08 October 2013

This Blog Has Moved...


For various reasons, some of which are covered in this post and others which are not, this blog has permanently moved to:


The RSS feeds have changed as well:

Main Feed

 Comments Feed

This blog will remain active for historical purposes though I won't publish any new posts here.  Please update any saved links and/or feeds accordingly.

Thank You!

06 October 2013

Time for a Blog Makeover

Since my first blog post nearly 8 years ago, I have been using blogspot.com as my one and only blogging engine. For the most part, it has served me very well. Although the web-based editor isn’t bad, I’ve always preferred to use Windows Live Writer as my authoring tool of choice. The drag-n-drop customization features within blogger.com made customizing my blog site a snap and there were more templates available than I could possibly ever need. All in all, I’ve not had much to complain about over the past several years of blogging.
However, I have been having an issues for a while now that I can’t seem to find a resolution for. For some reason, over the past couple of months, any time I attempt to make changes to my blog site template, I always get an error message when I attempt to save the changes. There is no explanation for the error, simply the following message:


As one might imagine, this has become quite annoying. So this has motivated me to look into WordPress. Something I’ve taken a quick look at in the past but never gave it much time. So, in the short time I’ve spent working with WordPress over the past day or so, I’ve really come to like it. I especially like the community that has built up around, and in support of, WordPress. There are plugins and widgets for just about everything you can dream up for a blog site.
Armed with my limited knowledge and experience with WordPress I decided to create a new (and hopefully, improved) version of my blog at blog.devmatter.com. This new blog will, at least for the time being, mirror my existing blog site at devmatter.blogspot.com.
Although some differences may be more subtle than others, I am hoping for a cleaner, easier-to-navigate site.  Here are a couple of simple screenshots illustrating the basic differences in colors and layout:
The “Old” Site:image
The “New” Site:image
So if you have the inclination, please take a look around and give me your thoughts. What looks good and what doesn’t? Assuming this all works out for the better I will make a permanent move to the new site (redirecting the old site appropriately).

25 September 2013

TFVC vs. TF-Git – A Quick Survey

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately about whether it would make sense for our application development teams to make the move to Team Foundation Git (TF-Git) as the primary version control choice within TFS. We are still using TFS 2010 as our primary TFS instance today although we have several projects in Team Foundation Service (TFService) as part of a pilot.  As we make preparations to move to TFS 2013 (we have not yet decided if we’ll host TFS 2013 on premises or if we’ll make exclusive use of the TFService) we are putting some thought into whether or not we should make the leap to TF-Git.

There are plenty of pros and cons regardless of which option is chosen.  For example, TF-Git is very well suited for disconnected scenarios and also provides amazing support for branching and merging code.  On the other hand, TFVC provides the common “check out/check in” workflow that so many of us are used to today.  It also provides the ability to place exclusive locks on files that are notoriously difficult to merge such as XML files (e.g. workflow, SSIS packages, etc.).

While it’s easy enough for me to solicit the opinions of my co-workers, I’d also like to get your opinions.  To make this as easy as it can be, I’ve created a simple survey with six questions (see screenshot below).

So, please take a moment and take the survey.

Click to Take Survey

We will keep the survey open for about two weeks.  Once the results have been collected, I will share them on this blog.

UPDATE: The final survey results have been posted here.

24 September 2013

200GB Option for SkyDrive

If you’ve been waiting for the option to buy more than 100GB of storage on SkyDrive, your wait is over.  You can now buy an extra 200GB of storage space for $100/year. As you can see in the screenshot below, the space you purchase is added on to whatever you already have (in the Total Space column).

The current price per GB is $0.50/year vs. ~$0.60 per GB/year for Google Drive.  Not a huge difference but a little less.  Though Google Drive makes up for part of this by providing the first 15GB free (vs. 7GB for SkyDrive).


Also, if you buy one of the new Surface 2 devices, you will get 200GB of SkyDrive storage free for two years.

19 September 2013

TFS 2013 Power Tools Released

As of today, you can download the just-released Team Foundation Server 2013 Power Tools (compatible with TFS 2013 RC). If you’re not familiar with the TFS Power Tools, and you spend any amount of time working with TFS on a day-to-day basis, I highly recommend you check these out.
This release is comprised of four separate downloads:
Navigate to the above links to get more details on each of the available tools.

16 September 2013

Removing the Barrier to Entry for Windows Phone Development

Until recently, if you wanted to develop for Windows Phone, and actually run your apps on your phone (as opposed to the emulator) you had to register for a $99 (USD) Windows Phone developer account.  This cost has always been a substantial barrier to entry for many would-be (Windows Phone) developers.  That is, until recently.

Recently, two things have changed to make this much better.

First, the $99 registration amount has been changed to $19 (annually).  This price is much more reasonable for most people (though free, it could be argued, would be even more reasonable :-).  The $19 price was originally a temporary promotion but, according to a tweet from Todd Brix (General Manager of Windows Phone Apps and Store Team), Microsoft is keeping the price at $19.


Second, Microsoft made a change that I hadn’t noticed until recently.  Originally (before ~August 6th), you couldn’t deploy apps under development to your phone unless you had registered for a Windows Phone developer account (back to the $99/year cost again). Now Microsoft has made a change that allows any Windows Phone developer to push up to two apps to a single phone with no cost. If you do have a Windows Phone developer account, you can push up to 10 apps to as many as three phones.

Combining these changes along with Microsoft’s outstanding development tools give developers practically no reason not to developer for Windows Phone.

11 September 2013

Visual Studio 2013 RC Released

logo_visualstudio_100x100_1This post is a couple of days behind but I thought I’d go ahead and put out a few links to help spread the word a little more :-). 
As of September 9th, Visual Studio 2013 RC (Release Candidate) was made available for download on the Visual Studio web site.  This is a “go live” release which means you can run Visual Studio 2013 RC in a production environment and there will be a supported upgrade path to Visual Studio 2013 RTM.
Visual Studio 2013 is expected to RTM along with Windows 8.1 GA (General Availability) which is slated for October “18th”.
To get an idea of what’s included in the latest version of Visual Studio, check out these posts:
The following software is now available for download (here):
Visual Studio 2013 RC
  • Visual Studio Ultimate 2013 RC
  • Visual Studio Premium 2013 RC
  • Visual Studio Professional 2013 RC
  • Visual Studio Test Professional 2013 RC
  • Team Foundation Server 2013 RC
Visual Studio Express 2013 RC
  • Visual Studio Express 2013 RC for Web
  • Visual Studio Express 2013 RC for Windows Desktop
  • Visual Studio Team Foundation Server Express 2013 RC
Additional Software
  • Team Explorer
  • Team Explorer Everywhere for TFS
  • .NET Framework 4.5.1
  • Agents for Visual Studio 2013
  • IntelliTrace Collector for Visual Studio
  • Feedback Client for TFS
  • Remote Tools for Visual Studio 2013
  • Visual C++ Redistributable for Visual Studio 2013
  • Visual Studio Shell
  • Visual Studio SDK
  • Multibyte MFC Library for Visual Studio 2013 RC
  • Modeling SDK for Microsoft Visual Studio 2013 RC
  • Microsoft Build Tools RC
Note that Visual Studio 2013 RC is not compatible with Windows 8.1 Preview.  You will need to install Windows 8.1 RTM for use with Visual Studio 2013 RC.
If you run into issues, have questions, or ideas, you can submit/ask them here:

Straight to Desktop in Windows 8.1

If you find you spend more time in the Desktop than you do the Start Screen then you may want to consider setting the desktop as the default start mode for your PC.
To configure your PC to go to the desktop when you logon or close all apps on a screen, follow these steps:
1. From the Start screen, start typing “Taskbar” and select the “Taskbar and Navigation” option from the list.  This will display the Taskbar and Navigation properties dialog.
2. Click on the Navigation tab.
3. Check the “When I sign in or close all apps on a screen…” checkbox.  This option instructs Windows to take you directly to the desktop when you sign in or if you close all apps on a screen.
4. If you would like an experience that is somewhat Windows 7-like when you click on the Start button (or press the Windows hardware button), i.e. display the Apps view instead of the Start screen, then check the “Show the Apps view automatically…” checkbox.
5. Click OK.
Check out the other options in this properties dialog for other features that you might find useful.

TFS Build Manager for VS 2013 Updated

screenshotToday, the Community TFS Build Extensions on CodePlex released an update to the Community TFS Build Manager VS2013 add-in. If you spend any time at all managing multiple build definitions, build results, and/or build servers, then you need to give this add-in a try.
Updates & fixes include:
  • NEW - Search and replace workspace mappings
  • NEW - Filter Build Definitions via text
  • NEW - Access build logs in web access
  • NEW - Build Duration and Agent Name columns
  • NEW - Friendly Trigger Names
  • NEW - Easily queue high priority builds
  • NEW - Clone to Project
  • FIX - Case insensitive comparisons when changing drop location of existing builds
  • FIX - Invalid Project Reference issue
  • FIX - Only change & save the new process template only if it's a different one
  • FIX - UI typo in Change Drop Location screen
The current feature set include:
  • View and sort Builds and Build Definitions across multiple Build Controllers and Team Projects
  • Bulk operations on Build Definitions
    • Change Build Templates
    • Queue
    • Enable
    • Disable
    • Delete
    • Edit
    • Set Retention Policies
    • Change Drop Location 
    • Change Build Controller
    • Change Build Triggers
  • Clone Build Definitions (includes workspace mapping translation)
  • Create a DGML image of your Builds and Controllers
  • Bulk operations on Builds
    • Delete
    • Set Build Quality
    • Open Drop Folders
    • Retain Indefinitely
    • Stop/Cancel
A standalone Windows Application is also available as part of the Community TFS Build Extensions CodePlex project.
Download the Community TFS Build Manager for Visual Studio 2013 here.

20 August 2013

Windows Phone App Studio–My First App

Recently, Microsoft made available the Windows Phone App Studio (beta). The purpose of the Windows Phone App Studio is to make it simple for anyone with a great Windows Phone app idea to create, test, and share an app without installing any development tools.

Getting Started

You can sign up for a free account at the link above and give it a try for yourself. Note, however, that you may have to wait up to a day to get a registration code.
Once you’ve signed in, click on the Create link to get started with building your first app. You will have the option to start with an empty app (not recommended for your first time using the site) or one of (currently) 19 prebuilt templates.  The templates are geared toward marketing your business, wedding invites, promoting your favorite band, etc.
For my first app, I decided to create a simple news reader tied to my (this) blog. I name the app A Developer’s Life. For this app, I started with the “Our Company” template.

App Information

When you first create an app you can give it a Title (i.e. Name), Description, and a Logo.  For example, here’s what my initial app configuration looks like in the App Studio:

App Content

The next step is to define the content of your app, including Data Sources and Sections.
Data Source provide content for your app whereas Sections provide the pages for your app.  In my case, I have two data sources providing content for two pages (within a panorama):
  • newsds – a “news” data source tied to the RSS feed of my blog.  This provides the main content for the app.
  • aboutus – this data source allows you to store HTML which can then be data bound to a page element.  I use this to provide a little information about myself in the app.
The screenshot on the left (below) shows how the newsds Data Source is displayed on the page and the screenshot on the right shows how the aboutus Data Source is displayed.
wp_ss_20130820_0001      wp_ss_20130820_0002

Tapping on a specific news item about will display a details page as shown below:

Application Style

There are also settings that determine the app’s background (a specific color or an image), the foreground color, and the application bar color.  You can also specify the type of tiles to implement with your app using the Cycle, Flip, or Iconic templates.  Splash and lock screen images can be selected as well.

Generating the App

The final step is generating your app.  Once you have everything setup and configured just the way you want it, you click on Generate and sit back and wait about 30 or 40 seconds for the app to build.  Once the app has been built, you will receive an e-mail message that can be used to download the app.  A QR code will also be displayed that can be scanned with your phone for quick and easy downloading as well.
Before you install an app created by the Windows Phone App Studio you must first install the provided certificate.  A link to the certificate is provided in the e-mail that is sent to you upon completion of the app build.
Once the app has been downloaded and installed on your phone, you can use it pretty much like any other app.

Wanna Try My App?

If you’d like to give my app (as seen above) a go, then click here to download and install A Developer's Life.  You must have the Windows Phone App Studio account to be able to access the shared application.

But Wait, There’s More!

Although the Windows Phone App Studio gives you a quick-n-easy way of getting basic apps up and running (and shared), you can only go so far with the App Studio.  If you find you’re running into limitations that you simply can’t get around (and you will if you want to implement any non-trivial features – e.g. notifications) then you can download the source code for the app and open it in Visual Studio.  Once in Visual Studio, you can continue to enhance your app as you see fit.  Nice!
All that said, there are still quite a few limitations to the App Studio.  However, this is a brand new offering from Microsoft and it is still in beta.  I suspect they will add many new features and capabilities as feedback comes in.  And, speaking of feedback, you can provide your own feedback about the App Studio here.
You can read a little more about the Windows Phone App Studio beta here as well.