The Forgotten Cost of Microsoft Azure Networks

We all know cloud services cost money, that’s a no brainer because we are consuming resources in somebody else’s environments, but what happens when you forget about it?

I was looking at my Microsoft Azure subscription today to see how I was doing for billing this month and the bill was higher than I expected. When I looked through the consumption charts in the Account Portal, I was shocked to see £20 of consumption against the Azure Network Gateway. Sometime ago, I had configured the Azure Network Site-to-Site VPN to test the feature against my ASA firewall at home. Once I had played with it for a while and verified I had a good configuration, I disabled the IPsec tunnel at my end as there was no point in keeping the connection up for the sake of it.

Problem was, I forgot about the Azure VPN Gateway which is a required item to enable the Site-to-Site VPN to function. I had accidentally left it running, consuming resources as it pleased without me actually reaping the service it offered.

Azure Gateway Hours

Sure, the cost is not significant, but it’s still a cost I’d rather avoid as I’m sure anyone out there paying up for cloud services would avoid. Money for nothing as Dire Straits famously said.

Needless to say, the VPN Gateway is now deleted and when the time comes that I want to use the Site-to-Site VPN, I’ll need to redeploy it and re-configure the Pre-Shared Key and IP Address for the tunnel endpoint on my ASA but that’s worth doing for a £20 a month saving on my Azure bill. Let this be a lesson to us all. Remember what you deploy and remember to clean-up after yourself when you’re finished with it.

Microsoft Ordered to Release Dublin Server Data

An article went live on BBC News this morning (Microsoft ‘must release’ data held on Dublin server) which I hadn’t seen initially and was brought to my attention. The subject of the article is a US court case where a judge has ruled that Microsoft must hand over email records for a mailbox which is held on one of the servers in the Dublin, otherwise known to Microsoft Azure fans as the North Europe region.

Data sovereignty has always been an issue plaguing people considering a move to consume public cloud services and this case looks set to throw the whole debate up into the air once more.

The US government argue that they should be allowed to access the data in terms similar to those of a subpoena which grants them the right to request documents held in any country by the person subpoenaed however Microsoft contest against this and comments from the EU Commission agree with Microsoft. I’m in the camp of the Microsoft, the EU and the consumers among us all that if my data resides in outside of US jurisdiction that the US shouldn’t be able to just walk in and a take a copy. In all honesty, they probably already have a copy thanks to the NSA but unfortunately for them, that wouldn’t be admissible in court as evidence. Anybody else watch the Good Wife recently?

I really hope Microsoft battle this one through and that the EU member states back Microsoft in any appeals they make. The record and the law needs to be set the record straight with the US on the subject of data sovereignty. This is defiantly going to be a hot topic to watch out for.

Music Syncing and the Cloud in Windows 8

Quite, quite some time ago, I posted here (http://richardjgreen.net/2009/11/26/music-library-masterpiece-part-1/) about all of the work I had put into my music library like naming the files, folders updating ID3v2 tags and applying Folder.jpg and embedded album art to all the tracks.

The updated version of the Windows 8 Music app includes a feature now where if you allow it to scan your music library and match songs to those in the Xbox Music Store then you can get streaming access to those files on any other Windows 8 or Windows RT device linked to your Microsoft ID.

This is a brilliant feature, truly great as it means I can, for example, have my full library at home and my core listening taste available physically in the office for tune-out project work listening, then if I want to listen to something out of the ordinary, Xbox Music will allow me to stream it as it knows I already own it from either physical CD ripped or from another download service like Amazon MP3.

The problem is, I used Amazon as my data source when I updated all my music previously, and it appears that some of the album and track titles, mainly around versions and editions varies between the two which means that not all of my music has been detected and as such isn’t all available in the cloud.

Bummer. Music Masterpiece Mk. II I sense in the works.

As for the feature as a whole, I think it’s missing one thing to complete the picture. The ability to stream music which was matched on your Windows 8 PC to your Windows Phone 8 device and your Xbox. That would complete the holy three screens and the cloud trinity for me.

Migrating Saved Games to Xbox 360 Cloud Saved Games

So you’ve been playing on your Xbox 360 for sometime and you’ve built up a collection of saved games, all stored locally on your consoles hard drive. You’ve heard about the new Cloud Saved Games feature in the new Xbox dashboard update and want to be able to transfer (move, migrate, whatever you want to call it) your existing saves there for anywhere access?

The process is fairly painless and easy to complete, however it would have been nice if it was automated as part of enabling the Cloud Saved Games service. There is a gotcha to be careful of, but once you take it into account it’s plain sailing.

First off, you need to enable the Cloud Saved Games feature. You can do this by following my previous post Enabling Xbox 360 Cloud Saved Games at http://richardjgreen.net/2011/12/08/enabling-xbox-360-cloud-saved-games/.

Once you have enabled the Cloud Saved Games feature, do the following:

  1. Navigate to the Settings tab and select System.
  2. From System, select Storage, and from Storage, select Hard Drive to see the locally saved content.
  3. Within Hard Drive, select Games and Apps.
  4. Highlight a game that you want to migrate to the Cloud Saved Games service, and Press Y (Game Options).
  5. From Game Options, select the Move option, whereby you will be presented with a list of available storage devices. Select Cloud Saved Games and your game saves will be migrated across.

The migration process will detect the files which are game saves and the files which are updates, DLC and other non-save content. Using Forza Motorsport 4 as an example, with the installed files, it uses 3.3GB of hard disk space, however with a 500MB limit on your Cloud Saved Games service, you will obviously not be able to store all of this online. Fortunately, because the save files are detected for you, only the 20-30MB save file is actually moved.

This does mean that if you roam onto a friend or another persons console without that game already installed (and you have taken your game disc with you to play on) you will have to install the content first, but being able to have you save follow you is what is important and useful here.

The gotcha I mentioned earlier is relating to multi-player consoles. In my household, the wife and the kids use the console too. In my case, Dance Central 2 has saves for four people within it. Select the Move option against the ensure Dance Central 2 container would migrate everyone’s save to my cloud and would also grant me ownership of those saves, preventing the others access to their own saves.

In these instances, you will need to do the following:

  1. Drill into the game itself by selecting it with the A button.
  2. Highlight your own personal save file (the save file will show the Gamertag of the player on the right beneath the file size) and select it with the A button.

You will now have an option to move the save to the Cloud Saved Games service and this will only move your own save without effecting those of other players. I’m hoping that a future update might resolve this gotcha and will allow it to detect the ownership of other saves and as such, only move your own personal files, but time will tell on this one.

Enabling Xbox 360 Cloud Saved Games

One of the new features included with the Xbox 360 Dashboard update this week is the ability to store your saved games in the new Cloud Saved Games service. The service is free to Xbox LIVE Gold subscribers and allows you up to 500MB of storage for your game saves.

Enabling the feature is simple and is done as follows:

  1. Login to your console using your Windows Live ID (Xbox LIVE Gamertag).
  2. Scroll to the Settings tab on the new dashboard, and select System Settings.
  3. Within System Settings, select Storage.
  4. From Storage, highlight Cloud Saved Saves and Press Y on the controller (Device Options).
  5. Select Enable Cloud Saved Games.

You’re done.

Unfortunately, this feature isn’t enabled by default for Xbox LIVE Gold subscribers, which I think that it should be, and I also think that as part of the dashboard update, you should be prompted upon first login if you want to migrate your saves to the Cloud, however it’s possible this may come in a later update?

With the shoe on the other foot however, I can see Microsoft’s dilemma. Storage isn’t free in the cloud (contrary to the belief of many). Disabling the feature by default and not automatically prompting people to use the service allows them to under provision storage reducing cost, because your local hard disk doesn’t cost Microsoft anything compared to Cloud storage.

Although the Cloud Saved Games feature has been advertised by people like Major Distortion and other people online, I think it’s been pretty under-played compared to the dashboard update itself, or the Xbox Companion App for Windows Phone 7 and iOS. It’s a shame, because the feature is really powerful and adds a new dimension to console, being able to ‘carry your saves around with you’.

Sky+ HD Multi-Room Shared Planner

I got some anonymous information last night from a friend about a service Sky are considering introducing here in the UK.

The service looks as if it’s going to be called Sky+ HD Multi-Room Shared Planner – What a mouthful.

The premise of it is that you have multiple Sky+ HD boxes in your house, and you can share recorded TV amongst those boxes throughout your house. The service also touts that you will be able to connect to your Sky+ HD boxes via your PC and access that content also.

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Microsoft My Phone

So Microsoft announced a new service called My Phone earlier this week at MWC although it had been floating around various tech sites for a few weeks previously. I registered for the service late last week, and look what  I found in my Inbox this morning.

My Phone is basically a cloud based phone backup application that will synchronize all of your contacts, calendar, tasks, text messages, pictures and video from your device up to the cloud. You can also login to the My Phone website and make changes to content directly on the site, like add new calendar events etc.

Whilst My Phone seems kind of an odd product with Live Mesh already in the field, the two don’t actually overlap with My Phone backing up your phone where as Live Mesh is backing up a specified directory. What would be great would be to see these two services integrated together.

All that we need now Microsoft in a new version of Windows Live Messenger for Windows Mobile that supports MPOP and maybe Windows Live Writer for Windows Mobile?