Andrew's Blog

Random Thoughts of an ASP.Net Code Monkey

Windows Vista and Office 2007 UK Developer Launch - 19th & 20th January 2007

December 8, 2006 15:15 by Andrew Westgarth

There is to be a two day Vista and Office 2007 Developer Launch event at the Microsoft UK Campus in Thames Valley Park, Reading on Friday 19th January 2007 and Saturday 20th January 2007. The two days enable developers to see the new features in the Vista and Office and on the Saturday, there will be an opportunity to gain some hands on experience developing applications for both.

Day One (Friday) will include sessions detailing various new features of each platform and how to take advantage of the new products, and the keynote will be delivered by Sanjay Parthasarathy, Vice President of the Developer and Platform Evangelism Group at Microsoft. Day Two (Saturday) is a day in which delegates will have an opportunity to write some practical code against the products, Vista in the morning, and Office 2007 in the afternoon.

For more information and to register see the following link -

For those who cannot make it to Reading for the in person launch there is also going to be a very extensive online launch. You do not need to register for the online event just go to the above URL and you will be able to view the sessions online.

Microsoft Expression Products

December 7, 2006 00:38 by Andrew Westgarth

Yesterday Microsoft announced that Expression Web has started shipping. This is the first in a collection of products with the aim of helping integrate Designers into the full development team. The aim of the Expression products is to enable Designers to work on the same solution as Developers, use Source Control etc, all the while enabling the designer to do their bit then the developer can do their work and remove the need for Designers to have to rework their designs once the development work has been done. The ultimate goal is have seamless integration of this role in the whol SDLC.

Expression Web is the first of five products - Expression Web, Expression Blend (Formerly Interactive Designer), Expression Design (Formerly Graphic Designer) and Expression Media which is a new tool which aids asset management and aids workflow across the suite. There is also an Expression Studio planned and this will include all of the collection.

Expression Web is shipping now and the other products in the collection are due to ship in Q2 2007. Check out the Microsoft Expression website for more information.

This is an exciting set of tools and will give Teams more cohesion and should aid production environments immensely

MSDN and TechNet Roadshow Events

December 4, 2006 21:07 by Andrew Westgarth

Microsoft have released details of a number of events they are running for the Developer and IT Pro community. The dates and registration links are listed below. I am planning on attending the Harrogate MSDN Roadshow so if you're attending come and say hello! Registration is likely to fill up quickly so I advise registering as soon as you can. Also if you find after you've registered that you can't make the event please let MS know and that way someone else can use your place.

The MSDN Roadshow events will cover lates developments in new technologies including C# 3, VB 9, XLINQ, DLINQ, WPF/E, WPF, AJAX, and the LIVE Platform.
MSDN Roadshow Locations and Dates:

The TechNet Roadshow events will cover Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange 2007.

An Code Monkey Goes to Tech Ed 2006 - Final Day (Day 4) - Sessions

November 11, 2006 00:50 by Andrew Westgarth

Today I have participated in the following:

  • Optimizing Performance and Scalability of Distributed .NET Applications - Ingo Rammer
  • Web Accessibility in the AJAX Age - Cynthia Shelly
  • DEMO: IIS 7.0: The Net .NET Extensibility Interfaces - Thomas Deml
  • Visual Studio 2005 - Advanced Data Access Techniques - Jay Schmelzer

Today I enjoyed Thomas' session on IIS7 Extensibility and will definitely look into this further as I look at examples and visit the IIS Community Site and will post further details about this topic. Thomas walked us through a way of creating a photo album application using a HTTP Handler, image files and IIS. This was really powerful but also simple. Watch this space for more information.

Ingo's performance session was very interesting. He showed ways of using utilities such as Fiddler to inspect traffic and determine where problems are occurring in .NET Applications. He also demonstrated using SQL Profiler and how to inspect memory using CLRProfiler. In one example he showed which version of a web grid, from commercial supplier with loads of enhancements, uses the most memory per instantiation! This was very enlightening and showed further methods with which third party controls should be compared when selecting the right control for the job.

Jay, took us through building a data driven application and demoed the use of the dataset designer in Visual Studio 2005 to build a Data Access Layer. He also showed us how to use entity relationships to enforce data integrity and validation. This was a very clear tutorial/demo and one I'll be looking to port to a web equivalent as the demo was a windows forms app. I haven't used the dataset designer and I tend to write my own DALs so I will be looking at this and determining it's suitability for my work.

I am quite aware of the work of the W3C and it's WCAG for accessibility and indeed having worked in the Public Sector and having studied the topic at University I am very focussed on building accessible websites. Unfortunately Cynthia's session left me feeling that I had wasted an opportunity to see something else. Whilst the session was very good at outlining approaches developers should use when developing websites, I wanted to see how to make AJAX accessible and unfortunately this was covered in less than fifteen minutes towards the end of the session and was covered too quickly. I will post the method for this after I have reviewed the slides and have gathered my thoughts as my initial gut reaction was that a good solution has not been provided.

An Code Monkey Goes to Tech Ed 2006 - Day 3 - INETA Dinner

November 11, 2006 00:36 by Andrew Westgarth

Last night I had the pleasure of attending an INETA dinner held in the maritime museum in Barcelona. The setting was excellent as was the food. The best bit of the evening was the company I was in. I was amongst a large amount of the community leaders from the EMEA region. This included (to name just a few), UK, Ireland, Sweden, Spain, Norway, Romania. This was an excellent night for me to meet other leaders in the community and to build up contacts and to put names to faces. The evening also helped me to find out what other User Groups are doing throughout EMEA for their members and to see how active the community movement is in EMEA. I had a great night and a big thanks to all those who I met and spoke with for making the experience so enjoyable.

An Code Monkey Goes to Tech Ed 2006 - Day 3 - Sessions

November 11, 2006 00:36 by Andrew Westgarth

Day 3 and the sessions I attended were:

  • Delving into Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Software Developers - Brian Randell
  • End-to-End - Building a Complete Web Application using 2.0, Visual Studio 2005 and Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0 - Two Parts - Matt Gibbs
  • Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0: End-to-End Overview of Microsoft's New Web Application Server - Thomas Deml
  • Building Web Parts The Smart Way - Jan Tielens & Patrick Tisseghem

Yesterday was very much IIS 7.0 day for me. This is an area I have lots of interest in as although I am effectively a Developer I have spent a number of years administering IIS servers in different companies I have worked for so I have an interest and experience. I am very much intrigued by the modularised development of IIS 7.0 and the benefits of being able to extend it in VB.Net/C# and that you only install what you want on your server when you want it. Plus developers have more control than ever over simple settings such as directory browsing and default documents, this is all now handled via web.config! This has some great benefits to developers who have shared hosting!

Expect to see a lot more posts regarding IIS 7.0 as I find out more!

In the other two sessions I attended today I was shown how to implement unit testing, code coverage and other testing methods using VSTS for Software Developers and develop Web Parts for SharePoint. VSTS for Software Developers is the client I use at work and have had limited exposure to the other features which are available as opposed to VS Professional Edition. This talk gave me some more avenues to explore however it also went back over a lot of old ground, re VSTS. I was disappointed with the web parts session as I thought, reading the session title and description, that this would cover a lot of uses of web parts in 2.0 web applications but the speakers spent the majority of the session showing differences between web parts in the different versions of SharePoint and how to leverage the 2.0 web part model in SharePoint. This was of limited use for myself as I do very little custom work for SharePoint. However I hope it does come in useful at some point, I'm sure it will.

An Code Monkey Goes To Tech Ed 2006 - Day 2 - UK Community Evening

November 9, 2006 11:48 by Andrew Westgarth

Last night, was country drinks night, and Microsoft UK took us to Shoko, a very trendy bar in Barcelona for drinks and tapas. This was a very enjoyable night and a great way to kick back with other community members, leaders and partners and really relax and do some networking and partying. A great night was had by all and the die hards partied on into the early hours. Thanks to the community for a great night and thanks to Microsoft and Shoko for the spread they put on.

An Code Monkey Goes To Tech Ed 2006 - Day 2 - Afternoon 3,4 & 5

November 9, 2006 10:00 by Andrew Westgarth

The afternoon of day 2 left me seeing:

  • 10 Undiscovered Features of 2.0 - Fritz Onion
  • Using Visual Studio Team System to Design, Develop and Test Enterprise Web Applications - Keith Smith
  • Windows SharePoint Services v3 Development: Web Parts, Master Pages, Field Types and More - Ted Pattison

Fritz covered a number of features buried within 2.0 which I would imagine many have not seen such as CSS Control Adapters - these are an extension for which enables the server controls such as menu, datalist, datagrid to render in full css as opposed to tables. This is great from an accessibility point of view and is used in this blog and in other projects I am working on. Another neat feature is the Application offline, this is a html file which sits in the application directory and if IIS detects it, displays this file and it is customisable so you can easily take a site offline for updates and render a custom page to inform users what is happening. The full listing of features Fritz covered are: Offline applications, Validation groups, CSS control adapters, Nested declarative data binding, Control focus / default buttons, Multi-source cross page post back, Site-wide control references, Custom evaluation expressions, DefaultHttpHandler endpoint mapping, Custom build providers why not do a search on these terms and find out more?

Keith Smith presented a topic on Visual Studio Team System for Web Developers. I remember seeing a lot of VSTS last year in preparation for the Visual Studio launch. This session has reminded me of the features of VSTS and it's something I am looking at for the value of a small team I am in. Keith demonstrated load testing and work items and the power of using VSTS in Office products such as Excel and Project for Project Managers.

My final session of the day covered a large amount of MOSS2007 development and the use of the platform and was presented by Ted Pattison. My impression of the speaker was that he know's a lot about the subject material and I found the session very interesting. I can't immediately put this in place as I do very little custom SharePoint work however I do think this will come in useful for future work. In discussing SharePoint with other delegates I've come to find a lot of people be very complimentary about Ted's technical knowledge so I would recommend checking out his blog for further information

An Code Monkey goes to Tech Ed 2006 - Day Two - Sessions 1 & 2

November 8, 2006 14:27 by Andrew Westgarth

This morning I have attended the following:

Both of these sessions were very intriguing, indeed I decided to attend the ADO.NET session rather than Bradley Millington's session on LINQ as I felt this would be of more relevance to my professional work.

Jackie spoke on a number of topics and produced a large number of demoes to illustrate his points. He spoke about using the DataSet Designer within Visual Studio and indeed highlighted this as an under utilised tool in Visual Studio. Jackie also covered using DataViews, handling mutliple table updates and controlling XML Data. What I found really intriguing was the power of performing asynchronous data access, therefore enabling your page ui or forms ui to build whilst the data access is occurring in the background, this is something I will look into further. Another topic of interest was Batch Updating, instructing the DataAdapter to update the data in use in batches as opposed to per row a database call. This has serious performance issues when working with large amounts of data.

Danny Thorpe, on the other hand, gave a presentation on the Windows Live Developer platform. Many of you may be aware of, Live Messenger, Hotmail and the Live identification service (formerly Passport). These are applications that we use already in our daily live and touch hundreds of millions of users everyday. This is a massive potential audience. Danny introduced us to the SDKs that are available for the Live Platform - you can download them from These include SDKs for Virtual Earth and Messenger to just name two. This is an area of expansion for Microsoft and is all about taking the burden from the server side and using the vast array of power available at Client Side to shoulder the burden of the request and build of various elements in the application. I have already used Microsoft Gadgets, which is a site whereby third parties post details of their gadgets - small applications which provide a function, such as weather forecasts, share monitoring, and clocks to name just a few. These are extremely powerful and very portable, they can be hosted in, Windows Vista Sidebar. Check them out they are really cool!

Virtual Earth is a web based implementation of a mapping facility which can be overlayed with data and functionality which is suitable for your organisation or purpose. We were shown a demo of how a Real Estate Agent in the states has utilised Virtual Earth to provide a very rich User Experience. Also recently released, Virtual Earth 3D, allows 3D renderings of buildings within the maps and full terrain imagery! I can certainly see some avenues which I want to explore in the use of Virtual Earth as an alternative to MapPoint. A question raised was how do these two relate and the answer is unclear, there is no definition as yet as how far this could go although they have distinct audience markets. I can see a use for Virtual Earth in some work I have done and am planning to do. I'll let you know how I get on with the SDK, and if any of you try it let me know how you get on!

An Code Monkey Goes to Tech Ed 2006 - Day One - Sessions

November 8, 2006 00:30 by Andrew Westgarth

Today I attended, along with the keynote, the following sessions:

  • Developing Rich Web Applications with AJAX - Shanku Niyogi
  • Developer and Designer AJAX Bliss with Visual Studio and Expression - Brad Abrams
  • Triple XXX - XML, XPath and Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformation (XSLT) - David McMahon and Richard Costall
  • A Lap Around the New Enhancements for Web Developers in Visual Studio 'Orcas' - Bradley Millington

All of todays sessions were great and very interesting. In Shanku's session he talked about the Beta 2 release of AJAX and the advancement of the control toolkit, plus he illustrated the intended roadmap. I've spent the last 11 months hearing about ATLAS/Ajax and have to say I had been tending to switch off, but this session has reignited my passion for AJAX and rejuvenated my fervour for investigating further.

Brad Abram's session focussed on splitting the work of the Designer and the Developer over two products Expression Web Designer and Visual Studio. But maintaining the fact that both could work on the same project, but work seamlessly to bring their own expertise to the fore.

Triple XXX - Dave and Richard presented a highly interesting, easy to understand an appreciate session. I have been using XSL/T on a website, which I inherited from a former colleague,, and have had to pick it up fairly quickly and this session helped me to learn more and reinforce the work I've been doing so far.

Final session of the day, for me, was a lap around 'Orcas' by Bradley Millington. This session gave an insight into what is coming next in the next version of Visual Studio. A lot of powerful additions have come from user feedback such as improved performance, better designer support - indeed Orcas has a new implementation of the designer which includes such things as split view (code and UX). Also added is full support for AJAX integration, better CSS support, LINQ and JScript Intellisense and debugging to name just a few. Certainly, Orcas seems feature packed and is something I expect to see/hear/blog more about in the coming months!


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