Nice set of updates to Azure over the last few days – Data Sync now in the HTML Portal – Updates to the CLI

Scott Guthrie posted about the Azure-related changes that have happened over the last few days.

Of particular interest to me was that Data Sync was now in the new HTML portal, and that the Azure store now works in a bunch more countries.

Generally I like the newer HTML portal but I'm still finding that it applies different validation rules to SQL passwords than Windows Azure SQL Database itself does. That's a pain as I still have to use the older portal.

Regardless, here is the list of changes:

  • Mobile Services (job scheduler support, Europe Region Support, Command Line Support)
  • Web Sites (scale improvements, integrated source control)
  • SQL Data Sync (support in the new HTML portal)
  • ACS Management (support in the new HTML portal)
  • Media Services (job and task management, blob storage support, reserved compute)
  • Virtual Network enhancements
  • Subscription Filtering Support
  • Windows Azure Store (now available in more countries)
  • Glenn Bock also posted a few days back about changes to the CLI that help with automation of site and virtual machine creation.

    Windows Azure SQL Reporting – Great to see a dramatic price decrease for lower volume users

    I was really excited about Windows Azure SQL Reporting being released. That lasted until I saw the pricing. If I just deployed a server and didn't use it, the price was 89c per hour for up to 300 reports per hour. What many people didn't understand is that the price applied whether or not you used the reporting server.

    That meant that the minimum price for deploying a server was 89c x 24 hours x 365 days = $7796.40 per year.

    That price was way more expensive than just deploying an Azure VM and purchasing a standard edition license for SQL Server to put on it. And the standard edition license had way more functionality, apart from the high availability provided by WASR.

    At every session where I showed the product, the feedback was the same: "Love the idea, but have you seen the price?".

    Many of us complained loudly (internally) to Microsoft about this, and I'm pleased to say that I just got an email that covers dramatic price reductions.

    From February 1, 2013, the price drops to 16c per hour (all USD) for up to 30 reports per hour.

    That means the minimum price for deploying a server is 16c x 24 hours x 365 days = $1401.60 per year, as long as you don't exceed 30 reports per hour. The pricing still isn't where I'd like to see it, but it's way more palatable now.

    If you've been put off by the pricing of Windows Azure SQL Reporting, it's time to take another look at it.

    Placeholder images for testing reports

    Lorem Ipsum has long been used to provide placeholder text for testing report and document layouts. Programs such as Microsoft Word have also included options for generating sample text. (For example, type =rand() anywhere in a blank area of a Microsoft Word document and hit enter).

    Matthew Roche and Donald Farmer both sent me a link the other day to an online service that provides placeholder images. This could be quite useful when testing report layouts in SQL Server Reporting Services.

    You'll find it here:


    As an example, here's a random sports image. Of course I have no idea what you'll see on this page 🙂

    Create a system image in Windows 8

    One of the things that I've just come to accept is that the designers of Windows 8 and I think very differently.

    It'll take a long time to convince me that shutting down the computer is a "setting". Even after using Windows 8 for quite a while now, I still find that I struggle nearly every day, just trying to do things that I previously knew how to do. That's just not a good thing.

    Today I decided to create a system image as I hadn't made one lately. I started in Control Panel looking for Backup options. That yielded nothing except programs that wanted to "Save backup copies of my files with file history".

    I thought "oh well, let's just try the new search options". I hit the Windows key and typed "Backup". No, nothing came up there either.

    I searched again all over the Control Panel options to no avail.

    So it was time to hit Google again. Once again, clearly lots of people used to know how to do this and have been trying to work out where this option went.

    The first trick is that there are a bunch of Control Panel options that don't appear in the Control Panel. In the address bar at the top, if you click on Control Panel, you'll find there is an option that says "All Control Panel Options". That is curious given that's where I thought I was when I opened Control Panel. No hint is given on that screen that there are a bunch of hidden options. None the less, I then checked out "all" the options.

    The option that you need to create a system image in Windows 8 turns out to be the "Windows 7 File Recovery" option that appears in this extended list. Why does it say "Windows 7" when it's for "Windows 8" as well and I'm running "Windows 8"? Why do I have to choose an option that says "File Recovery" to create a system image backup?


    But at least I've recorded it here for the next time I forget where to find it.

    Visual Studio Image Library now available for download

    One of the challenges in any application development is trying to make your application look like it's really designed for the target environment. Using the same icons/images that are used in the target environment, and for the same purposes, helps greatly with this.

    It's great to see that Microsoft have published an image library for Visual Studio that lets your own applications use the same images that they use in the operating system.

    You'll find info about it (and the download) here: