Free Azure Training Resources

This article is also available on the Canadian Developer Connection blog under the title Get Ready for Global Azure Bootcamp.

In honor of Global Windows Azure Bootcamp, which will be next month on April 25, 2015, I decided to create a list of free Microsoft Azure training resources to help you prepare. If you would like to participate in a Global Azure Bootcamp you can find a participating location near you.

Books

Microsoft Press recently started releasing a series of new Azure books:

However, other free e-books on Azure also exist:

Videos

There are several great sites where you can find Azure video training:

Channel 9

There is two types of Azure video content available on Channel 9.

  • The first are traditional Azure videos which can be found by doing a search for the word Azure on the main page.
  • The second are two weekly shows that cover Azure. Bothcan be accessed from the links in their names or as a video podcast in iTunes.
    • One is Azure Friday, a show hosted by Scott Hanselman, which presents videos on the latest Azure releases in bite-sized chunks. Most shows are about 10-15 minutes in length. You can also download every Azure Friday video using this PowerShell script by Microsoft’s Marc Gagné.
    • The other is the Microsoft Azure Cloud Cover show. This program is more in-depth and the length of a show can range from 25 minutes to one hour.

Microsoft Virtual Academy

The Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) is a traditional video learning environment where you can watch full-length training videos on designated topics. You can either choose to sign in to chart your progress or you have full access without logging in. The videos are not just Azure based but cover all types of Microsoft technologies. The Azure courses are constantly being updated. Generally, the courses are recorded as a live event so you can follow along if you wish or you can watch the recording later. Most courses also have assessments after each module so you can gauge your progress.

Within MVA is a series called Microsoft Azure Fundamentals which contains an introductory course on Azure and subsequent courses on websites, storage and data, and virtual machines.

Microsoft Azure YouTube Channel

Many people may not know there is a Microsoft Azure YouTube channel as well. Here you can find all sorts of videos about things like how to Supercharge your Datacenter to working with Docker in Azure. Subscribe to the channel to stay up to date. You can also find all of the Tuesdays with Corey series by Corey Sanders here as well.

Pluralsight

Pluralsight is a third-party company dedicated to producing high quality videos for developers around the world. They have 40+ beginner, intermediate, and advanced trainings on Microsoft Azure in their catalog. Pluralsight offers a 10-day trial where you can watch an unlimited amount of videos for free.

Podcasts

We touched on video podcasts above but there are also audio podcasts too that cover Microsoft Azure.

  • The Microsoft Cloud Show is hosted by Andrew Connell and Chris Johnson. They offer the latest news on the cloud and how they see it.
  • The Azure Podcast offers insight into different areas of Azure in these short, timely podcasts.

Articles

Hands-On-Labs, Online Training & Certifications

  • Azure Readiness – A repository in GitHub that contains all of the content to run your own Dev Camp. This repository has both the slide decks and the Hands-on-Labs for you to learn at your own pace.
  • AzureConf 2014 – A virtual conference in October 2014 that was hosted by Channel 9. This one-day event had a keynote followed by several presentations. All of the sessions were recorded for Channel 9.
  • Azure IaaS for IT Pros Online Event – A four-day virtual event in December 2014 that was hosted on Channel 9. This was billed as in-depth Azure training for IT Professionals. You can learn all about Azure IAAS in this series of videos.
  • Building Real-World Cloud Apps with Windows Azure – An online e-book designed to walk you through creating an end-to-end cloud app. Although it is from June 2013 it still has some relevant information.
  • .NET Azure Documentation – Contains information on combining Azure with .NET and Visual Studio. Lots of samples here to work with.
  • Learning map for Azure Websites – Follow the guidance on this page for an effective learning path through Azure Websites content.
  • Microsoft Azure Documentation Center – Houses all of the Microsoft Azure information you will need.

Certifications

Tools

  • trywebsites.azurewebsites.net – Experiment with Azure Websites for one hour with your Google or Facebook account —­­ free of charge and commitment.
  • Azure PowerShell – A module that provides cmdlets to manage Azure through Windows PowerShell.

Blogs & Sites

User Communities

Events

Azure on Twitter

Creating a Microsoft Application Insights resource

This article is also available on the Microsoft TechNet Wiki.

Microsoft Application Insights is a new service in Microsoft Azure that is currently in preview. It is free while in preview and it is available in the new Portal.

With Application Insights you can view telemetry data from your resources, find problems with your deployed apps and improve availability. It is easy to configure, even for the novice.

This wiki article will show you how to provision a new Application Insights resource.

Setting up an Application Insights resource

Navigate to the new Microsoft Azure Portal.

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Click on NewDeveloper services > Application Insights

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Enter a Name and choose an APPLICATION TYPE on the Application Insights blade. You can use Application Insights with the following applications: ASP.NET web , Windows Phone, Windows Store and Java web.

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A resource group is a logical grouping of Azure services. Placing similar items together, like an Azure Website and a SQL Server Database, allows the user to better organize their infrastructure.

Under RESOURCE GROUP you can elect to use an existing resource group or create a new one. To use an existing, click the name of the group. To create new, click Create a new resource group. Enter a Name for the group and click OK.

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Click SUBSCRIPTION and select the Subscription that this resource will run under.

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The LOCATION is locked down to Central US and cannot be changed,

Leave Add to Startboard checked if you want to access the new Application Insights resource from your Home page.

Click Create to provision the new resource.

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After you hit Create you will be returned to the Home page. On the Startboard you will see your new Application Insights resource being provisioned.

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Once the Application Insights resource is finished building you will be redirected to it. There will be no metrics in the resource yet but you can still explore it.

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The Essentials area of the resource blade provides useful information like the Instrumentation Key, Subscription Id and Subscription Name. Clicking the All Settings link in the Essentials area or clicking the Settings menu item will display the Settings blade. Clicking Properties on the Settings blade will load the Properties blade with all the same information as the Essentials area. However, the field values can be copied using the Click to Copy button to the right of each field.

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Finally, to access this Application Insights resource, or any other, click the HOME button on the navigation bar. You can access your active resource by clicking it on the Startboard.

You can also find all Application Insights resources by clicking BROWSE on the navigation bar. You can then select the Everything link at the top of the Browse blade or choose Application Insights under the Filter by option.

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You will then see a filtered list of all your Application Insights resources.

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Conclusion

Microsoft Application Insights is really easy to provision and is a nice addition to Microsoft Azure. The service is expanding as it now has four application types it can be used with. The fact we can use it inside resource groups means it can be incorporated into a full end-to-end Azure deployment.

A reminder that since Application Insights is in preview mode information in this document may change in the future.

Open Guelph Hackathon 2015

Open Data Guelph Logo Two weeks ago I participated in the Open Guelph Hackathon 2015. This was the second year in a row that the City of Guelph sponsored a hackathon in conjunction with Open Data Day. However, this year, instead of doing a 24 hour session they did a seven day online hack which was open to all Canadians.

Details

For this year’s hackathon there were four themes – or data sets – that could be used. For my project I chose the Solid Waste Sorting Tool dataset.

Since I was working by myself I focused on building something using the Lean Startup approach. That is, get something working and then iterating on it. So, I used Visual Studio 2013, ASP.NET, C# 4.5, SQL Server 2014 Express, and Bootstrap to create a functional app in the time that I had. For this theme it was also requested that anyone who searched for items in the waste stream that were not listed, that those searches be tracked so the items could be listed in future.

After the projects were submitted, all the participants were invited to appear before the judges either by Skype or in person at Guelph City Hall. I presented my app to Mayor Cam Guthrie and various other stakeholders from the departments who would benefit from the software.

Winners

After several anxious days I was notified I did not win. However, I was glad that I participated and was able to demo my app to the judges. To find out who did win, see this article in The Guelph Mercury.

So, a big thanks goes out to the City of Guelph for hosting this event and to Blair Labelle (@Blair_Labelle), GM of Technology and Innovation for the city, for spearheading the open data initiative in Guelph. I encourage everyone to follow Open Guelph (@OpenGuelph) on Twitter and to participate in next year’s event!

ConFoo 2015 Wrap-up

My trip to ConFoo 2015 is now over and the experience was awesome.

This was my first visit to ConFoo in Montreal and it was my first speaking engagement there also. There were over 600 software professionals at the event and while I was there I was able to present my talks on Universal Apps and Application Insights. The slide decks for both talks can be found on my SlideShare profile.

Most talks were in English but many were also in French which makes the conference unique in North America.

I also got to see some excellent talks by:

  • Julia Ouellette (@jooliah) – Prototyping: Beyond the Wireframe
  • Guy Barrette (@GuyBarrette) – Native Cross-Platform Mobile Development with Xamarin
  • Jeremy Cook (@JCook21) – Beyond MVC: from Model to Domain
  • Christian Wenz (@chwenz) – Web Application Security: Lessons Learned
  • Pascal Laurin (@plaurin78) – Behaviour Driven Development with SpecFlow
  • Mario Cardinal (@mario_cardinal) – A Personal Perspective on Architecting Mobile Applications
  • Mike Wood (@mikewo) – Being Efficient with Azure Automation

I have followed many of these people on Twitter for some time so it was nice to finally meet them in person. Especially people like Guy, Pascal and Mario who are voices for Microsoft in the Montreal developer community.

However, I feel the main point of going to conferences is to meet and network with people that you would not interact with in other circumstances. I met Stephanie Evans (@HMSEvans) and Koffi Alain Sessi (@aksessi) from Pluralsight, as well as speakers Martin Gontovnikas (@mgonto) from Argentina, Andrea Giuliano (@bit_shark) from Italy, Chris Cornutt (@enygma) from Texas, Ben Ramsey (@ramsey) from Nashville, and Jordan Kasper (@jakerella) from D.C.

There were also experiences I would have not had either – like visiting Dieu du Ciel for craft beer and swimming in the outdoor heated pool in -27 C (with wind chill) weather (where your face and hair freezes but your body is warm).

ConFoo 2016 will be from Feb 22-26. Follow them on Twitter (@confooca) and check their site regularly for updates throughout the year. And when tickets are released get yours to this world-class conference. You will not be disappointed.

Related Articles:

Speaking at ConFoo 2015

10 tips on submitting a conference session proposal

Microsoft Office Sway and Juventus F.C.

Office_Sway_logoThose who know me know that one of my biggest passions is football. No, not the NFL (although I like that too) but soccer. Or futbol. Or footie. Or whatever name you want to call it.

And there is no bigger fan of the Italian football club Juventus F.C. out there than me.

So, when I signed up for the Microsoft Office Sway preview back in November I did so because I like new technologies. I also really like the cool video that was promoting the product. Perhaps the best feature though is that it can run on any browser on any device.

When I was accepted to the preview program in December I knew I wanted to create a tribute to my favourite football team. In the end I had the whole thing done in less than 45 minutes.

I found the interface very simple to use. In fact, the video shows a young child using it to create a school presentation. And yet it is powerful enough to design a prototype of a new product on it.

A sway is built on a “Storyline.” You add content (text, documents, photos, videos, charts, etc.) to build out your story. You can start from scratch or work from an existing document. Searching for videos and photos to add is simple enough with the built-in tools. You can also choose from multiple structures and styles to design your presentation.

Since completing my first Sway the program has been opened up to everyone. Microsoft is still accepting suggestions for making Sway better and there is also a community forum where you can get help.

In the end my Sway turned out OK. The lack of flowing design is the fault of the creator, not the program.

I guess Microsoft liked it though as they tweeted it out as an example of what a sports fan can create:

Have a look for yourself at what I built and see what can be accomplished: https://sway.com/g1BBEIGqtMHFKI7N

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