Monday, September 5, 2016

Cloud Services : My Thoughts (Part 4)

My assignment this week is to "Research 3 Platform as a Service (PaaS) providers, and identify why they may be considered as potential PaaS providers for the current supply chain program."

and this is my response:

It is really hard to research 3 different Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) service providers when you don’t know what language and framework that the company wants to use for their applications.  Depending on the technologies that the company wants to use, there doesn’t seem to be many .NET solutions for PaaS services.  I am thinking that because there are more options for Ruby, Python, Java, PHP and Node.js than there is for .NET I might suggest that the company go with something like Java or PHP because those are the more common for web applications after .NET, and there seem to be a lot of PaaS service providers that have set ups for these languages.  With a PaaS all the company’s developers have to do is login to the Machine and they are ready to start developing applications for the cloud in the specific language and environment that they are set up with by the hosting service.

Personally I would like to go with the more popular providers and by that I mean the providers that are more well-known because they are leaders in the industry of information technology, Google and Amazon are the ones that first come to mind for me.  Something that I know about Amazon is that its product is not really a PaaS, it is more like an IaaS that a user can install whatever type of platform on the infrastructure that they want to use, so they could install a .NET framework onto the AWS infrastructure service which would kind of be like a PaaS situation.
Google App Engine is another viable option but it is limited to Java, Python, PHP and GO but Google App Engine also has a remarkable Datastore option.  All of the options given through the Google App Engine are guaranteed to be scalable.
The pricing for either of these options seems very reasonable, Google App Engine is based on usage and ranges from 5 cents an hour to 18 cents an hour depending on the product needed, and Amazon’s product supposedly has a nice calculator for figuring out what you will spend on your product.

Microsoft Azure is another PaaS provider, but they have sort of a niche because they are one of the big dogs and they seem to be one of the only ones that provide a .NET solution.  Just because Microsoft is the only one providing a .NET solution doesn’t mean that it is a mediocre, they offer a fantastic service with a wonderfully easy user interface that makes sense.  Azure’s prices are very reasonable as well based on how much processer time you use and the type of servers that you use.  Microsoft’s Azure is the provider that I currently use to house my personal website and the websites that I maintain for my customers and the pricing is very reasonable.

I think that I need to keep looking into these different cloud services because I do want to expand the services that I am providing to my customers and to expand into a new way of providing services to new customers in the future.

In the future I might set myself up with something that runs Ruby or Python or even Java so this would lead me to providers like Amazon and Google and their products. 

An idea that I have tossing around in my mind is creating some skills for the Amazon Echo that I won at the recent CodeStock event here in Knoxville, these "skills" are small applications that would need to be housed on a server somewhere, for convenience I think I could house these apps on Amazon AWS, although I could host the guts of these skills on any cloud.  Keep an Eye out for new Amazon Echo Skills from me and possibly a blog post to accompany it as well.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Cloud Services: My Thoughts (Part 3)

This is part of my Individual project, I am supposed to inform someone about IDaaS and SaaS by doing some research on a couple of providers and comparing them back and forth.  But I am not entirely sure that I truly understand how IDaaS is supposed to work, let me know if I am on the right track, please.

Software as a Service (SaaS) and Identity as a Service (IDaaS) Plan

There are quite a few IDaaS hosts that are very popular, and there are even a few that didn’t even start as a IDaaS host.  There seems to be two different types of IDaaS, one that houses all sorts of authentication along with the identification of users and then there is IDaaS where the Host just identifies the user and allows sites to link security to the identification.  The latter is one I am more familiar with, there are a lot of sites that allow the user to log in using their ID from other prominent sites, and you might be familiar with some of the sites that give access to the API to authenticate the user through the host site.  If you have ever used Facebook or Twitter or Google to log into another site so that you don’t have to remember another username and password combination then you have used a version of IDaaS in its most basic form.  The ID doesn’t necessarily have any permissions or authentication tied to it, but once the host has verified the user’s identity the user can use this “Key” to unlock many websites and also a base to keep track of permissions.  Most identity is usually linked to an Active Directory type server where the identity is only part of the authentication process, the other part is roles and permissions for different applications.  One of the best parts of having the use of IDaaS is that they will give you a nice and neat API for identifying the user and then leave it up to you to attach the role and permissions to the user after the user has been identified.  What is really nice is that once you have an Identity that is cloud based it can be used to grant users access or track the user’s access to applications fairly easily.  Let’s say that I have an identity through Microsoft, like for my personal Email among other things, I can be hired by a company and they can add my Microsoft ID to their systems so that I can access their applications, whatever they may be.  Along with accessing their applications they can furnish me with access to cloud applications that they have either developed or even give me access to their servers that are in the cloud so that I can administer them.  Now I have an Identity and the person in charge of Software can add me to the list of users that needs an Office 365 license through the company, I already have an Identity so it makes it really easy for the admin.  Google also has a lot of nice freebie Software that is completely based in the cloud, you don’t have to download any software or install any software on your machine.  Another great advantage of using google cloud apps is that because these apps are almost completely cloud based you can use the applications on any machine with only operating system.
The biggest risk with Google Docs is that all your stuff is on the internet and if for some reason security is compromised all the documents that you have stored on the cloud could be in danger of being stolen. 
The biggest disadvantage of Google Docs is that if you lose internet connection you won’t have access to the applications, but they are free.  Office 365 is nice because the application is actually installed on your machine so there is no outage if you lose internet connection, but the drawback of having the applications installed is that they have to be specifically engineered for specific operating systems.  Microsoft has been working to get their office applications to work on other operating systems which will be super nice.

Moving Documents to either one of these cloud platforms wouldn’t be hard because they both handle the same document type.  Microsoft Office 365 will be much easier to migrate to because there really isn’t anything to migrate because a lot of companies have been using Microsoft products already.  Migrating to Google Cloud Storage will take some migration, but if you are storing the documents locally then you really don’t need to worry about migration here either, but if you do then you have the documents anywhere that you have internet access.

Things don't always copy paste from Word nicely do they?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Cloud Services: My thoughts (Part 2)

Some one responded to my discussion post wondering what is a better deal, paying for a software suite once or paying monthly and continuing to pay after you have paid the equivalent to cost of purchasing the software suite once.   They used Adobe as an example, and here is my responsive.

The big thing with paying monthly is that, as I mentioned, if I were to have bought the Master Collection when a new version comes out I have to purchase the next one, forking out another '2,600 USD'.  A new version of the Master Collection could come out every year, every other year, every three years, or whatever.

Before Software was released and the consumer bought the software, there weren't really any updates to the software, then the software companies started putting out updates that the user would have to download and install, then the software companies started automatically updating the software through the internet and there was less of a version system and more of the software update system that we are used to today.  With this new update system it makes more sense to pay monthly, it makes more sense to the user and to the company providing the software.

The point I am trying to get to is that instead of buying a brand new suite of software every time they come out with a new version, they pay for the product monthly and get all updates and newest versions when they come out.  so in a way they are saving money. 

a new suite of software comes out every other year cost 2600 USD that comes up to 6,500 for 5 years, so with what you said 'The current model lists a couple of ways to pay for the equivalent CC version with the cheapest coming out to just shy of 600 USD a year (Creative Cloud pricing and membership plans | Adobe Creative Cloud, n.d.). That means, within 5 years, I will have purchased a copy of the Master Collection - except that I will keep on paying for the CC suite. So which one is cheaper over the long term?'  I would say that by getting every update over the 5 years and automatically getting the new versions of the software, without paying a single lump sump is cheaper over the long term.

This is really a good play for the software companies as well,  having a product that costs soo much money up front makes it very hard for a lot of people to afford the software, this is what ultimately leads to people looking for bootleg copies of the software, this causes the company to lose money because they aren't being paid for their software.  The boot leg copies of the software might still be available with this model, but being able to pay a small amount per month encourages users to buy the product or at least use it on a monthly basis. Another thing about monthly payments is that if the user doesn't normally use the software but needs it for a month, they can purchase the software for a single monthly payment, this is very nice compared to what it used to be where a user would have to purchase the entire application if they wanted to use it, even if they were only going to use it once or twice, but being able to purchase a one month use for a small amount of money makes it more feasible for a user to actually purchase the software legally and then the company also makes more money because of the different market that would use the software for a single usage.

I think you can start to see the benefits for both the Company and the users more accurately now, Joel?

Better for the Customer because it is cheaper and their software is always up-to-date and their software is always the 'latest and greatest' that the company has to offer.

Better for the company because they have a more regular cash flow and a more loyal customer base.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Cloud Services: My Thoughts (Part 1)

IDaaS and Saas

Identity as a service is super nice because it allows the administrators to maintain access to restricted areas all in one place.  Identity-as-a-Service is also nice because you can use it to give users access to certain cloud based applications, maintaining the usage of the applications on a per user basis gives an accurate record of what the company is using and what they are not using as far as Software-as-a-Service applications.   before SaaS, a company would have to purchase a number of licenses for the application and keep that list of license keys somewhere safe on their network so that the application could be installed and licensed appropriately, and then someone would have to make sure that the licenses were up to date and that each person that had the application installed on their machine actually had a valid license for their copy of the application.  That all seems daunting just typing it out.  but now we have Software-as-a-Service which allows the company to grant the authority for certain users to be able to install/use the application and then if the user actually uses the application, the company is charged for the usage of the application.  In this scenario, if the user doesn't install/use the application during that billing cycle the company is not charged for the usage(or lack thereof), there are no licenses to keep track of, and there is usually a nice way to keep track of the people using the application, so there is a nice way to audit the usage of applications. 

Another nice thing about Software-as-a-Service is the painless upgrades,  the software provider handles upgrading the software so you don't have to maintain the update schedules for the application, and if for some reason something goes wrong with the application's update, the software company already knows and works on a solution, this process is nearly seamless.  If there is a hot-fix for some reason all you need to do is refresh the application.

The biggest benefit I see for a company to switch to software-as-a-service is that in the past they would have had to buy a Company License to run certain types of server based applications on their machines or even regular applications they would buy a Company License and it would give them x amount of licenses, this wasn't very economical for some companies.  Let's say the company had 30 users that needed Application X and a company License gave them 25 application (licenses for 25 machines) if they wanted more they had to purchase another Company License because of the way that they are using the application this is the only option.  they would be wasting 20 licenses or wasting the money they spent on that company license.  With Software-as-a-Service the company pays per user using the application so they only pay for 30 people using the application,  if someone else needs to use the application, then they pay for one more "use" they would pay for 31 people using the application. 

this is really a no brainer for just about any company,  why pay for more electricity then you are actually using?  Why pay for 100,000 gallons of water when you have only used 20,000 gallons of water?  Why pay for 25 gallons of gas when you only pumped 15 gallons of gas into your car?  Same thing with the upgrades, only this is a little ahead of everything else because the second they release an upgrade to the application you get that upgrade, you get the better version of the application,  this would be comparable to someone upgrading your washer and dryer every time there was a breakthrough in saving energy that made your washer and dryer use less energy, only it happens for every washer and dryer that the company sold, instantaneously at the same time across all the units.

The Benefits of SaaS - Learn Why Software as a Service is the Future - (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2016, from

Sylos, M. (2013, September 18). Top five advantages of software as a service (SaaS) - Thoughts On Cloud. Retrieved August 27, 2016, from

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What causes bugs?

I think that developers have a good handle on the idea of bugs in the code, but the thing that I want to focus on is informing other people, who are not developers, how bugs form.   If we can help others to realize how bugs can form we can eliminate the amount of communication that is wasted trying to explain where the bug came from or why it happened all of a sudden. 

We have all had those changes because of business requirements that everyone that isn't a developer blames for creating bugs until the next major change.  What "everyone that isn't a developer" doesn't realize is that there are other variables that play a major factor in the creation of software bugs.  

As technology increasingly gets better, faster, more convenient, etc. the list of things that directly affect your code increases greatly and there is probably a formula for it that follows the Fibonacci sequence or some other fun algorithm like that.

What "everyone" might not know is that an increase in traffic to a site or server can cause things to change on the server, or cause an admin to make changes that will adversely affect your code.  You will not be notified of these changes, whether they be from traffic flow or an admin. In the ideal world, you would know the second a change happens that is going to affect your code,  you can plan for these things and you might even have alerts set up to tell you when traffic increases to your site or application, but if an admin makes a change to a server or a setting on the server, you may never know until something goes wrong with your site or application, and you will be banging your head against the wall trying to figure out why all of a sudden this bug appears out of nowhere.

Another thing that can really throw a monkey wrench into your code is something that was meant to keep bugs away or increase security,  an update.  I am not talking about the ones that "everyone" is thinking of, like the updates that you (or someone in your team/company) have made to another part of the application,  this is what "everyone" immediately thinks broke the application when something isn't working the way it previously did, this is the major update that "everyone" blames bugs on.  I am talking about updates to operating systems, IE, Edge, Cortana, text readers, PDF readers, other browsers, just about anything that needs updating that has to do with some part of your application.

Something else that "everyone" doesn't realize affects your application is the hardware that it is run on, not just your user interface but also the data server, the web server, the application server, the whatever server.  This likely won't cause issues with your application, but it is a possibility that it could cause an issue. Sometimes when we are creating a site and we use certain frameworks, those frameworks rely on a certain hardware structure or a combination of hardware structure and software settings on that piece of hardware, so when the combinations are changed, there is sometimes a chance of it causing a bug in your application.  Let's say that there isn't a lot of memory usage on the server, so someone says hey let's dial back the memory on this server and use it somewhere else (the things you can do with Virtual Machines), now something that doesn't run all the time gets run and you get an out of memory exception, it didn't happen before, why is it happening now?  now you have to do one of two things, rewrite the code to use less memory for this one process, or convince the controlling party that you need X amount of memory on call.

Knowing that bugs happen and how they happen, helps you to prepare for them to happen and how to communicate what happened to who needs to know this bug happened.

So, what causes bugs?


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Installing XNA for Visual Studio 2015

I was asked about installing XNA into Visual Studios 2015 because I noted that it was very simple and straightforward.

I knew that there were others like me who are still using XNA so I knew that a Google search would do plenty to help me find how to get my project working in VS2015 (community)

My search quickly brought up a a Stack Overflow answer that points to an updated post by MXA with the title "XNA 4.0 Refresh (Visual Studio 2015)", which was last updated in November of 2015.

This site gives you a single downloadable .zip file to download, and then instructions on what you need to do to install all the components necessary for installing the extension itself

Once you have unpacked the .zip file, just install the pieces one by one in the order given, they don't take long at all.

Before install extension:
  1. Install DirectX
  2. Install Xna Framework 4.0 Redistribution
  3. Install Xna Game Studio 4.0 Platform Tools
  4. Install Xna Game Studio 4.0 Shared
Once the last one finishes, just double click the extension and it will install it, and you are ready to roll.  

I wasn't paying complete attention to my computer while I was doing this, so I can't give you a good estimate about how long it really took.  the download was painfully slow because of the connection that I was on, but the installing the packages didn't seem to take very long at all. 

My Project was already created prior to installing XNA into VS2015, so I don't know how easy it is to get started or set up the different types of projects.  I look forward to doing some development in XNA though.

Windows/XboX/Windows Phone Game

With the recent Microsoft Build event showcasing a lot of mobile development and Gaming development, I really got to thinking about the game where I started with a basic tutorial and expanded the game play dramatically.  

Currently it is a 2D scroller type game, but it scrolls in all directions on a defined World(Space/Universe) map.  My goals up until now had been to further develop the 2D game with the final goal being to interpret it into a 3D game that would support online game play.  The more I thought about the game and the aspect of mobile development along with flying quadcopters I came up with the idea of creating an interactive game play where the user could control the player by turning or tilting the screen in order to turn the player piece.  I think this is a wonderful idea for the small game that I have so far and would make it very playable for the mobile platform.  my thoughts are that once I created the game for Windows phone that I could port it to the Android market immediately once I figured out the best way to do that.  

I haven't yet looked into porting to the Android devices but I don't think that it should be too difficult given that Xamarin is now free with Visual Studios and there is a current build of XNA for Visual Studios 2015 as well. 

Over the weekend I updated Visual Studios 2015 Community edition and installed the Xamarin portion, I also installed XNA into Visual Studios 2015 which was a lot easier than it had been in the past to install into other versions of Visual Studios.

I do have a lot of code to clean up, I keep trying to tell myself not to be so hard on myself, I did write the code many years ago and didn't know as much about coding standards and such as I do now.

I am also going to be looking into Azure for testing and hosting for the game itself.  I am not going to lie to you, but the main reason is because of the demo during build for Age of Ascent,  I was really impressed with what they showed there and the way that you can push out updates to the code to different servers that are all hosting the same game instance.  

I am looking forward to implementing some more code into my game and making it enjoyable for everyone. 

I am not so much of an Apple person, but I have also thrown around the idea of porting it to the iPhone market as well, but that is for another set of posts, I am sure there is going to be a lot going into that as well.