It’s Time for one Mobile Database to Rule Them All

WashingtonDC

Migrate Win32 applications using a mobile database like FoxPro, dBase, Access and SQL Server Compact to SQLite across all mobile devices.

If it weren’t for desktop databases and learning SQL, my career as a developer may never have launched. I learned dBase for DOS in college, moved on to Paradox when Windows arrived on the scene and then fell in love with Access. I want to take this moment to say “I’m sorry” to all the IT departments that watched in horror as workgroup-level Access databases spread like wildfire on NetWare, Windows for Workgroups and NT servers to take over the corporate world. Employees who weren’t developers or DBAs were empowered to build their own solutions.

When devices for the mobile enterprise arrived in the late 90s and early 2000s, new databases like Sybase SQL Anywhere and Microsoft SQL Server Compact picked up where their desktop forbearers left off. These tiny relational engines brought serious business apps to life with built-in data sync with server databases. Today, platforms like iOS, Android and Windows are the biggest game in town and the only mobile database that runs on all of them is SQLite. From a pragmatic standpoint, this open source, cross-platform database with ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) support should be your choice to give enterprise mobile data apps the broadest reach. Don’t worry about SQLite just being the database flavor of the week. It supports SQL-92 and works with most programming languages. It has a public domain license and has been around since the year 2000. It also happens to be the most widely deployed database in the world.

Improve user productivity and increase revenue by using a mobile database that works with every device and keeps your apps working with or without connectivity. Which desktop, mobile or embedded databases are you currently using?

Learn how to digitally transform your company in my newest book, “Mobile Strategies for Business: 50 Actionable Insights to Digitally Transform your Business.”

Book Cover

Click to purchase a copy of my book today and start transforming your business!

Sharing my knowledge and helping others never stops, so connect with me on my blog at http://robtiffany.com , follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobTiffany and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/robtiffany

Keeping Windows 8 Tablets in Sync with SQL Server 2012

Windows 8 Book Front

I’m pleased to announce that my newest book, “Keeping Windows 8 Tablets in Sync with SQL Server 2012,” is now available for sale.

Spending a decade travelling the globe to help the world’s largest companies design and build mobile solutions had taught me a few things.  Large organizations are not interested in constantly running on the new technology hamster wheel.  They prefer to leverage existing investments, skills, and technologies rather than always chasing the next big thing.  Don’t believe me?  Take mobile and the cloud for example:

  • In 2003 I was building Pocket PC solutions for large companies that wirelessly connected apps on those devices to SAP.  I assumed mobile was going mainstream that year.  I was wrong.  I was early.  Mobile apps wouldn’t explode until the end of the decade with the iPhone 3G.
  • In 2004, my partner Darren Flatt and I launched the first cloud-based mobile device management (MDM) company to facilitate software distribution and policy enforcement on early smartphones and handhelds.  Early again.  MDM didn’t get big until the end of the decade.
  • At PDC in 2008, my company launched our cloud offering called Azure.  We skipped directly to the developer Nirvana called Platform as a Service (PaaS).  I spent a few years doing nothing but speaking and writing about Windows Phones communicating with Web Roles.  Turns outs companies wanted to take smaller steps to the cloud by uploading their existing servers as VMs.

Being early over and over again taught me how the real world of business operates outside of Redmond and Silicon Valley.  Businesses need to make money doing what they do best.  Where appropriate, they will use technology to help them improve their processes and give them a competitive advantage.  So let’s cut to the chase and talk about why I wrote my new book:

  • Tablets and Smartphones are taking over the world of business and outselling laptops and desktops.  This is a well-known fact and not speculation on my part.
  • There are 1.3 billion Windows laptops, tablets, and desktops being used all over the world.  Windows 7 is in first place with Windows XP in second.
  • Companies run their businesses on Microsoft Office combined with tens of millions of Win32 apps they created internally over the last 2 decades.  Intranet-based web apps also became a huge force starting in the late 90s.
  • Tools like Visual Basic, Access, PowerBuilder, Java, and Delphi made it easy to rapidly build those Win32 line of business apps in the 90s and helped ensure the success of Windows in the enterprise.
  • Many of those developers moved to VB and C# in the 2000s to build .NET Windows Forms (WinForms) apps that leveraged their existing Visual Basic skills from the 90s.
  • Some businesses built Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) infrastructures of Web Services based on SOAP and XML over the last decade in order to connect mobile devices to their servers.  Most business did not, and instead opted for out-of-the-box solutions that didn’t require them to write a lot of code so they could get to market faster.
  • While the “white collar” enterprise recently started building business apps for the iPhone and iPad, the “blue collar” enterprise has been building WinForms apps for rugged Windows Mobile devices using the .NET Compact Framework and a mobile database called SQL Server Compact for over a decade.
  • Most businesses run servers in their own data centers.  Many of them are using virtualization technologies like Hyper-V and VMware to help them create a private cloud.
  • Of the businesses that have dipped their collective toes in the public cloud for internal apps, most of them are following the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model where they upload their own servers in a VM.  Just look at the success of Amazon and the interest in Azure Infrastructure Services.

So the goal of my new book is to help businesses transition to the tablet era in a way that respects their existing investments, skills, technologies, enterprise security requirements, and appetite for risk.

Windows 8 Book Front

Since I’ve been involved in countless mobile projects where companies used the Microsoft data sync technologies already baked into SQL Server and SQL Server Compact, I decided to illustrate how to virtualize this sync infrastructure with Hyper-V.  With an eye towards existing trends that are widely embraced, this gives businesses the flexibility to use this proven technology in a private, public, or hybrid cloud.  Companies authenticate their employees against the same Active Directory they’ve used for over a decade.  I’m deadly serious about security and you’ll be glad to know the technology in this book handles it at every tier of your solution with Domain credentials plus encrypted data-at-rest and data-in-transit.  You also have the option of synchronizing mobile data with any edition of SQL Server 2005, 2008 or 2012 using Microsoft sync technologies that takes care of all data movement plumbing.  Your development team avoids writing thousands of lines of code to create web services, sync logic, change tracking, error handling, and retry logic.  With Microsoft lowering risk to your project by taking care of the server backend, security, and data sync technologies, your team can focus on building the best possible Windows 8 tablet app for the enterprise.

Speaking of tablet app development, it’s important to show you a path that doesn’t force you to learn all-new tools or programming languages, frameworks, or paradigms.  As a developer, you get to keep using Visual Studio along with the Desktop WinForms skills you’ve mastered over the last decade.  Better still, you can accomplish everything using the free version of Visual Studio 2012.  While you might be thinking Windows 8 tablet solutions must be created via Windows Store apps, this is not the case.  Instead, I show you how to apply Modern UI principles to Desktop WinForms apps that are full-screen and touch-first.  Concepts like content over chrome, use of typography, and UI elements with large hit targets are all covered in detail.  I also respect your investment in Windows 7 laptops and tablets by ensuring your touch apps are backwards compatible and keyboard + mouse/trackpad friendly.

Windows 8 Book Back

If you’re looking to build a new Windows 8 tablet app using what you have and what you know, this book is for you.  If you’re looking to port an existing Windows XP or Windows Mobile WinForm app to a Windows 8 tablet, this book empowers you with the skills to make your porting effort a successful one.

The takeaway is you don’t have to scrap your existing investments to participate in the tablet revolution.  I purposely made the book low-cost, hands-on, short, and to-the-point so you can rapidly build mobile solutions for Windows 8 tablets instead of wasting your time with theory.  Click here to take “Keeping Windows 8 Tablets in Sync with SQL Server 2012” for a spin so you can start building mobile apps for the world’s first and only enterprise-class tablet today.

Stay in Sync!

-Rob

Sharing my knowledge and helping others never stops, so connect with me on my blog at http://robtiffany.com , follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobTiffany and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/robtiffany

Sign Up for my Newsletter and get a FREE Chapter of “Mobile Strategies for Business!”

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SQL Server Compact 3.5 Service Pack 2 Cumulative Update Package 7 RTW

SQL Server Compact

Hey folks, just wanted to let you know that cumulative update package 7 for SQL Server Compact 3.5 Service Pack 2 has been released to the web.

You can download the new bits over at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2665342.

This is a hotfix for an incorrect sort order for a subscriber in SQL Server Compact 3.5 SP2 that synchronizes with a publisher in SQL Server.  For instance, you may have a column with an ASC index on SQL Server, but during sync, the sort order may not be specified.  The problem occurs due to an incorrect index creation statement in the .OUT file in the virtual directory on IIS.  Therefore, only the Server Tools need to be updated.  Both x86 and x64 versions of the update are available to download.

Keep in mind that cumulative updates 6 and above will allow your Windows tablets, laptops and Windows Embedded Handheld devices to sync with SQL Server 2012.

Go get things sorted out,

-Rob

Sharing my knowledge and helping others never stops, so connect with me on my blog at http://robtiffany.com , follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobTiffany and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/robtiffany

Sign Up for my Newsletter and get a FREE Chapter of “Mobile Strategies for Business!”

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Simple Mobile Sync with SQL Server 2012 and SQL Server Compact: Episode III

SQL Server Compact

Back in my first article, I showed you where to find Microsoft’s latest updates to the SQLCE and RDA technologies so you can begin synchronizing data with the new SQL Server 2012 (Denali) database.

Just imagine, you now have mobile sync components that give you the flexibility to to work with SQL Server 7, 2000, 2005, 2008, and 2012 from your devices.  I’d say you have both your legacy and state-of-the-art bases covered.  In the second article you built both the server and client databases so now you’re ready to sync some data.

As I may have mentioned before, Remote Data Access (RDA) is the fastest and easiest way for your mobile devices to synchronize data with SQL Server – and then take it offline in SQL Server Compact.  It works on the simple premise of pulling and pushing data to and from SQL Server via the Server Agent which is running on the middle-tier IIS application server.  The Server Agent is able to communicate with SQL Server via an OLEDB connection string which is passed to it from your device application code:

string rdaConnection = @”Provider=SQLOLEDB;” +

“Data Source=Machinename\\SQLExpress;” +

“Initial Catalog = ContosoBottling;” +

“User Id = sa;” +

“Password = P@ssw0rd;”;

You’ll use this connection string over and over whether your pulling or pushing data so keep it handy.  Data is retrieved on a table-by-table basis using the Pull method of the SqlCeRemoteDataAccess object.  You would put the example code below in a method to retrieve a list of Distribution Centers from SQL Server:

using (SqlCeRemoteDataAccess rda = new SqlCeRemoteDataAccess())

{

rda.InternetUrl = “http://localhost/rda/sqlcesa35.dll”;

rda.LocalConnectionString = “Data Source=ContosoBottling.sdf”;

//Drop Table

DropTable(“DistributionCenters”, rda.LocalConnectionString);

//Pull Table

rda.Pull(“DistributionCenters”,

“SELECT DistributionCenterId, Name FROM DistributionCenters”,

rdaConnection,

RdaTrackOption.TrackingOnWithIndexes,

“ErrorTable”);

}

Notice that the mobile device connects to the Server Agent on IIS by pointing to it via a URL.  After that, you assign a connection string that points to the local path of your SQLCE database.  For now, I want you to ignore the DropTable method, because I’ll cover it in a sec.  The Pull method is where the magic happens.  In the first parameter, you pass in the name of the local table you want to create as an argument.  This typically matches the name of the table you’re retrieving from SQL Server.  In the second parameter, you pass a standard SQL statement or call to stored procedure.  This is how you filter the data you want to download to the device.  I don’t want to see any SELECT *’s and I do expect to see appropriate use of the WHERE clause to reduce the amount of data downloaded.  Remember, this filtering allows you download lookup tables that apply to everyone, as well as tables with data that uniquely pertain to a specific user.  In the next parameter you pass in the OLEDB connection string I displayed at the beginning of the article.  The following parameter is where you decide if you want SQLCE to track changes or not, as well as whether to create the same indexes found on the server.  Indexes are typically always a good thing except for very small tables.  Download-only data won’t need change-tracking but your transactional stuff will.  This amazing feature allows offline users of your app to keep working in the absence of a network connection.  In the last parameter you specify the name of a table to auto-create to track any sync errors that may arise.

Server Explorer

 

 

 

 

 

 

After executing this code, I connected to the new SQLCE ContosoBottling bottling database on my Windows laptop using the Server Explorer in Visual Studio as shown above.  You can see that the ErrorTable and DistributionCenters tables were created locally.

So now let’s talk about that DropTable method.  RDA works on the premise of downloading complete table snapshots.  Unlike Merge Replication that downloads incremental changes from SQL Server, RDA re-downloads the entire table in order to make SQLCE aware of any server changes.  The catch is that you have to drop an existing local table before downloading an updated version from SQL Server.  Here’s how you do it:

private void DropTable(string tableName, string connectionString)

{

using (SqlCeConnection cn = new SqlCeConnection(connectionString))

{

SqlCeCommand cmd = cn.CreateCommand();

cmd.CommandText = String.Format(“SELECT COUNT(*) FROM INFORMATION_SCHEMA.TABLES WHERE TABLE_NAME = ‘{0}'”, tableName);

cn.Open();

if((int)cmd.ExecuteScalar() == 1)

{

cmd.CommandText = String.Format(“DROP TABLE {0}”, tableName);

cmd.ExecuteNonQuery();

}

}

}

You can see that I use SqlCeConnection and SqlCeCommand objects in order to query the INFORMATION_SCHEMA.TABLES database object.  If the return value of the query is 1, then you know that a table already exists.  This result leads you to execute a DROP TABLE statement so that the existing table is gone before the new one is downloaded.

Local Query

 

Right-clicking on DistributionCenters and selecting Show Table Data reveals that the Seattle and Redmond distribution centers and their associated uniqueidentifiers were downloaded to SQLCE from SQL Server 2012.

Right about now, I know you’re thinking that this whole process of dropping a table and re-downloading a new one in order to keep a mobile database up to date sounds wasteful.  I get it.  I also get all the heavyweight processes that are required by Merge Replication to figure out server changes for each device that synchronizes with SQL Server.  You have to weigh your options.  For instance, in boosting Merge Replication performance and scalability, one of the keys to success is maintaining a low Subscription Expiration value.  This value determines how long a mobile user can go without synchronizing her data before her subscription expires, which requires her to re-download an entire database from scratch.  Keeping a low value ensures that SQL Server doesn’t track too much performance-degrading metadata.  It also means that users might have to synchronize more frequently than business rules dictate.  The great thing about RDA is that the notion of a subscription doesn’t exist since it downloads table snapshots to keep mobile clients up to date.  This means users can download data to their devices and remain disconnected for an indefinite amount of time while capturing new data out in the field.  No expiration or degraded performance on SQL Server 2012.  This leads to infinitely greater scalability for your system.

In the most common mobile scenarios I see in business, laptops/devices download the data needed to perform work for a given day via Wi-Fi or cradled Ethernet.  Unless each of your downloaded tables are 100+ MB a piece, this shouldn’t be a big deal at these types of network speeds.  Most organizations roll their own web services to do the same thing and they don’t bat an eye at the amount of data they have to re-download with each web method call.  Heck, most companies I work with allow their devices to take all night to download the data needed for the next morning.

So after a user has spent some time in the field capturing new data or changing/deleting existing data, it’s time to push those tracked changes back up to SQL Server 2012.  This is the simplest code of all:

SqlCeRemoteDataAccess rda = new SqlCeRemoteDataAccess();

rda.InternetUrl = “http://localhost/rda/sqlcesa35.dll”;

rda.LocalConnectionString = “Data Source=ContosoBottling.sdf”;

rda.Push(“DistributionCenters”, rdaConnection, RdaBatchOption.BatchingOn);

For each table that you tracked changes for, you need to use the SqlCeRemoteDataAccess object and the Push method.  The first parameter should look familiar since it’s the name of the tracked table that you had previously Pulled.  The second parameter is the same OLEDB connection string we used in the Pull method.  The last one allows you to specify batching of uploads.  This feature gives you the transactional, all-or-nothing functionality of a message queue.  If any of the table data uploads fail, the whole transaction is rolled back.  This is a great feature to ensure data integrity.

Before you run this code, I want you to go back to the local SQLCE query result from the Server Explorer in Visual Studio and change the Distribution Center Name column from Redmond to Bellevue.  I have to prove that this great change tracking feature actually works after all.  Once you’ve made the change and hit the tab key to save it, go ahead and run your Push code.  If everything works as expected, the local change you made should be pushed up to SQL Server.  We need some proof, so open up SQL Server Managment Studio:

Object Explorer

 

Right-clicking on dbo.DistributionCenters and clicking Select Top 1000 Rows should return the result you see in the figure above.  Happily, the local SQLCE change from Redmond to Bellevue is reflected in the result on SQL Server 2012.

The circle is complete.

If you’re ready to go deep on this sync technology to build enterprise apps that run on Windows tablets and laptops, click this link to check out and purchase my book, “Keeping Windows 8 Tablets in Sync with SQL Server 2012.”

-Rob

Sharing my knowledge and helping others never stops, so connect with me on my blog at http://robtiffany.com , follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobTiffany and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/robtiffany

Sign Up for my Newsletter and get a FREE Chapter of “Mobile Strategies for Business!”

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Simple Mobile Sync with SQL Server 2012 and SQL Server Compact: Episode II

SQL Server Compact

In my last article, I walked you through finding, downloading, installing, and configuring SQL Server 2012 Express, SQL Server Compact 3.5 SP2 CU6, and the Sync Server Tools.  With that series of tasks completed, you’re now capable of performing data synchronization with a mobile Windows client.

Open SQL Server 2012 Management Studio and connect to the local SQL Express instance.  You’ll quickly notice the new Visual Studio 2010 IDE look and feel.  Since you’re going to need a database to sync with, right-click on the Databases folder in the Object Explorer and select New Database.  Type ContosoBottling in the Database name text box and click OK.  I want you to create three simple tables for the purposes of this article:

DistributionCenters
Column PK Data Type Nulls Defaults RowGuid
DistributionCenterId Yes uniqueidentifier No newid() Yes
Name nchar(20) Yes No

 

Routes
Column PK Data Type Nulls Defaults RowGuid
RouteId Yes uniqueidentifier No newid() Yes
DistributionCenterId uniqueidentifier Yes No
Name nchar(20) Yes No

 

Drivers
Column PK Data Type Nulls Defaults RowGuid
DriverId Yes uniqueidentifier No newid() Yes
RouteId uniqueidentifier Yes No
FirstName nchar(20) Yes No
LastName nchar(20) Yes No

If you read my last book on Enterprise Data Replication, these tables that support the operations of a delivery driver should look familiar to you.  Since RDA doesn’t support the Identity Range feature of Merge Replication, you’ll be using GUIDs for your primary keys to ensure uniqueness.  Since the offline data capabilities of sync technologies from all vendors are based on the notion of optimistic concurrency, having a globally unique primary key that won’t collide with inserts and updates made by one or more devices is critical to success.  Now it’s time to fill these tables with some sample data to get started:

Right-click on DistributionCenters and select Edit Top 200 Rows.  Type Seattle for the Name in the first row and Redmond for the Name in the second row.  Allow the DistributionCenterId uniqueidentifier values to be automatically created.  It should look something like this:

Distribution Center

 

 

 

 

Now it’s time to tackle the Routes table.  Each Distribution Center will have multiple routes that it supplies products to.  Right-click on Routes and select Edit Top 200 Rows.  Like before, allow the RouteId uniqueidentifier values to be automatically created.  The eight rows of data I want you to enter should be as follows:

  1. The DistributionCenterID should equal the related Seattle value from the DistributionCenters table and the Name should equal Magnolia.
  2. The DistributionCenterID should equal the related Seattle value from the DistributionCenters table and the Name should equal Ballard.
  3. The DistributionCenterID should equal the related Seattle value from the DistributionCenters table and the Name should equal Fremont.
  4. The DistributionCenterID should equal the related Seattle value from the DistributionCenters table and the Name should equal Wallingford.
  5. The DistributionCenterID should equal the related Redmond value from the DistributionCenters table and the Name should equal Kirkland.
  6. The DistributionCenterID should equal the related Redmond value from the DistributionCenters table and the Name should equal Bellevue.
  7. The DistributionCenterID should equal the related Redmond value from the DistributionCenters table and the Name should equal Issaquah.
  8. The DistributionCenterID should equal the related Redmond value from the DistributionCenters table and the Name should equal Sammamish.

It should look something like this:

Routes

 

Last but not least, we have the Drivers.  Each of these folks will be assigned to a particular route on any given day.  Right-click on Drivers and select Edit Top 200 Rows.  For each row, allow the DriverId uniqueidentifier values to be automatically created.  I’ll just have you enter a couple of drivers for this table:

  1. The RouteId should equal the related Magnolia value from the Routes table and the FirstName should equal Dave and the LastName should equal Bottomley.
  2. The RouteId should equal the related Kirkland value from the Routes table and the FirstName should equal Khalid and the LastName should equal Siddiqui.

It should look something like this:

Drivers

 

Now that your sample database has some data inside, it’s time to build a sample Windows app so fire up Visual Studio 2010.  Create a Windows Forms or WPF application and call the Solution SimpleSync.  The first thing I want you to do is go to the Solution Explorer, right-click on References, and add a reference to System.Data.SqlServerCe.  To make sure you’re working with the newest bits based on Cumulative Update package 6, in the Add Reference dialog, click the Browse tab and navigate to C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server Compact Edition\v3.5\Desktop\System.Data.SqlServerCe.dll.

With those pieces in place, it’s time to write some code.

Unlike Merge Replication that automatically creates a SQL Server Compact database for you during the initial sync, with RDA you’ll need to create it in code with the SqlCeEngine object.  So before your app can start synchronizing data, you’ll need to first create a database with the following code:

if (!File.Exists(“ContosoBottling.sdf”))
{
using (SqlCeEngine sqlEngine = new SqlCeEngine())
{
sqlEngine.LocalConnectionString = “Data Source=ContosoBottling.sdf”;
sqlEngine.CreateDatabase();
}
}

The first thing the above code does is to check and see if a SQL Server Compact database already exists.  If not, then the SqlCeEngine object is instantiated.  The LocalConnectionString property is set to the path of where you want the database to reside.  In this case, I didn’t enter a path so the database will be created in the same folder as the app’s exe.  Keep in mind that a number of other parameters can be used for this property to support password protection and encryption among others.  Next, you just call the CreateDatabase() method and that’s all there is to it.  You will now have an empty shell of a database that typically weighs in at 20 KB.

With a local database created, you can begin retrieving data.  In my next article I’ll discuss how to RDA filters and pulls both data and indexes, enables local change-tracking, and pushes new data and updates back to SQL Server.

If you’re ready to go deep on this sync technology to build enterprise apps that run on Windows tablets and laptops, click this link to check out and purchase my book, “Keeping Windows 8 Tablets in Sync with SQL Server 2012.”

Sharing my knowledge and helping others never stops, so connect with me on my blog at http://robtiffany.com , follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobTiffany and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/robtiffany

Sign Up for my Newsletter and get a FREE Chapter of “Mobile Strategies for Business!”

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Simple Mobile Sync with SQL Server 2012 and SQL Server Compact: Episode I

SQL Server Compact

Now that SQL Server 2012 has been released, some of you might be wondering if SQL Server Compact is capable of synchronizing with it.  With the release of Cumulative Update Package 6 for SQL Server Compact 3.5 Service Pack 2, the answer is a resounding yes!

Build number 3.5.8088.00 adds support for replication with SQL ServerDenali” which is pretty awesome in my book.  For those of you keeping score at home, check out Erik’s Everything SQL Server Compact blog to see a running total of improvements to SQLCE via Cumulative Updates.  After that, click on the Cumulative Update link at the beginning of this article and head on over to the Microsoft Support page to get started.

At the top of the page it says Hotfix Download Available and beneath that says View and request hotfix downloads so click on that.  Keep in mind that my link was defined by my U.S. English IE9 browser so the page I navigated to shows me checkboxes to download x64 Server Tools for IIS and both x86 and x64 versions for Windows.  Your experience may be different depending on where you live.  Luckily, there’s a link that says Show hotfixes for all platforms and languages.  Check the checkboxes to select your language, the Server Tools, Windows, and Windows Mobile/Embedded platforms that you’re looking for.  Afterward, type in your email address and play the Captcha game in order to have links to the bits you need sent to you.

The next thing you’re going to need is a copy of SQL Server 2012.  To keep things simple with this series of articles, I won’t dive into security and I decided that I’ll use my x64 Windows 7 laptop as the database server, middleware, mobile platform and use Remote Data Access (RDA) as the sync transport.  I think you’ve probably already heard enough about Merge Replication from me so I decided to mix it up a bit with my old friend RDA.  Remember, RDA does not require any configuration on SQL Server, it is not invasive to the schema of the server database, and it’s amazingly fast and scalable.  With over 650 million copies of Windows 7 deployed, this is by far the most widely used, occasionally-connected mobile platform in the world, so I don’t feel bad about not writing another Windows Phone article.  Navigate your browser to download the free SQL Server 2012 Express with Advanced Services since we won’t be needing support for Replication.  You might need to navigate elsewhere if you’re not targetting U.S. English.  Sorry about that.  Once you’ve downloaded the exe, install the product and make sure you can login via SQL Server Management Studio.

At this point, go ahead and install the 32 and 64-bit versions of the SQL Server Compact 3.5 SP2 runtimes that you downloaded as appropriate.  Remember, on a 64-bit OS, you must install both the x86 and x64 versions in order to have smooth sailing with out favorite embedded database.

I already have IIS installed on my x64 Windows 7 laptop so I’m in good shape to install the x64 Server Tools.  Unzip your CU 6 update and click SSCEServerTools-ENU.msi to begin the Server Tools installation.  As a refresher, you must have IIS 6 Management Compatibility enabled to make things work with IIS 7.5.  During the install make sure all the System Configuration Checks are successful, and that you select SQL Server “Denali” to synchronize with. With the Server Tools installed, I want you to create a local folder on your computer and call it SnapshotShare and Share it with Everyone to keep things simple.  It’s a little silly since RDA doesn’t use a Snaphot Share, but the installation Wizard may no let you proceed without it.

I know many of you have followed the screenshot-filled installation routines in my books so I’ll keep the pictures microscopic this time around.  Click Windows Start, navigate to Microsoft SQL Server Compact 3.5, and select Configure Web Synchronization Wizard.

Welcome to the Configure Web Synchronization Wizard | Click Next

 

 

 

 

Subscriber Type | Select SQL Server Compact | Click Next

 

 

 

 

Web Server | Create a new virtual directory | Click Next

 

 

 

 

Virtual Directory Information | Type RDA in the Alias textbox | Click Next | Click Yes to create a folder | Click Yes again

 

 

 

 

Secure Communications | Select Do not require secure channel (SSL) | Click Next

 

 

 

 

Client Authentication | Select Clients will connect anonymously | Click Next

 

 

 

 

Anonymous Access | Default IUSR account of IIS will be used | Click Next

 

 

 

 

Snapshot Share Access | Enter path to the shared folder I told you to create | Click Next | Click Yes

 

 

 

 

Complete the Wizard | Verify the choices you made | Click Finish

 

 

 

 

Configure Web Synchronization | You should have 9 successes | Click Close

 

 

 

 

Congratulations!  You’re done.

Test your Server Tools installation using Internet Explorer and navigate to this address: http://localhost/rda/sqlcesa35.dll.  Your browser should display “Microsoft SQL Server Compact Server Agent” if all went well.  Your configuration tasks are almost complete, but I need you to bring up SQL Server Management Studio to do one more thing for me.  In SQL Server, create a new login called NT AUTHORITY\IUSR  with ContosoBottling as the default database so devices can anonymously connect to IIS and SQL Server to sync.  I apologize for not having you build out a network full of servers and for not having you use Windows auth against Active Directory.  Remember, when it’s time to go to production, you’ll do this the secure way.

You’ve accomplished a lot by following along through this article and all the pieces are in place to create an occasionally-connected solution for yourself, your company, or your customers.  In the next article, we’ll build a sample database and start writing some code in Visual Studio 2010.

If you’re ready to go deep on this sync technology to build enterprise apps that run on Windows tablets and laptops, click this link to check out and purchase my book, “Keeping Windows 8 Tablets in Sync with SQL Server 2012.”

Stay in sync,

Rob

Sharing my knowledge and helping others never stops, so connect with me on my blog at http://robtiffany.com , follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobTiffany and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/robtiffany

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Sync Framework v4 is now Open Source, and ready to Connect any Device to SQL Server and SQL Azure

Sync

Microsoft has brought the power to synchronize data with either SQL Server on-premise or SQL Azure in the cloud to the world of mobility.

The profound effects of the Consumerization of IT (CoIT) is blurring the lines between consumers and the enterprise.  The fact that virtually every type of mobile device is now a candidate to make employees productive means that cross-platform, enabling technologies are a must. If you’ve ever synched the music on your iPhone with iTunes, the calendar on your Android device with Gmail, or the Outlook email on your Windows Phone with Exchange, then you understand the importance of sync.  In my experience architecting and building enterprise mobile apps for the world’s largest organizations over the last decade, data sync has always been a critical ingredient.

The new Sync Framework Toolkit found on MSDN builds on the existing Sync Framework 2.1’s ability to create disconnected applications, making it easier to expose data for synchronization to apps running on any client platform.  Where Sync Framework 2.1 required clients to be based on Windows, this free toolkit allows other Microsoft platforms to be used for offline clients such as Silverlight, Windows Phone 7, Windows Mobile, Windows Embedded Handheld, and new Windows Slates.   Additionally, non-Microsoft platforms such as iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets, Blackberries and browsers supporting HTML5 are all first-class sync citizens.  The secret is that we no longer require the installation of the Sync Framework runtime on client devices.  When coupled with use of an open protocol like OData for data transport, no platform or programming language is prevented from synchronizing data with our on-premise and cloud databases.  When the data arrives on your device, you can serialize it as JSON, or insert it into SQL Server Compact or SQLite depending on your platform preferences.

The Sync Framework Toolkit provides all the features enabled by theSync Framework 4.0 October 2010 CTP.  We are releasing the toolkit as source code samples on MSDN with the source code utilizing Sync Framework 2.1.  Source code provides the flexibility to customize or extend the capabilities we have provided to suit your specific requirements. The client-side source code in the package is released under the Apache 2.0 license and the server-side source code under the MS-LPL license.  The Sync Framework 2.1 is fully supported by Microsoft and the mobile-enabling source code is yours to use, build upon, and support for the apps you create.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now some of you might be wondering why you would use a sync technology to move data rather than SOAP or REST web services.  The reason has to do with performance and bandwidth efficiency.  Using SOA, one would retrieve all the data needed to the device in order to see what has changed in SQL Server.  The same goes for uploading data.  Using the Sync Framework Toolkit, only the changes, or deltas, are transmitted over the air.  The boosts performance and reduces bandwidth usage which saves time and money in a world of congested mobile data networks with capped mobile data plans.  You also get a feature called batching, which breaks up the data sent over wireless networks into manageable pieces.  This not only prevents you from blowing out your limited bandwidth, but it also keeps you from using too much RAM memory both on the server and your memory-constrained mobile device.  When combined with conflict resolution and advanced filtering, I’m sold!

I think you’ll find the Sync Framework Toolkit to be an immensely valuable component of your MEAP solutions for the enterprise as well as the ones you build for consumers.

Keep Synching,

-Rob

Sharing my knowledge and helping others never stops, so connect with me on my blog at http://robtiffany.com , follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobTiffany and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/robtiffany

Sign Up for my Newsletter and get a FREE Chapter of “Mobile Strategies for Business!”

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Performance and Memory Management Improvements with Windows Embedded Handheld

A lot has changed since the launch of Windows Phone in the Fall of 2010.

Microsoft now has a compelling phone platform that targets consumers inside and outside the office.  One thing that that hasn’t changed is the widespread use of Windows Embedded Handheld to solve tough enterprise mobility problems.  It should be no surprise that over 80% of enterprise handhelds shipped are running Windows Mobile or Windows Embedded Handheld.  They include support for barcode scanning, RFID reading, rugged hardware, every type of wireless, full device encryption, complete over-the-air software distribution and device managment support, FIPS compliance, and both capacitive touch and stylus operation.  On the application platform side of the equation, they have rich support for WinForm development using Visual Studio and the .NET Compact Framework, C++ and a full-featured database with built-in sync capabilities via SQL Server Compact.  They can easily communicate with WCF SOAP and REST web services running on Windows Servers on-premise or with Azure in the cloud.  Support for Merge Replication means faster time to market to get device synchronizing with SQL Server with almost no coding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since Windows Embedded Handheld uses an advanced version of the operating system kernel used by Windows Mobile 6.5.3, many of the techniques and best practices I’ve taugh customers and developers all over the world still apply.  While it still uses the slotted memory model found in Windows CE 5 with 32 processes and 32 MB of memory per process, you’ll find that numerous enhancements and tuning has taken place to give your line of business apps more of what they need.  I’m talking about more memory per process and improved performance.

A recent Gartner report recommends that organizations should stay with Windows Embedded Handheld as the best mobile platform for enterprise line of business needs.  Great devices are available from OEMs like Intermec, Motorola, Psion, and Honeywell just to name a few.  I hope this video helps you with any memory management or performance issues you may need to deal with in your enterprise mobile apps.

Rob

Sharing my knowledge and helping others never stops, so connect with me on my blog at http://robtiffany.com , follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobTiffany and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/robtiffany

Sign Up for my Newsletter and get a FREE Chapter of “Mobile Strategies for Business!”

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What the new App Hub in Windows Phone Mango means for the Enterprise

Windows Phone 8 Tiles

If you attended MIX 11 or watched it on Channel 9, you might have seen Todd Brix’s session titled “Making Money with your Applications on Windows Phone.”

In this session, Todd talked about all the great things Windows Phone users and developers can expect with the new Marketplace and App Hub in the Mango timeframe.  I just want to focus on two items that will be of great significance to companies and organizations that are looking to build, and privately distribute Windows Phone apps to their employees, partners and customers.

Mango-Sizes

The Beta Distribution Service allows developers to distribute pre-certified apps to an access-controlled set of beta users.  How does it work?

  • The developer selects a list of up to 100 testers.  This number is subject to change based on feedback we get.
  • Developer sends an email to the designated testers that includes a private deeplink that points to the app in the Marketplace.  This allows only the testers to access and download the content since the app is not discoverable in the Marketplace via Search.
  • Only testers selected in the App Hub based on their Windows Live ID can test the app and provide feedback for 90 days.  Yes, the app will “time bomb” after 90 days.
  • The beta cannot be updated.  If you have multiple updates based on testing feedback, you must resubmit them like the first beta and send updated deeplinks to testers.
  • Testers won’t have to unlock their phone in order to beta test the apps.
  • Since there’s no certification requirement, there’s no latency between when you publish a beta app and when your private list of testers can access and download your content.
  • The cost of the beta app must be free.

Takeaway: No matter who you’re building apps and games for, the Beta Distribution Service will allow you to create higher quality content since you can now include beta testing in your development cycle.

The Private Distribution Service allows developers to privately distribute certified apps to a targeted group of users.  How does it work?

  • The app must be certified by Microsoft before distributing.
  • Developer sends an email to the targeted group of users that includes a private deeplink that points to the app in the Marketplace.  Keep in mind that the app is not discoverable in the Marketplace via Search by the general public.
  • A private app can be updated and pushed to the targeted group of users.
  • There are no limits on the number of users or the duration of time that those users can use the app.  This works just like the public Marketplace rules we have today.
  • There is no access enforcement based list of targeted users.  In other words, if an employee at a company shares the deeplink with a fellow coworker, that new person can download the content.  By including appropriate authentication and authorization mechanisms in published apps, you can prevent unwanted users from being able to do anything with the app.
  • Private apps can be free or paid
  • These private apps can be published to the public Marketplace at any time.

Takeaway: This enables the private distribution of released apps to a small or large community of users.  You could use this as an extension of your application beta testing cycle if you want to send out a release candidate to a broader group of testers than the 100 allowed via the Beta Distribution Service.  It’s also a great way to privately send your app to magazines, blogs, and other media channels to be publicly reviewed.

What does this mean for the enterprise?  Those of you who have worked with or administered enterprise software distribution systems, will quickly recognize that the Private Distribution Service doesn’t allow an administrator to push out and restrict software usage to specific organizational groups or roles.  It also doesn’t allow an administrator to uninstall specific apps  from the phones of specific users or groups either.  Lastly, it doesn’t map to an enterprise LDAP service like Active Directory.  You’re probably thinking System Center and this is definitely not that.

That being said, the Private Distribution Service overcomes the single-biggest blocker that company executives have expressed to me as a reason why they might not create and publish apps for Windows Phone.  They don’t want their private corporate apps publicly viewable and/or accessible by the broad general public searching for apps in the public Marketplace.  When they build B2C apps to reach their own customers, this is no problem, but when they build line-of-business apps meant just for their employees or partners, they don’t want these apps to be discoverable.

This means IT departments will be able to build undiscoverable Windows Phone apps for private internal use by the users they designate.  Some of the administrative issues around software distribution can be alleviated by having a corporate IT authority publish Beta and Private apps via a single Windows Live ID.  That publishing administrator can then map users, groups or roles to existing or new Windows Live IDs of employees that need to use the app.  That administrator will be able maintain the application lifecycle through beta testing, publishing, updating and decommissioning.  As I alluded to earlier in the post, once a designated employee has access to the app, her ability to run and access data and various parts of the app can be controlled by on-premise or cloud-based authentication and authorization mechanisms.  This includes things like passing Domain credentials or using claims-based auth.  Your data-in-transit is protected by SSL and your data-at-rest in Isolated Storage is protected by AES encryption.

We’ll be seeing a new Windows Phone, App Hub, and Marketplace before the end of 2011.  Its line-of-business credentials include encryption, private software distribution, server auth mechanisms, the ability to call SOAP and REST web services, socket support, multitasking, background agents, and a local SQL database just to name a few.

You’ll soon be looking at the most enterprise-ready smartphone on the market.

-Rob

Sharing my knowledge and helping others never stops, so connect with me on my blog at http://robtiffany.com , follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobTiffany and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/robtiffany

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SQL Server Compact 4.0 Lands on the Web

SQL Server

A decade has passed since I first started using SQL CE on my Compaq iPAQ.  What started as a great upgrade to Pocket Access turned into the ultimate embedded database for Windows CE, the Pocket PC, Windows Mobile and Windows Phones.  The one-two punch of Outlook Mobile synchronizing email with Exchange and SQL Server Compact synchronizing data with SQL Server helped set the mobile enterprise on fire.  In 2005, version 3.0 supported Windows Tablets and progressive enhancements to the code base led to full Windows support on both x86 and x64 platforms.  With the new version 4.0, the little-database-that-could has grown up into a powerful server database ready to take on the web.

We’ve come a long way and you’re probably wondering what qualifies this new embedded database to take on the Internet:

  • Native support for x64 Windows Servers
  • Virtual memory usage has been optimized to ensure the database can support up to 256 open connections – (Are you actually using 256 pooled connections with your “Big” database today?)
  • Supports databases up to 4 GB in size – (Feel free to implement your own data sharding schemeSQL Server Compact)
  • Developed, stress-tested, and tuned to support ASP.NET web applications
  • Avoids the interprocess communications performance hit by running in-process with your web application
  • Row-level locking to boost concurrency
  • Step up to Government + Military grade security SHA2 algorithm to secure data with FIPS compliance
  • Enhanced data reliability via true atomicity, consistency, isolation, and durability (ACID) support
  • Transaction support to commit and roll back grouped changes
  • Full referential integrity with cascading deletes and updates
  • Support ADO.NET Entity Framework 4 – (Do I hear WCF Data Services?)
  • Paging queries are supported via T-SQL syntax to only return the data you actually need

Wow, that’s quite a list!  SQL Server Compact 4.0 databases are easily developed using the new WebMatrix IDE or through Visual Studio 2010 SP1.  I’m loving the new ASP.NET Web Pages.  It reminds me of the good old days of building web applications with Classic ASP back in the 90’s with Visual InterDev and Homesite.

What about Mobility?

Since SQL Server Compact owes its heritage to mobile and embedded versions of Windows, you might be wanting to know what our story is there.  The good news is that you can build and deploy v4.0 databases on Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7.  If you want to implement an occasionally-connected solution that utilizes the Sync Framework, Remote Data Access (RDA), or Merge Replication, you’ll need to stick with SQL Server Compact 3.5 SP2.  Time and resource-constraints prevented the Compact team from enabling these features.  Luckily, single-user WPF/WinForms database applications running on Windows Slates, laptops and Windows Embedded Handheld devices will work just fine with the v3.5 SP2 runtime.  Get a jumpstart with this by pickup up “Enterprise Data Synchronization with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server Compact 3.5 Mobile Merge Replication” at   http://www.amazon.com/Enterprise-Synchronization-Microsoft-Compact-Replication/dp/0979891213/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1281715114&sr=1-1 to start building those MEAP solutions.

With the tidal wave of Windows Slates hitting the market, a secure, powerful mobile database that allows users to work offline and syncs with SQL Server is definitely going to be a hot item!

So run, don’t walk to the Microsoft Download site to download the Next-Gen database for the web:

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=033cfb76-5382-44fb-bc7e-b3c8174832e2

If you need to support occasionally-connected mobile applications with sync capabilities on muliple Windows platforms, download SQL Server Compact 3.5 SP2:

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=e497988a-c93a-404c-b161-3a0b323dce24

Keep Syncing,

Rob

Sharing my knowledge and helping others never stops, so connect with me on my blog at http://robtiffany.com , follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobTiffany and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/robtiffany

Sign Up for my Newsletter and get a FREE Chapter of “Mobile Strategies for Business!”

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