Tag Archives: Microsoft

The One Code to Rule Them All

I’m at the Microsoft MVP Summit this week, which means that there are a lot of things I won’t be able to share due to all sorts of non-disclosure agreements, lawyers, etc.  However, there may be some cool non-NDA stuff that I’ll be able to share as well, and you can bet that if it’s that cool, then I’m telling you guys about it.

While checking out some work that MVPs and Microsoft has done, I came across this gem: Microsoft All-In-One Code Framework.

So, Sarah, what’s so cool about this?

Have you ever had a moment while coding when you wondered “How do I do {xyz}?”  Sure, you may have looked up that in your search engine of choice.  However, if you have Visual Studio 2010 or Visual Studio 2012, there’s an add-in for you that lets you search a code repository of various samples.  If you’re more of a “Let’s look at code samples and maybe get inspired” kind of person, their Sample Code Browser is a great app for that.  The VSIX for the Visual Studio extension and the ClickOnce for the app are both available from their download page.

Let me get this straight. Someone did something cool with a code repository?

Yes! Here’s a look at what I downloaded just this morning from their site:

OneCode

 

While the menu and layout remind me of my nemesis – the Zune software, the content is helpful.  Also, I have a good feeling that there’ll be even more features, as talking with these guys, I gathered that they are open to feedback and would love to see this take off.

That’s pretty… but where’s my Visual Studio Add-In? I know I installed it here somewhere…

Once it’s installed and Visual Studio has been restarted, you’ll see a toolbar that looks like this (minus the search criteria):

OneCodeAddIn

 

Okay… not so confused anymore.  Show me how you find stuff for graphs, since you hinted at it above.

 

Now, let’s say you’re working on a project that uses graphs.  Business people like seeing data in charts and graphs, so we better do an app for them.  In my add-in, I typed graph and pressed Enter, which opened the following results:

OneCodeGraphSearch

 

180 results is a lot to sift through!  Let’s filter these so that I’m only looking at HTML5 stuff, as this client is trying to target multiple platforms and thinks HTML5 might be the way to do it.  Click in the box, and the filtering selections appear.  I’m changing my Technology to HTML5.  Much smaller!

OneCodeGraphSearchHTML5Filter

 

 

Let’s take a look at a sample and what it has to offer.  I’ve chosen the top one.

What are the details, documentation, and social about?

I’m getting there!  First off, the details section:

OneCodeGraphSearchHTML5FilterDetails

 

This section contains a link to where I can find the app.  You can see what technologies are supposedly used, the license, the supported Visual Studio edition(s), the author, ratings, last update, and download count.  If you click that download button, it’ll download the sample and change to an open button.  Clicking that button will open the sample in Visual Studio.

The documentation panel shows any documentation that is associated with the project.

OneCodeGraphSearchHTML5FilterDocumentation

 

This shows any important information the creator included for their project.  In this particular case, we see the software that’s required plus a note on unblocking the ZIP file.  Helpful information indeed!

The social panel shows any social media activity for that project – currently tracking Twitter, Delicious, Digg, and Facebook.

OneCodeGraphSearchHTML5FilterSocial

 

As you can see, I Tweeted about this, as it need a little love.

Okay… I don’t care about graphs. I went back to the pretty home screen and was seeking some inspiration.

Me too!  I’ve been getting rusty on my SQL skills and figured I could use some inspiring in that department, so I clicked on the SQL Server button on that page.  That in turn took me to these results:

OneCodeSQLServer

 

So now I have samples to help inspire me.

You mentioned they’re open to feedback.

Yep!  Click the Sample Request Service link at the top, and then click the bright red Submit a Request button.  This will take you over to their Codeplex Issue Tracker, where you can submit your suggestions.

Okay… this is nifty! But… Zune software style seems old school.  I’m running Windows 8. Can I use this on my tablet?

Ah yes… if you do a search for “All-In-One Code Browser” on the Windows Store, there’s a beautiful version for the Windows 8 {Metro UI/Windows UI/”fancy tiles that need a better branding name” UI}.

OneCodeFrameworkWindowsStore

This Sample Browser app has a nice user experience, inline with the new tablet-esque/tablety user experience.

More on that in a future blog post…  did I mention I’m at the MVP Summit?  Gotta eat breakfast for the big day ahead!  Hopefully will blog about Sample Browser later.

Microsoft Billing and Account Management SUX

Recently, I wanted to manage my billing options, as I had an invalid credit card tied to my Zune and XBOX Live account.  Unfortunately, I had the experience of meeting the Microsoft Billing and Account Management site.  This is unfortunate, as it is a site with horrible, HORRIBLE user experiences.

Select from Account IDs 

Yes, somebody didn’t get the memo that exposing accounts as account IDs really is a bad user experience.  Let’s see what I have…

  • Acct ID# 00000-00000-00020-12345 (Personal)
  • Acct ID# 00000-00000-02300-12345 (Personal)
  • Acct ID# 00000-00000-02412-12345 (Personal)
  • Acct ID# 00000-00000-02460-12345 (Personal)
  • Acct ID# 00000-00000-00302-12345 (Business)

Now those aren’t my real account numbers, but these are the options that I’m given. I have no idea what any of these account IDs mean. What’s better… in their respective applications, I don’t see these IDs. So why are you showing them to me as an option? Why couldn’t I get options that look more like the ones below?

  • Hotmail Plus (Personal)
  • XBOX Live (Personal)
  • TBD TBD (Personal)
  • Platform Services (Personal)
  • marketplaceformobile.somerandomstring.US  (Business)

I have no idea what some of these are even for – especially if there’s no service listing for that account.  And TBD TBD… no idea what that even is let alone why it appears there.  Some of these are even cancelled services, so why would I care to manage their Billing if I don’t have them anymore? (Edited note: Talking with my husband, we think this might be a migration of multiple billing systems into one, which could only lead down an ugly path.)

Now one of my accounts looks like it manages my XBOX Live, Zune Pass, and App Hub accounts.  So maybe coming up with friendly names for the accounts is a bit harder for their devs… how about letting the end user create friendly names for those accounts rather than showing them Acct ID# 00000-00000-00020-12345?

Disconnect in Payment Data

I went through the process of removing the invalid credit card from my Zune and XBOX Live account.  Looking at this in the Billing portal though, I see that this card has been marked as Removed on my cancelled MSN Hotmail Plus account. If I switch to my XBOX Live account, I see that same credit card listed, without being marked as Removed.  Really?  Mind you, under both accounts, it shows as Xbox Live (Visa: xxxxxxxxxxxx0000) - same exact name.  Why wouldn’t show as Removed on the XBOX Live account?

400 Clicks Later

As I mentioned on Twitter today, I was having other issues with my Zune account where credits weren’t showing.  Thankfully, @ZuneSupport and the Zune support chat team were able to find a solution that works for my needs.  However, I had Tweeted that I had hoped I wouldn’t get sent to the Microsoft Billing site as it was a headache user experience.  Leave it to one of my friends to point out that there’s the joys of clicking through a lot of screens to get the data you need.  Boy was she right!  Even the context-driven FAQs on the right of each page… click, click, click… ah there’s what I need… maybe.

Conclusion

I hope that one day Microsoft will invest in a great user experience team that can go through their websites and find these problems before we do.  At the moment, there are a lot of painful user experiences on their sites that I use, and the more I have to use these sites, the more I’m tempted to look at alternative solution providers or weigh the cost of abandoning my current services just to get away from these bad experiences.  Painful user experiences are what drives users to competitors who get the user experience right.  Please, Microsoft, save us from the painfulness known as your billing site by working with UX experts on making it easier to deal with.

Microsoft in Open Source

I know that the title sounds deceiving, especially to those who’ve been watching the open source realm over the past couple decades.  However, Microsoft has been dabbling with open source for awhile, and they even have a website that talks about it.  Let’s look into this a bit more.

Background

I’ve had my eye on the open source world for at least the past decade.  While my roots may be in Microsoft technologies, my first presentations at user groups and conferences were on open source projects and programming in Linux.  Even when I keynoted at Software Freedom Day – Cleveland 2011 – talking about “Keeping an Open Mind About Open Source”, I made sure to mention that yes, Microsoft is included in the list of those involved with open source.  It was nice to be able to mention their company name and get more intrigue than groans.

Microsoft’s Involvement in Open Source in Terms of Development

One myth people have believed is that developers who use Microsoft technologies don’t understand open source.  However, that myth is just that – a myth.  The truth is, developers of all types, including those who use Microsoft technologies, are interested in the open source movement.  Whether they’re contributing to their own projects or encouraging developers to contribute to projects or create their own open source projects, Microsoft has provided developers with a home for open source projects over at CodePlex.

In addition to providing a place to host these open source products, they have encouraged developers to help with the tooling in Visual Studio.  One package management system that’s used commonly in the Microsoft development realm is NuGet, the open source developer focused package management system.  This tool allows those developing with Microsoft’s Visual Studio to easily add 3rd party open source libraries to their applications.

We have a place to host open source packages and tools to give us access to open source libraries.  Microsoft is also known for promoting open source packages and pro-open source solutions in their Web App Gallery, which can be accessed on desktops via Web Platform Installer and can be installed on webhost’s servers for those webhosts that support the Microsoft Web App Gallery. You can even play with these packages and customize them on your own, even if you don’t have Visual Studio.  Microsoft’s WebMatrix tool ties into the Web App Gallery as well and makes it easy to work with applications found in the Web App Gallery.

Microsoft’s Open Source Initiative

Recently, my friend Marques – also known as @tromboneforhire on Twitter – tweeted about stumbling upon the Microsoft Openness site.  I had never ever heard about it up until that point, but I figured I’d poke around the site to see what their site was about.

Microsoft is all about building bridges across platforms.  The Openness site covers how Microsoft is about building these bridges, looking at how openness influences Microsoft and its audience.  It contains stories of Microsoft paired with common open source technologies and packages – including PHP and Drupal.  There’s also a list of resources on openness and interoperability – including standards, Microsoft projects, and other helpful links.  You can also get your short updates from them as @OpenAtMicrosoft on Twitter.

In addition to the Openness site, there’s the Port25 blog that covers communications from the open source community at Microsoft.  Here you can find where Microsoft technologies meet the open source community.  Whether it’s Microsoft appearing at OSCON or something like PhoneGap on Windows Phone being complete, you’ll find all sorts of details on Microsoft’s relations in open source.  As they put it on their site:

Port 25 is about having a healthy conversation with customers and the industry to talk openly and honestly about their biggest interoperability challenges, whether it is on UNIX, Linux, Windows, or other open source packages.

We believe that healthy and productive discussion only occurs when the parties listen and respond to each other, and this is the foundation on which Port 25 is built.

Our goal is to be accessible, approachable and smart, which means our door is always open, that no comment goes unread, that ideas (common sense required) can be openly discussed, and that while change takes time, we’re committed.

Conclusion

In “Keeping an Open Mind About Open Source”, I challenged my audience to keep their mind open for the rest of the conference, as they may have been surprised with what was covered in the conference.  As for now, I challenge you, whoever you may be, to get past the myth that Microsoft isn’t interested in open source.  It’s a myth, and the reality is that Microsoft is interested and has taken big strides over the years to show how they’re interested and want to be involved in the open source realm.

What do MVPs do?

Yesterday, I got the news that I’ve been renewed as a Microsoft MVP in Visual C#! Thanks to those who’ve thought I’ve contributed to the C# community and developer community in one way or another and are giving me another year of showing what it takes to be a Microsoft MVP!

I was asked by fellow Clevelander Steven Testa the following question:

.@sadukie any tips on becoming an MVP in the first place? Local dev communities are looking like the best way to start.less than a minute ago via Twitter for Windows Phone Favorite Retweet Reply

Getting Nominated

Our Microsoft Most Valuable Professional program has a page on becoming an MVP. As they say on the site:

Potential MVPs are nominated by other technical community members, current and former MVPs, and Microsoft personnel who have noted their leadership and their willingness and ability to help others make the most of their Microsoft technology.

While getting involved in the community is one thing, it also helps if you’re active enough in the community and recognized by those who are already MVPs or Microsofties who can recommend you. The more noticed you are, the more people can recommend you to the program, the more your name gets out there, and the more likely you may get evaluated.

MVP Activities

MVPs are some of the most active people in their communities – running user groups, organizing events, speaking at user groups, blogging, writing training programs, writing books, host podcasts, answering questions in forums…. doing what they can to spread the word on Microsoft technologies and products. Here are just a few examples of what my fellow MVPs are doing:

  • Zune MVP Marques Lyons runs these MVP Meet-and-Greet events called MSMVP. It’s a great way to meet the MVPs in their communities and for the MVPs to meet their fellow MVPs. Marques held one of these at the Microsoft Store in Bellevue, WA earlier this year at the time of our MVP Summit, and it was a great way to meet other MVPs and experience a Microsoft Store.
  • Visual Studio ALM MVP Steve Andrews is one of the MVPs behind GeekGive, community projects at community events – where MVPs take time to help with community projects, be it food pantry or Habitat for Humanity or other adventures.
  • Other events where MVPs are involved – be it in planning, running, staffing, or even speaking – include DevTeach, VS Live, MIX, CodeMash, devLink, StirTrek, MADExpo, Kalamazoo X, GiveCamp, and Day of .NET.

Learning More from the MVPs

Each MVP has a different story on how they became an MVP. Ask them how they go there, and they may give you better insight as to how to get there. You’ll find many of us love talking about how we got here and how we can help you get on the right path to becoming an MVP if you’re interested in going that route. You can find MVPs through the MVP Search Site. Your local Microsoft evangelists may also be able to help you if you’re looking to talk with an MVP, as many evangelists are close to their communities and know who to go to. You can find your local evangelists via this Microsoft site.

Want to hear more?

If you want to hear more from me and are in the Cleveland area, drop me an email at sarah at codinggeekette dot com. I enjoy meeting up with people over coffee and talking about how to get involved in the community more and how to put your passion for technology to work in the community!

By the Community, For the Community…?

While reading on Twitter, I saw this post:


#dddsw DDD South West 3 Call For Speakers closes in 2 days time (Tuesday) http://bit.ly/hHW555less than a minute ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

Being active in Cleveland’s technical community and in the Heartland District, I’m always curious to see what other communities are doing. I had seen DDD references before from some of the people I follow, so I figured I’d check out DDD South West. While the Developer Developer Developer! conference sounds cool, their call for speakers makes me wonder.

Here are the requirements for 60 minute sessions:

  • You must be resident in the UK/Ireland or an active member of the UK/Ireland community
  • You must not be a Full Time Employee of Microsoft (DDD South West is “By The Community, For The Community”)
  • Your session must not promote a non-Microsoft commercial product/service if you work for or are directly associated with the company/organisation that sells the product/service (unless there is a free version and your presentation is primarily about the free version)

It seems odd that DDD South West is excluding Full Time Employees of Microsoft (and only Microsoft) from submitting talks. Sure, they go on to say that the session shouldn’t promote a non-Microsoft commercial product or service either. But really… why are they going so far as to explicitly say no Microsoft FTEs? And why do they go on to say “By The Community, For The Community” after saying that Full Time Employees of Microsoft can’t submit talks? Are Microsoft employees not allowed to be a part of the community? This just doesn’t make sense.

It seems fairly assinine to say “You must not be a Full Time Employee of {insert a company name here}” and then say “By The Community, For The Community”. Are people who work for companies not allowed to be a part of the community? Is there something about a particular company’s FTEs that really would need to exclude them from a community?

What kills me even more is that they link to Scott Hanselman as a resource to check out on “how to present in public”. Did they not get the memo that Scott is a FTE of Microsoft? Oh yeah… and Microsoft is a sponsor backing this behavior? What the…? Again, that just doesn’t make sense.

What a confusing message to send to potential website visitors. :(