.net programming, computers and assorted technology rants


Perfecto – Mobile App Testing Inside Visual Studio

Courtesy Adrian Bridgwater, DrDobbs.com

Perfecto mobile joins the consecrated cognoscenti at Microsoft Build 2014

Microsoft Build wasn’t all about Microsoft this year; well, that’s not true, obviously it was, but a few "Microsoft approved" partners got a look in, too. Amongst the sanctified this year was Perfecto Mobile, with its public preview of a MobileCloud for Visual Studio Plugin for testing mobile apps on real devices inside Visual Studio.

Perfecto argues that by extending Visual Studio with its MobileCloud product, developers can execute manual (and automated) tests on "real mobile devices" directly from Visual Studio.

Software application developers are able to use C# and manage device automation control with Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS).

The company sells its wares based upon a promise of this being a "significant jump start" for .NET web teams transitioning to mobile.

"By utilizing the MobileCloud Platform, Visual Studio [developers] can use existing expertise and write automation tests in C# that are executable across any mobile operating system (Android, iOS, Windows Phone) or app style (web, native, hybrid), all with a single test script. Users have instant and always-available access to globally distributed real devices to support testing throughout the code-build-test cycle," said Eran Yaniv, CEO, Perfecto Mobile.

Perfecto’s software provides always-available devices-as-a-service and mobile-ready automation directly from within Visual Studio. Combined, these two capabilities deliver cross-platform mobile app testing that is fully managed by TFS.

Microsoft is apparently happy to back Perfecto’s claims to fame and says that Perfecto’s Mobile App Quality Platform is a "valuable complement" to Microsoft’s suite of mobile development, testing, and ALM tools.

Mitra Azizirad of Microsoft has said that, "By providing extensive mobile test coverage with its globally distributed, mobile device cloud, MobileCloud for Visual Studio empowers development and test teams to deliver better mobile apps faster and meet customers’ quality expectations."

MobileCloud for the Visual Studio solution allows accelerated testing so teams can execute unattended automated testing on remote iOS, Android, and Windows Phone apps without requiring USB connections or driver downloads. System-level control of devices under test enables full interoperability testing (e.g. call, text, change settings).


Windows Phone Preview for Developers Released

Courtesy Keith Ward, VisualStudioMagazine.com


The wait is over for Windows Phone developers anxious to get their hands on a copy of Windows Phone 8.1 so they can start updating their apps. The Windows Phone Preview for Developers was released by Microsoft this morning. 

A blog entry by Microsoft’s Cliff Simpkins announced the release. He added that the Windows Phone Store is starting to take app submissions and enable app linking, all of which allows the building of universal Windows apps. They allow an app to work across Windows 8 devices whether they’re on a desktop, laptop, tablet or phone (and, eventually, Xbox). Universal Windows apps were first announced and previewed at last week’s Build developer conference.

The preview version of Windows Phone 8.1 is important for developers since some aspects of apps need to be tested on a real device, rather than just an emulator. Simpkins, for example, wrote that he uses an emulator for testing whether the code works properly, while using the app on a working Windows Phone provides valuable information about an "app’s real-world usability (e.g., touch target sizing, load times)."

As a supplement to the Windows Phone Preview for Developers, MSDN published a reference app to help developers learn how to integrate their apps with Cortana, the new voice assistant that’s also part of Windows Phone 8.1. The app, called MSDN Voice Search, provides voice-enabled search capabilities to documentation and source code for building Cortana functionality into new or existing apps.

There are a few requirements to get the Windows Phone Preview for Developers. A developer either needs to register as a Windows Phone developer, which is $19 annually, or register as a developer with App Studio, which is free. The other option is to download the developer tools to register and "developer unlock" a Windows Phone (Microsoft provides instructions on how to do this).

24/7 Support? Not In France

Courtesy FoxBusiness,com


French workers already have a 35-hour work week, five vacation weeks a year, and now, some aren’t allowed to be contacted by their employer after 6:00pm.

A new deal has been agreed upon between tech industry workers and unions in France that no longer requires employees to answer work-related emails after 6 p.m., according to reports. The deal reportedly includes one million workers in digital and consultancy sectors in the country. Tech giants Google (GOOG) and Facebook (FB) have operations in France.

This deal means workers won’t be under any pressure to respond to their higher-ups post-clocking out, and they can’t be reprimanded in the highly-unionized country.

Pam Villarreal, U.S. labor expert at the National Center for Policy Analysis, calls the deals “absurd.”

“Within the tech industry and digital consultancy sectors, there’s always something going wrong off the clock—when a computer goes down, it doesn’t go down between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.” she says. “Even though workers overwhelmingly support this, it will be interesting to see how it pans out in terms of productivity—knowing people who work in the tech industry, it’s one of the most likely where something goes wrong after hours.”

She adds the deal could bring the unintended consequence of higher labor costs in the country’s industry. “They may have to shift workers to after 5 p.m. to deal with these issues, so it may drive up the cost of labor.”

French tech workers aren’t the only ones getting a reprieve from the stress of a never-ending workday, as a Swedish city is experimenting with a six-hour workday, in an effort to improve productivity andhappiness among workers.

France also famously shortened its workweek to 35 hours instead of the standard 40, in 2000.

“They are likely trying to reduce the unemployment rate, which is at 8%, and almost 24% for those under 25,” Villarreal says of Sweden. “But we don’t know if the experiment will work—people will be trying to cram 8 hours of work into a 6-hour day.”

Villarreal says Swedish companies may also turn to outsourcing if labor costs climb, explain that France’s labor costs increased as a result of its shortened work week.

Neither move is likely to hit the U.S. anytime soon, Villarreal says, especially the no contact after work agreement.

“Think of big tech corporations—they wouldn’t agree to not contacting their employees after 6,” she says. “Google and Facebook are [probably] not so welcoming of this change in France. If it happened here, companies would probably try to outsource to India or China, countries without such strict labor regulations.”

Asynchronous Processing in EF6 and .NET 4.5

Courtesy Peter Vogel, VisualStudioMagazine.com


There’s one feature of Entity Framework (EF) 6 that’s only available in the Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5 or later: asynchronous processing. In this column, I’m going to look at some typical scenarios where you can use EF asynchronous processing and show how you might use it.

First Scenario: Processing Multiple Requests in Parallel
Often, when you first display a form or a page, you need to display some initial set of data and also fill some combo boxes or dropdown lists. With asynchronous processing you can issue the request for the grid’s data and, while waiting for that data to show up, go on to issue the requests for the combo box data, overlapping the requests. Even if the database server processes your requests sequentially, you’re no worse off than if you submitted the requests in sequence. But, if the database server does process your requests in parallel, your users might get their data considerably earlier. Best of all, this is a scenario that doesn’t add much complexity to your application. This could be your first big win in asynchronous processing.

But … EF doesn’t support processing multiple requests through the same DbContext object. If your second asynchronous request on the same DbContext instance starts before the first request finishes (and that’s the whole point), you’ll get an error message that your request is processing against an open DataReader. I’ll look at some ways to handle this issue after looking at how to issue overlapping asynchronous requests.

A little pre-retrieval work is required. First, you’ll need an Imports or using statement for System.Data.Entity to pick up the asynchronous extension methods that EF6 supplies. You should also disable the controls you’re filling so the user can’t interact with them while you’re loading data.

Read More…http://visualstudiomagazine.com/articles/2014/04/01/async-processing.aspx

Railgun Can Shoot at Mach 7, Over 5,000 MPH

Courtesy Allen McDuffee, Wired.com


The U.S. Navy is tapping the power of the Force to wage war.

Its latest weapon is an electromagnetic railgun launcher. It uses a form of electromagnetic energy known as the Lorentz force to hurl a 23-pound projectile at speeds exceeding Mach 7. Engineers already have tested this futuristic weapon on land, and the Navy plans to begin sea trials aboard aJoint High Speed Vessel Millinocket in 2016.

“The electromagnetic railgun represents an incredible new offensive capability for the U.S. Navy,” Rear Adm. Bryant Fuller, the Navy’s chief engineer, said in a statement. “This capability will allow us to effectively counter a wide range of threats at a relatively low cost, while keeping our ships and sailors safer by removing the need to carry as many high-explosive weapons.”

The massive railgun that needs just one sailor to operate it relies on the electromagnetic energy of theLorentz force—the combination of electric and magnetic forces on a point charge—for power.

The Navy likes the weapon for several reasons, not the least of which it has a range of 100 miles and doesn’t require explosive warheads. That makes it far safer for sailors, and cheaper for taxpayers. According to the Navy, each 18-inch projectile costs about $25,000, compared to $500,000 to $1.5 million for conventional missiles.

“[It] will give our adversaries a huge moment of pause to go: ‘Do I even want to go engage a naval ship?’” Rear Admiral Matt Klunder told reporters. “Because you are going to lose. You could throw anything at us, frankly, and the fact that we now can shoot a number of these rounds at a very affordable cost, it’s my opinion that they don’t win.”

The Navy’s been talking about using railguns for the past ten years. The Office of Naval Research launched a prototype program in 2005, with an initial investment of $250 million committed through 2011. The Navy anticipates spending about that much more by 2017.

Of course the Army is interested in having one too, and the Pentagon is in general interested in many aspects of the technology. In July, the Navy will display the electromagnetic railgun prototype at San Diego Naval Base.

“Frankly, we think it might be the right time for them to know what we’ve been doing behind closed doors in a Star Wars fashion,” said Klunder. “It’s now reality. It’s not science fiction. It’s real and you can look at it.”

To see Videos…http://www.wired.com/2014/04/electromagnetic-railgun-launcher/

Pic of the Day: Cardboard IronMan

Courtesy Ralphie Aversa, news.yahoo.com

Kai-Xiang Xhong

Kai-Xiang Xhong takes ordinary cardboard boxes and turns them into extraordinary pieces of art. The 20-year-old’s latest work is a full sculpture of Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit, and you would be hard-pressed to find words that can do it justice.

Xhong is a student in Taiwan and began turning sketches into sculptures when he was in high school.

"I have since produced lots of artwork with cardboard," Xhong told the Stan Winston School of Character Arts. "For example, Optimus Prime from TRANSFORMERS, skeletons of the T-Rex and a Pterodactyl, an IRON MAN suit, and so on. And the last three of them were all made full-size."

The detail in the costume is incredible. Xhong painstakingly carved out nearly every notch and indent in the "armor," along with creating the hinges and joints throughout the life-size suit.

View gallery

Kai-Xiang Xhong

"For my cardboard IRON MAN SUIT, I used pepakura technique," he explained, referencing a method that uses buildable and foldable 3D models. "But I did not add any special color on the surface. Keeping the cardboard color and texture was deliberate. That’s my style."

View gallery

Kai-Xiang Xhong

It took the Taiwanese student almost a year to complete the project, as he worked on it only in his free time. Xhong’s art is now receiving international recognition.

"Creating is the most important part of my life," he said. "I hope I can keep going in the future."

His newfound fanbase hopes for the same thing, and cannot wait to see what "out of the box" idea he comes up with next.

Build your own Siri

Courtesy KLINT FINLEY, Wired.com


n the Iron Man movies, Tony Stark uses a voice-controlled computer assistant called J.A.R.V.I.S. It manages the lights and security system in his home, helps him pilot his Iron Man suits, and even assists with his research. Some of this is still very much in the realm of science fiction, but not all of it. Inspired by the Iron Man movies, two Princeton students have built a J.A.R.V.I.S. for the real world.

“That was even the initial project name — ‘J.A.R.V.I.S.’ — until we decided that it was too unoriginal,” says one of the project’s creators, Charles Marsh. Instead, they now call it Jasper.

It’s like Siri, but instead of running on your smartphone, it operates from a small, stand-alone unit with a microphone and an internet connection

No, Jasper isn’t as sophisticated as its science fictional inspiration. It’s more like Siri or Google Now, but instead of running on your smartphone, it operates from a small, stand-alone unit with a microphone and an internet connection. And it’s open source, meaning anyone can take the designs and build their own and modify it as need be.

Jasper acts as an “always on” system. When you say its name, it will respond with a beep indicating that’s it’s ready for instructions. So far, it can do things like tell you whether you have new Facebook notifications or Gmail messages, play songs from Spotify and, of course, tell you what the weather is like. It also offers a developer interface that lets outside programmers add new tools that can be triggered by additional keywords.

Marsh built the tool alongside a fellow Princeton student named Shubhro Saha. Most of the development happened over the summer, while Marsh was interning at Microsoft in Seattle and Saha at an online advertising outfit AppNexus in New York City. “Every night after work, we’d hold a Google Hangout to discuss design decisions, bugs, TODOs, and everything else we needed to get done,” Marsh remembers.

But like most open source projects, Jasper stands on the shoulders of existing open source code. Much of the voice recognition system, for example, is built on CMUSphinx, CMUCLTK and Phonetisaurus. “We saw Jasper as a great way to show developers what’s possible within the realm of open source,” he says. “We were amazed by how far we could get with these free, open solutions, and we wanted others to be similarly inspired.”

If you’re inspired, one option is to help the two expand the reach of Jasper. You can build your own with little more than a Raspberry Pi mini-computer, a speaker, and a microphone. Jasper’s source code has only been out for a day, but Marsh says they’ve already heard from several developers interested in building on top of it. “One individual mentioned that he was looking into powering his entire home with Jasper after wiring it with microphones,” he says. “Another asked us about automating vehicles in his factory with Jasper-powered voice control. Another even mentioned using Jasper in the classroom as a tool to teach kids about programming.”

For the time being, Marsh says, he and Saha have no plans to build a business around the tool. They simply wants others to join in. “When we were planning out the Jasper vision, what we really saw was a platform for hackers: its beauty lay in its extensibility,” he explains. “Nothing excited us more than to see what other programmers could do with the device.” Such is the beauty of open source.