2013 Fox Valley Day of .NET

Here are the slides from my Fox Valley Day of .NET talks. Thanks to everyone who came out for my presentation. Also, a big thanks to Fox Valley .NET Usergroup board members, Keith Burnell, Greg Levenhagen and Jeff Kruse for putting on such an awesome event.

Here is a blurry picture of me wearing my tinfoil hat J


Being You – Looking Around WordPress

WordPress, is obviously, a VERY popular blogging platform. You are going to have a lot better luck finding information out on the Internets than you will here. So we will take a quick look around, and focus a bit on the differences on the Azure platform.

First off, WordPress is developed on the PHP platform. The vast majority of the management functionality can be done right on the website. This is the dashboard and can be seen below

At a high level

  • Home - This is the main Dashboard page

  • Posts - These are where you manage your blog posts

  • Media -This allows you to add and manage media to your site such as images, videos, etc.

  • Pages - These are web pages for your site. A good example would be an about me page

  • Comments - This is where you manage comments posted to your blog. Be ready for SPAM, lots and lots of SPAM

  • Appearance - This is where you control the look and feel of your site, add widgets, headers, backgrounds, etc.

  • Plugins - These are third party pieces of functionality you can add to your site. There is a very robust eco system of widgets surrounding WordPress

  • Users - Allow you to add users to your site so that more than one person can blog, etc.

  • Tools - Similar to plugins, tools you can add to your site

  • Settings - These are the general settings of your WordPress blog. For example, the name of the site, time zone, formats, how links are displayed, etc

The first thing most users will want to do with their WordPress site is select a theme. Much like Plugins, there is a vast ecosystem around WordPress theme development. Users can get a default theme, or find a theme that suites there needs much more closely and pay money for it.

To choose a theme, (get ready for it), go to Appearance and Themes. There is the default themes that ship with the version of WordPress you installed, as of the writing of this, Twenty Twelve and Twenty Eleven.

You can go to Install Themes, and look for themes you think are more representative of your site. To get an idea of the options, choose Newest and take a look at the latest site themes people have created.

Personally, and this is a shortcoming, I am really not that interested in aesthetics. So I choose the default Twenty Twelve theme and run with it. One of the things I DO like about this theme is that it utilizes responsive design, so it looks good on a number of form factors.

In your theme, you can choose to customize the theme. This enables you to change site description, updated colors, choose background images, etc

We can choose Site Title and Tagline and change our Tagline to say something different; for example, A Dysfunctional Family, and click Save & Publish

And the changes are immediately seen on our site.

Just to give an idea of how a theme would work. We can quickly change it and see the effect. Let's install the Lightweight Personal theme we saw previously. We click the Install now link and it downloads and install the theme locally. We can click the Activate link to have immediately take effect

And voila! A totally different user experience.


Notice, of course, that our content stays the same, it is just the UI that changes.

To get an idea of how plugins work, let's install a plugin and take a look. All the cool kids today are on twitter (actually, I am on Twitter, so the cool kids are probably somewhere else), so let us add twitter functionality to our site.

Click plugins on the management dashboard and you will see the default plugins that are installed with WordPress

Hello Dolly features lyrics from Louis Armstrong's Hello, Dolly randomly on your site. While I love Louis Armstrong (his two albums, Ella and Louis with Ella Fitzgerald are required listening), the lyrics do not really fit in on our site.

The Akismet plugin is much more useful. It helps you determine what comments are spam on your site, and you will be getting lots of spam. It is worthwhile activating it, though it requires registering for a WordPress account, and if you so desire, paying some money.

For us though, we want to add Twitter to our site. So click the Add New link and search for Rotating Tweets

We click Install Now and verify we want to install. We are then taken to the post install screen, where we can either activate the plugin, or leave installed, but not activated. Let's activate by clicking the Activate Plugin link

We now see this on our list of plugins

Plugins that are activated, then become Widgets. Similar to SharePoint web parts, widgets are items of functionality that can be added to a page. You can add widgets by modifying the appearance of your site. Click Appearance and then Widgets

The page shows the available widgets and then the side bar widget area. You can drag a Widget from the available section to the sidebar and put in the order you want. We will put our Rotating Tweets widget there by dragging it.

Nearly all plugins have sections for you to modify for your site. We are going to add a Title and a twitter username and click save

Our site is now updated

As you can see, the WordPress functionality provided by Plugins and Themes allows you to quickly customize your site's look and feel.

Next time, we are going to dig a big deeper into modifying your site by adding socialization links using PHP and WebMatrix!


Being You – Setting Up WordPress on Azure Websites

Azure websites are a great way to get a blog up quick and easily, and for relatively low costs.

In this blog post, we are going to setup a WordPress blog on an Azure websites. Azure Websites provide a great environment for quickly and easily setting up websites to explore different technologies. Are you looking for a place to explore Node.js, create an Azure Website. Want to develop DotNetNuke site and explore, whip up an Azure website and explore to your heart's content. Looking for a Linux box to do some development for? Create a Virtual Machine

So, what do we need to do?

First things first, you need to sign up for a windows azure account and a 90-day Free Trial. This will require you to provide a mobile phone, for verification purposes, and a credit card, which you only need if you exceed the limits for the free trial, which only happens if you remove the spending limit.

Go to and click Free Trial. You

You free trial contains up to 10 Web Sites and Mobile services, a SQL database, 35 GB of strogae and 750 hours of small compute hours. This will essentially allow you to create a blog a Azure shared instance for free. Click the next arrow (right by two).

You will be asked to verify your account via a SMS message to your phone. Step three will ask you to setup a credit card information, after which, your Azure subscription is being setup

Now that your Azure account is setup, you can start creating web sites, virtual machines, storage, etc. We are going to create a blog site, which is a web site.

Jump to the Azure Management portal

And click the new button in the bottom left.

Click Web Site and chose From Gallery

Azure provide a lot of "starter" sites in it's Gallery. It can range from DotNetNukeSites, Drupal sites, Wiki sites, eCommerce engines, etc. We are interested in creating blog. Select that and you can see there are a myriad of blog types to choose from

We are going to use WordPress, a very popular blogging engine based on PHP. Once you find Wordpress, highlight it and click the next button.

All Azure Websites are on the domain You will need to select a unique name for your website. In this case, we will use for our URL.

Next, WordPress relies on MySql for their back end database, so we will need to create one. The good news is, Azure takes care of all of that for you. Last, you will need to pick a geographic region for your site to be hosted. You want it to be close to where the majority of your users will be. The North Central US datacenter, which is located in Chicago, fits the bill for us.

aWe provide a unique name to the databse and approve the ClearDb legal terms. ClearDb has partnered with Microsoft on their MySql implementation. Once you click the checkbox, it will provision up your Azure Website. This process will take a few minutes.

Once the site is provisioned you can click on the link and you will be taken to the WordPress configuration site to finalize creation of your blog.

Here, you will provide a site for your title, we are going to go with The Endless. Next, you will setup a username for your site. DO NOT use admin, change it to something different. In my case, I will use my name. You will provide an email address for the site and finally a privacy check box. You DO want to check this, as it will enable search engines to find your site. That is, after all, the whole purpose of being you J After entering in this information, choose Install Wordpress. It will run for a second, and then you can login.

You now have your blog up and running!

In our next part, we will explore WordPress.


John Ptacek I'm John Ptacek, a software developer for Skyline Technologies. This blog is my contains my content and opinionss, which are not those of my employer.

Currently, I am reading Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

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