Azure book I technical reviewed now available

Microsoft Azure IaaS Essentials book coverThe Microsoft Azure book I recently technical reviewed for UK publishers Packt Publishing is now in print.

The book is entitled Microsoft Azure IaaS Essentials by Gethyn Ellis (ISBN 13: 9781782174639). It “is intended for system administrators and other IT professionals who need to both design and implement an Azure-based cloud solution. With the help of this book, you will soon master the basic tasks needed to build a cloud-based solution.”

It covers how to:

  • Deploy both Windows-based and Linux-based virtual machines to Microsoft Azure.
  • Utilize SQL Server Azure to build a robust, highly available solution that can be recovered in the event of disaster for your important business applications.

It also serves as “A practical guide to configuring and creating a virtual network that expands your on-premises network into a cloud-based infrastructure.”

Related Articles:

Microsoft Azure Essentials free eBook series

Microsoft Press has recently started releasing a series of eBooks under the title Microsoft Azure Essentials. These books are all about Azure and they are written with the care and precision of traditional paper MS Press books. The best part though is that all of them are FREE.

Current books

There are four books currently in the series:

Fundamentals of AzureMicrosoft Azure Essentials: Fundamentals of Azure

Michael S. Collier and Robin E. Shahan
February 2015
246 pages

The first book in the series serves as an introduction to the world of Azure. It balances its approach to Azure by looking at seven key areas. It also shows how to navigate both the old Management Portal and the new Preview Portal.

I am currently working my way through this book right now and I can honestly say that it is an excellent read – both as refresher on the older technologies and as an introduction to new ones.

Microsoft Azure Essentials: Azure AutomationAzure Automation

Michael McKeown
March 2015
112 pages

The second book in the series is on Azure Automation. This is a timely topic as the world of dev ops has become huge. Azure Automation helps you with automating frequent tasks centered around continuous deployment.

Automation tasks are built using runbooks. They are created using Windows PowerShell Workflow and once completed are stored in Azure.

Using Azure to automate your tasks means you diminish the likelihood of errors and you can complete your work in a more timely manner.

Azure Machine LearningMicrosoft Azure Essentials: Azure Machine Learning

Jeff Barnes
April 2015
237 pages

The next eBook in the Microsoft Azure Essentials series is Azure Machine Learning. The book details instructions on how the developer can create predictive analytics models and then deploy them so that they can be consumed as a web service.

The book talks about some common machine learning algorithms and also provides samples on how to use the service.

Microsoft Azure Essentials: Azure Web Apps for DevelopersAzure Web Apps

Rick Rainey
June 2015
115 pages

This book was published to help developers get up to speed on Azure Web Apps. Since Web Apps are a new idea within Azure (some components like Azure Websites and Azure Mobile Services are repackaged here), this book is a nice companion for those just getting started. It is targeted at developers with experience in .NET and Visual Studio. Chapters in this book cover items such as Azure WebJobs, scaling your web apps, and monitoring and diagnostics.

Azure SQL Essentials

Microsoft Azure Essentials: Migrating SQL Server Databases to Azure

Carl Rabeler
June 2016
161 pages

“This ebook helps SQL Server database users understand Microsoft’s offering for SQL Server in Azure. The author walks you through the steps of getting started with SQL Server in an Azure virtual machine and with Azure SQL Database. Follow the numerous screenshots to create a trial subscription, create SQL Server in an Azure virtual machine, create an Azure SQL Database, migrate an on-premises database to each Azure environment, create users, back up and restore data, and archive data.”

Conclusion

These are the first three books in the Microsoft Azure Essentials series. More books are slated on future topics and I for one cannot wait for the rest. Azure is moving so fast right now and they are adding so many new features that it can be hard to stay up to date. This series of books is a great way to do just that.

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

2013 year in review

Now that we are well into 2014 I thought it was time to reflect on the year that passed.

I wrote 10 new articles in 2013 (which is a lot for me). The whole blog received approximately 13,000 page views for the year. WordPress equated my totals this way:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

The most requested article for the year was one I created in 2012 entitled Export an ODBC Data Source in which I outlined the steps to export ODBC data sources from one server to another. I found information in this area lacking and so I knew that by posting it to my blog not only would it help others but it would be a great reminder for myself if I ever needed to do so again.

This year also saw me expand my presentation skills as I spoke at two major conferences. For my successful session submissions I followed the tips I outlaid in an article I wrote on submitting a conference session proposal. The first presentation was at DevTeach Toronto in May and the second was at That Conference in Wisconsin in August. Both were excellent ways to get my feet wet in speaking at larger conferences.

All of my presentation slides are hosted on SlideShare. According to their end of year totals I received 1,143 views of my slides. Or, in other words, SlideShare says:

It would take three full Boeing 747 flights to hold that many people!

Two other things that I did not blog about but which occurred in the second half of the year were the following:

In July I was asked by Microsoft Canada to be a member of the Windows Azure Canadian Community Experts Team. This was quite unexpected as I am just beginning my foray into the world of Windows Azure and I have a lot to learn. That being said I have discovered a group of Canadians excited about spreading the word about Windows Azure who I can definitely learn from.

August saw the publication of the Windows Phone book I was the Technical Reviewer for. Entitled Pro Windows Phone App Development, Third Edition, it was published by Apress and it was written by the fine folks over at Falafel Software.

Pro Windows Phone App Development, Third EditionThis is the second book that I have been the technical reviewer for. I have written an article in the past of the role the technical reviewer plays in helping a book come to fruition. If you have an interest in publishing then I recommend you explore this avenue.

I hope for 2014 that I can be more consistent with my writing. It is a good way to share the knowledge I gain and to give back to the developer community. As well, hopefully I can begin to add more Windows Azure related content to the site as I explore it in more depth.

Thanks for reading and see you in 2014!

Book Review – ASP.NET MVC 4 Mobile Websites Succinctly (Syncfusion Inc.)

ASP.NET MVC 4 Mobile Websites Succinctly

Author: Lyle Luppes

Paperback: 87 pages

Publisher: Syncfusion Inc. (2012)

Language: English

Formats: Amazon Kindle and PDF

Price: Free

I was curious to read ASP.NET MVC 4 Mobile Websites Succinctly as the title really intrigued me. I thought it was solely about creating mobile websites using the Mobile Application template in ASP.NET MVC 4. And while that is an option that is mentioned in this book it is really about more than that.

Author Lyle Luppes takes the reader through the creation of a mobile website while using the Internet Application template and Razor view engine. This template comes with the following meta tag built into the Layout pages:

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width" />;

By using functionality that Microsoft provides right out of the box we can see immediately how easy it is to create a new mobile website or to add mobile support to an existing one.

Throughout the book we build out our MVC mobile site and the majority of this done by adding jQuery Mobile options to our website. If you are unfamiliar with jQuery then this book will do little to get you started. However, if you have used it in the past and are familiar with the syntax then this book gives a good overview of what is available to developers who use jQuery Mobile.

One of the strengths of the book is also one of its weaknesses. The text has lots of examples of what you can do with MVC 4 and jQuery Mobile. However, they mostly focus on the Apple line-up of products, especially the iPad and iPhone. The copy could have done with more mention of things to look out for when developing for other platforms – especially Android and Windows Phone.

Overall the book is an excellent introduction to incorporating jQuery Mobile into your MVC 4 applications so that you can easily make your websites mobile friendly. I know that I will refer to it again over the coming months to use many of the tips mentioned in this book within my future projects.

Visit the Syncfusion website to download ASP.NET MVC 4 Mobile Websites Succinctly or to see the entire Succinctly Series.

Disclaimer: In the interest of full disclosure I have received compensation from Syncfusion for this book review. However, Syncfusion had no editorial control over the writing of this blog post and did not instruct me on what I could or could not say in my review. In fact I have been meaning to read the Syncfusion books for some time and their offer was the impetus I needed to get started,

Being a Technical Reviewer

I was contacted last month by UK publishing house Packt Publishing about being a Technical Reviewer for their recently-published book WordPress Mobile Applications with PhoneGap (ISBN: 1849519862). I accepted even though I did not know a lot about the subject. However, the whole experience was a learning process for me in terms of both how the publishing world works and about the technologies I was reviewing.

WordPress Mobile Applications with PhoneGap book coverThe book is positioned as a way to:

  • Discover how we can leverage WordPress as a content management system and serve content to mobile apps by exposing its API
  • Learn how to build geolocation mobile applications using WordPress and PhoneGap
  • Step-by-step instructions on how you can make use of jQuery and jQuery mobile to provide an interface between WordPress and your PhoneGap app

The reviewing process is pretty straightforward. The chapters are sent to you by email as the book is being written and they are usually in Microsoft Word format. The chapters are early drafts and usually contain typos and formatting errors. Eventually those will be corrected by the book’s editors. Your job is to review the code and text for technical accuracy. You also make sure the chapter structure is logical and easy to follow for readers. Any corrections/clarifications/notes you make are placed in Comment tags as you do not edit the text directly. After you finish your review you then fill out an opinion questionnaire about the chapter you just read. The editors want to know what you would like to see more of, less of, if there were important topics that were missed and your overall score out of 10.

If you are interested in being a Technical Reviewer for Packt you can check out their Reviewing for Packt information page. Although you do not get paid to be a reviewer you will receive acknowledgement on both the “Credits” page and the “About The Reviewers” page where they will include a short biography about you. This is a great promotional tool for you as you can mention your blog/website address and Twitter accounts if you wish. As well, you will receive both a paper copy and an eBook copy of the book you reviewed. You will also get an eBook copy of any other book in their catalogue.

Being a Technical Reviewer is a great way to learn more about a topic and to see how the publishing industry works. It is also a neat way to see how books are put together and you can learn many useful writing tips which will help your writing in other areas including making you a better blogger. It will also especially help if you are interested in writing a technical book in the future. As a Technical Reviewer you will gain a publishing credit and it might just make your book proposal that much more enticing to prospective editors.

Building a developer’s library of books

Computer Books by Helder da Rocha CC image courtesy Helder da Rocha on Flickr

Creating a library of good books is essential for all developers. However the heft of programming books has given a lot of people pause in assembling their library. The dead-tree versions of some books are huge and can run into a page count of over a thousand. As well, because the books can become obsolete in mere years the books get consigned to thrift shops and recycle bins quickly, sometimes without being opened.

With the advent of eBooks the opportunity for developers to create a library is phenomenal. Most new books are now released in various formats like PDF, EPUB and MOBI which means they can be consumed on multiple devices. With file sizes in the 5-25MB range you can easily keep your library on a thumb drive/memory stick for access in all situations.

In this post I will show you how to easily create a library of books that any developer would be proud to own.

Free eBooks

There are plenty of free and legal resources where you can start acquiring eBooks. The MSDN Press blog will list their upcoming books and will often disperse a few free versions. A recent blog post by Microsoft’s Canadian developer evangelists list the top eBooks available from Microsoft.

Another free resource of books can be found through Syncfusion. This company creates developer controls for the Microsoft stack but they have also started creating and distributing an excellent mini library of eBooks on multiple topics like GitHub, Knockout.js, JavaScript, jQuery and LightSwitch. The site requires you to register but all books in their Succinctly Series can then be downloaded from their library.

Paid eBooks

If you are interested in purchasing only books that come from legitimate sources then companies like Amazon have stepped in to fill the void. You can get almost every new programming book from Amazon in multiple formats. The eBooks they provide are much more eco-friendly as you can lower your carbon footprint. Your purchase will not require the book to be shipped from the factory to Amazon’s fulfillment centre and then from there to your house. As well, the book does not consume resources to be printed or eventually recycled once it has fulfilled its usefulness.

Carpe Diem

Digital books can be easily disseminated and this is inherently one of the upsides of the eBook revolution. However the downside is that without much digital protection these books can be downloaded for free without the author seeing a dime after the initial sale.

The rise of websites that share eBooks has been increasing and will probably not abate for a while. I wanted to mention a few sites that people can access for free versions of publisher’s books in this article. Not because I condone or encourage this practice but because I wanted to present a balanced view. I also want to mention some of the risks involved with undertaking this practice.

A common site for free eBook downloads is 4Shared.com. After you register you can search through their multitude of files (including music and films) for copyrighted material. Many have names that are slightly altered so finding the file you want can be tricky. Once you do you can download it for free.

Also, there is a whole host of websites out there offering copyrighted technology eBooks for free. Sites like it-ebooks.info offer you the option of purchasing the book through Amazon or downloading the eBook for free. This format seems similar to other computer book sites.

Another way to find files is through a simple PDF search on Google. You can use the following search parameter Filetype:PDF to search for all PDF files pertaining to your search query. You can search for keywords like “Filetype:PDF Algorithms” or for exact book titles. You can then use the quick view function to the right of each search result to see what Google has returned. As well, Filetype searching also works for a multitude of different file types.

You can also access eBooks through other ventures like BitTorrent file sharing. I also know people can share eBooks through programs like OneDrive and Dropbox. However this practice can tend to contravene the copyright policies of these sites regarding copyrighted material. Read what  is and is not allowed to be shared on these sites before proceeding.

However, the main problem with accessing files from 4Shared or through Torrents is that you never know what you are going to get. Most of these files are wrapped up in folders and then zipped up. You might be downloading a host of viruses. If you do download from here always run the files through a virus checker before opening them on your machine. Or better yet sandbox your downloads within a Virtual Machine built specifically for this purpose.

Paper Books

As I mentioned before paper books like eBooks can become obsolete fast. Sometimes you might need the book for a single project and then it languishes on your shelf for years. Often books for developers fall into two categories – the principles of and the art of. The principles of books are about a specific topic. A certain book might teach you how to administer Windows XP or how to code a Web Service. The art of books are ones that teach you the art of programming and help you be a better programmer. For me I will always have a place on my shelf for Clean Code or Code Complete but a book on .NET 1.1 is out the door.

That being said if you are looking for older books for your personal library and you don’t want to spend a fortune then check out things like used bookstores, thrift stores and fundraising book sales. Many of these places also have textbooks that might make worthwhile additions as well.

Finally, look at your local library to see if they have a book you can borrow. They usually carry the latest programming books and often times they will have books on older technologies. They, like most of us, are sometimes hesitant to get rid of a book that cost us $75 back in 2001.

Are there other sources of eBooks or paper Books that you know of? If so then leave a comment below.