Tuesday, April 26, 2011

AzGroups 8th Annual Scott Guthrie Event

Things to check out:


(pronounced NEWGET) – it is built into VS2010 (Visual Studio 2010) and makes finding, downloading, and installing libraries (open source included) into your project. It even does some configuration in the config files, etc. Pretty awesome. You can get it here.


It is an error logging facility that is completely pluggable that can added to a running ASP.NET web application without re-compilation or deployment. When an exception occurs it logs it, but allows you decide where to log it to such as a database, RSS, email, etc. It also records A LOT of VERY useful information for determining what happened.  See here for more details.

IIS Express

Can be used side-by-side with the built in web server (Cassini) in VS2010. It launches fast just like the web server built into VS2010, but doesn’t require you setup virtual directories, etc like you do with IIS (full version). You now get best of both worlds. It now let’s you develop using the IIS 7.x feature-set. It is now as easy to use as the web server built into VS2010. It doesn’t require admin account. You don’t have to change any code or the way you work to take advantage of it. See Scott’s blog for more details.

Web Matrix

You should still continue to use Visual Studio for professional work, but Web Matrix project are great for hobby, family sites, etc. It has been totally reworked to be a task based tool. It makes publishing very easy. If the site gets more complex the project can be opened up in Visual Studio.

SQL Server Compact Edition 4

It is great for ASP.NET development. It is light weight and free. It is an embedded database (no SQL Server required) so it is in the binaries (bin directory) that you can xcopy to your server. You can use Standard SQL Server syntax so anything that supports the ADONET provider model (such as LINQ and EF) will work. You are also licensed to redistribute it. All this means you can now deploy this in a medium trust ASP.NET shared web hosting such as DiscountASP, GoDaddy, etc. This means you don’t have to pay for the SQL database. It integrates into VS2010 (coming soon). It is different from previous version because it is safe to use with multi-threaded environments (such as ASP.NET). and no longer blocked from being used with ASP.NET. The catch is that it is for light-usage production (4GB or less for datafile) usage scenarios and it does NOT support stored procedures. For high-volume usage usage, you’ll probably want to use SQL Server Express (which is still free), SQL Server, or SQL Azure. Also, since stored procs are not supported the ASP.NET Membership is not supported (though they will be shipping new providers so that they do). The only change to your code when you migrate is your configuration string. See Scott’s blog for more details.


Portable Library Project

It is a special kind of project in VS2010 that only allows code that will work on particular targets. In particular, the targets are Silverlight and Silverlight for Window Phone 7. Intellisense only lets you see Intellisense on methods, properties, classes, namespaces, etc that are compatible with both. The most I could find on it was here.

Silverlight 5

Great stuff coming with Silverlight 5. Better DataBinding support for MVVM. Improved Printing and Text. Finally there will be a 64-Bit version of Silverlight. 3D Modeling that use Hardware acceleration. 3D and 2D can be used together. Breakpoints on XAML Bindings.


I am really impressed with MVC3. I am very tempted to try a project with MVC3. It takes advantage of HMTL 5 including Data validation, round corners, etc.

MVC Basics

The basic idea is that a url is mapped to a controller and method on that controller. That method makes calls to the model where most of the business logic resides, and then typically returns a view which is responsible for rendering the response (page). It maps url to action methods on controller class. In general the best practice with MVC is to have skinny controllers and fat models. Default method is called Index() and is called when no action is specified. Can pass entities as parameters to methods; just need to map them. Default parameters can be used as well. (i.e. int num = 5). ASP.NET MVC forces separation, while ASP.NET Forms does not.


When determining which rule matches it starts with the one that was added first. It then proceeds down the list until one matches. Routing is used to map urls to controllers and actions, but it is also used to generate urls in the application.


It is a an open source tool that allows you to diagnose what is happening on the server, but from the client. It is very useful when trying to figure out what happened once your request made it to the server. For example, what route was executed. It is basically Fiddler for the server.

For more information see here.


It is a View Engine for MVC. For more info see ScottGu’s blog. Razor files are .cshtml. Tags start with @ and it automatically figures out where code ends and content begins. Content and code can be intermingled. A layout page is basically like a master page in ASP.NET Forms. You can use traditional parameters or Named parameters. Use Custom helpers for custom rendering; refactoring in a way.

MVCScaffolding package

It is a code generator for MVC; a smart one at that. Highly recommended so you don’t have to write so much code to do CRUD UIs. Use NuGet Package Manager to get and install it.

Entity Framework 4.1

Great code first support. You can use POCO objects, make changes and the database just updates. It is so cool. This behavior is optional, but very nice. You can setup database initialization code to populate some basic data when the database is dropped.


A great tool that allows you to take advantage of HTML 5 when it is available and downgrade when it is not. An example of this is round corners. Very nice tool that can be used in most any ASP.NET project. http://www.modernizr.com/

Windows Phone 7

Later this year there will be a new release called Mango. It is a very exciting release as it will bring the Windows Phone 7 much closer to the competition as far as its offering. To get started with Windows Phone 7 development go here. Everything that is developed for Windows 7 Phone falls into two categories: Silverlight or XNA. XNA is for games (also used for XBOX), and Silverlight is for everything else. You can import some XNA libraries (such as audio) into Silverlight. Tombstoning is basically storing state to appear like the application never quit when in fact it did. It basically works by providing a state bag that most anything can be written/read to when different events such as (navigate to and from are called). It works much like Viewstate does in ASP.NET except it is not automatic. So more specifically it works like adding and retrieving stuff to/from viewstate in ASP.NET. The cost is $99 per year to put your application (or as many as you want except not more than 15 free ones) in the Marketplace. You can register to developer unlock your Windows Phone 7. Visual Studio 2010 comes with an emulator, but the one that will be in the mango release is sooo much better because it simulates things like sensors. The talk was given by Jeff Wilcox.

Tips on Windows Phone 7 development

Change splashscreen (an image) to all black if you app launches immediately. That way it is perceived as faster and cleaner. If your app takes a few seconds to load then put in a custom splashscreen (change the image) to give a more professional look. Add scrollviewer or list so that scrolling will always be available if something doesn’t fit on the screen. Use the metro look and feel styles, don’t hard code styles. If things don’t align as expected, then use 12px margins. Promote your app by creating a site for it. Prompt a user for review of your app after you think they have used it for a while. Statistically most apps are only used once and never used again. Use Watson to collect crash information, bugs, etc. Use Google Analytics to track page navigation within your app. Keep your main dll as small as possible since the entire thing is checked before loading into memory. Delay load pages / dlls on an as needed basis to help accomplish this. This also helps with startup times. Use a tombstoning helper. Use caching whenever possible.

Windows Azure – by Scott Guthrie and Mark Russinovich

Windows Azure is a great technology that needs some work with regards to deployment speed, and in general ease of use, but it is extremely well architected for scaling your application in a very elastic way. It allows you to worry about your app and not the infrastructure it is running it. It is Microsofts offering of cloud computing. The idea is that if you need 100 servers for an event you have them. Then after the event you don’t need them. With traditional models you would have to have servers ready to go at all times and pay for that much power. Since Microsoft has a giant server farm called Windows Azure and a middle tier between you and the server OS you only pay for what you use for the length of time you use it. Everything is continually monitored for 99.? uptime.

Mark went into all the details or the architecture. He convinced me it is very complex and robust, but not so fun to listen to a discussion about it. way too much details for my interest level. However, here as some of the things I found interesting. SQL is actually much slower than the way Windows Azure does it. They actually have everything as read only. Once it is read the objects are de-serialized and used. If they need to update, they are written back to the cloud as serialized objects. This takes only a trillionth of a second instead thousandths of a second that SQL takes. This allows them to scale fast. Their belief is that in the next 10 years or so this will scenario will be common more so than the relational database. Currently options in Azure are SQL, Blobs, and Queries. I believe SQL Azure is part of Windows Azure.

Some Barriers / solutions to get over before cloud computing will be accepted are: Trust of proprietary data being outsourced; loss of control; confidence (ISO and other certifications will help); Private clouds may be an alternative; license to run in own data center may help also.


steveo said...

Have you done any mvc projects yet? I'm interested in it too, haven't done much to learn it yet. Seems I get started, then I'm off to something else. There's a lot of hype around it.

Brent V said...

Hi Steveo,

I have not any real MVC app yet, just playing around. I have seen many demos though. I think it has its place as does ASP.NET Forms apps. For example, I find that for smaller apps that can be tested fairly well in 30 minutes say, I like Forms apps because it is quick and easy. However, for workflow or anything that is time consuming to test (i.e. larger apps or projects with multiple developers) I can see how MVC could be very useful. I think this because I see MVC being much friendlier to automated unit testing and regression testing than Forms. I also think MVC generally generates less html since much of it is hand coded and this can be important for mobile devices or very high load web sites. In general, I think Forms is great for departmental solutions that are smaller and MVC is a better for internet sites or TDD.

Enjoy MVC (if you get a chance)

steveo said...

Thanks for the feedback. I'm trying to use all the latest bits with mvc 3, jquery, EF 4.1 in a new project and since everything is new, it's pretty difficult. If you haven't seen it already, check out the mvc music store tutorial at http://www.asp.net/mvc. For my project, I needed an expandable master-details table and this one http://www.codeproject.com/Articles/189621/Creating-an-expandable-master-details-table-jQuery?msg=4152911#xx4152911xx amazed me. Very helpful in getting started, now if I could just understand how to get off the ground with EF. So much is new, I just don't know how it works. Have an EF 4.0 Recipes book by Apress I may refer to...