Windows Azure Feedreader Episode 8

Apologies for the long delay between episodes. I do these in my spare time and my spare time doesn’t always coincide with a quite environment to record the screencast.

But safe to say, I’m super excited to be back and doing these once again.

So, to it!!

This week we follow straight on from what we did in week 7, and modify our backend code to take account of user subscriptions when adding RSS feeds and RSS feeds from OPML files.

Additionally, we lay the ground work for next weeks episode where we will be writing the code that will update the feeds every couple of hours.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, this week we start using the Windows Azure SDK 1.3. So if you haven’t downloaded and installed it, now is  the time.

There are some slight code modifications to take account of some breaking changes in 1.3 that are detailed in Steve Marx’s post on the subject.

Finally, I’ve just realised that the episode contains the wrong changeset information. The correct changeset is: 84039 (I’ll be correcting this slight oversight. Perfectionism demands it)

So, enjoy the show:

Remember, you can head over to to see the show in all its HD glory.

As I said, next week, We’ll be writing the update code that will automatically update all RSS feeds being tracked by the application.

Windows Azure Feedreader Episode 6: Eat Your Vegetables

A strange title, no doubt, but I’ll explain in a moment.

Firstly, apologies for the delay. I’ve been busy with some other projects that couldn’t be delayed. And yes, I have been using Windows Azure Storage for that.

I’m doing some interesting work with Tropo, the cloud communications platform. It’s similar to Twillo. So, at some point I’ll do a screencast – my contribution to the lack of documentation for Tropo’s C# library.

This weeks episode had the stated intention of testing the Opml upload and storage routine we wrote back in Week 4.

We manage this, reading in the contents of the OPML file, storing the blog metadata in Windows Azure tables and the posts in Blob Storage.

However, in getting there, we have to tackle a number of bugs. Truthfully speaking, a few could have been avoid earlier – such as the fact that calling UrlPathEncode does not remove the ‘+’, and so IIS7 freaks out as a result (e.g. when blob names are used in URLs).  Others, I had no idea about – like the requirement for only lowercase blob container and queue names.

Which brings me to why I’ve named this episode as such. Dave Winer wrote a brilliant post earlier this week about working with Open Formats. To quote him:

1. If it hurts when you do it, stop doing it.

2. Shut up and eat your vegetables.

3. Assume people have common sense.

Number 2 says you have to choose between being a person who hangs out on mail lists talking foul about people and their work, or plowing ahead and making software anyway even though you’re dealing with imperfection. If you’re serious about software, at some point you just do what you have to do. You accept that the format won’t do everything anyone could ever want it to do. Realize that’s how they were able to ship it, by deciding they had done enough and not pushing it any further.

So, this episode is about doing exactly that – shutting up about the bugs and getting the software to work.

The fact is that every episode so far has been about writing the foundations upon which we can build. The bugs solved in this episode, mean we have few problems down the road. We have been immersed in the nitty gritty details, rather than build with out having to worry if our feed details are really being read and stored, or if our tables are being created correctly, or if blobs are being stored in the right containers.

Enjoy (or not) my bug fixing:

Remember to head over to to see the episode in all its HD glory.

A word about user Authentication. While I don’t cover it in the video, I’ll be moving to use Google Federated Authentication over Windows Live ID. So for next week, I’ll have the Windows Live Stuff removed, and we’ll be using Google and the Forms Authentication integration the dontnetopenauth library provides.

Next week, the order of business is as follows:

  1. Clean up our view HTML
  2. ViewData doesn’t work in a couple of places – so we need to fix that
  3. Store user subscriptions.
  4. Make a start on our update code

PS. I added new pre-roll this week as an experiment. Hope you like it.

Windows Azure Feed Reader Episode 3

Sorry for the lateness of this posting. Real life keeps getting in the way.

This weeks episode is a bit of a departure from the previous two episodes. The original recording I did on Friday had absolutely no sound. So, instead of re-doing everything. I give you a deep walkthrough of the code. Be as that may, I did condense an hours worth of coding into a 20 minute segment – which is probably a good thing.

As I mentioned last week, this week we get our code to actually do stuff – like downloading, parsing and displaying a feed in the MVCFrontEnd.

We get some housekeeping done as well – I re-wrote the OPML reader using LINQ and Extension Methods. We’ll test this next week.

The final 20 minutes, or so is a fine demonstration of voodoo troubleshooting ( i.e. Hit run and see what breaks) but we get Scott Hanselmans feed parsed and displayed. The View needs a bit of touching up to display the feed better, but be as that may, it works.

Since we get a lot done this week, its rather longer – 1 hour and 9 minutes. I could probably edit out all the pregnant pauses. 🙂

Here’s the show:

Success! My 2nd HD attempt uploaded last night. Click here to see the HD on Enjoy.

Remember, the code lives at

Oil Spill Live Feeds App 1.3 & Screencast

This is my attempt to kill 2 birds with one stone.

So, item number one is a new version of the Oil Spills application. New features added are:

  • ability to add and remove panels
  • ability to refresh feeds that have gone down
  • all panels now have the same size – the application will adjust this based on the number of panels and the size of the form
  • added some application icons

You can get the new release here:

This may seem like a little, but its really a total re-write.

Being able to remove panels that you do not want to watch makes the application more memory efficient. Though there is more work that can be done in this area, there is only so much you can do when streaming 8 live feeds.

Item number 2 is the fact that I did a short, 6 minute screen cast discussing the innards of the application. Now, it may seem silly to do a screencast for something so trivial, but I wanted some practice. It turns out that its not as easy as it sounds. So this video is my 4th attempt (which I’m still not 100% happy with, mainly because of the overlay).

I did this with Expression Encoder 3 Screen Capture. I usually use Community Clips for this sort of stuff. But, its not a half bad screen capture program. Expression Encoder Screen capture will let you add an overlay from an external camera, in this case, my laptops integrated webcam. I’m not too sure about this for future screencasts – so do let me know what you think.

So here it is: