Tallan's Technology Blog

Tallan's Top Technologists Share Their Thoughts on Today's Technology Challenges

Global Message Handling and Catching the Bot Framework Way

Matthew Gajdosik

So you’ve set up your new chat bot using the Microsoft Bot Framework, and you need to catch messages before they’re read by your dialogs or FormFlows to apply some global or preemptive logic. Luckily, the Bot Framework team thought ahead and built in a concept for handling message interception, called Scorables.
What Are Scorables?
A Scorable is a class that you can register with Autofac (the dependency injection solution used by Bot Framework), that will silently sit in between your externally-facing code accepting incoming user messages, and your internal dialog code. Each one will get the chance to handle the incoming message, and even compete for priority (which is where the “score” originates).
When To Use Scorables
Since they have full access to Autofac and the dialog stack, they can allow you to do anything from:

applying logic across your entire set of dialogs without duplicating…

Keeping Freight Moving in Denmark with SQL Server 2016

Tallan Partner

Efficient data management keeps goods flowing smoothly in Denmark. Danske Fragtmaend, the country’s largest national transport and distribution firm, has been moving freight for more than a century. Today, Danske Fragtmaend delivers more than 40,000 consignments each day throughout Denmark, and businesses from small mom-and-pop operations to factories rely on its services.
The firm handles logistics in a central location, where 200 dispatchers keep an eye on the movement of thousands of trucks and their cargo. Both drivers and dispatchers need the latest information to operate efficiently, so they rely on a data platform based on SQL Server 2016. The storage system includes 160 terabytes of flash memory for fast I/O and high uptimes. Throughout the day, drivers continually scan transactions with PDAs and send shipping information including GPS coordinates to the data platform. Fast access to information is essential. Ulf…

Bot Framework at Microsoft Build 2017

Tallan Partner

New Channels, New Docs, New Ways to Make Great Bots
On May 10th, Microsoft announced numerous updates to the Bot Framework designed to help developers make great conversationalists.

1 New Channels
Three new channels are available today, increasing your bot’s reach to even more of the Microsoft audience, as well as people engaged in many of the world’s most popular messaging experiences.

The Cortana channel enables you to extend Cortana by authoring Skills. Visit the Cortana developer portal to learn how to add your skills to Cortana.
The Bing channel allows users to discover and chat with your bot directly in the Bing search result page. Bing bots are authored using the Bot Framework and connected via the Bing channel. The Bing Bot development experience allows bot developers to publish their bots to Bing, where they appear in the Bing Bots Rich Answer. Users will…

Microsoft Accelerates Modern BI Adoption with Power BI Premium

Tallan Partner

Power BI was first made generally available in July 2015. Since then, Microsoft’s driving vision for Power BI has been to enable users across roles, disciplines and industries to sign up for the service in seconds and get business value by drawing insights from their data within minutes. Microsoft’s relentless focus to drive access to insights at scale has helped Power BI reach more than 200,000 organizations, and the breadth of this global community continues to directly contribute to Power BI’s evolution – to date more than 400 features have been added to the service as the result of input from more than 50,000 users.
Introducing Power BI Premium
Today Microsoft is taking the next step in its commitment to empower people and organizations with access to critical intelligence: introducing Power BI Premium. Power BI Premium builds on the existing Power BI…

Integration a Key to Unlocking Big Data

 
When the term “big data” first burst onto the scene about seven years ago, experts predicted that organizations could dramatically improve how they operate by capturing and analyzing vast arrays of rapidly growing information.
Fast forward to 2017. It turns out that “big data” wasn’t just another buzzword. Now an established term in the IT and business lexicon, big data is bigger than ever. By some estimates data volumes are doubling every three years.
But organizations have yet to fully capitalize on the value of data for more informed decision-making, operational efficiencies, and personalized systems of engagement with customers and partners.
“Most companies are capturing only a fraction of the potential value from data and analytics,” according to a recent McKinsey Global Institute study, “The Age of Analytics: Competing in a Data-Driven World.”
Connecting Data for Competitive Advantage
For organizations that want to survive and thrive…

Five Ways Microsoft Helps you do Amazing Things with Data in the Cloud

Tallan Partner

1: Build data-driven apps that learn and adapt
Applications show intelligence when they can spot trends, react to events, predict outcomes or recommend choices—often leading to richer customer experiences, improved business process, or addressing issues before they arise. The three key ingredients to creating an intelligent app are:

Ingest data in real time
Query across historical and real-time data
Analyze patterns and make predictions with machine learning

With Azure, you can make your applications intelligent by establishing feedback loops, and applying big data and machine learning techniques to classify, predict, or otherwise analyze explicit and implicit signals. Today, apps for consumers and enterprises can deliver greater customer or business benefit by learning from user behavior and other signals.
Pier 1 Imports launched a mobile-friendly pier1.com, making shopping online easier. It enabled the selection of delivery options like direct shipment, picking up products in the local store,…

Deploying a Site to an Azure VM using Web Deploy

Tom Dalba

Introduction:
Deploying to an Azure VM is a seemingly simple and easy process, but there are many steps, and thus many places to make mistakes.  Recently I discovered that many, if not all, of the online resources detailing this process are either incomplete or severely outdated.  Here I will outline the configuration and deployment process with up to date information, including instructions pertaining to the new Microsoft Azure Portal.
To get started, you will need a few things that this tutorial does not cover. This tutorial assumes that your Azure VM is already provisioned, deployed, and running IIS (Internet Information Services). The VM should be running Windows Server 2012 R2 or later.  This also assumes that you have administrator access to the Azure Subscription associated with the VM.
Configuring IIS on the Virtual Machine:
First, we’re going to need to install some IIS features.  To assist…

Using T4 Templates to Generate C# Enums from SQL Server Database Tables

Lenni Lobel

When building applications with C# and SQL Server, it is often necessary to define codes in the database that correspond with enums in the application. However, it can be burdensome to maintain the enums manually, as codes are added, modified, and deleted in the database.
In this blog post, I’ll share a T4 template that I wrote which does this automatically. I looked online first, and did find a few different solutions for this, but none that worked for me as-is. So, I built this generic T4 template to do the job, and you can use it too.
Let’s say you’ve got a Color table and ErrorType table in the database, populated as follows:

Now you’d like enums in your C# application that correspond to these rows. The T4 template will generate them as follows:

Before showing the code that generates this, let’s point…

New to Office 365 in April

Tallan Partner

Several Office 365 updates this month can help companies of all sizes accelerate the digital transformation within their organization. Microsoft released Outlook Customer Manager, introduced Microsoft To-Do in Preview, extended Designer to PowerPoint on iPad, added support for Office 365 Groups in additional Office apps and more. Read on for the details.
Outlook Customer Manager is rolling out worldwide
Outlook Customer Manager makes it easy for small businesses to track and grow customer relationships without leaving Outlook. Today’s rollout includes several new capabilities based on feedback Microsoft received during the First Release of Outlook Customer Manager. It’s easier to manage customers and upcoming deals with automatic reminders about customer inquiries, suggested company information from Bing and integration with Microsoft Flow. You can also access Outlook Customer Manager on the go in Outlook for iOS and Outlook on the web. Read more about…

EDI: Still Essential After All These Years

Tallan Partner

Back in 2011, Gartner analyst Benoit Lheureux wrote a blog post titled: “EDI is Hot, No, Really!”
That was probably stretching it then and six years later…well, let’s just say “hot” is perhaps overstating it. But there’s no overstating the continued importance of EDI to many businesses.
“Bottom line: EDI remains — and will remain for years to come — a high impact, valuable asset to business,” Lheureux wrote in his report. “… EDI is a well-established approach that is still a vital component of most companies’ overall B2B strategy and easily contributes to B2B, cloud computing, business intelligence, et al.”
Like the Internet, EDI has its roots in the military. The scale and complexity of the 1948 Berlin airlift required the exchange of information about transported goods—over a 300-baud teletype modem, no less. The effort led to standards that eventually became EDI as…

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