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.

Windows AzureConf is Tomorrow!

Windows AzureConf

Three years ago, I began learning about this thing called “The Cloud” at that point in time I made a decision, much like I made as a teenager to get into Web Development in the first place. The thought that lead me down this career path was “Huh, this web thing is really going to take off, I need to be a part of it.” When I heard about Cloud Computing a similar thought ran through my mind, “Wow, this cloud thing is really cool, this is definitely the way of the future.

A year into working with Windows Azure, I urged other developers to start researching the cloud [Get Started for Free] as it was still early enough to be ahead of the curve and set themselves out from the rest. Enter Windows AzureConf.

I cannot say for certain if I influenced any of these individuals in particular , but what I can say is they have also identified that the Cloud was future. Featuring a Keynote from Scott Guthrie (The Gu) as well as presentations from the Windows Azure Community drawing from their own Real-World experience with Windows Azure.

Join us for Windows AzureConf

In June we launched a number of additional features and services in to Windows Azure’s offerings, since then we have added a great deal more as highlighted in Satya Nadella’s Day 2 Keynote Address at Build.

What will be covered at Windows AzureConf

Windows AzureConf will cover a wide variety of topics including:

  • HTML5
  • WebSockets
  • Windows Azure Media Services
  • Deployment
  • Keeping Costs low
  • SignalR
  • Windows Azure Mobile Services
  • Continuous Delivery
  • Building Cloud-Scale Applications
  • Node.js
  • Compliance
  • Messaging Architectures

How can I get started?

There are a number of ways to get started with Windows Azure including the Windows Azure Training Kit, tutorials on WindowsAzure.com and of course reading the blogs of our community members:

Speaker Name Twitter Blog
Andy Cross @AndyBareWeb blog.elastacloud.com
Sasha Goldshtein @goldshtn blog.sashag.net
Rick Garibay @rickggaribay rickgaribay.net
Mihai Tataran @mihai_tataran www.avaelgo.ro
Eric Boyd @ericdboyd www.ericdboyd.com
Panagiotis Kefalidis @pkefal www.kefalidis.me
Michael Collier @MichaelCollier www.MichaelSCollier.com
Magnus Martensson @noopman magnusmartensson.com

Find more great Windows Azure Community Members on the MVP Site.

Back and Better than Ever. Oooo Shiny!

Cory Fowler | Microsoft | Windows Azure Technical Evangelist It’s been a little while since I’ve blogged so before I get back into the swing of things, I want to take a step back to reflect a few recent changes.

In April 2012, I joined Microsoft Corporation as a Windows Azure Technical Evangelist.

As a part of joining Microsoft, I had to relinquish my title of Windows Azure MVP. Even though it was difficult to swallow, I keep in mind that I was at the forefront of Windows Azure, an inaugural member of the Windows Azure MVP program, as well as Canada’s first [and for the longest time only] Windows Azure MVP. These thoughts are what continues to drive me to provide some great content around Windows Azure.

My role at Microsoft is focused around bringing new communities to Windows Azure focusing primarily on Open Source Technologies.

I’ve been meaning to migrate my blog to WordPress for quite some time, it just seemed much more fitting now that I can not only use WordPress as my primary blog engine, but I am able to host it on Windows Azure using one of the new features introduced in the spring preview rightfully named Windows Azure Web Sites.

Thanks for visiting my new blog and look forward to seeing some great content continue to flow on the subject of Windows Azure.

Happy Clouding!

Using the Cloud to Study for the Cloud

Windows Azure Certified…

This morning [Saturday December 3, 2011] I woke up early to start my venture to write my Windows Azure Certification Exam.

The first road block to this experience was attempting to find a test center that is open on Weekends. As a consultant it is hard to take time off during a project to actually book your exam. Luckily, I have a good friend Mitch Garvis who encouraged me down the path of Microsoft Certification, who graciously helped me find a Prometrics test center which opened on weekends.

The second issue was finding the time (or ability to study). For the past few months I have been working in Ottawa which is approximately 500kms away from Toronto. Often my weekends are filled with travelling in which provides an unbearable amount of downtime which I had to attempt to minimize to be able to get the needed amount of time to prepare for the exam.

How I got it done…

In order to minimize my downtime while waiting in line at Airport Security, the short time waiting for my flight, and while in Air travelling I knew that I would have to decrease the size of my study tools.

My arsenal of Devices:

  • Dell Precision M6500 – 17” Portable Workstation (Notice I didn’t say Laptop, it’s HUGE)
  • Amazon Kindle DX – 9” Portable E-Reader
  • Samsung Focus – 4” Super AMOLED Display

Knowing I had the most amount of time to study while I was mobile I needed to opt for a portable solution. This quickly removed my Dell Laptop from the mix (although, not completely). When studying for an Exam you need a few main pieces of equipment:

  • An Internet Connection (Trust, but Verify)
  • Easy Input Device (Physical Keyboard > On-Screen Keyboard)
  • Some screen real estate.

With these limitation in mind I looked for a way to provide myself with content with a large display area, but make it viewable on a smaller display.

Enter Microsoft OneNote

OneNote is an amazing tool. If you don’t use it, learn it! Essentially, It’s a FiveStar Notebook on steroids. OneNote has a feature to “Save to the Web” which saves your notebook to Office WebApps which is an extension of the Office Applications made available as a Service (for free) online. The documents are stored in SkyDrive which is also a free service Microsoft Offers which gives you 25GB of storage in the Cloud.

Once the Notebook is created, it continuously synchronizes with SkyDrive as you fill the notebook with content. This is nice, as you don’t need to hit save, it’s all done automatically for you and makes it easy to add things on the run as you don’t get prompted to save when you’re trying to run off and catch your flight. Speaking of which.. off to my next one!

Just before jumping on my flight, I pull out my Windows Phone and open the Office App, click on the Notebooks App button and begin to Sync my Windows Azure Studying notebook to my phone.

After the was complete it was time to turn on Airplane mode and power down my device for take off. Once we reached cruising altitude I powered up my device and read my notes that I synced to my Phone from the Cloud.

Go write the exam!

Before you think you can tackle this exam on your own, remember I have had at least 2 years of experience using Windows Azure. There were still a few sections that I needed to brush up on before feeling comfortable enough to take the exam.

Go to the Microsoft Learning page for Exam 70-583, to see the Skills Measured for this exam.

Good Luck!

Join me at SDEC 2011 in Winnipeg

If you’re going to be around Winnipeg between October 17-19, why not join me at the Software Development and Evolution Conference? [Register Today]

I’ll be giving two talks both, surprise surprise, on Windows Azure and Cloud Computing.

Windows Azure Sessions at SDEC 2011

The 7 Deadly Sins of Cloud Development

Are you a sinner, a saint, or a lost soul in your journey to the clouds? Come identify potential sins in your current/future cloud deployment, and discover ways to repent. In this session we will look at tools, code and architectural decisions that will lead you on the right path heading into the cloud.

Azure Deep Dive – Migrate an Application to Windows Azure

This is a hands on event so be sure to BRING YOUR LAPTOP loaded with the pre-requisite software below. Take an existing application and prepare it for the cloud. During this Dojo you’ll be able to register for your very own Windows Azure Account, or use one of the limited time accounts provided. Then take a guided tour to moving an existing application (provided) modify it so it’s "cloud ready", then deploy the application to Windows Azure. Required pre-requisite software:

  1. Visual Studio 2010
  2. SQL Server Management Studio 2008 R2
  3. Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio 2010
  4. Windows Identity Foundation
    1.  Windows Identity Foundation SDK

[Or setup an Ultimate Windows Azure Development Environment]

Cloud Startup Challenge [Powered By Microsoft]

cloud-startup-challengeA few weeks ago, I was involved with a Cloud Startup Challenge at Microsoft Canada Meadowvale Campus. The Cloud Startup Challenge invited Startups from across Canada to submit their Business Plan. Out of the 500 Entries, only 5 companies were selected to participate. My role in the Cloud Startup Challenge was a Cloud Mentor. My responsibility as a Cloud Mentor was to help any of the Startups get their application up and running on Windows Azure.

The Participants

Presentation: Windows Azure for Startups

Cloud Startup Challenge Outcome

The winner of the Cloud Startup Challenge was YourVirtualButler.com. YourVirtualButler is a Service which organizes Co-Work Spaces [like my friends at threefortynine* in Guelph]. This Software as a Service [SaaS] Application inventories and manages Shared-Space Environments keeping track of both the rooms available as well as equipment and refreshments.

Congrats! I look forward to seeing how YourVirtualButler takes off in the coming months.

* ThreeFortyNine is not a Client of YourVirtualButler