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September 28, 2012

Windows 8: Waiting...

I have had a chance to work on Windows from its Windows 3.11 for workgroups, back in 1995, all the way to the current Windows 7 and the upcoming Windows 8 as well. In my experience no previous Windows version was this eagerly awaited and extensively discussed as is happening for Windows 8.

There have been hitches in between like the Windows Millennium edition and Windows Vista, and the versions succeeding them did get good attention, but those are still easily eclipsed in front of news Windows 8 is making. Industry and media is abuzz with speculation on success or failure of Windows 8 and is the RTM version really ready for worldwide launch or not.

In my view Windows 8 is a significant milestone in two key aspects (but which are related on one another). One, MS is the first time moving away from the PC based model to imbibe mobility in their platform. There is a recognition that PC sales are being impacted by tablet sales and hence Windows 8 is really designed keeping tablet and touch interface in mind. The related second aspect is breaking away from WinTel monopoly and including Windows On ARM (WOA). Any platform targeting tablets cannot keep distance from ARM, as most of such devices are powered by ARM chips, mainly due to their power friendliness.

Intel x86-64 bit architecture is different from ARM and hence application written on one cannot run on another without at least a recompilation at the minimum. MS .NET's platform agnostic MSIL compiled assemblies that are JIT compiled to the native processor at runtime has helped shield the developers from this recompilation issues. The new Windows runtime (WinRT), the new platform for creating Windows Store apps, leverages similar capabilities to ease developer's work. Applications built using XAML and C#/VB.NET targeting WinRT compile into MSIL and are compiled into native code when deployed on the Windows Store providing for both x86 and ARM versions. Applications built using C/C++ targeting WinRT can be specifically compiled to target ARM chips, via a configuration change in Visual Studio 2012.

Given that Windows 8 is targeted towards tablets and will launch worldwide on 26th October along with the MS Surface tablets, another important aspect is the store's readiness. The tablet and smart phone world is thriving on applications in the store that consumers directly download on their devices. The Android market place is currently leading with maximum applications. It is win win for developers and consumers. MS realizes that success of Windows 8 at launch will be highly influenced by the number of applications in the Windows Store and is hence aggressively trying to get more and more apps in the store. They have a mere 2000+ apps as yet, but events like Guinness World Record holding App Fests are bringing in more and more developers on board, which will help push more apps to the store shortly.

With the significant user experience shift with Windows Store Apps on Windows 8 and MS's not successful Phone 7 storyline, the speculations on success or failure are bound to exist. Enriching the Windows Store with apps is a mammoth task and nothing short of a miracle can probably get MS the numbers they may want at launch time. While many keep comparing # apps on the MS, Android and iOS stores, I am not sure if an average daily user really uses more than 100 different apps from the store? (read here and here)

Will Windows 8 eventually succeed or not is anybody's guess, but with my personal liking for MS products and looking at the strong history of success of Windows OS, i would be inclined to hazard that Windows 8 will succeed, albeit a bit slowly.

I would be glad to hear your views and discuss this further.

September 18, 2012

Building Windows Phone 7 projects. Don't go to Visual Studio 2012

With availability of Visual Studio 2012 (VS12) RTM via MSDN Subscriber downloads, I decided to upgrade to it and to keep my machine clean, remove Visual Studio 2010 SP1. A mistake that I will now need to fix. You cannot open, edit, build and test Windows Phone 7 (or 7.5) projects with VS12. This project type is not supported.

The above is valid if you are on Windows 7. If you are however on Windows 8, then VS12 is sufficient as it allows you to work on Windows Store apps as well as Windows Phone apps (both 7.5 and 8).

September 17, 2012

SQL Server 2012: Distributed Replay

Distributed Replay is a new feature in SQL Server which focuses on tuning the database environments after upgrade or any major change. Similar to SQL Profiler it is used for replaying the workloads for testing on databases but with one major improvement, it can used to simulate workload in a distributed environment (multiple systems can be involved). So it can be used to accurately simulate a real workload with requests coming from multiple client systems and considered as a scale out solution.
The setup for Distributed Replay is available along with the SQL Server installation. The steps for installing and configuration for the Distributed Replay feature is available here.

September 5, 2012

SQL 2012 Performance Dashboard Reports

SQL Server performance dashboard reports are a set of custom reports which sit on top of SQL Server and can be executed directly through SQL Management Studio. These reports are meant for DBAs as well as developers. The goal of these reports is to help users identify and troubleshoot performance related issues.

To install the report files, one has to download the *.msi file from Microsoft site. A windows folder is created in the SQL installation folder consisting of rdl files and a script file for configuration. The script file needs to be executed on the server to be monitored for performance related issues. The executed script creates database objects (functions/stored procedures etc.) with the schema name as MS_PerfDashboard in the system database.

Once the script gets executed successfully, the performance dashboard can be accessed by opening the main dashboard report file through SQL Management Studio -> Custom Reports. Main Dashboard reports is an umbrella report which consists of various sub reports like database overview, session details, CPU utilization, query stats etc. There are also reports available to check wait times, missing index details; historical waits etc. which help in understanding and benchmarking performance problems the system is going through.

Please note that the most of the data shown in these reports only goes back till the last time server was restarted. Also, as these reports can be run directly out of SQL Management Studio, SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) installation is not required for executing these reports

For more detailed information and download details, you can refer to the below links:

September 3, 2012

Games on Windows 8

While people do texting, emails, watching movies, reading and some business apps, games also play an important role in what people do with their tablets and smart phones. Having a rich app store is a key driving factor in this space.

No wonder then that MS is making all attempts to have a good set of applications in the Windows 8 Store by the time the Windows 8 Tablet launches on 26th Oct 2012. Here's a list of initial games that will be available on Windows 8 and it includes some of my favorite ones - Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja, Minesweeper etc.

Windows 8, Phone 8.. Dates

We have known for a while now that the retail availability of Windows 8 will be on 26th Oct. So it should not be a surprise to have a big launch event on 25 Oct by MS to make the formal annoucement.

MS had also showcased Phone 8 in Phone summit, but what was not known so far was the launch date for the same. Some of the dates are now being made known. Read here. Even if Phone 8 doesn't launch on 29 Oct, given that the BUILD 2012 Conference starts the next day, we can expect Phone 8 to definitely get showcased there.

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