Experiences and Experiments in Programming

 Thursday, March 30, 2006

I have gotten a number of questions lately about Atlas. What exactly is it? What do I need to run it? What are the requirements for begin able to use it? So I thought I would post some information here in an attempt to help others who may have the same questions.

First of all, if you have not heard of Ajax, you have been living under a rock. However if you prefer to live like Patrick the starfish, Ajax is simply a term given to the use of multiple technologies (ie. Javascript, DHTML, CSS, and others) used in conjunction to achieve a more rich browser-based user experience. Granted, there are plenty of other definitions you can find if you don't like that one. Since Ajax is not really a technology so much as a technique, it does not belong to any one person or company. Plenty of people have created Ajax libraries. It should be no surprise that Microsoft has created their own Ajax framework, Atlas.

Atlas has 2 components: a set of Javascript script files which give you a similiar type of development platform for client-based Web pages that ASP.NET offers for server-based pages, and a server library that extends ASP.NET to integrate with server-based services. Do what? Effectively, you can have most of your work done on the client using the script files, or you can have most of the work done on the server utilizing ASP.NET.

"Ok, great"...you say.  "Sounds like it is a Microsoft ASP.NET technology. Not interested, I use PHP!" Well think again! You can use the client scripts with any back-end data provider you choose. If you use Visual Studio 2005, the Atlas .msi file will give you the option to install the Atlas web site templates. The Atlas web site template will give you a new Atlas web site option when you do a File..New from the menu. There is nothing magic here, the template creates a couple directories for you, references the Atlas library, and copies the Javascript files into your project.

The Atlas client scripts also include some really nice DHTML tools you can use as well. So what are you waiting for? Go download it and start playing.

Thursday, March 30, 2006 2:30:37 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Friday, March 24, 2006
Since my return from MIX06, my mind has been racing with a more hightened concept of the web as an experience. I have always thought that web design and public facing web applications should invoke an emotional response as well as an intellectual one; that browsing the web should be an experience more so than just a mundane task. This, in my mind, is what keeps an audience returning to a site.

Some of the things I have seen at MIX06 have solidified and hyped this feeling of the web as an experience. So I have decided to personally embrace this "experience the web" concept and let it drive me. I have changed my blog warmer to reflect this, and plan to reflect it in my blog content as well. I look forward to getting more feedback on how we as developers can inject the "experience" into our development.

Friday, March 24, 2006 9:10:26 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Well, now that I have been back for a day and tried to absorb all the material presented at MIX06, I have to say that it can be overwhelming. I thought I had a pretty good handle on Atlas and WPF. But as a web developer, I realized that there was so much more than what I had previously thought was coming down the pipe.

Web developers are having, truely, a brand new world of possibilities handed to them. The richness of the web experience, for it will soon be truely an experience, is exploding! We are going to have to learn to think and design without limitation. That is the only way we will be able to take advantage of all the capabilities soon available. For so long we have had many limitations. Recently, there has been a push to go beyond some of the more common and burdensome limitations, but nothing on the scale of what is to come.

All I can say is this: Throw off your shackles and chains and get ready for a whole new freedom...get ready to not just browse the web, but to experience it!

Friday, March 24, 2006 8:58:54 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Well, it is over for me at least.  I am here at the airport waiting for my flight. I had to leave the event a little early to make sure that I wasn't running like a chicken with my head cut off.  I missed some of the first session and had to leave in the middle of the last session so I spent some time in the sandbox this morning.  For those who weren't there, the sandbox is a room where they had lots of computers set up to do labs, browse online, and play with some of the technologies presented on. I did attend

Breakout 2:
Building Components and Services for the Programmable Web presented by Nikhil Kothari

I have to say that this was one of the best conferences I have been to. Not the typical marketing being done. I got a lot of good information about the technologies available to us as developers now, but that are more forward looking! I am excited about what is coming down the road. Now it is up to all of us to begin changing the state of web applications, to embrace a new model and new possibilities.  I personally can't wait to see where we go!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 4:44:00 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Well...I have found my first casualty of dasBlog with the new IE7!  I was testing here at MIX06 in the compatibility lab for IE7.  I was working on Vista with the latest build of IE7 and found that the admin bar for dasBlog does not show up once logged in.  All the other admin icons show up fine, it appears to just affect the admin menu bar.

Not sure where the problem actually exists. I am going to set up a test environment and do some more looking. If anyone else has seen this problem, let me know.  Otherwise, I will see what I come up with and post another entry.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 4:28:55 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Well day two was just as informative as day one.  I went to the following presentations:

Breakout 1: Lessons From the Trenches:Engineering Great AJAX Experiences presented by Scott Isaacs.  This one hit close to home since he talked a lot about some of the things that are of great interest to me and are some of my soap box topics!

Breakout 2: Designing a Better User Experience with AJAX and "Atlas" presented by Brad Abrams and Rick Spencer

Breakout 3: A First Look at Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere (WPF/E): a Cross-Platform subset of WPF presented by Joe Stegman

Tuesday night I had some free time with no sessions and no formal event (although there were some informal events going on here and there). I managed to see some of Vegas including a great show...;)
Wednesday, March 22, 2006 4:19:32 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Saw the latest IE 7. For those of you who know me, you know that I am a big Firefox guy. I won't knock IE, and use it sometimes, but there are just some things about Firefox that, in my opinion, can't be beat.

Having said that, I like this latest IE 7. I had looked at the previous IE 7 Beta and was not impressed at all. But let me say that this latest one looks more like what I was expecting to see.  From what I have seen so far, I could see me using IE 7 a lot more!  I am going to use this new beta for a while and see what I think.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006 4:07:33 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Just thought I would mention the presentations I went to on day 1:

Breakout 1: The Windows Live Platform: Build Applications That Have Access to 400 Million Address Books, and 13 Million Contacts presented by Brian Arbogast and Ken Levy

Breakout 2: Developing a Better User Experience with "Atlas" presented by Shanku Niyogi

Breakout 3: Developing a Windows Presentation Foundation Application presented by Filipe Fortes

The eventing reception was held at the TAO Nighclub at The Venetian. The evening made for a great time. I would go into more details but they say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas so I guess I should just leave it at that!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006 3:56:06 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Yesterday was pretty good as far as presentations. Went to some good presentations on ATLAS and WPF...some stuff I had seen before but some stuff really impressed me.
I have to admit, I was really impressed with Scott Guthrie's presentation on ATLAS. He started with a blank page and within about 7-9 minutes, built an ATLAS todo list. Now the application was not extremely complicated functionally, but the fact that he was able to put the whole thing together in such a short period of time was nice. It was a really nice example of what can be done in such a short period of time.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006 11:29:29 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Monday, March 20, 2006
The keynote was awesome. This is the first event I have been to where Bill Gates made a personal appearance. I have to say, it was pretty cool. It was a great keynote, Tim O'Reilly and Bill had a question and answer session focusing on Web2.0 and where that might be going. Bill made an announcement that they have a go-live license for Atlas!

Monday, March 20, 2006 11:21:34 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Well, it was an interesting night. We flew into Phoenix headed for Las Vegas and had a layover. We then found out that our flight to Las Vegas was delayed. We were given an option to seperate from our luggage and take a flight that was leaving immediately and we did...hey, better to wait around in Vegas, right? Needless to say we waited around  in Vegas for a while and finally arrived at the hotel around 11:30PM.  But I am here now!

Monday, March 20, 2006 11:15:10 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Well the presentation for the Huntsville User Group seemed to go well last night.  I would like to thank them for their hospitality!  They are a friendly group and have a wonderful facility at which they meet.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006 8:33:49 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Saturday, March 11, 2006
I have said before that I enjoy the graphical side of web design as much as I like the code.  I had thrown together a nice header for last year's Code Camp in Alabama, so I was asked to put one together this year.  Joe Healy has gotten it put on the web site.  Everyone seems to think it turned out ok, so I guess I am satisfied. Take a look. Thanks Joe!

Saturday, March 11, 2006 10:35:22 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
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)
I am in Memphis, TN this weekend.  We came up here for a trade show that she was doing a booth for.  She is involved in a new endeavor and had booth space at the Southern Women's show. While she did her thing, I continued to try to decide on what I wanted to attend while at Mix06.  I hope it is going to live up to my expectations.  I typically am cautious about conventions because I rarely get out of them what I hope to.  I am hoping this one will be what I expect.  So far, from what I am hearing, it appears to be. I'll let you know.

Saturday, March 11, 2006 10:25:45 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Monday, March 06, 2006
I have been mentioning the visibility and discussions around AJAX and how it seems to be one of the more popular points of discussion. Interesting observation today. I said that I was planning on attending Mix06. Well I was looking at some of the pre-discussion going on out on MSDN's channel 9.  Looking at the number of views per topic, AJAX has 7,449 views.  The closest number of views to that is Windows Presentation Foundation with 3161.  Interesting...

Monday, March 06, 2006 12:51:49 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
I am working on some presentations for the next Code Camp in Alabama.  The next one will be in April and will be held in Huntsville.  I am looking forward to it.  So far I have submitted a presentation on CSS2 and ASP.Net.  I would also like to do a chalk talk on some of the Web 2.0 technologies.  I am hoping to get some ideas from some of the discussions at Mix06.

Monday, March 06, 2006 12:52:46 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
It is official.  I am going to Mix06.  I am looking forward to it. I spend a lot of my time learning and playing with a lot of the topics being covered. I will most likely post to my blog while there to keep you updated if you are interested!

Monday, March 06, 2006 12:46:06 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Well, I finally got a new skin created.  It is ok for now.  I don't know that I am really happy with it yet.  It just doesn't seem to do it for me.  Of course this is my engineer coming out.  The perfectionist in me is never satisfied!

Monday, March 06, 2006 12:42:52 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Sunday, March 05, 2006
I am giving a presentation to the Huntsville .NET User Group on March 14.  They asked me to give a presentation on AJAX.  Seems the interest in AJAX continues to grow.  I think there is a lot of potential for AJAX now that it is more widely available to browsers.  There seems to be a lot of discussion of benefits and weaknesses.  It will be interesting to see where it goes.

Sunday, March 05, 2006 1:02:35 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Who Am I - Todd Miranda
MVP Visual Developer - ASP/ASP.NET
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