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February, 2009 - Katrien's MSDN Blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
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  • Katrien's MSDN Blog

    .NET Developer technologies: what’s here to stay, what can you focus on? (trends)

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    With the beta release of Windows 7, the announcements done at PDC in October 2008 around the Azure Services Platform, Oslo and others; Visual Studio 10 at TechEd EMEA and more in between you might start wondering what your focus should be. Chances are you currently work on a project that does not yet implement any of these new technologies, so what can you start using and learning today in order to have an advantage in the future? That’s what I try to identify for you so that you can invest your time in technologies that according to me will become even more used in the future (of course while evolving as well).

    Disclaimer:
    In this post I’m making a selection on technologies that according to me will be important in the future (when working with Microsoft products mainly). This is a personal view and not an official statement by Microsoft in which direction to evolve or invest. It’s based on my own assumptions and learnings of the past months.

    If I look back at what I have learned about the most in 2008 I can see a distinct moment in the year where a lot of new things started getting clearer: with PDC in October you could clearly see a shift towards a new paradigm, cloud computing. I also see PDC as the confirmation of other technologies are here to stay.

    XAML

    This is a real favorite of mine, XAML is the markup language used in WPF and Silverlight. By using XAML for the UI layer, both developers and designers/integrators can work on the same project, each with their favorite tools and focus.

    XAML also marks an evolution in Microsoft technologies with a stronger User Experience focus, and tools to enable designers/integrators and developers to work together on projects.
    Because XAML is separate from the Designers/integrators can work on the layout, interaction and styling of applications by using Expression Blend. This tool generates XAML without the need to type in all XAML manually. However a good base knowledge of XAML for WPF and Silverlight is really a plus. Developers also produce some XAML but they will mainly add business logic in the “code-behind” files using C#, VB or even IronRuby and other dynamic languages using Visual Studio or other tools.

    If we look at the evolution of WPF and the extensive use of XAML in devices such as the Surface we see this will still evolve quite a lot in the years to come. This means that with a single technology you can target multiple forms:

    • Windows client (WPF)
    • Web (Silverlight)
    • Mobile (Silverlight)
    • Surface (WPF with Surface SDK)

    XAML Resources:

    • Windowsclient.net – community site for Windows Presentation Foundation & Windows Forms
    • Silverlight.net – community site for Silverlight, the best starting point for anything Silverlight (and XAML)
    • Some sample WPF projects:
      • PhotoSuru
      • blu – Twitter client (showcase project by Thirteen23)
    • Expression community site (tutorials, articles, videos about XAML and the related technologies WPF and Sivlerlight, mainly for integrators and designers)

    I should also highlight that XAML is not only used for UI like in WPF and Silverlight but also as the declarative language for services (in WCF) or in Workflow Foundation.

    WCF

    Windows Communication Foundation was first introduced with the .NET Framework 3.0 version. WCF is Microsoft’s recommended framework for building distributed applications, using a typed programming model (service model). While previously you had to use different technologies to build services like ASP.NET Web services, Web Services Enhancements (WSE), or .NET Remoting, since .NET 3.0 the answer is WCF.

    WCF continues to evolve, with a lot of new features foreseen for WCF 4.0: tighter integration of WF and WCF, declarative services (with XAML), just take a look at the new features announced for WCF 4.0 on this MSDN page.

    REST

    REST (or Representational State Transfer, see Wikipedia) is becoming more widely used as the protocol for a lot of new services and the support for REST in the .NET framework is only increasing. The WCF REST Starter Kit was released to make it even easier to build RESTful services using WCF.

    If we look at the Azure Services Platform, quite a lot of the services are accessible through REST, like the Live Services or Windows Azure storage. This is also one of the pointers to me in choosing this as one of the current technologies where you can focus on.

    In this area we should also not forget ADO.NET Data Services, which allow you to expose and consume your data or objects easily through a RESTful interface. Again here the integration with Azure becomes important become some of Microsoft’s cloud services expose data using the same conventions as the ADO.NET Data Services. This means you can use ADO.NET Data Services client libraries when working with some of Azure Services’. Again more reasons proving that investing your time in learning REST and ADO.NET Data Services will most probably pay off in the future.

    Entity Framework

    ADO.NET Entity Framework was released last year with .NET Framework 3.5 SP1. In short, Entity Framework is a ORM for the .NET framework but we would be doing it wrong by this abstraction. On one hand, it allows developers to program against a conceptual model of your data instead of programming directly against a relational storage schema. This is done through defining Entity Data Model (EDM) to map the model to the data store.
    The model can then be programmed against by using different services:
    - Object Services
    - Entity Client
    - Entity SQL
    - LINQ to Entities

    Check out this PDC video to learn about the future of ADO.NET Entity Framework, and see how it’s going to evolve.

    A note on LINQ to SQL: I have read on several places on the web that LINQ to SQL is gone. Well, I could not really find any official Microsoft source stating it’s finished. Rather, most investments will be made in LINQ to Entities, which is part of Entity Framework. While I love LINQ to SQL for RAD development and data access it has its limitations if you need to build an object model that does not do 1:1 mapping to the database.
    See this official post on the ADO.NET blog.

    ASP.NET AJAX

    ASP.NET Ajax 4.0 promises to bring some very interesting capabilities like Client templates. Forget the extra postbacks and roundtrips to the server, you can now take advantage of Client templates and load your data exposed through JSON for example.  But that’s just one of the features, check out latest preview on the CodePlex site.

    Conclusion

    These are the main areas that I have identified, based on events I attended, readings, and discussions with colleagues and fellow developers in the community. So, IMHO you cannot do wrong going further already today with the before mentioned technologies.

  • Katrien's MSDN Blog

    TechDays welcomes girl geeks for BGGD #11

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    Overheard on the net: Microsoft loves girl geeks!

    Save the date ladies: during TechDays 2009 in Antwerp we will be sponsoring a Brussels Girl Geek Dinner event on March 10th. The agenda is still secret, all we know is that it’s called “The Mobile Edition” and that two female speakers are signed up. But I’ll leave it to Clo Willaerts, the organiser of BGGD events, to give all the details.

    I’ll be posting the details to my blog once it's announced by Clo, in the meantime don’t forget to save the date and be quick enough to register once the page opens. That will be after the 18th of February, which is the date for next BGGD event. Unfortunately this one is already fully booked for quite some time.

    What are Girl Geek Dinners?

    Girl Geek Dinners are events for females who class themselves as girly and geeky. The events have a technical focus and are light hearted and fun.

     

    A special thanks to my colleague Kris Hoet aka Crossthebreeze for getting things rolling.

  • Katrien's MSDN Blog

    XAML Guidelines Document for WPF (and Silverlight)

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    If you are looking for best practices for running XAML WPF projects, this is a must read. Jaime Rodriguez, a technical evangelist focusing on WPF has written “XAML Guidelines” (draft mode at this time). The document can be downloaded in different formats including .docx and .pdf.

    The document is currently focused on WPF XAML projects but a large part of it is applicable to Silverlight as well. In addition Jaime writes that more information regarding Silverlight projects will most probably be added to the document.

    With topics like naming conventions, project structure, templating, styles and more, this is really a good read.

    Do you have comments on the document? Feel that something is missing? This is a draft and Jaime welcomes all comments, so don’t hesitate.

  • Katrien's MSDN Blog

    Live Services Jumpstart training available

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    Need training material on any of the Live Services’ technologies? There is good news for you: the Live Services team has published the full video material of the two-day “Live Services Jumpstart” training that was given at several locations worldwide.image

    View it all online at http://dev.live.com/training/.

    The training includes Windows Live ID Authentication and Delegation, Messenger APIs, Virtual Earth, Cloud APIs, Mesh, etc. Highly recommended!

  • Katrien's MSDN Blog

    TechDays 2009 – we’ll have seven Regional Directors speaking!

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    Did you know we’ll have six, no seven different Regional Directors will be speaking at this year’s TechDays in Antwerp? As I’ve blogged before, TechDays 2009 will take on 10th, 11th and 12th March 2009. We will have more than 70 technical sessions, including three pre-conferences on the 10th of March. Check out the full pre-conference agenda for developers: SharePoint development wit .NET Framework 3.5 (be amongst the 250 first to register and get a Infragistics NetAdvantage Icons – Office Basics license).

    Now back to the title of this post: did you know seven different Regional Directors will be speaking at the event? Well we had six confirmed for sessions and now that we have started working on the developer keynote a seventh has confirmed!

    Who? Of course our three Belgian Regional Directors will be there: Gill Cleeren, Peter Himschoot and Gregory Renard. In addition to the Belgian RDs we have two more from Europe: Ingo Rammer and Christian Weyer.

    And if that is not enough for you, we even have two from America: Stephen Forte from the US and Joel Semeniuk from Canada.

    Almost can’t believe we were so lucky to have all of them signed up for the event. Check out their sessions, in addition to the sessions you can expect the Belgian RD’s to have something to do with the keynote. But that’s all I’m saying for now, I don’t want to get in trouble with Hans who will be announcing more about this later on :)

    These are their sessions:

    WCF Tips & Tricks (Christian Weyer)
    The Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) is now 2.5 years old. It is known as a generic communication framework. But the more generic a framework is, the more complex it becomes. And the more features it offers, the more likely it is that developers oversee the important and mighty ones.
    Christian Weyer shows you his favorite list of WCF tips and tricks to ease the pain - all gathered from practical customer projects experience from the past years. Come and try to find your very own personal favorite.

    .NET Services: Infrastructure building blocks in the cloud (Christian Weyer)
    Applications communicating over the Internet or being provided in the cloud need certain infrastructure functionalities. Authentication, authorization, powerful communication options and support for workflows seem to be a common need. Microsoft's .NET Services - as part of the overall Azure Services platform - offer exactly all this with their Access Control Service, Service Bus and Workflow Service. In this session Christian Weyer sheds a light on how these services fit into the Azure picture, how they work and fit together in a practical manner, based on first experiences in customer projects.

    Fastest To Market: RAD Web Applications with ASP.NET Dynamic Data and Entity Framework (Ingo Rammer)
    For some applications, time to market is simply critical. If your application is heavily-data driven and backed by a well-designed database schema, you could help yourself a lot be looking at the dynamic duo of ASP.NET Dynamic Data and the ADO.NET Entity Framework. Together, these two technologies allow you to build data driven websites ... quicker than anytime before. In this session, Ingo Rammer will show you how to combine the flexibility of ASP.NET with these new features for quickly building  data-driven web sites. (And yes, it even allows you to simply embed a few RAD pages in your big, existing ASP.NET application).

    Azure - A Lap around cloud-hosted services (Ingo Rammer)
    Cloud computing is one of the central topics of a lot of current high-level discussions in the IT space. In this session, Ingo Rammer will show you the cloud-based features of Windows Azure which allow you to extend your on-premise applications and services to the cloud. You will learn about cloud-based hosting, deployment, about the different roles of projects and how you can leverage Azure's storage services for blob, structured data and queue storage. In addition, you will learn how you can run parts of the cloud-hosting infrastructure (the so-called "Dev Fabric") on your development PC for debugging purposes. This session is heavily code-based and will give you a very clear, developer-centric overview of this new and exciting platform.

    Under the hood in Silverlight's controls skinning framework (Gill Cleeren)
    While Silverlight offers us a lot of controls to build business applications, you might feel the urge to change them even more to suffice the needs of your application. A round button perhaps? Or a non-rectangular textbox? It’s all possible with the Silverlight skinning framework. In this session, you’ll see how to overhaul the look of your controls as well as create your own from scratch.

    Databinding in Windows Presentation Foundation: from the beginning to the end (Gill Cleeren)
    Databinding always sounds a bit intimidating. It’s the concept of attaching objects to a user interface and letting the technology take care of what to display where. WPF has a lot of capabilities in store to make databinding really easy and to help you build data-driven applications a lot faster. In this session, we’ll tackle everything that databinding offers us, from the fundamentals concepts to the advanced topics. With a lot of demos woven into the session, you’ll walk away with the knowledge you need to more efficiently use WPF.

    Best Practices for Managing Project with Team System (Joel Semeniuk)
    Based on his book " Managing Projects with Microsoft Visual Studio Team System" Joel Semeniuk will provide a deeper look into the challenges and exiting opportunities of managing projects using Team System.  This session will explore some best practices and tools that you must have when managing virtually any size team.

    Lean Principles, Agile Techniques, and Team System (Joel Semeniuk)
    Lean Software Development, inspired by Lean Product Development, is asking us to look at how we approach software and focus our efforts on eliminating waste. In this session we will explore the 7 key principles of Lean Software Development as well as map these principles to agile development and management tools and techniques that you can use today.  In this session we will also show you how tools found in Visual Studio Team System can support your lean processes.

    Live Mesh and Live Framework: Make your application’s data available anywhere and anytime (Peter Himschoot)
    How to make your data available everywhere, online or offline? Microsoft Live Mesh with the Live Framework solves this problem by providing a framework that syncs your data across all your applications, devices, your friends and on the web. In this session you will learn about the benefits of this approach and see how to program against the Live Services from any device, platform, runtime, or programming language.
    Note: check out Peter’s article on Mesh for a sneak peak into this session.

    Data Access Hacks and Shortcuts    (Stephen Forte)
    Struggling with Data Access? Who isn’t? Come and see some Data Access hacks and shortcuts that will make your life easier! In a high energy demo-only session, Stephen shows: how a mere mortal can pass a custom .Net collection to a stored procedure, improves your LINQ queries with Lambdas and expression trees, making complex data models easier to manage in the Entity Framework, creative Sliverlight databinding, LINQ to REST, and transforming your database back end to get enormous performance and productivity enhancements. This is data access for the 21st century! Speaker will also provide guidance along the way about ORMs, LINQ, and EF and encourage Q&A.

    The Daily Scrum (Stephen Forte & Joel Semeniuk)
    One of the most popular Agile project management and development methods, Scrum is starting to be adopted at major corporations and on very large projects. After an introduction to the basics of Scrum like: project planning and estimation, the Scrum Master, team, product owner and burn down, and of course the daily Scrum, Stephen (a certified Scrum Master) shows many real world applications of the methodology drawn from his own experience as a Scrum Master. Negotiating with the business, estimation and team dynamics are all discussed as well as how to use Scrum in small organizations, large enterprise environments and consulting environments. Stephen will also discuss using Scrum with virtual teams and even an off-shoring environment. The session will finish with a large Q&A on best practices.

    Building RESTful Applications with Microsoft Tools (Stephen Forte)
    REST (Representational State Transfer) is becoming one of the mostly used ways of exposing and consuming data-centric services. Looking at the evolution of WCF, ADO.NET and cloud computing, REST is here to stay.  In this session we discuss ADO .NET Data Services and see how we can REST enable your application. Then you will learn how to leverage existing skills related to LINQ and data access to customize the behavior, control-flow, security model and experience of your data service. Then switching gears we will focus on consuming of REST services from any platform (including Ruby on Rails) using Visual Studio and LINQ to REST. We will then see how to enable data-binding to traditional ASP.NET controls as well as Silverlight. We will conclude with developing offline applications with the ability to sync back to the online data service.

    Check out the rest of the developer sessions and agenda on the TechDays site.

  • Katrien's MSDN Blog

    Composite Application Guidance for WPF and Silverlight, v2

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    The patterns & practices team at Microsoft has released version 2 of the Composite Application Guidance (previously called Prism), now with support for WPF and Silverlight.

    If you are looking for guidance in building modular WPF and Silverlight line-of-business applications, this should be your first stop. Included in this release:

    • Composite Application Library
    • Reference Implementation (Stock Traders application in WPF and Silverlight)
    • Quick starts
    • How-Tos
    • Lots of documentation for everything you want to know about UI patterns  and client architectures

    Looking at how to share source code between a Silverlight and WPF application? There is a tool that helps you do this. ProjectLinker links source files from project one and will make sure they stay synchronized in the second project.

    pnp.gifPatterns & Practices Composite Applications Guidance on MSDN (links to downloads from here)
    Community on CodePlex

  • Katrien's MSDN Blog

    New Belgian Community site launched

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    Have you ever missed a User group event because you were too late to register? Maybe you were too late or even did not know the user group existed until after the event. Now this does not have to happen anymore. Ten of the Belgian Microsoft User Groups (both developer and IT-professionals) have just launched a new site where you can find all the events and information aggregated!

    See www.mscommunity.be, you can view the events in a clear calendar format as well.

    image

    And the good news is you can subscribe to the RSS feed for all user group events that are aggregated.

    In addition to the events there are also community blogs being aggregated. If you have a blog yourself don’t hesitate to add it to the list.

    Congratulations to the community, and I know some people that really invested quite some time in this. Gill Cleeren, who developed the site, Ilse Van Criekinge for server configuration, Tom Decaluwé for provisioning and offering server space. And I’m sure I’m forgetting others, don’t hesitate to correct me.

    Keep up the good work!

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February, 2009