My Headlines

Friday, November 30, 2007

OS 4 for Classic Commodore-Amiga Hardware Ships

by Donald Burnett

 

Well some people thought it would never happen, but this ad showed up and software sellers are taking orders.. Apparently.. Commodore-Amiga machines are getting an updated OS..

 

 

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Silverlight 2.0 is coming..

by Don Burnett

 

Over at Scott Guthrie's Blog, Scott talks about the technology roadmap and what's coming ahead for a bunch of Microsoft technologies, including Silverlight 2.0 (1.1 + more features than you can count = 2.0)... ASP.NET Extensions Release and IIS 7...

Here's what Scott had to say about Silverlight 2.0 and the ASP.NET 3.5 Extensions Release.... Hold onto your jaw if it's loose because this is a huge functional upgrade. Needless to say I am excited..

 

-Don

 

Quote from Scott's Blog:

"ASP.NET 3.5 Extensions Release

VS 2008 and .NET 3.5 include a ton of new features for ASP.NET development.  We are planning to deliver even more ASP.NET functionality next year with a "ASP.NET 3.5 Extensions" release.  The first public preview of this will be available for download next week on the web.

Next week's ASP.NET 3.5 Extensions preview release will include:

  • ASP.NET MVC: This model view controller (MVC) framework for ASP.NET provides a structured model that enables a clear separation of concerns within web applications, and makes it easier to unit test your code and support a TDD workflow.  It also helps provide more control over the URLs you publish in your applications, and more control over the HTML that is emitted from them.  You can learn more about it from Part 1 of my ASP.NET MVC Tutorial series.  I'm hoping to find time this weekend to write and post Part 2 of the series.
  • ASP.NET AJAX Improvements: New ASP.NET AJAX features in the ASP.NET 3.5 Extensions release will include better browser history support (back/forward button integration, and server-side history management support via a new <asp:history> server control), improved AJAX content linking support with permalinks, and additional JavaScript library improvements.
  • ASP.NET Dynamic Data Support: The ASP.NET 3.5 Extensions release will deliver new features that enable faster creation of data driven web sites.  It provides a rich scaffolding framework, and enables rapid data driven site development using both ASP.NET WebForms and ASP.NET MVC.
  • ASP.NET Silverlight Support: With the ASP.NET 3.5 Extensions release we'll deliver support for easily integrating Silverlight within your ASP.NET applications.  Included will be new controls that make it easy to integrate Silverlight video/media and interactive content within your sites.
  • ADO.NET Data Services: In parallel with the ASP.NET Extensions release we will also be releasing the ADO.NET Entity Framework.  This provides a new modeling framework that enables developers to define a conceptual model of a database schema that closely aligns to a real world view of the information.  We will also be shipping a new set of data services (codename "Astoria") that make it easy to expose REST based API endpoints from within your ASP.NET applications.
Silverlight 2.0 Release

Two months ago we shipped Silverlight 1.0 for Mac and Windows, and announced our plans to deliver Silverlight on Linux.  Silverlight 1.0 is focused on enabling rich media scenarios in a browser, and supports a JavaScript/AJAX programming model.

Next year we will be releasing a major update of Silverlight that focuses on enabling rich Internet applications.  This release will include a cross-platform, cross-browser version of the .NET Framework, and will enable a rich .NET development platform in the browser.  Earlier this year we shipped an early Alpha containing some of the basic functionality of the release.  Our next public preview will add considerably to this feature set.  Some of the new .NET specific features in the next public Silverlight preview will include:

  • WPF UI Framework: The current Silverlight Alpha release only includes basic controls support and a managed API for UI drawing.  The next public Silverlight preview will add support for the higher level features of the WPF UI framework.  These include: the extensible control framework model, layout manager support, two-way data-binding support, and control template and skinning support.  The WPF UI Framework features in Silverlight will be a compatible subset of the WPF UI Framework features in last week's .NET Framework 3.5 release.

  • Rich Controls: Silverlight will deliver a rich set of controls that make building Rich Internet Applications much easier.  The next Silverlight preview release will add support for core form controls (textbox, checkbox, radiobutton, etc), built-in layout management controls (StackPanel, Grid, etc), common functionality controls (TabControl, Slider, ScrollViewer, ProgressBar, etc) and data manipulation controls (DataGrid, etc).

  • Rich Networking Support: Silverlight will deliver rich networking support.  The next Silverlight preview release will add support for REST, POX, RSS, and WS* communication.  It will also add support for cross domain network access (so that Silverlight clients can access resources and data from any trusted source on the web).

  • Rich Base Class Library Support: Silverlight will include a rich .NET base class library of functionality (collections, IO, generics, threading, globalization, XML, local storage, etc).  The next Silverlight preview release will also add built-in support for LINQ to XML and richer HTML DOM API integration.

Previously we've been referring to this .NET-enabled Silverlight release as "Silverlight V1.1".  After stepping back and looking at all the new features in it (the above list is only a subset - there are many more we aren't sharing yet), we've realized that calling it a point release doesn't really reflect the true nature of it.  Consequently we have decided to change the name and refer to it as "Silverlight V2.0" going forward.

We will be releasing a Beta of Silverlight 2.0 in Q1 of 2008.  This Beta will support a Go-Live license that enables developers to begin building and deploying Silverlight 2.0 applications.

We will also be releasing a free Visual Studio 2008 tools update that provides great Silverlight 2.0 tools support within Visual Studio 2008, and enables developers to easily build Silverlight applications using any .NET language.  We will be supporting Silverlight development with both the Visual Studio 2008 Standard/Professional products, as well as with the free Visual Studio 2008 Express editions.

I'm going to be starting a new blog tutorial series in a few weeks that discusses how to build Silverlight 2.0 applications, and show off the new features in more depth.  Stay tuned for more details soon."

 

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Visual Studio 2008 Silverlight 1.1 Tools Ship!- No Love for Visual Studio Express 2008

by Don Burnett

Well just when you thought it might be safe to uninstall that beta 2 of Visual Studio. Microsoft has shipped Visual Studio 2008, including Standard, Pro, and Express editions.  Microsoft also has shipped Silverlight Tools for Visual Studio 2008..

 

It gives you the following functionality..

  • VB and C# project templates for Silverlight 1.1 development
  • Website item templates for Silverlight 1.0 development with javascript
  • XAML markup editing with colorization and intellisense
  • Intellisense against XAML elements in VB and C# code-behind files
  • Consumption of Silverlight 1.1 components inside Web Application and Website projects
  • Ability to create Web Services references in a VB and C# Silverlight component
  • Project compatibility with Expression Blend to enable developers and designers to collaborate on Silverlight projects
  • There is one caveat to this whole scenario though, if you are a beginning programmer and are using the Express Editions of Visual Studio 2008, then Microsoft is leaving you out in the cold for Silverlight development (well not quite! But close).. They have decided that the lowest version of Visual Studio that you can install Silverlight tools on to get some experience with doing Silverlight on is Visual Studio Standard edition. That means the Visual Studio Express SKU (visual web developer) doesn't include Silverlight projects in general.

    I can't help but think personally that this is a huge mistake, when looking at the bigger picture of Silverlight adoption. Considering that you can do WPF projects on Visual C# Express, why they decided to leave Silverlight support out of the Express editions (Such as Visual Web Developer) is beyond me.. The ASP.NET futures controls for Silverlight, such as the Media Element and XAML controls should be there across the board.. Is there monetization issues behind leaving support for this out?

    Bottom line, it's going to hurt adoption of Silverlight on a grand scale.. This also means I am going to have to do a whole series of articles on developing for Silverlight with Express, which you can still do, using the SDK instructions, it just isn't as easy or obvious as it will be with other versions of Visual Studio.

    I am honestly left thinking why? Is Microsoft shooting themselves in the foot. They could have a whole generation of new .NET programmers turned onto Silverlight who probably won't make the investment in Visual Studio right away who want to get started with Silverlight. Why not make it easy for them? The professional programmers really don't need the tools (yes I can add my own Silverlight project in minutes to Visual Studio) like the extra controls etc. It's just a nicety for pro's who already know how to code without it, but beginners need those projects and extra controls in the toolbox. The fact is the first time most people see or use Visual Studio it's not with their MSDN subscription, it's with these Express versions.  With the huge interest in Silverlight by many people including a lot of new to development people, it would make sense that Microsoft support Silverlight in Express.

    When are they going to get this together and do some right brain thinking on this subject. Making the cost of getting into Silverlight development really low would be a SMART thing for Microsoft to do..

    Someone whoever is in charge of this really isn't thinking this through. If you think I am right, you should help me start a write-in campaign to get Silverlight supported in all versions of Visual Studio including Express. It's just inexcusable that it's not there really..

     

    Monday, November 26, 2007

    Buyer Beware: NBC Direct Beta- Not a Happy User Experience

    by Don Burnett

    Today I restarted my computer, I had recently installed the NBC Direct Beta, and even though this uses what looks like WPF and Flash Video, after this I found my x64 Vista installation starting to LAG tremendously. I finally traced it down process by process, and this download unfortunately had installed a component it uses called the OpenCase Media Agent.. I had considered giving NBC Direct a really great write-up here because I really enjoy the application and most of it's implementation quite well..

    GOOD RIAs and BAD RIA's...

    While researching however I found my machine slowing down, mostly because of this process called MediaAgent.exe which was swallowing over 30 megabytes of RAM at one time and taking up way to much CPU time even when I wasn't even running the NBC Direct Beta.. The only way I could solve this problem and get my machine back to normal was to terminate the task and uninstall the NBC Direct Beta completely..

     

    This is what ExtendMedia has to say about the agent on their pages:

    "Maintaining a high quality service is all about a close relationship with the consumer. The OpenCASE Media Agent provides a client-resident application that helps you maintain this direct and persistent connection to your customers and their devices.

    You control the end-user experience. The Media Agent does not have its own presentation layer, but instead exposes programming interfaces (.COM, .NET, ActiveX) for easy integration with existing players, web pages or other applications.

    The Media Agent manages media downloads on the customer's device (PC and CE) by ensuring user authentication, delivering and revoking licenses, and providing intelligence on reporting. This intelligence - details on download progress, completed or cancelled videos, download device etc - help you trouble-shoot and improve your overall service offering.

    Media Agent Key Benefits

    • Provides a direct and persistent connection to your end customer
    • Manages licenses, ensuring that users and devices are authorized
    • Facilitates PC implementations
    • Provides total control over the end-user experience "

     

    Now I might be over-reacting here but I don't really like what I am reading here and I am really disappointed in NBC for implementing this in their product.. It sounds like a huge security risk, and I hate programs that keep open an internet connection on your machine to their system all the time.. Besides this it was sucking up nearly 30 Megs of RAM at a time and slowing down (humblingly so) my Vista x64 laptop with 2 gigs of RAM..

    I am not the only one who has experience.. I looked around on the web and found I am not the only one..

    There is a big example of this here..

    http://www.ghacks.net/2007/11/13/what-is-mediaagent.exe/

    Quoting the article there:

    "The only application that I did install the other day was NBC Direct. A quick check of the NBC Direct FAQ revealed that they were indeed using the OpenCASE Media Agent “that manages your video downloads and monitors for any updates and/or new content to be downloaded”.

    This means that this thirty Megabyte process MediaAgent.exe is wasting RAM and CPU cycles for doing nothing most of the time. I can understand that this process is started when starting NBC Direct but not if NBC Direct is not running at all.

    The OpenCase Media Agent is a service that is installed with NBC Direct in Windows that is automatically started when Windows starts. The option would be to either disable the service which would surely make NBC Direct stop working or uninstall both NBC Direct and the OpenCase Media Agent to get rid of it."

    I wholeheartedly recommend if you install this application to monitor what is going on with your machine. I praise NBC for getting into the Rich Internet Application arena, but if they are going to include "payloads" like this that are invasive running as a service that swallow RAM and CPU (all the things a TROJAN or virus would do).

    I personally won't install this application until they get with ExtendMedia and this component becomes less invasive..

    My personal opinion on this, is that mediaagent.exe in the least needs a serious re-write. Either way NBC should dump this if they want to be successful, otherwise this beta is going to see a lot of people disappointed and uninstalling when they figure out what this is doing to their machines..

    Stealing RAM and CPU cycles and installing a service without informing your users should be a serious NO-NO..

     

    Sunday, November 25, 2007

    Visual Studio 2008 Annoyances - Working with XML DataSources

    by Don Burnett

    Okay I sat down and started playing with Visual Studio Express 2008 sku's today. In general I am very impressed by the additions to the functionality.. But there is ONE simple thing that has annoyed me from even the last version of Visual Studio, that's of it's XML support and the consistency across products etc.. Now granted I am a designer/developer type. Which means I am more about design than I am development, but as a designer I have to occasionally dig into Visual Studio..

    I have blogged about this before, but I don't think anyone read it..

    Let's take a look here at a nice feature in Microsoft's own Expression Blend Product..

    When you add an XML datasource, it will nicely handle just about any web service including a SIMPLE RSS data feed...

    visual_studiopick1

    Meanwhile over in Visual Studio land with their designer, I still have to go in through code and parse the XML DATA... Or if I tried to add this as a web service or make a service reference, I get this..

    visual_studiopick2

    Or using the XML datasource control with a URL (you can't without going to code).. (the URL typed into the data field below does not work)

    visual_studiopick3

    It seems you still can't read in simply an RSS feed without code.. Now I admit I use blend more than I do Visual Studio, but honestly the Visual Studio team should be considering these kinds or things for consistency across the board. I know if I were a beginning developer and didn't know how to do this in code, I'd be in Blend almost immediately.. Simply put I think this is another misgiving that I have about Visual Studio and the Visual Studio development team at Microsoft. They seem to be ignoring how easy it is to do this kind of thing in even their other tools..

    I think it would do the Visual Studio team some good to start talking with the Expression Blend team and making some of the tools they have in later Visual Studio versions a bit easier instead of ignoring the obvious. Things that would help people new to the Visual Studio IDE keeps getting ignored, even though they have added MANY new features and simplified development greatly..

    I ask you your opinion, if you were working with XML data alone like an RSS Feed wouldn't you rather be doing this in BLEND? Come on, Visual Studio team you are ignoring some very obvious things that you could be improving how Visual Studio works, if you'd just be looking at how other products work even in your own organization..

    I am preaching unification here because Visual Studio still doesn't seem to be seeing the improvements that I am personally hoping for. Come on guys, simple additions like adding URL support to Visual Studio 2008's XML data source would have been a really smart move.. Meanwhile I am glad we have Blend! It's not always about bloatware, it's rethinking what you have already got to make it better..

    For those curious about using RSS with Visual Studio, there is an RSS screen saver code example (apparantly Windows APIs can read RSS they just didn't consider improving this functionality in Visual Studio itself.. But nevertheless, if you want to learn the Windows RSS API I suggest you look at this RSS screen saver example from the Coding4Fun dashboard application which you can download alongside the new Visual Studio Express editions or the C4F website itself.. Oh and that sound recorder Application that is below in the picture below the RSS example, doesn't work with the X64 edition, the program keeps coming back saying not a valid Win32 Application when you select "run app".. Yet another annoyance of mine, another team not writing for full 64-bit windows transparency.. There must have been an obvious hurry to get this stuff out..

    visual_studiopick4

    -

    Monday, November 19, 2007

    .Net Framework 3.5 and Visual Studio 2008 Ship!

    by Don Burnett

    In an early holiday gift to us all, we can all now have a great Thanksgiving holiday and be thankful that the .NET framework shipped today.. This new release along with Visual Studio 2008 brings uncompromising value and new capabilities to WPF and better development options for Silverlight. There are so many new features to talk about, it's probably beyond the scope of this article. For more information hop over to Soma Segar's  Blog..

    The New Asset Management and Version Control with Expression Studio

    by Don Burnett

     

    It's the age-old clash programmers versus designers.  The arguments have been very clear over the years, the solutions have not been as clear though. Process ends up ruling the day in most scenarios.. Let's take a look a bit closer:

    The Designer: "Boy this really messes me up, I hand-off a complete design to the developers and they carve it up like the Thanksgiving turkey. By the time their are done, all the integrity of the look and feel that I worked so hard on will be gone. They might as well had not hired me to do this in the first place if it was going to go down like this.."

    The Developer: "Wow these designer folks, they come up with some cool looking stuff, but boy when I have to go through and engineer it, they get all stressed and upset, because I have to break it down into something I can use.. If after I have the design engineered, they go back in and break my code.. I really hate this process, the designers step all over my work and make me work twice as hard when I have to fix something. They go in to change or fix their design and break all my hard work. I like how things work when I am in charge of everything, after all programmers are the project leaders, nothing would get done if not for us..."

    Why do we hear these complaints? Until now things like web projects and even desktop applications graphical assets and design and scripting have usually existed in the same page. This is most evident in a web project where you have HTML and scripting existing in the same place.. It's not only the designers that were unhappy with the process but the developers themselves. What has this done for the platform in general? Well hold things back mostly. Developers unsure of working with designers or unwilling to give them enough ownership in the project process to the designers have stifled the design process. This also means that the quality of the product that is produced many times has a bad design, or isn't functionally what it could be... Is there a solution?

    Enter Expression Studio and XAML

    XAML stands for eXtensible Application Markup Language and it is based on XML..  It allows you to build applications in simple declarative statements and can be used for any CLR object hierarchy (not just WPF) meaning that it can represents objects. It also allows you to separate the code completely from design. Code and content are separated so you can easily streamline collaboration between designers and developers. It's also easy for tools to consume and generate.

    For instance here's a snippet of code to make a light green button appear on-screen in XAML..

    <Button Width="100">OK

    <Button.Background>

         LightGreen

    </Button.Background>

    </Button

    Besides XML based elements declared in the markup the XAML file is completely separate from the code behind file. Because XAML markup needs to be well formed XML, each element defined in your markup should also be named so that when the elements are created and instanced they can be used in code and are created there as well.

    <Button HorizontalAlignment="Left" Margin="53,201,0,189" Width="111" Content="Button" x:Name="myButton"/>

     

    So how does this all change your workflow, since we can separate graphics designs as separate XAML pages from the code behind pages where we do various programming and scripting tasks we can work with them as separate the files. This allows us to check in the project files into version control using tools like Visual Studio Team Foundation server..

    So how does this answer the designer's complaints? Well quite nicely actually.. Expression Studio doesn't have any built-in version control, but that's okay because we don't really need it at that stage of the game. The way a designer handles assets and design elements is very different than a developer. Fortunately with Expression Studio Microsoft gives you Expression Media which can allow you to catalog everything the designer is doing and working on including revisions of graphics.. This is usually separate from the version control that developers do with code projects, but is a completely separate part of the process the developer doesn't catalog or have something to do with..

    How does this help the developer? Well let's examine the workflow from scratch...

     

    1. Developer and Designer get together to spec out the project with the team.
      1. Designer and developer arrive at a project format.
      2. Designer arrives at final design in Blend which is stored in a Visual Studio Project file..
      3. Finished design is handed off as a Visual Studio project to be checked into version control in visual studio.

    Here is a finished project still in Blend. Notice the visual studio project icons and layout..

    projectinBlend

     

    Here is the same project saved out of Expression Blend and re-opened in Visual Studio 2008. Note it's the same..

    projectinVS2008

    After you have checked this into version control in Visual Studio both artists and coders can check-in and out new and revised versions of the same software. As a developer at that point ownership of the project should be through the version control system you are using by the developer. If the artist needs to revise the design most likely only the XAML files will change, so if they get checked in only their designs will get updated, keeping the xaml separate from the code behind page.  So any updating they do really won't effect the code. Code changes or additions usually don't effect the design because it's in a separate file.

    Sure if you remove or replace or add elements, code is necessary to make events happen or something the developer will need to revise, but even if an element gets deleted from the XAML, the code should work as long as it's not referencing a deleted element which you would get a message about right away.

    You might ask yourself well version control sounds like a good idea with graphics, and yes we aren't advocating you track your assets with them and why there isn't version control in expression studio itself.  It's just that programmers and artists work differently so what you as a developer might want will still get tracked, but how a designer revises and keeps changed might be a totally different paradigm and how you track changes in the design revisions wouldn't be the same way you'd necessarily do in a programming project.

    ProcessFlowTest

    So why isn't there version control built into Expression products? It's all about the workflow, the project is handled by artists individually. A "final version" is then submitted to the visual studio project leader and version control manager to be checked in. If this is new, the project can then begin to be coded, otherwise if it's a revision (because it's already in the project and checked in), everyone should get copy of the new XAML and an updated project file when they check out the project on the team to work from.

     

    That's the beauty of version control. It's appropriate to put the requirements for version control in Visual Studio over Blend because it's likely that a developer may never need to step foot in Expression Design or Expression Blend.. Also really the "developer" not the designer should have rights over the entire project implementation.

    This makes designers then able to check in updates and new versions independently without having to worry about changes.

    Will Expression get real version control client capabilities? Only time will tell, but it's not necessary to be effective if you are doing proper project management and version control with Visual Studio and using it as the basis for project management..

    If you have a version of Visual Studio (not Express) that doesn't come with version control, you could also check out using Subversion with it. If you do have Team Foundation Server, you have excellent version control at your fingertips that will integrate well with your Visual Studio projects once you check them in, if they came from Blend of Visual Studio itself..

    If you are smaller you might want to check out version control clients like subversion, but be aware they aren't as nicely integrated and your designer folks will not want to learn or touch these. They really shouldn't be asked to in the first place other than furnishing a design with an initial visual studio project from Blend that you can check in as a developer into Visual Studio's version control. You can probably count on the fact that later down the road if further integration with Expression Studio and Visual Studio happens, it will probably be more compatible with the Visual Studio product versus third products like Subversion..

    Design Challenge Update

    DTD-Banner


    Need to keep up to date on PhizzPop and the upcoming design challenge? Click the banner above.

    Have you registered yet? If not, click the 'go' button.. The seats are filling up fast...

    Go-Button

    Sunday, November 18, 2007

    Intersoft Announces UI Components for Silverlight

    by Don Burnett

    Intersoft Solutions has announced a series of Web UI components for Silverlight.  These look really slick and their expected release is mid-2007..

     

    WEBUI

     

    Features:

  • Silverlight 1.0 Enabled

    Sirius is based on Silverlight 1.0 RTM to produce high performance and stable user experience. End users will only need to install the small Silverlight 1.0 runtime to use Sirius UI components.

  • Creates visually compelling Mac-style docking navigation

    This new and breakthrough UI components deliver richer user experience, by allowing users to interactively navigate and find through the available items. The interactive behaviors and motion-sense are the perfect replica of MacOS X Dock Bar.

  • Stunning Visual Effects and Innovative Features

    In addition to basic behaviors, the UI component is designed with Intersoft's own innovative features and visual effects, such as Spotlight and Reflection effect, Glowing as well as Flippering effect. All effects are highly customizable and combineable.

  • Hassles-free Docking

    You can choose the Dock Bar to appear in either one of four screen sides. By simply setting the Dock property, the control will automatically calculate the required positioning, dimension, layout and every details at runtime. You don't need to do any extra efforts such as swapping the Width and Height manually.

  • Automatic Resizing and Positioning

    "Sirius" UI components are not designed just to have great visual aspects and features. It also take care every little details that Web developer concerned. For instance, the control has full support for 100% width. When you resize the browser, the control will reposition itself according to the new position and dimension in realtime.

  • Extremely Customizable

    You will feel amazed to find out how you can customize every little details and visual aspects of the UI components. Either you want to have a perfect replica of original Mac Dock Bar or the extended behaviors such as the one in Star Dock, or the one in Linux, or perhaps your own style - you can do it all.

  • Great Programmability

    As of all Intersoft's components, the Sirius components would have comprehensive client side API using the same manner and approach that developers have familiar with. Although Sirius is based on the brand-new Silverlight technology, it doesn't limit Sirius components to offer great programmability. Some examples, you can change the Docking position at runtime. You can also change the button's text or its image, or just anything else you can imagine.

  • Strong XAML Support

    You may have been asking how Sirius components related with the XAML concept introduced by Silverlight itself. In fact, Sirius introduces ability to incorporate custom XAML in many part of the control's functions. For instance, you can create a custom XAML for the background visual effect, then assign the XAML file in the BackgroundSetting's XamlUrl property. This enables the leverage of original XAML concept exposed by Silverlight and Expression-based product lines.

  • More UI components

    The final version of "Sirius" will contain several more UI components, besides the one currently demonstrated.

  • Sunday Night News

    By Don Burnett

    Hob Noble Gobbles!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I wish you and your family all of the best. The holiday week is coming up, however there are some really cool and important events coming up that you should know about just after the holidays and I am not talking about "Black Friday" sales. It's going to be a December to remember in the design community, but more about that a little bit later. First onto XAML adoption..

    Moonlight Madness (Surveying Open Source Blogs featuring XAML and the Moonlight Plug-in)

    Bringing Silverlight to the Linux community is starting to bear some really cool results.. Over at Jackson's Activity Log it's noted back in September that they got the plug-in working to allow layers of html elements on top of a Moonlight control. That meant sites like tafiti.com now works within the Moonlight plugin.. Apparently this wasn't supportable until Firefox version 3.0 and that meant also that other plug-ins like Flash couldn't support it. Score one for IE flexibility..

    Also at Jackson's Blog he has written a nice beginners guide to writing XAML by hand.. It's actually very useful for even Microsoft Silverlight developers and will talk about how to right XAML, well formedness, properties and collections. It's a good introduction if you have never looked at XAML before. He even explains how to define custom tags.

    A December to Remember...

    phizzpopChallenge

    If you haven't heard about it, all next month the Phizzpop Design Challenge continues regionally, in Austin, Boston and New York, as well as Los Angeles and Chicago. What's so important about this event ? It will bring together the best of the best designers in a competition to see who can come up with the best design solution in the shortest amount of time. You will see some really skilled people attacking problem solving situations in real life. The winners will compete at the South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin, TX. The regional competitions will be open to the public (you do have to register to attend) and space is limited and filling up fast, so please register soon. On top of this all Microsoft is also giving out some free beverages (woo hoo!). This sounds like a totally great time, seeing design professionals in action in a swanky "hotspots and free beverages, what more can anyone ask!

    Regional Locations

    New York
    Hiro Ballroom
    http://www.themaritimehotel.com/hiroBallroom.html
    363 West 16th Street
    New York, NY 10011
    212-242-4300
    Doors Open: 6pm
    End Time: 11pm then club opens to public welcome to stay
    Directions
    Chicago
    The Underground
    http://www.theundergroundchicago.com/
    56 West Illinois St.
    Chicago, IL 60610
    312-644-7600
    Doors Open: 6pm
    End Time: 10pm
    Directions
    Los Angeles
    Elevate Lounge
    http://www.takamisushi.com/
    811 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 2100
    Los Angeles, CA 90017
    213-236-9600
    Doors Open: 6pm
    End Time: 12am
    Directions
    Boston
    Saint
    http://www.saintnitery.com/
    90 Exeter Street
    Boston, MA 02116
    617-236-1134
    Doors Open: 6pm
    End Time: 10pm then club opens to public welcome to stay
    Directions
    Austin
    J Black's Feel Good Lounge
    Black's
    710 W 6th St Ste B
    Austin, TX 78701
    512-433-6954
    Doors Open: 6pm
    End Time: 10pm
    Directions

    Saturday, November 17, 2007

    Local News Break

    by Don Burnett

    Tonight I am digressing a bit from the standard content here to talk about some things I have been watching that I find really very cool.

    Michigan Flash Festival Wrap-up

    Last weekend I had the honor and great pleasure to be asked to demonstrate Expression Studio, and WPF and Silverlight technologies at the Michigan Flash Festival. What really was exciting about the event is the incredible group of professionals this event brought together with the recognition that even using different companies technologies, we all share a basic common goal of creating great Rich client applications, on both the web and on the desktop as well.. I have been asked (as part of Michigan Interactive Designers) to help with next year's event.. It's nice working with these people and they are pretty dynamic. I look forward to more collaboration opportunities with everyone..

    If you haven't been here check out these sites:

    http://www.semafx.com
    http://www.flashfocused.org
    http://detmmug.com
    http://www.organic.com
    http://www.eprize.com

    Thanks also to Chris Bernard of Microsoft for providing two prizes for the presentation two full retail release copies of Expression Studio (A $600 value each). I'd also like to thank Josh Holmes our regional evangelist for advice and help with focus in the presentation even though he wasn't going to be in town, he went out of his way to help us out.

    Oredev 2007

    As some of you know, I do work in design and training and do presentations on User Experience based design and workflow. I was very honored to be asked to present at Oredev 2007. Unfortunately because of problems getting a birth certificate and passport in the time needed to attend the conference I didn't get to go. However, my very capable colleague Ken Arbogast-Wilson was able to attend and present for the conference and provide a workshop. I'd also like to thank George Bolsch of Dotway.se and everyone involved with the conference for the opportunity to present. Ken and I are really committed to getting the message out and trying to make life better for both designers and developers and to help enhance their workflow with relevant tools and technologies to enhance that workflow such as WPF, Silverlight, and Expression Studio. We like to show companies how they can work better and faster together with these technologies and tools.

    Michigan Interactive Designers November Meeting

    Our meeting, though lightly attended because of the new day (moved due to the Thanksgiving Holiday) was still quite successful several contest winners were announced:

    Electric Rain StandOut Design Contest winner: Greg Good - Greg submitted the winning design kit.

    Microsoft Expression Studio Blend Contest winner: Shawn Heid

    December Meeting Contest: Using Expression Blend with 3rd party components such as Identity Mine's Blendables


    And now for something completely different...

    As you know I am not a "fanboy", I like technologies that work and do what they are supposed to, nor am I platform religious. I reward and support companies that really offer enabling technologies and try to work on whatever I feel best gets the job done. Having said all of that, I didn't start life on Windows (though it's where I spend over 90% of my time these days) but on the Amiga. After Commodore died, I migrated to the Windows platform, although I also have done much work on the Apple Macintosh platform as well. I figured it was the last time I would see the Commodore-Amiga OS in any significant way. I was mostly right, yeah there is an Amiga Inc. out there, but there website seems mostly focused on selling PocketPC games for Windows Mobile.

    arosKitty Enter AROS.. The AROS Research Operating System is a lightweight, efficient and flexible desktop operating system, designed to help you make the most of your computer. It's an independent, portable and free project, aiming at being compatible with AmigaOS 3.1 at the API level (like Wine, unlike UAE), while improving on it in many areas. The source code is available under an open source license, which allows anyone to freely improve upon it.

    This is a freely downloadable OS, that while doesn't offer binary compatibility takes a lot of the common "concepts" that made the Commodore-Amiga OS so popular and extends it now to Intel and PowerPC computing platforms. It also has a cute "mascot" I personally have a great interest in the x86 and x64 versions of this operating systems. I have watched this public project grow from something that barely boots up to a very functional operating system that is seeing some really great things happening. For instance over at the AROS Show Blog it was announced that a developer (Robert Norris) is working on a web browser based on WebKit, the browser that Apple's Safari and Linux's Konqueror is based on. This should do a lot to propel AROS forward as an operating system and AROS adoption by more Amiga community members, as there is much frustration in the existing Amiga community because there isn't a good up-to-date web browser for their platform and there has been much frustration over failed starts on a project to bring the "mozilla" browser to that platform.


    If you haven't looked at AROS lately I'd suggest you download the latest build. Their new installer (besides AROS's recent support for networking (TCP/IP, and common ethernet card chipsets)) actually supports multiple partitions (System Partitions, Work Partitions, and Windows Partitions)..

    The themed look is pretty cool too (you can set it up anyway you want) and the operating system doesn't require a fast state-of-the art PC to run effectively.Note the networking configuration preferences..

    AROSTCPConfig-Profile

    This operating system, while it probably will never be mainstream is turning into a great way for hobbyists to explore multimedia. This OS also gives you another alternative to Linux one that you might find more interesting because it's lightweight and has no where near the hardware requirements (yes it still could be put on a FLOPPY disk and booted from it) and it's easier to learn than a Unix style OS..

    If you are curious about it's multimedia capabilities, you only have to look at programs like LunaPaint for AROS, to see the capabilities and the cool lineage from Amiga multimedia..As capabilities grow, this OS has the potential to be a heavy hitter.. It's reuniting the existing Amiga community (both PowerPC, 680x0, Intel Friendly derivatives) and runs on a number of machines including really cheap Intel machines (including the new $200 Everex Green PC at Walmart which I learned about over at Matt Cutts Blog) .

    lunapaint

    Friday, November 16, 2007

    Developer Express Launches DXperience

    by Don Burnett

     

    Developer Express sent me an announcement of some new products they are bringing out.. I usually don't talk about ASP.NET products here, but Developer Express usually does a great job with visual components and with a name like "DXperience" I couldn't resist mentioning it here. They are a great company with some great talent and a proven track record for high value component products.  At least it's not an attempt at misusing the term "user experience" as so many other Visual Studio component marketers are today.. There products are both visual appealing and useful.

     

    The Press Release:

    Developer Express is proud to announce the immediate availability of DXperience v2007 vol 3 - Feature-complete visual components and IDE tools for Visual Studio .NET. Our technologies help you build your best, see complex software with greater clarity, increase your productivity and create stunning applications for Windows® and the Web in the shortest possible time. All of our products come with a 60 day unconditional money back guarantee and fully functional evaluation versions are available for download at devexpress.com.

    With v2007 vol 3, ASP.NET product line has been extended with the availability of the ASPxScheduler Suite. Built and optimized for ASP.NET 2, the ASPxScheduler Suite includes all the tools you will need to create web based scheduling solutions that mimic the capabilities found in Microsoft Outlook.

    In addition to the ASPxScheduler Suite, we've extended capabilities across our entire product line. Major new features include:

    XtraGrid Suite

    - New LayoutView – powered by features found in the XtraLayoutControl Suite, it allows you to present data to your end users in a variety of unique ways. You can freely customize field layout and thus use form space more effectively.

    XtraEditors Library

    - New Components: DropDownButton & DXValidationProvider

    - Embeddable MarqueeProgressBar –°ontrol

    - GIF animation support in PictureEdit and ImageEdit

    - Displaying RTF Data in Container Controls

    XtraBars Suite:

    - Standalone Toolbars

    - A number of Ribbon enhancements: Ribbon Merging, Customizable Height for Embedded Editors, Displaying Bar Commands to the Right of Tab Headers, Transparent Background for In-place Editors, New Navigation Capabilities

    XtraCharts Suite

    - A number of new 3D Bar Views

    - 2D and 3D Doughnut Views

    - AJAX Callback Support

    - Empty Point Representation

    - Advanced Customization

    XtraReports Suite

    - A number of major ASP.NET improvements: Complete AJAX Callback Support, Medium Trust Support, Report Caching for Faster Navigation and Export Operations, Document Map Support (Bookmarks), The Ability to Build Custom Report Toolbars

    - Cross-Band Controls (Line and Box)

    - Built-in Data Filtering support

    - Anchor Control Edges to Band Edges

    ASPxGridView and Editors Suite

    - Popup Edit Forms support

    - Group Summary Footers

    - Grouping Intervals support

    - Custom Sorting

    - Support for Sorting Data by Display Text

    - A New Button Control

    - A New Spin Editor Control

    - A number of ASPxCalendar enhancements: Multi-Date Selection, Multi-Month View, Fast Navigation Panel, etc.

    - A number of ASPxComboBox enhancements: Incremental Filtering (Auto-Complete), On-demand Item Loading, Keyboard support

    - A number of general enhancements.

    Common Enhancements across our ASP.NET Component Suites

    - SEO-Friendly Paging

    - Images for Selected and Hot-tracked Elements

    - Enhanced Client-Side API

    A good number of new other capabilities...

    To learn more about this release and experience the Developer Express difference first hand, feel free to visit:

    http://www.devexpress.com/Products/NET/DXperience/WhatsNew2007v3/index.xml

    and

    http://www.devexpress.com/Support/WhatsNew/NET/7.3.2.xml

    Tuesday, November 13, 2007

    Flotzam Brings Visual Appeal in a Mash-up Application

    By Don Burnett

    Flotzam is a cool new mash-up application by Karsten Januszewki and Tim Aidlin. It's a very cool RSS, Facebook, Twitter, Flicker and Digg. You can review content that you are subscribed to on each of the services. It can be run as a 1-click install application or a screen saver. This shows off the power of WPF and mixed datasource. After a few minutes you'll be entranced at the information passing you by... It's worth the download..

     

    Flotzam2

    Chizen Stepping down

    by Don Burnett

    According to an article in MacWorld, Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen will step down from his post at the end of the month, the company said Monday. The article sights a number of reasons, the most shocking comment made in the article was a comment that he is attributed to having made was that "Chizen called dealing with the financial community “going to the dentist without Novocaine” and said the transparency of his life as CEO is “weird” and “awkward” because “everybody knows how much money I make and everybody thinks it’s too much.” Adobe is a leader in the market for providing development and design tools for building rich Internet applications (RIAs).

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    Silverlight Ink

    by Don Burnett

    In case you have missed it, Silverlight just isn't making strides as a cross platform media playback system, but one of it's least known and used features "INK" is making an impact on the world as well.. Ink works on Windows Tablet PCs and UMPC's, but it also works anywhere you have a PEN, including other platforms like the Mac. So what are people doing with this? Loren Heiny, has created a Google search application that uses Silverlight's ink functionality called SearchTIP. To get to the Google search app I have below you can click here..

     

     

    ink1

     

    Sunday, November 11, 2007

    Finally they are working on the Photoshop Upgrade that we all want..

    by Don Burnett

    Over at News.com, Stephen Shankland, has an article on the aspirations of the "in-planning" Photoshop overhaul. This is great news and something that I was hoping to see happen for a very long time. I was hoping it would happen during the CS3 timeframe release, but thank the powers-that-be that they are considering this (better late than never).

    I have been hoping for a truly configurable Photoshop for a very long time, last time I mentioned this and how even a shareware program like Paint.NET was catching up to it, I was ridiculed by a hoard of Adobe pundits, who didn't at all agree with me that the program was becoming bloatware and showing much age. When you have a company flagship product it's very difficult to admit or even see when a product needs change and it has indeed in use grown way past the original intent of the program...

    I wish them the best in their efforts, the industry could really use the changes described in the article.

     

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    Thursday, November 8, 2007

    WPF Components Market: Consistency Needed!

    by Don Burnett

    Ryan Stewart has a nice article over at ZDNET about the component market for WPF heating up. It's true this is happening, and it's kind of exciting. I love components, they make programming a lot easier. I think my favorite components set for WPF so far is Identity Mine's Blendables which I have blogged about previously. Why do I like this so much? They get components for WPF. Their components are completely compatible with both Expression Blend and Visual Studio. Why? well, most of these components are designed to have some sort of UI elements included. Since most WPF components are supposed to be "look-less" so they can be styled by a designer. Visual Studio components are most UI type components anyway with some sort of data binding.

    There are several Visual Studio component makers who have started creating WPF components for Visual Studio, but they aren't compatible with Expression Blend. It's not much extra work to make a component compatible with Blend. This also important because it expands the market for component products. I am working on compiling a list of components that don't like Expression Blend and plan to shine a huge light on those developers who haven't got there yet with supporting Expression Blend. It's sad to say however that some components in certain SDKs even from Microsoft don't support Expression Blend across the board, however I hear all that stuff might go away when those products see release. I'll be putting a list of compatible components up on MichiganInteractiveDesigners.org which is going through a complete site revamp this month.

    Tuesday, November 6, 2007

    Windows Live Goes Live!

    By Don Burnett

    liveinstaller

    Windows Live Installer Gets Redemption! 

    This is the much improved Windows Live Installer.. Have NO FEAR, it works great.. Well I was very critical of the first Windows Live installer and it's distaste for 64-bit systems. The final version however is FABULOUS and all those 64-bit woes are gone..  I must say I am very impressed.. I got a new versions of Windows Live Messenger, which has some great new features. It also installed Windows Live Mail which is a new mail client supports multiple accounts on different servers including web based Hotmail. The Windows Live Photo Gallery has many improvements over the Vista Photo Gallery including publishing photos to many services including Flickr, MSN SoapBox, and MSN Live Spaces. Another nice feature is you can open your photo in any installed imaging application you have and select from any of them.


    Windows Live Writer is seeing some improvements too, in formatting, media insertion. My favorite feature and most bloggers will like is the Split Post option..Is this really worth your time to download? If you Blog you probably can't do without Windows Live Writer it's really a great lightweight performing application.

    The new photo gallery makes sharing your pictures much easier and Windows Live Mail, well it's so nice I'd probably buy it alone, it makes the need for a business mail client like Outlook a lot less of a requirement.. As far as Windows Live Toolbar I am not so much a fan of toolbars (I kind of wish this was a ribbon not a toolbar, but maybe that's too much to ask for..).

     

    Ken Arbogast-Wilson: Silverlight at the University of Michigan College of Architecture and Urban Planning

    by Don Burnett

    A Unique Cross-Platform Silverlight Solution at University of Michigan- Ken Arbogast-Wilson The Interview

    By Don Burnett

    Ken Arbogast-Wilson was nice enough to sit down with me and let me interview him about the College of Architecture and Urban Planning new use of Microsoft Design Tools and software, as well as, Silverlight to solve a huge cross-platform content delivery dilemma. We plan a more in-depth look at this solution and how it was implemented in an upcoming video netcast..Thanks Mr. Arbogast-Wilson for allowing yourself to be interviewed... So here we go..

    Question One:

    So Ken what’s your relationship to the university and school etc..

    Ken Arbogast-Wilson: I am the manager of media development and production at the University of Michigan College of Architecture + Urban Planning. I am essentially responsible for the college's web presence, as well as assisting in technology development used by our six programs. With over 600 students, 65 faculty, and 30 staff, we are constantly looking for new ways to leverage technology to help improve the educational environment and make our instruction more accessible.

    Question Two:

    I hear they are going to start using Silverlight for their Lectures?

    Ken Arbogast-Wilson: The college turned 100 in 2006, and we had a year or high-profile events that necessitated web video, both on-demand and live streaming for several lectures and a three-day conference. In spite of settling on using windows media multiple bit rate streaming for these events, we also created quicktime versions for audience members with Macs. Lets just say we spent a lot of time encoding last year. I started dabbling in Silverlight video just recently, and by using Expression Encoder, I was able to create a cross-platform video with its own player that would execute right in the web page.

    Question Three:

    What kind of content?

    Ken Arbogast-Wilson: We have a variety of content, but essentially public lectures by noted architects and planners. We also have some projects created by students as part of their coursework, and recruiting videos. A lot of our architecture students create 3-D animations of their work in 3D Studio Max, I could see making those more accessible through Silverlight too.

    Question Four:
    Why Silverlight?

    Ken Arbogast-Wilson: Simplicity and power in one package. I like that I can encode my footage one time, have the player already configured, add a leader and trailer, and get everything I need to go live. With the possibility of up to 720p quality output, I can create work that would not only be usable on the web, but in a studio course, or for student reviews. What's more, I can customize the whole project in Expression Blend, adding even more functionality, and improving the user experience for our audiences.

    Question Five:

    How is it being received so far?

    Ken Arbogast-Wilson: Our IT manager was stunned when I showed him. I expect we will receive very favorable reactions from visitors to our site when we release a series of lectures on diversity later this month.

    Question Six:
    How easy was it to do a Video Project in Silverlight?

    Ken Arbogast-Wilson: It was very easy. I am a designer first, and tech guy second, and I was pretty excited that I could see my intention show through with very few compromises to the design aesthetic. Between Expression Encoder, Blend, and Design, I have a suite of pretty tightly integrated tools to accomplish nearly anything I can dream up.

    Wow that's impressive. Thanks Ken for your time..We will be visiting Ken again soon, with a more in-depth look on our new netcast.

    Look up in the Sky, it's a DLR, no it's a CLR, No it's DotNetBar....

    By Don Burnett

    Denis Basaric of DevComponents emailed me to let me know about some really cool new things going on over at DevComponents including their new DotNet Bar control for WPF. This includes a new high-performance Advanced Window control with Office 2007 style and custom styling support which allows you to style every single part of the window including title bar, border and system buttons.
    Here is screen-shot of the custom style applied to Advanced Window:

    customwindow

    You can find complete source code for this style in RibbonPad sample project included with new release.

    DevComponents have also added Live Preview support to Ribbon buttons as well as better support for Windows Forms controls in Wpf-Dock control through DockSite.DockHintOverlay property. When set, it uses different overlay implementation so docking hints are displayed on top of windows forms controls.


    Also included are fixes for issues that were discovered since last release. DotNetBar™ for WPF now includes Wpf-Ribbon and Wpf-Dock controls that were previously released to help you create professional WPF applications with ease. Wpf-Dock is fully featured Docking control with Auto-Hide functionality, Document Docking, Diamond Docking guides and much more. It is also first control of its kind in Office 2007 style with stock Blue, Silver and Black color schemes as well as custom color creation algorithm based on single color so you can create great looking color schemes by specifying only single color. You can read more about Wpf-Dock at: http://www.devcomponents.com/dotnetbar-wpf/.


    Make sure to check out the RibbonPad sample included with DotNeBar for WPF. It shows both Wpf-Ribbon and Wpf-Dock controls working together.

    You can download fully functional trial version at http://www.devcomponents.com/dotnetbar-wpf/

    The license is only $249 and source code license is available. There are no run-time royalties you can distribute it freely with your applications. You can install it on your desktop, laptop and build machine without additional licenses. You also get 12 months of all and any updates, regardless whether they are minor or major.

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    Monday, November 5, 2007

    Sunday Night Safari

    by Don Burnett

    Warning this is an Off-Topic Post.. We will return to WPF and Silverlight News later this week...

     

    The Mobile Web

    The mobile web is improving by leaps and bounds thanks to the Apple iPhone, and iPod Touch which have built-in WiFi and web browsers, not to mention the stuff going on over on the Microsoft Windows Mobile platform with Windows live.. So I thought I'd take you through a tour of some of the best mobile web sites/and applications I have found to date..

     

    Google Mobile

    This rocks, not only does it do search, but Gmail, photos, docs, photos and an RSS reader..

    googlemobile1

     

    Meebo.com

    Instant messaging on any major messaging system anywhere, over the web.

     YellowPages.com

    Great phone number search application

    trafficreport_20071011110159-thumb  Traffic Report

    Traffic Reports by zipcode.

    hahlo_20071024163345-thumb  Hahlo.com

    A great twitter client application, I prefer it...

    cbsnewscomforiphone_20071024162759-thumb CBSNEWS.COM

    A great iphone version of CBS News..

    movieticketscommovieshowtimesandticketing_20071011110222-thumb MovieTickets.com-

    Great mobile movie schedule site and movie review blogging all in a mobile format.

    iribbitthumb iRibbit.com

    Ebay application (enough said)


    typepadforiphone_20071011110206-thumb TypePad.com

    Blogging application

     

    espnpodcenter_20071011110230-thumb  ESPN PodCenter

    Sports and more sports..

    icosicomicsonsale_iconologycom_20071011110209-thumb  iCOS

    The latest releases in comics and action figures..

    enophisocialrssfortheiphone_20071011110239-thumb   Enophi

    RSS reader with social networking.

     

    weatherbug_20071011110240-thumb WeatherBug

    Weather and your local forecast with Quicktime video streaming

    This is just SOME of the useful mobile website's out there today..

     

    ultralinguamobile_20071011110215-thumb  UltraLingua Mobile

    Language Translation software..


     

    facebook_facebook_20071011110217-thumb  Facebook.com

    Facebook is now mobile..