Andrew's Blog

Random Thoughts of an ASP.Net Code Monkey

DDD6 - Registration Now Open!!

October 24, 2007 04:58 by Andrew Westgarth

Craig Murphy just alerted me via his Twitter feed that Registration has opened for Developer Developer Day 6 on Saturday 24th November 2007 at Microsoft Campus in Reading, UK.  Make sure you register fast for this excellent event - last time registrations filled within four days!!!

I'm registered so go to - and register now - I'll see you there!!

VBUG Newcastle: Developing on the Windows Live Platform with Martin Parry - 1st November 2007

October 23, 2007 15:34 by Andrew Westgarth

MartinParryOur next VBUG event is fast approaching and I am very pleased to announced that we have Martin Parry, from Microsoft's Developer and Platform Evangelism team, speaking about developing on the Windows Live Platform on Thursday 1st November.  We will once again be using a room provided by BT.  We meet from 18:30 and Martin's session will start at 19:00 and finish at 21:00 with a refreshment break half way through.  We will head to a local pub after the meeting to discuss the contents and discuss topics which you would like to see covered in 2008.

The details of the meeting are:

Topic: VBUG: Developing on the Windows Live Platform with Martin Parry

Windows Live defines a set of services and components that can be used in your web applications, whether or not you use Microsoft's server platform. In this session we look at a selection of Windows Live services and build them into an application. We'll look at the Windows Live Contacts API - really useful for social networking functionality but also a great example of what's possible using the Windows Live Data service. We'll build maps into an application using the Virtual Earth map control. We'll let our users browse their photos using the Windows Live Spaces Photos control, we'll enable authentication in our app using Windows Live ID and we'll show how you can leverage the Windows Live Search functionality too.

If time permits, we'll also look at Silverlight Streaming by Windows Live. We'll take a simple Silverlight application and encode some media content, then host it all with Windows Live.

Location: BT, Unit 7, Room 3, Innovation Place, Delta Bank, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE11 9DJ

Price: FREE

To register go to :

Categories: Events | Microsoft | VBUG
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Updated Blog - New Engine and New Hoster

October 22, 2007 06:13 by Andrew Westgarth


I've finally moved to a new Blogging Engine, I've been taking a look at the various options available for a while now, and have finally taken the plunge and I'm trying BlogEngine.Net.  I had looked at Subtext and DasBlog but I've been trying BlogEngine.Net for a couple of months while I tested functionality and decided that I would give this one a try and so far I have been impressed.  BlogEngine.Net is a CodePlex Project and is regularly updated and the team behind it have a very impressive roadmap and vision for the engine.  No sooner had they released the recent v1.2 build than they are already looking at v1.3.  My only gripe so far has been with the Blog Import tool, but I managed to find a way round it by importing my blog into the v1.1 release then upgrading to v1.2 and then published the blog.  I'll give a full run down of features in a future post.

My reason for moving to an engine was that I didn't have time to constantly tweak and develop my self created blog and even at some points the time it was taking to prepare a post and actually publish the post was prohibitive.  By using an engine which is being worked on by the community the work is shared and a lot of the functionality which I wanted to develop is already here.  Also I can now use, and am currently with this post, Windows Live Writer to prepare posts and post directly from any PC, I'm also going to be taking a look at blogging direct from Microsoft Office Word 2007.  Hopefully with a better engine behind my blog I'll be able to blog a lot more frequently, so expect to see lots of new content.

I have also moved to a new hosting package with Discount ASP.Net.  Discount ASP.Net are a well known Award Winning Web Hosting provider and are always ahead of the game in providing functionality for ASP.Net developers to take advantage of.  For example Discount ASP.Net are currently offering a free Beta Account with ASP.Net 3.5 and IIS7 Hosting together, showing there commitment to innovation and industry leading services.  I've not been happy with the lack of speed with which 1and1 move as regards to providing there customers with new features, especially with the high end shared hosting package like I was on, such as AJAX and SQL Server 2005 Support (both still not provided), plus with the costs and pricing plan that Discount ASP.Net employ I will also be making a significant cost saving.  My experience so far with set up and facilities provided my Discount ASP.Net has been excellent and I would fully recommend their services.

Discount ASP.Net Hosting Packages

DDD6 - Session Voting Now Open

October 12, 2007 09:47 by Andrew Westgarth

Session voting is now open for DDD6, go to the website now and select up to 10 sessions that you would like to see on the agenda for DDD6 -

IMPORTANT - Please Update Feed Syndication Settings

October 8, 2007 16:42 by Andrew Westgarth
Recently I have been looking into moving my Blog over to a new engine and have been looking at a few different ones. I am close to moving my blog over to not just a new engine but also a new hosting package. Therefore I have set up a new feedburner account for syndication with my blog feed. If you have subscribed to my blog please update your subscription to point to  I will continue to maintain the original blog feed for a couple of weeks but will be turning it off at the end of October 2007.

DDD6 - Final Call for Speakers

October 8, 2007 13:06 by Andrew Westgarth

DDD6 will be held on Saturday 24th November 2007 and currently the comittee are accepting session submissions from Speakers.  The deadline for submissions has been extended but will end at 18:00 on Thursday 11th November 2007, yes this Thursday!!!  If you are interested in submitting a session for DDD6 please fill in the form on the DDD website -

I delivered a session on IIS7 at the last DDD and it was a very enjoyable and rewarding experience, to be stood in Chicago 1 delivering content to my peers and community colleagues was a tremendous buzz.  Unfortunately I haven't had time due to other commitments to prepare anything but DDD6 but plan to for DDD7 next year.  DDD is a great way for aspiring speakers to try it with an understanding and appreciative audience, the key thing about DDD events is Community.  These events are run by the Community for the Community

HydraTight Recruiting

September 28, 2007 00:52 by Andrew Westgarth

I was approached by a North East company at the recent VBUG & SUGUK meeting, to ask to publish information about a vacancy they are looking to fill. Having recruited and been a recruit in the North East I know how difficult it is to get the right people into your organisation, so I said I'd post the details of the vacancy here - Hydratight Developer Job Spec.  If this is a position you are interested in, please pursue it!

TechNet On The Road And Vista After Hours in Newcastle

September 28, 2007 00:51 by Andrew Westgarth

On Tuesday I took a day off work and went to a couple of TechNet events which were running in Newcastle. Big thanks to the guys at TechNet for answering many requests to visit the North East and visiting us in Newcastle, I hope the MSDN team are planning some events in Newcastle, cos we'd love to see them here too!

This was not the usual type of event for me and to be honest most of the content in the main session of the day - "Creating and Managing a Virtual Environment on the Microsoft Platform" was outside the realm of my job and professional experience, however I did find it very interesting.  The way in which Steve Lamb and James O'Neill delivered the session, 90% live demos with 10% slides was very good, and I appreciate the amount of hard work involved in delivering that type of session. Big thumbs up guys and I think it is an excellent way of delivering content.

Links from TechNet On The Road:

The evening session was a very enjoyable and consumer oriented session delivered by James Senior and Matt McSpirit.  This session covered Windows Vista, Xbox 360 and Media Center. This was a great and relaxed look at how users can use the technology for home orientated tasks such as Photo storage using Live Photo Gallery, make DVDs using DVD Creator, Movie Maker. They showed some of the features of Photo Synth. Gave a good demonstration of Media Center, and Media Center Extender on XBox 360, Sideshow gadgets and James had a LG Z1 laptop which has a SideShow panel in the lid (see my earlier post - CES - So Many New Toys! - Windows Vista SideShow). They gave away a couple of copies of Windows Vista Ultimate - One through a Guitar Hero II Challenge (in which Matt was soundly beaten by an attendee!) and the second through a text competition.

One of the most interesting pieces of technology on show was Windows Home Server which is a server for the home, which stores your music, photos, files, backups and is remotely accessible. This looks really cool and is certainly added to my ever growing wish list :-). For more information see the guys' blogs:

Categories: MS Events
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Book Review: Web Accessibility - Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance

September 21, 2007 15:37 by Andrew Westgarth

One of the areas of Web Development and provisioning for the web that is of great interest to me is Accessibility and access to the same information across multiple technologies, devices and user capabilities.  This originally stems from research I undertook whilst completing my final year project for my degree at the University of Sunderland, but now has become of interest when developing solutions for the web in my daily career and life.

Earlier this year at WebDD, I had the great pleasure of attending Bruce Lawson's session, entitled "Web Accessibility: What, Why, How and Who Cares" and I recommend anyone who gets the opportunity to listen to this presentation by Bruce to do so.  I have been aware of a number of web standards and guidance relating how to build accessible sites and the whole subject of Accessibility for a while and still found some great information I can use to express to others why it is so important.  Indeed the key example I remember Bruce telling me was of a blind friend, who because of Tesco's Accessible Online Shopping System, was able to purchase a birthday present for her husband for the first time, and the joy of being able to have that great user experience. 

Whilst at this session, Bruce highlighted a book on which he was a Technical Reviewer, Web Accessibility: Web Standard and Regulatory Compliance published by friends of Ed.  We recently purchased a copy of this book at work, and I have just completed reading it for the first time and thought it was important to let you all know what a great resource and excellent addition to any Web Developers Library it is.  In the past and in my research at University I found it difficult to find good books on the subject and indeed still do.

This book is structured with chapters by leading experts in the individual fields, there are seventeen chapters in total, covering three distinct sections - "The Impact of Web Accessibility"; "Implementing Accessible Websites" and "Accessibility Law and Policy".  Each chapter concentrates on a specific area and gives and overview and clear examples to back up statements and arguments.  The book gives a great grounding to anyone who has questions about what accessibility it is, what it represents and how it can be implemented.

The large section on implementing accessible websites covers multiple pertinent issues which Web Developers, Architects and Designer face daily.  Covering content, navigation, data input, CSS, JavaScript, Flash, PDF each chapter raises issues with certain methods used by many with good clear examples of how to go from an inaccessible solution to a good accessible solution, and where there are a number of solutions gives clear arguments for an against each method.  There is also sections on automated testing, and retrofitting a website to be more accessible.  These are situations I have had to deal with heavily after working in the Public Sector for a period of time.  Often retrofitting a website can be increasingly frustrating and time consuming, but it can also be very rewarding to see the end results.  Automated machine testing is possible for certain sections of the standards guidance however it can never be the answer for all testing, this is highlighted and a selection of tests are critiqued and reasoned as to whether they are suitable for automated testing.  The book also covers an introduction to WCAG 2.0 and guidance on how to start understanding the changes that have been made.

A lot of concepts and ideas which I had gained were challenged by this book and it was very refreshing to find that I was completely engaged by it and couldn't put it down when I had the chance to read a little bit more.  I am involved in a project at present to provision multiple sites for publication in multiple countries and languages and part of the reasoning for purchasing this book was to complement my knowledge and raise that of my colleagues and employer.  The sections on implications and legal requirements gives a great entry point and overview, with links to further information, on how accessibility is treated by individual nations and governments, a great starting point in my work.

Overall this book represents excellent value for money, Computer Manuals are currently selling it for ?25.49!!!, and it is certainly a book I will be ordering another copy of for my personal library.  I recommend anyone involved in provisioning services, content, sites and applications for the web read it and take in the messages and guidance offered.

NxtGenUG - Now in Southampton

September 21, 2007 11:00 by Andrew Westgarth

Woke up this morning, checked my mail and had this release from NxtGenUG about a new region for them in Southampton, great for the UK Community!

Then there were 5! Two months, two new regions, first Cambridge now Southampton. Yes, the Next Generation User Group (NxtGenUG) is expanding (again) and this time they're heading South.  The latest and warmest region of NxtGenUG is Southampton.  The region is being organised and run by John McLoughlin and Rick Allen two local guys who have sourced a venue, projector, screen, pizza, swag and speakers all on their ownsome - all that a User Group needs or could ask for!

As ever when a new NxtGenUG region opens they insist on having a 'Launch' extravaganza, and this one is no different!  The event will be held on 18th October 2007 at St Andrew's Hall, Southampton.  The main speaker for the evening is top UK Community speaker Guy Smith-Ferrier speaking on Astoria and there will be a SQL Nugget from Dave 'Readyboost' McMahon.  Pizza and Swag will be present also in abundance. All the details of the meeting are at, and you can register for the event as always through the NxtGenUG website. Don't miss out on this event which kicks off at 6.30pm and finishes at 9.00pm, as there is only ONE launch meeting after all.


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