Microsoft Fixes TFS Kanban Bug

Microsoft has fixed a bug on its Kanban board that was introduced with its last Visual Studio 2012 Update 2 revision, which came out March 4.

According to this Team Foundation Server (TFS) blog posting, the bug accidentally re-ordered the first Kanban board column by closed date instead of stack rank. Since closed date is empty in that column, it randomized the items in the column. Ouch.

I assume that because of vociferous developer feedback, Microsoft decided to send out an immediate fix, rather than wait for the final release, which should be coming out very soon. With the rapid release schedule of these updates to Update 2, it's a sign of how significant this issue was that Redmond didn't wait a bit for the official version of Update 2 to drop.

You can get the latest version of Update 2 (CTP 4) here.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/15/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Unified Communications Web API Made Public

Microsoft has made its Unified Communications Web API (UCWA) public, allowing Web developers to add capabilities to its Lync-based services. Toward that end, Microsoft has created a specific Lync Web Developer site, to educate devs about the API.

"UCWA is a REST API that exposes Lync Server 2013 Instant Messaging and Presence capabilities," says documentation on the developer site. UCWA is free, but to use it, you must have Lync on-premises.

Microsoft envisions UC developers embedding Instant Messaging, chat, presence and other functionality into line-of-business (LOB) apps. Here's a partial listing of what can be done, taken from the site:

    • Anonymous Web Chat
    • Support audio conferencing
    • Light up IM & Presence in your Line-Of-Business app, including Windows 8, iPad, and others
    • Inline Instant Messaging into your application (Contextual Communications)
    • Search for Skype and/or business contacts

UWCA is language-agnostic, and uses standard Web technologies like HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/14/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Build a Windows 8 App, Get $100 from Microsoft

Microsoft is pulling out all the stops to get apps into its Windows Store and Windows Phone Store -- to the point of paying you to do it.

This blog by Jennifer Marsman spells out the details. Basically, you create an app and publish it to either app store, and Microsoft will pay you $100. The cash cutoff per dev is $2,000, so when you've written 20 apps, the money stops. Note that you can't create 20 apps for one store or the other -- you'd have to create 10 for each to get the full amount (it's limited to 10 apps per publisher ID; if you publish to both stores, you have two IDs, hence the $2,000).

The promotion started March 8 and runs through June 30, or until 10,000 apps are published under this promotion. One more thing: you can't publish the same basic app 10 times, changing a button or other minor tweak and republishing it as a different app. Marsman says the "each app you submit to a single platform must be substantially unique and different."

Now, is it worth your time to create Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 apps for a hundred bucks? That's a question only you can answer. On the other hand, if you've wanted to try writing software for that platform, this at least assures you'd get some remuneration for your efforts.

This deal is reminiscent of BlackBerry's recent attempts to woo developers by guaranteeing they'd make at least $10,000 per app (if the app made at least $1,000 in its first year out, but less than $10,000). It's hard to convince devs to build apps for non-Android or -iOS devices, seeing as how the return is generally a lot lower on those platforms. The upside is that there's also a lot less competition in those app markets.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/12/2013 at 1:15 PM6 comments


WebsiteSpark Developer Program Is Extinguished

The Spark never caught fire, and now, it's been crushed out of existence.

That may be a little overly dramatic, but it's essentially what happened to Microsoft's WebsiteSpark program. As Mary Jo Foley reported earlier, Redmond notified developers that the Spark is being quenched, as of today.

"The WebsiteSpark program will no longer be accepting new membership applications," is how the company put it on the Spark site. The good news is that membership benefits, like the Expression design tool and Visual Studio Professional, aren't being immediately phased out. They'll be available for another year, through March 2014.

WebsiteSpark was designed to make it easier to design and build Web sites. It seems like it never really caught on with the development crowd, leading to its demise.

Trying to soften the blow, Microsoft says on the site that it "has created new offers at no cost to help Web Pros like you continue to create rich interactive web applications." Not everyone is on board with that sentiment, as various Twitter comments demonstrate.

AJ Smith, ‏@audibledesigns, tweets that he's "Moving a few domains over @WindowsAzure when I find out my #WebsiteSpark membership is getting axed. 2 small for @bizspark".

Iain Magee, ‏@iainmagee, doesn't like the alternatives. "Real shame @WebsiteSpark program getting killed off especially as@bizspark entry requirements are so inflexible."

John Obeto II, ‏@johnobeto, said that it's not the positive step Microsoft has portrayed it as: "email is worded as if changes are for our benefit when they are clearly not," he tweeted.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/12/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Visual Studio Git Tools Updated

Microsoft released a new version of Visual Studio Tools for Git yesterday, that adds some welcome functionality.

The update is version 0.8.0.0 (so it's still in the preview stage). The two key additions are a "Resolve Conflicts" page and a new scheduled builds page that allows nightly builds.

Resolving conflicts is a multi-step process that must be completed before pulling or merging project files. First you click on the conflicted file to get information, then compare versions, then sort it all out. When that's done (and all the files are moved to the Resolved category), the pull or merge can proceed.

An "Abort Merge" change is coming, according to the blog entry, but not available yet.

Running the nightly build involves creating a build process (as with resolving conflicts, step-by-step instructions are included). The builds can be triggered in multiple ways: manually, automatically with each code check-in, or on a rolling basis.

Visual Studio Tools for Git is available only with Visual Studio 2012 Update 2 CTP. The CTP, as I wrote earlier this week, is currently on its fourth iteration. That's expected to be the last one before the official release of Update 2. If you're not on Visual Studio 2012, you'll first need to have that; then apply Update 2; then add the Git tools.

Visual Studio Tools for Git is an extension for Team Explorer, and enables the use of Team Foundation Service (TFS)-hosted Git projects. The last Git tooling update was a little less than a month ago. Most Git projects, including Git itself, are hosted on GitHub.

Update: The new release fixes several important bugs, according to this new blog entry by the Visual Studio team. Both bugs have to do with the "open-source libgit2 library for the "core.ignorecase" setting", Microsoft's Andy Lewis writes. The bugs could result in your Git repository being corrupted; in other words, if you're not on the 0.8.0.0 version of Git tools, run, don't walk, to your computer and update them.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/07/2013 at 1:15 PM1 comments


Next CTP of Visual Studio Update 2 Released

Three weeks ago, Microsoft released the third Community Technology Preview (CTP) of Visual Studio 2012 Update 2. It was called the "February Edition." So now that we're in March, that must mean it's time for the "March Edition."

That version -- the fourth CTP of Update 2 -- dropped yesterday. One big difference between this version and the previous is that it's a "go live" iteration, so you can put it on production servers. But, as Charles Sterling of the Visual Studio ALM team mentioned, there may still be fixes, changes or additions coming, so proceed accordingly. Since it's go-live, it will be supported by Microsoft.

There's an extensive list of upgrades on Sterling's blog entry, but one in particular stands out: a new preview of the LightSwitch HTML client. LightSwitch is meant for quick development of line-of-business applications, requiring less development skill but still providing enough power and flexibility to create robust programs.

The two key goals of the latest version of LightSwitch, as spelled out in this blog, are enabling cross-platform development through the use of Web standards HTML5 and JavaScript, and new integration with SharePoint. Given SharePoint's crucial role in many businesses, this is a positive step for developers.

Microsoft Technical Fellow Brian Harry explained on his blog that applying the Agile methodology of delivering these small updates at quick intervals, and getting more user feedback as a result, has improved the product: "In that process we found 3 or 4 significant bugs and fixed them for this CTP," he wrote.

This is allegedly the last CTP of Update 2; the next release should be the final, official version. You can get it here.

 

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/05/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Windows Phone Developer App Released in Beta

Windows Phone Developers continue to crank out apps, enriching the ecosystem that's so critical to the success of any mobile device. As of a few days ago, there were more than 130,000 Windows Phone apps available, according to this MSDN blog. About 15,000 of those were written specifically for Windows Phone 8, according to the author, Tareq Ateik.

Whether Windows Phone will begin to make real inroads on Android and iPhone is still an open question, but Microsoft continues to do everything it can to lure developers to try out the new platform. Its latest effort is the Dev Center app, just released in a preview version.

The app, available for the moment only in English, provides a host of functions. Included are total number of downloads, crash trends (and multiple time periods for those trends, starting at five days and up to one year), user reviews (translatable into different languages), payment information and link-sharing to your apps.

One of the coolest features for my money is that you can be updated in real time about downloads and crashes via Live Tiles. Having that information pushed to you can be incredibly valuable for troubleshooting and download trends. Imagine pushing out an update that's flawed. Using the app, you'll get instant feedback that there's a problem. Similarly, if you add a new feature that users love, you'll know about that immediately. In either event, it's timely information you can use to tune your app (or apps).

Microsoft warns that you need a Windows Phone Dev Center account to use the app. That sort of falls into the “duh” category for me. Note also that this is a preview version, so only download it if you don't mind doing some beta testing for Redmond.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/01/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Microsoft, Hortonworks Combine to Bring Hadoop to Windows Server

Hortonworks has partnered with Microsoft to provide the first Hadoop implementation geared specifically toward Windows Server.

Called the Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP), it "enables organizations to capture, process and share data in any format and at scale," according to a Hortonworks press release.

HDP allows customers to use Hadoop on-premises or in the cloud, via Windows Azure. It's a 100 percent open-source project -- all code is made available to the Apache Software Foundation.

For Microsoft-focused developers, it should make creating Big Data apps easier. "Applications built on HDP for Windows should just work on Microsoft's HDInsight server and the Azure HDInsight service," wrote Herain Oberoi on the SQL Server Blog.  

HDP is also completely interoperable between Windows and Linux, making it the industry's first Hadoop distribution available on both platforms, according to Hortonworks.

Hadoop is becoming more important to Microsoft. HDInsight was featured at last year's Build conference, Microsoft's main developer show. And although Big Data has seen its growth mostly in the realm of Linux and Java, Redmond has been steadily increasing its presence in the market. And when one considers that Windows Server has 73 percent of the market (according to Hortonworks, quoting IDC numbers), it makes sense to open up Windows to a larger segment of the development community.

Visual Studio Magazine columnist Andrew Brust nicely summed up the benefits of HDInsight in his December 2012 article:

"With HDInsight, developers can write MapReduce code in C# instead of Java, or use a LINQ provider to manipulate MapReduce indirectly through Hive. A NuGet package provides the C# MapReduce support, and a single-node developer version of HDInsight allows local debugging of such code in Visual Studio. A command-line utility provides deployment of the assembly to the local Hadoop instance. Deployment directly from Visual Studio to remote clusters, including the Windows Azure HDInsight implementation, seems a safe bet for future releases."

The announcement continues to solidify two recent trends for Microsoft: Big Data integration and open-source collaboration. For instance, the recent revelation that Visual Studio and Team Foundation Service (TFS) will support Git source control demonstrated that Microsoft isn't just teasing when it says its committed to the open-source community.

Hortonworks Data Platform 1.2 is available here.

Posted by Keith Ward on 02/28/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Microsoft Updates App Performance, Overloaded Methods Information

Microsoft is making some changes to its .NET Framework documentation in the MSDN Library, and they look like changes for the better.

The changes were discussed by Brandon Bray on an entry on the .NET Framework blog. In response to developer feedback, Bray said that Microsoft has added a lot of data about the performance of .NET apps. "As a result, we've reworked the existing performance and reliability topic to include more performance guidance as well as links to performance analysis tools and technology-specific performance content," Bray wrote.

This will undoubtedly be helpful to the new generation of mobile developers, to whom app performance is a crucial factor.

The other change has to do with how Microsoft describes methods with overloads. Apparently, developers were frustrated at how many clicks it took to find out what each overload associated with a method does. Microsoft is starting to streamline the process, providing more information on the initial overload list page.

But, since Microsoft doesn't yet have the ability in its current system to handle the revised information, it's including it further down on the overload page, in the Remarks section. The new information includes "complete method syntax, parameter and return value descriptions, a list of exceptions, a table to help choose an overload, extended discussion of using the method, and at least one example for each overload," Bray says. He gives an example of the new style from the String.Format overload page.

Not everyone loves the changes, however. Several comments below the blog complain that it's easier to click links to overload information rather than scroll down. In other words, it's impossible to make everyone happy.

Posted by Keith Ward on 02/21/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Microsoft Updates Git Tooling for Visual Studio

It seems like a little thing, but could be something important for many developers: Microsoft has provided an update to its Git tooling for Visual Studio.

Microsoft Technical Fellow (if it's a woman, is she a Technical Lady, by the way?) Brian Harry blogged about the small update, which is mostly about three bug fixes. It doesn't sound like much, but they're likely to be important for many devs. From the blog:

"1) Add support for VS 2012 Express for Windows Desktop
2) Fix a bug that broke Resharper
3) Fix for a problem detecting global config files."

The one that many will welcome is No. 2. Resharper is an incredibly popular tool, with many devs calling it their No. 1 non-Visual Studio product for development.

This update came rather quickly on the heels of Microsoft's Git announcement. Git is a source-control repository, among other things, and represents Redmond's strongest partnership yet with the open-source world.

The update is available here. Interestingly, it's come out as quickly as the latest Community Technology Preview (CTP) for Visual Studio 2012 Update 2. That CTP, which was announced yesterday, was also released fewer than two weeks after its forerunner's release.

Developers, prepare for this continuous updating cycle: it's upon you.

Posted by Keith Ward on 02/12/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Microsoft Sprints Toward Another Visual Studio 2012 CTP

Microsoft is really practicing what it preaches when it comes to Agile development. Fewer than two weeks after it released Visual Studio 2012 Update 2 CTP 2, it's already finished the next sprint -- Visual Studio 2012 Update 2 CTP 3.

According to a blog entry by Microsoft's Charles Sterling, they're calling it the "February Update for Visual Studio Update 2", implying that it will be the only CTP update this month. CTP stands for "Community Technology Preview," and it's essentially what used to be called a beta release.

So, to sort out the confusion: The product is Visual Studio 2012. It's the second update of Visual Studio 2012 (Update 2). And it's the third CTP of the second update to Visual Studio 2012; hence, Visual Studio 2012 Update 2 CTP 3. Got all that? It still makes my head spin a bit to try and figure out Microsoft's remarkably simple naming scheme.

In any event, Sterling published a list of the highlights of CTP 3:

"ALM Features in this CTP:

  • Fakes now available in Visual Studio Premium
  • Coded user interface testing support for Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 7
  • The ability to clone test cases in Microsoft Test Manager
  • Visual Studio HTML and JavaScript profiler
  • Enable adding attachments to test outcomes in web based test case management
  • Enable pausing and resuming test execution in web based test case management"

According to Microsoft Technical Fellow Brian Harry, the latest CTP is not a "go-live" version, similar to CTP 2. In other words, don't put either of them on a production server. He added that this CTP is for a small set of "early adopters", although the download link appears to be available to anyone.

This should be the last test release of the CTP, Harry said. He indicated that the next CTP (in March, perhaps, if this latest is the "February" edition) will be a go-live release that can be put into production.

Posted by Keith Ward on 02/12/2013 at 1:15 PM12 comments


A Brand-New Visual Studio Magazine

Welcome to the new Visual Studio Magazine. If you've been here before, you know that things are radically different. If not, well, you picked the right time to visit.

As you can see, the site is much more graphical than it used to be, and much more colorful. In terms of navigation, we've moved it to the top of the site, rather than the old-style nav bar on the left.

We've also done quite a bit of de-cluttering. We've broken out the six most popular topics (according to our readers) at the top, and hidden others. That's always a bit of a risk, of course, as it can mean more clicking. But we think the simplified design is easier to use.

That doesn't mean all your favorites, like columns, have gone away. Note the "Expand menu for more topics" link above the main icons, and next to the magazine name: click that link, and you'll get all the other topic coverage you're used to.

The articles themselves now have larger fonts, and are easier to read. In addition, there are no more separate listings of long code snippets; all code is now embedded in each article, eliminating the click necessary to bring up the code in a new browser window, as it used to be. It's a small but significant change that makes reading the articles faster and easier.

We had one other major goal with this redesign: to make it work better on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Now you can read Visual Studio Magazine wherever you are, and everything will scale properly, no matter the screen size.

I've just hit the high points here; there's a lot more to explore on the new site. Take some time and click around, and learn what we've got for you.

And please let me know what you think -- especially if anything's broken or doesn't work properly. As with any change this dramatic, there will undoubtedly be bugs discovered here and there when the wider public starts using it.

Enjoy the new Web site and all it offers. We've rebuilt it for you.

Posted by Keith Ward on 02/07/2013 at 1:15 PM19 comments


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