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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Next Week I'll be Mixing it up!

by Don Burnett

Well Mix 08 is upon us... There are a number of things that I expect to be announced that Microsoft employees have already blogged about and let the cat out of the bag about so to speak... I figured it would be fun to collapse all of those announcements here (those that are public right now anyway), so for those not going because it's sold out, and for those that are going to know what the cool things we already know about that we can examine more in-depth.

Internet Explorer 8

Over at Josh Allen's Mix Blog, we learn that Dean Hachamovitch will be keynoting the event and introducing us to Internet Explorer 8.0. Sounds like from reading the IE blog also this one has a super-standards rendering mode that kicks!

Expression Studio

A new version which supports all current released products. You don't have to be a mind reader on this one, because Microsoft has been sending out Expression Blend 2 preview releases for sometime now. After reading Scott Guthrie's blog, I am sure we can expect one to support Silverlight 2.0 as well. If there is a new version expect an "IMMEDIATE" review from me of it all.

PHP Support

Besides IIS 7 support FASTCGI, the web server now supports PHP and it looks like corporately Microsoft is going to support PHP corporately in addition to as an alternative development environment. It's nice to see Microsoft embracing open standards like PHP officially now, for both authoring and delivery.

Silverlight 2

The big announcements are already at Scott Guthrie's blog blog, but it sounds like we can expect a fully featured 2.0 this time (not the under developed 1.1), with things like data binding and an SDK full of controls including things like a datagrid. It's kind of exciting to see this but it sounds maybe more feature filled that WPF, so there may be something WPF has to actually catch up with some of the features that are present with Silverlight. Microsoft is a big support of the 3rd party controls market for Visual Studio, so I expect they left a few out on WPF expecting the third parties to fill that gap. It's nice to see they might not be taking that approach with Silverlight.

In case you haven't seen what any of this stuff looks like the following images have been posted to other folks blogs:

From Shawn Burke's MSDN Blog (Visual Studio 2008, support Silverlight):


And the Silverlight 2.0 Controls Toolbox  from the Danny Douglass Blog (note all the cool new content controls):



The real reason to come to Mix 08: Community

These are all cool reasons to come to Vegas this year, but it's not the only reason. In the past year we have had a lot of exciting things happen. We have seen the entire Mix community grow from infancy to a serious marketplace. It's really exciting to see where this has came in a year.. I have made many new friends along the way.. I will be blogging and hopefully giving you a "ground level" view of what's going on this year at the conference and hopefully some interviews with folks making a difference in the community.. Each year I have been so far has given me insight, access to a lot of new ideas and great new technology that brings folks together.

If anyone wants to get with me, during Mix I love meeting people for coffee, food, oxygen (SMILE)... you can email me and I'll send you my cellular phone # so you can TEXT me to get in touch with me during the conference. I love meeting folks, networking and having fun..

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Silverlight 2.0 Set to Arrive Soon (Can't wait for Mix 08)

by Don Burnett

Over at Scott Gutherie's Blog, he has released a series of first articles (and code samples) on Silverlight 2.0.. Since this information is released publicly I thought it would be nice to talk a little bit about it here and the important things for our community to know about it.

What is Silverlight 2.0?? 

Quoting Scott on his blog "Silverlight 2 includes a cross-platform, cross-browser version of the .NET Framework, and enables a rich .NET development platform that runs in the browser.  Developers can write Silverlight applications using any .NET language (including VB, C#, JavaScript, IronPython and IronRuby).  We will ship Visual Studio 2008 and Expression Studio tool support that enables great developer / designer workflow and integration when building Silverlight solutions."

What features have been added that improve on Silverlight 1.0's functionality?

Again quoting Scott's Blog:


  • WPF UI Framework: Silverlight 2 includes a rich WPF-based UI framework that makes building rich Web applications much easier.  In includes a powerful graphics and animation engine, as well as rich support for higher-level UI capabilities like controls, layout management, data-binding, styles, and template skinning.  The WPF UI Framework in Silverlight is a compatible subset of the WPF UI Framework features in the full .NET Framework, and enables developers to re-use skills, controls, code and content to build both rich cross browser web applications, as well as rich desktop Windows applications.
  • Rich Controls: Silverlight 2 includes a rich set of built-in controls that developers and designers can use to quickly build applications.  This upcoming Beta1 release includes core form controls (TextBox, CheckBox, RadioButton, etc), built-in layout management panels (StackPanel, Grid, Panel, etc), common functionality controls (Slider, ScrollViewer, Calendar, DatePicker, etc), and data manipulation controls (DataGrid, ListBox, etc).  The built-in controls support a rich control templating model, which enables developers and designers to collaborate together to build highly polished solutions.
  • Rich Networking Support: Silverlight 2 includes rich networking support.  It includes out of the box support for calling REST, WS*/SOAP, POX, RSS, and standard HTTP services.  It supports cross domain network access (enabling Silverlight clients to directly access resources and data from resources on the web).  Beta1 also includes built-in sockets networking support.

  • Rich Base Class Library: Silverlight 2 includes a rich .NET base class library of functionality (collections, IO, generics, threading, globalization, XML, local storage, etc).  It includes rich APIs that enable HTML DOM/JavaScript integration with .NET code.  It also includes LINQ and LINQ to XML library support (enabling easy transformation and querying of data), as well as local data caching and storage support.  The .NET APIs in Silverlight are a compatible subset of the full .NET Framework.


Wow he said it, databound controls, i.e.,  DataGrids, Listbox, etc.. This will change the face of Silverlight applications almost immediately. Networking support including all major web service protocols, cross-domain access and "socket" support.. This rocks. Especially considering this is all CROSS-Platform..  He also mentions things like threading, generics, collections, storage and LINQ support..

If you have never heard of LINQ it stands for Language INtegrated Query and lets you code things you'd normally have to use stored procedures for and gives you very secure ways to access data from XML and other sources..

He also goes further to do a great six part tutorial on how to create a sample "Digg" application in Silverlight, then in parallel with a platform-dependent version using WPF to show the parallels of creating an application..

I would say if you are familiar with Silverlight 1.0 the important reads are

Part2: Using Layout Management

Part 3: Using Networking to Retrieve Data and Populate a DataGrid

Part 6: Using User Controls to Implement Master/Detail Scenarios

Part 7: Using Control Templates to Customize a Controls Look and Feel

All of these are very NEW topics to Silverlight Designers and Developers and Scott walks through them very thoroughly and it's a very easy read. The functionality added with Silverlight 2.0 really underscores the commitment made to the Silverlight platform itself. With the new controls, databinding and cross-platform functionality. It's a new day for Silverlight where real Rich Interactive Applications are possible from inside a web browser with services that the built-in framework provides the plug-in that haven't been available to web applications developers before. Web applications will now have most of the power of desktop applications. Also, due to the cross-platform nature of Silverlight 2.0, your customers will not worry about what OS you are running..

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

DreamSpark gives away free software for College Students

by Don Burnett

As you know I have been writing about Microsoft's Live@EDU initiatives, well they announced a new one today in conjunction with Channel 8 called DreamSpark..

What is DreamSpark?

DreamSpark is simple, it's all about giving students Microsoft professional-level developer and design tools at no charge so you can chase your dreams and create the next big breakthrough in technology - or just get a head start on your career. If you make money on these however you will be asked to purchase professional licensing for the products..

Who can get this right now?

Microsoft is kicking this off in 11 countries/regions, giving DreamSpark to millions of students in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, China, Germany, France, Finland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Belgium. If you are not residing in one of the countries listed keep checking back, they will be adding more countries throughout the year.

Does that mean that I might not get in?

Possibly, if you are not residing in one of the countries listed, not attending an accredited university or not a member of one of the student organizations that we're connected with. But keep checking back, as they are working on adding more ways to verify your student status all the time.

What do you have to do to get this software? Not much really, just select a product and follow the steps below.

  • Sign In with your Windows Live ID. If you don't have one, go get one here. Pretty basic stuff.
  • Get verified as a student. The system is linked to schools and organizations around the world that can confirm student status. Simply choose your country and school, enter your info and hit submit.
  • Download your products. Now remember these are professional tools. This means they are pretty big files so make sure you have the bandwidth and space to bring them to your machine. Microsoft supports the latest versions of both Internet Explorer and Firefox for your download.

What can you get? These and MORE..

Saturday, February 16, 2008

What I love about Expression Studio (yes I am an Expression GEEK)

By Don Burnett


Someone asked me the other day why I am so jazzed about Expression Studio and why my own focus has went away from using products like Adobe's Creative Suite.. Well, it's not that I don't like Adobe products, but I think the collaboration/integration effect of Expression Studio's products has won me over for UI development and here's why..

Expression Design

Everyone in the world remembers Fractal Design Painter which became Creature House’s Expression 3 late in the game. It was the first program that was vector based to do everything people wanted with bitmaps and in my humble opinion it competed very well with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for people doing vector based design. Expression Design still does that extremely well today. Somewhere along the path to Expression Design 1.0 it seemed to lose its identity because of the interface makeover to be in-line with other Expression products, but when I ask people out in the field, if they remember Fractal Design Painter, all of the sudden customer acceptance goes up 1000 % with designers. I think Microsoft should make that lineage of the product more “known” to customers. Because at first glance, customers don’t think much of the product. When they find out it goes back to Painter and all the cool texturing and natural drawing things that it can do, then folks get really excited very fast. Those I have taken that point with really embrace and like the product and do things with it. The old product had a really “steadfast” community around it. It would be nice to get some of these folks back talking about it.

Check out this review (it’s glowing) ... The highlight of that review is the sentence “In a nutshell, Expression 3, like its predecessors, is a natural media vector-based drawing tool. Unlike most paint programs that use bitmap images, Expression uses vector graphics to create effects that seem impossible using programs like Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia Freehand.”  I believe that is very true even today with Expression Design. I have high hopes that Microsoft will be promoting that fact in marketing..

Expression Media

Yet another product bought into the fold. Formerly I-View Media Pro.. One of my first jobs was with a company called Media Station. We did Disney’s Animated Storybook series for Windows and Mac (Lion King, Pocahontas, Winnie the Pooh), and others for Universal, Mattel and others. I worked for both the art and engineering departments and one of my duties was asset cataloging, version control, and making sure the right graphics and animation made it onto the CDs… I so wanted a program back then like I-View Media Pro, because back then we did this with terabyte hard drives and the old version of MS-Access. There was no XML or programs that would do this. I believe this is a really great program, and whether you are a professional developer, a pro photographer, or just someone who has a collection of media, this program is very “right sized”.  Mac folks love this because they have been already familiar with and using I-View for years.. It fills in between iPhoto and upper range products like Light Room and Aperture. But not just on the Mac, there is nothing else like this on Windows..

Expression Web

I have been a Macromedia Dreamweaver user for years, since 1.0. I got tired of paying for updates (or having my company do it) which really didn’t add extra features and just re-scrambled the interface into something that didn’t work better than the previous version and fixed bugs. My development experience has been that I gravitated towards the benefits of ASP.NET and Dreamweaver only partially supports ASP.NET functionality (not fully 2.0 or later compliant). Plus there was a lot of very “legacy” stuff in Dreamweaver that I had to get around to support the latest standards based web functionality.

Expression Web is a great product, mainly because it’s standards based and supports today’s standard web pages and the rendering is beautiful on IE and supports Firefox and Safari wonderfully. The only thing I kind of miss is the user driven EXTENSIONS architecture that Dreamweaver, but it seems like that might be changing with 2.0 and above.. Having a completely standards based program means extensions aren’t as necessary anyway.   I think this product really lives up to its advertising.. I reworked my portfolio site completely using it. I have had people compliment me on it. It’s a dynamic site with full JavaScript and XML support. If I add a new project to my portfolio, all I have to do is make a new entry to an XML configuration file and insert the metadata in for the project description and point at the paths for the screenshots. Expression Web made that all easy, and the CSS functionality is great..

Expression Blend

The product team doing this powerhouse really pays attention to what people are doing with it and I love it. The interface makes things incredibly easy and the  product just rocks. I would love to see Microsoft market the “extensibility factor” and adding custom controls with this and do some partner marketing with folks like Identity Mine who are doing custom control add-on's for Blend. Visual Studio built a huge “custom controls” vendor market around its product. This is very possible with Blend and something I’d like to see more happening with this. It’s looks like we are at the beginnings of this, I'd like to see more from the Visual Studio 3rd party control vendors.

Expression Encoder

Another great tool, it does just what we need. I don’t want it see it change..  I would love to see more people do live stuff with it, and I am looking forward to seeing case studies about how it was used with MSNBC for the Olympic games..

Expression Studio is no longer a new product, and I am seeing people get really excited about it and doing some really cool things with it. A lot of the situation is just getting people using it and liking it, I believe adoption is spreading significantly.  I think it’s a powerhouse set of products that in many ways do things better than Adobe’s CS3 and have many specific features that Adobe doesn’t and it can really enhance designer and developer workflow.

That's my take on things...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Microsoft is "LIVE" in Higher Education..

By Don Burnett

In case you haven't noticed it in all the Microsoft Yahoo news online, Microsoft's Live services has been making some serious in-roads into education.. They now have a website that brings this together.. it's called My Live@EDU. Besides being a great example of a website UI done completely in Silverlight, the site details a plethora of services Microsoft offers both individuals and schools in  higher education.




Without paraphrasing the site, Microsoft is offering students, staff, and faculty things like

  • 1 Gigabyte of online storage for free (that's like over 1000 free files of online storage), using web accessed SkyDrive that works on Mac, Linux, and Windows.
  • Office Live online collaboration, for both faculty, staff, and student projects requiring group collaboration (again completely cross platform). I can't say how exciting this really is because you can also preview just about any document online in the browser, including Word, Excel, etc. and share it with others and collaborate right there online.
  • 5 gigabyte Hotmail accounts (including university domain branding), with special functionality for Staffing, students, and even Alumni.
  • Free PC to PC calling services with Windows Live Messenger
  • Mobile access to Live Services on your cellular phone.
  • Live Spaces (create your own home page and blog)
  • Live Photo Gallery for photos and video storage import and catalog (along with some cool photo manipulation including creating panoramic shots).
  • Live Writer for writing blog entries

Is anybody really using these? Wow they are! Even close to home!

Well check this out, there are colleges and universities out there already using these services campus-wide and Microsoft has profiled some of these great institutions on the site, folks like Ball State, and Indiana University.. Wow this is pretty cool, check it out..


Away at College and Need Extra Cash? Microsoft is putting money back in students pockets with contests and affiliate deals and Student Film Contest..

Beyond this Microsoft is offering a couple of really cool contests to promote these new capabilities.  One of these is the Microsoft Mashup contest.. Create a great web based mashup  application and you could win CASH or an XBOX, both things people want on campus. I have never heard of a poor college student turning down MONEY, or a great game console like the XBOX 360. All the tools required are a free download including web hosting..

Microsoft's Online Campus Film Festival

Not a web developer guy? More into performance arts?  Microsoft is offering a very cool contest for the budding film student in all of us, put your own short film online and win up to $12,500.. Now, that's a bit more than a semester of lunch and dinner money at the student center..




Now if all of that doesn't really get you excited, you should check the deal through on Microsoft Office that they have for students through April 30th, get Office Ultimate (yes that's every single Office Application out there (not just the home and teacher edition) for just $59.95. That's like over 90% off the purchase price. Also if you sign up for their affiliate program and you sell your friends on buying Office at that deal you can make money back off of it yourself. Now that's some dough at the end of semester when money is tight.




Say it with a SMILE! and put some dough back in other needy pockets!

Microsoft also is promoting "Operation Smile" a charity program that donates money for every picture with a smile you send them. Microsoft has received over 613,000 smiling photos to date.. go to the page and put your smiling picture up and help someone out today..

Windows Live Smile Page and if you like to use instant messaging, then

IM it and support your charity with Windows Live Messenger.. Each instant message is a donation to a charity that you choose..

TOO BAD SO SAD! They'll never do it on My Campus..

So you say to yourself this all cool but my school won't go for it? Never say never, Start your own campaign at the LIVE@EDU site today.. Get you and your friends to send email to your IT Administrator and start a campaign to get this, that will convince them that you want this all available on campus. Including on your cellular phone.



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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Boy, for some Mix '08 is going to be a real "TRIP"

by Don Burnett

Well in the spirit of the movie "RV", the Microsoft folks are going to be making Mix 08 the start of a real "trip"..

Picture this, Microsoft employees out on a road trip in an RV?? Uhtoh!! Well I bet they are going to be off showing off some cool things. Too bad it seems to be isolated to areas near the west coast, but if you happen to be at one of their stops (Iike Mix 08) you can see the bus and experience the entourage..



The Cast of Characters:

Check out their site, you'll wanna keep an eye on these characters.. Twittering is probably the best.. (And yes! They are twits and you can tweet  with them at

Or if you are one of the millions of facebook denizens..

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Another Big Win for Microsoft , Caligari is now part of Microsoft

by Don Burnett

Well I can't say that this news hasn't got me excited ever since I found out. Microsoft has purchased Caligari, makers of TrueSpace 3D modeling software. Why is this so exciting for me? The first real time 3D modeler I ever touched was Caligari 3D on the Amiga platform years ago (1985-86). At the time it was just a real-time 3D wireframe modeler, but I could see the advantages of creating 3D models in a real 3d environment, not a tri-view..  Now we have full real time and rendered output and a super modeling environment all in real time 3D.

TrueSpace (the current product) has grown an industry around it. I have had the pleasure of meeting Roman Ormandy, in the past, and know what a dynamic developer he is. He is a man of great vision for products now in the 3D space.  TrueSpace is used in industries ranging from broadcast animation to product design.

TrueSpace  and their great 3d Technology will become a product in the Virtual Earth stable of Windows Live. This also should mean some great advances for Web 3D. I could see it integrating well with WPF 3D and Expression Blend as well.

Congratulations to Roman and company, this is also another great win for Microsoft and brings an incredible infusion of talent to Windows Live and the Virtual Earth Community.

Besides Virtual Earth I (for one) would like to see TrueSpace become Microsoft Expression 3D.. Who knows, love to see that announced at Mix 08 (no I haven't heard anything officially).  It does fit in well with WPF 3D though.. We can only hope

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Panning for Gold (or maybe Silver) on CodePlex

By Don Burnett

CodePlex is a great place to find great tools and open source if you are looking for components and nifty cool tools and programming projects to inspire you and move your own projects forward. I took sometime tonight to look at some of the latest projects that are in the works and found some gems that you might not actually realize was out there..

Trolling Codeplex

While panning for gold (or maybe just some Silverlight) I found a great project that brings EXtensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) protocol to WPF Windows applications. It's a whole WPF client to support this called BinaryDialog  (aka BI Log IM). Besides being originally in French but easily translated using Babelfish. Keep a watch on this project as it should bring an open source messaging capability to your WPF applications.

Another gem was ZipStudio 2008. Yeah it's a utility/Visual Studio Add-in but it makes quick work of zipping up entire projects, especially if you have to make a copy of the project to a remote worker or customer for review directly in Visual Studio.

Sifting through the silt I also found the start of IronLogo, a currently very simple implementation of the LOGO language that uses IronRuby and runs from the DLR. This will be great for Silverlight in education as it's still a very popular first language for kids..

gemblaster GemBlaster a very familiar looking game, which I still have a lot of fun with. It's done in Silverlight 1.1 by Keith J Rome and the source code is also present at codeplex so you can take a peek at how the game was created.

I know we all know how to play this game, but this version sure is a lot of fun and it's pretty quick.. Take a look, it's worth the browse..




PolyGraph3D is a basic 3D scene graph engine that provides the essential mechanics of displaying 3- dimensional objects in a 2-dimensional viewport using Silverlight 1.0 (3D objects are drawn into any existing Canvas element). This project is 100% cross-browser JavaScript.


PolyGraph3D has many basic features of a typical 3D engine, including polyhedral hierarchies, positioning/scaling/rotation, movable camera, and multiple brushes.


SVNConverter to the Rescue!

Starting with Team Foundation Server now, but have to migrate your source from Subversion? There is a handy dandy Subversion converter tool on CodePlex to make your life easy.. It transfers files, folders, version history, branches, and user information from a SVN database to Team Foundation source control.

Got LINQ? (Language Integrated Query)

And of course for builders there are now a ton of LINQ providers on CodePlex so you can connect to any and all sorts of data. These are very important to WPF developers and will see a lot of interest by developers when they start building with Silverlight 2.0. If you don't know what LINQ is; it's new to the .NET Framework 3.5 that allows more SQL-like querying of any kind of data. In the case of LINQ to JavaScript, it provides the ability to query against Arrays.

Here's a sampling of LINQ providers on CODEPLEX

LINQ to JavaScript

LINQ to JavaScript (JSLINQ for short) is an implementation of LINQ to Objects implemented in JavaScript. It is built using a set of extension methods built on top of the JavaScript Array object. If you are using an Array, you can use JSLINQ.


LINQ To SimpleDB

A LINQ provider for Amazon SimpleDB

LINQ Alias Generator

LINQ Alias Generator will automatically create "friendly" alias names for database column names commonly used in Linq2SQL.

PHPLINQ - LINQ for PHP - Language Integrated Query

A set of PHP classes mimicing C#3.0's LINQ (Language Integrated Query) extension methods.

Continuous LINQ

Continous LINQ is a .NET Framework 3.5 extension that builds on the LINQ query syntax to create continuous, self-updating result sets.

LINQ to Google

Linq to Google allows developers to easily query Google's Data Sources using a strongly typed syntax. Linq to Google shows an example of implementing IQueryable and IQueryProvider.


LinqExtender is a query provider library that can be used to create custom LINQ providers without knowing anything of how expression is parsed or processed.

LINQ to Active Directory

LINQ to Active Directory implements a custom LINQ query provider that allows querying objects in Active Directory.


Easy to use LINQ priovder for Flickr, the api gives the power of query language right to the doorsteps of Flickr.

LINQ to Lucene

Providing a custom LINQ solution for the Lucene Information Retrieval System, commonly referred to as a search-engine.


InterLINQ is an IQueryable Provider implementation. LINQ stands for Language Integrated Query and is one of the most important and powerful features of the new .NET 3.5 Technology


NLinq is a framework focusing on reimplementing the Linq functionnalities in Visual Studio .Net 2003 and Visual Studio 2005 (C# & VB .Net) by providing a Linq grammar parser and a "Linq To Objects"...

LINQ to metaweb(freebase)

Implement linq for metaweb api.

System Search to LinQ

The main goal of this project is create a LinQ extension to interact with the new functionality of desktop search using de advantages of the elegant and efficient programming model introduced by C#.

LINQ over C# project

This project is an extension to LINQ to provide query functions over C# language elements. The query parses the project files and works over the C# source code.

LinqToGeo - Language Integrated Query for Geospatial Data

LinqToGeo provides language-integrated query to geospatial data.

SLINQ - Streaming LINQ

An implementation of LINQ focused on streaming data.

MetaLinq - LINQ to Expressions

Class library that allows developers to use LINQ to search through and edit expressions in place, without having to manually recreate the expressions.

Cs2GenLinqToXml - Linq To Xml code generator

the utility allows: - To open a Xml file: the XLinq code is then generated in the richtextbox (and the structure of the Xml document posted in a treeview) - You can also copy in the clipboard of...

LINQ Expression Builder

A SQL to LINQ translator that will help the development community to adopt the new expression language using a user friendly integrated tool for Visual Studio 2008.

LINQ to SharePoint

LINQ to SharePoint is a custom LINQ query provider implementation for SharePoint that translates LINQ queries to CAML in order to query SharePoint lists.

i4o - Indexed LINQ

i4o (index for objects) is the first class library that extends LINQ to allow you to put indexes on your objects.


A port of Rainbow open source portal on .NET 2.0 using LINQ technology.

A custom implementation of the .NET Standard Query Operators from LINQ

This project provides a custom implementation of the .NET Standard Query Operators from LINQ, including unit tests for all operators.