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rwandering.net

The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

2nd Microsoft ISV CTO Summit

I’m coming back from the 2nd Microsoft ISV CTO Summit up in Redmond (I blogged about the first one here).  A good trip with worthwhile content.  I’m not sure any of it was really new, but I did see some cool stuff:

Expression Blend

The tool for designers to design and build WPF projects.  Definitely cool. 

I had two questions for one of the presenters (Eric Zocher) afterwards: when will Visual Studio look as good as blend (e.g., Blend uses WPF and allows smooth scaling of its own UI).  Answer: um, maybe never. 

Since Blend is basically a developer tool (for designers) that can create and edit Visual Studio, does it integrate with TFS?  Not yet.

Of course, these answers don’t take away from Blend at all (and certainly TFS will eventually come even though outsourced designers may get little value from that). 

I’m no designer, but I’m  looking forward to playing with it.  Though they haven’t announced this part yet, I expect it will be made available through MSDN Maximal (or whatever they are calling it now) or through our Gold Certified ISV Competency.

WPF/E

This stuff is very cool.  Actually, Scott Guthrie demoed the WPF/E Vista emulator that Savas recently linked to.  The great thing here is the unification of the presentation story here.  I won’t go further into the roadmap because it is never clear to me at these NDA events what is open knowledge and what requires the secret-squirrel decoder ring.

AJAX ASP.NET

I tracked this as a really good thing (to greatly simplify AJAX for .NET devs), but I hadn’t taken the time to look at it or the demos.  It is really cool.  Aside from all it can do, the coolest thing is how easy you can enable it for existing ASP.NET applications.  I would have tried it out already (i.e., in our Digipede product), but I stayed out too late last night to get into it.

WinFx dead?

I had a chance to ask Scott Guthrie directly about whether the WinFx name change was an indication of the death of the managed Windows API (as I argued here).  His response, basically, naaah.  Just a marketing change.  I still disagree, as long as the managed API rides atop Win32, it isn’t the actual Windows API.  In this case the managed API is either dead or were waiting for Singularity.

Swag

These events always come with some swag.  This time we got a strange floppy neoprene folder (for small laptops here) and what I think is a screen cleaning cloth (though looks like a compressible handkerchief). 

Cheers, though, to Microsoft for not giving us a bunch of junk for the landfill — I include in this: lamps, USB speakers, travel clocks.  Also, I think it is great that they didn’t give us a whole bunch of resource CDs, trials, betas, etc.  Last time they did and these are mostly useless.  Not for the content, but because we all already have this content in MSDN or available through other partner programs.

They did give us one useful thing, though: a Vista Ultimate DVD/license.  Frankly, that is my kind of swag.

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Vista / Office Launch

Some thoughts I had during the keynote at the SF launch today:

Much different than the last big launch event: VS2005/SQL Server/Biz Talk.  No Cheap Trick, but the CEO of Sierra Nevada Brewery spoke.  That was cool: their Pale Ale is a real winner.

Things I like about Vista:

  1. User Account Control (UAC).
  2. I like the new UI and search capabilities.
  3. Microsoft Application Compatibility Manager.
  4. Reliability Manager

I am excited about this upgrade, but I’m still waiting for the final VS2005SP1 for Vista patch and the Netgear VPN driver upgrade.

About Office

Office looks cool and certainly offers the enterprise real benefits, but I’m just not personally excited about the upgrade.  The main reason, compatibility: I just don’t want to be bothered with making sure my files are compatible with co-workers, partners, family members, etc.

I left the launch a bit early — too much actual work to do.

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Ultimate .NET Developer’s Charity Auction

Jamie Cansdale, author of the excellent TestDriven.net, has organized several charity auctions to help people in Malawi.  In his words:

I have decided to organize a charity auction of a number of licenses for .NET developer tools. All proceeds of the auction will be given to Wells for Zoë, a charity dedicated to increasing the availability of safe drinking water and water for irrigation in rural areas of Malawi. You can read more about the project on their website or blog.

One unusual thing about this charity is that all travel and admin expenses are paid by the charity’s founders themselves. Therefore all donations go directly to sourcing the much needed equipment on the ground in Malawi. You can find out more about the equipment that is needed on the donation page here.

The software is being auctioned on eBay (they complete at the crack of dawn Pacific Standard Time on Wednesday):

If you want any of these excellent products, bid away!

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VS 2005, SP1 and Vista

A few things:

  1. VS2005 SP1 is out.  I am pleased with how quickly this turned from a beta to a release.  Good job guys.
  2. VS2005 SP1 for Vista Beta bits are out now.  Good news.
  3. I’m hoping that the Vista beta bits turn final soon too.

As is probably clear, I’m waiting for stability here before I go to Vista.  This time I can’t help with the beta testing, so thanks to those out there that have taken one for the team.

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Visual Studio 2005 SP1 Trumps Vista

One of the things I thought I’d get to this weekend is to upgrade my laptop to Vista again.  It is a pretty easy background task and with Norton Ghost is quickly reversable if need be (as it was the last time I tried).

Unlike some (e.g., J. LeRoy who thinks XP is adequate), I really want the new UX and (the promise of) faster power state transitions, among other things. 

But, before the installation I need to be sure of two things:

  1. Support for the VPN at Digipede (and the networking software required on my laptop).  This is no longer reported as incompatibile in the Vista Upgrade Advisor.  So, this is worth a shot anyway.
  2. Support for Visual Studio 2005 (not to mention 2003 which I still use occasionaly).  I looked into this more today and while Vista may support VS2005, it won’t support the coming SP1.  I really want the fixes in SP1 so I have to choose between sticking with XP or sticking with the pre-SP1 VS2005.  A blocker.

Of course, Visual Studio 2005 SP1 trumps Vista, but I’m not happy about it. 

J. LeRoy (AKA, Cousin Jim) recently posted on What Color is your Vista? with a terrific quote:

So when Microsoft says that they “deliver the right balance”, that’s not your balance they are talking about.

Exactly (and I know I’m taking his point completely out of context).

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VS2005 Productivity

I rarely come across mentions of ReSharper in my aggregator (though I have posted about it myself). I did find these two recently: Why Microsoft should buy JetBrains and one on Visual Studio Rosario by mdavey.

Both of these posts criticize Visual Studio and point to JetBrains (the developer of ReSharper) as Microsoft’s salvation.

I assumed his first post to be tongue-in-cheek with:

Even with Visual Studio 2005 new refactoring support, to be truely productive you still need ReSharper.

but then it goes on with:

If Microsoft still can’t understand the concept of refactoring in 2006, then maybe its time for them to give in, accept they will never build a decent IDE, and buy JetBrains to resolve the issue.

This (and his follow up post) make it clear that he is pretty frustrated with VS2005 and Microsoft, but what struck me most about these posts was the “to be truely productive” statement.

One cannot be truly productive with VS2005 without ReSharper? What were you doing before editors had refactoring (much less Intellisense, or even ran in a GUI)? Were you not productive? I sure was.

Now ReSharper does enhance my productivity and maybe IntelliJ IDEA is a better IDE than VS2005 — I’ve never used it. That said, I think the majority of Visual Studio users are not only happy with VS2005, but also are very productive with it.

And don’t get me wrong, Microsoft, go ahead and buy JetBrains. Their products (at least ReSharper and dotTrace) really rock. And there is no doubt that these products makes Visual Studio a whole lot better. It helps me be even more productive.

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VS2005 PowerShell Prompt

If you are like me, you use the Visual Studio Command Prompt frequently, because you need the environment that gets set up by the vcvarsall batch. I’m using the PowerShell now exclusively, but still need this environment. Just calling the batch file doesn’t get the variables set in PowerShell. Adam Barr has a good explanation and solution here (and the interesting bit below is taken from his blog and credited there to Bruce Payette).

My goal was to have these environment variables set for every instance of PowerShell. Not rocket-science, but not terribly straight forward to a newbie PowerShell user either. To do that, I needed to add a script that will get run on every invocation of PowerShell. Here is what I did.

If you don’t yet have a profile set up, then create the required directory (explanation of profile naming is here):

mkdir "$home/My Documents/WindowsPowerShell"

Open your profile (or create if it doesn’t exist):

notepad "$home/My Documents/WindowsPowerShell/Microsoft.PowerShell_profile.ps1"

Paste the following into your profile:

pushd 'C:\\Program Files\\Microsoft Visual Studio 8\\vc'
cmd /c “vcvarsall.bat&set” |
foreach {
  if ($_ -match “=”) {
    $v = $_.split(“=”); set-item -force -path "ENV:\\$($v[0])"  -value "$($v[1])"
  }
}
popd

And then start a new PowerShell. Now the environment should be set properly.

Update: I fixed the path to the default profile.  Thanks to dreamlusion for pointing out that my info was pre-release and out of date.

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A refresher on Visio versions

Earlier today, I posted on upgrading to Visio for Enterprise Architects. It occurred to me that it might be helpful to quickly document the newer versions of Visio for the developer.

  • Visio 2002 is from the Office 10 / Office XP family.
  • Visio 2003 is from the Office 11 / Office 2003 family.
  • Visio 2003 for Enterprise Architects is part of the Visual Studio .NET 2003 release. It was built on Visio 2002 and can be installed along side Visio 2003.
  • Visio for Enterprise Architects is part of the Visual Studio 2005 release. It was built on Visio 2003 and cannot be installed along side Visio 2003.

Hope this helps.

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Crisotunity: VSS 6d to VSS 8

Our source-control server crashed on Wednesday. The repository itself was unharmed (and we had good backups, too), but we have had to reinstall everything from scratch. Since the developers didn’t have access to source control for a day anyway, I decided to go ahead and install Visual SourceSafe 8 (we’ll be upgrading to Team Foundation Server at a later date). I’ve found little online about people actually making this transition, so I thought I’d blog about it. By the way, we also use SourceAnywhere for remote access so I had to install this too.

Since the OS had been loaded from scratch, this was a clean VSS install. I have read people saying it is OK to upgrade over VSS6; however, the included documentation says you must uninstall previous versions of VSS first (emphasis theirs).

After the install (which went without a hitch), I attached to our existing repository with the VSS Admin tool. That asked me to run an “Analyze” since it had been more than 30 days since it was last run. This is a nice new feature. It found a few minor errors. At the end it suggested I run it again from the command-line with the -f command to actually fix the errors. I really wish it could just offer to do that for me, but that is a minor complaint.

Interestingly, the database hasn’t changed format leading me to believe that VSS is just as good (i.e., problematic) as it used to be.

Which might explain why nobody has blogged about this — migration itself isn’t so interesting if the DB hasn’t changed. VSS6 clients still can connect to it without trouble.

So, it worked fine — with no problems and as far as I can tell, no advantages either.

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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.

VB6
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.

Strategy
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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