At Last, Windows Azure is here!

Finally, i can write something in my blog! Over the last 9 months i have been working as the Windows Azure technical evangelist, working with early adopters such as Full Armor, Sentient, Lake Quincy & n/software.

You can see some of the results in the Ray Ozzy’s PDC keynote from Monday http://channel9.msdn.com/pdc2008/KYN01/ and on the Windows Azure Gallery at http://gallery.cloudapp.net/.

For a deeper view of Windows Azure, check out the channel 9 videos Charles Torre did with Manuvir Das Introducing Windows Azure, and Steve Marx Windows Azure for Developers. There are also a bunch of screencasts the team did on http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/cc994380.aspx.

Look out for some cool demos, training kits and samples from the team in the next few weeks and months.

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Exploits with Windows Mobile

There has been lots of discussion and debate around the iPhone and Windows Mobile lately.

iPhone is the cool-must-have-one phone device, especially with the new 3g model, which will support ActiveSync for Exchange email – apparently its the dogs bol… well really good.

Now because Apple have this new shiny toy, this must mean Windows Mobile is Sh.. not very good at all. Well, I have a Windows Mobile phone (the T-mobile shadow if you must know) and I’m sick of being the idiot with the crap phone. (I will punch the next person who looks like they might be thinking this).

What to do? Well what does the iPhone have that I cannot do with my windows mobile device? I thought I would spend some cycles to find out:

1. iPhone has a touch screen, with a cool UX

My T-Mobile shadow is not touch screen, it has a keyboard – my previous 2 Windows Mobile phones were touch screen and worked great.

HTC already make the Touch and Touch Dual that has a keyboard too. (try doing any sizable email on a touch screen)

Even better, there are a several new devices due out in the next few months that improve not only the touch experience, but also provide intuitive interfaces over windows mobile. There is the Touch Diamond and the Touch Pro – both providing new UX and touch capabilities. Samsung have the new i900 Omnia and Sony Ericsson have the XPERIA X1. All 4 devices look pretty awesome. the i900 has 16gb Ram, while the X1 has a ridiculous screen resolution (800 x 480 pixels).

2. iPhone has a cool web browser

Sorry but the Windows Mobile IE really does suck. So I did a search and found the Opera Mobile web browser. I downloaded the trial (I’ll probably buy it) and have been using it for several days now. So far I have ordered pizza, booked movie tickets and sold shares – speed on the T-Mobile network is not fantastic, but I now have a full desktop web browser on my phone. When I turn the WiFi on, it flies. Cool.

3. iPhone plays songs

Oh, yeah. That is probably what the Windows Mobile Media player is for. I’ve had music on my phone for about 4 years now. I even had full songs as my ring tone. I can also watch movies, listen to audio books, read eBooks and just about everything else, why is this…

4. iPhone allows me to build mobile applications

If your name is not on the list, your not coming in. Anyone can download the free Windows Mobile SDK and build applications for Windows Mobile devices.

That led me on a search for some cool mobile applications:

Windows Mobile PowerShell Provider – It allows you to use Windows PowerShell to copy files, get device information, manipulate the registry, sync and more.

SportsDo.NET– linked with your GPS, when you go out for a run/cycle/adventure, you can track your progress with SportsDo – upload it to the web and view detailed statistics on your performance. If you’ve ever wondered how fast you really cycle up the hill next to 520, try this!

Audible – I like to listen to audio books – ok Apple have Audible too.

Spb Brain Evolution – I love this puzzle game.

My conclusion

So it turns out its not all grim. iPhone maybe the cool new kid on the block, but windows mobile still has lots (even more) going for it. I’m happy with my Shadow, with a few extras I’ve gotten rid of the warts I had and have squashed any desire for the iPhone.

Of course now I have to decide between a Touch, X1 or i900?

 

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Success with Windows Home Server Restore

I’ve been using Windows Home Server for just over 6 months now. I know this because the trial expired and I had to upgrade to the full version. This did not involve entering a product key – it was an install over the top – which took over an hour.

This always worries me, since it was working 100% before the "upgrade" would it work after.

The upgrade went smoothly. It restarted a few times and then was ready to go, without any network. Home Server does not detect my network card, so I had to go and find the right drivers from another machine, download and copy to the server. This took around 20 minutes to find and install the network drivers (they were on the C drive of the Home Server, which was upgraded!)

Next, I had to re-create my user accounts – not so smooth – I had to reassign permissions to shares. This took around 10 minutes.

Next, I needed to reinstall the client connector software on each computer to have them connect back up. This was very annoying and took around 30 minutes.

So with the install time at about an hour – plus an hour to mess on – I’m now back to where I was 2 hours ago…

So now we are back up and running and everything should be fine right? Wrong. after a few days I notice that backups are not being done. It appears, after much searching, that the only way to correct my particular problem was to reset the backup database (read that as delete it). Now I’m feeling pain. I did have some machines in the backup that have been since "migrated" to newer OS’s. The backup served as a safety net just in case something was not backed up. Loosing those was very painful, but not as much as not having a backup working in the house – more trade-offs. In my opinion, this is the exact opposite of the experience I should have had with Home Server. I see it very much as an appliance, and not something I want to play admin on (I have real servers for that)

Now the big test, my new 320gb drive arrives for my machine. I want this as my boot drive in place of my 110gb drive. Easiest way to do this would appear to be a restore from the backup on home server. In goes the drive, out comes the restore CD, it boots – I select the machine I want to restore from and 2 hours later – bingo – everything is as it should be, except I now have 200gb free. Wonderful, and pain free. This is exactly how it should work.

Whilst my drive swapped worked great, moving from the trial version to the final was not a good experience – why is it not possible just to enter a valid product key?

I still have mixed feelings about Home Server, given the data corruption bug, but I’m looking forward to the Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 – which should fix that bug, and maybe allow me to run 64bit Vista – although I see the server backup has gone

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