and more, then it’ll have to be “thanks but no thanks Redmond”.

So I think image

VStudio 2010 release date delayed


VStudio 2010, the latest version of Microsoft’s development product suite, was slated to be released March 22 2010; however, according to The Register, that’s no longer the case.

Sosa Somasegar’s (Senior VP of MS Developer Division) MSDN blog tells us that:

“we are going to extend the beta period by adding another interim checkpoint release, a Release Candidate with a broad “go live” license, which will be publicly available in the February 2010 timeframe.

Since the goal of the Release Candidate is to get more feedback from you, the team will need some time to react to that feedback before creating the final release build.  We are therefore moving the launch of Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4 back a few weeks.” (bold mine)

So there will be a VStudio 2010 RC in February 2010 and the final release of Visual Studio 2010 can be expected probably around the beginning of May 2010.

VStudio 2010 Editions & Licensing


VStudio 2010 will be here March 22, 2010 and with it come many advancements. However, this post isn’t to look at the feature differences but rather changes to the editions and licensing.

VStudio 2008 has got quite a few different versions on licensing:

  • VStudio Pro with MSDN Pro
  • VStudio Pro with MSDN Premium
  • VStudio Team Edition Test
  • VStudio Team Edition Architect
  • VStudio Team Edition Database
  • VStudio Team Edition Development
  • VStudio Team Suite

This can make it quite confusing for customers to choose the right editions for their teams…”Geoff does testing AND Architecting-which should I get?” or sometimes companies don’t have such defined roles, they just have “developers”. Getting the Suite ensures you get all the features but it’s expensive; this confusion has been known to put people off investing in 2008.

Editions

There are now just 3 editions:

  • VStudio Pro with MSDN
  • VStudio Prem with MSDN
  • VStudio Ultimate with MSDN

This straight away makes it quicker and easier for users to identify the edition best suited to particular user. This will definitely please a number of our customers :-)

Another change is that Team Foundation Server is now included with all 3 versions of VStudio, rather than being a separate additional licence adding more confusion (and cost) to the deal.

Production Software:

VStudio comes with MSDN which, as it’s name (MicroSoft Developers Network) suggests, is aimed at Developers…giving them access to most/all of Microsoft’s software for testing and development purposes (access level depends on version)…according to Microsoft MSDN gives access to 10,9 Terabytes :-)

However it’s a little known fact that VStudio 2008 w/MSDN also entitles you to production licences of a bunch of software. This benefit continues with a few tweaks and the 2010 editions (Pro & Ultimate only) now include:

  • Expression Studio 3
  • Office Pro Plus  2010
  • Visio Premium 2010
  • Project Pro 2010

That’s a pretty great addition :-) It seems that Communicator has been removed…

Comparison:

One of the biggest problems with VStudio 2008 was how oddly difficult it was to find easily comparable information about the different versions. Seeing which versions did what often involved trawling multiple pages/sites, clicking many a link and a general air of uncertainty…but that’s all gone with 2010 YAY! Microsoft have created a great webpage:

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This is a brilliant, one stop shop to show end users (and partners) exactly what each version does, and doesn’t, do…something that will prove invaluable!

You can access the full version of the chart here:

http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/en-us/products/2010/default.mspx#compare

Upgrades and renewals:

Another question I’ve been getting is around how the current 2008 versions will transition to 2010, so here’s what MS say:

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So you can see that if you’ve currently got a Team Edition, you’ll get MSDN Ultimate thus giving you access to all features…bonus ;-)

The chart can be found here.

Ultimate Offer:

Microsoft’s website mentions an “Ultimate Offer” around subscription renewals but, to be honest, doesn’t make it particularly clear…at least not to me :-)

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I think this means that if you’ve got VStudio with MSDN Pro you can renew it as MSDN Premium at no extra cost, but I’m going to get confirmation from MS ASAP.

Microsoft have certainly made an effort to simplify the world of Dev tools licensing which is definitely a good thing :-)

Update on The Ultimate Offer:

I’ve uncovered some more information on the “Ultimate Offer! (in fact, some came from a customer!) that helps make it a little clearer.

It’s effectively a free “Step Up” promo so:

“Eligible MSDN Premium subscription customers (at the time of launch) will gain access to one higher stock‐keeping unit (SKU) level”

The chart below shows the transition path:

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So if you purchase any of the following editions:

• Visual Studio Professional 2008 with MSDN Premium
• Visual Studio Team System 2008 Development Edition with MSDN Premium
• Visual Studio Team System 2008 Architecture Edition with MSDN Premium
• Visual Studio Team System 2008 Test Edition with MSDN Premium
• Visual Studio Team System 2008 Database Edition with MSDN Premium

on or before March 22nd 2010, you will move up a level free of charge…nice :-)

There are a couple of questions I’ve thought of that I’m aiming to get answered and will post them up here once I do.