Add New SSH Login to Azure Linux VM

Some time ago, I created an Ubuntu virtual machine in Azure using a password-based login. Over time, I got annoyed with having to enter the password each time I logged in, so I decided to switch over to using SSH public keys. Unfortunately, the Azure documentation regarding such a scenario assumes only that you will be creating a new virtual machine from scratch to create a public key based login. Have no fear. I have figured out how to do this without having to recreate your virtual machine.

Requirements

  • Linux-based client (your computer)
  • Linux-based virtual machine in Azure with password-based login (Azure)

Create the RSA Keys on Your Computer

Azure requires RSA keys with 2048-bit encryption, so you should do this:

Just press ENTER when asked where to store the file unless you really want to put it somewhere other than the default. In most cases, the default is fine. After you pick the location, enter a good password to unlock the private key when prompted during login.

Transfer the Keys from Your Computer to Your Server

In order to copy your keys to the server on which you want to login, you will need to have a password-based login already setup. If this is your case, do the following:

Enter your server’s password-based login when prompted to begin the copying process.… Continue reading

Get Over Your Fear of Remote Work

This article is aimed at both employers and employees alike. In some circles of the technology industry, there seems to be this pervasive anxiety when discussing the activities of remote workers. In fact, certain CEOs have gone so far as to reign in the egregious act of working remotely by effectively banning the practice altogether. I’m sure he or she sent out a memo including words like “agile,” “synergy,” and “cohesion” to seal the deal.

As the complexity and needs of software continues to grow, companies need to be willing to hire workers whose only option is to work remotely due to location or other life circumstances. Rejecting a possibly great candidate because they are unable or unwilling to relocate across the country is a huge loss for many reasons.

First, the employer missed out on an opportunity with a great candidate. Perhaps that person would have been responsible for saving the company a lot of money or publishing a renowned product. Second, by hiring a remote worker, the employer can forgo the cost of physical on-boarding, providing a phone, providing a desk, and providing a location for which the employee can conduct work. Instead, the company only needs to provide hardware and software to get the employee started. Third, remote employees have far more time to actually do work without having to worry about travel time to and from the work location. In some instances, traveling can consume hours each day depending on the commute distance. Instead of wasting time in traffic, the employee can spend time on work.… Continue reading

The Woes of Windows Store App Submissions

I recently submitted a Windows 10 / Windows Phone app to the Windows Store named Data Viewer for Dota 2. I’m here to warn the world just how awful the process of submission can be.

Microsoft first created the concept of the Windows Store with the release of Windows 8, Windows RT, and Metro Apps — I mean Windows Store Apps — I mean Universal Windows Apps. Whatever you want to call them, the store quickly became an unregulated messy disaster full of copycat and scam apps. Many, many apps were nothing more than front ends to scamming websites, copies of things like Facebook, or general do-nothing apps with a price tag and description which made it seem like a good purchase.

In order to address this problem, in normal Microsoft fashion, Microsoft decided to wait 3 years and come up with a new process of submitting the app. Every app would be held to “rigorous” standards which would guarantee all apps were clearly named and labeled to prevent confusion and scams. There are several guideline posts out there from Microsoft, and you can rest assured that all of them are vague and barely helpful.

So how did this affect my app? Originally, the app was named “Dota Database” after its sister site and had the same icon as appears on that site. The first submission resulted in this super helpful message: The app name and icon do not accurately represent the features.

Uh…OK? I’m not sure it could even get more vague than that.… Continue reading

How to Rename Your App in Windows Store

This applies to the Windows Store and Windows Dev Center as of March 1, 2016 and assumes you are uploading a Windows 10 Universal Platform App.

The Windows Dev Center started out badly back in Windows 8, and it hasn’t improved too much since then. I have to be honest when I describe it, because it’s sometimes nothing short of painful. One of those pain points is the UI and poor documentation regarding the concept of the “App Name”.

In order to submit to the store, you need to create “App Packages”. Each package has metadata associated with it that you define in your “App Manifest” (Package.appxmanifest in your project). This manifest is where the app’s name must match exactly with whatever names you have reserved in your Dev Center for that app.

Creating the App Name

When you create an app submission, you have to pick an “App Name”. This is the name that is displayed across your Dev Center Dashboard and the Windows Store. This name also has to match exactly in your app’s created manifest. That secret bit of information isn’t documented well and seems to only appear in tiny text when you are creating an app package through Visual Studio.

Changing the App Name

If your app has not yet been submitted to the store, then you can change the name by reserving a new one in the Dev Center, changing the manifest to that name, creating an app package, and then uploading that package. Don’t try to rename directly from the Dev Center (that’s where I kept looking).… Continue reading

Share a Generic XAML ListView, ItemsSource, and DataTemplate with UserControls in Windows Universal Apps

This post applies to Windows Universal Apps specifically. These techniques probably won’t work with WPF or Windows 8/8.1 Apps because the XAML hierarchy and namespaces are different.

The title is certainly a mouthful, but stick with me to understand where this scenario can be useful.

Let’s say you want to re-use a ListView without copy and pasting everything about it wherever you need it. Simple enough, right? Just put it in a UserControl! Not so fast. What if you want to define the ListView’s ItemsSource from one level above the UserControl? It gets a little more complicated. This is especially true if you want to take advantage of a VisualStateManager with the ListView’s ItemTemplate.

CustomListView

For example, I had a UserControl which allowed users to scroll left/right on a ListView by clicking buttons left/right instead of using a scrollbar. I wanted to share this ListView in multiple places,  but didn’t want to restrict the UserControl to a single ItemsSource by hard coding it in the UserControl itself. I wanted to “pass in” the ItemsSource and DataTemplate to define the layout of the items from one level above the UserControl. Additionally, I wanted the layout to change based on the width of the screen to work with phones, tablets, and wide layouts.

So here’s what I did after a few hours of struggling through wildly varying documentation across WPF, Windows 8/8.1, and Windows Universal Apps.

Creating the DataTemplate UserControl

We first need to define the lowest level of the chain to determine what and how the data will be displayed in each data bound ListViewItem.… Continue reading

Don’t Bother with WordPress on Windows/IIS

I’ve written in the past about how to setup WordPress on an Azure App Service and about connecting that WordPress instance to MySQL in an Azure VM. While these articles do contain some useful information about setting up WordPress and its interaction with Azure services, I’ve come to the conclusion that WordPress simply doesn’t function as nicely when hosted on IIS.

For about 1-2 years, I hosted several WordPress blogs in Azure App Services which connected to MySQL instances on an Azure VM (exactly as described in my articles above). I struggled endlessly with strange plugin issues and constant timeouts when attempting to connect to MySQL. For example:

  • Certain caching plugins complained that certain settings could not be applied due to IIS
  • WordPress.com and JetPack integration sometimes didn’t detect plugin and WordPress updates properly
  • When attempting to update plugins from WordPress.com or JetPack, it would simply fail with no error messages
  • Random and intermittent “Database connection” failures would occur even though I could guarantee the username/password/connection information was correct (especially since connections would succeed and then fail 30 seconds later)

I tried debugging these issues for months including monitoring incoming traffic on the VM to diagnose MySQL connection timeouts but was ultimately unsuccessful in determining a solution. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. I did come up with a solution. I stopped using WordPress on Azure App Services.

So what to use then? I decided on using my existing VM to host the classic LAMP stack. It was already running Linux and MySQL, so I just had to add Apache and PHP.… Continue reading

Introducing the Dota Database

I’ve spent some recent weeks building a cool new web site which exposes a lot of Dota 2 game data which may not be easily accessible to most players. You might be thinking, but I already use DotaBuff for all my Dota 2 needs! DotaBuff is great, but it doesn’t cover everything.

For starters, the new Dota Database that I’ve created is useful to see some of the finer details regarding heroes, hero abilities, items, item abilities, cosmetic items for purchase in the store, and more. This includes details like spell and ability behaviors, which shops you can purchase an in game item, hero level progressions, cosmetic item sets, and even pro player autographs. The information for these specifics comes directly from the game files and the Valve provided Dota 2 web APIs.

Live League Game Listing

This page will give you a paged listing of all currently live league games. Some games will display blank data when still in the hero picks/bans phase. Each listing shows the league, the team names, elapsed times, spectator counts, series scores, team scores, player scores, player picks, team worth, and team XP. Click in to the listing to see all the live updated details for the match.

See it in action

LiveLeagueGame

Live League Game Details

When you click in to a live league game, you’ll see a page full of information about that game. Every 20 seconds, the page will refresh and show you the latest updates about the match. All data is provided by Valve through its Dota 2 league web API.… Continue reading

A Quick Reference to Azure Key Vault via Powershell

Azure Key Vault has been generally available in certain regions since June 2015. You can’t use the Azure Portal to work with the key vault yet, so you have to drop down into Azure Powershell and run a few commands. It’s a little confusing to get started since development is ongoing and Azure Powershell itself changes frequently.

Here’s how I have been achieving some simple Azure Key Vault commands via Azure Powershell. I’m using Azure Powershell version 0.9.8, so keep that in mind if you’re comparing these commands to the Getting Started guide linked previously in this article.

Check Your Azure Powershell Version (optional)

If you don’t know what version of Azure Powershell you’re using, try this:

Switch to AzureResourceManager Mode if Necessary (optional)

Since you’re using version 0.9.8 like me, you need to switch into Azure Resource Manager mode.

Login to Azure

Login to your Azure account and enter your credentials in the popup window. It seems kind of odd that it wouldn’t just make you login via Powershell parameters.

Create a Resource Group (optional)

You need an Azure Resource Group to add the Azure Key Vault to. If you don’t have one already, create it now. If you already have one, skip this step.

Create a Key Vault

Now create the Azure Key Vault.… Continue reading

A Quick Reference to Creating NuGet Packages

All of the following commands should be executed in the folder containing the project from which you want to create a package.

nuget spec – Create a .nuspec file which contains meta-data about the package such as author, description, and title. You will need to edit some of the values in this file when you first create it.

nuget pack <.csproj file name> -Prop Configuration=Release – Create a .nupkg file containing the compiled contents of the project specified in the first parameter. Optionally target a specific configuration.

nuget push <.nupkg file name> – Push the NuGet package up to your NuGet.org account.

More complete documentation here.… Continue reading

Security, insurance, encryption, and your expensive belongings

People these days tend to buy a lot of gadgets and electronics. Between our smart phones, televisions, cars, computers, tablets, and e-readers, the expense can add up. Many times, we overlook the importance of cataloging everything that we own for various reasons.

First, it keeps us honest. Do we really need another iPhone if we just bought one a year ago? Probably not. Your stash in our service will remind you of when you purchased something (provided you are honest).

Second, theft and loss are real things. We like to pretend that bad things will never happen to our expensive stuff, but it can and probably will. A phone that costs $600 is not something to take lightly, especially if your daily activities require a lot of movement. Documenting the condition of your belongings, when you purchased them, the purchase receipts, and any other details about them can help with police reports and your home or rental insurance.

Third, it’s quite convenient and safe to store your information in online stash. You can pull up your stash on any device that you own immediately. You don’t have to go searching through paper receipts, pulling out the TV to find out what model you have, or go digging through your file cabinets. Everything in your stash is ready for you and secured with multiple levels of security.

Get started for free at https://www.saferstash.com.… Continue reading