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by Peter Galli on April 19, 2010 04:08pm
Microsoft today announced at DrupalCon 2010 the release of a Community Technology Preview of the new SQL Server Driver for PHP 2.0 with support for PHP Data Objects.
This is a new technical bridge for PHP developers that will make it less complex for them to target multiple databases, and make it easier for PHP applications like the upcoming Drupal 7 release to interoperate smoothly with SQL Server 2005 and all later versions.
The CTP release gives developers the chance to check out the tool and provide feedback ahead of the release of the final version in the second half of this year.
Drupal is an open source Content Management System written in PHP software. In order for SQL Server to work with Drupal 7, it needs a PDO driver and Drupal Abstraction Layer for that database.
Microsoft is providing the PDO driver for SQL 2005 and later, and the Commerce Guys, a company that provides ecommerce solutions with Drupal, is releasing the Drupal Database Abstraction Layer for SQL Server 2005 and later.
The Commerce Guys presented at DrupalCon 2010 a beta version of Drupal 7 running on SQL Server using this new SQL Server driver with PDO.
Being able to access SQL Server through PDO will benefit PHP developers by reducing the complexity of targeting multiple databases and will make it easier to take advantage of SQL Server features such as business intelligence & reporting as well as SQL Azure features like exposing OData feeds.
For more technical information on this latest technical bridge, read Ashay Chaudhary's blog post, as well as the SQL Server Driver for PHP team blog.
This latest initiative is just one of many that underscore Microsoft's broad commitment to openness through expanding choice and opportunity for customers, partners and developers.
by Peter Galli on April 15, 2010 05:29pm
Silverlight 4 was released to the Web today. Developers can use Silverlight 4 to create great applications and rich, compelling user experiences, both on and off the Web.
The release-to-the-Web edition can be downloaded here at no cost.
Some 90% of the most commonly requested features were incorporated into Silverlight 4, which is currently installed on almost 60% of all internet devices and more than half of US broadband PCs, Scott Guthrie, a Corporate Vice President in Microsoft's Developer Division, said earlier this year.
A number of customers, including Snapflow, Seesmic and H&R Block, as well as numerous Microsoft properties such as Xbox, Bing and MSN, are all already using Silverlight to create compelling user experiences.
Silverlight 4 also extends beyond the browser, and brings improved out-of-browser capabilities, enabling new experiences that reach deeper into the desktop without additional code or runtimes required.
Webcam and microphone with local recording capability opens new possibilities for innovative interactive media experiences, while native multicast support enables efficient enterprise-wide training and internal communications behind the firewall.
Full support for Silverlight in Visual Studio 2010 gives enterprise developers a tried and trusted development environment and languages that scales for mission-critical enterprise scenarios, while integration with Microsoft Office and Microsoft SharePoint bring the benefits of Silverlight interactivity to a broad enterprise install base, Guthrie said.
Enhanced printing, networking, databinding, reporting and charting capabilities satisfy common business needs, while Silverlight has a growing library of over 60 customizable controls to create rich, interactive applications to rapidly build attractive, functional business applications.
Microsoft also has extended support for Google's Chrome browser with Silverlight 4.
Microsoft is also working with the open source community to ensure that Silverlight content is available to them. Earlier this year, Moonlight 2.0 was released. Moonlight is an open source project that gives Linux users access to Microsoft Silverlight content, and is available for all major Linux distributions, including openSUSE, SUSE Linux Enterprise, Fedora, Red Hat, and Ubuntu.
by Peter Galli on April 12, 2010 05:19am
As you may know, Microsoft announced last July the Live Services Plug-in for Moodle, a free download released under the General Public License v2 that integrates Microsoft's Live@Edu services such as email, calendar, instant messaging and search directly into the Moodle experience.
The move was very important for Microsoft in the educational space in Latin America, as adoption and usage are surging in the region for Live@Edu, Microsoft's free communication and collaboration solution that educational institutions can offer their students.
In fact, not only are adoption and usage surging in the region, but this is happening in unique and original ways with well known and socially relevant organizations that already understand how interoperability can work as a knowledge and collaboration enabler.
A good example of this is Instituto Ayrton Senna, which invests and works to create conditions and opportunities for every Brazilian child and adolescent so that they can realize their full potential as people, citizens and future professionals. The Moodle e-learning solutions used by the organization to qualified Brazilian citizens have been enhanced through its interoperability with Microsoft's Live@Edu services and technologies.
Another example is the IT Lab at Unesp (a public university in São Paulo State), which counts on Microsoft´s support to develop and research interoperability between different technologies. Along with Instituto Ayrton Senna, and using the Microsoft Plug-in, it has developed integration between Moodle e-learning solutions and Windows Live Services, including email, Messenger, calendar alerts, Bing, and others.
This integration allows users to access all these facilities through a unique sign-in, on the same screen and environment, with students able to log-in into Moodle using their Live ID.
"It is a good way of putting together, in one environment, the best of Windows Live - through Live@Edu - and Moodle," says Leandro Jekimim Goulart, Unesp IT Lab coordinator. "By integrating the services to the e-learning solution at Instituto Ayrton Senna, teachers are able to contact students through instant messaging, as well as organize online meetings," Goulart says.
Instituto Ayrton Senna has already supported over 11,64 million children and youth - the Institute counts on licensees, allies, partners, and contributors to support programs and actions - and some R$ 203 million has been invested since it was established in 2004.
by Peter Galli on April 09, 2010 02:09pm
Microsoft has just released the SQL Server Reporting Services SDK for PHP, which enables PHP developers to easily create reports and integrate them in their web applications.
The SDK offers a simple Application Programming Interface to interoperate with SQL Server Reporting Services, Microsoft's Reporting and Business Intelligence solution.
Developers will be able to use the SDK to perform common operations like listing reports in PHP applications, providing custom report parameters from a PHP Web form, and managing the style of the output formats to meet their needs.
This interoperability toolkit is now available for download from CodePlex as an open source project, and is open to feedback from the community.
As Claudio Caldato notes in his blog on the Interoperability @ Microsoft site, "best of all, these scenarios can be done using the free (as in 'free beer'!) SQL Server 2008 Express with Advanced Services edition.
This edition includes the SQL Server 2008 Express database engine as well as graphical administration tools and the Reporting Services server components for creating, managing, and deploying tabular, matrix, graphical, and free-form reports.
Microsoft's SQL Server 2008 Express Advanced can be downloaded here.
by Garrett Serack on April 07, 2010 09:04am
Last week, I blog'd about a new open source project that I've launched called "CoApp" (The Common Opensource Application Publishing Platform), which was also accepted today as a CodePlex Foundation project in its recently-announced Systems Infrastructure and Integration Gallery.
As I've mentioned on the project site, "CoApp aims to create a vibrant Open Source ecosystem on Windows by providing the technologies needed to build a complete community-driven Package Management System, along with tools to enable developers to take advantage of features of the Windows platform."
Ugh - a mouthful - and all chocked full of them shiny marketing words. (Uh ... yeah, I know I wrote that.).
So, what does that mean?
Well, while Windows provides some pretty good stuff for packaging applications in the form of Windows Installer* technology (aka "MSI"), the down side is that the open source community hasn't really picked it up in the same way that they have picked up packaging on other platforms where they create repositories and distributions of software, and so we're missing out on having these nice, consistent collections of all these great open source apps. That's where I really want to be.
‘Course, my pappy always used to tell me "it don't take a genius to spot a goat in flock of sheep" ... Sure, it's easy to see what the problem is, question is, how do we go about fixin' it?
Last fall, I started to sketch out what that should look like, and what it would take to get there. After a few months of poking the right people, I started to get agreement here at Microsoft that this really is a great idea, and we should be spending time on it. (And, ‘course, by ‘we' I mean ‘me.')
I know from personal experience with building open source software on Windows, that things are not only sometimes tricky, but often downright impossible to build correctly, and even harder to make sure the software is built in such a way that anyone on Windows could use it. I've come up with a plan for building a set of tools to help open source software build better on Windows, along with automating the packaging in such a way that will allow us to build yet more shiny tools to locate and install them.
Along with the tools, we're going to need to lay down some guidance on how to use them to build packages that play nice with each other-I want to make sure that I'm never running into "DLL Hell", never having to search for missin' bits, and always getting the right package for the right job. At the same time, I really want to use some optimization techniques to help open source software run better on Windows.
Starting with ApacheCon last fall, I began to reach out to people I know in open source communities, not only to get their buy-in that this is a good idea, but solicit their help. I've already secured a handful of folks who are interested in helping, and I can always use a few more.
Over the course of the next month or so, we'll be the filling in the details on what all of this looks like on the project site, and discussing the merits on the mailing list. From there, we'll begin to build the tools, and with a bit of luck, we'll start producing packages a few more months after that. We'll probably start with the packages that make the most sense (Apache, PHP and Python) and work our way out from there.
And just how does Microsoft fit into all of this?
Well, the folks here at Microsoft have recognized the value in this project, and have kindly offered to let me work on it full-time. I'm running the project; Microsoft is supporting my efforts in this 100%. The design is entirely the work of myself and the CoApp community, I don't have to vet it with anyone inside the company. This really makes my job a dream job - I get to work on a project that I'm passionate about, make it open source, and let it take me where it makes sense.
Sure, it's a large project, but I'm pretty sure that we're headed in the right direction. If you'd like to come out and help (or even just come get more details about what I'm talking about), you can start here.
"* I know, some people don't particularly like MSI, but trust me, it's all in how it's used-ya don't blame the horse for throwin' a shoe."
by Peter Galli on April 06, 2010 12:21pm
Last summer, a new team within Microsoft, Education Labs, debuted the popular Live Services Plug-in for Moodle. Part of the charter for that team is to listen and quickly respond to educators' feedback so, when the team started to hear the positive feedback for that tool, they reached out to find out what other needs educators had with respect to Moodle, an open-source learning management system.
They quickly realized that, while educators liked the efficiency and time savings of the single sign-on that tool provided users of both Moodle and Live@edu, they also wanted other critical actions to be made simpler and faster. For example, they wanted to save time when using Office and Moodle together. Additionally, school administrators wanted to find out how to get the robustness of the SharePoint platform to underlie Moodle.
Today, the Education Labs team responded and launched a free Office Add-in for Moodle, as well as releasing a white paper on how to integrate SharePoint with Moodle.
Office Add-in for Moodle: As described in this blog post, this tool is easy to install and brings saving an Office document to Moodle down from some eight steps to around four. When uploading a lot of files to one or more Moodles, that can equate to a lot of time savings. As many educators use Moodle to upload their course content at the beginning of the semester, that upload now just got easier and faster.
You can download the tool, which is available in 6 languages, here.
In addition to saving Office documents to a Moodle, educators frequently need to update or edit those files on Moodle. Until now, if you needed to make changes to an Office document on a Moodle, you could click on it to open it, but then you had to save it to the desktop and then have to upload it again. Now, with the new Office Add-in installed, that eight step process goes to just one step: Save!
You can watch the Channel 9 video here.
White paper on integrating SharePoint as the file system for Moodle: In contrast to the Office Add-in, which is a free download of an actual piece of software, those schools already using SharePoint and Moodle have all the software they require.
They just need to follow the instructions in the white paper to give IT pros the ability to restore files accidentally overwritten or deleted by teachers using versioning and/or the recycle bin and/or the capabilities of SharePoint. In addition, SharePoint brings file search capabilities that Moodle does not have.
And, speaking of bulk upload, an educator can use SharePoint to add multiple files simultaneously to their Moodle. Note that even with the add-in, they will still upload a file at a time.
These initiatives all underscore how Microsoft is focused on providing compelling solutions that meet user needs, and that those solutions will continue to use open source tools like Moodle.