Andrew's Blog

Random Thoughts of an ASP.Net Code Monkey

Awarded Microsoft MVP Award for 2013

July 1, 2013 13:12 by Andrew Westgarth

This afternoon I received an email from Microsoft to tell me that I’d been awarded the 2013 Microsoft MVP Award for ASP.Net/IIS!  This is my sixth MVP Award and I’ve mentioned before I am extremely humble to be associated with a great group of less than 5000 technical people around the globe.  I’ll be aiming to continue my efforts to help the community and deliver as much content as I can to aid and spread knowledge. 

Categories: IIS | ASP.Net | MVP | Microsoft
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Blog Now Hosted on IIS 8.0–DiscountASP.Net

September 22, 2012 03:04 by Andrew Westgarth

On Thursday night I was having an email conversation with Takeshi Eto from DiscountASP.Net about the hosting of my blog.  I’ve been hosting my blog with DiscountASP.Net for nearly five years and have been very, very happy with their service – always up to date often offering services faster than other hosters and very quick turn around of support tickets if ever I’ve had any issues – they also host the NEBytes site.

Well on Thursday I was asking about migrating my site onto IIS 8.0 hosting and enquiring when it would be available.  Well during the same conversation Takeshi posted a blog post announcing the arrival of Windows Server 2012 hosting to their US data centre with the team also working to bring it to their European datacentre -http://blog.discountasp.net/windows-2012-hosting-arrives-in-us-data-center/.  So the first thing I did was select the upgrade on my account and my site has now been migrated across to a new Windows Server 2012 platform and is running on IIS 8.0 Smile

Global ASP.NET Hosting Leader - Click Here

I also took the opportunity to upgrade the underlying platform of my blog, BlogEngine.Net, to 2.6.0.5 after not having upgrade from 2.0.  At the same time I’ve tinkered with the theme so I can present more content in my posts and I’ve also fixed a number of issues that I haven’t had time to investigate before now, for example my tweets are now displayed correctly in the bubbles above.  I’ve got a couple rough edges to smooth down like the search page but everything else seems ok.

Book Review: MCTS 70-515 Web Applications Development with Microsoft .Net Framework 4 Self-Paced Training Kit

January 25, 2011 14:44 by Andrew Westgarth

For many reasons I haven’t had much time to blog in the last few months.  This is something with the coming of the New Year I’m aiming to rectify.  One of my other personal/work goals is to complete the Microsoft Professional Developer (Web Developer) Certification.  This requires me to site and pass four exams:

  1. 70-515: Web Application Development with Microsoft .Net Framework 4 (TS)
  2. 70-513: Windows Communication Foundation Development with Microsoft .Net Framework 4 (TS)
  3. 70-516: Accessing Data with Microsoft .Nest Framework 4 (TS)
  4. 70-519: Designing and Developing Web Applications with Microsoft .Net Framework 4

First on my list of exams to study for and complete was 70-515: Web Applications Development with Microsoft .Net Framework 4.  I had the exam booked for Tuesday 18th January 2011 and I’m pleased to say after a lot of intense and hard swotting I passed the exam.  Due to the severe disruption caused by the bad weather on both sides of the Atlantic it became very difficult to get hold of a printed copy of this book when it was due to be available in the UK.  There was a digital version available but I still like to read a physical book, although I am being tempted more and more of late by the Kindle.  Fortunately I was able to get a copy of the printed book prior to my exam, just!

WARNING: I don’t think this would be a useful review if I didn’t stress at the beginning that while this book covers the topics which the exam covers, it should not be your only resource of learning.  I made use of my attendance of relevant sessions at User Groups, real world experience on projects and additional reading, such as Steve Sanderson’s excellent Pro ASP.Net MVC 2 Framework, Second Edition which is an excellent book for getting to grips with ASP.Net MVC 2.

MCTS 70-515 Web Applications Development with Microsoft .Net Framework 4 Self-Paced training Kit CoverThe Self-Paced Training Kit

The Self-Paced Training kit is an excellent tool to help study for the exam.  They follow a standard package format of the

  • Self-paced study guide;
  • Practice Tests;
  • Over 300 practice and review questions;
  • Code Samples in VB.Net and C#;
  • eBook edition of the study guide.

The study guide is broken up into fourteen chapters, which breaks the curriculum into manageable segments of learning.  One technique for working through these guides is to take one chapter per night and work through each chapter covering the topic in great detail.  Planning to spend extra time when needed.  The chapters discuss the individual topics in some detail, have Labs to go through and get practice in implementing the topic discussed. At the end of each chapter there are Scenario based questions to guide you into choosing the right solutions for the problems faced and there are also review questions for each section.  The fourteen chapters combine to cover the objectives of the 70-515 Exam:

  • Developing Web Forms Pages;
  • Developing and Using Web Forms Controls;
  • Implementing Client-Side Scripting and AJAX;
  • Configuring and Extending a Web Application;
  • Displaying and Manipulating Data;
  • Developing a Web Application by Using ASP.Net MVC 2.

Verdict

This self-paced training guide was an invaluable tool for me in my preparation for the exam.  The guide breaks down the objectives into manageable chunks and highlight areas which need to be covered.  The Labs cover each topic as you progress through each chapter.  My one major criticism of the labs is that each lab often starts by setting up a new project/solution with the same name as the previous lab which is really frustrating.  Personally I would much rather have started a new solution per chapter and modified the solution/projects as I went through the labs in that chapter.  The review questions are a great way to review your knowledge and how much you’ve taken in after completing studying each chapter.  The Scenario based exercises are even better as they make you think how your knowledge would be applied in the real world.

I would recommend buying and working your way through the MCTS 70-515 Web Applications Development with Microsoft .Net Framework 4 Self-Paced Training Kit as part of your preparation for the 70-515 exam, however I would also recommend additional sources to compliment your learning.  For example the MVC area was easier for me to pick up as I have completed some projects using the Framework and have also read other books on the topic, whereas the Client-Side Scripting element was harder for me to pick up as I have had less exposure to that area of study.

If you’re studying for the 70-515 exam good luck and I hope you find this book and review useful!  I’m off to search for materials so I can prepare for my other exams as the equivalent training guides won’t be available for quite some time yet.

Sparkling Websites and New Enhancements for the MS Web Platform Announced

September 24, 2009 14:42 by Andrew Westgarth

This morning Scott Guthrie announced a new program to help Small Web Development Companies (10 employees or less) and individual Web Developers who develop Web Sites and Services.  The program runs for three years is free to join, all that is payable is a $100 fee on exit.  Benefits of the program include:

  • Windows Web Server 2008 R2 – licenses;
  • SQL Server 2008 licenses;
  • 1 Expression Studio 3 license;
  • 2 Expression Web licenses;
  • 3 Visual Studio 2008 Professional licenses
  • and more…

For full details of the announcement see Scott Guthrie’s blog post and to register visit the WebsiteSpark portal.

Announcements from the IIS Team

Today has been a day for announcements with the IIS Team also announcing a list of new releases – Bill Staples has full details of the releases – which are:

For more information refer to iis.net and to Bill’s blog post, I’m off to read up on today’s great announcements.

Categories: ASP.Net | IIS | Microsoft
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Handling Webpage Display Issues in Internet Explorer 8.0 using IIS

September 9, 2008 14:32 by Andrew Westgarth

I have been using Internet Explorer 8.0 since the release of Beta 1.  IE 8 requires more standards compliance in the code of web pages for them to display correctly.  Today I was catching up on my RSS Feeds and came across this very useful article - Configuring IIS to work around webpage display issues in Internet Explorer 8.0 and this article discusses the use of adding a HTTP Response Header which then informs IE to run in IE Compatibility mode, therefore rendering the page as it would render in Internet Explorer 7.

The article gives complete details of how to set this up on IIS6 and 7 (integrated and classic mode) and it is very straight forward.  I have implemented it on our live webserver but not on our development server - so we can fix the issues rather than relying on compatibility mode.  Also the default is to set this for your entire server, i.e. any sites, applications and pages served.  However by adding this remove tag into the root web.config of a site you can remove the use of the HTTP Response Header from that particular site and the site will run in true mode (remember to place the httpProtocol element within the system.webServer element in your configuration):

<system.webServer>
  <
httpProtocol>
    <
customHeaders>
      <
remove name="X-UA-Compatible"/>
    </
customHeaders>
  </
httpProtocol>
</
system.webServer>

I must stress I definitely see this as a temporary workaround and only as a backup plan to buy you a little time to sort out the rendering issues!  I would always advocate coding your XHTML and CSS to correct standards!!  Standards Compliance has many added benefits including search engine optimisation and accessibility benefits for users of your sites!!

Categories: ASP.Net | IIS
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Tutorial for Using ASP.Net MVC Framework on Different Versions of IIS

September 5, 2008 14:49 by Andrew Westgarth

Last night Alan Dean came up to VBUG in Newcastle to speak on ASP.Net MVC Framework.  One of the discussion points we had was any potential issues for hosting sites on IIS due to the routing and url rewrite elements of the MVC Framework.  I wasn't clear on the implications, and I hadn't seen much traffic personally on the issue.  So with a task of downloading ASP.Net MVC Framework Preview 5 so I could have a good look at it and understand it all as an alternative to Webforms, and looking into the implications and workarounds for hosting within versions of IIS I went of in search of information.

I immediately thought that with IIS7 and applications running in Integrated Mode, which is the mode I aim to run all of my applications on IIS7 in, there should be no configuration changes or modifications required since ASP.Net is part of the pipeline so all requests are processed by ASP.Net by default.  In classic mode ASP.Net requests are processed through the aspnet_isapi.dll as they would be in IIS6 so unless files are mapped to the ASP.Net Isapi filter then they wouldn't be processed.  In reading up about ASP.Net MVC on the ASP.Net website I found a great tutorial on Using ASP.NET MVC with Different Versions of IIS - hopefully this will be of help to you looking to configure and use the ASP.Net MVC Framework on IIS.

Categories: ASP.Net | How To | IIS
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RemixUK - Ready Steady Speak Competition! - Win an XBOX 360!

September 1, 2008 03:22 by Andrew Westgarth

Ready Steady Speak is back for the RemixUK Event in Brighton on Thursday 18th and Friday 19th of September 2008.  Are you a budding speaker? A Designer with a passion for what you do who would like to educate us Developers in how it's done or some other aspect of design which we really don't get?  Are you a Developer who wants to get his message across to designers about just how cool the latest features in Web Development Technologies are or do you just want to share your knowledge with your fellow designers and developers?  If so then Ready Steady Speak at RemixUK could be the ideal opportunity!

RemixUK is all about the conversation and the opportunity for Web Developers and Web Designers to mix and discuss their roles and technologies and work together to shape the future of the Web!.  Ready Steady Speak is a unique way for you to have a go at delivering a short presentation to a very receptive audience of like minded people, and hopefully once you get a taste you'll go on to deliver full presentations or more nugget style presentations at local usergroup events, Barcamps etc around the country!  I've presented at a number of events and conferences now and the Buzz is amazing - so I very much encourage you to have a go!  If you have any questions or doubts email me - using the contact form on this blog and I'll do everything I can to help you!

The full details of the RemixUK Ready Steady Speak Competition are:

Contestants will present a 5 min session on a subject of their choice relating to Web Development or Web Design.  They will present in front of the REMIX audience and in front of a panel of judges.  If there are more than a  certain number of contestants (TBD), there will be ‘heats’ earlier in the day with the winners of the heats in a ‘speak-off’ in the evening session.  The ‘speak-off’ will take place as stated in the evening of the first day of MIX and the first prize is an XBox 360 + Goodies! 

Prerequisites:

Mandatory

· Speakers must NOT have previously presented ‘full sessions’ at DDD, TechEd, DevWeek, SDN, SQLBITS, VBUG Conference, NxtGenUG FEST or any similar such conferences.

· Speakers must create a new session of their own with new material which can be based on existing material but cannot be a simple copy of it.

· Speakers must limit their session to as close to 5 mins as possible( overrunning time will cause the speaker to be marked down.)

· Speakers must not have previously won Speaker Idol or “Ready Steady Speak” UK Launch

· Speakers must state their desire to enter the competition by no later than COP Monday 15th September 2008 by email.

Desirable

· Speakers should provide if at all possible their own laptop, but one can be provided if necessary.  The speaker should notify the organisers of any software prerequisites.

· Speakers should have spoken previously at a User Group meeting even if only for a 10 min mini-session or ‘nugget’.  This is NOT mandatory.

 

So come on and have go it'll be a great and very rewarding experience!!!  I'm really looking forward to making the very long trip down to Brighton and look forward to meeting lots of new great people!

728x90_speaker_b

IMTC 2008 - IIS 7 for ASP.Net Developers Teaser

April 2, 2008 08:11 by Andrew Westgarth

Here is a brief introduction to my session IIS 7 for ASP.net Developers which I will be presenting at IMTC 2008 in Dublin on Friday 4th April 2008 at 11:30.

Categories: ASP.Net | Events | IIS
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What is VBUG All About? With Added Silverlight Goodness

April 1, 2008 15:00 by Andrew Westgarth

Recently VBUG Vice Chairman Tim Leung, prepared a brief video about the work we do at VBUG and the support we give developers in aiming to achieve our goal of Developing the Developer!, for the Microsoft VS08/SQL08/Server 08 Launch Event in Birmingham.  We didn't want to waste all of Tim's hard work and not use the video for anything other than the launch event, so last night I took a look into how we could stream the video using Silverlight and was surprised to see how easy it is :).

First I was concerned with bandwidth usage, yes it's a small video but still I didn't have any idea of how many view it would receive, but then I remembered that Microsoft are offering Silverlight hosting as part of the initiative to get developers working with the technology.  They provide 10GB of storage for videos and applications with an aggregated 5TB of Bandwidth per user account per month.  All you need to get an account is a Windows Live ID.  So off I headed to silverlight.live.com and setup an account :). 

Next I uploaded our video.  From here you can choose to create an application for your content.  I didn't have time for this and to be honest I haven't had chance to do a great deal with Silverlight yet.  So then I was stumped at how to embed our video on our pages at www.vbug.com but then whilst managing my uploaded video I noticed that it offered a code snippet with details of how to insert an iFrame into any web page, so off I went and copied this snippet into our VBUG home page and voila we now have streaming video content on our web site. 

I've also put the video here at the bottom of this post, to demonstrate how easy it is and to answer a few questions about what VBUG is and does.  Let me know what you think :).

Categories: ASP.Net | VBUG
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Book Review: Professional IIS 7 And ASP.NET Integrated Programming

March 3, 2008 15:38 by Andrew Westgarth

Professional IIS 7 and ASP.NET Integrated Programming by Dr. Shahram Khosravi - Book Cover

I managed to get hold of this book a few months ago, about the time I flew out to Tech Ed in Barcelona.  Unfortunately it's taken me till now to write up my impressions and views on this book.  Initially I was a little apprehensive about reading this book due to two particular reasons: firstly I don't generally get along with Wrox Press books and in the past have found them difficult to read compared to other titles from other publishing houses; secondly this book is a considerable size - totaling 670 pages!!  I was however eager to read it, as I am any new titles that appear on the subject of IIS 7.  This one had particularly grabbed my attention due to it's initial indications of specific relevance of how to exploit the power of IIS 7 in ASP.NET Applications and Programming.

In essence I would say that this book is a must have on the bookshelf of any serious ASP.NET developer who is looking to exploit and use the full power of IIS 7 in their applications.  As opposed to a previous title I reviewed - Book Review: IIS7 Implementation and Administration - this book is most definitely aimed at the Developer.  There are only 12 chapters in this title however they are very detailed chapters and really go into great detail.  Topics covered include using the integrated configuration system (<system.webserver>), how to extend the configuration system, extending the management interface, extending the request pipeline and it even has a great chapter on the integration of WCF in IIS 7 - something which I've been looking for good sources of information on.

What is great about this book is how in each element Dr. Khosravi has gone into immense detail and broke down each part of the object model and configuration model, explaining the effects of each option and the affect that can have on your application and the web server itself.  This is a feature which I and I would imagine many others will turn to over and over again as new requirements appear in my/their projects.  Although initially the content of this book can be daunting to a beginner in time they will grow in knowledge along side this book, and it is a title which can be constantly revisited and digested at the reader's own pace, this is a must for any IIS/ASP.NET Developer's bookshelf.

In response to my initial two concerns about this title, I've been convinced.  I enjoyed reading this book and possibly my reading style and ability has improved/changed since I last read a Wrox title, but I didn't have a lot of problems reading this book, although the content can be quite heavy going as it is so detailed, which I've already identified as a strength.  The size of the book is also of no problem and indeed is vindicated in the quality of the content.

Book Details:

Title: Professional IIS 7 and ASP.NET Integrated Programming

Author: Dr. Shahram Khosravi

Publisher: Wrox

Link to purchase on Computer Manuals : http://www.compman.co.uk/scripts/browse.asp?ref=852426



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Ultrabook Review: Lenovo Ideapad U300S

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Random Thoughts of an ASP.Net Code Monkey

Ultrabook Review: Lenovo Ideapad U300S

April 1, 2012 13:25 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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