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Random Thoughts of an ASP.Net Code Monkey

Want to Hear About IIS8?

April 1, 2012 21:59 by Andrew Westgarth

With the recent release of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview and the Windows Server 8 Beta I’ve been looking at the new features in IIS8 such as:

  • Web Socket Support
  • Application Initialization
  • Configuration Optimization
  • SNI Support
  • and many more…

If you would like to know more and are in the Manchester area why not come along to NxtGenUG Manchester on Wednesday 18th April 2012 where I’ll be giving my first in a number of sessions on IIS8.  For more information or to signup please visit the NxtGenUG Website

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Ultrabook Review: Lenovo Ideapad U300S

April 1, 2012 21:25 by Andrew Westgarth

The Lenovo Ideapad U300S Ultrabook is one of the first of a new range of high end slim laptop's which are seen to be direct competitors and of the Apple MacBook Air.  The key features of this new form factor are that they are lightweight and have high battery life but all the while don't compromise on performance.  A wide range of manufacturers have released similar products but my only exposure to the form factor has been in the form of the Lenovo U300S.

DSC_0622 (3008x2000)

I was very lucky to win this Lenovo IdeaPad U300S Ultrabook through a competition run by Shortlist back in January, therefore my review is coming without my having to actually shoulder the cost of this luxury device.  I am however looking at options to replace my aging Dell Latitude D820, which has been an excellent machine for five years, so am aware of trends and the expected cost to replace my existing work horse.

The Lenovo IdeaPad U300S Ultrabook I am using has the following specification:
    Intel i7-2677M 1.8g-2.9ghz processor;
    Intel GMA HD 300 Graphics
    4 GB DDR3 RAM
    256GB SSD
    13.3" Ultra slim 16:9 HD Display (1366x768 resolution)
    Bluetooth; 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, 1.3MP Webcam.
    1 x USB 2.0; 1 x USB 3.0; HDMI

DSC_0634 (3008x2000) (320x70)

There is an alternative configuration available and that comes with an i3 processor and a smaller 128GB SSD.  The whole unit is fashioned from one single piece of Aluminium.  The Lenovo IdeaPad U300S weighs a miniscule 2.9lbs and the dimensions are phenomenal with a thickness when closed of just 14.9mm!!  The full dimensions are 324x216x14.9mm, you can see a comparison between my swiss army knife and the ultra slim Lenovo IdeaPad U300S.

I ran the U300S with both Windows 7 Home Premium and the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, which is now my primary operating system, and I managed to get over 7 hours of battery life during general use which is absolutely fantastic from a high performance laptop like this.  Lenovo's technical specifications suggest that users should expect 8 hours of use from the machine in general use and I think it's almost correct dependent on use.  None of my use has been heavily processor intensive apart from occasionally building a large solution in Visual Studio.

DSC_0641 (3008x2000)

The resolution of the screen in this model is a lot lower than I am used to as my primary display runs at 1920x1200 on a 15.4" screen but the clear crisp resolution on the ultra slim panel is very usable and indeed caters for the majority of my needs, plus it's of a high enough standard for me to snap two metro apps side by side in Windows 8.  One criticism I have heard levelled at these type of displays is that in direct sunlight they are hard to read, I can neither confirm nor deny this as I have not had opportunity to test this out.

PConnectivity on Ultrabooks appears to be a premium and differentiator if the Lenovo Ideapad U300S is anything to go by as the machine only has 1 USB 2.0 port, 1 USB 3.0 port, a HDMI port and a combined microphone/headphones/headset socket.  I've found myself needing to use more than two USB ports so find myself adding a USB hub to my shopping list so I can always have the option to use more ports.  The lack of a dedicated VGA port is causing my concern at present as I have not been able to test the Ultrabook on multiple monitors, a HDMI to VGA cable is apparently available from Lenovo (according to the nice wallpaper that is on the desktop on first boot) however I am finding it extremely difficult to source, along with other accessories such as the Lenovo USB Hub which has a built in Ethernet port for making use of wired connections.  I don't have any USB 3.0 devices at present and so cannot comment on the usefulness of that port as I find myself using it as a standard port for now.

The trackpad is huge and supports some built in gestures from Lenovo, enabling a notes application for example.  In addition there is the introduction of a dedicated button for one-click restore which I made use of with my first use of Windows 7, this was surprisingly easy to use and a very quick way of restoring to factory settings.  The Lenovo IdeaPad U300S also has support for the Intel RapidBoot technology and the Ultrabook boots into windows in less than 10 seconds!!! which is fantastic and enables me to get to work straight away rather than waiting for a long time for my machine to be ready to use.  This is also the first Lenovo keyboard I have used but it’s very easy to type on and I hear it follows the quality that Lenovo puts into their keyboards.

So generally a lot of positives in the review so far!  I haven't really commented on the processor. ram or SSD size, but I've found it to be a very powerful machine and night and day between it and my D820 which has a Core2 Duo with 4GB Ram.  I have to be honest in that 256GB SSD would be the minimum I would buy and I wouldn't even contemplate a machine with less than 4GB RAM.

So what is the Lenovo IdeaPad U300S missing I hear you ask?  Well I've read reviews where the reviewers have complained about lack of memory card slot.  This doesn't really bother me to be honest as I have a card reader which I carry in my bag and can be used on a variety of machines, I have had a fixed card reader on my netbook and found I never used it much as my main machine was my D820.  What I have come to notice is missing after a few weeks use, both at home and on the road, is a built in 3G modem.  Ultrabooks are designed to be powerful and lightweight, ideal for working on the move but the lack of 3G connectivity means I have to carry around a USB modem or Mi-Fi with me, not ideal.  Other manufacturers also provide the HDMI to VGA Cable in the box as standard and a I think this is a nice touch which Lenovo should also adopt as I've noted already that despite trying to source an adapter I've finding it very difficult and I have presentations to give this month!!

DSC_0636 (3008x2000)

Finally I come to the cost of the Lenovo IdeaPad U300S.  As you'd expect with a beautiful, high performance competitor to the Apple MacBook Air, this isn't going to be cheap.The model I am very lick to have costs £1220.48 from Dabs and the i5 model costs in the region of £850 from the same retailer and a MacBook Air with a similar specification to the i5 model starts at £850.

So the final question comes down to whether or not I think the Lenovo IdeaPad U300S represents value for money?  To be honest I don't think I'm the target audience for this beautiful device.  In looking around for a new laptop I've not looked once at Ultrabooks other than to say they are beautiful devices but not my target.  When I buy a laptop I tend to think towards spending a large amount up front on a device which will last me five years.  My current thinking is towards a different Lenovo product, the ThinkPad W520 as it will give me a 1920x1080 screen and support up to 32GB of RAM which is really important when presenting on Web Farms and IIS share configuration as I need to be able to run many virtual environments, plus a machine like that will keep me going for years, my D820 has cost me about £300 per year over 5 years and I'm looking to spend around the same (or maybe a couple of hundred more) and get the same return.  Also a laptop like the Thinkpad W520 is expandable however the Lenovo Ideapad U300S is a solid piece of Aluminium with no replaceable parts so I wonder how I'll get on when the battery no longer charges or a part fails, also the maximum of 4GB Ram is a little limiting.

Overall I have to say the Lenovo IdeaPad U300S is a and fantastic looking and high performance machine but it's a little rich on the price tag for what it offers for me, I'd personally rather save the £1200 and put it towards a Lenovo ThinkPad but I have a specific use case for my machines.  If you want a high performance, beautiful, lightweight machine for general use and travel a lot I'd really recommend looking at the Lenovo IdeaPad U300S.



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Podcasts from MVP Summit 2007

March 13, 2007 08:59 by Andrew Westgarth

Dave McMahon and Richard Costall of NxtGenUG are currently attending the MVP Summit in Seattle and are delivering Podcasts daily this week from the summit. Richard Costall is an ASP.Net MVP and Dave McMahon is a Connected Systems Developer MVP. The MVP Summit is held every 18 months and MVPs from all around the globe meet together.

Why not add the Podcast RSS Feed to your aggregator - http://www.nxtgenug.net/RSS/RSSPodcasts.aspx?

For more information on the MVP Program visit the MVP Homepage.

Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1 Update for Windows Vista

March 8, 2007 09:55 by Andrew Westgarth

Wow no posts for a while then three come along at once, sorry they've come at once been a little busy.

Just released is the Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1 Update for Windows Vista. This release had previously been available as a beta but has now been fully released and can be downloaded from the Microsoft Download Center at the following link: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=90e2942d-3ad1-4873-a2ee-4acc0aace5b6&displaylang=en

NextGenUG EVO Launch Event

March 8, 2007 09:55 by Andrew Westgarth

A lot of the community groups are holding EVO Launch events at the moment and NxtGenUG recently held their event in Coventry and from the article on their site it looked to be a complete hoot! Of particular interest is Dave McMahon's show stealing ReadyBoost song, check out the article and watch the video, hosted on Soapbox, of Dave's ReadyBoost Song.

DevWeek 2007 - Days 2 And 3 (27th/28th Feb 2007)

March 8, 2007 09:54 by Andrew Westgarth

Apologies for the delay in writing this post things have been extremely manic since my return from DevWeek. As intimated in my previous post I had the pleasure of attending the first three days of DevWeek 2007. Day 1 is covered in my blog post entitled DevWeek 2007. I was attending and representing VBUG during my breaks and spare time, we had a stand at DevWeek, and we were on hand to sign up new members, offer support and answer any questions delegates had about VBUG and the UK Community.

Day 2 - 27th February 2007

My second day at Devweek, the first day of the conference proper, started with a keynote from Jeff Prosise who took a lighthearted, informative and very enjoyable (albeit in a very hot auditorium) look at the development of Web Applications over the last decade, ranging from pre ASP apps, using ISAPI filters and VB applications through to the current ASP.Net and AJAX enabled applications. Jeff also highlighted the emergence of WPF/E. I then attended a session by Keith Brown on Securing ASP.Net 2.0 Applications. This covered standard exploits such as filtering input, sql injection, cross site scripting and methods for abaiting the issues with these problems. Keith also highlighted the resources from Microsoft Patterns and Practices, these can be found under the following guide from MSDN - Improving Web Application Security: Threats and Countermeasures.

In the afternoon I attended two sessions from Jeff Prosise - one on development of Custom Providers for ASP.Net 2.0 and the other on Asynchronous ASP.Net Programming. These were both extremely interesting sessions and in the first session Jeff spoke about how the Provider model which exists within ASP.Net 2.0 can be extended and that you can write your own providers quite easily, for example if you already have a membership database and do not want to port this to say the SQLMemberShipProvider Default store, for example, then you could quite easily write your own provider to communicate with your Membership data store. For further guidance and example code download the Provider Toolkit from the ASP.Net Section on MSDN.

In the early evening there was a drinks reception for all delegates to chat to other delegates and to chat to all the exhibitors and to take part in the prize trail. The prize trail required delegates to answer questions about each of the exhibitors and in return their answers were entered into a prize draw to win a number of prizes. This was a great element of the conference and I met and spoke to some very interesting people from various locations within EMEA who were attending DevWeek.

Day 3 - 28th February 2007

Day 3, my final day at the conference, as exhibitors were only exhibiting on the 27th and 28th. I attended sessions by Dino Esposito, Dominick Baier, Keith Brown and ritz Onion.

Session One was Dino Esposito's Architecture session on building Real World Business and Data Layers using Design Patterns. In this session Dino covered the terminology involved, defined a BL and DAL and gave clear indicators on how each should be architected and how pattens can be used to produce desire goals, he also relayed that information on to how it is used in practice to give delegates clear ideas on how to move forward with their solutions.

Session two was the turn of Dominick Baier to cover IIS7 for ASP.Net Developers. This was a session I had been eagerly awaiting and it was clear by the numbers crammed into a very small room that this was a topic which provoked lots of interest. As previously mentioned on this blog, IIS7 is something which has captured a lot of my interest of the past few months and will command a lot of my time and research over the coming months as I prepare my sessions for VBUG North East and VBUG Leeds which are being delivered at the end of May and early June. Dominick highlighted new areas which I hadn't seen covered at Tech Ed and increased my knowledge and gave me new areas to investigate. The new architecture of IIS7 was covered in detail and especially the integration of ASP.Net within IIS7, Dominick also covered a number of security aspects and also Windows Activation Services, which enables the hosting of WCF within IIS7. This was a great session and you can expect to see more blog posts about IIS7 in the coming weeks and months.

Session three saw Keith Brown cover Migrating ASMX and COM+ to WCF. This session covered the migration process to move existing Web Services and COM+ services to WCF services. Keith demonstrated the interoperability and integration arguments and possibilities. Essentially standard ASMX can be integrated and migrated fairly easily, the recommend ed guide for handling ASMX with WSE 2.0 is to upgrade to WSE 3.0 and then migrate or integrate.

At session four I saw Fritz Onion cover CSS Control Adapters for ASP.Net 2.0. These are a set of Control Adapters which have been developed to enable the built in controls within ASP.Net 2.0 such as Menu, TreeView, GridView and Datalist to output CSS Compliant code replacing, for example with the Menu Control, table structures with Unorder Lists (UL) and ListItems (LI) enabling more compliant and accessible code, and these enable the separation of styling from the code. Fritz also covered the development of browser files and developing controls to take advantage of the adapters.

Review

All in all my attendance at DevWeek was a worthwhile experience as it allowed me to meet with a new section of the community and to cover topics which I haven't had chance to cover on a detailed basis. However I am unsure as to it's value compared to my attendance at Tech Ed last November. In DevWeek's favour it is the only week long Microsoft based conference in the UK and for developers who do not have the opportunity to travel and get to events such as Tech Ed then it represents a good investment in their time. Speaking to other delegates however, it seems there has been some overlap of sessions from last year, which is disappointing. I would also recommend that the sessions are cut to one hour long as I believe ninety minute sessions are too long and along with comments from other delegates felt myself switching off after 60 minutes. I think this length of sessions has been prved to work at DDD, WebDD and the VBUG Conference. I would also recommend more cutting edge sessions which focus on new and emerging technologies, whilst it is good to have a balance, it is also useful to be exposed to new technology and developments, especially if delegates don't have much chance to see these in their day to day lives. I would also suggest that the layout of the exhibition hall with all the tables and chairs isn't great for encouraging delegates to mingle and communicate with each other.

DevWeek 2007

February 27, 2007 03:00 by Andrew Westgarth

This week I am attending DevWeek 2007 at the Business Design Centre, Islington, London. This is the first time that I've attended DevWeek and I have the pleasure of attending the first day's preconference seminars and the first two days of the main conference. DevWeek is in it's 10th year and is organised by Nick Payne of Bearpark Publishing.

VBUG are exhibiting at the conference and during the session breaks and during the lunch hour I will be on the VBUG stand available to answer queries about what VBUG and the UK developer community can offer delegates, if you are attending DevWeek and would like to talk about VBUG or anything else to do with the UK developer community come and find me on the stand. If you're not attending but have questions please contact me using the contact form.

Today (Monday) I have spent the day in a preconference seminar delivered by Dino Esposito. The topic of this seminar was "Windows Workflow Foundation - a developer's walkthrough". Although I have known of and have attended sessions on Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) over the course of the past year but I have not had the opportunity to actually use the framework in any of my projects. WF has many uses in many applications although it must be stressed that it is only a framework for developers to use to add Workflow features to applications, it is not a fully product. WF is now used in many of Microsoft's latest products, indeed I am currently involved in a project which requires the use of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS2007) to publish content managed websites and the evidence of WF being used in this product is extensive and whilst there are a number of workflows available out of the box it is also possible to create your own workflows to be used with MOSS2007.

The preconference session was a great way to see how the developers can use the provided activities, develop custom activities and use the facets of WF to provide Workflow for applications. Although this was a very intensive session, four concurrent one and a half hour sessions, this was a very useful session and I have a better idea of how WF can be used in a number of applications both personally and professionally.

Currently to develop Windows Workflow Foundation Applications with Visual Studio 2005 you will need to install .Net Framework 3.0 (If you are running Windows Vista it is already installed as part of Vista), Visual Studio 2005 Extensions for .Net 3.0 and Visual Studio Extendions for WF. Expect to see even more integration of WF in the new IDE we are expecting in Visual Studio 'Orcas', scheduled for release later this year.

The rest of the DevWeek Conference is made up of seven tracks, three .Net, one ASP.Net/AJAX, one Architecture and two SQL DevCon. There is a wide range of topics on the schedule, ranging from Windows Presentation Foundation and Windows Commmunication Foundation, to SQL Server Reporting Services and Practical Patterns in .Net development. I am looking forward to seeing a sessions on ASP.Net Security, Asynchronous ASP.Net and more on IIS7 for developers. I'll try to blog about my experiences in each session throughout the week where possible.

Virtual PC 2007 and SQL Server 2005 SP2 Released

February 20, 2007 23:33 by Andrew Westgarth

Virtual PC 2007 and SQL Server 2005 SP2 have been released by Microsoft. I've been waiting for the release of Virtual PC 2007 for quite a while as I develop at home on Windows Vista and need to use VPC to work from Home as we use VPC at work. Some features of the new release are:

  • Improved Performance over VPC2004
  • Support for Windows Vista as a Host and as a Guest OS
  • Support for Windows Vista 64-Bit
  • Support for hardware virtualisation
  • Support for PXE Network Booting of Virtual Machines
  • Support for use of Full screen Virtual Machines on Multi Monitor Systems (VM remains on one screen)
For more information about Virtual PC visit the Microsoft Virtual PC Website and for more information why not check out Ben Armstrong's Blog, Ben is a Program Manager on the Virtual Machine Team at Microsoft.

Also released is SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 2. To find out more use the following links:

Wow it's only Tuesday and already two significant releases!

Developer Developer Developer Day 5 - Date Announced

February 15, 2007 09:06 by Andrew Westgarth

The date's been announced for Developer Developer Day 5. Craig Murphy announced that the planned date for DDD5 is Saturday 30th June 2007. I will post more details about this eagerly anticipated and very popular event as and when they become available. If you are considering speaking or doing a GrokTalk, start thinking about your topic and what you would like to cover as the Call For Speakers is hopefully going to be announced on the 24th March 2007.

To keep up to date with DDD information why not subscribe to the RSS Feed.

NxtGenUg Fest 07

February 15, 2007 09:05 by Andrew Westgarth

Hot on the heels of their latest mini series of podcasts with Dinis Cruz part one, in NxtGenUg's latest podcast Dave and Rich have announced their first conference at Microsoft Campus, UK on 23rd May 2007. Costs are £54.99 for non members (Early bird offer till 1st March 2007) and free to NxtGenUg Members. Speakers already lined up are Rafal Lukawiecki (Top Tech Ed speaker for past seven years!), Daniel Moth, Lorna Brown, Richard Costall and Dave McMahon. For more information see the NxtGenUG Website.



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