I am planning to install Vista on my home PC.  While I am really excited about it, I keep hearing about “little problems” that people are having and it is making me nervous.  My friend Jeff had a post on his blog about the problem he had – he couldn’t hook up his Cannon Powershot camera to his computer because there were no drivers for Vista.  He found a work around for the time being and it is no big deal.  But it makes me wonder, if I have a bunch of these little problems, will it all add up to be a big problem for me?


An actual “large” concern of mine is that I occasionally support an app created with Visual Studio 2003.  I have no plans to convert this application to work with 2005.  But Vista doesn’t support VS2003.  Again, I can work around this by setting up a Virtual PC with Windows XP and VS2003 but you know that is a pain.


Stay tuned, when I install Vista I’ll be blogging about the experience.  Hopefully the features will out-way the issues!

Peter Laudati has a good post on his blog about the Microsoft on-line mapping service.  I really agree with the point he makes.  I don’t know what the mapping service is really called but you can check it out here.  I’ve used this service before.  If you haven’t used it, it is Microsoft’s answer to MapQuest or Google Maps.  The product is pretty slick and the aerial photos on it may be the best on the web.  And it has some great 3D features.  But I am not going to debate the pros and cons of one mapping service vs another.  The biggest problem with the Microsoft service is the name.  The website says “Live Search” at the top and “Microsoft Virtual Earth” at the bottom.  And the URL is any of the many url’s that you used to find the site. So which is it?  And what does Live Search mean?  How would I know that has anything to do with maps?  Plus they changed the name a bunch of times including local.live.com (or was it live.local.com?  Who can remember?) and maps.msn.com, etc.  You would think a monster company like Microsoft would have a better idea of how to brand products properly.  No one has to wonder what “Google Maps” or “MapQuest” means. 


In my opinion, this is not the first similar mistake Microsoft has made.  I am a happy C# developer and I love .Net, but I hate the name!  .Net???  What were they thinking?  What does that mean?


There is definitely a lesson to be learned here.  I hate to say it but no matter how great are code is, without good marketing guys we are screwed!

Philly.Net hosted its second Center City meeting on April 11 at Structured Hosting.  Just like the last meeting in NJ, we had a capacity crowd again.  I think these new meetings/venues are a success!  If you missed the meeting (or if you need some details) here is my synopsis.  Thanks again to Dani and Mike for setting it up.

And don’t forget our next meeting is April 18 at SEI in Oaks, Pa.  See the Philly.Net site for more details.

 

Note:  I’ll add the slides and content to this post as soon as I get them from the presenters.

 

Presenter:  Jason Beres, Infragistics

Topic:  Understanding ASP.NET AJAX and the AJAX Control Toolkit

Jason is the Chief Technical Evangelist for Infragistics.  If you are doing .Net development, you probably have heard about Infragistics’ popular control packages for Windows and web development.  In his presentation, Jason shared some of his expertise on ASP.Net AJAX.  He described the new framework (previously known as ATLAS) which provides infrastructure, javascript libraries, and server controls.  The coolest part (in my opinion) is that you don’t need to write any javascript to do it.  Check out  www.asp.net for all sorts of info, tutorials, downloads, etc.  AJAX enabling a web site allows for, among other things, asynchronous communication for partial postbacks between the browser and the server.  This means that you can provide a much richer UI on the web.  Jason also recommends checking out the ASP.Net 2.0 Ajax Futures CTP as well as the Ajax Control Toolkit (the toolkit is open source) which both include a bunch of controls that are not included in the original download.  He demo’d the popular UpdatePanel which is the control that instantly “ajaxifies” (sorry, that’s my word, not his) any controls that get put in the panel.  Instant AJAX, you’ve gotta love that!  He also showed us how to use samples included in the ASP.Net Ajax Control Toolkit such as the Accordion, AlwaysVisibleControl, Collapsible Panel, DragPanel, DropShadow and ModalPopup.  This is very cool stuff.  I have been using AJAX for a while as well and I recommend it highly.  It is a great way to make a better web UI.

   

Jason and Infragistics were kind enough to provide 3 licenses for Infragistics Net Advantage (I think this is valued at $995, sweet!) as door prizes.  Thanks Jason! 

 

 

Presenter:  Walt Ritscher, ScandiaSoft

Topic:  WPF — Microsoft’s Magnificent New Graphics Engine

Walt was in town from Washington State for a few days and offered to stop by and do a presentation for us.  Check out his blog WPF Wonderland to learn all about Windows Presentation Foundation.  The stuff he showed off is not easy to put into words but the demo’s were very cool.  Here is my attempt at summarizing what he talked about.  Sorry Walt if I’ve I’m not accurate.  I learned a lot tonight, even if I can’t explain it correctly!

 

With WPF we will have the ability to create applications that look drastically and dramatically different then before.  He listed some of the benefits and concepts of WPF:  The Compositing Engine, Graphics Processor Unit, Drawing (animations are faster), DWM-Desktop Windows Manager (with Vista, applications don’t render the graphics, the DWM does it for them).  With WPF you have only 1 windows handle, no refreshes, no paint events, and you can layer controls.  You get much better graphics (faster, vector based drawing, opacity masking).  WPF provides a model for templates and styles so that all controls are now style-able, sort of like CSS for windows.  He showed us how to use XamlPad (download it here) to quickly and easily create controls with features that would have been difficult or impossible up until now.  He even created a button with a checkbox inside it! 

Another topic he covered is WPF/E.  I think The “E” stands for “everywhere”, so in this case we can apply WPF to the web.  He showed off come cool demos including some found at Channel 9.

He ended a few cool demos including  how to create a “cloth” (this can’t be explained, it had to be seen) with text and a 3-D scatter chart in WPF.  This presentations had lots of “oohs” and “ahhs”.

This was a great presentation and one thing is clear, we all have a lot of learning to do!

 

Meeting Sponsor:  Thanks for the pizza!  

Additional Door Prizes courtesy of:  and Microsoft


My wife Rebecca and I just got back from a great trip out west!  We took advantage of her spring break to head out to see some of our great  National Parks.  The trip was awesome.  I had been to Arizona before so I had seen some desert landscapes.  And I had been to Utah before but that was for skiing.  But there is no preparing for the beauty of these parks.  They were unlike anything I had seen before. 


You can read the stories below, or just look at the pictures included, all of which were taken with my camera.  If you click them, they get bigger!


 


After spending a quick night near the airport in Las Vegas, we hopped in our cool rental,  a blue Chevy Malibu.  In about two hours we arrived at Zion National Park.  Our first stop was the campground to find a place to sleep.  We got a nice spot with a fantastic view!  It was March 31 and Zion’s official season started on April 1.  That meant it was the last day that cars are allowed on the scenic road through the park.  So we decided to take a car-tour of the park.  We stopped at the Court of the Patriarchs, Weeping Rock, and a few other stops, eventually making our way to the Temple of Sinawava.  The sites were great all along the way.  Dinner was Rebecca’s famous (well,  famous for us) Campground Pizza cooked on the open fire.  The next morning I made us omelettes with fresh bell pepper and cheese (on the camping stove) and we headed out for Angels Landing.  This is a great day hike (1500 ft climb in 5 miles, about 4.5 hours including a 45 minute lunch break).  A lot of people tried to scare us off this one saying it was too scary and dangerous.  That’s because the last 1/2 mile is a steep hike on narrow cliffs.  There are permanently anchored chains to help you hold on.  But in the end we didn’t think it was too scary at all.  That didn’t take away from the fact that it was an amazing hike.  After an exhausting hike up the steep lower portion of the trail we got to the even more steep “Wiggles” which brings you to the first great scenic overlook.  This is where a lot of people end their day but we continued on the true peak.  Scrambling along the rest of the way with the help of the chains was a lot of fun.  And the view from the top was well worth it.  It was a great place for our lunch.  Not a good place to be if you are scared of heights but otherwise great.  The hike down was much quicker but pretty tough on the knees!


 


  Our second night was fun, we had an easy dinner… mac and cheese.  The sky was again very clear with an almost full moon.  The next morning after pancakes we were off for Bryce Canyon National Park.  Bryce is hard to explain, you just have to see it.   Bryce is full of Hoodoos, these crazy rock formations that.  From a distance, you’d swear must have been man made.  After once again pitching our tent on an incredible camp site, we headed off to the scenic drive to check out the awesome vistas.  After an early dinner (I made sauteed chicken and red bell pepper with couscous on the camp stove) we headed back to Inspiration Point (I kept thinking of Ritchie Cunningham…”I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill”) to watch the sunset.  After a “chilly” night at around 30 degrees, we   went out for a day hike of the “Figure 8″, an 8 mile (I think) combination of three trails:  The Navajo, Queens Garden, and the Peek-A-Boo Loop.  It goes right through the heart of the park’s natural “amphitheaters”.  On this trail we got to explore the Hoodoos that we had admired from above on the previous day.  The sun was bright and hot, it was hard to believe  the temperature was only in the 50’s all day.  Also, we have learned that the key to solitude in these parks seems to be the longer day hikes.  You start out with a lot of people but if you hike out a little bit the crowd thins as most people don’t do the 4-6 hour hikes that we like.  So we did have some quiet, peaceful time out with the Hoodoos.


After another night camping around the freezing mark, we packed up and headed down to warmer climates at Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon Recreation Area.  Since the lake was about 1/2 way to the Grand Canyon, we figured we’d spend a day there.  After a quick stop to check out the Glen Canyon Dam (a pretty cool dam) we pitched our tent at the campground overlooking the lake.  Since the previous parks did not have showers, we figured this would be a good time to wash up.  We grabbed a handful of quarters and hit the “pay” showers.  All cleaned up, we were off to the town of Page for lunch.  Unfortunately, we quickly discovered there wasn’t anything to do in Page and the Lake didn’t offer much entertainment without a boat.  Uh oh, time for a change of plans… we are outta here.  We decided to bail on this stop and head for the Grand Canyon.  This would give us an extra 1/2 day there to explore.  There are really only a few decent hotels near the Grand Canyon in Tusayan (I knew the ones inside the park itself were already sold out).  I called all 5 of them and got lucky on the last one, getting a room for the night.  By the time we checked in there were no vacancies left in town so I think we got lucky!  (We changed hotels the next day to the one we had booked previously) From here on out, we are no longer camping.  Hotels, restaurants, and climate control!


 


  Our first view of the Grand Canyon was from the Eastern entrance by the watch tower.  Of course we  had big expectations and the Grand Canyon did not disappoint.  It is huge. It is beautiful.  It is amazing.  There is no question why it is one of the 7 wonders of the world.  We stopped along the way a few more times to check out the vistas (it is a long drive into park) and before long it was near dusk so we stopped one last time to check out the sunset.   We spent our first full day at the Grand Canyon hiking the South Kaibab trail (6 miles round trip, very steep, no available water).  Unfortunately we planned this trip too late so we could not get a permit to hike to the bottom and camp overnight.  But the Kaibab trail was a great way to go part of the way down into the canyon for a short while.  It was pretty crowded until the first rest area where most people quit.  We pushed on and made it to Skeleton Point where we could see the Colorado River for the first time.  We had lunch and relaxed before the hard part, the hike back up the canyon.  That evening we caught  up with Rebecca’s friend Shaine and her husband Brett who drove in from Colorado to spend  some time with us at the Canyon.  Brett used to guide hiking and rafting trips in the Grand  Canyon so spending the day with him is like having a personal tour guide.  It was very educational and a lot of fun for me since I like a lot of facts.  Since they have a four-month old baby Rosie, we were limited to the rim trails for the next day but the views were incredible and we saw a lot of the canyon, staying now mainly to the west side of the park.  We also had the treat of several California Condor sightings. 


 


The next morning we headed back to Las Vegas for one night before our flight home on Sunday.  But I’ll write more about Vegas, it deserves its own post.


Once again Rebecca and I had great adventure.  We met a lot of nice people along the way, saw many, many incredible sights, and had a lot of fun together.   I am already looking forward to our next trip (which has yet to be planned)!   Also, I am planning on posting some more pictures on the web soon.

Meeting Date: March 29, 2007


Philly.Net has expanded.  We now host meetings in the Philly Suburbs,  Philadelphia (Center City), and now…South Jersey.  Thanks to Travis Laborde for getting the new South Jersey branch going.  Tonight’s meeting was a huge success.  It was standing room only with about 50 attendees which is pretty impressive for a first meeting.  Pizza and location provide by New Horizons Training Center.  Plus, Travis’ wife Jessica treated us to a cake to celebrate the start of Philly.Net in NJ.  It was a great meeting.  Please read on…


Presenter:  Travis Laborde, Data Deluxe


Topic:  Developer Testing


Not only did we learn a lot from Travis’ presentation but we laughed a lot too.  Travis always does a great job to make sure his presentations are fun.  Tonight he talked all about developer testing.  And typically for Travis, he included bunch of great tools.  He demo’d the basics of NUnit, a FREE tool that assists with executing test classes.  He also showed MBUnit which he dubbed “NUnit on steroids”.  This tool allows you to execute similar tests as NUnit, but introduces the RowTest attribute so you can run the same test in multiple iterations, passing in different parameters each time.  Next he went through testing for “Code Coverage” via TestDriven.Net and NCover.  He ended up with some quick demos of SeleniumIDE, a very cool FireFox add-on that allows you to record steps in the Browser so you can play them back.  This gives you the ability to test an ASP.Net UI over and over again automatically.


If you are into free tools and tips for .Net development, check out Travis’ clipmarks site where you can read about all kinds of cool stuff.


 


 


Presenter:  Scott Watermasysk, Telligent Systems


Topic:  ASP.NET Tips & Tricks


Scott has been posting ASP.Net tips and tricks on his blog for a while.  Tonight he went through a bunch of them for us.


It is hard to summarize Scott’s talk because he talked about so many items.  The good news is that most of the content is up on the web, check out the links included in my text. He provided us with a ton of tips for everyday use.  Some tips provided for controls:  Try to use <asp:Literal> control instead of <asp:label> and use <asp:Repeater> instead of <asp:GridView> where possible.  Some general ASP.Net tips included:  use Page.IsValid from button event handlers, use the AppOffline.htm page when you are doing “construction”, use the new VirtualPath class to convert relative paths to absolute ones.  And Scott also spent a lot of time talking about State Management and Caching tips.  He also recommended a few articles:  one by Fritz Onion on Control State and “A Matter of Context” by Susan Warren.  I’ll update this blog post and include his slides as soon as I can.


As a special bonus, Scott provided free copies of CodeSmith Professional for all attendees.  This certainly went over big with the crowd.


 


Meeting Sponsor:    


Additional Door Prizes courtesy of:  and Microsoft