I am embarking on a series on Developing for the Microsoft Band. If you are not familiar with the Band it is a product that is in its second iteration. With 11 sensors ranging from accelerometer and gyroscope to heart rate and skin sensor, the Band is a great device.
The first part of the series we will be looking at Web Tiles. Microsoft Band Web Tiles make it extremely simple to deliver relevant information to the Band from virtually any data source accessible through the web. Developers only have to write web tile code once to support multiple mobile platforms (iOS, Android and Windows) since the Microsoft Health app takes responsibility for doing the rest – installing the web tile to the Band, accessing web resources for content, extracting and formatting the content, and delivering that content to the associated web tile on the Band.
A web tile, fully described by a “web tile package”, contains a variety of information including tile metadata, information needed to fetch data from the web and format it for the tile, and other resources associated with creation and updates of the tile.
Then we will dive into the SDK.
We are going to look into the Microsoft Band SDK which will allow third-party application developers to harness the power of Microsoft Band. The SDK gives developers access to the sensors available on the Band, as well as the ability to create Tiles on the Band and to send notifications to these Tiles from their applications. Through the SDK, you, as an application developer, will be able to enhance and extend the experience of your application to your customers’ wrists. This opens up a whole new dimension of interaction and enables new, richer scenarios for your applications that make use of the capabilities of the Band.
Applications that work with Microsoft Band make use of the Microsoft Band SDK to communicate with the Band. The application logic runs on the host OS (iPhone, Android, Windows), and remotely controls the UI of the Band as well as receives contextual information and sensor data from the Band.
The features offered by the Microsoft Band SDK are as follows:
Sensor data subscriptions
Tile creation and management
Band theme personalization
The SDK is also supported on a wide range of platforms. They include Windows Phone 8.1 and later, Windows 8.1 and later (Store Apps) iOS 7 and later, Android 4.2 (API 17) and later.
Microsoft Ventures (MSV) info event in Boston and New York is taking place soon. You’ll get to learn about the next MSV Accelerator focused on Machine Learning, network with MSV folks from Seattle, and learn how to apply. Please find details below.
DATE: October, 21, 2015
TIME: 6-8 PM
LOCATION: NYU, Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship
Since we assume you’re coming straight from work, light apps and drinks will be provided. RSVP while there’s still room!
Microsoft Ventures is a global initiative empowering entrepreneurs around the world on their journey to build great companies. We’re focused on building partnerships with venture funds, angel investors, incubators, accelerators, corporate executives, and at the core startups, as well as run its own accelerators around the world. Our goal and objective is to help scale and grow startups by giving them a great working environment, access to mentors and service providers, free technological tools and connecting them to Microsoft’s customers and business partners. The next batch of the program opens on Feb 2016 and it’s going to be themed around Machine Learning and Data Science. We will be targeting startups that are a more mature than previous batches – such that raised $1M-$1.5M, with an existing product and maybe even initial traction.
The 4-month program offers the following unique and distinctive benefits to the startups:
No Equity Program – all the benefits in the program are totally free, takes no equity or any other type of payment or special rights in the companies.
Access to Microsoft facility in downtown Seattle, the startup hub in the city.
$25K no-strings attached one-time gift to cover travel and living expenses
Technology agnostic – companies can be accepted to the program using any technology they want. It’s up to the company to decide whether they use Microsoft’s technologies to boost their growth or use any other infrastructure that fits their need.
Having said that, startups that choose to use Azure will enjoy the help of the ML product group in architecting their solutions to the right size and using the cutting edge services Azure ML offers.
Access to the Microsoft distribution channels – Microsoft Ventures is committed to help startups who have relevant products to our customers and partners get connected to them through our massive distribution channels. In addition, startups will receive assistance in getting set up on the Azure Marketplace allowing the Microsoft sales reps to sell their solutions with higher incentives.
Free of Microsoft Azure – startups in the program will be automatically enrolled to BizSpark Plus program and be credited for $500K of cloud usage (storage and compute) for 3 years, to be used in their own pace. This allows the startup to focus on the crucial business aspects of their company.
What’s in it for Microsoft?
From the experience Microsoft Ventures has acquired in the last 3.5 years, working with hundreds of startups from all around the world, we noticed startups are choosing to use Microsoft’s infrastructure because they see the great value in partnering with us. We would like to give more startups the opportunity to enjoy the values we provide them and create more partnerships for Microsoft.
DreamSpark is a Microsoft Program that supports technical education by providing access to Microsoft software for learning, teaching and research purposes.
DreamSpark is simple: it’s all about giving students Microsoft professional-level developer and designer tools at no cost so that students can chase their dreams and create the next big breakthrough in technology – or just get a head start on their career.
DreamSpark helps educators teach the latest technologies and experiment in research. Microsoft knows that to make learning more motivating, relevant, and engaging for today’s students requires a diverse set of resources. DreamSpark gives educators the resources to ensure their classrooms always have the latest technologies to challenge, motivate, and keep students engaged in new ways.
DreamSpark is also a subscription for Academic Institutions: it provides a cost-effective way to put Microsoft developer tools, platforms and servers in labs and classrooms, and on their students’ and faculty’s computers for learning and research purposes. It reduces lab costs and teaching budgets.
How do I get it?
As a Student: simply create an account, verify your student status and download software through this website at no cost. If your school/university has a subscription, you can also get access to more software titles.
Make sure you have a Microsoft Account first and sign in to create your DreamSpark account.
Once logged in, you can now create your DreamSpark account profile. Click ‘Continue to Verify’ to get to the verification option screen.
The verification option screen provides several methods to verify that you are a student. Using your student email address (firstname.lastname@example.org), your School DreamSpark account (My College Name), Student Identity Card, Verification Code or documentation you can supply.
Once you enter your verification method, click verify.
If you are verified you can click continue to get to the “congratulations” screen.
Click continue to access the DreamSpark main page. From here you will be able to get to the store and Download Software.
You will now be presented with all of the software and service options within DreamSpark. Click on Azure to activate your Azure Subscription.
You will now be prompted to start the Azure account activation process.
Once you click on Register Now you will be in the Azure Account creation funnel. Fill out the appropriate information and make sure you are verified before you click sign up.
The Azure account creation takes a couple of minutes. In the mean time you can view a video of Azure or sit and wait until you get the all done message.
You can now start managing your service and access the Azure Portal.
You can jump right in and start creating Web Apps!
Unfortunately some features are not active with the Student DreamSpark subscription, such as Virtual Machines. But that is ok. There is a lot you still can do within Azure.
Get ready to learn some awesome technology and services. Ranging from Machine Learning to Disaster Recovery, we have events lined up for everyone.
Developers, new to Visual Studio 2015 or Microsoft Azure? Sign up now for a free, hands-on day of expert-led demos and labs in a city near you: http://aka.ms/letsdevthistour
New York 10/15
If disaster strikes, is your recovery plan ready? Sign up now for a free, hands-on Azure virtual lab in a city near you: http://aka.ms/TechNetTour
New York 10/8
Microsoft Azure Machine Learning Bootcamp
Join area technologies in this hands-on bootcamp exploring the Microsoft Azure Machine Learning service, which leverages the perfect storm of the availability of massive, on-line data sets, low cost computation in the cloud, and leading edge predictive analytics algorithms.
The event will incorporate both lectures illustrating key concepts in machine learning and opportunities to apply these concepts using the free version of Microsoft Azure Machine Learning Studio:
Machine Learning Levelset – discussion of supervised vs. unsupervised machine learning models, regression vs. classification models, and popular algorithms for each
AzureML Overview – how to use AzureML and the Machine Learning Studio to get and save data, preprocess data,, and build and publish predictive models.
R Programming Fundamentals – learn how to use R with popular packages such as stats, caret, ggplot2, and the new AzureML package to produce models hosted on the AzureML platform
AzureCon: You’re Invited to the Microsoft Northeast District Office in Cambridge, MA for an exclusive AzureCon viewing party!
Where’s the Party?: Microsoft Northeast District Office – Cambridge, MA
(255 Main St. Cambridge) When: Tuesday, September 29, 2015 Party Starts: 11:30 AM EDT Viewing Begins: 12:00 PM EDT Party Concludes: 3:30 PM EDT
Lunch & snacks will be served – register now to reserve a seat! Prizes and give-aways too!
AzureCon is the place to join us and be first to hear what’s next for Microsoft Azure, including additional features, powerful new capabilities and practical tips from pros who eat, drink and breathe Azure.
Ready to dig in? Good news: There’s more than enough Azure insights to go around – so while you can stream from anywhere, connect with your community and peers and watch with us.
More brains are better than one
Experience it first hand, and get the inside scoop on all things Microsoft Azure during this one-day live virtual event. Choose from more than 50 breakout videos lead by Azure engineers and community members that demonstrate how you can do even more with the Azure.
Hear it first from the minds behind Azure
Exclusive keynotes from Scott Guthrie, Jason Zander, Bill Staples, Scott Hanselman, Mark Russinovich and other Azure engineer gurus.
One of the cool features of Azure is the ability to have a “deployment slot” for your web app. Web app content and configurations elements can be swapped between two deployment slots, including the production slot. Deploying your application to a deployment slot has the following benefits:
You can validate web app changes in a staging deployment slot before swapping it with the production slot.
Deploying a web app to a slot first and swapping it into production ensures that all instances of the slot are warmed up before being swapped into production. This eliminates downtime when you deploy your web app. The traffic redirection is seamless, and no requests are dropped as a result of swap operations. This entire workflow can be automated by configuring Auto Swap when pre-swap validation is not needed.
After a swap, the slot with previously staged web app now has the previous production web app. If the changes swapped into the production slot are not as you expected, you can perform the same swap immediately to get your “last known good site” back.
As a web developer, this makes your life easy. Production and Staging can be exactly the same. How many times have you used a staging environment that was a different OS version than production. “It works on staging but not on production” is the common quote.
Setting up deployment slots are pretty straightforward. You can read more about them on this Azure post. However, how do you handle the environment variables for each slot? I need my production code to access my production database.
There are 3 ways that this can be accomplished.
1. The RCP Way
The RCP Way stands for Rename, Copy and Paste. You would rename your connection string or variable file to connstring.stage or connstring.prod and then copy and paste the appropriate values in them. Works fine. However, when deploying from Git or some version tracker can get a bit tricky.
2. The If Then Way
IF “Production” THEN production values ELSE staging values. You can either get the ip address, domain name, server name or even a boolean value that if it signals that you are on production you load in the production values. This works fine but now your one file has 2 or more sets of variables that will need to be maintained.
3. Environment Variables
This is part of Azure which makes deployment slots work so well. I configure my values within Azure per environment. This way my code does nto have to have any usernames or passwords just the variables to store them in.
I am going to show a quick example of how to set up your WordPress Blog using the connection string variables within Azure. This can be applied to any application but I will use WordPress as the default.
Step 1. Create your web app.
I am not going into detail on how to create a wordpress web app but you can follow this tutorial to get that up and running.
Step 2. Find your connection string
This can vary. You might have a Virtual Machine that is custom hosting your database or you might use the default database within Azure. Either way finding your connection string can be done by determining the Username for the DB. the Password for the DB. The data source and DB name. You can also get this info from the wp-config.php file within your root of your WordPress website. You might want to look in there since we will be modding that file in a moment.
Step 3. Build your string
Once you have those 4 parts you can build together your connection string. Your string can look like this.
Go into your web app and choose All Settings then Application Settings.
The Application Settings blade will appear. Scroll down a bit until you see the section called “Connection Strings”.
There are 4 form elements that you can configure.
Name: This is your name of your connection string. MyClientDB or AnalyticsDB as examples. Whatever you name it, Azure will add a prefix to it that I will explain in a moment.
Value: This is your value. You connection string. See step 3.
Type: You can choose Custom, SQL Server, SQL DB or MySQL. When you choose any of these Azure appends the following text to the front of your “name”
SQL Server: SQLCONNSTR_
SQL Database: SQLAZURECONNSTR_
For .NET apps, these connection strings are be injected into your .NET configuration connectionStrings settings at runtime, overriding existing entries where the key equals the linked database name.
For PHP, Python, Java and Node applications, these settings will be available as environment variables at runtime, prefixed with the connection type.
Now if I need to access my MySql connection string called MyClientDB, it would be accessed through the environment variable MYSQLCONNSTR_MyClientDB.
I then can create a deployment slot with the same connection string “name” but different values and my code will use those values to connect to staging or production data.
You can see how this would be valuable when you are moving from dev to test to prod. You can also use App Settings to store “app specific” data in there as well per environment.
Step 5. Update our WordPress
Remember I said we are going to need that wp-config.php, well if it is open great, if not please open it in your favorite code editor, mine is Visual Studio Code, a free download and works great.
The first couple of lines are comments but then there are a few “define” constants that the application will use.
// ** MySQL settings - You can get this info from your web host ** //
/** The name of the database for WordPress */
/** MySQL database username */
/** MySQL database password */
/** MySQL hostname */
/** Database Charset to use in creating database tables. */
/** The Database Collate type. Don't change this if in doubt. */
Your file might have actual data in your file but that is fine. We will be replacing that with the values from our environment variable that we just created in Azure. To access it’s data you can call the get_env function to retrieve it.
At this point you have your connection string and you can $echo it out to see what comes back. To make it a bit easier to get each element of the connection string you can add this function to the top of the wp-config.php file.
This is a handy little function that coverts a string into an array with a predefined delimiter.
You can var_dump the returned value to see what is returned.
Then you can replace the 4 defined constants with the following:
// ** MySQL settings - You can get this info from your web host ** //
/** The name of the database for WordPress */
/** MySQL database username */
/** MySQL database password */
/** MySQL hostname */
Now you can deploy stage and prod and have your WordPress blog access different databases very easily.
BizSpark Plus just got a whole lot better. Starting on July 1st the current BizSpark Plus offering will increase from $60,000 for one year of Azure cloud services to $120,000. We are partnering with top accelerators across the country to get this in the hands of early stage startups. Techstars, ERA, Seedcamp, 1871 and MassChallenge are part of over a 100 in 47 countries that partnering with the program.
These organizations are in the trenches, providing the marketing and business support that early stage companies need to be successful. The offer expands our existing BizSpark Plus program which, in addition to open source friendly Azure, provides free software, developer tools, and technical support to help startups be successful. Check out the following video to hear what some of them had to say:
Watch this video to learn more about the BizSpark program
Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.
More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.
As part of National Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration takes the opportunity to highlight the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small business owners, and others from all 50 states and U.S. territories. Every day, they’re working to grow small businesses, create 21st century jobs, drive innovation, and increase America’s global competitiveness. See more @ sba.gov
We at Microsoft are helping as well. We have events scheduled all across the country at various Microsoft Stores and offices. At the Westfarms location starting Monday night, there are workshops and presentations to get your small business going.
6:00pm – Office in the Cloud – Come in and learn how Office in the Cloud, is your familiar office that you’re used to, now with the ability to work on virtually any device you use most!
Tuesday May 5th
10:00am – Power Up Your Business with Surface – In this workshop, Microsoft shares key benefits of the Surface specifically for small and medium-sized business needs. Learn how this essential device delivers power, portability, and productivity with the versatility to work as both a laptop and a tablet. Want to know what the essential differences are between the MacBook/Macbook Air and Surface? Learn all about it. You’ll also have the opportunity to experience key Surface Pro features useful to business professionals with hands-on experience creating invoices, setting up meetings and editing a presentation.
6:00pm – Put Your Business in the Cloud – Learn how Microsoft BizSpark can benefit your business. Why partnering with Microsoft may be the smartest move you ever make for your business. See how to leverage BizSpark for operational needs, web development, mobile gaming + more! Microsoft BizSpark is a global program that provides free software, support and visibility to help startups succeed.
When you hear the words “Microsoft Cloud” or “Microsoft Azure” do you think of the Microsoft Stack? All apps running .NET and Microsoft Windows Server? It can be. But it does not have to be. Ranging from PHP Websites to full Linux VM’s, Azure has plenty for your business or startup.
This is a round up of a few quick starts to get you up and running on Azure and using open source technologies.
To get going a good place to start is with the the CloudDev Camp. This is a few step learning plan that goes over the big areas to use the Azure platform for your startup. There are a bunch of tutorials focused around Microsoft, however, module 7 is a great session on Azure and the Open Source cloud services. Give the full course a look, you can perform many features using services rather than spinning up virtual machines for everything.
Once you have the solid foundation of the cloud platform, you can jump right in to getting your envrionment set up. Learn about the offerings that Microsoft has made available for Linux and FreeBSD-based IaaS solutions running in Microsoft Azure. Already setup with Linux or VM’s somewhere else? Learn hou you can migrate your existing Linux-based IaaS solutions from your private cloud to Azure.
Setting up a database is just not the ending but the begining. Learn the performance of how a database is impacted by the performance of the underlying resources. To reach optimal performance, cloud environments require the consideration of several constraints, unlike private datacenters.
Technically this might be step 1 or step 2 (depending upon your solution). At some point you are going to want to learn how to network and commnicate between services and Virtual Machines. This course gets you going.
Step 5: Pick your focus
Now that you have a good fundamentals of what can be set up or consumed on Azure you can now focus on what your app or startup does best.
Check out one of the most popular server side scripting languages, the easy-to-learn PHP, which is used in many blogging platforms. Hear about the history of PHP, explore its pros and cons, and take a look at configuration and debugging
Curious about what Microsoft has to offer the Java community? You might be surprised! Join us to explore the latest tools and technologies to help Java developers get in the cloud with Microsoft Azure, like plug-ins for Eclipse and IntelliJ, along with a look at options in Windows and Linux for authentication, security, and continuous integration (CI).
Wondering what the buzz is all about with NoSQL? If you’re an open source developer and you want to store unstructured data, see why MongoDB, a scalable document-oriented database, is so popular in this arena, plus explore how to use it on Azure. Learn how to set up MongoDB and how to load data in bulk, do simple queries, scale for data with sharding, and much more. Experts Steven Edouard and Rami Sayar show you how easy it is to get up and running, as they explore NoSQL, Documents, Map Reduce, and scaling via C# and Node.js. Check out this course, watch some cool demos, and see if MongoDB is for you!
In this course see step-by-step demos and get practical tips and detailed explanations. By the end of the day, you know how to set up Node.js on your Windows machine, develop a web front end with Express, deploy an Express app to Azure, use Socket.IO to add a real-time layer, and bring it all together
With the incredible growth of devices and the Internet of Things (IoT), you know that mobile apps present a huge opportunity. Windows Azure Mobile Services lets you build a back end for your mobile apps in minutes
This module focuses on open source technologies on Azure. Walk with engineers through how to best deploy and manage a Linux environment with tools you know and use today. Learn how to use your existing Chef and Puppet configurations and how to scale new ones to massively scale and deploy your solution. Wrap the day with a look at the new capabilities of containerization with Docker.
Enjoy updating monolithic applications? Probably not! Take an in-depth look at a different way to architect that can help you update your site in milliseconds. Microservices, supported by Microsoft Azure and offered as a service, are highly scalable, resilient, and composable units of deployment for modern applications. Self-contained for fit and purpose, they are a key part of the world of continuous delivery and DevOps.
UConn Stamford Digital Media & Design Program presents:
Microsoft – Game Design & Development
Panel Discussion April 9th, 2015
Prospective students, applicants, or current majors in the DMD program, are invited to attend our Digital Media Career Series at UConn Stamford. Learn from industry professionals about the digital media careers and internship opportunities that exist right here in the New York metropolitan tri-state area. We encourage you to follow us on Facebook, which will allow you to see other event announcements and UConn Stamford DMD happening.
To attend this event, you must RSVP to Katie Huntington (Kathryn.email@example.com) and include ‘DMD Stamford Digital Media Career Series’ in the title of the email.
Make sure to mark your calendars for this exciting event!
Want to learn more about careers in Game Design and Development?
Join the UConn Stamford Digital Media and Design program on April 9th as they host Microsoft, and a number of game developers for an info session on careers in game design and development. If you’re interested in working as an independent game developer, a designer at a company like Microsoft Studios, or how games are being utilized in the world of business, you should consider attending this event.
This event will be in a panel discussion format, including the following individuals:
MODERATOR: Joshua Drew, Microsoft – Sr. Technical Evangelist New England PANELISTS:
Jason Walters, Microsoft
Adnan Agha, Nevernaut Games
Vivian Allum, Nevernaut Games
Brian Johnstone, Darkwind Media
Jason Waltersis a game developer and creative coder, living in NYC, whose work ranges from full body interactions to immersive virtual worlds. He uses code as a tool of artistic expression and enjoys working at the intersection of art and technology. He is self-taught and experienced in a variety of languages, open source technologies, game engines, and design tools (2d and 3d). Jason has worked with emerging artists, boutique studios, and most recently the advertising industry where he was hired as the second Creative Technologist at BBDO. At BBDO he helped shape the Creative Technology department, specialized in rapid prototyping, and gave interactive creative direction on projects for At&t, Exxon, GE, FedEx, and more. He is currently working at Microsoft in NYC as a Games Evangelist. To learn more, please click HERE.
Adnan Aghais the designer and programmer at Nevernaut Games. Having worked on SlashDash since its initial conception, he’s witnessed and been a huge part of its evolution over the last two years. He works on everything from fine-tuning the movement to dealing with cloud storage on the Xbox One. He has a one-eyed cat named Cow.
Vivian Allumis a programmer at Nevernaut Games. She has a computer science and game design background and utilizes both in her work. Vivian has also been a part of the SlashDash project from the start when it was still a school project. She works in all areas, from bug fixing to adding in more features,including programming in artistic assets and dealing with cleaning up code.
Brian Johnstonegraduated in 2008 from Rochester Institute of Technology with a BS in Software Engineering. Darkwind Media was founded in 2007 with 3 other RIT students. Johntone started a graduate degree while the company grew and by 2009 it was his full time job. Darkwind Media started doing non-game visualization contracts before eventually doing some contracting for NVIDIA. After that, they began contracting for Unity Technologies and in 3 years ported their engine to 6 platforms and ported over 100 game titles. Darkwind has worked on many excellent games including Kona’s Crate, Skylanders: Cloud Patrol, Deus Ex: The Fall, and Republique. Currently Johnsone is focused on their upcoming premier 2D Roman decapitation simulator called Wulverblade.