Thursday, 18 January 2007

WPF/E ... Adobe vs Microsoft?

Microsoft Channel 9 have posted a video interview with Scott Gu where they run through using WPF/E and AJAX, IIS 7.0 and a couple of the other emerging technologies from Microsoft.

Looking through the WPF/E documentation and reading the general buzz about it, first question that entered my head (and it was always going to be). What does WPF/E stand for? WPF is a product that's been bounded around during the development of Vista (previously codenamed "Avalon" I think) and stands for Windows Presentation Foundation ... but where has this new E come from? Apparently it stands for "Everywhere", Microsoft developing something truly cross platform? Surely Not!

I downloaded the CTP release of the WPF/E; Looking through some of the online demos on Mike Harsh's Blog, I couldn't really see anything new to the user experience that wasn't possible using Adobe (formally Macromedia) products like Flash. I think however most of the benefits from using WPF/E will come from the portability of code because it uses XAML, and its integration with AJAX for doing data post backs to webserivces.

WPF is the new UI layer that ships in Vista and is driven by XAML (an XML format for describing user interface designs). XAML itself is a good move away from having to, in code, declare controls and their layout, look and design. It effectively provides that layer of abstraction of UI from UI functionality, like we've been used to with ASP.NET over the last few years.

Recently its becoming clear that Microsoft are Adobe are going head to head in some of their developing product lines for delivering cross platform rich user interfaces over the web.

The WPF/E technology is certainly comparable to Flash Player, or Adobe Flex. That's made a little more evident by there being a tool swfToXAML for converting Flash movies to XAML markup.

Not available in this version of the WPF/E CTP, Scott Gu says that the final release will have better video support, with things like live streaming for things like conferencing. I'm yet to develop anything meaningful in either WPF/E or Flex, but I'm keen to see what benefits / advantages of using them practically.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

SVN and Trac

Since Vista has put an end to me using the Cisco VPN for now, I can't get access to Source Safe in the office for checking source code in and out from my main development machine.

The project I'm working on at the moment does really need checking into the master source safe database for now until I've finished working on it - so it's given me an opportunity to try out some other source control systems.

Dave Griffiths [] put me onto a system called Trac which gives a web interface for SVN repositories. I signed up for a developer account on, it costs just under $4 for 500Mb of SVN storage, and they run Trac.

To access the repository from my development machine, I've downloaded TortoiseSVN [] client for windows that allows access to my SVN db from Windows Explorer.

So far I'm impressed with this setup. SVN doesn't need a lock to be gotten (though you could if it was needed) on the file before it can be worked on, and the merging functions are good from what I've seen. Trac also has bug tracking, Wiki, Timeline and Roadmap functionality. I'll be branching out into using these in the next couple of days.

I think SVN works with code generation, code sets are a better way working than labelling. I'm going to try to figure out a way that all this can work that makes sense - Code Generation / Database Deployment / Build Server / Source Control.

Watch this space!

Saturday, 13 January 2007

Vista So Far...

I've been using Vista Bussiness for a few days now, so I'd thought I'd report my findings so far.

The postives...

I'm enjoying using Vista so far. It looks better (though I know the novelty will wear off soon enough) and the side bar is great when you get some RSS feeds in there.

I'm using a dual monitor setup, and one of the things that used to annoy me in XP was that videos would stop playing when you moved them from screen to screen in PowerDVD or media player, Vista seems to have it sorted. I think they must have improved dramatically the way the videos are rendered because they even play when your cycling through applications using Alt+Tab and in the little window previews you get when hovering over something in the start bar, something that wasn't possible in XP.

The negatives...

To connect into the office I downloaded and installed the Cisco VPN client beta version for vista from I haven't been able to get it running, its not a problem with the networks at either end it worked before using the same hardware and XP on my machine. When the VPN client tries to connect, it site there for a while and then returns the message "The remote peer is no longer responding". I've heard reports of other people using the Vista Cisco VPN client without problems on Vista, so looks like I need to have a dig around to find the fault.

I'm also running VMware to host a couple of virtual images of Windows XP on my machine, the only problem I've had running it in Vista so far has been using the clients with "Bridged Network" mode. When I bring up the Network Settings in the VMware manager, the OK button was disabled. That turned out to be a problem with security in Vista - I got round it my adding the _vmware_ user to the adminsitrators group in Computer Mangement, and running the VMware manager as administrator. When the virtual machine boots up, it just reports the Vmware network connection has limited connectivity. Could be a problem with DCHP and the service that VMware creates to give the Virtual Machines IPs. However, I can still get online using machines in NAT mode, so its not a huge problem for now.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Taking the vista plunge...

I've just taken the plunge and installed Vista Business on my PC. I do most of my work through VMware virtual machines, so that would reduce the risk of sticking a new operating system on and then not being able to do any work.

After doing triple checks that I'd backed up all my "must have" data, I popped in the install disk that I'd burnt and followed through the install. All in all it was a much painless process than installing XP from fresh (but maybe I'm being blinded by the swish new graphics in the install), and I think it was a little quicker.

The first part that confused me was when I was asked what version I wanted to install. I get a license of Business version through the university so that's what I needed to select. However there was a "BusinessN" version in the list - unsure what it was I avoided it. Reading up on it this morning it sounds like the only difference is the N version ships without Windows Media Player installed - a knock on of the EU legal battle with Microsoft recently I think.

After I had created myself a user account I logged in I was presented with a "Welcome to Vista" screen. The system details listed the system as being a 32-bit intall of Vista, I'd read that there was no separate install disks between 32 and 64 bit version for Vista. My PC's got a AMD 64 X2 4200+, so was hoping that it would have detected it and installed the 64 bit version. I was never asked in the install setup whether I wanted 32 or 64, so maybe my CPU isn't compatable (or marked as compatible in the BIOS)? Something I'm going to look into over the next couple of days.

Had some work to do to get my machine online too. My PC is using a NetGear WG111 54G wireless dongle which has no supported Vista drivers (and as far as I know no plans for Netgear to write any). At the moment I've borrowed my flatmate's WG111v2 and I'm using the Vista Beta driver from Netgear. That dropped in fine after doing a "Have Disk.." driver install through device manager. I've had to put in IPs and DNS server IPs manually, didn't seem to pick them up automatically from the wireless router. Ah well, I can live with that ... it works!

My collegues who had installed Vista had warned that it blocks unsigned drivers from being installed - not something that I've found on my install. Maybe because I'm using Business edition, and I've been doing "Have Disk..." installs for drivers.

My Wacom tablet still needs a bit of work to get it running, looks like Vista ships with drivers for pen tablets which are conflicting with the Wacom drivers. Haven't found a way to set up absolute referencing with the windows ones (where the tablet space maps directly to the screen), so might need to do some turning off and use the Wacome ones exclusively.

That's about it for now - more to come later with my trials and tribulations with Vista (and developing it in)