by December 3rd, 2013
Xamarin and Microsoft have teamed up to make all other development platforms irrelevant. Xamarin is the creator of popular cross platform development tools that allow developers to create iOS, Android and Windows applications all in C#. With the launch of Visual Studio 2013, Xamarin and Microsoft announced a partnership that will significantly improve the experience of developing, maintaining and updating apps written for any of the major popular platforms (iOS, Android, Windows).
Some of highlights of this partnership include Portable Class Libraries, Visual Studio integration, Azure Mobile Services integration and licensing discounts with free training for all MSDN Subscribers.
Portable Class Libraries (PCL) are libraries of code that can be used in any of your projects. PCL’s have made cross platform development easier than ever before. By using PCL’s you can keep the specific platform code within their respective projects and keep the bulk of your logic within the PCL. Using this method will speed up development, code maintenance and bug fixing considerably.
Previous to the Visual Studio 2013 partnership Xamarin came with its own cross platform development environment, Xamarin Studio. While still very functional it was no Visual Studio. Developers not familiar with Xamarin Studio would still have to take the time to re-learn the tools that were available to them. Now with full Visual Studio integration developers can continue to use the tools they are already comfortable with as well as using the powerful Azure utilities when developing apps that require mobile services.
Windows Azure has become one of Microsoft’s fastest growing platform. It has been experiencing 100% year over year growth and just announced it has been gaining 1,000 new customers per day! Microsoft has built templates specific for Xamarin iOS and Xamarin Android apps so developers can simply download project templates with sample code prepopulated and making API calls to Azure! Creating mobile services has never been easier. For more information on this process, please visit this link.
The final point is one I’m considerably excited about. Along with the Microsoft partnership Xamarin also introduced Xamarin University. For .NET developers that would like to learn more about mobile development Xamarin University is a great place to look. It provides live online classes, tutorials, labs and a certification exam. If you are an MSDN subscriber you have access to Xamarin University for free! A value of over $1400!!! So sign up while there is still space. Class starts January 20th!
by November 11th, 2013
Web Sites are by far one of my favorite features on Windows Azure. As a developer, I didn’t like having to manage the infrastructure. Web Sites allow me to focus on my application and data and let the platform manage the rest. In the last couple of updates there have been a few improvements to Web Sites.
Some of the recent updates include:
- WebSocket and Remote Debugging support.
- TFS and GIT provide continuous integration and deployment.
- Developer Analytics for Web Sites and Mobile Services.
I invite you to check out Scott Guthrie’s blog post for additional details. If you have any Windows Azure related questions please let us know!
by November 5th, 2013
- They are entirely new languages. Developers have to take the time to learn the language and become familiar with the way it works before they can really start to mold themselves with the language
What does this mean for developers? For me it means a few things:
- Finally the dynamically typed parts of the language can be used when preferred and I won’t have to learn an entirely new language
- Typed languages will come with far superior IntelliSense.
On a larger scale this changes my development mindset. In the past I would choose to invest heavily on the .NET aspect of applications. Whether it be an ASP.NET forms application, SharePoint web part, Windows Phone or Windows 8 application; .NET is where I would want to do my development. For web based applications that meant a lot of code behind and on occasion, being tied down by the ASP.NET page life cycle. Suddenly I find myself more interested in writing Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 applications in HTML/JS/CSS than using C#/XAML.
TypeScript is still very new (still in Preview) and it will not replace the code behind model entirely, but I feel it has the ability to alter the way ASP.NET applications are made, especially if given access to the .NET Framework.
by October 10th, 2013
Edit: Part 3 using Mahout here
In my previous post I described the basics of HDInsight on Windows Azure and an example of what a Hadoop cluster can do for you.
Without further delay, lets build a cluster! If you don’t already have a Windows Azure account go here and sign up (it’s free!!)
Login to your Azure portal and you will have a dashboard similar to this:
If HDInsight is not initially on the dashboard simply add it by going here and selecting “Try it now” under “Windows Azure HDInsight Preview”. After installing HDInsight should now appear on your dashboard.
To create a cluster select HDInsight; upon clicking “Create an HDInsight Cluster” you will be presented with the following screen. Read the rest of this post »
by October 8th, 2013
Windows Phone 8 has been fighting for relevancy in the market since its release. It has slowly but surely gaining market share in the US and Europe has recently seen an explosion of WP8 adoption partially due to very low cost hardware. Microsoft and Nokia have been continuously pricing their full featured phones lower than the competition in an attempt to drive adoption. One of the main problems is their are not very many models of Windows Phones on the market, but that soon could change. Bloomberg has reported that Microsoft may be interested in dropping the licensing fee to HTC all together in order to saturate the market with more Windows Phone devices.
The general belief is that Android is free for third party manufacturers like Samsung and HTC. when actually both companies (in addition to others) have licensing agreements with Microsoft to use technologies incorporated in Android on their phones. Microsoft makes approximately $8 per Android phone sold on patent royalties that pertain to Android. If Microsoft does indeed drop the Windows Phone 8 licensing fee for HTC then it is cheaper for HTC to sell WP8 phones than it is to sell Android phones.
Why would Microsoft do this? How would they make money if they give their software away for free? I can think of two big reasons for this.
- Microsoft is having a hard time convincing 3rd party vendors like HTC, Samsung and LG to create Windows Phone devices. This has no doubt become more difficult with the acquisition of Nokia and Microsoft needs its third parties to help make Windows Phone successful.
- Like Google with Android, Microsoft will make money on the devices once people are using their services and buying apps in the Windows Store. The more devices being used on the market using your services, the more money Microsoft makes.
Dropping the licensing fee is not the only detail worthy of news. The report states that Microsoft is trying to convince HTC to allow customers to choose the OS they want on the device at purchase. This would be an unprecedented move. By giving users control over which OS to load on their phone, HTC no longer has to assume risking the design and manufacturing costs associated with an entirely new handset. They can streamline their product lineup and sell both Android and Windows phones with minimal risk.
If the report is accurate this could be good for HTC, good for Microsoft and great for consumers. Imagine receiving an HTC One (HTC’s flagship phone) with Windows Phone 8 pre-installed…
by October 4th, 2013
Edit: Part 2 (setup) : Part 3 (Mahout)
The internet is becoming increasingly personalized. It has transitioned from indexing massive wells of information to delivering personalized information, or recommendations based on complex searches. Evidence of this is seen in Google’s Knowledge graph, Amazon, the Bing engine, Facebook friends and twitter recommending people you may be interesting in following. Recommendations are everywhere on the web and with the introduction of HDInsight on Windows Azure the personalized web will grow even larger. HDInsight is an implementation of Apache Hadoop running natively within Windows Server. Hadoop is a very powerful distributed computing solution that can process massive quantities of data.
Incorporating “non-Microsoft” technologies baked into Microsoft based services and products is a newer development. The benefits to the IT professional are infinite. Let us take HDInsight as an example. For those not familiar with Linux and installing Hadoop on a distribution of clustered nodes the process can be frustrating and time consuming (to say the least). There are many guides on line and each guide pertains to its own flavor of Linux (Gentoo vs. Red Hat vs. Ubuntu vs. CentOS etc.). The process has gotten better over the years but is still quite cumbersome. To create a Hadoop cluster within Windows Azure, simply create an HDInsight cluster from the dashboard. In a few minutes you have a fully functional Hadoop cluster ready for processing.
You may be asking yourself; “Hadoop is a distributed computing system, what does it have to do with recommendations?”. Mahout is the answer. Mahout is an open source machine learning engine that is also managed by Apache. It contains many different types of algorithms and features, but one of its most prominent is its recommendation engine. The installation process is trivial so you will have Mahout up and running in an HDInsight cluster in no time. To install Mahout on your cluster download the latest release in zip file format from the Mahout website. Copy the zip file to your one of your cluster nodes and extract the contents to C:\apps\dist. That’s it! Not only have you just installed Mahout, but you have also deployed it to your Hadoop cluster.
Next I will walk through the installation process and use Mahout to process data. – Update: Part 2 is here.
by September 18th, 2013
I cam across an article on InformationWeek “Microsoft Azure Grows More Open.” From what I know and the people I talk to, I truly believe Microsoft has been opening up over the last several years, especially for developers. The rate tools and frameworks are built and supported by Visual Studio is one key sign of the openness. Another sign is with Windows Azure and all the technologies it supports.
Windows Azure supports a lot of technologies that are not their own. Any language that can be compiled or run on a Windows Server can be used in Windows Azure. Microsoft may not have documents that specifically call out all languages that work in the environment, though they do point out a few other than their own. For instance Windows Azure supports .NET, Python, PHP, Node.js and Java just to name a few. Windows Azure also has mobile services that can easily integrate with HTML5, Android and IOS, not just Windows Phone. They even offer sample code and projects for you to learn from. Here is a link to see some of the open-source software Windows Azure supports.
Microsoft even has a subsidiary “Microsoft Open Technologies.” MS Open Tech works with several standards organizations and open source communities. MS Open Tech isn’t just focused on Windows Azure either, they focus on building bridges between Microsoft and non-Microsoft Technologies.
So I invite you to give Windows Azure a try if you haven’t already. If you need a Windows Azure subscription, here is the link for a free trial.
by September 13th, 2013
Windows Azure is a great environment for your applications. It can also house applications that aren’t ready to be consumed by your clients whether internal or external to your organization. What makes this more compelling is that as of June you now pay by the minute vs. by the hour for compute as well as no cost for stopped VMs. This makes it more cost-effective for you to do your development and testing in the cloud. MSDN subscribers get extra discounts as well.
Here is a few ways you can use Windows Azure:
- Load/Performance testing
- Scalability testing (up and/or out)
- Server configuration testing(SharePoint, SQL, BizTalk, Windows, Linux, …)
With Windows Azure Virtual Machines (VMs) you can deploy and configure applications even if they’re going to be used on-premises. You can use Windows Azure to determine the infrastructure needs for the on-premise deployment as well as for cloud deployments. You can even setup Virtual Networks to connect to your development and testing environment in the cloud.
Are you wondering how you can easily deploy, scale and configure these environments? PowerShell will be your new best friend if not already. Windows Azure has a lot of pre-built cmdlets for use today. You can also use Team Foundation Service to do load and performance testing.
By the way, if you need a Windows Azure subscription, here is the link for a free trial.
by September 4th, 2013
Caching capabilities have been available in Windows Azure for a while now, at least for use in cloud services. With the latest improvements to Windows Azure caching is now its own service. Now you can use distributed caching with all your Windows Azure applications, whether your application is a Web Sites, VM, Cloud Service or Mobile Service. Another great thing about the caching improvements, is that they come with an ASP.NET session state provider. You will now be able to easily bring those legacy apps to the cloud that rely heavily on session state.
If you’re interested in finding out more about how to use the new caching features check out Scott Guthrie’s post.
By the way, if you need a Windows Azure subscription, here is the link for a free trial.
by September 3rd, 2013
On Wednesday we hosted a webinar that highlighted how you can use responsive design to better engage your mobile audience. Rich Wood, Director of Perficient’s Microsoft web and social collaboration practice shared why using responsive design is an excellent solution to address the explosion of mobile devices that differ tremendously, from screen size to functionality and usability, making it impossible to optimize a website for a single device. Rich addressed specific scenarios and examples of how Perficient has helped organizations looking to develop and execute on strategies that provide a first-class experience for all devices while winning some recognition along the way!
During the webinar, Rich discussed what can be accomplished using SharePoint 2013 and responsive web design. He also covered
- What is responsive web design?
- SharePoint 2013’s WCM features
- Responsive web design & SharePoint
- Responsive SharePoint website examples
You can see the replay here
and review the slides here