Thursday, March 29, 2012

Buxton Sketch font for use with the patterns & practices style Visio stencil

I wrote a blog post recently that included a link where you can download a Microsoft Visio 2010 stencil that resembles the stencils the Microsoft patterns & practices team use here:

You can download this stencil here:

I created it on a machine that runs the Windows 8 Consumer Preview build and used a font called Buxton Sketch as it looks like a handwritten font and looks quite good for a diagramming white board effect. It seems Windows 8 CP already has the needed Buxton Sketch font installed as part of the standard OS install. So if you haven't got that font installed on your machine when you fire up the stencil (and Windows 7 doesn't), Visio will just default to its default font which doesn't look very good.

So you need to download the Buxton Sketch font and install it from here: I will upload this to bitbucket in due course.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Git and remote branches

If you use Git as a source control system, and if you're anything like me, you might forget the commands to push a local branch to create a new remote branch on origin or to just create a remote branch from master or to delete remote branches etc..

There are a couple posts that I read periodically whenever I need to do those things as I simply don't use them enough in order to remember them unless I write scripts to do so (which I try to avoid as this obfuscates Git for other Git users).

The first one is here:

and this one is very good:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Today is my last day at Smart421

Today is my last day at Smart421. It's been fairly short (1.5 yrs) but it's been a very memorable varied experience!

I blogged about joining Smart in November 2010 here:

As mentioned in that blog post I had hoped to become a TOGAF practitioner, I am not TOGAF certified (not taken the course or exams) but I have gained a much broader level of architecture experience and not just application architecture.

Being a Smartie (permie at Smart421) has been very different from most companies I have worked at. They have a very flat hierarchy and a very family feel to the place. For instance, the Managing Director - Neil Miles periodically buys everyone fish and chips from a fish and chip van that parks up outside the office on a Friday! how cool is that :) The CTO Robin Meehan often attends techie developer user group sessions in London in response to someone sending a message to one of the practises distribution lists! I can have a beer with the management team as if they were on my team on a project.

When you're out on a customers site and having to stay in a hotel, every few months, most of the management team will come down and take the whole team out for supper and drinks which last well into the night.

So why I am leaving? well I was contacted by Microsoft head hunter - Alina Burnus back in November regarding a World Wide Windows Azure CoE (Centre of Excellence) Solution Architect role (wow, what a mouthful). After reading the job specification for this role I jumped at the opportunity. Windows Azure, Solution Architecture and helping customers and the community to deliver business benefits using technology are what I want to do every day. I love writing code, but there is a time when you no longer code in your day job. I also love Technical Architecture and no doubt there will be an element of this in my new role. I will still stay current with language features, trends and patterns, I just won't be knee deep in code every day.

3 months, 9 interviews and n hours later, I was offered a job on this great team headed up by Steve Fox.

Having been a Microsoft Device Application Development MVP in the past, I have a fairly good idea what it is like at Microsoft. It's also not that my interests have changed in that I don't focus purely on mobility anymore, my job has lead me to be much broader in terms of Solution Architecture and less focused on the detail. I will always have a passion for mobile as I think it's one the most challenging and rewarding forms of software development today.

The team will be doing a full day pre-conference bootcamp at both TechEd EMEA and TechEd North America this year: TechEd EMEA: TechEd USA:

I start at Microsoft on the 10 April and no doubt you will hear about many cool and exciting things coming out of the cloud space in the form of Azure...stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Windows 8 - not able to install Windows Identity Foundation

If you try to install Windows Identity Foundation (WIF) runtime system (pre-req for the WIF SDK) on Windows 8 Consumer Preview, you will get the error "The update is not applicable to your computer" in figure 1:

Figure 1: Error when trying to install WIF on Windows 8
To fix this, the WIF runtime system is now part of Windows 8 and can be installed as a Windows feature like IIS, so the WIF runtime system doesn't need to be downloaded. To do this run Control Panel > Programs and Features > Turn Windows Features on or off. 

Then check the Windows Identity Foundation 3.5 check box in the Windows Features dialogue box and click OK:

Figure 2: Installing WIF on Windows 8

Once you have done that then you'll be able to install the WIF SDK.

Figure 3: Now able to install WIF SDK on Windows 8

Once the WIF SDK installer is complete, you'll be able to reference the WIF API's from Visual Studio and use WIF on Windows 8 for your federated identity needs.

Monday, March 19, 2012

How to create architecture diagrams like the Microsoft p&p team using Visio 2010

Have you ever wanted to create the same type of diagrams the patterns & practices team do at Microsoft in terms of the shapes and themes they use?

Well, as I am co-authoring a Windows Azure book, it is important we all use the same stencil for our architecture diagrams. So I decided to create a Microsoft Visio 2010 stencil that looks much like the one the p&p team uses.

Here is an example of a simple diagram from the chapter I am writing on Service Bus. This is the very first diagram in the book to explain the Windows Azure Service Bus Relay feature:

Figure 1: Example p&p like diagram in Visio 2010

It would be great to hear some feedback on this stencil.

You can get this stencil here:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Apache Hadoop on Windows Azure - Now in CTP

This is a huge subject - Big Data so I'm not going to attempt to explain what it is here. But what I will say is the Apache Hadoop project is now available in Azure as a CTP offering (which is one way to implement Big Data). You also have the opportunity to get on the Technical Adoption Programme (TAP) and work directly with the Microsoft Azure product group.

Being on the TAP enables you to give feedback on what you think of early drops of Microsoft software which in turn allows you to help shape Microsoft products.

Here is a snip from the Apache Hadoop project website on what it is:

The Apache™ Hadoop™ project develops open-source software for reliable, scalable, distributed computing. 
The Apache Hadoop software library is a framework that allows for the distributed processing of large data sets across clusters of computers using a simple programming model. It is designed to scale up from single servers to thousands of machines, each offering local computation and storage. Rather than rely on hardware to deliver high-avaiability, the library itself is designed to detect and handle failures at the application layer, so delivering a highly-availabile service on top of a cluster of computers, each of which may be prone to failures.

To learn more about the Apache Hadoop project, see here:

For more information on Hadoop for Windows Azure, see here: and to register to be considered for this CTP, please see here:

Friday, March 09, 2012

Smart421 - UK Azure User Group Reference Architecture using Service Bus for pub/sub

UPDATE 12/03/12: Source code for my presentation is now available here: You will need to edit various config files to include your X.509 certs, Service Bus and ACS namespaces and ACS Simple Web Token (SWT) symmetric keys. I will write a blog post on how to do all these things and get it running in due course.

I presented at the recent UK Windows Azure User Group on Tuesday 6th March. You can view my Prezi presentation here:

My colleague  Mark Want has written a post regarding this event on the Smart421 blog here:

I'm really starting to like this group and getting to know the folks from this group is great fun. They are now starting to run events in Manchester as well as London.

I talked about a reference architecture that I have been working on in my spare time over the last few weeks. The code will be available soon and I will blog and tweet when made available.

The solution uses quite a few features of Azure such as: MVC 4 Web Role, ACS, SAML 2.0 and SWT tokens, Google as an identity provider, Service Bus Relay services, Topics and subscriptions, Castle Windsor with the Service Bus and Topics/Subscriptions for pub/sub, a DR strategy and global DNS to enable DR and hide the domain.

Next I want to show ADFS as an STS over ACS, Idempotent messaging when using WCF with the Service Bus and load testing using VM Roles.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Getting the RSS feed from an iTunes podcast

Have you ever wanted to get the RSS feed URI from a iTunes podcast page because you don't want iTunes installed on your machine?

I found this website ( that gives you the RSS XML URI from the passed iTunes URL:

Figure 1: Enter iTunes URL into the text box and hit submit
Simply enter the iTunes podcast URL into the text box in the page and hit Submit. In my example I wanted the RSS feed to this podcast:

Figure 2: Result of the tool that greps the RSS URI
The tool (as if by magic) figures out what the RSS feed is so you can use it in other non-proprietary tools. I wanted the above for my Zune HD. Nice eh!?