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

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Visual Studio 2019 Launch Event - MSP

@MikeBenkovich 04/01/2019

Since Visual Studio launched 22 years ago it has evolved to become a favorite IDE of the casual to professional developer. With the launch of Visual Studio 2019 Microsoft again steps up their game with improvements to make it easier to work and debug Cloud, Mobile and Web, as well as bring the developer a number of productivity improvements.

Join us for a chance to participate in the launch with a live viewing party at the Microsoft Office in Edina. It's a chance to be a part of the next generation of developer tools and you get to see all the compelling new features and capabilities of Visual Studio! Join us in Edina on April 2 - http://bit.ly/vs19msp - to join the live streamed event and share the fun!


rebuild17 Resources

@MikeBenkovich 05/29/2017

As promised last week I updated the slides with the session that the content was drawn from. Here is the consolidated list of sessions with deeper dives into the topics from Build:

  • B8020 - Cognitive Services & Computer Vision Made Easy
  • B8049 - Enable intelligence with Azure IoT Edge
  • B8096 - Windows Template Studio
  • B8100 - What's New and Coming in Windows UI Platform
  • B8001 - Three Runtimes One Standard .NET Standard
  • B8048 - Introducing .NET Core 2.0
  • B8027 - Azure Debugging & Snappoints
  • B8039 - Design for Serverless Success
  • B8061 - How to build serverless business applications
  • B8099 - Xamarin Tools
  • B8103 - The Future of Xamarin Development
  • B8072 - Overview of Mobile Center

My GitHub repo for the event - http://github.com/mbenko/rebuild17. Other links from the event include:


Re-BUILD 2017, bringing the best of BUILD conference to cities near you

@MikeBenkovich 05/14/2017

Re-BUILD 2017 Roadshow

The “re-BUILD 2017 Roadshow” brings the best of the Build conference to cities across the US. A half day developer focused event in partnership with User Groups and Microsoft Partners will deliver a half day msdn-event style experience. There will be 3  sessions on Build Highlights, Going Serverless with Azure Functions, and Mobile Center, the next generation of HockeyApp. A HackFest over lunch will cover ad-hoc topics by community leaders and MVP’s to share their favorite thing from Build.

The schedule typically includes:

  • Build 2017 Productivity Features you never knew you had
  • Going Serverless with Azure Functions
  • Exploring Mobile Center
  • Pizza and Hackfest

The scheduled cities are listed below with more coming soon!

We'll see you on the road with re-BUILD 2017 Roadshow!


VS 2017 Launch Live Notes

@MikeBenkovich 03/07/2017

Watching the live stream of the Visual Studio 2017 launch and 20 year anniversary party…thought I’d capture some of the notes of what’s going on and share the fun.

Visual Studio 2017 release

Developer Productivity - Kasey Uhlenhuth

  • Live Unit Tests
  • Exception helper
  • Find all references
  • New intellitrace tray of options
  • Ctrl+T for goto All
  • Code suggestions
  • Code Config file - map code styles and suggestions for environment
  • Support for tuples on methods
  • Improved refactoring
  • Indent guide visibility to method code is in even if not visible

.NET Core - Beth Massi

  • .net Tools for Core 1.0 in production
  • Migrate/Upgrade to new tools easy
  • Simplified csproj format which is human readable
  • References grouped by type…i.e. nuget refs, project refs, etc.
  • Application Insights
    • New add-in experience
    • Search and graph analytics in VS

Containers Docker - Scott Hanselman

  • Add docker support in VS right click on project
  • Run in docker if selected startup project
  • Debug, edit and volume mapping realtime from vs to docker
  • Publish to Linux docker or windows
  • Automatically references other docker containers dependent on
  • Debug across containers
  • Check out Ref application http://aka.ms/MicroservicesArchitecture

Xamarin : James & Miguel

  • Tizen new OS from Samsung for IoT devices…built on Xamarin Forms
  • Visual Studio for Mac Preview 4
  • New App templates
    • Mobile App added with best practices if checkbox Azure
    • Code for clients
  • Forms Previewer
    • Works if you have JDK 1.8+ on x64 installed (settings?)
  • Improved intellisense
  • Native animations in XAML
  • Forms inspector, when connected tp android emulator
    • Layers
    • Live edit of XAML

VS Mobile Center - Keith

  • http://mobile.azure.com
  • Xamarin Test Cloud
  • Add app…pick type
  • Add nuget & register app
  • Distribute sets up a team of testers/user community for builds
  • Build service
    • Pick sln
    • Provisioning profile
    • Certificate for signed builds
    • Trigger
  • Test service …
    • run automated UI tests
    • See devices tested on
  • Crash reporting
    • Usage & crash info
    • Stack dumps grouped by count
  • Analytics
    • Custom events

DevOps - Brian Harry & Donovan Brown

  • Continuous delivery
  • "Shift Right" = delivery improvements, production is part of the plan
  • TFS 2017.1 for on Premise installs
  • http://aka.ms/tfsimportdata
  • Donovan demo - any project, any platform
    • Create project
    • Import Git repo
    • View code
    • Setup build from templates or by scratch
      • Sources - where is repo? In TS or external?
      • Test settings
      • Code Coverage
      • Build agents - windows or linux
      • Search for build task
      • Marketplace for build tasks
      • Create your own extension
      • Variables
      • Create work items on failure
      • Track history/changes to build definitions
    • Release definitions
      • Infrastructure as code
      • Approvers
    • Dashboards
  • Data Migration - Partner with Red Gate
    • In VS RedGate ReadyRoll has tools by default
    • SQL Obj explorer, make changes and save
    • Tell ReadyRoll to refresh with changes, generate migration scripts
      • Add update statements for populating default values on existing data after modification
    • Add database scripts and changes that will happen on the database
    • Add the ReadyRoll task to deploy the database task
  • RedGate included in VS 2017 Enterprise
  • Pluralsight 1yr
  • DevOps Enterprise Accelerator offer

Adding HockeyApp feedback for Android to a Xamarin Forms app

@MikeBenkovich 08/20/2016

I’ve been working on a project that integrates Xamarin with Azure Mobile Apps and uses HockeyApp to distribute the code to test devices. I wanted to add the feature in HockeyApp to allow users to be able to send feedback (including a screenshot) from within the app. On searching for an answer I found a number of good leads but nothing that connected them all so this post is intended to go thru what you need to do to add this feature to your app.

We start with an app that is created from the standard Xamarin Forms template in Visual Studio for cross-platform apps (this assumes you have Visual Studio 2015.3 with the Xamarin tools installed otherwise it will prompt you to add them).

image

The solution will look like this. Note I had to do a little work to use the Shared version of Xamarin forms with XAML in that I replaced the default App.cs file it includes with XAML versions of that and the MainPage.xaml. You can see the completed demo sample on GitHub here

image

To add HockeyApp’s feedback feature to our solution go to https://www.hockeyapp.net/ and sign up to create a new app. After an app has been created you can get the HockeyApp ID and use it in the MainActivity.cs code for the OnCreate() method when the application registers with HockeyApp. The process is fairly straight forward:

  1. Create a new app on HockeyApp (https://support.hockeyapp.net/kb/app-management-2/how-to-create-a-new-app)
  2. Add the HockeyApp component from Xamarin (https://components.xamarin.com/view/hockeyappandroid)
    SNAGHTML4b9e527[4]
  3. In the MainActivity.cs file of the Android project add a function to register HockeyApp with the AppID you created. We will call it from the OnCreate(). 
  4. private void InitializeHockeyApp()
    {
        CrashManager.Register(this, HOCKEYAPP_APPID, new MyCrashManagerListener());
       
        UpdateManager.Register(this, HOCKEYAPP_APPID);
        FeedbackManager.Register(this, HOCKEYAPP_APPID);
        Tracking.StartUsage(this);
       
    }

  5. Add a method to handle the feedback calls in the MainActivity class. In this implementation I’m also capturing a screenshot that can be added to the feedback process if the user chooses.
  6. public void HandleFeedback()
    {
        FeedbackManager.SetActivityForScreenshot(MainActivity.current);
        FeedbackManager.TakeScreenshot(MainActivity.current);

        FeedbackManager.ShowFeedbackActivity(MainActivity.current);
    }

  7. Implement an ISensorEventListener class to handle shake activity. Note that you need to implement both the Java.Lang.Object interface as well as the ISensorEventListener. I added an overloaded constructor to allow me to pass a reference to the MainActivity instance (parent) that uses this to handle sensor activity. We will also handle the 

  8. // --- Implement ISensorEventListener
    public class MyShakeHandler : Java.Lang.Object, ISensorEventListener
    {
        // --- Reference to parent activity
        private MainActivity parent;

        // Handle Shake from - http://stackoverflow.com/questions/23120186/can-xamarin-handle-shake-accelerometer-on-android
        bool hasUpdated = false;

        DateTime lastUpdate;
        float last_x = 0.0f;
        float last_y = 0.0f;
        float last_z = 0.0f;

        const int ShakeDetectionTimeLapse = 250;
        const double ShakeThreshold = 800;

        // --- In constructor set parent
        public MyShakeHandler(Activity context) : base()
        {
            parent = (MainActivity)context;
        }

        public void OnAccuracyChanged(Android.Hardware.Sensor sensor, Android.Hardware.SensorStatus accuracy)
        {
        }

        public void OnSensorChanged(Android.Hardware.SensorEvent e)
        {
            if (e.Sensor.Type == Android.Hardware.SensorType.Accelerometer)
            {
                float x = e.Values[0];
                float y = e.Values[1];
                float z = e.Values[2];

                DateTime curTime = System.DateTime.Now;
                if (hasUpdated == false)
                {
                    hasUpdated = true;
                    lastUpdate = curTime;
                    last_x = x;
                    last_y = y;
                    last_z = z;
                }
                else
                {
                    if ((curTime - lastUpdate).TotalMilliseconds > ShakeDetectionTimeLapse)
                    {
                        float diffTime = (float)(curTime - lastUpdate).TotalMilliseconds;
                        lastUpdate = curTime;
                        float total = x + y + z - last_x - last_y - last_z;
                        float speed = Math.Abs(total) / diffTime * 10000;

                        if (speed > ShakeThreshold)
                        {
                            // --- Call parent's Feedback handler
                            parent.HandleFeedback();
                        }

                        last_x = x;
                        last_y = y;
                        last_z = z;
                    }
                }
            }
        }
    }

  9. In the MainActivity.cs OnCreate() function add code to add an accelerometer sensor recognition. Note that you also have to add usings for Android.Hardware and for HockeyApp.Android. The code for OnCreate() will look like this:
  10.         // --- Add Globals
            public static string HOCKEYAPP_APPID = "<HOCKEYAPP ID>";
            public static Android.App.Activity current;

            protected override void OnCreate (Bundle bundle)
            {
                base.OnCreate (bundle);

                // --- Register this as a listener with the underlying service.
                var sensorManager = GetSystemService(SensorService) as Android.Hardware.SensorManager;
                var sensor = sensorManager.GetDefaultSensor(Android.Hardware.SensorType.Accelerometer);

                current = this;
                sensorManager.RegisterListener(new MyShakeHandler(current), sensor, Android.Hardware.SensorDelay.Normal);
                InitializeHockeyApp();

     

                global::Xamarin.Forms.Forms.Init (this, bundle);
                LoadApplication(new App());
            }

  11. In the AndroidManifest.xml add permissions to the sensors
  12. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
    <manifest xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android">
      <uses-sdk android:minSdkVersion="15" />
      <uses-permission android:name="android.permission.ACCESS_COARSE_LOCATION" />
      <uses-permission android:name="android.permission.ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION" />
      <uses-permission android:name="android.permission.ACCESS_MOCK_LOCATION" />
      <uses-permission android:name="android.permission.INTERNET" />
      <uses-permission android:name="android.permission.ACCESS_NETWORK_STATE" />
      <uses-feature android:name="android.hardware.sensor.accelerometer" android:required="true" />
      <application android:label="xForms-FeedbackDemo"></application>
    </manifest>

  13. In my scenario I also wanted a button on an about page that can be used to trigger the feedback logic from XAML. To make it work with a Shared code project in Xamarin Forms, I defined a DROID compilation definition so I can conditionally work with Android specific code
    image
  14. In the XAML page you want to add a feedback button connect to the MainActivity’s logic. 
  15. using System;
    using Xamarin.Forms;

    #if DROID
    using HockeyApp.Android;
    using XamFormsFeedbackDemo.Droid;
    #endif

    namespace XamFormsFeedbackDemo
    {
        public partial class MainPage : ContentPage
        {
            public MainPage ()
            {
                InitializeComponent ();
            }
            public void btnFeedback(object sender, EventArgs e)
            {
    #if DROID
                FeedbackManager.SetActivityForScreenshot(MainActivity.current);
                FeedbackManager.TakeScreenshot(MainActivity.current);

                FeedbackManager.ShowFeedbackActivity(MainActivity.current);
    #endif
            }
        }
    }

You can download the code from GitHub here.

Happy Coding!


Playing with MSFT Mobile DevOps story end to end

@MikeBenkovich 07/21/2016

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

The process flow

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

 

 

DevOps is


Check out Open Live Writer

@MikeBenkovich 04/19/2016

imageSince Windows 8 came out its been hard to find some tools that used to work so well with previous versions of Windows. One such tool is Live Writer, which was part of Windows Essentials. I came across this a couple weeks ago and wanted to share, I’ve been using it to work with my blogs and you can get it from http://openlivewriter.org/. I’m starting a new blog and will be updating BenkoTIPS to have an aggregated feed of items from historical blogs I’ve worked on. Should be a fun project.

Enjoy!


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

@MikeBenkovich 07/10/2012

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

@MikeBenkovich 06/07/2012

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. 

image

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.

image

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

@MikeBenkovich 05/18/2012

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>.

image

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.

image

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.

image

Nice!

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Get your App into the Windows 8 Store!

@MikeBenkovich 05/08/2012

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)


Cloud Tip #12-Get Started with SQL Azure

@MikeBenkovich 04/27/2012

Business Software is in the business of data management. Creating, updating, deleting and using information in new ways as well as simplifying how it is collected and reported is key to what we do as technology professionals. With the advent of Cloud Computing being able to take advantage of relational data directly in the cloud using the same skills we’ve been using with solutions built on premise means we’ll spend less time on the good old learning curve. One great example where this is the case is SQL Azure, the relational database service from Microsoft.

If you’ve been working with SQL Server for any length of time you’ll know that at its base it is a relational database engine that talks on port 1433 and speaks a language called Tabular Data Stream (or TDS). Common tools for working with SQL Server on premise includes SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS), BCP, Integration Services, Visual Studio, and many more too numerous to name. What is interesting about SQL Azure is that it uses the same protocols and ports as SQL Server you run on premise, so all the same tools continue to work. In this post I’d like to show how to get started working with SQL Azure quickly, provisioning a server, creating a database and some schema, and then migrating data to it.


Get the Azure 90 day Free Trial

Provisioning a Server

First thing we need is a service running in a datacenter to host our databases from. This is a logical service that represents many physical machines. We provision a server by going to the Windows Azure management portal (http://windows.azure.com) and selecting the Database section. From there we select our subscription and then click the Create button in the ribbon.

image

This will provision a SQL Azure service in a specified data center. The management tool lets you select the data center and set administrative credentials. These credentials are whatever you want, but with a couple restrictions. For example it disallows certain usernames for the admin  account including SA, Root, Admin, Guest, etc. Next it requires a strong password which includes 3 of the 4 types of characters on the keyboard (Upper Case, Lower Case, Numbers, and/or Symbols). The last step is to set up some firewall rules which specify who can see the server. By default there are no rules included, you even need to check the box to allow Windows Azure Services to see the server. You should also add a rule for your development machine, but be aware that it’s looking at the external facing IP address. Fortunately when you click the Add button it includes your external facing IP address.

image  image  image

Once this is done you’ll see you have a new database service created. The server name is auto generated for you and is part of the *.database.windows.net domain. It includes a master database (which is used by the system, no charge to you), and you can add databases as needed. To create a database select your server and then click the “Create” button.

image

You’ll see a dialog that prompts you to decide the size of database and the name. You have options for Web and Business and sizes ranging from 1 GB to 150 GB.

 image

After creating the database the ribbon provides  buttons which include functionality such as management of the schema and performance data from your database, as well as tools to import and export the data and schema. You can also drop the database and/or the server from the ribbon.

image

In the right pane you’ll find properties about your database. The pieces of information that are most useful include the allocated size, actual size, management URL (which is simply the generated name + .database.windows.net), and a link button to see examples of the connection strings you’ll use in your application to connect to SQL Azure.

image

So that’s it. I’ll go into the web based management tool in another post, but the key is that it is very easy to get up and started working with SQL Azure. In less than 5 minutes you can provision a service and be up and running with your database in the cloud.

Enjoy!
-mike

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Questions on Tuning SQL Queries

@MikeBenkovich 03/14/2012

Sometimes I get questions about how to get better performance from a database. In working with SQL Server over the years and now SQL Azure this is not an uncommon question. In SQL 2008 and beyond the tools include a Tuning Wizard, which is great, but it relies on capturing a realistic sample of the database activity which you can get with SQL Profiler. Just go to the tool and run it, saving the captured trace to a table in SQL so you can look at it later and do some analytics.

Here’s some thoughts and ideas, for what they’re worth. First thing I would look at is to take a profile sample of the application running, which captures the queries and the statistics around which tables are being used and can be fed into the tuning utility to suggest indexes and keys. The second thing I would look at is whether a permanent working table would work better than a Temp table. The advantage is you have index capabilities, but the downside is truncating it and loading it when you need it.

Do you have flexibility with the schema to look at ways to pre-populate the data you need for the report during normal runtime of your system? For example if you are doing validations and transformations could these be scheduled to run periodically or even as the data transactions occur so that the work doesn’t have to be done ad-hoc to generate the report?

As to the query syntax I’ve found the “NOT EXISTS” clause to give better performance than the IN or NOT IN because of the way the optimizer creates and executes the plan.

Finally if you have complex queries are you generating them on the fly or can you create functions/stored procedures where the execution plan is pre-compiled?

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Which way?

@MikeBenkovich 07/02/2004

Circus lights, in the big top world
We all need the clowns, to make us laugh!

Name that tune, see if you can follow where I'm coming from. The key is to remain faithful to your dream. Right? Faithful to those around us and to what we are in this world. As I look at where we're going from a technology perspective, we can only smile and wonder whether this is all worth the trouble. OK, so you're wondering why the heck this guy is writing stuff that isn't that technical or showing off the latest code. So he's got a blog and plans to fill it with random technobable about .NET...hmmm...

I'm going to be doing a web cast in a few weeks on tuning SQL Server. That should be fun, I will get to show off how you can use Application Center Test to create a sample usage of an application, how to get a view of what the database is doing, and then identify some ways to pinpoint where to look for the most likely culprits that prevent your application's scalability.

Check it out, you will get the chance to see how to tune your application. All in all it should be fun.


Starting out

@MikeBenkovich 06/16/2004

In the beginning...

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

- Don McClean (?)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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