Experiences and Experiments in Programming

 Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Last night, and long overdue, we re-launched the Birmingham .NET User Group.  The meeting went well except for a few technical glitches with the projector at the hosting location.  A note to the tech folks there: the projector cable must be plugged into the input of the projector!  :)

Jeff Barnes showed the group how to "code like a ninja" with various Visual Studio 2008 tips and a demonstration of many features of jetBrains' ReSharper.  The night ended with some great swag.  We gave away 2 copies of ReSharper (thanks jetBrains), 1 copy of Nevron Chart components (thanks Nevron), a few books, a webcam, a geek mug, and more.

Thanks to NxtDimension Solutions for sponsoring the meeting and supplying the pizza and drinks.

Why re-launch?  When this group was started, we didn't want to delay getting the group going.  So we launched the user group without a lot of the pieces of the puzzle in place.  The first thing we wanted to do was to then catch up and put more structure in place.  As with most things, we never did get caught up.  The group has been great, done great things, and hosted many great speakers and events, but it was time for a new life.  I am looking forward to what the future of the group holds!  Hopefully many of you can join us for the journey.

The Birmingham .NET User Group meets the second Tuesday of each month.  The meeting starts at 6:30 PM and usually goes till 8 PM. More information can be found at the website: www.bugdotnet.com.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 8:22:13 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Visual Studio 2008 and .NET 3.5 SP1 was released yesterday.  This is a significant update.  It is much more than a typical service pack.  It includes not only rolled-up fixes, but enhancements in many areas and technologies:

For the web, there is enhanced designer support and better formatting options for JavaScript.
For WPF, there are improvements to the design interface as well as how you interact with the code.
For SQL, there is support for SQL 2008 which was just recently RTM'd.
There are WCF improvements such as the new Hosting Wizard for WCF projects.
And there are VB and C# interaction improvements.

As opposed to re-listing features that have already been listed elsewhere, Scott Guthrie had a great blog entry about VS2008 SP1 as well as .NET 3.5 SP1.  Keep in mind that this was the written about the BETA release so some things may have changed before final release, but it gives a great overview of what was in the BETA.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 10:47:53 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Thursday, May 08, 2008

A couple of weeks ago Scott Hanselman posted about creating your ALT.NET Geek Code.  I know there has been quite the debate about ALT.NET and I am not going to get into that.  But whether you are an ALT.NET-ian or not, there is an interesting twist to the ALT.NET Geek Code.

Seasoned pros and beginners alike are inundated with new technology and new terminology almost every day.  How do you figure out what to look into and what to ignore?  You could drive yourself crazy trying to keep up with all of it.  But a side-effect of the ALT.NET Geek Code Generator on Scott's blog is that it is a great checklist of things you should know about!

Take a look at the list of processes and tools that can be selected to form your own ALT.NET Geek Code.  It is a pretty good list of things you should know about.  I am not talking about becoming an expert in all of them....maybe not even in any of them.  But, in my opinion, developers should at least know a little about all of them (if only to be able to carry on a fairly intelligent conversation about them).  As you investigate each one, you might actually find one or more that you want to delve into and perhaps even use on a daily basis.

So the next time you are trying to decide what to look at next, take a look at the ALT.NET Geek Code Generator and pick one of the ones you don't know about.  You might just discover a new hammer!

Thursday, May 08, 2008 8:17:37 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Well, it is official.  Yesterday at TechEd in Barcelona the announcement was made public that Microsoft will be releasing Visual Studio 2008 and the 3.5 version of the .NET Framework by the end of November.  This is welcome news for many of us that have been waiting on the next release to fix a few issues, which were of the annoying variety.

So for everyone that has been using Visual Studio 2008 and .NET 3.5 from the Beta 2 drop and other tools like Expression Blend, the world is soon to be a better place.

For those of you who have not ventured into VS 2008 yet, let me tell you....go toward the light!  I am typically a very cautious person when it comes to jumping into the newest thing.  But with 2008 (previously Orcas), I went against my nature and jumped in.  I have not looked back yet.  Being a more visual developer, the new tools in the IDE alone are worth their weight in gold!  I won't go into detail here because there are so many others that have done a great job discussing the new features of VS2008 and .NET 3.5.  What I will do is tell you, from a typically cautious person, you will love VS 2008.  Do yourself a favor and try it out!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007 8:51:48 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Well I completed the upgrade to DasBlog 2.0 this morning.  There was really only one hiccup and for the most part it was my fault.
If you don't know, about 2 weeks ago, DasBlog 2.0 was released.  So what you might say!  Well this release of DasBlog supports running on .NET 2.0 under Medium Trust.
I host my blog with GoDaddy so I have been holding off on going to .NET 2.0 on my hosting because DasBlog would not run.  It previously required Full Trust.  So as of this morning, I have been able to move all of my hosted stuff to .NET 2.0 and subsequently upgraded DasBlog to version 2.0.
I began by following the upgrade instructions located here on the DasBlog site.  I won't re-list all the steps here.  The basic idea is to download and unpack the DasBlog install files.  Copy down your web and site config files and your content directory from your existing installation to a local drive.  Merge the web and site config files with those in the new DasBlog install.  Run the DasBlogUpgrader.exe against your content directory.  Now here is where I had my first problem.  When I tested the upgrade in my test environment I got an error in the aspnet_wp.exe.  I checked my application log files and found that a duplicate key was trying to be inserted into the ASP.NET Cache.  The description of the error said

An unhandled exception occurred and the process was terminated.
Application ID: /LM/W3SVC/1/Root/dasblog
Process ID: 4104
Exception: System.ArgumentException
Message: Item has already been added. Key in dictionary:
'9db86387-f712-4b43-be7d-d41d999a90d0' Key being added:

I took a look in the content directory of my DasBlog install and noticed that there were 2 files for the same date.  I really don't know what caused the duplicate file to get created, but they appeared to be identical.  Deleting one of the sets of files fixed the problem.
So once I got everything running in the test environment I started the migration to the hosting server.  Again, the basic idea was replace most everything with the new files including the merged web and site config files and the content directory.  So here is where I ran into my second problem.  I uploaded everything and got an error when I tried to hit the blog.  In the System.Web section of the web.config file, there is an element which specifies the trust level.

<trust level="Medium" originUrl="" />

The problem is that GoDaddy specifies this in their machine.config file and also sets the attribute that tells ASP.NET to not allow a local site to override it.  So to fix the problem, just comment out this line in the web.config of the blog and inherit the setting value from the machine.config.
That was it!  I would consider that a pretty painless upgrade ( as a matter of fact, considering some of the nightmares I have experienced, I would even consider it pleasant! ).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007 10:15:26 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Sunday, July 29, 2007

I am trying to get some things caught up...including some posts I have been wanting to make...so I am a little late with this news.   Unless you live under a rock, you have probably already heard this.  But for you rock dwellers, Visual Studio 2008 and .NET 3.5 Beta 2 has been released.

There are a couple of extra installation tasks that must be performed post installation.  Scott Guthrie has a nice post on some of the new features and the post installation tasks that must be performed.

Sunday, July 29, 2007 8:41:28 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Today I did a presentation on WPF at a Microsoft developer training day in Nashville, Tennessee.  I think the presentation went well, but this was a rather interesting trip.

When Mark Dunn asked me to speak at the event, I had all but decided I was going to let one of my co-workers, Brandon McMillon, go instead.  My wife is due with our second daughter any day now.  I knew there was no way I could risk being gone for a night that far away.  Granted, Nashville is not that far, but it is far enough that she could go into labor and deliver in the amount of time it would take me to get back home.  Jeff Barnes, another co-worker was giving the presentation on WCF.  So Brandon said he would drive there and back today if I wanted to give the presentation.  So bottom line, I took the chance and was able to deliver the presentation myself.  I am glad I did.  As usual, it was a lot of fun and I really think the audience showed a good deal of interest in using WPF or Silverlight in some of their current projects!

Shortly after arriving in Nashville, while we were heading to the venue, my wife called.  You can imagine, as soon as I saw the phone number I thought, "You have got to be kidding me".  Luckily, she was just calling to see if we got up there alright.  I got no other calls from her and obviously she didn't go into labor today!  Maybe I will be as lucky with the lottery ticket I bought!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007 9:39:52 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Wednesday, April 11, 2007

This is really late coming!  The next Alabama Code Camp is schedule for this Saturday in Mobile Alabama.  This one is being hosted by the Lower Alabama .NET User Group.  They are the newest addition to the Alabama User Groups and have been doing really well.  We are all real excited to see their success.  There is a great line-up and some terrific speakers.  Check it out if you have not yet.  And if you can make it, go and register!

I will be giving a presentation at the code camp on WPF.  At this point, I am pretty sure I am changing my original idea to a presentation on some of the new key concepts in .NET 3.0 for WPF.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007 11:21:42 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Wednesday, December 06, 2006

We have put up some more information about the .NET University in Birmingham, Alabama this Monday and Tuesday evening.  You can read a little more about it at the Birmingham .NET User Group site.  Or if you want to register, you can click here.

Remember, you must register and attend all 4 session to get your free t-shirt and certificate.  As an added bonus, we will be giving away a Zune after the last presentation on Tuesday thanks to Doug Turnure!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 5:57:04 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Monday, December 04, 2006

We have confirmed the date, time, and location for a .NET University in Birmingham, Alabama.  On December 11 and 12 from 6PM to 8PM we will be presenting a .NET University.  It will take place at the new auditorium in the new Building 3 of the Southern Progress Campus at 2100 Lakeshore Drive.  As soon as we get the link set up for registration, I will post it here.

The purpose of .NET University is to provide a quick and easy way to get an overview of the new features in .NET 3.0, as well as provide materials for the community to re-present to other technical audiences.

Monday, December 04, 2006 9:08:58 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Well I don't know if I am late to the game on this or not but Jeff just brought to my attention that the Mix '07 dates and location have been announced.  It looks like it is going to be at the Venetian in Las Vegas again April 30 - May 02!  For anyone who was not able to attend last year, the event was excellent.  A ton of great information!  I hope I will be able to go again this year!  Looks like registration is going to begin sometime in January!

.NET | Events
Tuesday, November 07, 2006 3:31:12 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Wednesday, October 25, 2006

On October 13, Doug Turnure announced the official opening of .NET University for business.  This afternoon Doug announced that the inaugural run of the .NET University will take place at the Alabama Code Camp in Montgomery, AL on October 28.

So here is how it is going to work.  If you are not registered yet for the Code Camp, do that first.  Click here to register for the third Alabama Code Camp.  Once you have done that, or if you were already registered, there is a separate registration for the .NET University.  Click here to register for .NET University at the Alabama Code Camp.  You do not have to register for .NET University to attend any of the sessions.  However if you do register and you attend each of the sessions that are a part of .NET University (there are four), you will receive a t-shirt and a "graduation" certificate!  If you want to see what the t-shirts and certificates look like, you can see them on the .NET University Alumni Page.  This is going to be great fun and some really good information.  I am proud to be presenting the WPF .NET University session and expect to see everyone there!

Don't worry if you can't make it to the Code Camp.  There will be plenty of other opportunities to attend a .NET University.

The mission of .NET University is to give a good technical overview of what is new in .NET 3.0 (formerly known as WinFX).  The .NET University consists of four sessions: Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), Windows Workflow Foundation (WF), and Windows CardSpace.  These are the four new technologies introduced in .NET 3.0.  If you are trying to get up to speed on what is coming soon in .NET 3.0, this is definately the way to do it!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006 9:27:24 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Tuesday, May 30, 2006
I am going to be putting a lot more information about Windows Presentation Foundation(WPF) on my blog soon.  I have decided to focus on this technology a good bit moving forward.  In an effort to support my concept of "Experience".  I believe that users should experience the web and experience software, not just use it. I believe that WPF is going to empower developers to provide a deeper, richer user experience! I am reading a book that I will be reviewing in the coming week.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 12:21:36 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Friday, April 14, 2006
The Atlas team has released an Atlas Control Toolkit which contains some control extenders to do some pretty nifty things with little or no code. The control toolkit includes the following controls and extenders:
  • CascadingDropDown: Easily link drop downs, complete with asynchronous population and no postbacks!
  • CollaspiblePanel:  This extender allows panels on your page to collapse and expand with no code.
  • ConfirmButton: This extender adds a confirm dialog to any Button, LinkButton, or ImageButton control.
  • DragPanel: Makes any panel into an object that you can drag around the page.
  • HoverMenu: Allows UI to pop up next to a control when the user hovers over it. 
  • PopupControl: This extender turns any panel into a popup. 
  • ReorderList: This control is a full-featured data-bound control that allows its elements to be reordered on the client via drag and drop.
  • TextBoxWatermark:  This extender adds "watermark" prompt text to TextBoxes on the page.
  • ToggleButton:  This extender turns an ASP.NET CheckBox into an image checkbox. 
You get the source code, documentation, and more.  There are also some tools to help build your own controls that can utilize the power of Atlas.  The toolkit also has:
  • Helper Classes:  This library of helper classes eliminates many of the steps needed to create "Atlas" controls or extenders so you can quickly produce the code that will make your website shine.
  • Project and Item Templates:  With just a few clicks of the mouse, you'll be writing your first "Atlas" component.  The toolkit contains Visual Studio 2005 Templates for Visual Basic and Visual C# users to create their own controls and extenders.
Although this is an early release and may not completely cover every possibility, it is a new toy to play with and learn more about using Atlas!

Friday, April 14, 2006 8:23:27 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Monday, April 10, 2006
I am going to be giving a presentation at the Birmingham .NET User Group tomorrow on ATLAS. I am going to cover both the client focused and server focused capability as well as demonstrate some examples of the UI coolness provided in the client libraries.  I am going to also mention the Mash It Up contest!

Monday, April 10, 2006 9:19:57 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Saturday, March 11, 2006
Seems like I am usually tweaking my presentations right up to the day I give them.  I am never completely satisfied with them.  I have been tweaking my presentation on AJAX that I am giving to the Huntsville .NET User Group this Tuesday. Some of the Mix06 topics I am reading over is making me want to cover a slightly different angle.  On the other hand, my presentation covers some under-the-cover aspects of AJAX that I think are important to know...even if in practice you may never have to worry about them.  Atlas and AJAX.Net cover up a lot of the details that I think are still important to know.  I am one of those that believe one should program for Windows using the Windows SDK at least once, just to get a better understanding of what is going on behind the high level code we typically write.

Saturday, March 11, 2006 10:31:34 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Well, I just got back from the VS 2005 Launch in Atlanta, GA.  As usual, there were some good presentations and some so-so ones.

I think that no matter how long you have been using a technology, there is always something you can learn.  I have always been old school when it comes to using provided controls.  In order to always squeeze all the performance out of an application, I am one for writing most of the code myself instead of relying on controls.

However ASP.NET 2.0 may make this old dog learn a few new tricks!  There is some really nice functionality provided without having to write any code.  I truly think that in many cases (I won't say most yet) using the ASP.NET 2.0 controls may meet a developer's needs...We shall see!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 10:49:06 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Monday, November 21, 2005
I just ran across something I guess I have just been missing in playing with the 2.0 framework: The coalescing operator! I love this. Not sure how I have been missing this one. I am a big fan of using something like:

Textbox.Text = (str == null) ? "N/A" : str;

as opposed to using a conditional block. But I just found that I can use:

Textbox.Text = str ?? "N/A";

It is the simple things that make me the happiest! Well, on to finding more things that I have not discovered yet...
Monday, November 21, 2005 11:50:50 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Who Am I - Todd Miranda
MVP Visual Developer - ASP/ASP.NET
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