# Thursday, January 14, 2021

GCast 99:

PowerPoint Animations

Learn how to effectively animate objects in Microsoft PowerPoint.

Thursday, January 14, 2021 9:50:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, January 13, 2021

In this last article, I introduced Azure Media Services and showed how to create an Azure Media Services (AMS) account.

In this article, I will show you how to add video and/or audio assets to an Azure Media Services account. This is often the first step in sharing media online.

An Asset points to an Azure Storage Blob Container containing one or more files. These files contain either media or metadata about media. We distinguish between Input Assets (assets provided to AMS via a user or other external source) and Output Assets (assets produced by AMS jobs). Fig. 1 illustrates this relationship.

Fig. 1

Let's look at how to upload a video file from your local computer as an Asset, as illustrated in Fig. 2.

Fig. 2

Open the Azure Portal and navigate to the Azure Media Services account, as shown in Fig. 3.

Fig. 3

Select "Assets" in the left menu to open the "Assets" blade, as shown in Fig. 4.

Fig. 4

Click the [Upload] button (Fig. 5) to open the "Upload new assets" dialog, as shown in Fig. 6.

Fig. 5

Fig. 6

At the "Storage account" dropdown, select the storage account in which you want to store the media file.

Click the "Upload files" icon and select the video file or files you want to upload.

More fields display for each file selected, as shown in Fig. 7.

Fig. 7

Enter a name for each asset; then, click the [I agree and upload] button to begin uploading your video.

When the upload is complete, the asset will be listed, as shown in Fig. 8.

Fig. 8

Click the link in the "Storage link" column to view the Storage Blob container and files associated with this asset, as shown in Fig. 9.

Fig. 9

In this article, you learned how to upload a video file to create an Azure Media Services asset. You will want to encode this in order that others can view it. I will show how to encode in the next article.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021 9:01:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Streaming video online is an effective way to communicate to large numbers of people.

But there are challenges. You need to get your video online in a format that is accessible to others and make it available to your audience.

You may also want to provide closed captioning for hearing impaired users; analyze the contents of your audio and video; reduce latency with a Content Delivery Network; and secure your media appropriately.

Azure Media Services provides all these capabilities and does in a highly scalable, fault-tolerant way.

The first step in using Azure Media Services is to create an Azure Media Services Account. As with most, services in Azure, you can create an Azure Media Services Account in the Azure Portal by clicking the [Create a resource] button (Fig. 1); then search for and select "Media Services", as shown in Fig. 2.

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

The "Create media service account" dialog displays, as shown in Fig. 3.

Fig. 3

At the "Subscription" dropdown, select the Subscription that will contain this Media Service Account. Most of you will have only one subscription.

At the "Resource group" field, select a Resource Group to contain this account or click the "Create new" link to create a new Resource Group to contain it. A Resource Group is a logical grouping of Azure resources, making it easier for you to manage them together.

At the "Media Services account name" field, enter a unique name for this account. This name must be between 3 and 24 characters in length and can contain only numbers and lowercase letters.

At the "Location" dropdown, select a location in which to store this service. When selecting a location, consider the location of your users and any potential legal issues.

At the "Storage Account" field, select an existing storage account from the dropdown or click the "Create a new storage account" link to create a new storage account. This storage account will hold all the assets for your service, including audio files, video files, and metadata files. Unless I have media files that already exist, I tend to prefer to keep all my Azure Media Services assets in their own storage account.

Click the [Review + create] button to display the summary page, as shown in Fig. 4.

Fig. 4

Check the "I have all the rights to use the content/file" checkbox and click the [Create] button to begin creating you Azure Media Services Account.

When the service account is complete, the confirmation shown in Fig. 5 displays.

Fig. 5

Click the [Go to resource] button to navigate to the "Overview" blade of the Media Service account, as shown in Fig. 6.

Fig. 6

In this article, you learned the advantages of Azure Media Services and how to create an Azure Media Services account. In the next article, I will show you how to add media assets to this account.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021 9:57:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, January 11, 2021

Episode 643

Mike Benkovich on GitHub Actions and Visual Studio

Mike Benkovich on GitHub Actions and Visual Studio Mike Benkovich describes and demonstrates GitHub Actions and the new features of Visual Studio that allow you to create an Action from within the IDE.

Monday, January 11, 2021 9:46:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, January 9, 2021

2020 began with trips to Dallas, TX and Charlotte, NC and it appeared that this year would be similar to 2019 - traveling for customers and OpenHacks in my role as a software engineer for Microsoft's CSE organization.

But that all changed in March when my team canceled a planned trip to Charlotte to minimize the risk of spreading coronavirus.

After that cancellation, I did not fly on a plane and I barely left the upper Midwest.

Still, it was an eventful year for me and for the whole world.


My son Nick completed his first season as head coach at Kalamazoo College. He inherited a program that has not had a winning record in 17 years. The Hornets made some positive steps under his leadership, breaking several offensive records. COVID has postponed the 2020-21 season, which is now scheduled to begin in February, so he and his team are currently preparing to compete again in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. In bigger news, Nick proposed to his longtime girlfriend Adriana and the two plan to marry in 2022.

In November, my son Tim accepted job with Microsoft Consulting Services. He will be working with the US Government, using his knowledge of Microsoft Dynamics. Although we are on different teams, I am very excited to be his colleague.

Both of my sisters sold their houses this year - one moved to a place with a much bigger yard and one downsized to a smaller place (which I have not yet seen)

My brother was hospitalized with COVID-19 this summer in Arizona but has recovered and is now reunited with his family in Australia.


My work travel ceased early in the year, thanks to the pandemic; but I did manage a couple trips later in the year.

I traveled to Michigan in early October to sponsor my nephew's Confirmation.

In late October, I took a weeklong vacation and drove to northern Michigan, visiting my friends Pat and Susan in Petoskey before driving to Michigan's Upper Peninsula for my first extended visit to this region.

In November, I took another week off and drove south, spending a few days each in St. Louis, Memphis, and Nashville. During my stay in Memphis, I was able to make my first visits to the states of Arkansas and Mississippi, bringing me closer to my goal of visiting all 50 US states.

I finally took vacation the last 3 weeks of December, but stayed close to home, as the country's lockdown intensified.


For the past few years, I have been increasing my concert attendance. The current pandemic forced the closing of Chicago concert halls for months and reduced the schedule and capacity after they re-opened. In the fall, I was able to see some very good local and regional artists at venues that practice social distancing. SPACE in Evanston and Jazz Showcase in Chicago's South Loop were favourite destinations, but a spike in statewide infections forced these venues to close again, along with other places in the city. Prior to the Spring shutdown, I did manage to catch They Might Be Giants - a band I have always enjoyed but never seen live.


I did far less volunteering this year than in the past. The only significant exception was when I mentored Chicago high school students for the Illinois STEM Challenge. To compensate for my decrease in physical contributions, I donated more money to charities than I ever have before. My favourite donation happened when I asked Facebook friends to contribute to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, promising to match all donations up to $500. This campaign raised over $1200 for a worthy cause.


All gyms in Chicago were closed for months, so it was tempting to stay home and get fat. To combat this, I came up with a daily 20-minute exercise routine that I stuck with for most of the year. I also did a tremendous amount of bike riding - mostly around the city of Chicago. I made a point of riding almost every day that weather and available daylight permitted. I rode over 1500 miles this year.

As a result, I was able to lose about 20 pounds. Sadly, I gained back 10 of those pounds over the holidays. Back to work!


I accelerated my reading - especially in the summer. I completed 92 books in 2020 and reviewed 85 of them. You can follow my progress here.


I continued my blogging in 2020, posting 182 entries for the year - an average of about 1 every 2 days.

I kept up my 2 TV shows - Technology and Friends and GCast throughout most of the year. I was forced to make a significant change to T&F, switching from exclusively in-person interviews to virtual meetings over Teams or Zoom. It was either that or pause the show indefinitely until we could interact physically again.

My job

This year felt a bit like treading water. My team worked on projects steadily throughout 2020, but at no point did we have high pressure or impossible deadlines. I had a chance to work on two Java projects and I learned a lot about the Spring framework, but I do not think I progressed as much as in years past. The good news is that I have a secure job with a stable company. Repeatedly, company management reinforced the message that it was acceptable for us to feel the stress of 2020 - a message that I appreciated.

Reason for Optimism

I consider myself lucky. Although this year brought change and disruption, it was not the catastrophe it was for many. So many people lost their jobs and/or their health and/or their loved ones this year; so many had to learn to adjust to having young children at home during the week; so many had to learn how to do their job remotely; so many placed themselves in harm's way because their jobs were considered essential.

Seeing others rise to these challenges, it is easy to accept a year with less travel.

Saturday, January 9, 2021 3:06:50 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, January 7, 2021

GCast 98:

Using the Azure Storage Explorer

The Azure Storage Explorer provides a simple way to access objects in an Azure Storage Account. This video walks you through how to install and use this tool.

Thursday, January 7, 2021 9:03:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, January 5, 2021

An Azure Resource Group (RG) is a logical grouping of resources or assets within an Azure subscription. This helps you organizing related resources - You can open an RG to see a web app, its associated App Service Plan, and the database that it accesses listed - to remind you that these things are related.

But there are more tangible benefits to Resource Groups.

For example, I create a lot of Azure demos for presentations that I deliver in-person, online, or as part of my GCast show. https://aka.ms/gcast

When I create a demo, I place all assets in the same resource group, which makes it easier to delete all these demo resources when the presentation ends.

Another advantage is the ability to create an ARM for all resources in a Resource Group with a few mouse clicks. This allows you to easily automate the deployment of these resources to a new environment using PowerShell or the Azure CLI. With an ARM, resources are created in the correct order and input parameters allow you to change things like the names and locations of these resources.

Azure also gives you the ability to move everything in a Resource Group from one subscription to another.

Finally, Azure allows you to merge two resource groups.

You can create a new Azure Resource Group in the Azure Portal (either by itself or as part of a resource that will be added to the group); via a REST API; via the Azure CLI; or using Azure PowerShell.

When deciding how to organize your Azure assets, consider keeping together related resources by placing them in the same Resource Group. Also, consider creating a new Resource Group for each of your deployment environments, such as Development, Testing, and Production.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021 9:47:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, January 4, 2021

Episode 642

Javier Lozano on Virtual Conferences

Ten years ago, Javier Lozano started .NET Conf - an online conference to educate people about Microsoft products. Javier discusses the challenges in creating this and other online tech events.


Monday, January 4, 2021 9:37:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, January 3, 2021

Today I am grateful to charitable organizations that find uses for my excess stuff.

Today I am grateful
-to watch football yesterday with my sons
-to have my son Nick visit here for the week

Today I am grateful for the possibilities that a new year brings.

Today I am grateful to catch up with Ondrej and Hattan this week.

Today I am grateful
-to wake up to a blanket of snow over the city
-to watch Premier League Soccer with my sons yesterday.

Today I am grateful that my son is visiting me this week.

Today I am grateful for a second pair of eyeglasses - ideal for reading my computer screen.

Today I am grateful for a second pair of eyeglasses - ideal for reading my computer screen.

Today I am grateful for a virtual Christmas celebration with my family yesterday.

Today I am grateful that God loved us enough to send us his only son.

Today I am grateful:
-to return to the dentist for the first time in over a year
-for an unseasonably warm day yesterday and hours spent outside

Today I am grateful to hang out virtually last night with Lee, Matthew, and Serene.

Today I am grateful to exchange emails with old friends this week.

Today I am grateful for "Fargo"

Today I am grateful for my safe deposit box, which is now holding my Will and Power of Attorney.

Today I am grateful to hang out virtually with Mike this morning.

Today I am grateful to have my towel rack and toilet handle repaired.

Today I am grateful:
-for a portrait from David
-to my son who drove over to fix my TV last night
-to start my vacation

Today I am grateful for Doctor Who

Today I am grateful for my son's first day working at Microsoft.

Today I am grateful to drive around Lincolnwood last night with friends looking at holiday light displays.

Today I am grateful for spellcheckers

Today I am grateful for surprisingly mild weather yesterday.

Today I am grateful to fix the switch that toggles water flow between shower and bath, so it no longer sends half the water to each.

Today I am grateful to my friend Jerry, who shares the knowledge whenever he learns a new word.

Today I am grateful that my brother is back with his family after months in the US and weeks quarantining in Australia.

Today I am grateful for a walk around my neighborhood with my son before he drove home yesterday.

Sunday, January 3, 2021 4:09:28 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, January 2, 2021

Liane Moriarty's 2014 novel Big Little Lies is about secrets in a small town. The story focuses on three friends in Pirriwee - a beach town north of Sydney, Australia.

Single mother Jane arrives in Pirriwee with her 5-year-old son Ziggy. At Ziggy's kindergarten, he is accused of choking one of his female classmates. Rumors about Ziggy continue throughout the school year and some of the Kindergarten parents pressure the school to remove the boy. The Parents take sides in this battle. Two mothers - Madeline and Celeste - befriend Jane and ally themselves with her.

At the novel's beginning, the reader learns that a murder will be committed. This murder is referenced throughout the story, but we must wait until the end to learn who is involved and why.

Moriarty slowly and masterfully peels away layers of her characters to reveal their flaws and the secrets they are hiding.

Madeline is jealous of the affection her daughter Abigail shows to her ex-husband and his new wife Bonnie. Abigail initiates a fundraising campaign that shocks her parents and stepparents.

Celeste is a beautiful woman with two beautiful twins. Her rich, handsome husband Perry is charming and generous; but he flies into a range every few months and beats his wife. Even her closest friends don't suspect the tragedy of her marriage.

And Jane is hiding a dark secret about Ziggy's father.

On one level, the book is a humorous tale of catty, desperate housewives in a suburban community. But Moriarty takes it far beyond that. It is a story of strong women trying to survive against real problems. It is filled with victim blaming, including self-blame by the victims themselves. It shines a light on spousal abuse, bullying, sexual assault, and gossip.

I enjoyed it to the end.

Saturday, January 2, 2021 9:33:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)