Christmas sure is coming!  On my nightly walk home, I ricochet like a pinball down Grafton Street, bouncing off frantic shoppers in the hub of Dublin's shopping arcade.   

Personal Site Starter Kit - you can start building and modifying a site from here!Those of you who stop into a newsstand while doing your shopping may notice that Microsoft Ireland is giving out free copies of Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition with this month's copy of PC Live magazine. 

We're very excited about Visual Web Developer Express Edition.  It's the ideal environment for students, hobbyists and learners who want to build complete ASP.NET 2.0 websites.  Right now, you can download it promotionally for free from the MSDN site, and use it for as long as you'd like.  The Express Edition is lightweight, easy-to-use, guides you toward the .NET community, and is designed to be intuitive for the new .NET developer.  And, importantly, it has everything you need to build and deploy a complete, visually-rich ASP.NET 2.0 website or web service written in VB.NET or C#.

You may not be a web developer yourself, but I bet you can think of a project that you, a friend or a family member might be keen to build with ASP.NET 2.0.  How about site for selling home-made crafts?  Or a news site for your local sports club?  Or a photo album with sections exclusive to your family or friends? 

I wrote a solver for those trendy, frustrating Sudoku puzzles which Clare can solve with lightning speed (and without the aid of my ASP.NET solution, I might add).  I even took advantage of the 30 days of free hosting available at www.vwdhosting.net and uploaded my Sudoku solver to this page.  It took me less than 5 minutes to sign up to the free hosting service and upload my site!

Feature Tour

Visual Web Developer Express Edition may be the ideal way for you to introduce someone to .NET.  Give them the Express Edition, let them launch one of the Starter Kits, and within minutes they'll be off to the races building their first .NET app.  One place they might start is the guided feature tour, which will lead you through VWD Express Edition and show you how to build your first interactive, data-driven site.

And for those of you building websites -- don't hesitate to send me mail if you have any questions.  We'll get your sites up and running in no time, and I'll even link to them from my weblog if you'd like! :)