Developing Chat bots in Azure

There have been a lot of blog articles about chat bots and robots that will invade our daily life. Don’t worry, they are already here. Microsoft Azure has a lot of services that can be used to create Bots of different kinds.
The Azure Bot Service helps developer to accelerate the development and testing of their bots. It offer a set of predefined templates for Basic, LUIS, Form, and Proactive bots. The bot can be developed and tested in the Azure portal, or set up environment for Continuous Integration and delivery in Azure Team Services.
Azure has some powerful cognitive services like LUIS that enable chat bot to accept user input categorized as utterance – either as voice or written text. Azure has Speech APIs and Translation APIs to convert back and forward between speech to text, in addition to translate between different languages.
By using LUIS the bot can define a language model for Natural Language Processing (NLP) to translate utterance (user input) into intents (commands). An intent indicate a task to execute with a set of parameters. These tasks can be executes as Azure functions and use a wide range of APIs and Azure services like Azure cognitive services, Azure storage and Azure compute resources.
snip_20170520200336
The past years, Microsoft Azure has released a lot of services around analytics and data management. Many of them is centered around what is called Cortana Intelligence Suite (CIS) shown in the picture below:
snip_20170520194614
This suite connect many services together and shows the way how Microsoft is defining Analytics for the future. On the right bottom side the chat bots are resides with mobile and web applications. In short, CIS collect on-premise and cloud data from a different of sources like IoT devices, external apps, APIs and similar. These data can be stored in Data Lake Store or SQL DW that is the basis for analytical services as Azure Machine Learning, Data Lake Analytics, HDInsight and Stream Analytics.  The data from the storage or result of analytics tools can be visualized with PowerBI, and queried with web/web/bot applications.
But this will be the topic of future blog posts – over and out!
Happy coding…

Coffee Machine Bot Project

In mid-February, I was discussing with some colleagues in EVRY to hold a hackathon soon. Immediately, I started to think of what I wanted to create independently of the Hackathon discussions. After a while I was fascinated by the idea of creating a coffee machine bot using Microsoft technologies to its full extent. The plan is to use this project to learn new things, and put everything together around the “Coffee Machine Bot” idea.

I have multiple inspirational sources for this Project

  • The fact that software developers consume huge amount of coffee all day (and nights)
  • The great GitHub project “hacker-scripts” (separate commands in the bot)
  • Homer’s fantastic kitchen machines

Basic requirements

  • Using cognitive APIs for voice and face recognition to identify persons
  • Bot should understand multiple languages, such as English, Norwegian and Swedish
  • Using advanced machine learning, analytics and cognitive services to suggest the drink based on drinking habits, time of day, weather, humour and emotion.
  • Commands
    • Rate drink
    • As usual
    • Add to favourites
    • Recommend New
    • Hacker-scripts
  • Back-Office
    • Automatically order new ingredients based on consumption, number of forthcoming workdays.
    • Schedule planned and predictive maintenance
    • Using HR, IFS, SM9 systems to look scheduled overtime and evening/night/weekend. Make sure participating employees had their drinks covered

This weekend I will do some research for the Face API and Emotion API available in Microsoft Azure.

Create SQL service accounts fast

The past few months I had a few reinstalls of my local development environment due to hardware failure and a new work laptop. And I have installed a local SQL Server instance at least 4-5 times. Luckily, I created a silent install for SQL Server 2016 earlier this year, but I didn’t create a script for pre-install tasks, like creating SQL Server service accounts. Today, I took the time to create the script for creating these quickly.

In my local development environment, I normally install database engine, SSIS and agent. It is not completely necessary with these accounts locally, but it is a good practice. Change the password “XXX” to your own, and run the script from command-line.

NET USER svc-sql-db "XXX" /ADD /passwordchg:no /fullname:"SQL Engine service account"
NET LOCALGROUP "Administrators" "svc-sql-db" /add

NET USER svc-sql-ag "XXX" /ADD /passwordchg:no /fullname:"SQL Agent service account"
NET LOCALGROUP "Administrators" "svc-sql-ag" /add

NET USER svc-sql-is "XXX" /ADD /passwordchg:no /fullname:"SQL Integration service account"
NET LOCALGROUP "Administrators" "svc-sql-is" /add

The only thing I need to improve is to fix the “Password never expires” check box. NET USER have a “/expires:never» switch, but doesn’t seem to work. This could be written in Powershell, but found these command very easy.

Delete your old logfiles

In most cases where you have developed a on-premise applikasjon (console, service) these generates logfiles. Either for  debugging purpose, or for validating the day-to-day execution wether there are errors or warning.

I tend to use text files, where I keep them for at least 14 days. The following command will delete all files older than 14 days from the c:\temp\logging folder. I have this at the top of my startup.cmd script.

rem delete files older than 14 days
forfiles /p "C:\temp\Logging" /m "*.*" /c "cmd /c del @path" /D -14

MS CRM list user access via SQL

During my CRM Solution import debugging yesterday, I also wanted to see which user had been logged in to CRM the last few days. After some googling og trying I came up with this SQL statement for listing all users and last time they accessed CRM during the last 3 days.

NB! You have to change the “OrgName” to get this working on you CRM database server. It is tested for CRM 2011 and CRM 2016.

USE MSCRM_Config
SELECT O.FriendlyName, SU.FullName as Name, SUO.LastAccessTime
FROM SystemUserOrganizations SUO
       LEFT JOIN SystemUserAuthentication SUA ON SUO.UserId = SUA.UserId 
                                    AND LEFT(AuthInfo, 1)='C'
       LEFT JOIN Organization O ON SUO.OrganizationId=O.Id
       INNER JOIN OrgName_MSCRM.dbo.SystemUser SU ON SUO.CrmUserId = SU.systemuserid
WHERE LastAccessTime IS NOT NULL 
  AND O.FriendlyName = 'OrgName' 
  AND datediff(DAY,Lastaccesstime, getutcdate()) < 3
ORDER BY lastaccesstime

Enable Dynamics CRM Tracing with powershell

If you have some problems with Dynamics CRM On-premise you are able to enable tracing with PowerShell. In my case, I needed to get debug information on why my solution import is failing when I’m going to move it to a new organization.

Open the powershell prompt and use the Add-PSSnapin command shown in 1). Thereby, You can list the trace setting with the command shown in 2). Before you start the tracing, you show determine the timeline for when the error occurs and just enble it as close as the error as possible. Run the command in 3) to start the tracing. You should stop the tracing immediately after the error has occured. Use command in 4) to stop the tracing.

# 1) add
Add-PSSnapin Microsoft.Crm.PowerShell 

# 2) get crm trace settings
Get-CrmSetting TraceSettings 

# 3) enable tracing
$Setting = Get-CrmSetting TraceSettings
$Setting.Enabled = $True 
$Setting.CallStack=$True
$Setting.Categories="*:Verbose"
$Setting.Directory="C:\temp\crmtrace"
Set-CrmSetting $setting

# 4) disbale tracing
$Setting = Get-CrmSetting TraceSettings
$setting.Enabled = $False
Set-CrmSetting $setting

When you have tons of log file, the trace tool CRM Trace reader is nice to use for searing and filtering.

WPF watermark/hint in TextBox control

After we found out that SOTI Enterprise Mobility Management system didn’t fully support Windows 10 Store Apps in “Kiosk Mode”, we had to rewrite out latest app using WPF technologi instead.

In this process. I wanted a kind of watermark in my TextBox Controls. After some googling, I found a pretty nice library called “Extended WPF Toolkit” on codeplex (and Nuget).

How to create a watermark input textbox

  1. Add “Extended.Wpf.Toolkit” via Nuget
  2. Add XML Namespace at the top of the XAML file
       xmlns:xctk="http://schemas.xceed.com/wpf/xaml/toolkit"
  1. Add “xctk:WatermarkTextBox” instead of “TextBox” Control With the Watermark attribute set to the help text
       <xctk:WatermarkTextBox x:Name="txtSearch" Watermark="type search pattern" />

Happy coding