Building a Windows Azure Boot Camp (Training) Resource Kit

Before joining Microsoft, I used to run a local user group (monthly), a geeky social hour (weekly) and you’d often find me doing some (free-as-in-beer) public training sessions on Windows Azure. One of the hardest things about running an event is needing to rely on the internet connection of whatever space you could find to host your event. No matter how well you plan, unleashing hundreds of geeks on a WiFi connection at a venue is bound to cause some issues.

One important part of an organizers tool belt is providing an offline install option for those attendees who filled out their contact details with an auto-form tool and didn’t read your carefully crafted prerequisites list. Making one of these handy resources isn’t very straight forward, so I thought I would help out anyone looking to host an event.

If you’d like to host or attend an event, keep an eye out for the Global Windows Azure Boot Camp.

Recently, we’ve been making some changes to how we deliver the Windows Azure Training Kit, Web Camps Training Kit, Data Camps Training Kit & Enterprise Developer Training Kit. This is done through the Web Platform Installer which provides an excellent way to configure IIS and download tools & frameworks. This will allow us to provide dependencies for the training kits alongside the content making it easier to ensure your machine is configured to be able to use the content. This blog post will act as an interim step to providing alongside dependencies, but will also be useful after the point we include the dependencies as part of the training kit install.

Make a WebPI Offline Package

First you will need to create an offline backup of the contents required for your boot camp. This is easily done by using the WebPICmd.exe tool which is included in the Web Platform Installer installation directory. The /offline switch will download the installer files and required metadata for the /Products to the specified /path.

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Offline Install Flavours

I’ve created a few scripts that will help attendees install the tools that they need. Here is a list of the offline installation scripts which will help attendees install the required tools.

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The total size of this package is approximately 2GB (a perfect use for those USB keys you collect from conferences).

Changing the Training Kit Install Directory

Warning If you plan on updating the Install Directory of the Windows Azure Training Kit, be sure to copy the USB key to your local drive before making any modifications.

I’ve heard a lot of feedback around customizing the install directory of the Training Kit. This can be achieved by updating the offline product list found at feeds\latest\WebProductsList.xml after running OfflineMaster.cmd. We use the %HomeDrive% environment variable to select an install location, simply replace %HomeDrive% with a specific location to customize the install directory.

Clearing the WebPI Caching

Sometimes it’s necessary to clear the WebPI cache, so I’ve made a simple PowerShell script to help clear the cache automatically.

Note: It’s only necessary to clear the WebPI cache if for some reason you are not getting refreshed content that you know is available.

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