Tag Archives: Silverlight

windows

Thoughts on Windows 8 Details

Yesterday at All Things D, Microsoft announced Windows 8 (codename of course) details, and a first glimpse on video
 

Windows 8 Video #1

My initial reactions to this, as a consumer and as a development manager of an app that at this time is completely windows desktop .NET based:

HTML5/JS Apps

First reaction? Why not just use a browser? and How are they going to interact with the OS? What level’s of rights will they have to read/write file system, etc, etc. Also, what happens to Silverlight? C++/Winforms apps? Yeah they show old apps running “behind” the new UI, but what is MIcrosoft’s stance on development of these other technologies? WPF? They have told devs to build using these tech’s for desktop for years, now, lets go HTML5/JS? WTF? Will apps run in browser too? On a mac? iOS?

Tiles

First reaction? Looks like an exploded Windows Phone UI, WP7. Which at first blush looks cool but I have found usability to be painful. Seems to be more of a shell UI on top of Windows 7 (or whatever). They should call it Windows Blinds Smile

In General

I think that this will be a good refresh for the OS, but it might take a few iterations for this new UI to be used heavily. My take? Users will get the OS installed and (hopefully there will be an option to) turn off the new UI and go back to what they have used for years. Slowly but surely the new UI will take hold with some cool apps and more and more people will use that and get used to it, abstracted away from the core OS explorer, etc.

Looking forward to trying it out in beta, and when it goes live. I will give MSFT this, they keep things changing so devs have to keep learning! Oh yeah, and PDC is no longer, it is now BUILD – http://www.buildwindows.com/

Thoughts on the Future of Microsoft Development #pdc2010

The PDC was last week. I have never been (was scheduled once but didn’t end up going), but I try to keep up with everything that they have online, and now even more the blogs and tweets. Here are my thoughts after digesting everything I could.

Strategy

I’m not sure this much of one.. but Microsoft is still trying to figure out and find their development strategy. From back in the 90’s when it was Win32 then MFC and ASP Classic with VBScript + Office/VBA, to then Managed code (.NET C#/VB.NET, and ASP.NET Stacks).. and then WPF/Silverlight, they still and always will keep changing so that developers have to keep learning new things and looking at the next shiny object. There hasn’t been much of a convergence or steady path though. It seems once a developer or team picks up a technology it is already outdated, and I am guessing this will never change.

Anyways, after watching the videos and seeing discussion, this is what I think..

1. HTML5

The web! Ahh, the web. The one place there are no restrictions. Apple is saying, develop under our restrictions, or go out to the web with HTML5, and Microsoft is going to follow suit. If it was ASP Classic, or ASP.NET WebForms, and then MVC, and now HTML5, the web will be around for a while and Microsoft doesn’t want to get left behind. For a while they were touting Silverlight as the “new web” or whatever, but that seems to have changed.

Web applications are good for some things – well, a ton, but not everything. You can’t do some of the richer things you can do on a client on the web, deeper integrations. You can’t really run a web app offline either, no matter what people say, it just won’t be the same as a fat client. Anything I hear from MSFT that says, it does “X” if you use IE9 and I just cringe. Forget IE, let’s make it work for all browsers.

2. Silverlight

If you are developing for the WP7 Phone (who has one? yeah – I thought so), you use Silverlight, other than that, not 100% sure where they are going with this. Use it for video streaming? Games? Flash killer? Basic RIA application that needs a little more integration with the desktop than a standard web app, but less than a fat client. The problem is, what you can and cannot do in Silverlight changes every release – In my opinion they should open it up more, let you do more things with the desktop. Let devs focus on just one set of rules. I have a feeling that Silverlight might just be used as a “glue” technology instead of a “main” technology. The glue between Web and Windows?

3. WPF

Unknown here. Not much at PDC, but some talks. Winforms (like Webforms) is a forgotten technology at MSFT, so to all the people who jumped on those trains, sorry, you need to hurry up and get on the new trains. I have read some places that WPF is the future for desktop/fat client apps at MSFT, and other places where there is no Product Manager, there is barely a team, no support, they are letting it die (ala Winforms), but who knows for sure. What should a developer do? Enterprise and Line of Business applications that need desktop integrations can’t be created in Web or Silverlight, and .NET developers really don’t want to fall back to C++ (although Evernote did – and saw a huge performance gain). Microsoft needs to instill some confidence in developers that a technology they would choose isn’t neglected – to me that is just piss poor business practices. On one hand let’s market the hell out of it (which with WPF really hasn’t been the case, but marketed way more than Win32 or Winforms) and get everyone on the bandwagon, and then let it die, and 2 years later say “X” is the brand new toy you need to focus on. They finally are doing some things at MSFT in WPF, but to what extent? Black magic embedding WPF controls in Winforms or Win32 apps? To me, seeing the pretty awesome data binding stuff with WPF makes it a no brainer. Why not extend the enhanced data binding to Winforms? Why make devs switch?

 

Like I said, more convergence of tools. Use expression blend for front ends? Yes! – but it should be for everything, Windows/Web/RIA, not just Windows/RIA. Language constructs getting to the same level no matter where you code? Yes – sounds like a good thing to me, so why is it so tough?

The new Async framework looks sweet, what else for Windows devs on the .NET side? Can we get some more detailed strategy from Microsoft on where things are going? What to focus on? Companies and developers are stuck making a leap of faith when choosing which technology to use – to make sure they aren’t left in the dust. On the Apple side, it is pretty clear – use Objective C and you can code for Mac, iPhone, iPad, etc. use HTML5 for the web. Should we all be using Java? or C++? Why have .NET devs struggle to figure out what technology to use? So bottom line..

 

1. Web – HTML5/ASP.NET MVC, WCF services, etc

2. Mobile – Silverlight (aside: what ever happened to the .NET CF?)

3. Windows – WPF, WPF, WPF (but don’t forget about console apps and windows services!)

It would be interesting to go to Microsoft dev shops around the globe and do surveys..

“Hey there – what are most of your websites and web services written in?”

    Answer: “Webforms and ASMX services -  we are looking at MVC”

“Hello, what are you doing for mobile development?”

    Answer: “Well, since WP7 phone just came out and who knows if it will take off, we do everything in Objective C for iOS devices or just have a mobile website in ASP.NET webforms, or we have some Java based Android app, and some crappy Blackberry apps or something..”

“Hola, what are you doing for your LOB desktop apps, etc?”

    Answer: “Well we have a few legacy VB6 apps, some Win32 apps, and we have poured tons of time into Winforms over the last 7-8 years, but we want to start looking at WPF”

I bet a majority of the answers would be similar to the ones above. Who the hell is doing anything in Silverlight? Niche apps/markets? What about WPF? A few, and some proof of concepts, but yeah, even the MVC stuff is probably on a slower adoption rate then MSFT would like. Not sure how they solve this problem. One way would be to STOP CHANGING THINGS EVERY TWO YEARS so that dev shops can focus and incrementally move to the new technologies, but I don’t see that happening.

Where do we go from here? Well, I am pretty excited to see what .NET 5 brings. :)

Microsoft Live Labs Pivot Viewer – Rich Internet Application

So, I previously blogged about using PivotViewer in your Web Applications, but you can also just consume Pivot collections using the “Pivot” tool from Microsoft Live Labs

You can download it here

What does this tool offer? Well first it has a library/homepage of collections you can browse

You can do some slicing and dicing on a collection of Presidents, or athletes, or Sports Illustrated covers. This tool and technology really fasinates me. It is “Business Intelligence” but in a different way – it is based on “objects” (images) instead of “metrics”. I like it.

What are some cool things I think this could be used for? Company Directory? Online Catalog? Beer selection at Eddie’s? the list goes on and on..

Additionally there is now an add in for SQL Server Reporting Services and SharePoint 2010 you can download here

Once I have an environment in which I can test that set up, I will blog about it.

Microsoft Silverlight PivotViewer: Getting Started and Business Case

I have been reading about Microsoft’s PivotViewer lately, and decided to try to get it going for myself. What is PivotViewer? Think of it as visual data slicing through a web page.

What you do is take some data, and then tie records to images, and then publish out your “collection” and you can consume it via a webpage using the Silverlight PivotViewer control. One awesome example of this is here http://netflixpivot.cloudapp.net/. But what I have been really trying to wrap my head around is how to use the as a “business” tool. Because, it is easily technically doable, but you have to have a *reason* to do it.

Working with widgets and customers and locations – what do you do? There are two things I could think of quickly. One – peruse your “master data” very fast and visually. The other is looking at some kind of metrics for your widgets, or logos of your customers you might sell too, or ? ..Well, you could..

  • Master Data/Catalog
  • Show pictures of your widgets, and create filters (they call them facets) for things like size, color, weight, model, etc. You have “one” of each and you just want to see what you offer. Almost could be a pretty sweet online catalog browser

  • Sales/Metrics
  • Do the same as a master data catalog but allow filtering by some kind of metric. Shipped items over a given time or something.

  • Something Else I Haven’t Thought Of?

Anyways, the first thing you should do before anything is get some kind of data feed. Run a query, get some data from somewhere. Start small to test. 500-1000 records.

Then the fun begins. Starting from absolute scratch..

Ok, yeah, tons of setup. Biggest thing is in IIS you need to set some MIME types: .cxml, .dzi and .dzc need to be “text/xml”

Once you have all that setup, you can do 2 things.. create your collection, and create your app. Create a blank silverlight project first:

Once you have that, there isn’t a ton you have to do to get things going with PivotViewer.

  1. MainPage.xaml
  2. Add in your MainPage.xaml, a namespace line for Pivot, and add the control

    Your end MainPage.xaml should look like this:

    
    
        
            
        
    
    
    
    
  3. Reference Assemblies
  4. For good measure, just reference them all, located here: C:Program FilesMicrosoft SDKsSilverlightv4.0PivotViewerJun10Bin

  5. Load Collection:
  6. pvWidgets.LoadCollection("http://localhost/SilverlightApplication1.Web/MyWidgets.cxml", null);
    

Note, you have to make your web part of your project IIS based instead of the build in web browser. Why? Because the .cxml HAS to be hosted on a web server, it just works that way.

Now, you need to create your collection.. you can use a cmd line tool they offer on the PivotViewer site, they also have a c# library for automating things, but it is best to first just do it manually. So I used the tool they have as an add on for excel. It adds a nice little “Pivot Collections” tab

You can use this to put some data in, you probably want to add more columns than what they give you by default. For my test I just used the same image for all records to get started. I have a feeling that the biggest barrier to entry to corporate BI teams and developers is going to be the imagery. You usually don’t have someone on your BI Team that knows how to use photoshop well and do all the high res imagery, so you are handcuffed there.

For testing sake, I Published my collection to the root of my website, with the name “MyWidgets”.

I loaded up my webpage, and I can slice and dice by all my columns I had in my collection, visually.. pretty dang awesome. (Note, I just made some fake data based on attributes I am used to seeing and with an image of a bike to see what it would look like – the goal was figuring out how would this work in conjunction with current BI offerings (cubes/Pivot Tables, SSRS, PowerPivot, etc))

Now, if you think where you could take this. Each “image” is clickable and brings up the image right in front of you. You could have all the specs of that widget there, and a link to “buy”, or deeper analytics for that widget.

Some other things I found out.. using the Excel tool for Pivot Collections is dog slow. Especially with a ton of records. It has to process the images for the “deep zoom” technology and it just takes a while. Like, hours.

There are tons of possibilities here with PivotViewer, both for an external website and also internal corporate business intelligence. It will give people another way to delve into the data and turn it into information.