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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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Using Cosmos DB for my Blog

@MikeBenkovich 04/30/2021

Have you thought of using new/different technologies to explore the impact of using new tools? I'm presenting a new session at Minnesota Developer Conference on Tuesday 5/4/2021 (Star Wars day) that will explore the technology and implementation details to make this type of implementation work.

Check it out!

Cosmos Tools for the Relational Developer

Tuesday 5/4 at 11:00 am - MDC 2021 | Minnesota Developers Conference (mndevconf.com)

Understanding how your data works is crucial to taking advantage of the capabilities and power of Cosmos DB, from setting up and migrating data, to querying to understanding performance consequences of data manipulation. These tasks become easier thanks to a growing ecosystem of tools around the Cosmos DB platform. In this session we'll look at how Cosmos DB tools available from Microsoft and 3rd parties make it easy to make the transition from the relational to Cosmos.

The topics we'll cover include:

  • Why Azure Cosmos DB
  • Provisioning a Cosmos DB from the Azure Portal
  • Code patterns for working with Cosmos
  • Data Migration
  • Data Modeling and strategies for performance and cost optimization

Some reference links:

Enjoy!


5 Minutes to Code

@MikeBenkovich 02/15/2020

I'm working thru an idea for a video series that I call "5 Minutes to Code", where I would record some short videos that show how to accomplish a concept, procedure or task related to working with code. The goal is to deliver on a regular cadence some content that developers can use to learn how to do something. Lately I've been working with Azure as a cloud engineer working on infrastructure (like ARM and Terraform), delivery (like Azure DevOps and from developer tools), and coding (like .NET Core and web development). I have created a new page on my site where I'll publish a list of links to these, and this will give me the chance to work on my html and JavaScript skills.

Enjoy!


Azure for the Enterprise Developer

@MikeBenkovich 04/25/2018

A picture is worth a thousand words and in the same way deploying a complex infrastructure with a thousand words takes a special skill to be able to do that. Wouldn’t it be great if we could deploy the picture instead? In the time I’ve been working with and evangelizing Azure since before it was publicly released, I’ve seen a lot of changes and ten years is a long time in the cloud! In 2014 Microsoft introduced the Azure Resource Manager (ARM) which provides a powerful way to orchestrate the creation of services in the cloud. They also introduced ARM templates, which is like a markup language that provides a picture instead of code. I’m working on a series of courses with LinkedIn Learning that share the journey of going to the cloud for the modern enterprise. We explore the path and the tools for going from being just cloud aware (it runs in the cloud) to being optimized, invested and finally ready for the enterprise.

This is a work in progress, but links to the first few courses are below. I’ll update the list as more are ready!


How to record a UI Test on Android with Xamarin tools

@MikeBenkovich 07/10/2017

I had a question today about how the recorder works for with the Xamarin Tools in Visual Studio 2017. I’ve had mixed success with getting it to work, so I thought I’d document the steps that make it work. The trick is you need to be running a version of the APK that is not using the shared runtime (a default when you do a debug build). For that reason I use the release build to record the test. Here’s the basic flow:

1. Create new cross platform project with the blank template
2. Build & run it on my device (first in debug but then again in release)
3. add the UI Test project to the solution
4. In the Android project show all files and navigate to the bin/release folder and copy the path
5. In the Test.cs file at the top of the class near the [TestFixture(Platform.Android)] line click on record new test and then select the APK - make sure to put in the path of the signed release version of the apk
6. Wait until you notice the app running on the device
7. When you tap the screen, swipe left or right you'll see the [Test] method NewTest() gets new code added to it.

        [Test]
        public void NewTest()
        {
            app.SwipeLeftToRight();
            app.Tap(x => x.Class("PageRenderer"));
            app.SwipeLeftToRight();
            app.SwipeLeftToRight();
            app.ScrollDown();
            app.ScrollUp();
            app.SwipeLeftToRight();
            app.SwipeRightToLeft();
            app.Screenshot("Swiped left");
        }

 


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:


Open Source North 2016

@MikeBenkovich 06/09/2016

Wow, what a great turnout this last week at Open Source North in Minneapolis. Kudos to Jeff Urban and team for putting on another great show! Here are some links to more information from the talk...

As promised here’s the slide deck from last week. I’m working with Speaker Deck to make them available and still figuring out how to get make it work. Enjoy!


Global Azure Bootcamp 2016

@MikeBenkovich 04/20/2016

Just finished with the Global Azure Boot Camp last week, wanted to post links to the deck and to the downloads.


Get Azure Tools 2.7 for some great new features including the new Cloud Explorer

@MikeBenkovich 08/20/2015

I like to think of myself as an early adopter, but I’m a month behind in getting the latest set of tools for Visual Studio 2015 and Azure. One of the great additions is the Cloud Explorer, a new utility for managing services provisioned in the cloud. These have been well documented by my friend Brady on the  Azure Blog, but one of my favorite things is the ability to filter subscriptions and/or search for a named service. With it I can click the settings icon, pick the subscription I am working with from a checkbox list. I can also specify a different account which might be associated with a different set of subscriptions.

image

Once I’ve specified which subscription I am working with I get a filtered list of services grouped by type. These include things like Storage Accounts, Databases and Web Apps, as well as other services or automation jobs I’ve created. To make it even easier I can search for a specific name of something with the search box!

image

Once you find what you’re looking for the Actions/Properties box at the bottom of the explorer gives you options for that as well, including the ability to see the logs or attach a debugger.

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You’ll want to try these out, especially if you’re managing a lot of services. Get it today by clicking one of the links below. Enjoy!

Azure SDK 2.7 for .NET [download for VS 2015 | VS 2013]

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Avoiding Hacker Trix

@MikeBenkovich 08/19/2014

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:


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!

Digg This

Cloud Tip #2–Finding Cloud Content that works for You

@MikeBenkovich 03/29/2012

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 the last several years 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.

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.

First on my list are the webcasts we’ve created that are 1 hour long sessions on the various aspects of a given topic. For Cloud Computing and Windows Azure I’ve got a list of several on my web site (www.benkotips.com) including a 27 part companion series we called “Windows Azure Boot Camp”. The first 10 webcasts in this series cover what you would see at a boot camp event (www.windowsazurebootcamp.com).  This spring we started a new series called “Cloud Computing Soup to Nuts” which is a developer focused get started with Windows Azure and the related services. We’ve recorded 6 webcasts as part of that series and will be adding more as we go forward. We just added 3 more for April including:

4/3 : 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.

4/10 : 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

4/17 : 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.

If you’re looking for a conversational 30 minute show that covers Cloud topics I suggest checking out Cloud Cover on Channel9. This show features Azure experts including Ryan Dunn, Steve Marx, Wade Wegner, David Aiken and others who work closely with the product teams at Microsoft to learn how to use the latest releases.

Live events are a moving target depending on when you read this post, but we try to keep a list of upcoming Microsoft Events for developers on http://msdnevents.com. As we schedule them we add the events to this hub and you can find them by date and by location with a map of upcoming events. Another place to check is the demo page I’ve created on BenkoTips which shows not only upcoming events (aggregated from Community Megaphone, if you add it there it should show up on the map) but also User Group locations and links to their sites. That’s on http://benkotips.com/ug, then use the pan and zoom to focus the map on your city. Pins get added with the links. If your User Group data is out of date, send me an email & we’ll get it fixed.

We’ve got a series scheduled to run in thru May 2012 for Cloud Computing called Kick Start, which are a 1 day focused event that takes you thru the content from Soup to Nuts. The current schedule includes:

As to books I’d suggest checking out Sriram Krishnan’s book Programming Windows Azure: Programming the Microsoft Cloud, or Brian Prince’s book Azure in Action. If it’s SQL Azure that you’re after then Scott Klein has a great book called Pro SQL Azure (Expert’s Voice in .NET). I am also partial to the Patterns and Practices team’s book on Moving Applications to the Cloud on the Microsoft Azure Platform.

Finally you need an active Azure Subscription to get started. You can activate a 90 Free Trial by going to http://aka.ms/AzureTrialMB and get the tools at http://aka.ms/AzureMB.

Digg This

New Webcast Series–Cloud Computing Soup to Nuts

@MikeBenkovich 01/31/2012

Announcing the latest webcast series - Cloud Computing Soup to Nuts (http://bit.ly/s2nCloud). In this series we start at the beginning and take you thru the services and technologies that make up Windows Azure and SQL Azure. Running every week on Tuesdays join us to explore the possible with Cloud Computing. I’ll be updating this page as the registration links become available.

2/7 - 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.

2/14 - Working with Windows Azure Roles
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.

2/21 - 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.

2/28 - 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.

3/6 - 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.

3/13 - Diagnostics & Troubleshooting
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.


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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