Tag Archives: visual studio

Oxygene for Java released: develop for Android and Java runtime with Delphi language in Visual Studio

RemObjects has released Oxygene for Java, a new version of its Object Pascal compiler. Object Pascal is pretty much the Delphi language though with some additional features of its own. Previous versions target the .NET runtime, and a version of this is marketed by Embarcadero as Prism. The IDE for Oxygene is Microsoft’s Visual Studio. This new version targets both the Java Runtime and the Android Dalvik VM. The obvious target market is Delphi developers who now want to create apps for Android, or cross-platform Java applications.

I downloaded the trial and ran the supplied Hello World in the Android emulator … it works.


A few further notes from the RemObjects announcement. While only Visual Studio is supported initially, an Eclipse version is also in preparation. Oxygene directly consumes .JAR libraries so you can use both first and third-party libraries. There is also a tool called Oxidizer that lets you import Java language code, which will be converted to Oxygene Object Pascal.

A point to note is that Embarcadero has already announced that its cross-platform FireMonkey framework will support Android as well as Apple iOS. This means that developers who want to code for Android in the Delphi language will have two choices. It looks to me as if Oxygene will be more suitable if you want to stay close to the Android SDK, whereas FireMonkey has its own custom-drawn user interface widgets and effects and should come into its own if you want the same code to run on both iOS and Android.

Given that a skilled Delphi developer would probably learn Java fairly quickly, how much value is there in Oxygene for Java? I guess factors include how much more productive you can be in Oxygene and the value of sharing code across projects targeting different platforms, presuming that you do not want to run Java everywhere.

Quick thoughts on Xcode and Objective C versus Microsoft’s tools

I have been trying out JetBrains’ AppCode which meant working in an Apple development environment for a time. I took the opportunity to implement my simple calculator app in iOS native code.


Objective C is a distinctive language with a mixed reputation, but I enjoy coding with it. I used Automatic Reference Counting (ARC), a feature introduced in Xcode 4.2 and OSX 10.7, iOS 5; ARC now also works with 10.6 and iOS 4. This means objects are automatically disposed, and I did not have to worry about memory management at all in my simple app. This is not a complete memory management solution (if there is such a thing) – if you use malloc you must use free – but it meant that the code in my app is not particularly verbose or complex compared to other languages. Apple’s libraries seem to favour plain English method names like StringByAppendingString which makes for readable code.

I was impressed by how easy it is to make an app that looks good, because the controls are beautifully designed. I understand the attraction of developing solely for Apple’s platform.

I also love the integrated source control in Xcode. You find yourself using a local Git repository almost without thinking about it. Microsoft could learn from that; no need for Team Foundation Server for a solo developer.

I did miss namespaces. In Objective C, if you want to remove the risk of name collision with a library, you have to use your own class prefix (and hope that nobody else picked the same one).


Interface Builder, the visual UI designer, is great but many developers do not use it, because coding the UI without it is more flexible. It is a shame that you have to make this choice, unlike IDE’s with “two way tools” that let you edit in code or visually and seamlessly keep the two in synch. I found myself constantly having to re-display windows like the Attributes Inspector though it is not too bad once you learn the keyboard shortcuts. The latest Interface Builder has a storyboard feature which lets you define several screens and link them. It looks useful, though when I played with this I found it difficult to follow all the linking lines the designer drew for me.

It is interesting to compare the Mac and iOS development platform with that for Windows. Microsoft promotes the idea of language choice, though most professional development is either C# or C++, whereas on Apple’s platform it is Objective C and Cocoa or you are on your own. Although Mac and Windows are of a similar age, Microsoft’s platform gives a GUI developer more choices: Win32, MFC, WTL, Windows Forms, Windows Presentation Foundation and Silverlight, and in Windows 8 the new WinRT.

I get the impression that Microsoft is envious of this single-minded approach and trying to bring it to Metro-style Windows 8, where you still have a choice of languages but really only one GUI framework.

That said, Visual Studio is an impressive tool and both C# and C++ have important features which are lacking in Objective C. I would judge that Visual Studio is the more productive tool overall, but Apple’s developer platform has its own attractions.

Real-world Microsoft Team Foundation Server: Not very good, says ThoughtWorks

I spoke to Sam Newman, who is European Continuous Delivery Practice Lead at ThoughtWorks, a software development company. Needless to say, we talked extensively about Continuous Delivery and I will be reporting on this separately; but I was also interested in his comments on Microsoft’s Team Foundation Server (TFS).  He told me that ThoughtWorks teams often end up working with it at their .NET clients, but it is problematic. In one case, he said, 6% of productive time was absorbed dealing with TFS.

What was the problem, performance, bugs, features lacking?

When we’ve looked at the problems we’ve had, a lot of it unfortunately comes down to the version control system. It’s not very good. It’s slow, you can’t do rollbacks, sometimes things go missing, you get locks. When we talked about 6% of time, they were things like waiting for a solution to expand in Visual Studio. A lot of those issues are in the version control system.

A frustration is that you cannot use TFS with any version control system other than its own.

Every other build server in the world, from Anthill to Go to Cruise Control to Hudson, you can put in at least 10 version control systems. In TFS they are all coupled. So you can’t take the version control and point it at Subversion. That might resolve a lot of the issues.

Why is TFS so widely used? It is because it comes in the box, says Newman.

I can’t think of a single client that wanted a tool, went out into the marketplace, and selected TFS because it is the right tool for them. Most clients use TFS because it comes with their Enterprise MSDN licence.

I have tried TFS myself and found it pretty good; but then I am just testing it on small projects as a solo developer, so it is hard for me to replicate the experience of a real-world team. You would have thought that performance issues, such as waiting ages for a solution to expand in Visual Studio, could be solved by tracing the reason for the delay; but apparently this is not easy.

This is anecdotal evidence, and of course there may be plenty of TFS installations out there that work very well; I would be interested in hearing of counter examples. I am also not sure to what extent the problems apply to all versions of TFS, or whether there is improvement in TFS 2010.

Newman recognizes that anecdotal evidence is not much use: he says ThoughtWorks is trying to collect some solid data that can be used both to discuss with clients making version control and build system choices, and with Microsoft.

Performance is a feature, and makes a large contribution to user satisfaction. The first release of Outlook 2007 was extraordinarily slow in some setups, and I remember the pain of clicking on a folder and then waiting tapping my fingers while it thought about expanding. It sounds like some TFS users are having a similar experience but in Visual Studio.

ReSharper 6.0 arrives: intelligent editing and decompiling for Visual Studio

JetBrains has released ReSharper 6.0, an add-on for Visual Studio 2008 and 2010 that delivers a remarkable range of tools, mostly focused on code editing and static analysis. There is also a unit test runner and a source code decompiler.

The heart of ReSharper is refactoring, hence the name, and it adds a large number of refactoring options to Visual Studio. These are nicely integrated with the editor, not only as right-click menu options, but with light-bulb suggestions that appear automatically. Here, for example, ReSharper is telling me that I could use implicit type declaration, and offering to make the change for me, or alternatively to suppress this type of suggestion forever if I do not like it:


Source code decompiling is also nicely done. In the above code, IClaimsIdentity is part of the .NET Framework so the source code is not normally available. With ReSharper though, I can navigate to decompiled source:


This could be legally sensitive, so I have to pass a Decompiler Legal Notice in which JetBrains attempts to disclaim liability.


Then I am in, though the results are not exciting in this instance:


If you only want the decompiler, you may find the free dotPeek is all you need.

The what’s new list in ReSharper 6.0 is long. It includes support for JavaScript, ASP.NET Razor, CSS and HTML, better XAML support including creating properties and dependency properties from usage, and macros for file headers which automates things like inserting current date and time.

The pricing is not excessive: in the UK it costs £148 for a personal license or £259 for a commercial license. If you think ReSharper will save you time and improve your code quality, which it likely will, it will soon pay for itself.

Common sense on Windows 8, Silverlight and .NET

I am wary about writing another post on this subject in the absence of any further news, but since there is a lot of speculation out there I thought it would be worth making a few further observations.

Will Windows 8 support Silverlight and/or some other variety of .NET in its new touch-centric mode? I will be astonished if it does not. Aside from other considerations, this is an essential unifying piece between the Windows Phone 7 developer platform and the Windows 8 developer platform, which from what we have seen have a similar user interface. For further evidence, try an internet search for “Jupiter” and “appx”.

Why isn’t Microsoft already shouting about this? A good question. Part of the answer is that Microsoft wants to get developers enthused about the forthcoming build conference in September, and is holding back information.

Another part of the answer is that Windows historically has kept .NET as a layer above the operating system, rather than as part of it. We saw this in Windows 7, where to take advantage of new features like jump lists or thumbnail toolbars, .NET developers had to use a supplementary Windows API Code Pack. The Windows team delivered only native code or COM APIs.

Admittedly, there are differences this time around. The Windows team is not just delivering native code APIs, but also an HTML and JavaScript API. This is a break with the past, hence the talk of a new platform.

When it comes to desktop applications, would not Silverlight or something .NET based be a better choice than HTML5? I can see both sides of this. On one side is all the effort Microsoft has invested in .NET and Silverlight over the past decade. As I’ve noted before, I see Silverlight as what client-side .NET should have been from the beginning, lightweight, secure, simple installation, but with support for C# and much of the .NET Framework which developers know so well.

On the other hand, I can see Microsoft wanting to tap into the wave of HTML5 development and to make it easy for web developers to build apps for Windows 8.

In the end, developers will most likely have the choice. That puts pressure on Microsoft’s developer division to provide strong tools for two different development models; but I think that is what we will get.

Is .NET itself under threat? As far as I am aware, Microsoft has no plan “B” in terms of web and application server technology, and its Azure cloud is largely a .NET platform though there are are efforts to support other things like PHP and Java. Further, this aspect of the Microsoft Platform is under Server and Tools which is 100% behind .NET as far as I can tell. We have also seen Silverlight crop up in the user interfaces for new server products like InTune and System Center. On the server then, there is no evidence for .NET doubts at Microsoft; and considering the trend towards cloud+device computing the server is now at the heart of most business application development.

That said, Microsoft has challenges in sustaining .NET momentum. It cannot afford to fail with Azure, yet other platforms such as Amazon EC2 have greater developer mindshare as cloud computing platforms. VMWare with its Java-based Spring framework is another key competitor. Microsoft was late to the server virtualisation party with Hyper-V. I also see declining market share for IIS versus Apache in Netcraft’s statistics, although these figures are distorted by millions of little-used domains that get shunted from one platform to another by major hosting providers.

Further, it seems to me that the fortunes of .NET on the server cannot be completely separated from what happens on the client. One of the attractions of .NET is the integration between client and server, with Visual Studio as the tool for both. Windows has lost momentum to Apple in mobile, in tablets, and in high-end laptops, making Windows-only clients less attractive. In that context, the decision of the Windows team to favour HTML5 over .NET is a blow, in that it seems to concede that the future client is cross-platform, though I expect there will be some sort of outcry when we see all the proprietary hooks Microsoft has implemented to get HTML5 apps integrated into Windows 8.

Therefore these really are difficult times for .NET. I do not count Microsoft out though; it still dominates business computing, and amongst consumers the Xbox may prove an important new platform as Tom Warren notes.

While I have reservations about Windows 8, it does demo nicely as a new touch-centric operating system and Microsoft surely has chances in the corporate world with new-style tablets that integrate with its system management tools and which run Microsoft Office.

Finally, the angst over the role of .NET in Windows 8 shows that many developers actually like the platform, including Visual Studio, the C# language, the .NET Framework, and XAML for building a rich user interface.

Gang of Four member Erich Gamma joining Microsoft’s Visual Studio team

Microsoft’s Jason Zander has announced

that Erich Gamma will be joining the Visual Studio team as a Microsoft Distinguished Engineer

Gamma is one of the “Gang of Four” who shook up software development back in 1994 with the book Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software.

The other authors are Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson and John Vlissides.

Gamma has previously been associated with Java rather than .NET. He was co-developer with Kent Beck of the JUnit unit test framework, and also worked on the Eclipse tools platform and at IBM Rational on application lifecycle management (ALM).

It is a prestigious hire and I would expect Gamma’s influence on Visual Studio to be a positive one, especially in areas like software quality, refactoring and ALM.

Cracks appear in Microsoft’s bundled installers for Visual Studio 2010 as I try ADFS

I am trying out Microsoft Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS), chasing the dream of single sign-on between on-premise Active Directory and the cloud.

Oddly, although ADFS has been around for a while, it feels more bleeding edge than it should. ADFS is critical to Microsoft’s cloud platform play, and it needs to build this stuff right into Windows Server and .NET rather than making it a downloadable add-on.

The big problem with installers, whether on Windows or elsewhere, is dependencies and versions. You get some variant of DLL Hell, when A requires the latest version of B, and C requires an old version of B, and you need both A and C installed. The issue on Windows has reduced over the years, partly because of more side-by-side installations where multiple versions co-exist, and partly because Microsoft has invested huge effort into its installers.

There are still issues though, and I ran into a few of them when trying ADFS. I have Visual Studio 2010 installed on Windows 7 64-bit, and it is up-to-date with Service Pack 1, released in April. However, after installing the Windows Identity Foundation (WIF) runtime and SDK, I got this error when attempting to start Visual Studio:


Only some of the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 products on this computer have been upgraded to Service Pack 1. None will work correctly until all have been upgraded.

I’m guessing that the WIF components have not been updated to take account of SP1 and broke something. Never mind, I found my Visual Studio SP1 .ISO (I avoid the web installs where possible), ran setup, and choose to reapply the service pack. It trundled along until it decided that it needed to run or query the Silverlight 4 SDK setup:


A dialog asked for silverlight_sdk.msi. I wasted some time over this. Why is the installer looking for silverlight_sdk.msi in a location that does not exist? I’d guess because the Silverlight SDK installer is wrapped as an executable that unpacked the MSI there, ran it and then deleted it. Indeed, I discovered that both the Silverlight 4 SDK and the Silverlight 4 Tools for Visual Studio are .EXE files that wrap zip archives. You can rename them with a .zip or .7z extension and extract them with the open source 7 Zip, but not for some reason with the ZIP extractor built into Windows. Then you can get hold of silverlight_sdk.msi.

I did this, but then discovered that silverlight_sdk.msi is also on the Visual Studio SP1 ISO. All I needed to do was to point the installer there, though it is odd that it cannot find the file of its own accord.

It also seems to me that this scenario should not occur. If the MSI for installation A might be needed later by installation B, it should not be put into a temporary location and then deleted.

The SPI repair continued, and I got a reprise of the same issue but with the Visual C++ runtimes. The following dialog appeared twice for x86, and twice for x64:


These files are also on the SP1 .ISO, so I pointed the installer there once again and setup continued.

Unfortunately something else was wrong. After a lengthy install, the SP1 installer started rollback without so much as a warning dialog, and then exited declaring that a fatal error had occurred. I looked at the logs

I rebooted, tried again, same result.

I was about to trawl the forums, but thought I should try running Visual Studio 2010 again, just in case. Everything was fine.


Logic tells me that the SP1 “rollback” was not quite a rollback, since it fixed the problem. Then again, bear in mind that it was rolling back the reapplication of the service pack which is different from the usual rollback scenario.

Visual Studio, .NET, myriad SDKs that each get updated at different times, developers who download and install these in an unpredictable order … it is not surprising that it goes wrong sometimes; in fact it is surprising that it does not go wrong more often. So I guess I should not beat up Microsoft too much about this. Even so this was an unwelcome reminder of a problem I have not seen much in the last few years, other then with beta installs which play by different rules.

What’s coming in Microsoft Visual Studio

Microsoft is beginning to talk in detail about the next version of Visual Studio, though currently mostly in the area of ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) tools.

Continuous testing and support for diverse test frameworks

The new Visual Studio will support unit tests that run in the background. Visual Studio VP Jason Zander adds that:

With Visual Studio vNext we are enabling you to use your favorite unit testing framework integrated deeply into the IDE. We will support MS Test, xunit, and nunit with vNext. You will also be able to target both .NET and native C++ code. Adding test frameworks is an extensibility point as well so if you don’t see your favorite one listed here, you can easily add it.

Storyboarding in PowerPoint
This is not exactly a Visual Studio feature; but the new version will include a PowerPoint plug-in and templates that lets you mock up a user interface. Why bother, when Microsoft already has Sketchflow in Expression Blend, and tools in Visio for laying out a GUI? Apparently many users are more comfortable in Office.

Integration with System Center

Visual Studio 2010 already includes a virtual lab management feature that lets you test applications on virtual machines managed by System Center Virtual Machine Manager. But what about deployed applications? A new connector for System Center Operations Manager brings similar integration, so that bugs can be reported directly to Team Foundation Server complete with stack trace enabled by IntelliTrace, a historical debugging feature.

Context switching

The thinking here is that when developers are interrupted they lose the flow of their work. Context switching lets you shelve code changes, open windows and other activity tied to the current task. You can then do other work; when you later resume the task Visual Studio recovers its state.

New Team Explorer

Team Explorer is the connector and window in Visual Studio that forms the client for Team Foundation Server. This has been revamped for the new version, and now uses “full asynchronous communication” to improve load time and responsiveness. There are new views for common categories of information, including work items, pending changes, builds, reports and bugs.

New Agile collaboration tools

There are new tools in the Web Access client for Team Foundation Server for feedback and collaboration on projects using Agile methodology. Backlogs shows features to be implemented in a sprint, a unit of project iteration. The Task Board shows the backlog in a new visual view.

Connector for Project Server

A new connector for Project Server enables project-style views of project progress, such as Gantt charts.

Feedback tools

A new feedback mechanism aimed at stakeholders lets users enter feedback into Team Foundation Server. Tools include a web recorder that lets users comment on actions in a web application with linked recordings.

Code Clone Detection

This is a code quality feature that analyses a project looking for common code that should be refactored into a shared block.

Code Review

Code Review lets team members comment on code, similar in some ways to a commented document in Word.

Hosted Team Foundation Server on Azure

“Any team up and running within 30 seconds” is Microsoft’s claim for a new hosted option for Team Foundation Server. An exaggeration no doubt; but since a full-featured TFS takes some effort and infrastructure to implement, the hosted option will be welcome.

Visual Studio tends to be synchronized to some extent with new versions of Windows, so I would guess we will learn more about Visual Studio vNext at the Professional Developers Conference (though it may be called something else) in Anaheim on September 13-16 this year.

You can read more about Visual Studio vNext on Jason Zander’s blog and in a white paper [pdf]. 

Native apps better than web apps? That’s silly talk says PhoneGap president

When I attended Mobile World Congress in February one of my goals was to explore the merits of the various different approaches to writing cross-platform mobile apps. One of the key ones is PhoneGap, and I got in touch with Nitobi’s president and co-founder André Charland. As it turned out he was not at that particular event, but he kept in touch and I spoke to him last week.

PhoneGap works by using the installed HTML and JavaScript engine on the device as a runtime for apps. That is not as limiting as it may sound, since today’s devices have high performance JavaScript engines, and PhoneGap apps can be extended with native plug-ins if necessary. But aren’t there inconsistencies between all these different browser engines?

Sure, it’s kinda like doing web development today. Just a lot better because it’s just different flavours of WebKit, not WebKit, Gecko, whatever is in IE, and all sorts of other differentiation. So that’s definitely how it is, but that is being overcome rather quickly I’d say with modern mobile JavaScript libraries. There’s JQuery Mobile, there’s Sencha Touch, there’s DoJo Mobile just released, SproutCore, which is backed by Strobe, which is kinda the core of Apple’s MobileMe.

There’s tons of these things, Zepto.js which is from the scriptaculous guy, Jo which is a framework out of a Palm engineer, the list of JavaScript frameworks coming out is getting longer and longer and they’re getting refined and used quite a bit, and those really deal with these platform nuances.

At the same time, phone manufacturers, or iOS, Android, WebOS, and now RIM, they’re competing to have the best WebKit. That means you’re getting more HTML5 features implemented quicker, you’re getting better JavaScript performance, and PhoneGap developers get to take advantage of that.

says Charland. He goes further when I put to him the argument made by native code advocates – Apple CEO Steve Jobs among them – that PhoneGap apps can never achieve the level of integration, the level of performance that they get with native code. Will the gap narrow?

I think it will go away, and people will look back on what they’re saying today and think, that was a silly thing to say.

Today there are definitely performance benefits you can get with native code, and our answer to that is simply that PhoneGap is a bundle made of core libraries, so at any point in your application that you don’t want to use HTML and JavaScript you can write a native plugin, it’s a very flexible, extensible architecture … So you can do it. We don’t necessarily say that’s the best way to go. Really if you’re into good software development practices the web stack will get you 90%, 95% of the way there, so that apps are indistinguishable from native apps.

Some of the native features we see in iOS apps, they’re reminiscent of Flash home pages of ten years ago, sure you can’t do it in HTML and JavaScript but it doesn’t add any value to the end user, and it detracts from the actual purpose of the application.

The other thing is, a lot of these HTML and JavaScript things, are one step away from being as good in a web stack as they are in native. When hardware acceleration gets into WebKit and the browser, then performance is really just as good.

Charland is also enthusiastic about Adobe’s recent announcement, that PhoneGap is integrated into Dreamweaver 5.5:

Two things are exciting from our perspective. It gives us massive reach. Dreamweaver is a widely used product that ties in very nicely to the other parts of the creative suite toolchain, so you can get from a high-level graphic concept to code a lot quicker. Having PhoneGap and JQuery Mobile in there together is nice, JQuery Mobile is definitely one of the more popular frameworks that we see our community latching on to.

The other thing is that Dreamweaver targets a broader level of developer, it’s maybe not super hard core, either Vi or super-enterprise, Eclipse guys, you know, it’s people who are more focused on the UI side of things. Now it gives them access to quickly use PhoneGap and package their applications, test them, prove their concepts, send them out to the marketplace.

He says Adobe should embrace HTML and Flash equally.

I also asked about Windows Phone support, and given that Microsoft shows no sign of implementing WebKit, I was surprised to get a strongly positive response:

We have something like 80% of the APIs in PhoneGap running on Windows Phone already. That’s open and in the public repo. We are just waiting basically for the IE9 functionality to hit the phone. The sooner they get that out in public, the sooner we can support Windows Phone 7. We have customers knocking at our door begging for it, we’ve actually signed contracts to implement it, with some very large customers. Just can’t there soon enough, really. I think it’s an oversight on their part to not get IE9 onto the phone quicker.

PhoneGap is at version 0.94 at the moment; Charland says 0.95 will be out “in a few weeks” and he is hoping to get 1.0 completed by O’Reilly OSCON in July.

I’ve posted nearly the complete transcript of my interview, so if you are interested in Charland’s comments on building a business on open source, and how PhoneGap compares to Appcelerator’s Titanium, and what to do about different implementations of local SQL on devices, be sure to read the longer piece.

Trying out Remote Desktop to a Microsoft Azure virtual machine

I have been trying out Visual Studio LightSwitch, which has an option to deploy apps to Windows Azure.

Of course I wanted to try this,  and after a certain amount of hassle generating certificates and switching between Visual Studio LightSwitch and the Azure management portal I succeeded.


I doubt I would have made it without this step by step guide by Andy Kung. The article begins:

One of the many features introduced in Visual Studio LightSwitch Beta 2 is the ability to publish your app directly to Windows Azure with storage in SQL Azure. We have condensed many steps one would typically have to go through to deploy an application to the cloud manually.

Somewhere between 30 and 40 screens later he writes:

The last step shows you a summary of what you’re about to publish. FINALLY! Click Publish.

We just have to imagine how many screens there would have been if Microsoft had not condensed the “many steps”. The result is also not quite right, because it uses self-signed certificates that will present security warnings when you use the app. For a product supposedly aimed at non-developers it is all hopelessly difficult; but I guess techies are used to this kind of thing.

I was not content though. First, I wanted to use an Extra Small instance, and LightSwitch defaults to a Small instance with no obvious way to change it. I cracked that one. You switch the view in Solution Explorer to the File view, then find the file ServiceDefinition.csdef and edit the vmsize attribute:


It worked and I had an Extra Small instance.

I was still not satisfied though. I wanted to use Remote Desktop so I could check out the VM Azure had created for me. I could not see any easy way to do this in the LightSwitch project, so I created another Azure project and configured it for Remote Desktop access using the guide on MSDN. More certificate fun, more passwords. I then started to publish the project, but bailed out when it warned me that I was overwriting a previous deployment.

Then I copied the likely looking parts of ServiceDefinition.csdef and ServiceConfiguration.cscfg from the standard Azure project to the LightSwitch project. In ServiceDefinition.csdef that was the Imports section and the Certificates section. In ServiceConfiguration.cscfg it was all the settings starting Microsoft.WindowsAzure.Plugins.Remote…; and again the Certificates section. I think that was it.

It worked. I published the LightSwitch app, went to the Azure management portal, selected the instance, and clicked Connect.


What I found was a virtual Quad-Core Opteron with 767MB RAM and running Windows Server 2008 Enterprise SP2. It seems Azure does not use Server 2008 R2 yet – at least, not for Extra Small instances.


750MB RAM is less than I would normally consider for Server 2008 – this is Extra Small, remember – but I tried using my simple LightSwitch app and it seemed to cope OK, though memory is definitely tight.


This VM is actually not that small in relation to many Linux VMs out there, happily running Apache, PHP, MySQL and numerous web applications. Note that my Azure VM is not running SQL Server; SQL Azure runs on separate servers. I am not 100% sure why Azure does not use Server Core for VMs like this. It may be because server core is usually used in conjunction with GUI tools running remotely, and setting up all the permissions for this to work is a hassle.

I took a look at the Event Viewer. I have never seen a Windows event log without at least a few errors, and I was interested to see if a Microsoft-managed VM would be the first. It was not, though there are a mere 16 “Administrative events” which is pretty good, though the VM has only been running for an hour or so. There were a bunch of boot-start drivers which failed to load:


and this, which I would describe as a typical obscure and probably-unimportant-but-who-knows Windows error:


The Azure VM is not domain-joined, but is in a workgroup. It is also not activated; I presume it will become activated if I leave it running for more than 14 days.

Internet Explorer is installed but I was unable to browse the web, and attempting to ping out gave me “Request timed out”. Possibly strict firewall rules prevent this. It must be carefully balanced, since applications will need to connect out.

The DNS suffix is reddog.microsoft.com – a remnant of the Red Dog code name which was originally used for Azure.

As I understand it, the main purpose of remote desktop access is for troubleshooting, not so that you can install all sorts of extra stuff on your VM. But what if you did install all sorts of extra stuff? It would not be a good idea, since – again as I understand it – the VM could be zapped by Azure at any time, and replaced with a new one that had reverted to the original configuration. You are not meant to keep any data that matters on the VM itself; that is what the Azure storage services are for.