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The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

LINQ with the Digipede Network

I’ve been playing with LINQ here at Digipede for various reasons, one of which is to put together a sample for using LINQ on top of the Digipede APIs.  I haven’t gotten together any code to post (primarily because I’ve been pushing on our PowerShell SnapIn in my “spare” time).

A pleasant surprise this morning: Matt Davey posted a code sample on his blog: GridLINQ and Digipede.

I knew he was working on something.  Yesterday, Nathan helped Matt with some installation issues (kudos to Nathan and thanks to Matt for the assist).  Anyway, at some point Nathan says to me:

You know, Rob, you should connect with Matt on IM.  He tells me he tried LINQ with the Digipede Network and “it just worked”.  He’s IM’ing me about it and I’ve never even seen a line of LINQ code!

Thanks for the posting, Matt.  Keep up the posts and we’ll put you up for Digipede MVP!

BTW: It looks like Matt’s sample will run on either Digipede Network 1.3 or 2.0 — I want to point out, though, that Digipede Framework collections only started supporting IEnumerable<T> directly in version 2.0; so v2.0 is more LINQ friendly.

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Reviewing the eWeek VS2005 Review

Peter Coffee just reviewed Visual Studio 2005 in eWeek: Visual Studio 2005: Bright Lights and Shadows.

This article seems less a review and more a warning to developers to think hard about adopting the Microsoft development tools. The article is not exactly anti-Microsoft. Mr. Coffee has a good point when he says that the developer gets great productivity gains at the cost of adopting the entire Microsoft strategy; however, is this any different from the other major integrated environments?

In a related interview on AttentionTech (see Coffee Talk), Mr. Coffee points out that in their labs, they cannot test across a wide enough range of scenarios to verify stability issues reported by the user community. As a result, he cannot answer questions regarding the stability of VS 2005 and the greater question: was it ready to be released? While I accept this as a limitation, I do wonder what it means for the validity of the review. How was time spent in the lab?

Refactoring versus 400Mb files
For example, the review mentions that VS 2005 finally supports refactoring. It is a real productivity benefit for developers and is important for people evaluating the platform. This topic gets just a paragraph. Does it work well? The review doesn’t say. My experience is that it does not (as I write this post, I am also manually propagating a refactoring change across 15 different VS2005 projects).

Iimmediately preceding the re-factoring paragraph are three paragraphs about why developers shouldn’t expect a single IDE to do everything for them. The shining example here is that VS 2005 cannot open a 400Mb text file. It turns out that none of the major IDEs support files of the size. Is this a more useful test for a review than seeing how well refactoring works? I don’t think so.

About 20% of the article is devoted to issues for VB6 developers. Isn’t this old news? I can completely understand why the VB6 community feels slighted by Microsoft; however, the greater good for the development platform built upon a common framework has been proven. VB6 developers were always treated as second class citizens in terms of both development tools and resulting capabilities. While this is still the case for VB6, VB.NET developers don’t face this hurdle. This could not have (reasonably) been done without changes to the VB6 language. VB developers are second-class citizens no longer.

I recommend the interview AttentionTech interview (see Coffee Talk). He discusses his review as well as the greater Microsoft strategy regarding integration of VS 2005 and SQL Server touching on the future with .NET 3.0 and LINQ. He does a good job of explaining this strategy as well as the value of these products for developers.

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The LINQ Project

I forgot to mention the LINQ project yesterday.  Integrating query into the language is such an incredible productivity enhancement.  Of all of the new technologies I have seen at this PDC, this is the one that resonates the most with me as a developer.  The ability to create strongly typed data representations and queries integrated into the compiler for ensuring language semantics is huge.  I think of all the code that we have written in .NET for which we have to translate data in and out of SQL; all of the queries that we have written that cannot be effectively validated until runtime; and the numbers of places in our code where changes must be kept in sync.  With LINQ, the initial development time will be greatly reduced, but almost more important, the future maintenance cost will also greatly reduced.

I got into a discussion with Dan about the posting by Paul Mooney   about the Google/Microsoft judgment was bigger news then the Bill Gates keynote (as indicated by the relative placement of these news items in a newspaper).  This doesn’t really surprise me (everyone wants to know if Ballmer really threw that chair).  Seriously, though, I think that a lot of the technologies that are being unveiled at PDC05 fall into two camps:

1. Vista and Office 12.  I fear that the delays in Vista and perception of Office (see my earlier post) may make these stories not “sexy” to the mainstream press.

2. Really cool technology for developers.  The typical business person has heard this story a million times already.  In fact, above I post that LINQ will allow me to develop better software more quickly and that it will be easier to maintain.  That is an obvious cost benefit to companies of all kinds.  But is saving money with better tools an interesting story?  Hasn’t the press written thousands of stories just like this before?  I’m not arguing that it isn’t cool or that it isn’t revolutionary technology.  I’m just arguing that your typical reader doesn’t get it.

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