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Random Thoughts of an ASP.Net Code Monkey

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.

WebDD - Review

February 4, 2007 21:07 by Andrew Westgarth

Yesterday I attended the first WebDD event at Microsoft Campus, Reading, UK. Once again this involved a 600 mile plus, roundtrip from my home in the North East of England. Was it worth it?

Oh Yes! This was another great event and big pat on the back must go to Phil, Dave and the rest of the team for organising such a great day!. Big quodos for getting Scott Guthrie to attend and speek on so many interesting topics. He was a big pull and I haven't seen crowds like there were, pushing to get into his sessions, I likened it to crowds at a footie match to one delegate! Unfortunately for the speakers in the other two rooms they had a hard time of it from what I hear as unfortunately some of their attendees only attended some sessions because they couldn't get into Scott's. That said seeing as the sessions in Chicago One were being recorded all day, I took the opportunity to see a session by Bruce Lawson who covered "Web Accessibility: What, Why, How and Who Cares?"

Bruce gave a very interesting a humourous session discussing an area which I feel very passionate about and one which I do try to work towards. I have been interested in Web Accessibility since the final year of my degree, indeed I covered Web Accessibility for a research chapter in my degree, and also have an interest in Human Computer Interaction since being introduced to the concept in my first year of Uni. Bruce outlined reasons for having accessible web sites and even provided a couple of examples of where it has yielded results for businesses by enabling all users to use a company's site and also the legal requirements of a company to provide an accessible site. This was an excellent session and gives me more knowledge for my work. Thanks Bruce!

I attended a session by Hristo Deshev, of Telerik, after lunch on Developing ASP.Net AJAX Components. This looked to be a very interesting session and compelling viewing, however Hristo was clearly nervous talking to such a larger audience, I think Chicago 1 was pretty much full, and as English was clearly not his first language his presentation, which was highly technical, was very hard to follow. That said as the session was being recorded I am looking forward to reviewing the session again when I can download the video, and indeed working through the example. This is a very interesting area and one which I would like to experiment with and use in my applications. Hristo works for Telerik and they provide a very extensive series of ASP.Net controls which I have been using for years very successfully.

Of Scott's sessions I attended the first part of End to End Web Sites, Sneak Peek at "Orcas" and WPF/e. I only attended the first session of End To End Web Sites as I saw a similar session at Tech Ed Europe last November so I chose to use the second session to see Bruce's session. Scott's session was great, however I will look at the slides when he posts them on his blog, so I can pick up the new things added which are different to the version given by Matt Gibbs. I enjoyed the session on "Orcas" and I am really excited to see the new tools in Visual Studio "Orcas" and will be looking to cover this more in the coming months. A public beta is expected in the Spring! With a release of sometime later this year. The last session of the day which I saw was on WPF/e, the essential idea behind this is the hosting of WPF content in the browser by ustilising a player downloaded once by the client, an idea which is often compared to Flash. This looks to be a very exciting area and expect to see a WPF/e version of my Code Monkey appearing here very soon.

The mix of clientele was again very different however there were a lot of familiar faces at the event and it was great to mix with designers and have a little insight into their interests, especially as a lot of us work alongside them day by day. Microsoft Event staff did a great job once again. Sausage/Bacon/Egg sarnies as soon as we got there brought massive brownie points, they went down very well with all attendees, along with the rest of the support staff who helped make this a great event.

Overall this was an excellent day and I'm looking forward to the next one already! Now we have two great community events in the form of WebDD and DDD. Make sure you keep an eye on those feeds to keep up to date with what's happening! It was also great to spot quite a few attendees who made the trip down from the North East, I recognised a lot from VBUG. Let me know what you thought of the event too.

WebDD a great event and big thanks to Phil and Dave! AJAX v1.0 Officially Released!

January 23, 2007 21:13 by Andrew Westgarth

Today AJAX has been officially released! Finally after all of the CTPs, Betas and the Release Candidate we have the full release of a product which has developed since it's early ATLAS days. It's time to update all of your development projects from the betas/RC1 to the full release!

Download the full release from the Ajax Website NOW!.

Categories: ASP.Net | Microsoft
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Advanced Security Training for ASP.NET Developers

January 16, 2007 23:47 by Andrew Westgarth

The guys at NxtGenUG are teaming up with Dinis Cruz once again to offer an excellent two day security training course. The course will cover topics such as security principles, .Net Framework Architecture, Threat Modelling, Vulnerabilities, Secure Coding and many more. Dinis Cruz is a very passionate security expert and is very keen on training developers to develop secure applications and to do everything they can to prevent attacks. He is a very passionate speaker and I have had the pleasure of seeing him at a number of events and have enjoyed the information he has presented and I learn a lot every time I see him present. This is a course well worth taking a look at. For more details please go to If you attend the course why not let me know how you get on?

Code Snippets

December 11, 2006 21:13 by Andrew Westgarth

I was talking to a colleague the other day and introduced him to Code Snippets. This is one of many features which are in Visual Studio 2005 and I'm sure that there are many other I don't know about but would find useful. My colleague was amazed at the simplicity but also the potential of this feature. I have developed my own snippets and they are very easy to do. To use code snippets, from within VS2005, go to Edit -> Intellisense -> Insert Snippet and this displays the snippet manager for you to select a snippet from. Snippets are great for removing the repetitiveness of entering the same structures many times, i.e. property constructs, if statements and try catch loops. Take a look at them and let me know what you think.

Also let me know your favourite tip/treat for Visual Studio 2005.

CSS Control Adapters Released

December 11, 2006 21:11 by Andrew Westgarth

This release has really slipped past my radar. This is a set of adapters which allow ASP.Net developers to use the Menu, GridView, DetailsView, TreeView, DataList and Membership server controls in ASP.Net 2.0 but output code using CSS as opposed to tables. THis is great for anyone who is aiming to be compliant and to aim for accessibility ratings. Indeed I use them on this blog and they are also used on Brainbugs Tutors, a website I developed for a tutor in Yorkshire, UK. I also use them in projects at work. Now they have been fully released it is time to update any code that used the Beta releases. The CSS Control Adapters can be found at along with documentation and samples.

Categories: ASP.Net | Microsoft
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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

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 - 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 - 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


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