Dave is a Principal Technical Evangelist for Microsoft focused on Windows, Windows Phone, Windows Azure and the Web. Based out of the Greater Philadelphia Area.
As you may have heard, we released Visual Studio 2008 SP1 RTM earlier this week. Even though I wear a Microsoft badge - I always like to wait a bit before I install any RTM release on my "production" machine. This isn't to say I don't have all the latest beta bits on two of my other "demo" machines - but the laptop I usually use for my speaking engagements I keep pretty clean. Close to what an enterprise developer today would be allowed to have on their box.
Maybe it is the fact that I've been working professionally as a developer for close to 15 years and have still have the scars from being burned a bit. Anyone remember upgrading to VS2005 and finding out that there was an entirely new ASP.NET web project format? We eventually fixed that with templates you could download, which was rolled into SP1. How about when Vista came out and VS2005 wouldn't run on it? Or having just the Cider extensions preview to do WPF work in 2005 before Expression Studio came out? Hey - I feel your pain. I've been there in my cubical till 8pm at night because I'm uninstalling releases to get my machine back. I think Microsoft as a whole is making great strides in this space (faster release cycles, more open betas, better transparency, and a connection to you guys out there through blogs like this). Part of my job is making those changes and also giving feedback to the teams of your pain points.
So here is an honest account of when you should install this service pack on your machine and when you should not.
First - if you are planning on using any of the updated Business Intelligence features inside of Sql Server 2008 you will need this release. If you have used BIDS - Business Intelligence Development Studio, which you most likely have if you have done any integration services or work with cubes, you probably have seen it uses the Visual Studio shell. The version in 2008 takes advantage of some of the features in SP1 so it will require it to be installed on your machine to use the new tools. If this is the case for you, go grab the service pack right now here.
Second - if you are planning to use the Data Services Library in Silverlight 2 beta 2 then hold off on installing this service pack for now. The results can be a bit "flaky". My buddy Shawn Wildermuth has detailed information about the issue you can read here. Otherwise go grab the service pack right now here. After you install it, make sure you install the updated Silverlight 2 templates that understand the SP1 changes. You can grab those here.
Lastly - if you are working with WPF at all you WILL WANT this release. I detailed some of the exciting features in this space in my previous post here. If you are like me you probably have seen some of those cool BitMap effects you can add to your interfaces inside Expression Blend or Design. Heck, one of the first things I did was add drop shadows to everything. But what a lot of people didn't realize was that these effects prior to SP1 were not hardware accelerated! Take into account the increased speed you can get from using the GPU for these effects and the performance improvements in SP1 around databinding - you may find your application performing 2-3x better just by recompiling under SP1. It is like an early Christmas present. =) So grab it here.
Besides all that great WPF goodness - this release is packed full of numerous other stuff. ASP.NET MVC, ASP.NET Dynamic Data, ASP.NET AJAX History, ASP.NET Routing, ADO.NET Data Services, ADO.NET Entity Framework, WCF 3.5 SP1, and the .NET Framework Client Profile. Scott Hanselman is running a great post that goes into more details. And even though it is from the beta release, Scott Guthrie has tons of details on what is inside as well.
We also released a training kit centered around the changes. Demos, PPTS, walkthroughs - you can get it all in one place and have it on your machine to decide yourself if you need to upgrade. Download it here.
One gets the feeling this isn't just a service it is almost like an entirely new version, eh?.
Lots of stuff to talk about in this release – better scalability, concurrent workload management, new data encryption, and new policy based management.
What has me excited?
The new Business Intelligence (BI) features:
“SQL Server 2008 BI—Is It for Your Organization? As I’ve mentioned earlier, I see scalability and performance as the most significant areas of improvement in SQL Server 2008. Reports run faster, various queries can execute faster, and writebacks in SSAS are faster. A handful of brand-new capabilities, such as the Data Profiler in SSIS, may also make you think seriously about migration. Overall, SQL Server 2008 is an evolutionary upgrade which provides a better performing BI platform.” - SqlMag, May 2008
“SQL Server 2008 BI—Is It for Your Organization? As I’ve mentioned earlier, I see scalability and performance as the most significant areas of improvement in SQL Server 2008. Reports run faster, various queries can execute faster, and writebacks in SSAS are faster. A handful of brand-new capabilities, such as the Data Profiler in SSIS, may also make you think seriously about migration. Overall, SQL Server 2008 is an evolutionary upgrade which provides a better performing BI platform.”
- SqlMag, May 2008
The all new Report Designer:
And the spatial data capabilities:
Check it out now for yourself.
I blame my experiences with Facebook. More and more I have found myself looking at my friend status updates. No new e-mails? Nothing happening on the Information Super Highway? Well let’s go check out what our friends are doing?
As more people I knew came on Facebook (keep in mind a majority of my fellow GenX’rs are just waking up to this Social Networking thing) it took on a life of its own. Suddenly I was catching up with not only fellow co-workers, but people I hadn’t seen in over 20 years.
And now Twitter. I think it all started for me a few months ago when Alex and Kevin, the Diggnation guys, starting competing for followers on twitter. Then came a lot more of the Revision 3 folks I have watched since TechTv like – Sarah Lane and Patrick Norton. Not long after I realized a lot of my fellow Developer Evangelist buddies were on there like Pete, Andrew, Glen, Brian, Zain, Lindsay, Asli and Doug. And let’s not forget some of the Internet Rockstars in the Microsoft space like Scott, Tim and Shawn!
I think I get it now. Twitter brings the conversations and the community feeling you get when you are at work with a bunch of fellow coders or at a usergroup talking about technology. BUT – it is with people from all over the world. Think about it… we all come across links, or pieces of information so many times in a day that we don’t e-mail or blog about. Usually I just IM a buddy or too – but now that stuff filters through Twitter. And it goes out virally – soon those same pieces of information you start seeing bubbling your way. And you can ask questions too like you would at a usergroup or work. “Anybody ever have this issue with VS2008?” etc.. and people answer quickly!
You don’t need to even sign up to “follow” what people are doing. Kind of dip your toe in the pool and see what it is like. You can check out who I am following and what I am saying right now at http://twitter.com/thedavedev.
Ok, that makes sense from a “why” standpoint, but what about the “how”? What is it from a technology sense? You can think of twitter as a giant text messaging service in the cloud. You can post a message to everyone, or you can send a message to a specific person. These messages are all called “Tweets”. Just like texting too, you are limited to the number of characters in each message (140 for twitter). This limitation has given rise to services like Tinyurl.com where you can convert any url into just a few characters. Tinyurl recently updated its service so you can send people a “url preview” before they actually visit it. Built in Rick Roll (RR) protection.
Twitter also lets you set up a profile page where you can list information about yourself and others can see who you are “following” and who is following you. By “following” someone you are basically telling twitter you want to see all those little text messages someone sends. Now if they are in a conversation with someone you will only see the replies of the person you are following. This is why twitter also lists the name (and link) of all people in the conversation. You starting to get the idea? You get introduced to new people through casual conversation. That is the brilliance of it – it works a lot like real life in the way we interact with each other in a social environment.
Ok, so that is the twitter service. Accessing that service brings me to another piece – twitter clients. Man there are a lot! Mobile clients, web based clients, windows clients, mac clients. What is neat about twitter is it tells you what client someone used to send a message. So if you see all your friends using a certain client you can click right on that link to get to the download page.
There is even a WPF client that I run called Witty. It takes the tweets and has them show up as IM bubbles in your taskbar. Really slick UI as well!
Facebook also has a Twitter Application. It will let you send tweets from within Facebook itself as well as see all your friend updates. And best of all – it will take your tweets and update your Facebook status with them if you want so you don’t have to be changing stuff in two places.
So what are you waiting for? Come check out Twitter right now and see what people you know are doing. And don’t forget to “follow” me when you do –> http://twitter.com/thedavedev.
As I mentioned previously, I am a fan of fully customizing the look and feel of my windows machines. One of the applications I have been using a lot recently is called Deskspace, from Otaku Software. Deskspace is a virtual desktop manager but uses 3d and has some stunning visuals around it. When I am demoing I usually have one virtual desktop as my powerpoint deck, one as my code window, and one with my demos. The application lets you fully customize not only how you interact with the cubes but also how they look themselves.
There is a 14 day free trial you can download here and the full version is only $25. Go check it out!