Windows Azure and Windows Phone 7 Firestarter

On Saturday, August 13th I will be speaking at the Windows Azure and Windows Phone 7 Firestarter in Columbus, OH.  The firestarter is an all day event designed to give developers a jumpstart on creating exciting Windows Phone 7 applications that leverage the power and flexibility of the Windows Azure platform. 

If you’re a developer that is looking to get started with building a Windows Phone 7 application, then this is going to be a great FREE event for you.  If all this talk about “going to the cloud” has you excited, or even a little confused, then this firestarter will help get you going in the right direction.  The day will feature 4 sessions – 2 on Windows Phone 7 and 2 on Windows Azure.  There will also have dedicated time set aside for you to work on labs to help you hone your skills and gain some valuable hands-on experience.  After all, the best way to learn about a technology is to use it, right?  If the labs aren’t your thing, then use the time to sling some code and create a great application.  We’ll be around to help you!

At the firestarter I am honored to be joined by Microsoft evangelists Brian Prince and Jeff Blankenburg, as well as Windows Phone 7 expert Sam Basu.  The firestarter will be held from 8:30am – 5:00pm at the Microsoft office in Columbus.  Please visit http://wazwp7firestarter.eventbrite.com to sign up for this event.

See you there!

P.S.  If you’re in the Columbus, OH area and want to get even more involved with Windows Azure or Windows Phone 7, be sure to check out the Central Ohio Cloud Computing User Group and the Central Ohio Windows Phone User Group.

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Update to Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone 7

Today Microsoft is releasing the third update to the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone 7. This is the third update in less than 2 months! It is great to see the teams moving so quickly to get new updates out. The second update (v1.1) included a little bit of new functionality, namely support for the Microsoft Push Notification Service, bug fixes, and some usability enhancements. This third update (v1.2) is a much more substantial update to the toolkit. Wade Wegner recently teased a few of these updates. Let’s take a quick look at some of them.

Support for Access Control Services

From the start you’ll notice at least two new software requirements: Windows Identity Foundation Runtime and Microsoft Windows Identity Foundation SDK. If you don’t have the WIF Runtime or SDK, the dependency checker will detect the missing software and provide you direct links to pages where you can download the appropriate version for your environment.

The Windows Identify Foundation (WIF) is used in support of what just may be the most exciting new feature of the toolkit – built-in support for Windows Azure Access Control Services. To get started, one of the first things you’ll want to do is create an ACS (v2) namespace. You can do that by opening the developer portal at http://windows.azure.com and going to the “Service Bus, Access Control & Caching” section.

You’ll need to grab the ACS namespace and management service key. To get that, you’ll want to click the desired namespace in the main window, and then the green “Access Control Service” button in the top ribbon. Additional details on this process can be found in toolkit’s documentation. Enter the namespace and key into the wizard when prompted. The toolkit will handle the rest for you. Pretty nice, huh?

Now you can have your Windows Phone 7 application integrate with Windows Live, Yahoo!, and Google. For mobile users that are likely to have social identities to begin with, this gives them an easy on-ramp to your application! They can easily select the identity provider of choice.

Google

Yahoo!

Windows Live ID

Once you authenticate, you’ll be prompted to complete the process by storing some information from the identity provider in a new Users table created on your behalf by the toolkit wizard.

Support for Windows Azure Queues

Another great feature of the latest revision is support for Windows Azure Queues. This essentially completes the trifecta – support for Windows Azure tables, blobs, and now queues. Just like you can with tables and blobs, the toolkit now allows you to list existing queues in your storage account.

You can easily list queues in your account.

The toolkit also contains an easy sample to show how to add a new message to the queue.

If you add, then you should be able to delete too.  By selecting the “dequeue” button, that’s exactly what will happen.  The topmost message in the queue is removed from the queue.

Improved User Interface

Finally, really nice update to the toolkit is a much more stylistic user interface. Previously the toolkit’s web admin interface was pretty, well, generic – straight out of the default ASP.NET MVC project styling.  This latest update has a much improved UI that makes using the toolkit a lot more enjoyable experience.

Troubleshooting

This version of the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone 7 comes with much more help relating to some problems you might encounter. One that I’m very happy to see mentioned is help for those with Resharper installed. If you have Resharper installed and try to use the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone 7, you’ll likely run into a less than optimal experience – either errors when creating a new project and/or problems simply starting a new project. While the problem still exists, the 1.2 version of the troubleshooting documentation of the toolkit points out the problem and provides instructions on how to disable Resharper while you use the toolkit. I’m sure the team is hard at work on a permanent solution.

The v1.2 update looks to be a pretty impressive update to the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone 7.  Be sure to check it out – I think you’ll enjoy it too!