Live Meeting Presentation Today on Windows Phone 7 + OData + Silverlight + Azure

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I’m doing a 1.5 hour Live Meeting presentation today at 16:00 ET on these hot topics for the Windows Azure User Group

The audience objectives include:

  • Learn key features of Silverlight, OData & the Windows Azure Platform
  • Learn about preparing an application for use with Windows Azure & SQL Azure
  • Learn stages and ways to deploy a full application to the Windows Azure Platform
  • Learn how Silverlight can interact with Windows Azure Platform technologies.

Register for this hot-topic event and participate remotely.

https://www.clicktoattend.com/invitation.aspx?code=147804

If you are looking for in-depth rapid training on developing for Windows Phone 7 development AND hands-on time with a device, then you should consider registering for the this major 2-day boot camp running across Canada.

Windows Phone 7 Boot Camp

Navigating Bus Stops with Open Data and Windows Phone 7

In a recent post I talked about Bringing Azure+OData+Silverlight Goodness to Open Data Apps in Ottawa.  To do this, I imported standardized transportation data (that I found for the city of Ottawa) into a SQL database and exposed it as OData using WCF Data Services on an Entity Framework model.  I subsequently published a sample database to Windows Azure to demonstrate use of the data in an adapted Silverlight application that uses the Open Data Application Framework.

The OData information is accessible through a RESTful interface.  Here are the root entities displayed in IE.

20100606 odata

Last Thursday evening, I did a presentation on building Silverlight applications for Windows Phone 7.  Given that there’s an OData client library CTP available for Windows Phone 7, I knocked up a Bus Stop ulity application to demonstrate to my audience.  To get started with Silverlight applications on WP7 you can download the free developer tools (vs. the designer tools which are extensions for Blend 4 RC currently) currently the April CTP version.  The developer tools also include the XNA Game Studio for creating XNA-based games.

Here’s are the two main features I set up…

20100606 menu

Do create my menu I went with the list-based project template and then replaced the listbox content with manual entries with tag values.  These tags are then used as the names of the XAML files to load.  Quick and dirty, but it works…

20100606 listcode

Selecting the first option brings up a screen that allows the user to enter a bus stop (by its number as displayed on bus stop signs in Ottawa) and then lookup the trip heading and time of the the next 10 buses stopping at that stop.

When declaring the text box to enter the number, the attribute settings InputScope="Number" is used to default the standard input panel to the number entry mode.  The "TelephoneNumber" value may have also been acceptable (to bring up the phone keypad keyboard with bigger numbers) since many people request this kind of information using their telephone and its keypad.

20100606 entry

The application then uses a proxy class derived from DataServiceContext (and created using the DataSvcUtil command line tool since the WP7 add-in for VS2010 Pro does not currently provide an Add Service Reference option on a project) to query the OData service (running locally or on Azure).

The results come back and use the very flexible ListViewItem control (with its Metro styling) to display the results, making use of Layout="TextAndDetails".

20100606 times

If the user had gone to the other main menu option, they’d be presented with this screen.

20100606 nearby

This shows their ‘current’ location and the bus stops nearby.  Again this calls the OData service using filter parameters to bring back only bus stops that are within a 1km block of the location.  The map shown is the Bing Maps Silverlight control set to Road mode – the same one as used for desktop Silverlight apps – and the bus stop icons are added as children to the map control with attached properties specifying their locations.  The navigation controls where turned off to maximise space, so I added two Windows Phone 7 Applicaiton Bar to allow the user to zoom in and out.  The user can pan around with their finger of course.  The bus stop icons could easily be made actionable in some way. 

Since the WP7 emulator has no GPS, the location was hard coded in.  One of the samples in the WP7 SDK shows how to use Reactive Extensions to simulate location information in a way that is easily switched later to real device data. 

While this kind of application needs fairly accurate location data, others don’t.  Perhaps just knowing the city would be enough if one had just landed in that city and wanted general information.  The location APIs for WP7 allow the developer to easily make a choice between slow and accurate (while the device GPS locks on to satellites) or quick and less accurate (by using available Wifi and mobile network information in conjunction with Microsoft’s cloud-based location services).

Once WP7 devices are released, and the city officially publishes this data set I’d expect a fleshed out and polished application of this kind to be quickly available ;-).

Bringing Azure+OData+Silverlight Goodness to Open Data Apps in Ottawa

On Saturday April 24th 2010, at Open Data Ottawa Hackfest, a team built the ‘OttGuide’ application (here showing 6000+ bus stops on the Ottawa public bus transit network), built on the Open Data Application Framework using Silverlight and Bing Maps, accessing an OData service built with .NET 3.5 and hosted on Windows Azure and SQL Azure.  For more on open data and cross-platform togetherness, consider for the Make Web Not War conference on May 27th 2010 in Montreal.

odata1

This passed Saturday Apr 24th 2010, the very successful Open Data Ottawa Hackfest took place for the first time in Ottawa City Hall organised by Edward Ocampo-Gooding and friends.  A large number of people (enough to exhaust the free t-shirt supply) attended for 4+ hours from different fields (developers, designers, librarians, statisticians. media and city officials).  The event included opening presentations, a hack fest where attendees worked on applications showing use of Ottawa data and closed with a series of presentations showing the fruits of the attendees’ labour.

Prior to the event, the City of Ottawa (unlike cities like Vancouver and Edmonton) hadn’t officially published municipal data or a data publication policy.  This meant that attendees to the hackfest were using various interesting methods to get data for their application from screen scraping to manual data re-enty.

I had the opportunity to talk at length with the city’s CIO, Guy Michaud, and discovered that the city is in fact on the verge of agreeing a policy and then immediately publishing a few initial sets of satic data, most likely sometime in May.  It’s quite possible that the hackfest event helped push this action ahead, but Guy is clearly a guy with forward-looking ideas on the issue of data publishing.

I was told about the event a few weeks ago by friend and Microsoft Canada IT Pro Advisor Rick Claus who was planning on attending.  So, in those weeks, I took a look at some of the work that has been done to obtain Ottawa municipal data and at open data work in general.  In particular I looked in 3 things:

odata2

  • Craig Davey had done extensive work on taking Google-compatible data published on the City’s OCTranspo site, augmenting it, converting it to GTFS format and publishing it with updates in a feed.
  • I had been familiar for some time with Microsoft’s open protocol for providing access to queryable and updateable data sets in a RESTful way – OData.  I did further research into this.  OData builds on ADO.NET Data Services and is fully incorporated into WCF Data Services within the recently released .NET 4 framework.  OData is designed to be consumed (or produced) by many different clients on many platforms. There are client libraries available or in the works for .NET (3.5 with an update & 4.0), Silverlight 4.0, iPhone, Javascript, Windows Phone 7, PHP & Java.  In fact, any client that can make web requests and handle XML can access OData-based services.

The night before the event, on a total whim, I decided to knock up an OData service exposing OCTranpo data, so I: 

  • started with Craig’s GTFS-format data provided as CSV files in a ZIP file. 
  • created an ADO.NET Entity Framework Model in a new .NET 3.5 Class Library project in Visual Studio 2010 to represent the GTFS data with entities and relationships
  • used the designer tools to generate DDL script to create the database schema
  • generated the schema using the script
  • created a database in my local SQL Server 2008 server
  • wrote code to import the CSVs and use the ADO.NET Entity Framework classes to import the data which was taking 3+ hours
  • wrote new code to import the CSVs with the SQL using bulk copy class bypassing the model which did the import of over 2 million bus stop time rows in a few minutes
  • added a WCF Service project and removed the default service from the project template
  • added a WCF Data Service item, setting it up to use the class of the entity model I created and providing read access to all entities
  • copied the connection string from my entity model class library app.config into the WCF Service web.config
  • tested my OData service using the OData URL query syntax, here showing a list of all stops… but this could be queried to find things like a nearby stop (from GPS coordinates), the bus times for a stop, the trips (e.g. ‘saturday service to ABC on route x’) and routes (i.e. bus number) going through a stop, find the stops on a trip, when a specific service gets somewhere, or even for full journey planning, etc.

odata3

  • re-opened by solution as administrator so I could use the Azure Cloud tools
  • added a Windows Azure cloud project with no roles and added my existing WCF Service project to the roles
  • tested OData access running in the local Azure Development Fabric connecting to my local SQL Server database
  • created a SQL Azure server and database in the cloud using the SQL Azure portal
  • connected to SQL Azure using SQL Server Management Studio and created my database schema using a modified version of my existing DDL script (removing USE statements)
  • used the bcp utility to export tables from my local database to local files and then again to import those up to SQL Azure
  • updated the connection string in my web.config to use the SQL Azure database
  • tested OData access running in the local Azure Development Fabric connecting to the SQL Azure database
  • published by cloud project in Visual Studio, created a Hosted Service on the Windows Azure portal and deployed the application to Azure using the portal
  • tested OData access running in on Windows Azure connecting to the SQL Azure database

So I had an OData service exposing the OCTranspo bus routes, trips, stops and trip stop times – sweet!

When I got to the event at 3:15pm, I met up with Christian, Rick & John Weigelt (Microsoft Canada’s National Technology Officer).  They were looking at the VanGuide application and potential Ottawa data sources to hook up to it as a demonstration.  Demonstrations were due at 4pm.  Of course, as I’ve stated, good data sources were hard to find because the City of Ottawa hadn’t published any official open data sets.

OData service to the rescue…?

We set to work on integrating my sample OCTranspo OData service (which was already running the cloud), into the the Open Data Application Framework, transforming the VanGuide application into an ‘OttGuide’ application.  The framework includes a Silverlight application project that includes dynamic handling of web-based data sources (the dynamic list of landmark sources on the left of the UI) and asynchronous data retrieval and handling code (that takes KML and other format data and adds data points as map points on a Bing Maps Silverlight control).

We wanted to make this Ottawa specific, wo we went ahead and:

  • modified the data source list to show an entry for OCTranpo and removed the other ones
  • removed other Vancouver-specific map region options
  • added custom code to handle OCTranpo GTFS entities in a feed (our OData feed) using Linq to XML to create Landmark instances that the framework already understands
  • made the application zoom in on Ottawa
  • made some other cosmetic changes for Ottawa

The result is the application you see at the start of this blog entry.  For full disclosure, we got the full bus stop retrieval and map point creation working literally 1 minute after the public presentation section finished, but Christian managed to demonstrate the VanGuide version and the OData feed.

The ODAF framework means that an OttGuide application user can select bus stops, rate them, add comments, etc.  It would be relatively easy to add datasets for other ‘landmarks’ (e.g. water foundations, tourist spots, parks and even pot holes).

The same OData service could be used on clients like the new Windows Phone 7 platform to give bus services users valuable travel information :).  Perhaps more on that later…

Open data and open web technologies are current hot topics and OData is a great protocol to bring things together on many platforms.  Silverlight is a great technology to deliver rich user experiences on many platforms using data sources from a variety of platforms. 

Microsoft and Open Source Communities are sponsoring the Make Web Not War conference on May 27th 2010, showcasing the latest cross-platform techniques and technologies, including presentations, panels, workshops, a codefest, the FTW coding competition and a party!  Open Data, HTML 5, PHP, JQuery, Mobile, SEO and the Cloud, are amongst the topics being covered.  Speakers and panelists attending include myself, Microsoft Canada team members and many open source experts.

Make Web Not War