# Saturday, January 16, 2021

In March 1965, Alabama police attacked a group of peaceful protestors as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. John Lewis was among those participating in the Martin Luther King-led march protesting the state's racist unfair voting laws. Lewis was beaten and left bruised and bloodied that day.

Lewis's 2017 book Across That Bridge tells the story of that march; but it tells much more.

Lewis, who passed away last year at the age of 80, served over three decades as a US Congressman and spent and spent much of that time fighting for the rights of underrepresented and marginalized people. His place in the American Civil Rights movement is well-known and he provides insights from his experiences and from lives of Mahatma Ghandi, Bobby Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, and others.

Lewis relates key moments in the history of Civil Rights and places them in perspective. From these events, he draws his lessons about the effectiveness of nonviolent protests and a blueprint for this country going forward.

This book is part history; part autobiography; and part inspirational message. He divides it into short on the topics of faith, patience, study, act, peace, love, and reconciliation.

Here sampling of what Lewis has to say here:

"Freedom is not a state; it is an act."

"Nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society. Why? Because human beings are the most dynamic link to the divine on this planet."

"Every generation leaves behind a legacy. What that legacy will be is determined by the people of that generation. What legacy do you want to leave behind?"

While not a comprehensive study, they complement one another well enough to make reading it worthwhile.

Saturday, January 16, 2021 9:04:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, January 15, 2021

In the last article, I showed you how to add Assets to an Azure Media Services (AMS) account. An Asset can point to an audio or video file, but you will want to encode that file to allow others to consume it. There are many encoding options. By encoding an audio or video, we can convert it into a format that can be consumed by others.

Those who are consuming your media are not all using the same systems. They may have different devices, different clients, different connection speeds, and different software installed. You will want to consider the capabilities and configurations of your users when you decide how to encode your media. Fortunately, Azure Media Services gives you many options.

We use an AMS Job to encode media. A job accepts an input Asset and produces an output Asset. That output Asset may consist of one or more files stored in a single Azure Storage Blob Container.

To begin, encoding, navigate to the Azure Portal and open an Azure Media Service, as shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1

Then, select "Assets" from the left menu to open the "Assets" blade, as shown in Fig. 2.

Fig. 2

See the following articles if you need help creating an AMS account or an AMS Asset.

Click the [Add job] button (Fig. 3) to display the "Create a job" dialog, as shown in Fig. 4.

Fig. 3

Fig. 4

The first thing you need to do is create or select a Transform. A Transform is a recipe for doing something, like encoding a video. It is used by a Job, which tells Azure to execute the steps in a Transform. I will assume this is your first time doing this and do not have any Transforms created, so you will need to create a new one; but in the future, you may choose to re-use an existing Transform on a new Job.

At the "Transform" radio button, select "Create new".

At the "Transform name" textbox, enter a name to help you identify this Transform.

At the "Description" field, you may optionally enter some text to describe what this transform will do.

At the "Transform type" field, select the "Encoding" radio button.

At the "Built-in preset name" dropdown, you can select a desired encoding output appropriate for your audience. For this demo, select "Adaptive Streaming". This will create files in multiple formats that can be consumed by a variety of clients.

Next, we configure the settings for the output asset.

At the "Output asset name", enter a name to help you identify the output Asset that will be created. Azure will supply a default name, but I prefer to use something more readable, such as the Input Asset name, followed by the type of Transform.

At the "Asset storage account" dropdown, select the storage account in which to save the container and files associated with this asset.

At the "Job name" field, enter a name for this job to help you identify it later.

At the "Job priority" dropdown, select "Normal", "High", or "Low" priority, depending on whether you want this job to take precedence over other jobs. Unless I have a compelling reason, I leave this as the default "Normal".

Click the [Create] button to create and queue up the job.

You can check the progress of the job by selectin "Transforms + jobs" in the left menu to display the "Transforms + jobs" blade, as shown in Fig. 5.

Fig. 5

Find the row with your Transform name (This why it is important to give it an easily identifiable name). Expand to see Jobs using this Transform, as shown in Fig. 6.

Fig. 6

The state column tells you whether the job is queued, running, or finished.

From the "Transform + jobs" blade, you can click the name of the Transform to display more details about the Transform, as shown in Fig. 7 or click the name of the Job to display details about the job, as shown in Fig. 8.

Fig. 7

Fig. 8

After the job finishes, when you return to the "Assets" blade, you will see the new output Asset listed, as shown in Fig. 9.

Fig. 9

Click on the link in the "Storage link" column to view the files in Blob storage, as shown in Fig. 10.

Fig. 10

Note that there are multiple MP4 files, each with a different resolution. The names of the file indicate the resolution of the video. This allows users with smaller screens or slower bandwidth to select the optimum resolution for viewing.

The container also contains a thumbnail image and several text files with information describing the videos that client players can use.

In this article, you learned how to use Azure Media Services to encode a video. In the next article, I will show you how to share that video with others.

Friday, January 15, 2021 9:39:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# 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)