Andrew's Blog

Random Thoughts of an ASP.Net Code Monkey

Selection of Links

June 1, 2007 00:10 by Andrew Westgarth

At tonight's VBUG session I mentioned a number of things to go and look into. Here are the links and I'll post some detailed thoughts soon.

EVO Launch Scotland - Slides, Answers, Links and Samples

March 31, 2007 00:09 by Andrew Westgarth

On Tuesday, 27th March, I delivered the EVO (Exchange, Vista and Office) Launch event at the Microsoft Offices in Edinburgh for VBUG Scotland. In this packed session I attempted to cover as many of the new features for Developers to be aware of in the new products Vista and Office 2007. Unfortunately the session overran and thanks to those who stayed that extra bit longer to hear some more. The slides are linked below, if you wish to take a look at them and if you have any questions please email me using the contact form and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

I enjoyed coming up to Scotland and enjoyed delivering the event, gained more experience and had some interesting conversations with delegates, listening to opinions on the new software and their experiences with Vista and Office. Questions were plentiful and interesting and a couple which I had to do some further research on are detailed below.

  • Network Access Protection - How is it configured and how is it managed in infrastructure - is it a Vista only feature?
  • Manifest files in UAC aware applications, are the elevation rights defined for application or process?

To tackle Network Access Protection, this is a feature which enforces policies on networks as to requirements for clients to connect to the network, this is achieved by checking computers against a defined security policy. The infrastructure involved primarily includes servers running Windows Server "Longhorn" and a Network Policy Server (NPS) which enables centralised policy configurationa and evaluation of the client health state. There is also a Network Access Protection Client currently in beta testing for Windows XP Clients. For more information see the Technet Network Access Protection pages.

Manifest files in UAC aware applications are used in applications to inform the Operating System of what the application needs, this will become a mandatory requirement for applications as Operating Systems evolve even further. The manifest schema is used to allow developers to set attributes to detail the requested execution level - for more information see the "Developer Best Practives and Guidelines for Applications in a Least Privileged Environment Documents on MSDN.

Resources, Slides and Code Samples from the session

Daniel Moth's Blog - A great source for lots of Vista examples, Daniel covers UAC, Sidebar, Sideshow. Indeed the samples I used were created with the help of his MSDN Nuggets

Check out Channel9's coverage of Windows Vista, plenty of Videos and Screencasts to take a look at

Windows Vista Developer Centre on MSDN and go and download the Windows SDK (warning this is a very big file!).

For more resources see the slides from the session. The slides are available in both Office 2007 - pptx format and Office 97-2003 ppt format:

Hello World SideBar Gadget Sample

Upcoming VBUG North East Meetings

March 23, 2007 14:54 by Andrew Westgarth

We have a number of events planned for VBUG in the North East of England over the coming months, indeed we have a meeting a week on Tuesday. Here are the details of the forthcoming events. For the events in May, July and beyond further information will be available soon.

Tuesday April 3rd 2007 - Creating Rich User Experiences with Expression, WPF and "WPF/E" with Mark Johnston

Mark Johnston, Developer & Platform at Microsoft UK, will introduce ?WPF/E? and Expression. ?WPF/E? is the codename for a new rich internet technology that allows developers & designers to create very rich applications that are delivered cross-browser & cross-platform. He will introduce the technology, show some sample apps & create an app using Expression & Visual Studio tools. Expression is a range of tools aimed at designers wanting to create rich user experiences on the desktop & on the web.

Venue: - Northumbria University, Ellison Place, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 8ST - Virtual Earth Map

Time: 18:30 - 21:00 (19:00 Start)

To book email emma@vbug.com or call 01753 649680

Thursday May 31st 2007 - IIS 7 For ASP.Net Developers with me, Andy Westgarth!

With the launch of Windows Vista came Internet Information Server 7.0. IIS7 is the latest release of Microsofts Web Server which will form part of the forthcoming Windows Longhorn Server. With this release comes a new extensibility model which gives us more options than ever before. During the session we will investigate the new model, look at extending IIS7, configuring IIS 7, develop new modules for IIS and take a look at the new UI for managing IIS7.

Venue: - Newcastle Full details to be confirmed

Time: 18:30 - 21:00 (19:00 Start)

To book email emma@vbug.com or call 01753 649680

Wednesday July 11th 2007 - Ruby On Rails with Dave Verwer

This session gives a first look at Ruby on Rails as both a language (Ruby) & a web development framework (Rails). With all of the buzz & hype around this new technology, this session will give a view of it from the perspective of somone familiar with Microsoft .NET development tools and technologies. It will cover some of the basics of Ruby as a language & will then show some of what can be done with Ruby on Rails.

Venue: - Newcastle Full details to be confirmed

Time: 18:30 - 21:00 (19:00 Start)

To book email emma@vbug.com or call 01753 649680

For information all events running across the country at various venues go to the VBUG Events Page and take a look, or why not subscribe to the VBUG Events RSS feed?

Hope to see you at an event soon!

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

March 8, 2007 01:54 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 26, 2007 19:00 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.

Review and Slides: VBUG EVO Launch, Newcastle, Tuesday 20th January 2007

February 2, 2007 13:09 by Andrew Westgarth

On Tuesday evening, John Price and I delivered the VBUG North East EVO (Exchange, Vista and Office) Launch Event. Big thanks go to John Price for presenting with me, sharing the work, providing great support, delivering a great presentation and travelling from the East Midlands, it was very much appreciated John, Thank You! Thanks must also go to John Timney for arranging the venue and to BT for providing the venue.

We had a good turnout and the topics we covered were well received. Plenty of swag was distributed. We covered Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office System.

Admittedly there was an awful lot of content and there was possibly too much to cover in one session. I will bear this in mind for any future launch events and indeed, in my own presentations. Thanks go to those who attended, I hope you all enjoyed the event and if you have any questions about the EVO Launch, previous or upcoming events, or questions about VBUG please email me on northeast@vbug.com.

The slides are available in both pptx (Office 2007) and ppt (Office 2003-97) formats:

I look forward to seeing you at the next event in late March, early April, further details to follow soon.

VBUG: EVO (Exchange, Vista and Office) VBUG Launch

January 14, 2007 19:41 by Andrew Westgarth

On Tuesday 30th January 2007 VBUG are holding our very EVO Launch event in Newcastle. Here are the details:

January 2007 sees the consumer launch of the latest version of Microsoft?s flagship product ? Microsoft Windows Vista. Along with Vista, the eagerly anticipated Office 2007 &Exchange 2007 are also released. Join us as we take a tour round the new features of Windows Vista, Microsoft Office 2007 & Exchange 2007. Learn about the new features that can be developed against. We will also explore the recently released .Net Framework 3.0 and look ahead to the coming year.

Venue: Innovation Place Metro Riverside Park, Delta Bank Road, Newcastle upon Tyne. Newcastle upon Tyne. NE11 9DJ. Conference Room 3

Time: 18:30 - 21:00 (19:00 Start)

To register mail emma@vbug.com or call 01753 649680

I look forward to seeing you there!

VBUG North East EVO Launch (Exchange, Office & Vista) - Newcastle January 30th 2007

December 11, 2006 21:19 by Andrew Westgarth

Great News! The next VBUG Meeting in the North East will be the VBUG EVO Launch event. This will be on a much smaller scale than the Microsoft Event being held in TVP on 19th & 20th January 2007. In approximately two hours, myself and Gary Rowntree, Leeds VBUG Regional Coordinator, will be giving all attendees an insight into the EVO products, primarily Vista, Office and .Net 3.0.

We'll try to cover as much as we can but obviously won't be able to cover everything, but hopefully it'll be a fun and informative evening for all. So for more information see the VBUG website for more information and details of how to register for the event. Currently the details of the Venue is to be confirmed. Keep an eye on the VBUG website and this blog as confirmed details will be posted as soon as they're confirmed!

VBUG North East - December Drinks

December 7, 2006 00:57 by Andrew Westgarth

As many of you will know, I am the North East Regional Coordinator for VBUG, and last night we had a get together in Newcastle to discuss the year ahead. A small group of us met to discuss the developments expected in the next year, new events, new developments but primarily we had a very fruitful discussion about topics which members would like to see covered in the support meetings next year.

From such a small group (There were seven of us), we managed to come up with enough topics to cover a meeting a month where possible. This is something I am actively working on and I am planning next year's events now.

The topics that were discussed were

Phew! Thats quite a lot of interest and sessions to plan, I'm going to have a busy few weeks!

If you are a VBUG member and attend the Support Meetings, and have any requests for topics, contact either me directly or VBUG and let them know and I'll do my best to source a speaker and see if we can fulfill the request. Also if you've never been to a Support Meeting, Member or Non Member keep an eye out for the next event in your region on the VBUG website and register and come along.

An ASP.net 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.



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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway.

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