Getting Rid of Windows 8 Virtues

by Dmitry Kirsanov 29. May 2013 12:40

I had two problems with my Windows Me 8. At least two which were clearly bugs in operating system and not a usual Dell hardware failure. And seems like both of these problems had the same solution, which potentially should be able to fix some other issues with Windows 8. More...

SQL Bits: Working with AlwaysOn Availability Groups in SQL Server 2012

by Dmitry Kirsanov 24. February 2013 22:23

In SQL Server 2012, we have 4 main options for High Availability: Database Mirroring, Failover Clustering, Availability Groups and Log Shipping. All but Availability Groups (AG) are available in SQL Server 2008 as well. Today we’ll review Availability Groups and how to create and use them.

Before we begin, make sure you understand what is Windows Server Failover Cluster (WSFC). I covered it almost a year ago for Windows Server 2008 R2 and SQL Server 2008 R2, and you’ll need WSFC in order for AG to work.

A few points about Availability Groups to make sure they are what you are looking for:

  • Availability Groups are not share-nothing scalability option. They are using shared storage, such as storage area network (SAN), although it’s not a requirement. We’ll speak about share-nothing scalability later.
  • For AlwaysOn Availability Groups, you need SQL Server 2012 Enterprise edition or higher. Business Intelligence edition or Standard won’t do.
  • AG provide failover with up to 5 readable nodes.
  • AG provide you with something like load balancing option, but AG is not NLB. Also, all nodes can work independently, i.e. you can still connect to them to retrieve information. Only the primary node can change information in the database.
  • AG does not require working in the same IP subnet, but it requires Active Directory domain. This means, that you can have geographically remote nodes participating in one AG, but they must be members of the same AD domain.
    In case of multi-subnet cluster, you’ll have to implement the file replication solution on your file servers to synchronize the data.
  • AG is database-level, as opposed to node-level failover cluster. AG serves group of databases, unlike the simple database mirroring, with 4 replicas instead of one.

Overall, the AlwaysOn Availability Groups are conceptually similar to database mirroring, but provide more advanced functionality and security.

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SQL Bits: 8 Most Important New Features In SQL Server 2012

by Dmitry Kirsanov 16. February 2013 07:00

SQL Server 2012

If you are developer, then you work with relational databases as well. And if you work in a Windows world, most likely your system of choice is Microsoft SQL Server.

With every new DBMS release we find something that changes the way we solve common problems in new solutions. SQL Server 2012 is no exception.

In SQL Server 2012, instead of just enhancing the productivity and robustness of the server, Microsoft solved a number of architectural problems we previously had to deal with in our applications when working with SQL Server.

Problems like saving files in databases, load balancing database clusters and simple restoration of data, finally got the minimum viable solution, which should only improve with time.

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Introduction to Windows 8 Development: XAML Controls

by Dmitry Kirsanov 29. January 2013 11:00

This is the second part of Controls section of my introduction to Windows 8 Development, and today we are going to review the developing of XAML applications for Windows Store. First part is available here.

A little off topic

One of my favorite quotes belongs to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and that is – “The God is in the details”. I’ve checked – this was the sixth time I quoted him in my blog, and the first three quotes insist that devil is in details as well. Depends from the details, I guess. And there are many details of both kinds in the ways you develop HTML5 or XAML applications for Windows Store or Windows Phone.

Sometimes it’s pure HTML5, sometimes it’s XAML application with web browser control to display HTML5 contents. Sometimes you have UI preview, and sometimes you have to use external editor, like Blend. Some controls belong to particular technology and have no counterparts in another… So when someone is saying “it’s a matter of style” again, I look like this:Cheshire Cat in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

Because when you are in nights-and-weekends marathon for having your Big Idea project done (or should I say – a marathon-long race?), you could see the difference between technologies, and it’s displayed in form of a price tag, where the currency is time.

There are few things that could buy you some time. Your expertise in domain is one of them, and that’s where the difference between technologies matter most. Other things include the value of your brand (if Microsoft or Google would release a copy of your project a few months later, it would be a tough time for you, so their brands could buy them some time and grant market share), the availability of ready made components (elements of the framework, third party controls and libraries) and perhaps some performance boosters like Resharper.

And since I mentioned the competition, maybe you wouldn’t like to publish your work as open-source HTML5 / JavaScript project, but rather as half-compiled XAML/C# one?

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E-Learning Providers for Software Developers

by Dmitry Kirsanov 25. January 2013 06:00

I get this question quite frequently – what are, in my opinion, the best e-learning providers for software developers. So, here is my top, sorted by effectiveness:

  1. Pluralsight
  2. AppDev
  3. Lynda.com
  4. Career Academy
  5. TrainSignal (non-developers)
  6. Channel9, MVA and others

Note, that none of the top 5 are free, they all provide professional grade training courses with varying degree of effectiveness. In most cases, variation is insignificant, but the ratio of brilliant works resembles the position in this top.

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Why you don’t have to close applications in Windows 8

by Dmitry Kirsanov 16. January 2013 16:19

I had to answer this basic question today, so I guess others may have it as well, so I thought it’s worth sharing :)

If you had a chance to play with new Windows 8, you should have noticed that applications do not have a “close” button or even the menu item to exit the application. You still can close the application by pressing Alt + F4, or drag the title of the application to the bottom of the screen to exit it, but that’s not convenient, right?

The reason for that is that you don’t have to do that.

As I’ve illustrated earlier, in Windows 8 the “Metro” application doesn’t get any resources once it loses focus. So when you start another application, press Start button on your device or the keyboard, or browse back from your application – it takes up to five seconds to stop the execution of that application. It may still reside in memory, but only while that memory is not claimed by anyone else, so the performance of the computer doesn’t suffer.

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Introduction to Windows 8 Development: Working with Controls

by Dmitry Kirsanov 14. January 2013 08:00

Windows 8 everyday controls

One essential part of Windows 8 software development is developing the user interface. Which means – placing right controls in right place, and make them an organic part of overall user experience. And what an exciting topic is that!

In Windows 8, there are only few new controls, but the ones you knew were changed drastically. You can choose either XAML or HTML5 for your application, and among other things, the set of available controls will change, so now you’ll have to master your skills of using more controls than before.

The “same” controls may look the same at the screen, but they are different inside. HTML5 provides you with additional controls specified in HTML5 standard, and you don’t have to worry about multi-browser support (unless you want to keep the certain degree of compatibility, anyway), but the problem is – HTML5 is not covered fully by MSIE 10, which provides you it’s HTML5 engine – the Trident.

We’ll cover both native and 3rd party controls available to you for both XAML and HTML5 applications. For the sake of simplicity, this article will be more about HTML5, while the next one – about XAML controls, and the third part – about general rules and principles of user interface design in Windows 8. Then we’ll cover Windows Phone 8 controls as well.

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Introduction to Windows 8 Development: Working with Sensors

by Dmitry Kirsanov 5. January 2013 09:00

Nearly all mobile devices (not necessarily cell phones, but anything that’s mobile enough) these days have sensors. And that will be our topic for today.

By the way, the way the term “mobile” is used today, reminds me an old anecdote with lady asking an IT guy, who tried to explain the difference between floppy disk and hard disk, whether that floppy disk isn’t hard enough for him. So, let’s settle on the definition that mobile devices are not stationery.

As we found previously, Windows 8 supports many platforms, and each platform has it’s own sensors, and new sensors are invented and need to be supported by OS.

Also, you may find out that your mobile device has more sensors than listed in your device specs. For instance, you may enjoy such sensors as compass and inclinometer, even though you have no such hardware in your device, and that’s because some sensors are “fusion”, or “virtual” – i.e. their data are results of computational analysis of data from other, “real” or “raw” sensors.

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Classic Start Menu in Windows 8

by Dmitry Kirsanov 4. January 2013 14:16

Clasic Shell screenshot - Windows XP themeWith beta version of Windows 8, we had native legacy start menu, which disappeared in the release version of the OS. For many people it is still the reason to not upgrade, but seems there is the light at the end of the tunnel, after all.

Even though this might be old news by now, but there are few free applications, which provide the classic start menu to your Windows 8. And I just tried the most popular one, the Classic Shell. It’s more advanced than even the original Start menu of Windows 7 / Vista / XP, as it may look as you want and you can tune just about anything in it. See for yourself.

Frankly, I wouldn’t install it, as I have no problems with adopting the new Start menu of Windows 8, but the last update to Windows 8 just killed the new Start menu in one of my laptops. Of course I used the “sfc / scannow” command to fix the problem, but I felt need a backup just in case.

This thing reminds me the “good old” days of Windows 3.1 with application called Calmira – the Start menu of Windows 95 for Windows 3.1.

Introduction to Windows 8 App Development: HTML5 or XAML?

by Dmitry Kirsanov 30. December 2012 15:19

As you, perhaps, already know, in Windows 8 you can develop Windows Store applications by using one of 3 ways:

MetroLanguageProjections

It’s either C++ native application using DirectX, or C# / VB .NET application using XAML, or HTML5 / CSS3 / JavaScript application.

Although Microsoft says that it’s more a matter of style, there are some advantages and disadvantages in using each of these methods and we are going to discuss them now.

As you know, Windows 8 is the first Microsoft’s operating system whose kernel works on servers, workstations, tablets and even mobile phones, which means that it supports a lot of scenarios beyond the scope of any single platform. Windows 8 shares it’s kernel with Windows Server 2012 (servers), Windows RT (ARM based tablets) and Windows Phone 8 (mobile phones), but fortunately you can’t build application that would work on each platform without changes. This reminds me Linux (shares kernel with Android) and MacOS (shares kernel with iOS) – even though at low level it’s the same OS, what’s stands on the shoulders of that kernel is what makes real difference. As Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said, “the God is in the details”.

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