Programmers: Introverts or Extroverts?

"The icon of the shy geeky computer programmer is a mainstay of the technology landscape. But is it true?"

That's how a recent e-mail to me from Evans Data Corp. started out. At a previous company, as part of a class, I took a Myers-Briggs test that indicated I was introverted. And that my personality type (ISTP, one of 16 possible categories) tended to like motorcycles. I didn't need a standardized test to tell me either of those things, but I found it interesting.

I found the e-mail interesting, too. It said: "We asked over 400 software developers to rate themselves on a scale measuring introverted vs. extroverted. Only 2 percent thought they were completely introverted. So where do you think the other 98 percent saw themselves?"

Right off the bat, I thought, most of them probably thought themselves either partly introverted or extroverted. Duh. (Is there even such a thing as being "completely introverted?") But I was curious, so I asked for more information. Turns out this introvert/extrovert question was just a tiny part of a report to help companies market to developers. And they even provided me with a nice, customized quote to buy the report.

I'll have to pass on that, thanks, but the question still intrigued me. I know that good programmers tend to be good at math, so I've got a big strike against me for ever getting good. But what about being introverted? Does that help?

I would bet that most programmers are introverted. And, unfortunately, introversion comes with some negative baggage. Extroverts run things. They're the managers and supervisors. They're the ones you want to hang out with.

But I learned in the Myers-Briggs class that being introverted doesn't necessarily mean bad things, like being a weird loner who doesn't want to interact with people. From my understanding of that class, it has more to do with how people tend to recharge their batteries. Extroverts like being at parties and social occasions and can do it all day and come away refreshed. Introverts can socialize, but it leaves them tired. To recharge, they like to be alone for a while. Maybe reading a book or writing code. And being introverted doesn't mean you won't be a successful manager or supervisor. The class instructor said that former president Jimmy Carter is an introvert.

Well, I can't spring for report right now (I won't tell you the cost), but I'll do the next best thing: conduct my own survey. Are you introverted or extroverted? How do you see programmers in general? Does one or the other help or hinder good programming? Comment here or drop me a line. And I won't charge you.

Posted by David Ramel on 02/07/2013 at 1:15 PM6 comments

EF Power Tools Bugs Fixed as Development Heads in New Direction

The Entity Framework Power Tools Beta 3 was released this week, but some data developers eager to get their hands on new features were disappointed to learn it mostly includes bug fixes because the product's functionality is shifting to the EF Designer in Visual Studio 2012.

With EF Power Tools, data developers get additional Visual Studio design-time tools for Entity Framework development.

The most important bug fix in Beta 3 is non-compatibility with Visual Studio 2012 Update 1. Several other issues were also addressed, but some developers wanted more.

"I was so happy when I saw the title ... but no new features," one reader commented.

Microsoft's Rowan Miller explained: "The reason we aren't adding a bunch of new features is that we're incorporating 'Reverse Engineer Code First' into the EF Designer workflow (which already has table selection, etc.)." He pointed to the Entity Framework CodePlex page for more information on that initiative.

In response to another reader, Miller expounded on his explanation:

When I say included as part of the EF Designer I really just mean that all the EF tooling (EF Designer, Reverse Engineer Code First, and the other Power Tools functionality) will be included in a single installer (which in turn is included 'in-the-box' in new versions of Visual Studio). We are going to use the same wizard that Database First uses for selecting tables etc. though.

The Beta 3 does add some context menu options to the "Entity Framework" sub-menu in Visual Studio. For example, you can right-click on a C# project for "Reverse Engineer Code First" functionality, which lets you generate Code First mappings for a database. "This option is useful if you want to use Code First to target an existing database as it takes care of a lot of the initial coding," Microsoft said.

Another project right-click option lets you add reverse engineering templates to your project.

You can also right-click on a code file that includes a derived DbContext class to display the entire Code First model in the EF designer, display Code First model Entity Data Model (EDMX) XML and generate pre-compiled views, along with other options.

And, instead of generating pre-compiled views, you can right-click on a EDMX file to generate views for a model created using the EF Designer.

Microsoft said that even though it won't be releasing a Power Tools RTM, it will continue Beta releases until the related functionality is incorporated into a pre-release version of the EF Designer.

What's your experience been when using EF Power Tools and the EF Designer? Please share your thoughts here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 02/01/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Study: MongoDB Takes a Bite Out of MySQL

Some especially significant implications for Web developers can be found in a new study by research firm Ovum that measured the sentiment about Big Data vendors in 2012 Twitter posts.

While the study indicated that Big Data retained its popularity last year, data developers will be more interested in conclusions drawn by Ovum concerning the future of Web development.

"The Big Data buzz word even managed to transcend from the enterprise IT world to become a hot topic for business publications and journals in 2012, with MongoDB claiming considerable mindshare among Web developers who traditionally relied on MySQL," Ovum said in a news release.

Ovum principal analyst Tony Baer expounded upon that idea in a blog post. "To some extent, the results were surprising: while Hadoop garners much of the spotlight as a Big Data platform, the vendor 10gen, which develops MongoDB, came in second in mentions to Apache, which hosts the Hadoop project."

Ovum reported that Apache garnered 9.4 percent of Twitter posts, while MongoDB followed at 6.2 percent. "Although MongoDB is not known for storing high volumes of data, it is associated with variety, given its schemaless architecture," Baer said. "The popularity of the 10gen brand is attributable to the fact that MongoDB has become for Web developers the document equivalent of MySQL; it is open source, built in a language (JavaScript) that is highly popular among Web developers, and relatively simple to develop."

However, Baer said, "Ovum believes that the popularity of 10gen is more indicative of the future of Web development rather than Big Data, per se. We view 10gen as becoming the non-transactional database successor to MySQL in the world of Web developers."

I also found it interesting that a study about Big Data used the Big Data technique of culling information from social media to provide insights and conclusions not available through traditional database systems. I also found it interesting that DataSift, the company that conducted the study for Ovum, showed up in the very results it produced, coming in at 10th place in the ranking of Big Data companies mentioned in Twitter posts. All kinds of fascinating stuff here.

What do you think? Is MongoDB encroaching upon MySQL's turf? Please share your thoughts here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 01/24/2013 at 1:15 PM1 comments

Salary Survey Shows Data Devs Doing Well; Silverlight, Not So Much

Being a data development guy, I was interested in how data-related developers were faring when the recent Visual Studio Magazine Salary Survey came out, and the answer is pretty darn well, comparatively.

But, also being a Silverlight fan, I was most struck by one particular chart: "Salary by Microsoft Technology Expertise." More than 1,000 developers were asked: "What Is Your Primary Area of Technology Expertise (Have Product Knowledge and Work with on a Regular Basis)?" One line said it all:

Silverlight n/a

No one? Not one single developer was primarily using Silverlight?

It seems like only yesterday that Silverlight was the technology of choice for streaming Olympic Games, political conventions and Netflix movies.

There was a lot of angst among Silverlight developers when Microsoft emphasized new ways of developing apps for the Windows Store and Windows 8 ecosystems with the Windows Runtime, focusing on open technologies such as JavaScript, HTML5 and CSS. Silverlight developers were reassured that their skills would transfer to the new ecosystems and that they could continue to use XAML, C# and such to produce new-age apps with Silverlight's companion Expression Blend IDE. That may well be happening, but it looks like Silverlight itself is dying on the vine, judging from this salary survey. Too bad.

Anyway, back to the data devs. While the average salary for .NET developers was pegged at about $94,000, SQL Server developers reported an average salary of $97,840, taking second place in areas of expertise after SharePoint at $103,188.

SQL Server developers also ranked highly when it came to the best technologies for job security/retention, being chosen by about 65 percent of respondents, following Visual Studio/.NET Framework at 82 percent.

So, as I reported last year, data-related developers are doing all right. Congratulations, and keep up the good work!

Do you miss Silverlight? Do you feel good about your job prospects as a data developer? Please share your thoughts by commenting here or dropping me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 01/18/2013 at 1:15 PM5 comments

Data Access, Reimagined

"There are lots of discussions about using database[s] in Windows Store apps in MSDN forum[s]," reads a brand-new blog post by Microsoft's Robin Yang on MSDN.

Yes, developers are apparently still struggling with data access in the new Windows 8 ecosystem.

A quick check bears this out. In fact, just a week ago, a developer asked, "Is [it] possible to use 'LINQ to SQL' database in Windows 8 metro apps--or any other easy option is there to use local database?"

The answer was predictable: "It seems there is no official announcement of support for Linq to Sql or EF for database access in Windows 8 Metro Apps. You can try to use Web services to access the data."

Such questions have appeared on for well more than a year. A few examples:

Many reader answers point to using SQLite, which is exactly what Yang's post did (the post indicates the author of the post's content is Aaron Xue, though it was posted by Robin Yang).

I earlier touched on and provided links for a few other options such as IndexedDB and Web services/the cloud.

But HTML5/JavaScript seems to be the popular programming model of choice for Windows Store apps, and Yang has also conveniently provided a three-part series on this (authored by Roy Tian), titled "Using HTML5/JavaScript in Windows Store apps: Data access and storage mechanism." You can find this series (along with other posts) on the Windows Store apps development suppport blog page.

So check out these latest posts to bone up on Windows Store app data access--and perhaps keep waiting for SQL Server CE support.

What do you think about data access in Windows Store apps? Please share your thoughts here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 01/11/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Data Drives App Development Software Market

A recent report from research firm International Data Corp. (IDC) provides further proof that data is king when it comes to software development. The Application Development & Deployment (AD&D) market is expected to grow at a higher rate in 2013 after slow sales in late 2012, and some of the hottest segments of that market revolve around data-related development, IDC reported.

"Within the AD&D markets, the Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS) market stands out with a 34% market share. It is by far the biggest individual market," IDC said. "Unlike other mature markets, RDMBS is forecast to outperform most AD&D markets with high single-digit growth in 2013 and beyond." Oracle dominates that market, IDC said, with nearly a 50 percent market share.

Also poised for revenue growth is Data Integration and Access Software, described by IDC as "a structured data management market with revenues of more than $4 billion . . . experiencing growth on par with the RDBMS market with which it has a close relationship." IBM dominates that market, the research firm said, and rules the overall AD&D market with Oracle and Microsoft.

No surprise, IDC said the highest market growth is expected in the predictable areas, "where markets are aligning with or supporting mobile, cloud, social and big data areas."

The information was released by IDC in conjunction with its Worldwide Semiannual Software Trackers project, a paid service.

What do you think about the growth prospects for data developers in the coming years compared to other app development? Please comment here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 01/02/2013 at 9:03 AM0 comments

What Data Developers Want for the Holidays

Dino Esposito isn't asking for much from Santa this year. Nothing new or bleeding-edge. In fact, he kind of wants to step back in time, in search of simplified SQL querying:

I'd love to have back a framework that was in beta testing and probably even in production around SQL Server a decade ago: making queries in plain English, like "give me all customers based in WA." The code was amazingly able to make most of them--or at least get close, anyway. I'm working on a simplified version of it--so it would really great to have it from Santa!"

Esposito is talking about English Query, a project for SQL Server 2000 that he was involved in some 13 years ago. Esposito, a well-known developer, book and article author, presenter, trainer and all-around technical expert based in Italy, shared his thoughts with me in an informal survey I took of data developers with equally sparkling credentials, asking what their data development holiday wishes were. Following are some of their thoughts.

Dr. James McCaffrey, who manages training for Microsoft software engineers in Redmond, among many other projects, had this to say:

I get the feeling that there's a lot of flux with MVVM, MVC, and MVP and so my wish (assuming that I'm right and that there is flux) is to see some stability emerge here.

McCaffrey is right about most things, to understate it, and a lot of Microsoft products do seem to be in transition, so some stability in 2014 would be nice.

Brandon Satrom is an HTML5 expert, among a lot of other things, at Telerik.

For us, the biggest wish on the list is for a FULL OData implementation for both MVC and WebAPI. The end result we're looking for is the ability to fully and dynamically query a dataset based on URL parameters. Full OData support would be an awesome start, and if we're extra lucky this year, perhaps Dynamic LINQ integration for Entity Framework as well.

Fellow Teleriker Chris Sells is vice president of the Developer Tools Division at the company.

I think what most data developers want for Xmas is an end-to-end, offline-enabled, client-side and mobile-focused data source stack. The occasionally connected story is a hard one for any of the mobile OSes (and it's no picnic for desktop OSes, either), so something simple, capable, robust and cross-platform for client-side data story is what I'm looking for in my Xmas stocking from Santa!

Noted author Peter Vogel is a principal at PH&V Information Services.

What I'd like is some reliable way to move changes from development to production that won't drive my DBA crazy. Microsoft's new SQL deployment package is great--but if deploying a package on my Web server causes changes in my database, my DBA is going to [Editor's note: just substitute "do painful things to me" here; suffice it to say that Vogel's DBA has some anger management issues], (and I'm opposed to that).

Some reliable tool to estimate "response time under load" would be great. It would (a) take a picture of how busy my database server is over the course of a day and, (b) estimate the response time for all the data access operations in my application (and tie those operations to my UI and services). I'd then specify how much each part of my UI and my SOA will be used in production, and the tool would estimate my response time for each UI component or service operation throughout the day, highlighting those that exceed some allowable limit.

Jeremy Likness, multiple book author and principal consultant for Wintellect LLC in Atlanta, thinks some of his wishes might be coming.

True asynchronous support in Entity Framework and other data providers. Not just wrapping requests in a task, but the actual asynchronous implementation that will scale correctly in highly concurrent environments.

Better/easier extensibility of OData across various producers (that is, WCF 4) and consumers.

Consistent APIs across platforms--that is, a standard data solution for Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, the server, and so on that can be access through a common API so it's not a completely different repository and data access layer for each implementation

Stronger support in database projects for schema changes--that is, I know there is the compare/publish, but an explicit way to write in migrations so you can have push-button updates out of the box, for example, I iterate within a sprint and change a few items, I'm readily prompted to fill in any issues with the schema (default, move data and seed data) and I get two specific outputs: a creation script (start from scratch) and a migration script (upgrade from previous iteration)--again, as part of a build and not an interactive schema compare.

Sean Iannuzzi is a solutions architect for The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks. He took a lot of his precious time to give me an extremely detailed reply. It's great stuff, so I'm sharing it all with you.

What developers want as the perfect data improvement gift would be providing easier data integration from Entity Objects to Data Contracts, Model objects that are exportable as fixed data and including complete model data lists when working with Views in Razor (Data Model Extension).

Entity Objects to Data Contracts or Model Objects

Most of the time, when building Web sites or applications, either data contracts or models are needed to support various differences in the UI versus the data layer. As a result, a mapping exercise is needed to link the two together. I usually use AutoMapper, as it handles this mapping very well, but it would be awesome if this was included as part of the [.NET] framework.

Export Compact Data Elements

Another item related to data development that would be a great feature would be if certain fields in data contracts could be marked for different levels of return options. For example, at times, I may want to lazy load all of my data and only need the IDs and not all of the data associated to the data contacts. What would be awesome would be a way to annotate the data fields with levels that would control when it would be included with the return set. Something such as, deep contract member, medium contract member and light contract member, which could be added at the field level. Light contracts could just include the ID fields, medium would include ID fields and the parent records, and the deep contracts could return all data in the hierarchy structure. What would be really awesome is if this was figured out for you automatically, but that's just a wish and very unlikely.

Fixed Format Export Options

At times, exports are needed for data that's in a fixed field format that's used in a Web application or service. A great feature would be to allow annotations to support how the data could be exported and then, through reflection, pull in the attributes based on the model.

Something such as:

public class FlatFileAttribute : System.Attribute
  public int fieldLength { get; private set; }
  public int startPosition { get; private set; }

   /// File Attribute constructor to set 
/// the start position and field length ///
/// /// public FlatFileAttribute(
int startPosition, int fieldLength) { this.startPosition = startPosition; this.fieldLength = fieldLength; } }

Razor Data Model Extension

The last feature that I would like automatically included is the ability to map data elements from a hierarchal model to a view without the need of an extension and for the data fields to be included as part of the model. For example, if you have a model with a list of subelements and you are creating them on the view, they will be null be default. To remedy this, I usually create an extension method so that the data is included with the model--so that all model fields are included for an object such as Parent.Children, where children is a collection beneath the Parent object. This would be a nice feature as well.

public static IDisposable BeginCollectionItem(
  this HtmlHelper html, string collectionName)
  return BeginCollectionItem(html, collectionName, "", "");
public static IDisposable BeginCollectionItem(
  this HtmlHelper html, string collectionName, 
  string prefix, string suffix)
  var idsToReuse = 
    GetIdsToReuse(html.ViewContext.HttpContext, collectionName);
  string itemIndex = idsToReuse.Count > 0 ? idsToReuse.Dequeue() : 
    prefix + string.Format("
    <input id="\" name="\" value="\" type="\" {1}\??="" off\??="" 
autocomplete="\" {0}.index\??="" hidden\??="" />", collectionName, html.Encode(itemIndex)) + suffix); return BeginHtmlFieldPrefixScope( html, string.Format("{0}[{1}]", collectionName, itemIndex)); }

I'd like to thank all of these guys for taking the time to share their thoughts with you. And I'd like to continue the conversation. What would you like to see in the coming year in terms of data development technologies? Please comment here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 12/20/2012 at 9:03 AM1 comments

Beer? There's an API for that!

I've been fooling around with REST services, getting JSON data back from free online sources and displaying it in Web or Windows Store apps via a ListView or FlipView, and so on.

After experimenting with the Windows Azure Mobile Services, which simplifies the back-end data-access process and lets you easily set up your own services, I was trying out other APIs and just had to pass on my latest discovery: beer.

Yup, there's an Open Beer Database, described as "a free, public database and API for beer information." Now, that's my kind of information. Not that I'm a lush or anything, but a beer API seems appropriate for these stressful times, what with the end of the world coming—and, worse yet, a holiday stay with the in-laws and family circus if civilization survives the predicted apocalypse. Then there's climate change, earth-destroying asteroids, sovereign insolvency, the fiscal cliff and Gangnam Style (hey, if you're talking Korean madmen druthers, give me that whacky Kim Jong Un and his ballistic missile toys in the North over Psy and his garbage music in the South any day).

Anyway, note that the Open Beer API "is currently a work-in-progress and is subject to change without notice." It returns data in JSON or JSONP (to work around cross-domain calls). It provides the usual CRUD operations via HTTP verbs GET, POST, PUT and DELETE and lets you retrieve breweries or beers, both as aggregates or singly by ID number.

For example, the beer with an ID of 2 is named the Bruin. Its description includes: "At once cuddly and ferocious, it combines a smooth, rich maltiness and mahogany color with a solid hop backbone and stealthy 7.6% alcohol." Hmm, cuddly and ferocious, much like that cute little Kim Jong Un himself (Psy is neither; I can't say here what Psy is).

The Open Beer Database includes an example for retrieving brewery information in JSONP format via JavaScript. It also points to client libraries for Ruby, PHP and Python.

So check it out the next time you're looking for an example REST service to toy around with, maybe over the holiday break. Me? I'll be up in Massachusetts, probably pounding Bruins (and I don't mean the local hockey team up there.)

Do you know of any wild and crazy REST APIs we can play with in our coding adventures? Please share your suggestions here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 12/13/2012 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Amazon Courts Windows, Big Data Devs

Amazon Web Services Inc. yesterday announced AWS Marketplace support for Windows apps and big data solutions. AWS, of course, is the equivalent of Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud service, and the AWS Marketplace is akin to the Windows Store.

The latter last month got some buzz because a company called Distimo reported it offered more apps than the Mac store (of course, the Mac store is quite different from the iPad and iPhone stores). Only a couple months old, the Windows Store includes more than 20,000 apps. In case Windows 8 really take off, it appears Amazon is positioning itself for a piece of the pie.

"Windows users will now be able to find, deploy, and start using popular application infrastructure, development tools and business software in minutes," Amazon said in a news release.

Among the Windows Server offerings is the popular Toad data development tool from Quest Software. "Offering customers choice for their cloud infrastructure and enabling open development is a priority for us, which is why we’re excited to provide our Toad solution for on-demand use across managed databases," said Quest executive Michael Sotnick in the news release. "We deliver value to the AWS ecosystem today through our freeware edition that enables more than 2 million developers to easily leverage Toad for Oracle, Toad for SQL Server and Toad for MySQL within the AWS cloud."

Big data is the hot topic among data devs these days, obviously, and the new Big Data software category includes offerings for popular technologies such as Hadoop, MongoDB and Couchbase.

This isn't the first time Amazon has courted the Windows camp, as evidenced by earlier announcements such as Amazon RDS for Microsoft SQL Server. And it probably won't be the last.

Are you a Windows developer with an opinion on Amazon's overtures? Please share your thoughts by commenting here or dropping me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 12/05/2012 at 9:03 AM0 comments

Study: Hacker Chatter Shows They Love SQL Injection Attacks

A recent study of hacker forums shows SQL injection is gaining favor as an attack vector. The company Imperva conducted a study of hacker forum discussions and concluded "SQL injection is now tied with DDoS as the most discussed topic."

Last year, the company said, DDoS was the most discussed attack vector, at 22 percent of discussion volume, while SQL injection followed at 19 percent. This year, both came in at 19 percent, indicating a relative rise in the popularity of SQL injection.

You have to take your studies and statistics with a grain of salt, though, as cloud hosting company Firehost reported at about the same time that SQL injection attacks accounted for only 12 percent of Web attacks blocked by its servers in the third quarter of 2012, with cross-site scripting attacks coming in first at 35 percent.

Regardless, SQL injection continues to be a serious problem that should get more attention from security teams and developers. For the latter, remember that Microsoft has some good resources to help you minimize security weaknesses, including:

There's lots more information out there. Most of the SQL injection attacks result from weaknesses in user input validation, which shouldn't be that hard to do properly. Hopefully these studies will continue to raise awareness among the coders writing these validations.

Share your thoughts on how to protect against SQL injection attacks by commenting here or dropping me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 11/16/2012 at 1:15 PM0 comments

How Microsoft Embraced 'Big Data'

It's no accident that staid, proprietary software giant Microsoft has opened itself up and embraced open source (and even competing) technologies, a trend perfectly exemplified by the adoption of "big data" and its flagship Apache Hadoop platform.

It comes down to people like Dave Campbell, with the interesting title of "technical fellow" at Microsoft. It results in products like HDInsight, described last week by Campbell as Hadoop on the cloud (Windows Azure), laptop and server.

Campbell was speaking at the Build 2012 developer conference in a presentation titled "Data Options in Windows Azure, What's a Developer to Do?" Attendees of his presentation received some insight into the process of how a huge, monolithic, bureaucracy-laden organization transforms itself with a view toward long-range competitiveness--or even survival--in a changing landscape.

"Part of my job is to figure out what the heck's happening and then what should we be doing about it," Campbell said. "The last year for me was, OK, we've got this story down. We understand what's going on in sort of the big data space. I wanted to schedule a couple of big talks ... and then I said I want to be able to talk to the techies, the CTOs, the guys who were doing the projects .... Then I wanted to get the story through all the way through [so] I can talk to the CIOs, who aren't going to fully appreciate the technology. The folks who were the hardest nut to crack, were the enterprise data warehouse guys, who had the feeling that 'none of this stuff is worth crap unless it's in my data warehouse. I got the one version of the truth.'"

Six or eight months ago, Campbell said, he stumbled on to a way he can quickly get through to all of the skeptics. "I said, 'That's a very, very fine version of the truth, and it's still super valuable.' I said, 'But in this new world, there's a version of the truth about what people are saying about your products and what they think about your brand and how that's playing out in the online world. And that's a different version of the truth.' And I said, 'Another version of the truth is available from all your operational systems, which are just spewing out data. We've just got data coming out of everything. And there's yet a third version of the truth or perspective that you can get out of those systems.' And I look at them and say, 'And if you're looking at one version of the truth, and even if you're doing better than the other guys, but you're not looking at those other two versions of the truth, and your competitors are, how are you keeping up?'"

The response, he said, is like "'oh, yeah,' and so even those guys ... and you actually see it. There's a lot of recognition of this now. And so, it is real. There is, of course, hype, but again, I've tried to arm you here. The trick in this, there's nothing magic. The magic is about deferring the modeling and to be able to do the information production in a very quick, efficient way, and having things sort of pop out that you can subsequently refine."

And so Campbell continues on his untiring mission to convince others of the correct way to a successful future, traveling the country and even the globe, as he pointed out in a demonstration showing how easily he "mapped" and "reduced" GPS tracking data of where he'd been in the past few months.

And judging from his presentation, he keeps long hours. One piece of his presentation, he pointed out, was done at 3:38 am. that day.

So if you want to get clues about where Microsoft may be heading in the future, you might want to keep track of Campbell and what he's saying. Strangely, though, I couldn't find him on Twitter, but he is on LinkedIn and blogs occasionally on TechNet.

It's also worth checking out the Build 2012 video. It goes into detail about how big data is easy for developers, who only have to worry about two functions: map and reduce. And a lot more.

Maybe too much. At one point, when he's summarizing how developers can choose which Windows Azure data storage option to use, he said that if attendees register what he had just said in the previous couple of minutes, "you're going to walk out of here smarter than most bloggers on this topic. Seriously."


What do you think of Microsoft's embrace of big data in general or HDInsight in particular? Please share your thoughts by commenting here or dropping me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 11/07/2012 at 1:15 PM1 comments

Entity Framework 6 Released as Alpha 1

Less than three months after Entity Framework 5 was released, Microsoft this week announced the availability of EF6 Alpha 1, targeting a release to manufacturing date around mid-2013 for the database object relational mapping tool.

New features in the upcoming update include task-based asynchronous programming patterns, custom conventions for Code First development, multi-tenant migrations and many more.

The EF code base is now open source, hosted on CodePlex, program manager Rowan Miller reminded attendees at Microsoft's Build 2012 conference at company headquarters in Redmond, Wash., on Tuesday.

"We're accepting contributions to the code base as well," Miller said in a presentation, which is available on video. "If you want to work out some of how EF works, go grab the code. If you want to help us fix some bugs, we'd love you to."

However, Miller noted, when it comes time for release, the Microsoft licensing, branding and support will remain the same--along with code quality, he emphasized. "If you do want to submit bug fixes for us, you're going to have to write unit tests in the same quality code that people on our team write today."

And it might not be that easy to get contributions accepted, Miller suggested. "So far we've been open source for a few months now. We've taken four contributions, most of them still quite small at this stage, but we've got a few bigger ones brewing in the community, too."

At the EF CodePlex site, you can explore in detail the planned improvements for EF6, such as "Task-based Asynchronous Pattern support in EF."

Other improvements for EF6 listed on the CodePlex site include:

  • Tooling Consolidation
  • Multi-tenant Migrations
  • EF Dependency Resolution
  • Code-based Configuration
  • Migrations History Table Customization
  • Custom Code First Conventions

Rowan noted in his demonstration that developers had vociferously requested enum support, which was added in EF5, but only as integer types. He said Microsoft was working to add support for more types. He also noted that the DbGeography class, which he used in his demonstration, was targeted for improvement. Right now, he said, "it isn't such a great type," requiring some "strange" mapping to class structures.

Yet another improvement might well be "Stored Procedures & Functions in Code First," which was listed in the product roadmap for possible inclusion in EF 6, as noted by a reader in the comments section of the blog post announcing EF6. Microsoft's Arthur Vickers replied: "It's still planned to be done in EF6. Some of the metadata prerequisites are already being worked on and when they are done we should have someone start on it."

What do you think of the planned improvements to EF6? Please share your thoughts by commenting here or dropping me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 11/01/2012 at 1:15 PM3 comments

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