I (finally) set myself up with an Azure account today, as I needed to research something about Azure Active Directory. The more I explore around the portal, the more I think I should really start figuring out Azure, because it seems incredibly cool and powerful. I know this is old news to many of you. I just haven’t had much opportunity to dive in to it.

Are there any good resources you would recommend for getting started? Let me know! I’d be looking at it from a web apps perspective (PHP mainly, possibly Node or ASP.NET), but I’d be keen to hear just as much about the workflows and developing for the cloud in general.

MG Siegler has – much like myself – converted to using the iPad full time as his mobile workstation:

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a quick note signaling my intent to predominantly use my iPad as my main computer when I travel going forward. What started as a successful two-day experiment led to a long weekend away last week. That went well enough that I’m confident in my choice. The iPad is my new road machine.

MG went for the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, which was my second-choice after the Apple Wireless Keyboard. He believes Apple will eventually release their own “keyboard in a cover” accessory, citing the Microsoft Surface as a potential reason/influence. I don’t think Apple will release their own accessory – for one, it’d be a bit “me too”, with several options available on the market for quite some time (not to mention following in the wake of the Surface announcement); secondly, as one of the most-touted features of the Surface, I’m pretty sure Microsoft would see their “Smart” keyboard cover falling under the “don’t copy” patent licensing agreement held between the two companies.

There is one thing on the internet that is – without a doubt – causing more buzz than anything else at the moment. No, not the new Harry Potter film (worth going to see, by the way). I’m talking about Gmail.

For weeks since it was announced, the blogosphere has been buzzing about it. Some have snorted in derision, some have placed it high upon a pedestal. Gmail isn’t even fully open to the public yet – it requires an “invite”.

These invites are highly desirable, so it would seem. All over the place, I’ve seen various contests to win an invite. Some ask you to come up with something funnyOthers just want a link (so can I have my invite now? 😉  ). The slightest mention of having a spare invite prompts a deluge of people you don’t even know asking for it. Googling for “Gmail Invites” returns page after page of people pimping this strang type of gold dust.

I guess it’s this process of invitation only accounts that are making everyone want Gmail so badly. To be in an “exclusive club” is quite a draw for some.

If it’s not that though, what is the draw? Is Gmail any good? I’ve put out the feelers (ooh-er) for an invite, so I’m hoping to be able to find out for myself, but maybe someone could enlighten me?

Isn’t just another web-based email service?

I’ve finally taken my first steps with ASP.NET. I’ve only done some basic research and examples and all I can say, is that it’s one f*cking powerful choice for developing web applications… It’s so far ahead of vanilla ASP that it’s terrifying. It’s great being able to use another computationally complete language. ASP.NET is so much faster as well.

Shame that it costs a lot to actually roll out anywhere. Your average Windows Server license doesn’t come cheap and IIS is pretty much the only way web server that works. Neither are most of the tools cheap. Naturally, the ideal way to develop with .NET is with Visual .NET Studio (megabucks) and use SQL Server (again, megabucks) as the backend.

However, there is an alternative. Actually, there’s 2 – but I can’t get Dreamweaver MX to connect to any databases when coding .NET pages, so I’m discounting that. Besides, the code it generates looks a bit bloated. So ignoring DW MX, the alternative is The Web Matrix Project.

Web Matrix is free. Despite this, it comes from Microsoft. Despite coming from Microsoft, it’s actually a well thought out and rather good program. It’s sorta like FrontPage for .NET (don’t let that put you off!!). It features WYSIWYG design view – which I must say that I’ve never used – that allows you to drag and drop server controls into your page. It also offers code views so you can type everything in directly. What’s really nifty, is that it has 2 code views – one for coding the (X)HTML and the other that displays only the server side code. It also comes with a compact personal web server so that you can test stuff locally without shelling out for a Win Server. All in all, it’s a dream for those of us that are cheapskates!

So that’s the coding environment sorted out, but what about the backend? Well, you could use XML, which is treated exactly like any other database. However, I dunno anything about using XML with .NET at the moment, so I’ll skip that. So what’s left? Well, Access is the one that most will tell you to use. But I hate using Access. It comes from having to use it at work. So I went down a route that some said was impossible, and others said was difficult. I say pfft to them, cos it was a piece of pish. So what am I using for my .NET backend? MySQL over OLEDB.

Putting a Microsoft programming technology alongside an open source database solution doesn’t quite sit right in the brain. But it works, and works really well I might add. What’s more, because of the nature of OLEDB in .NET, I can pretty much use any database by only changing the connection string.

So now that I have my development environment, I guess it’s time to actually delve deeper into the murky depths… I guess that’s my project for the holidays sorted then.

A piece of internet history has been discovered – the first known use of a smiley (emoticon) has been found.

taken from The Register:

The original smiley, or emoticon, invented in 1982 by Scott Fahlman but subsequently lost, has been retrieved through the efforts of Microsoft researcher Mike Jones and facilities staff at Carnegie Mellon University. And isn’t it a blessing to find Microsoft Research staff keeping themselves profitably occupied like this, when they could be posing a threat to world freedom instead?

Jones describes the process of unearthing the smiley here. Fahlman hadn’t kept a copy of his original post, and had assumed it had been lost. But he was able to help narrow down the likely dates, and extensive CMU trawls through old backup tapes finally nailed the posting down to 19th September 1982, so we’re just in time for the 20th anniversary next Thursday.. It has now been restored in all its glory here, and the full thread from whence it came can be viewed here.

Note that Fahlman’s post didn’t come out of the blue – the CMU people had been working hard on a mechanism for signifying jokes for some time, and among the rejected proposals were & and #. Nor did 🙂 win immediate and universal acceptance. On the 20th a poster identified only as Not Sharon Burks mounted a fight-back on behalf of the “gandalf vax” and its favoured emoticon. But ultimately, Fahlman triumphed, and the research team could go back to discussing Star Trek.

use the link below to view the first ever use of a smiley http://research.microsoft.com/~mbj/Smiley/Smiley.html