Posts Tagged Humor

Interview by Richard Seroter

This week I was intereviewed by my friend and fellow MVP Richard Seroter. Here is the link to the questions and answers: http://seroter.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/interview-series-four-questions-with-ben-cline/.

Thanks Richard, it was nice to be included in the monthly interview series.

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Azure: How to Check your Bill

Introduction

I have been playing with the Azure toolset lately in preparation for taking beta exam 71-583, which is the MCPD (Pro) exam on Windows Azure technologies. I had worked with these technologies on and off over the past 2 years during the early releases. One thing I have heard from many people is that they will see a bill come in somewhat unexpectedly. During the early pre-production releases everything was free so I did not worry about the charges. I signed up with the cover of my MVP MSDN subscription but I did need to enter my credit card information in case of overages. It is like a hotel – you still have to give your credit card for the mini-bar, long-distance room calls and the movies on the tv.

One thing that seems to be relatively poorly documented is how to check your bill or tab. I gave this feedback on a recent MPRP study but apparently it has not gotten through about how many in the community seem to be stunned by the charges. So I thought it would be good to do a quick post on how to check your bill in the current Azure product. While some of the screenshots seem relatively self-explanatory, you do need to choose 5 links to drill down deep enough into the account details to actually get the meaningful charges information. This really should be easier.

Walkthrough

  1. First, go to one of the Azure configuration portals, either at http://sql.azure.com, http://windows.azure.com, or http://appfabric.azure.com. If you have used the service, you should see a screen similar to the one for me below:
  2. Click on the “Billing” link in the upper right hand portion of the screen under your Windows Live Id.
  3. The next page displayed will be https://mocp.microsoftonline.com/site/default.aspx, which you could alternately go to directly. You will then need to authenticate again. After authenticating with your Windows Live ID the site will be shown similar to the picture below:
  4. So the next thing to do is to click on “View My Bills”. Again, this seems obvious but this is the only entry point I have found into this important report. A pop up window will open. The popup will load a list of your bills as shown for me below:
  5. Next you click on View Online Bill/Invoice. This will bring back an itemized list of your current charges. You can see my bill below. I have been using some of the Azure services but it is covered up to a point by my MSDN benefits:
  6. Finally you have to click on the links like AppFabrc Usage Charges, Data Transfer Usage Charges, or SQL Azure Usage Charges to get the real statistical information about how much you owe. For MSDN subscribers, this is where you check how many minutes you have left in your plan :). Below I show my charges for the data transfer:
  7. I tried taking the URL for this report and copying it out to a different browser session but was unsuccessful. I wish it were easier to see the expected charges or maybe get a text if I were about to be charged actual money. I wonder if there is a cloudapp for that.

Good luck managing your cloud accounts! Thanks,

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SharePoint 2010 Sneak Peek and Office 2010 TP

I just learned about the MOSS 2010 sneak peek site (http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/2010/Sneak_Peek/Pages/default.aspx), which shows some very cool screenshots of the upcoming version of SharePoint. There are a couple important points about this release which are exciting from a connected systems perspective.
 
The Business Data Catalog (BDC) definition designer that came with the Office Server SDK is getting a facelift and some updates. The BDC functionality is now called Business Connectivity Services (BCS). If you worked with the BDC in MOSS 2007, you probably know that you could not use WCF bindings other than basicHttp to interact with web services or other services with the BDC. I am speculating, but I would anticipate that BCS will include more WCF functionality than just the basicHttp binding. We will see in a few months.
 
I have used the Microsoft tool and the BDC Meta man tool and consider both to be helpful but fairly limited. There were various ways to encounter issues with the Microsoft tool so I am hopeful this latest release will provide some fixes and a better developer experience. The sneak peek screenshots also show using the tool from within Visual Studio rather than as a separate tool. This means that the new tool will be used with some out-of-the-box SharePoint extensions. The sneak peak also discusses a new designer experience as well. These improvements are significant and provide SharePoint lifecycle benefits for BDC projects.
 
The additional Linq to SharePoint feature extension will be a nice feature as well. The designer screenshots for the BCS tool which is described as being for BCS for entities looks very similar to the LINQ to SQL designer so I would anticipate that the future vision of BCS entities is to provide a richer experience for interacting with the BCS entities like with the ADO.NET entity framework. Previously through the BDC the way to interact with the entities was not on a code level and required web parts or list interactions post deployment. It will be exciting to see how far the LINQ to SharePoint API extends and how much of it applies to BCS entities.
 
Also, the Office 2010 technical preview has been released. I installed all of it (except Visio) on a Windows Server 2008 R1 box successfully. Unforunately, Visio encountered an error so I was not able to install it. In my experience, SharePoint designer does not work on MOSS 2007 sites, although SharePoint Workspace (new name for Groove), does work on MOSS 2007 document libraries. Overall, the graphics are a nice upgrade to Office and I am enjoying the new functionality. 🙂
 
I also like the new feedback components of the Office 2010 TP, and I thought it would be funny to post on these. After installing Office 2010, you get 2 new icons on the tray, a smiley and a frowny and you can click on each to report feedback experience, as apporpriate. Each one takes a screenshot so you can quickly and easily report screenshots. Here is a picture with the funny faces in the tray:
 
 
Try out the Office TP if you have time and be watching for the SharePoint 2010 release coming up soon!
 
Thanks,
 

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Certifications in Reverse

Over the past week I have taken and passed two certification exams, 70-503: WCF, and 70-529: Distributed Application Development. Rather than take the exams in the .NET framework version order of 70-529 then 70-503 for .NET 2 and then 3.5, I decided to take them in reverse. Here are a couple quick observations of this unlikely certification journey. Hopefully it is humorous:
 
  • After studying all of the way to implement interfaces with WCF, it was much easier to understand what was going in WSE 3.
  • Sometimes when working with WSE a few years ago I would scratch my head and wonder why it had to work that way or how round-about some of the exposed APIs were and how difficult it was to get my head around the concepts.
  • I am very glad that the WCF bindings and BindingElements are organized so much better than the WSE SOAP Extension Types and Policy assertion types.
  • If you do this unlikely certification path, of taking tests from most recent backwards, you can use this approach as a test strategy. 🙂
  • During the 70-529 exam, I tried to figure out how the WSE APIs must have evolved in order to be the WCF APIs, and then I could answer the questions based on much more WCF experience. It was a funny endeavor.
Good Luck,
Ben

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