26 December 2012

My Smartphone Past

While off for the Christmas holiday, I decided it was time to clean up my home office.  While it’s quite easy to get rid of some junk (e.g. dozens, if not hundreds, of MSDN CDs/DVDs from 8 years ago) some items from my personal gadget history are harder to part with.  Let’s take smartphones, for example.  For those of us who have used and relied on smartphones for years now you know all too well how attached you might become to a specific device.  It kind of makes sense, I suppose, since you use the device multiple times a day – every day.  How many other gadgets do you own that get that kind of use?

So, just for fun, I thought I’d throw out a quick listing of my personal smartphone choices that I’ve made over the years.  I have not owned very many smartphones nor is the variety all that wide but it’s still kind of fun to look back at the various devices.

Sprint PCS PPC-6700 Pocket PC Phone

imageBack in the fall of 2006, I won this phone from a United Way raffle drawing at my office.  At the time, I owned a pay-as-you-go feature phone with service provided by TracFone.  I loved the phone so much that I went to Sprint (the very next day if I recall correctly) to setup a service and data plan (my first data plan ever :-).  As a software developer familiar with Microsoft Visual Studio and the .NET Framework, I was also excited that I could easily create software for my new smartphone.  Although I tinkered around for a while it wasn’t until the following year that I created the first Windows Mobile app that I would eventually publish – SafetyTip (note: I have since ported this app to Windows Phone as well).

On the right is a screenshot of the emulator running SafetyTip.


This phone still works today although I am no longer a Sprint customer (switched to AT&T with Windows Phone).  I really have no use for this phone (I can’t even connect it to my home wireless connection because the OS does not support the latest encryption standards) but I just can’t seem to get rid of it.

Click here for full specs.




Sprint Mogul PPC-6800 Pocket PC

imageAfter a couple of years (2008) of use with the 6700 the battery was getting to the point where it could no longer hold a full day’s charge.  After having no luck in finding a good battery replacement, I decided it was time to upgrade to the 6700’s successor – the HTC Mogul (PPC 6800).  For the most part, the 6800 was the same phone as the 6700 other than it was a little lighter and thinner.  However, it ran the latest version of the Windows Mobile OS – Windows Mobile 6 Professional!  The newer OS also opened up more features that could be taken advantage of by developers.

As a side note, this is the only smartphone that I’ve ever paid “real” money for.  My previous phone (the 6700) was from a raffle contest (although I suppose I did pay a few dollars for the raffle tickets) and most of my subsequent phones were won via contests or provided to Microsoft conference attendees.

Click here for full specs.




LG Optimus 7

imageA couple of years later I was attending the Microsoft Professional Developer’s Conference (PDC) in Redmond, WA.  There was a lot of talk and hype around Microsoft’s latest mobile phone platform – Windows Phone 7.  As luck would have it, they provided each (paid) PDC attendee with a Windows Phone – the LG Optimus 7.  Just as I was with my very first smartphone (the 6700) I was excited about the possibilities of writing apps for my new phone – not to mention the idea of replacing my geriatric HTC Mogul with something that could actually compete with modern phones (i.e. the iPhone).  Also, as with my first smartphone, I visited the AT&T store as soon as I returned home from the conference to setup a new data plan (I didn’t require a contract since I already had the phone).

I loved the new Windows Phone OS from the moment I started using it.  Granted, it took a little time to learn where certain features were located and how they worked (or if they even existed at all) but once I became familiar with the phone I was able to complete common tasks very quickly and easily.  I was also now able to write apps for my new phone using the latest version of Microsoft’s development tools and frameworks.  My first Windows Phone app was simply the conversion of my original Pocket PC app – SafetyTip.  You can see the updated version in the screenshot on the right.

I still have this phone today for occasional use as a development/test device, although not very often.

Click here for full specs.

Samsung Focus

imageNot too long after Windows Phone 7 was launched, Microsoft was sponsoring an app development contest.  Basically, you had to submit an app to the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace (and it had to be published) then you could enter a contest for a chance to win a Samsung Focus.  I still recall getting the e-mail (on my LG) as I was leaving the theater one night notifying me that I had won one of the phones from that quarter’s drawing.  A week or two later, a brand new Samsung Focus showed up on my doorstep!

I loved the Focus.  This phone was larger and lighter than my LG and the AMOLED screen was awesome!  The Focus was also one of the few (if not the only?) Windows Phones that supported a Micro SD card – which I immediately installed :-)

One day I was backing out of a restaurant parking lot with my wife and kids when my wife said she heard a “crunching” noise.  I didn’t think much of it at the time (there was snow on the ground).  When we got home, I couldn’t find my phone!  I drove back to the restaurant and someone had turned a phone in.  The good news was that the phone turned in was mine.  The bad news was that it had been ran over (by me).  Strangely, the Gorilla Glass screen had not cracked but the AMOLED display underneath the glass had (see screenshot to the left).  I realized later, when I went to remove the Micro SD card from the phone, that whomever turned it in had already taken it!

Oh well, back to the LG Optimus 7 (good thing I kept it! :-)

Click here for full specs.

Nokia Lumia 800

imageOnce again, another app writing contest came up (again, I don’t recall the details) and once again I was able to score a free phone!  This time it was the Nokia Lumia 800.

I immediately switched from my LG Optimus 7 to the Nokia Lumia 800 and loved everything about it.  I especially loved how Nokia was committed to the Windows Phone ecosystem (e.g. providing exclusive apps, specialized hardware, etc.).  I could tell almost immediately that I was going to become a long-term Nokia customer and fan.

Although the Lumia 800 has the same size screen as the LG Optimus 7, it felt just a little bit lighter and just felt better to the touch.  It was nice to hold, look at, and use.

I still have this phone today and continue to use it as a development/test device.  My kids also use it for the occasional game session :-)

Click here for full specs.


Nokia Lumia 900

imageWhen the Nokia Lumia 900 was announced, I couldn’t wait!  I was really hoping for yet another contest (I had grown accustomed to free phones :-) but none came before I decided to make the move to the 900.  Fortunately, however, the Nokia Lumia 900 was having some software issues out of the gate and Nokia decided to provide a $100 reimbursement to everyone who had purchased a 900 (within a certain timeframe).  Combined with the $100 rebate that AT&T was offering and the Nokia Lumia 900 was effectively FREE!  In fact, I also received a $100 credit that I could put against any accessories in the AT&T store (in my case, a hands-free Bluetooth device and a car charger).  So, in essence, I was being paid to take the Nokia Lumia 900 home with me :-)

Fast forward a few months while on a 40’ish mile road ride… I have my Lumia 900 mounted on my road bike  running one of my favorite fitness apps – Endomondo.  At one point, I hit a bump in the road and the Lumia 900 is jarred from its cradle and it smashes into the highway.  To my surprise, there were only a few dings on the corner of the phone and was still fully functional.  In a not-so-smart move I decide to put the phone back on the bike and continue with my ride.  About a mile later I hit an even bigger bump in the road and the phone goes flying off the bike again.  This time the screen is decimated (Gorilla Glass isn’t indestructible after all)!  You can see the results in the screenshot above.

So, it’s back to the Nokia Lumia 800!

Click here for full specs.

Apple iPhone 4

imageIt might seem a little strange that I happen to have also used an iPhone, based on my obvious Windows Phone preference.  However, there is a rational reason for having an iPhone in my arsenal.  As it turns out, the company I work for has relatively standard, and rigorous security requirements for mobile devices that would like to sync with our corporate e-mail and calendar.  Namely, device encryption.  Windows Phone 7.x does not support device encryption.  So, what’s a gadget geek to do?  Well, in my case, I used an iPhone for my corporate e-mail and calendar and relied on my Windows Phone for everything else.

NOTE: The iPhone was provided to me by my company at not cost (which would be returned once I obtained a Windows Phone 8 device).

Although the iPhone is a very capable device, I still find it easier/quicker to complete most common tasks on my various Windows Phones.  I can’t really say if that’s because I’m just really used to using Windows Phone devices or if it’s because the tasks are simply easier/quicker to use on Windows Phone (probably a little bit of both).  The one obvious advantage that the iPhone has over Windows Phone, as has been said a million times, is the app store.  However, with over 150,000 apps in the Windows Phone store now, it’s becoming less of an issue every day.

With the release of Windows Phone 8, full device encryption is now supported (and I no longer rely on my iPhone for corporate e-mail).

Click here for full specs.

Nokia Lumia 920

imageWe finally arrive to the device that I am using full time today – my Nokia Lumia 920.  This is the phone that was provided to the attendees of this year’s //Build/ conference.  Upon receiving the phone, I immediately pulled the SIM card from my Lumia 800 and installed it into my shiny, new 920 and it was awesome!

Although there have been lots of reports stating the Lumia 920 is too big and heavy, I have to disagree.  Although the phone is a little on the hefty side, there is not a substantial difference when holding the iPhone 4 in one hand and the Lumia 920 in the other.  Also, I prefer a larger phone screen although I don’t think I’d want anything larger than the Lumia 920 (4.5 inches).

Once I had the Lumia 920 configured the way I liked it, I found myself reconfiguring the start screen over and over again.  It took some time to find just the right mix of small, medium, and large live tiles as well as the optimal placement.  Although I’ve pretty much settled on a configuration for now (see screenshot on left), I have no doubt I’ll tweak it for as long as I own the phone.

Click here for full specs.



So, there you have it… my smartphone history.  Although I am very happy with my Lumia 920, I still look forward to what might be released in the future.  There are still improvements to be made to the Windows Phone OS as well as to the Windows Phone ecosystem.  And, for now, I am happy to come along for the ride! :-)

16 December 2012

Support and Suggestion Links for Visual Studio and Windows Phone

This post is as much for my benefit as it is for anyone else :-)  Although I have frequented all of the sites referred to below, it sometimes takes me a minute or two to come up with the link.  Being able to reference this blog post just might save me a little time in the future.  Along with that, it may also point out a few support sites that you weren’t aware of.

The links below are specific to Visual Studio and Windows Phone.  As these are two of the most common technologies that I interact with on a daily basis, I thought I’d point out a few shortcuts on where to submit feature ideas, bugs, as well as where to ask questions.

Visual Studio

Visual Studio UserVoice – Do you have a great idea that you feel should be implemented in Visual Studio?  Add your idea to the Visual Studio UserVoice site and let others vote on it.  You can also vote and/or comment on other’s suggestions.

Visual Studio Forums – Ask your tough questions here.  There are literally hundreds of thousands of answered questions within the Visual Studio forums so there is a good chance your question has already been answered.  This link covers a lot of Microsoft development products so here are a few links that are more focused on specific products:

Microsoft Connect – If you have discovered a bug within Visual Studio (or think you have discovered a bug) then file it within the Visual Studio Microsoft Connect site.  From here, you will be able to track the status of the bug and any possible workarounds that are posted.


Windows Phone

Windows Phone Consumer Links

Windows Phone – Of course, the best place to start searching for support information for Windows Phone is the main site itself – windowsphone.com.  This site provides all sorts of information regarding your Windows Phone as well as many links to tutorials, blogs, forums, etc.

Windows Phone UserVoice – Windows Phone is great but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.  Add suggestions for new features in Windows Phone and/or vote and comment on existing feature ideas (e.g. such as this one regarding a keyboard shortcut that I just created).

Windows Phone 8 Support – This site provides a preset list of “how to” and troubleshooting categories, each with a set of linked topics available for viewing:


Windows Phone 8 Forums – for those more difficult situations where you can’t seem to find the answer, check out the Windows Phone forums.  Odds are, someone will be able to help you out.

Windows Phone Developer Links

Windows Phone Dev Center – this site is a great resource for Windows Phone developers.  It provides access to videos, samples, blogs, news, and related events.

Windows Phone Development Forums – whereas the Windows Phone 8 Forums link above is more geared toward consumer-oriented questions, the Windows Phone Development Forums relies upon the developer community to help with those tough-to-answer Windows Phone development questions.

[Updated: added a couple more links based on feedback]

11 December 2012

Team Foundation Sidekicks for TFS 2012

If you make use of Team Foundation Server and you don’t have Attrice’s Team Foundation Sidekicks in your toolbox, you should!  I have been using the Team Foundation Sidekicks for years now and would hate to be without them.  As of today, Attrice has made available a new version compatible with Team Foundation Server 2012 – both the on premises version as well as the Team Foundation Service (i.e. Microsoft’s cloud offering for TFS).

From their blog:

This release functionality is mainly identical to the version of Sidekicks for Visual Studio 2010, with support of TFS both on premise and in-the-cloud (Team Foundation Service).

For 2012 we support both stand-alone client application and Visual Studio integration package; the latter uses VS 2012 extension registration mechanism and is available through VS Extensions Manager. Note that there are separate installations for stand-alone app and VS package.

A quick review of the individual “sidekicks” included are:

  • Permissions Sidekick
  • Code Review Sidekick
  • Shelveset Sidekick
  • Labels Sidekick
  • History Sidekick
  • Status Sidekick
  • Workspace Sidekick

You can view all the details and get the latest version here.

23 November 2012

//build/ 2012 100GB SkyDrive Voucher Never Expires

For those lucky enough to attend the //build/ conference this year, you not only received a Microsoft Surface RT tablet PC and a Nokia Lumina 920 smartphone but also a voucher for 100GB of additional SkyDrive storage. After applying my voucher code to my existing SkyDrive account, I had a total of 125GB of storage. The extra 100GB shows up as an "enthusiast bonus" as shown here:


Naturally, the first question I had after adding the additional storage was - Does the Enthusiast Bonus ever expire? After posting my question to the SkyDrive forums and not getting an answer after a couple of days, I contacted the SkyDrive Billing Support team. After about 12 days, I finally received the following response:

Thank you for your patience. We have already gotten word from the billing escalation team regarding your inquiry. The SkyDrive Enthusiast bonus for 100 GB once redeemed, will not expire as long as you keep your SkyDrive account active. Sincerely, Tier 2 - Microsoft SkyDrive Billing Support
So, there you have it... the 100GB is yours to keep! :-)

20 November 2012

My Premise on Premises

I want to start this post out by stating that I am not normally one to get hung up on specific terminology.  In general, if everyone understands the intent and direction of a given conversation (or a topic being read) then the end goal has been accomplished.  However (there is always a “however”, right?), for as long as I can remember, I have also had a tendency to judge written articles, e-mail messages, etc. based upon the number of misspelled and/or misused words – keeping in mind that I am not a grammar or spelling expert.

That said, there has been a lot of articles, blog posts, discussion, etc. around the topic of the “cloud” over the past few years.  One of the discussion points that come up quite frequently these days when discussing 3rd party products (or even in-house products), for example, is whether the product runs in the “cloud” or on premises.  It is this word, premises, that I have seen misused over and over again for the past couple of years in favor of the word “premise”.

Just in case you’re curious, here are the basic definitions of these two words (based on the Bing Dictionary):



Given that, when a service, web site, etc. runs within your company’s ecosystem (as opposed to in the cloud), it is considered to run on premises --- not premise.

The reason I am thinking about this now is because I’ve spent the past couple of days researching API Management vendors (for managing publically exposed APIs for mobile applications) and I am continually coming across the term “on premise” when it should technically be “on premises”.

Again, I understand their intent – i.e. their product can run within my organization.  However, in the back of my mind I’m still judging the professionalism (right or wrong) of the company that is misusing this term.

Here are a couple of examples:



I’ve actually come across several others over the past couple of days but didn’t want to copy/past them all in :-)

So, what’s the point of this blog post, you ask?  Well, although it provides an outlet for me to let everyone know how I feel about the terms premise vs. premises, more importantly it serves as a reminder that there are people out there, like me, that might judge a company’s professionalism (and, potential value) based on how they use (or misuse) common terms.

As for my search for API Management vendors, I am not letting the misused term cloud my judgment :-)

30 October 2012

(At Least) 5 Things I Hope to Learn at //Build/ 2012

Now that //Build/ 2012 is finally upon us, there are a few things I’ve been wondering about that I hope to finally learn more about this week.  These items include:

  1. What's new in the Windows Phone 8 SDK.  Although there have been leaked versions of the Windows Phone 8 SDK, I have not given it much thought because a) It is unlikely the SDK is incomplete, b) You are trusting the SDK has not been tampered with (i.e. I don't want to introduce any malware), and c) I'd simply just rather wait for the official SDK.
  2. What's new in Windows Phone 8.  Many new features have been announced for Windows Phone 8.  However, it has been stated that there are unannounced features as well.  In fact, this has been rumored as the main reason behind not releasing the Windows Phone 8 SDK up until now.  With all the hush, hush around Windows Phone 8, I really hope there is at least one surprise left for us :-)
  3. Which Windows Phone 8 devices will carriers offer?  There has been plenty of speculation and rumor but I’d like to know what my options truly are.  Hopefully we’ll get more solid details this week.
  4. Integration.  It is apparent that Microsoft has a desire to provide a certain level of integration across their various products and services such as Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Xbox, Office 365, etc.  I hope to gain a better understanding of their "grand vision" through the various sessions at //Build/.
  5. Line of Business Apps for Windows 8.  I would like to learn more about how Microsoft envisions line of business (LOB) apps being creating as Windows Store apps.  I have mixed emotions about “fully immersive” LOB apps but I’d like to see Microsoft’s perspective on this subject.

I have no doubt I’ll learn a great deal about these items during //Build/ this week.  I also expect to learn about many topics that I haven’t listed.  I am looking forward to what this week brings and am very excited about the new technologies, both software and hardware, that Microsoft will be presenting.  It promises to be a great week in technology!

13 September 2012

Get TeamCompanion for Free (if you act fast)!

imageWith the launch of Visual Studio 2012, Ekobit sim-ships TeamCompanion 4.7.  If you are not familiar with TeamCompanion, it integrates many of the Team Foundation client features within Microsoft Outlook.  For example, with TeamCompanion, you can easily create Work Items with an e-mail (or vice- versa).  You can also create new Outlook Tasks from Work Items.  There are many other features, such as scheduled Work Item queries, available within TeamCompanion that can simply make life easier for those of us who spend their days working with TFS (click here for further details).

If you act fast – i.e. between now and Friday, September 14th at midnight PDT (UTC-7:00) – you can get a free TeamCompanion license!  There are three ways in which to do this:

  1. Follow TeamCompanion on Twitter and retweet the announcement tweet as soon as possible.
  2. Like TeamCompanion on Facebook and then share the post announcing the contest.
  3. Join the TeamCompanion circle of friends on Google+

Read this blog post for more information regarding the giveaway.

09 September 2012

Introduction to Windows 8 Development–Go Metro!

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at this year’s Heartland Developers Conference (HDC).  I gave an introductory talk on developing “Metro” applications for Windows 8.  The goal of the talk was to cover some of the basic features that every developer writing Windows 8 apps would have to face when first getting started.  Some of these features include:

  • Obtaining Windows 8
  • Obtaining the developers tools – e.g. Visual Studio 2012
  • Understanding the Windows Runtime framework
  • Specific application features such as:
    • Roaming data (e.g. app settings) to the cloud
    • Contracts and extensions
    • Using the File Picker
    • Implementing application settings (via the charms bar)
    • Create app bars
    • Understanding the application lifecycle
  • Windows Store
    • Registration
    • Packaging
    • Publishing

The talk went very well and I was pleased with the turnout of my session as well as the conference overall.  As always, HDC has turned out to be a great developer resource.  I look forward to returning next year.

The slides for my session have been uploaded here.  I have also published the corresponding demos (Windows 8, C#/XAML) on SkyDrive, here.  There are some great resource links in the last few slides so be sure to check them out.

04 September 2012

How Many Windows 8 Apps are in the Windows Store?

Although there are roughly one bazillion (yes, I made that number up :-) “desktop” apps currently available that will run on Windows 8, the number of Metro “Windows Store” apps still measures in the hundreds (not hundreds of thousands, just hundreds).  If you’re curious about how many Windows Store apps are available in your marketplace, follow these steps:

  1. Launch the Windows Store app.

  2. Open the Charms Bar and tap Search (or press Logo+Q).
  3. Enter * (an asterisk) as the search term and press Enter (ensure Store is the selected search source).

  4. As of the time of writing this, there are 937 Windows Store apps available (in my marketplace).


NOTE: There may be a simpler, quicker way to determine the app count for Windows Store apps, I just haven’t come across it yet.  If you know of an easier way, please share it with us in the comments below.

01 August 2012

HDC-Connect Format for Events


We are currently working on a set of mobile applications (Windows Phone, iOS, and Android) that will be used to scan QR Codes for conference attendee badges.  We want the information contained within the QR code to be basic contact information that is useful to both a conference vendor as well as other conference attendees.  When looking at the various standard QR Code formats, a couple of them stood out: vCard and meCard.

The vCard format contains fields for everything we wanted to store but also included fields we didn’t care about (e.g. address, city, zip, country, and URL).  We could just ignore those fields however this format also produces a more tightly filled QR Code which can be a bit more challenging for some mobile devices to read (especially on conference badges that may have glossy covers, be slightly bent, etc.).

The meCard format is basically a more compact version of the vCard format.  However, it doesn’t have the organization and title fields we desire and still has most of the extra fields listed above.

Another down side to the above formats is that, by default, most QR Code scanners will attempt to add information scanned in these formats as stored contacts.  This isn’t always a bad thing but, in our case, we simply want to store the information within our application for later retrieval as well as have the ability for the scanned information to be displayed in an easy-to-read format – without first storing it as a contact.

Based on these discoveries and our needs, we decided to create a simple, text-based QR Code format that fits our needs.  We have called this format HDC-Connect for QR Codes.

HDC-Connect is a specially formatted QR Code containing a small amount of contact information. The information provided by an HDC-Connect code typically provides just enough information to get in touch with a contact after the initial encounter.

HDC-Connect Format

A QR Code that utilizes the HDC-Connect format contains the following five pieces of information, each on a single line (followed by a carriage return/line feed):

  1. Full Name - this is typically the contact's first and last name
  2. Job Title - the contact's job title - e.g. Enterprise Architect
  3. Company - the name of the company the contact works for
  4. E-mail Address - the contact's e-mail address
  5. Phone Number - the contact's phone number

If any of the above information is to be omitted, there should be an empty line with a carriage return/line feed combination in its place.  In other words, there should always be five lines of data contained within the QR Code, even if some of the information is excluded.

Here is a sample QR Code encoded using the HDC-Connect format:


If you scan the above QR Code, it will be decoded as the following text:

Joe Architect
Enterprise Architect
Super Systems Design
(800) 555-1212

Each of the five lines of data in this QR Code correspond to the five fields described above.


The HDC-Connect format was designed for badges printed for conference attendees. The HDC-Connect code would typically appear on the back of the badge. The badge can be quickly scanned to obtain a conference attendee's contact information. Typical scenarios include conference vendors scanning attendee information as they visit vendor booths. Attendees may also elect to scan another attendee's badge as a quick way to gather contact information as they network during the event.  Depending upon the application being used to scan the QR Code, you may be able to quickly add the information directly as a contact on the mobile device.


Most applications that can scan a QR Code can interpret the HDC-Connect format. For example, Bing Vision on Windows Phone is capable of scanning the HDC-Connect format and displaying it in a typical contact card format. As mentioned above, we are also working on a set of mobile applications to scan QR Codes encoded using the HDC-Connect format.


The use of the HDC-Connect format is free of any license.


The HDC-Connect format as described above was really built for our own needs.  However, it is easy to see that the format may be useful to other applications and uses outside of what we intend to use it for (e.g. conference badges).  If you end up using the QR-Code format in your applications, please let us know.  We’d love to hear about it.

Visual Studio 2012 Available August 15th + Windows 8

Today Microsoft announced that the final build of Visual Studio 2012 has been completed.  The final bits will be available for download from MSDN and “elsewhere” on August 15th.  The official launch will be on September 12th via an on-line event.  You can find out more about the launch event here: http://www.visualstudiolaunch.com/

Also from Microsoft, today they announced the release to manufacturing (RTM) of Windows 8.  Windows 8 will be generally available on new machines as well as on-line on October 26th.  For more information about Windows 8 visit the Building Windows 8 blog.

20 June 2012

Highlights of the Windows Phone Summit

Today, Microsoft held their first ever Windows Phone Summit.  Although the event lasted only two hours, there was quite a bit of information provided, lots of questions answered, and several questions still left to be answered.  Below are some of highlights of the event (in no particular order):

  • Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 will both utilize a Shared Windows Core
  • Device drivers can be built once to support Windows 8 as well as Windows Phone 8
  • Support for multi-core chipsets
  • A total of three screen resolutions to be supported:
    • 800x400 (current resolution for Windows Phone 7.x)
    • 1280x768
    • 1280x720
  • Support for (removable) MicroSD cards (can be used for photos, music, videos, apps)
  • Internet Explorer 10 – includes SmartScreen anti-phishing filter (same as in Windows 8) as well as improvements to JavaScript and HTML5 performance
  • Native code support for game development
  • NFC support including “Tap-to-Share”
  • New Wallet Hub with support for credit and debit cards, loyalty and membership cards, and coupons.  Can utilize NFC capabilities for “Tap-to-Pay”.
  • Nokia maps – all Windows Phone 8 devices will include Nokia map technology (not just the Nokia devices)
  • Enterprise features such as:
    • Trusted Shared Windows Core
    • Encryption and Secure Boot
    • Line-of-Business app deployment
    • Device management
    • Familiar Office apps
  • New and improved Start Screen – can now resize tiles to one of three sizes (small, medium, and large).  Can have up to four (small) tiles running horizontally across the Start Screen.  The tiles still retain their “live” feature regardless of size.
  • Support for IPv6
  • Improved Bluetooth support (details not announced)
  • Native support for Voice over IP (VoIP) and Video Chat – integrated into the standard phone experience (i.e. you can receive a Skype call just as you would any other call)
  • DataSmart feature allowing to you better manage your data usage
  • Developer SDK will be released later this summer
  • Visual Studio 2012 will support development for Windows Phone 7.5, 7.8, and 8
  • Windows Phone 7.5 apps will run on Windows Phone 8.  They will be compiled “in the cloud” automatically by Microsoft as they are published to the Windows Phone Marketplace.  Existing apps will be compiled as well.
  • Windows Phone 8 will not be provided for existing (Windows Phone 7.x) devices.  However, a Windows Phone 7.8 release will be made available that provides the new Start Screen experience.
  • Audible app due in the Windows Phone Marketplace later today
  • Location apps can run in background (e.g. turn-by-turn instructions will continue to announce instructions, even if another app is running in the foreground)
  • SQLite has been ported to run on Windows 8 RT and will also run on Windows Phone 8
  • Introduced support by various game technology providers such as:

I have no doubt left out a few details covered during the summit but you can get all the details yourself by watching the recorded presentation currently available here (I’ll update this link if the video is moved).

I look forward to seeing what else has yet to be announced for Windows Phone 8.

14 June 2012

Visual Studio 2012 / TFS 2012 Links

If you’ve been following the progress of Visual Studio 2012 closely chances are you’ve already downloaded the recently released Release Candidate.  If not, then I’ve provided a handy list of links below to get you started.  I’ve also included some handy reference and guidance links as well.

Visual Studio 2012 Release Candidate

.NET Framework

Team Foundation Server 2012

Team Foundation Service

This is not a download but I’m including it anyway since it’s another offering in the works by Microsoft related to TFS.  If you are not familiar with the Team Foundation Service it is essentially “TFS in the Cloud” (in simplistic terms – you can read more about it here).  To sign up for a free preview account, visit the TFS Preview site.


Getting Help - To help with any questions you might have, please refer to the following:

  • MSDN Forums - get answers to your questions from the community

Providing Feedback - To provide feedback (bugs, suggestions, etc.) for any of the Visual Studio 2012 RC products, utilize the corresponding Microsoft Connect site:

Reference & Guidance

11 June 2012

TFS Preview Updated; No Longer Requires Invite

If you’ve been wanting a chance to try out Microsoft’s Team Foundation Service (formerly known as TFS on Azure) but haven’t been able to obtain one of the coveted invitation codes then wait no longer!  Microsoft has officially removed the invitation requirement and has opened up their TFS Preview site to the masses.  You can now create your very own TFS projects in the cloud!

If you’re not familiar with Microsoft’s TFS Service, it is essentially a subset of the “TFS on Premises” features (in some cases, a superset) made available in the cloud.  Some of the features provided within the Team Foundation Service include:

  • Accessible via a web browser, various Visual Studio SKUs, and the Eclipse IDE
  • Version control
  • Continuous builds
  • Agile planning
    • PBIs
    • Tasks
    • Task board (one of my personal favorites))
    • Etc.
  • Ability to run automated tests
  • Continuous deployment to Azure
  • More…

With all these features, it’s important to note that there are some features (available in the “on premises” version) that are currently not included with the Team Foundation Service:

  • SharePoint integration – Brian Harry has commented that Office 365 integration is on the backlog but has not made available any dates (reference comments at this link)
  • Reporting services
  • Continuous build support for Windows Phone projects (note: a workaround is to utilize a local build server for Windows Phone client builds.  It is likely Windows Phone will be supported at some point in the future)

Although pricing for the Team Foundation Service (once it officially leaves the “preview” stage) has not yet been announced.  However, Microsoft has announced that they will continue to provide a free version of the Team Foundation Service at some level (not yet announced):


There is a lot of information available on the TFS Preview site under the “LEARN” tab (notice the “ALL UPPER CASING” ;-)).  It is the perfect place to familiarize yourself with the extensive features of this service.

It has been fun to see this service grow over the past months and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

31 May 2012

Visual Studio 2012/TFS 2012 RC Released

imageThe Visual Studio 2102 (formerly Visual Studio "11") Release Candidate (RC) and Team Foundation Server 2012 RC has been released by Microsoft.  The downloads are available now on the MSDN Subscribers Download site and I would expect the downloads to be available on the usual non-subscriber sites soon.

Check out this post from Brian Harry for a quick run down on some of the details.

Here are some other useful links from the above post:

I’ll cover more of the details once I’ve had a chance to install the bits.

08 May 2012

Visual Studio 11 UI Changes Coming…

When Visual Studio 11 Beta was released a few months back there were some drastic changes to the overall user interface (UI) within Visual Studio.  Namely, the UI was pretty much devoid of all color (short of various shades of gray).  Needless to say there was a tremendous amount of feedback provided to Microsoft pleading for a little color in their beloved IDE (as well as fewer ALL CAPS VERBIAGE).

Well, as it turns out, Microsoft has listened to the feedback and have posted some screenshots of the upcoming Visual Studio Release Candidate (RC) release which shows that some color has been added back into the UI.

Here are a few of the screenshots:

Visual Studio 11 RC

There is now less text with ALL CAPS VERBIAGE (although the main menu items are still in ALL CAPS):

Visual Studio 11

The Visual Studio status bar now utilizes color to indicate various states (e.g. Ready, Development, Building, and Debug modes):

Visual Studio 11

You can get all the details on the Visual Studio Blog, here.  I am personally looking forward to the RC release as I have liked what I’ve seen so far.

26 April 2012

Team Foundation Service Status

If you are a regular user of the “preview” version of Microsoft’s new Team Foundation Service – a.k.a. “TFSPreview”, then you’re probably aware that the service is currently down for maintenance.  This maintenance outage may have come as a surprise to many of you (it did to me) because there is currently no built-in mechanism to notify users of planned outages.  I would suspect that something will be added in the future to ease this pain.  However, in the meantime, here are a few tips that I have seen over the past hour that you can use now to help keep up to date with TFSPreview maintenance.

11 April 2012

Team Foundation Service Whitepaper in Beta

Visual Studio 11 ALM Rangers Readiness Beta “Wave”The Visual Studio ALM Rangers have shipped another deliverable as part of the ALM Rangers Visual Studio 11 Readiness “Gig” Project – the Team Foundation Service Preview whitepaper.

If you have been following the various developments of Visual Studio 11 and Team Foundation Server 11 then you are already aware that Microsoft now offers a cloud-based solution for TFS – currently referred to as the Team Foundation Service Preview.  Many of the features that are currently available in the “on-premises” version of TFS are also available in the cloud-based version (conversely, there are also some features in the cloud-based version that do not exist in the on-premises version).  Rather than getting into the details of what’s included in the Team Foundation Service, I recommend checking out the newly release Team Foundation Service whitepaper (click here then click on the “ALM Rangers – Visual Studio Team Foundation Service.pdf” link).

The current table of contents include the following topics:

  • The Dogfooding Environment at a Glance
  • The good, the bad, and the ugly as experienced by ALM Rangers
    • Context
    • What is the ease of acquisition and deployment of Team Foundation Service?
    • How is a distributed work model with multiple companies or remote workers enabled?
    • How is "work from anywhere" enabled?
    • How are ongoing improvements delivered to Team Foundation Service?
    • How does Team Foundation Service handle Identity Management?
    • How should administration of Team Foundation Service be handled in the Enterprise?
    • Why should Team Foundation Service be positioned as a "Centralized Service Delivery" in the Enterprise?
    • When should you choose between Team Foundation Service and On-Premise Deployment of Team
    • Foundation Server?
  • References

If you have questions about the Team Foundation Service then this document proves to be a great source of information.

For more information, refer to this post on the Visual Studio ALM + Team Foundation Server Blog.

04 April 2012

TFS 11 Power Tools Beta Released

A beta release of the TFS 11 Power Tools has been released.  This release can run side-by-side with the TFS 2010 Power Tools (with some caveats – see below).

The features included with this release are:

TFS 11 Power Tools

  • Team Foundation Power Tool Command Line (tfpt.exe)
  • Team Explorer Enhancements
  • Windows Shell Extensions (*note: depending on which versions of the TFS Power Tools you install (e.g. TFS 2010 or TFS 11 Beta) the last one installed wins – i.e. you can’t have Windows Shell Extensions for both versions)
  • Process Template Editor
  • Test Attachment Cleaner
  • Best Practices Analyzer
  • TFS PowerShell Commands

Build Extensions – provides the ability to execute Ant or Maven 2 builds from Team Foundation Server 11 Beta and publish the results of the build along with any associated JUnit test results back to Team Foundation Server.

MSSCCI (32-bit) & MSSCCI (64-bit) - enables integrated use of Team Foundation Version Control with products that do not support Team Explorer integration.

There are a few known issues which Brian Harry has documented in this blog post.

09 March 2012

Team Explorer Everywhere (and more) Now Free!

Visual Studio 2010 Team Explorer Everywhere is Microsoft’s Team Explorer client for Eclipse-based environments.  Here is the official description:

Visual Studio Team Explorer Everywhere 2010 helps .NET and Java development teams collaborate across platforms. It provides the tools and plug-ins you need to access Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 from within Eclipse-based environments, so everyone can work together to achieve business goals.

Up until yesterday, Team Explorer Everywhere was sold as a separate product.  It is now available as a free download.  Keep in mind that although Team Explorer Everywhere is now free, you will still need a Team Foundation Server CAL.  See Visual Studio 2010 and MSDN Licensing for details.

There has also been some changes to how TFS Reporting and accessing TFS from within Microsoft System Center Operations Manager is licensed (i.e. now free).

Check out Brian Harry’s blog for the official announcement and more details.

01 March 2012

Windows 8 Beta and Visual Studio 11 Beta Quick Links

If you haven't yet downloaded the Windows 8 Beta or Visual Studio 11 Beta, a list of links are provided below for convenience.  If there is anything missing (from the February 29th beta wave release), please leave a comment below and we'll get it added to the list.

Windows 8

Visual Studio 11 Beta

Download - this link works for the following product downloads:


  • .NET Framework 4.5 Beta

Visual Studio

  • Visual Studio 11 Ultimate Beta
  • Visual Studio 11 Premium Beta
  • Visual Studio 11 Professional Beta
  • Visual Studio 11 Test Professional Beta
  • Visual Studio 11 Express Beta for Web
  • Visual Studio 11 Express Beta for Windows 8
  • IntelliTrace Collector for Visual Studio 11 Beta
  • Agents for Visual Studio 11 Beta
  • Feedback Client for Visual Studio 11 Beta
  • Remote Tools for Visual Studio 11 Beta
  • Visual Studio 11 Beta Shell
  • Visual Studio 11 Beta SDK

Team Foundation Server

  • Team Foundation Server Beta
  • Team Foundation Server Express Beta
  • Team Explorer Beta
  • Team Explorer Everywhere Beta

Getting Help - To help with any questions you might have, please refer to the following:

Providing Feedback - To provide feedback (bugs, suggestions, etc.) for any of the Visual Studio 11 Beta products, utilize the corresponding Connect site:

27 February 2012

Useful Tools from MVP2MVP Day

Although the 2012 MVP Global Summit officially kicks off tomorrow, there were still plenty of Microsoft MVPs around today for various pre-sessions.  In my case, I joined the other Visual Studio ALM MVPs present for this year’s MVP2MVP day – a day where Visual Studio ALM MVPs are given 20 minutes to get up and present on various tips, tricks, neat projects, etc. to the rest of the group with the goal of sharing knowledge and learning new things.  There was a lot of useful information at this year’s MVP2MVP day so I thought I’d share a few of the tools that were brought up today (in no particular order).

  • DemoMate – this is a neat utility that allows you to build automated presentations (so to speak).  For example, you can build click-through demos, guided tutorials, etc.  The final results can be published in varying formats (including the web).  You can find out more here or watch a demo here.

  • Snoop – Snoop is a WPF spy utility that allows you to “spy/browse the visual tree and change properties... amongst other things.”  Snoop was utilized during one of today’s demos to provide enhanced features for Coded UI Tests (i.e. provide the ability to inspect properties of objects not normally exposed).

  • TFS Event Workflows – TFS Event Workflows allow you to define workflows based on Microsoft’s Workflow foundation which then will be executed on specific events triggered by your Team Foundation Server.  This is very helpful to implement scenarios like:
    • Aggregate status and/or efforts over your work item hierarchy
    • Trigger deployment when you change the Build Quality of a build
    • Implement advanced notification scenarios which cannot be achieved by TFS Alerts
    • Change status of a work item based on different rules (e.g. set to “In Progress” if the Assigned To field is filled)
    • Fill work item fields based on calculations or other complex operations you cannot build with work item rules
    • Trigger synchronization with external systems if a work item has been changed
    • Etc.

  • TFS Tools Suite – Fellow MVP, Neno Loje, demonstrated a suite of command-line utilities developed to aid in all sorts of situations for TFS.  Some of the utilities include:
    • PingTFS – used to ping a TFS server to determine if it is up and running
    • TfsExport – downloads files from TFS version control and sets the file’s last access timestamp to the file's last check-in date/time
    • TfsRefreshWarehouse – used to refresh the TFS Warehouse, Cube and Reports on demand
    • TfsSyncIdentities – forces TFS to sync with Active Directory
    • TfsWarehouseController – used to change the update frequency of the TFS warehouse/cube
    • Lots of others… to see the full list of utilities, check out this post

  • git-tfs - git-tfs is a two-way bridge between TFS and git, similar to git-svn.  If you prefer using a “git-like” command-line interface or are looking for a DVCS solution that will work with Team Foundation Server, then you will want to check this tool out.  Take a look at this blog post to get some great information on how to get started.

  • TeamCompanion – this is a commercial (i.e. non-free) utility that provides the ability to interact with Team Foundation Server from within Microsoft Outlook.  TeamCompanion “…empowers various project stakeholders, particularly business ones, to work on TFS based projects, using the one tool they use for the most of their daily tasks.”

There was a lot more information covered today than is listed here but these are some of the highlights.  If you have a favorite TFS-related utility feel free to list it in the comments section.

24 February 2012

Comparing Visual Studio 2010 and Visual Studio 11 Beta Editions

Yesterday, Microsoft announced that the Visual Studio 11 Beta would be available on February 29th.  I expect there to be a lot of information coming out over the next few weeks (and months) covering the various features in the updated tools.

If you are curious about what’s included in each of the Visual Studio 11 beta editions, then take a look at the Visual Studio 11 Features Chart provided by Microsoft:


If you would like to compare the above features with Visual Studio 2010, then check out the Visual Studio 2010 Comparison chart:


The following list summarizes most of the differences between the 2010 and Beta editions (it’s not a complete comparison).  Keep in mind that Visual Studio 11 is still in beta so the features could potentially move around a bit by the time the final version ships:

  • Debugging and Diagnostics
    • New in VS 11: IntelliTrace in Production
    • New in VS 11: Graphics Debugging
    • New in VS 11: Advanced Web Debugging
    • Modified: Static Code Analysis now available for Professional SKU
    • New in VS 11: Windows 8 Metro Style Simulator
    • Modified: Profiling now available for Professional SKU
    • New in VS 11: Windows Phone 7 Emulator (available as add-on in VS 2010)
  • Testing Tools
    • Modified: Manual Testing is now available for Premium SKU
    • New in VS 11: Exploratory Testing
    • Modified: Test Case Management is now available for Premium SKU
    • Modified: Fast Forward for Manual Testing is now available for Premium SKU
    • Modified: Lab Management is now available for Premium SKU
    • New in VS 11: Extensible Testing Framework
  • Integrated Development Environment
    • New in VS 11: Code Clone
    • New in VS 11: LightSwitch
    • New in VS 11: Model Resource Viewer
    • New in VS 11: Blend for Visual Studio
    • New in VS 11: Project & Solution Compatibility with Visual Studio 2010 SP1
  • Database Development
    • Not currently document for Visual Studio 11 Beta
  • Development Platform Support
    • New in VS 11: Windows Metro style Application (including ARM) Development
  • Architecture and Modeling
    • New in VS 11: Progressive Reveal & Standard Graphs
    • Modified: Read-Only Diagrams (UML, Layer, and DGML Graphs) is now available for Professional SKU
  • Lab Management
    • Modified: Virtual Environment Setup & Tear Down is now available for Premium SKU
    • Modified: Provision Environment for Template is now available for Premium SKU
    • Modified: Checkpoint Environment is now available for Premium SKU
  • Team Foundation Server
    • New in VS 11: Backlog Management
    • New in VS 11: Sprint Planning
    • New in VS 11: Agile Task boards
    • New in VS 11: Exception Analytics
    • New in VS 11: Project & Server integration
    • New in VS 11: System Center Integration
  • Collaboration
    • New in VS 11: PowerPoint Storyboarding
    • New in VS 11: Feedback Manager
    • New in VS 11: Code Review
    • New in VS 11: Task Suspend/Resume

23 February 2012

Visual Studio/TFS 11 Beta Coming Next Week

It has been roughly five months since Microsoft released a Developer Preview version of Visual Studio 11 along with the Developer Preview of Windows 8.  Today, Microsoft has announced that they will be releasing the beta version of Visual Studio 11, as well as the .NET Framework 4.5, next week on February 29th (the same day the Windows 8 Consumer Preview – a.k.a. beta is to be released).

Some of the quick highlights include:

  • TFS Express.  With the release of TFS 11, there will be a new “TFS Express” SKU that will be free for 1 to 5 users.  TFS Express has some limitations (e.g. no SharePoint or SQL Server Reporting Services integration) but getting the features of TFS for FREE is a huge win for small teams.

  • Visual Studio Express & TFS – going along with the above announcement, the Visual Studio 11 Express SKU will be updated to include support for TFS (i.e. the Team Explorer client can be utilized from within Visual Studio 11 Express).  Another huge win for small teams.

  • A more “Metro-fied” Visual Studio IDE – although I am not sure Microsoft would officially call the new Visual Studio 11 IDE a “Metro” application, you can definitely see the similarities between the two.  For example, the colors within the IDE (with the exception of the code/text editor) have been modified to a more monochromatic set of (light or dark) themes (the colors can still be modified based on your personal taste).  The various icons have also been replaced with “glyphs” – basically “flattened” versions of icons that have a very Metro feel to them.  Microsoft has also spent a lot of effort reducing less-used toolbar items as well as simplifying the lines used within the various dialogs.  Overall, the new IDE looks quite a bit different and I’m not sure yet if I will like it or not.  However, I am anxious to find out.  Here is an example screenshot using the light theme:

  • Go Live License – the beta release includes a Go Live license allowing you to use the beta tools within a production environment, if desired.

The above highlights don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what’s included in Visual Studio 11/TFS 11.  Expect a lot more information regarding the beta release to become available over the coming weeks.  For now, you can view the following posts for more details:

18 January 2012

Visual Studio Achievements–Nice Idea, But…

Today, on The Official Microsoft Blog, Karsten (of Channel 9) posted about achievements being brought to Visual StudioVisual Studio Achievements (beta) is a Visual Studio add-in enabling developers to unlock various badges as they do what they do everyday – write code in Visual Studio.  There are currently 32 achievements, across six categories, waiting to be unlocked.  The categories include:
  • Customizing Visual Studio
  • Don’t Try This At Home
  • Good Housekeeping
  • Just For Fun
  • Power Coder
  • Unleashing Visual Studio
You can read the full list of achievements here.

As you unlock various achievements, you will earn points and your progress will be tracked the Channel 9 achievements leaderboard site.  You can tweet about your achievements and share them on Facebook, if you like.  There is also a Visual Studio Achievements widget that you can make use of to show off your achievements on your own blog.

While this is an interesting idea, it is not a new one.  In fact, the Channel 9 team at Microsoft was inspired by this post from Rudi on the While True blog and the subsequent discussion on Reddit.

All of this is done in the name of gamifying your development tasks.  While I enjoy (most) games as much as the next person, I am not sure this is the approach I would have taken with this add-in.  I suppose what I might have done differently is to build a set of achievements that more accurately measure your coding/Visual Studio skills and improvements to those skills over time.  While some of the current achievements appear to sway you toward learning various Visual Studio capabilities and features (e.g. the Stubby achievement for generating a method stub nine times) others seem to be counter-productive (e.g. having 50 projects in a solution).

If I were to champion an add-in like this at my place of employment, I’d rather see a list of achievements something like the following:
  • Implements the SOLID principles in at least 5 solutions.
  • Implements a well-known UI pattern in at least 5 solutions (e.g. MVP, MVC, MVVM, Presenter First, etc.).
  • Creates a Layer Diagram in Visual Studio to enforce patterns (such as those listed above) in at least 5 solutions.
  • Creates a Single-File Generator (Custom Tool) in Visual Studio to auto-generate code to solve a specific problem.
  • Masters Visual Studio keyboard shortcuts by utilizing shortcut keys x number of times within a certain timespan.
  • Implements Code Analysis in at least 5 solutions.
  • Building on the above, keeping Code Analysis warnings consistently near zero.
  • Writes unit tests and consistently keeps code coverage near 100%.
  • Following some form of well-known coding standards (e.g. .NET naming conventions).
  • Etc.
The above list could go on and on but the general idea is that the achievements would be more geared toward actually measuring how well one utilizes Visual Studio and how well they practice “good” engineering principles.

Now with all that said, I am not taking anything away from what the Channel 9 team has created.  The Visual Studio Achievements can definitely add a new dimension of fun to the everyday task of writing code.  If you want to have a little fun with your code development, then this add-in appears to handle this goal nicely.  If, however, you are looking for something a little more serious, then you will probably need to look elsewhere and/or come up with something on your own.

Maybe the Visual Studio Achievements add-in will provide an extensibility API and anyone can create any types of achievements they like (presumably posted to another leaderboard)?  Since this is a beta release, maybe they are planning on adding more “serious” achievements to future releases?  Whatever the case, nice job Channel 9!