Visual Studio 2015 was released this week. And, there’s some goodies Visual Studio Online

For all of the developers and DevOps people out there, Visual Studio 2015 was released this week.  I’ve been working with it for a week on the latest build of Win10 (WinX, build 10240), and I must say, I’m impressed.  One of the MOST impressive things has been the ‘backwards compatibility’.  My company uses Visual Studio 2013, and I was able to open my project in 2015 with no issues and then go back to 2013 with no problems, either.  If I start using some of the new VB.NET features, I might have some issues, but I think I’ll be able to get everyone to switch to 2015 pretty quickly 🙂

Several important things have changed with TFS 2015 / Visual Studio Online build process.

One of the first things that I found in the changes to TFS is that there is a new option about what to do with the artifacts of the build (the source / deployable items).  Previously, these would just go into some shared drop folder.  It looks like now, these artifacts can be pushed back to the source control server.  That makes the need for a shared drop location unnecessary.  Also, it allows the artifacts to be downloaded directly from the internal or hosted TFS website.  This is both a good and bad thing, as it’s great for not needing to have a shared location anymore for drops, but it does add time to the build to upload it to the server.  Plus, that also means that, if you use VSO, your files are going up to Microsoft.  Fortunately, sending to the build server is only an option, and the old style of dropping the files in a share is still around.

One more thing that I did want to point out is that Team Foundation Server and Visual Studio Online’s build engine has been updated AGAIN.  When I first saw the change, I was like ‘WTF… in 4 version (2010, 2012, 2013, and 2015), they’ve completely redone the build system 3 times!?!’  I think the XML build process, al-la Ant was a pain in the rear.  The move to XAML looked to be going in the right direction, but the build scripts were very complicated.  When I saw the ‘new’ build system, my first thought was… ugh, really?  Not interested.

Then I took a better look, and tried it…

After playing with it for a bit, I like the way that the new build engine incorporates the visual style of the XAML builds and the succinct style of the XML builds.  There is a nice visual aspect to the builds, but there is enough customization that a good balance has been reached.  Plus, it is very easy to extend the new system.

There are a couple of concepts to be aware of when using the new system.  The old build system had some options turned on by default that would generate the structures correctly in the build.  Those options are not on by default in the new system.  The following article helped me with part of the configuration:  The import part of of the article is what the settings are for the MSBuild arguments:

/p:OutDir=$(build.stagingDirectory) /p:DeployOnBuild=true /p:WebPublishMethod=Package /p:PackageAsSingleFile=true /p:SkipInvalidConfigurations=true

That coupled with the setting that I found for keeping the structure


Using that together in the MSBuild settings will build the projects in the same structure that the directory is in.

One last thing that has changed with the build system… If the new build system is used, the TFS build agent doesn’t need to be installed through the big setup.exe that prior to 2015 was needed.  Now, on the web site, there is a link to download the agent by itself.  After that, one just has to run the Powershell script to configure the agent.

All-in-all, Visual Studio and Team Foundation 2015 look like an excellent release!

This should be a wake up call to all musicians…

Sigh… I usually don’t comment on what the writings of current pop stars, but this one hits home on a lot of levels.

The business deal is between Apple and the Record Companies / Label.  No one at Apple put any sort of gun to any of the record company’s heads.  My guess is that Apple and the record companies did a lot of back-and-forth with what we see today being the final outcome.  It is a business deal to both sides, nothing more.  Apple will make money selling the hardware and subscriptions, and the record companies will make money off of the artists.  Once the initial three months are up, the record companies will have a steady stream of income.  The record companies already have such deals in place with Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, etc…  If they didn’t like the terms, they could have refused to join, just like in the initial days of iTunes selling downloads.  So, the record companies and Apple are happy with the deal.

The area that Taylor Swift should be examining is the deal between the Artists and the Record Companies.  If the artist don’t like getting played for three months free, then they should be able to opt out, just like she did.  You notice that she didn’t pull ALL of her catalog, just the current one.  She’s not stupid, she knows that there is an opportunity for more exposure and money.

I don’t know if many people understand how record companies work.  It’s an interesting business.  Record companies provide three things to an artist.  One, an initial loan to produce and promote the artist’s first (or next) work.  Two, is the contacts and means to promote and distribute that work.  And three is the contacts to means to do professional package of the work.  There are some really important concepts that most people don’t realize.  The first one is that a record company does not give any money to the artist.  All money upon an artist being signed is ‘front money’.  It is a fancy cash advance.  The artist MUST pay that money back, regardless of how the work does.  A second concept is the value that the record company does have.  The Record Companies have is the contacts to create the music in a professional manor and the contacts to promote the music with radio and internet.  Also, they administer the payments and rights that an artist has.

I’m also a semi professional musician (I get paid for what I do, but not enough to make a living), and see this kind of misunderstanding almost all the time.

We as musicians, painters, dancers, etc… have done this to ourselves.  Trying to make a living as a professional artist is damn near impossible, even if you have talent, drive, looks, fans, etc.  The mentality of ‘do it for the exposure’ is prevalent through the entire industry.  I see show after show where the band works for free for the ‘exposure’.  Personally, I’ve stopped doing those type of gigs.  If I’m good enough to play, then I’m good enough to pay.  And, before someone says ‘charity event’, know this… the sound guy ALWAYS gets paid, I guarantee it.

Ultimately, it all comes down to money.  How much money does the artist generate?  What is it worth for exposure?  What is it worth for the services that a record company does?  I honestly don’t know, I’m not in the business, so my comments can be taken with a grain of salt 🙂

Update… I wrote these thoughts before Apple ‘caved in’ and agreed to pay the RECORD COMPANIES while the free trial period is going on.  Personally I think it’s a lot of crap, because the point is still being missed.  The only ones who will see ANYTHING is the record company.  This is one of the times that I think Apple shouldn’t have backed off.  Altering the business deal because one person, who WASN’T part of the deal, had no knowledge of what was being worked on, etc… is bad precedence.