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 9:25 AM0 comments
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 6:21 AM0 comments
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 2:23 PM0 comments
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
- 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 6:42 AM1 comments
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 11:14 AM19 comments
Mary Jo Foley is reporting that Microsoft Corporate Vice President Ted Kummert is stepping down as of Jan. 31. Kummert was the head of Microsoft's Data Platform Group (DPG), and in this role, as Foley writes, he's the leading visionary for "SQL Server, SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse, Windows Azure Data Services, Windows Embedded and Microsoft's business intelligence and big data offerings."
What does the mean for the future of Microsoft's data initiatives? It's impossible to tell as of now, of course. But it is another high-level loss for Redmond, which has seen its share of defections over the past several years.
At least Kummert wasn't directly in the DevDivision, like the recently-departed Jason Zander, and less-recently-departed but still-missed Scott Guthrie. And don't forget the loss of Big Cheese Steven Sinofsky, just after Windows 8 was released.
Whew. That's a lot of brainpower gone. Microsoft will do what it's always done: carry on and find (hopefully) capable replacements. But with Microsoft's increasing presence in Big Data, the timing isn't great. I think this will become a key growth area for the company going forward, and Kummert's decision to leave could slow things down a bit.
Posted by Keith Ward on 01/25/2013 at 11:48 AM1 comments
Microsoft has released a new version of its Web site to get developers up to speed on its F# programming language.
To put it in highly technical terms, F# is used for big stuff: huge number crunching, statistics, cloud computing-type scenarios, etc. Here's how Microsoft described the new site in a press release:
"Try F# provides the tutorials, resources and tools needed to begin working with F# right away. This version allows easy learning of the fundamentals of F# through new domain-specific tutorials, and now includes F# 3.0 type providers for information-rich programming and the important abilities to write and share your own F# code in the browser."
F# can be daunting, but it could save you a lot of time for the right project. It's worth checking out, as are these F# articles from our site.
Visual Studio Magazine F# Resources:
Posted by Keith Ward on 01/22/2013 at 10:06 PM3 comments
What to do about Windows Phone 7? That's a question developers working on the Windows Phone platform are likely asking themselves. They fall into one of two camps:
- They have an existing app on Windows Phone 7 and want to tweak it to work with Windows Phone 8
- They skipped Windows Phone 7 for Windows Phone 8, and have published an app or are currently building one.
If that's you, Microsoft is providing guidance on how to handle the Windows Phone 7 installed base. It comes via a blog posting from Bernardo Zamora. Zamora says if you have a Windows Phone 7 app and want Windows Phone 8 users to be able to use it without upgrading the app itself for Windows Phone 8, you don't need to do anything, since Windows Phone 8 users will see your app (he does recommend, however, testing your app in a Windows Phone 8 emulator to make sure nothing is amiss).
If you want to upgrade a Windows Phone 7 app to Windows Phone 8, it shouldn't be that difficult. The drawback, however, is that Windows Phone 7 users won't be able to see it. How much that potentially affects downloads is an open question, since Windows Phone 7 didn't exactly set the world on fire.
Another possible course is to create a second copy of your XAP, upgrade it to Windows Phone 8, and keep (and maintain, of course) both copies of your app. That would keep the Windows Phone 7 owners happy, as well as your Windows Phone 8 users. You may not be as happy, though, with the additional creation and maintenance work.
In the blog post, Microsoft gives specifics on how to do each of these things. One important point to note is that if you're creating a new app from scratch, use the latest version of the SDK and compile to Windows Phone 7, rather than Windows Phone 8, to make the app available to both Windows Phone versions.
Posted by Keith Ward on 01/16/2013 at 1:19 PM2 comments
If you're using the release candidate version of Visual Studio 2012, you have one day to come up with an alternative plan.
Starting tomorrow, Jan. 15, your copy of Visual Studio goes kaput. Sayonra. Buh-bye. And there are no workarounds to keep it running, according to Microsoft's Brian Harry, who wanted to soothe the souls of those developers who have been asking him about the looming expiration date for the RC.
The only option, Harry writes, is to upgrade to the final release build; the expiration can't be extended. How do you know if you're still on an RC? Harry explains: "You can tell if you have a release candidate build by looking at the version number and look for “RCRel” – like “Version 11.0.50522.01 RCRel”.
The top option for continuing to use VS 2012, in Microsoft's opinion? Not surprisingly, it's to buy it. But if you're cash-poor at the moment, you can install the trial edition of VS2012, which will give you 90 days more without paying.
VS 2012 is a worthy upgrade, and I'd call it essential if you want to build mobile apps using .NET technologies. Keep that in mind when deciding whether or not to spring for the retail version.
Posted by Keith Ward on 01/14/2013 at 9:52 AM0 comments
If developers are looking for a reason to create apps for Windows 8, Microsoft gave them another one today, when the company announced that it's sold 40 million licenses for its newest operating system.
Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc spread the word on the Windows blog, stating that Tami Reller detailed the numbers at the Credit Suisse 2012 Annual Technology Conference.
That 40 million number, of course, doesn't represent the number of users using Windows 8; it typically includes the licenses bought by Microsoft's army of OEM partners, who are loading it onto their hardware. Still, it's a big, big number, especially for an OS that still has the new-car smell. That translates into a user base, which translates into potential customers for Windows 8 applications. That would naturally spur the developer community to create those apps.
LeBlanc also stated that the number of apps in the Windows Store has doubled since its launch. He added that the Store had more apps in its store at launch "than any other app store at their launch", which sounds great until you notice that he didn't give any hard numbers on how many apps.
Estimates are available, however. The site WinAppUpdate, which tracks apps in the Windows store, said there were just over 9,000 apps in the store at launch, with about 500 being added daily. Those are the latest figures I've seen.
I reported last month that a Microsoft executive listed a goal of 100,000 Windows Store apps by Jan. 26, 90 days after Windows 8's launch. We're now about a month out, and if WinAppUpdate's numbers have remained consistent, that would mean there are approximately 25,000 apps in the store now, with two months to go. That would mean Microsoft's target is unlikely to be hit, especially since the upcoming holidays may slow down developers.
Still, if there were 50,000-plus apps in Windows Store by late January, that's an impressive number. It's also a strong ecosystem, another key factor in wooing developers.
I'll be interested in seeing when Microsoft releases Windows Store app figures; in the meantime, the combination of Windows 8 licenses and growing Windows 8 app ecosystem are good signs for developers considering the new platform.
Posted by Keith Ward on 11/28/2012 at 7:05 AM1 comments
I buy all my phones at my local AT&T store. Since I live in the sticks, the store serves as a pretty good test case for how well Microsoft is pushing its products. This includes perhaps the most important factor in moving new, non-iPhone or -Android phones: educating salespeople to understand how to differentiate Windows Phone 8 from the competition, and interest consumers into at least considering the platform.
If, for example, Windows Phone 8 has very few models available, or they're tucked away in back of the store, that's a sure sign to potential buyers that it's not a choice they need to take seriously. That's what happened, in fact, with Windows Phone 7 in my local store. So I was interested to see what was happening with Windows Phone 8 when I went in last week -- coincidentally, the kickoff of the crucial holiday shopping period.
When I went in, the first thing I saw was a salesman I've bought a number of phones from. He was wearing a light blue Windows Phone 8 t-shirt, sporting the new Windows logo. That was my first signal that this is a serious push by Redmond. After all, when a potential customer sees that, curiosity is naturally piqued. I'd imagine that many folks have no idea that Microsoft even makes a Windows smartphone. And that gets the conversation rolling.
There was also a strong lineup of Windows Phone 8 devices, at the front of the store -- in other words, right where folks will be browsing. They were next to a display of Android phones, showing in stark contrast the differing UIs. Again, more reasons for consumers to try them out or ask questions of the sales staff.
My salesman knew his stuff when questioned, too. He knew Windows Phone 8's strengths and weaknesses compared to both Android and the iPhone. He presented Windows Phone as a real alternative to the Big Dogs, not as some cur unworthy of mention.
I asked him how Windows Phone is selling in his store. He didn't have specific numbers, but said it's been selling well. Customers are interested, he said, and have been checking it out, even the ones who aren't buying.
Of course, a one-store anecdote isn't representative of how things are going nationwide. But if my experience is being replicated in enough other places, Microsoft might just have something here.
Posted by Keith Ward on 11/27/2012 at 8:12 AM4 comments
Microsoft's making a huge push for its SkyDrive cloud data service. It makes sense, since a cloud backend is critical in the consumer space where customers are used to, for instance, Apple's iCloud service. If Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are going to compete with iOS and Android, as Redmond hopes, then SkyDrive needs to be as useful as possible.
Toward that end, Microsoft today announced new SkyDrive SDKs for .NET and Windows Phone 8. The post, by Omar Shahine, explains the need for the new tools:
"Since we first introduced our SDKs, we have seen a lot of developers ask for a .NET library that would work for both client desktop apps and ASP.NET applications. With this release you can now create applications that target traditional desktop scenarios and as well as server side scenarios."
There are two versions of the .NET SDK: client and server. The client SDK enables developers to build console, Windows Form or Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) applications for end users, to help them better integrate SkyDrive with their daily tasks.
The server version is more about building ASP.NET Web sites and Web server components. The post even contains a code snippet showing how to retrieve SkyDrive data from a server .NET application.
As for the Windows Phone 8 SDK, it leverages one of the phone's best new features -- the new Task<T> async pattern and dynamic keyword. "With this you can easily move your code between your Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 application," writes Shahine. He then includes a code snippet showing how to do this, as well.
The SDKs are available from the developer portal, or via NuGet from within Visual Studio.
Posted by Keith Ward on 11/16/2012 at 1:50 PM2 comments