Hello EduCake and 86Duino!

My good friend and Windows Embedded MVP Samuel Phung with ICOP introduced me recently to the 86Duino project.  Then he showed me an ultra cool device, the EduCake!


I knew the minute I saw it, I had to have it!  The thing only costs appx $49US! And even though It’s only about 3”x3”x1” it still packs a punch.  It has a Vortex86ex 32bit x86 processor, so it is capable of running full operating systems like DOS, Windows, Linux, as well as 32bit RTOSes.

But what is super cool is that it is fully Arduino compatible.  From a firmware, programming, and hardware perspective.  That means that you can plug Arduino compatible shields as well as run Arduino code on this device out of the box.   You can see all the nice proto board connections on top of the box in the picture above!

Ok, so that’s neat.  Arduino compatibility on an x86 processor.  But, if you take a look at these pics, you can see it isn’t short on connectivity options either:

2 USB Ports, Audio In/Out, SD Card…

Ethernet, COM Port, and Micro USB Power.

After Terry Myerson and Joe Belifiore’s Intel Gallileo (and yes, I ordered one of those too) demo during their April 2014 //BUILD Keynote (at about 02:03:15), and all of the buzz around “The Internet of Things”, convenient packages like the EduCake give developers unprecedented access to developing software for embedded systems and custom hardware devices using a variety of operating systems and programming languages!

Sam and ICOP are working to make purchasing the EduCake and other 86Duino products easier for customers in the US, but I was able to order one (with surprisingly fast delivery from Taiwan, it only took two days) from http://shop.dmp.com.tw/INT/products/24 .  At approximately $49US (price varies with the exchange rate), this was a steal!  I can’t wait to start eating my EduCake!

SQL Server 2014 RTM VM Images available on Azure


If you go into the Azure Management Portal today, you can now add SQL Server 2014 RTM VM Images using the Gallery!  Check it out!

Why can’t I link my MSDN Azure Subscription to my Visual Studio Online Account?


Because you can’t.  Sorry, I know that may seem like a harsh way to start, but I figured it might help to have clarity from the start. 

The reason you need to link an Azure subscription to a Visual Studio Online (VSO) account is so that VSO can use your Azure account’s billing mechanism to bill for additional VSO users, build minutes, or virtual user minutes that you need beyond the free users and minutes. So you can only do that with a paid Azure Subscription that has an active billing configuration.

I speak for myself here, I’m not part of the group responsible for this, but my speculation as to why you can’t do it is as follows.  If you were allowed to link your MSDN Azure subscription though, there is a built in credit in that subscription.  You would effectively be able to use your free MSDN Azure benefit to provide paid VSO access to others.  That just doesn’t make sense, using your benefit to give access to others.  So for now at least, it just isn’t allowed. 

If you want to play with Visual Studio Online paid accounts or minutes, you could create a Free Windows Azure Trial subscription, and link it to a Visual Studio Online account.  You might consider creating a special Microsoft Account (a.k.a. Live ID) just for the test, and create the test VSO and Azure subscriptions using that test Microsoft Account. 

Note, if you do go to create a new Microsoft Account for the test, it helps to do that in an “InPrivate Browsing” (Ctrl+Shift+P in Internet Explorer) or an “Incognito Window” (Ctrl+Shift+N in Chrome) window so you don’t conflict with your regular Microsoft Account. 

New Azure “Basic” Virtual Machines

Yesterday (March 31, 2014), Microsoft announced some new Azure price drops, and some new VM and storage options.  You can read the entire announcement here, and you should because there is some storage goodness, like a “Zone Reduntant Storage” (ZRS) alternative to the current “Locally Redundant Storage” (LRS) and “Geo Redundant Storage” (GRS) redundancy options.


However, there was one topic I thought might be of direct interest to developers:

New “Basic” Tier Virtual Machines

Currently, Azure VMs come in two “tiers”. The “Standard” tier has VM sizes A0-A4 (Extra Small to Extra Large), and the “Memory Intensive Instances” tier has sizes A5-A7.  In yesterday’s announcement their will be a new “Basic” tier.  These will be similar machine configurations to the “Standard” A0-A4, but the new “Basic” VMs won’t include load balancing or auto-scaling options. 

These new “Basic” VMs might be of interest to developers who are using Azure VMs for Dev/Test workloads and don’t need the load balancing and autos-caling features. These basic VMs will give developers equivalent compute capabilities at a lower cost if load balancing and auto-scaling are needed.

The new “Basic” VMs should be available starting April 3rd, 2014 and the pricing will be updated and displayed on the Virtual Machines Pricing Details page.