Microsoft scrap plans for Silverlight 1.1 (and call it Silverlight 2.0 instead)

“Big Blue”, the SIlverlight logoIt appears that it has finally dawned on Microsoft that adding major new features to Silverlight (.NET support, “proper” controls that support layout management , sockets, data-binding, templates and networking and support for cross-domain networking) and then just issuing it as a minor release (1.1) wasn’t such a clever idea after all. So look out for a beta of Silverlight 2.0 early in 2008.

Read more about it on Somasegar’s blog

Microsoft release CTP of Task Parallel Library

amd-quad-core.pngOnce upon a time, most computers had one CPU and life was simple. Occasionally one might get adventurous and use separate threads for the GUI and back-end of an application, but – apart from in some specialist fields – that was about it. CPUs got faster, Microsoft eventually noticed that everyone else on the planet had multitasking operating systems, so they did one too (badly of course), but not much else changed. Then physics got in the way…

Apparently (and I do not pretend to understand the details) we have pretty much reached the limit of how fast a single CPU can go. So chip manufacturers have responded by putting more of them in our computers. These days “dual core” (ie two CPUs on one chip) is mainstream and quad cores (yes, that’s four CPUs on one chip, though Intel seem to feel that “quad core” is a bit too obvious and so go for names like Core 2 Xtreme Wibbly Wobbly, but that’s marketing for you) are not far behind. Given the way these things tend to scale, the number of cores will likely grow thus: 8, 16, 32, 64, 128 etc. So in just a decade or so’s time, we might well have over a hundred CPUs inside our computers. “So what?” you might ask. Well the answer is simple: what are they supposed to do exactly?

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More VS2008 goodies: Silverlight and Visual Studio Shell

VS2008Silverlight 1.1 Tools Alpha for Visual Studio 2008

The VS2008 development tools for Silverlight 1.1 have been re-released and now work with the release version of VS2008. The tools ad-on can be downloaded from here.

Visual Studio 2008 Shell

Do you have a burning desire to develop your own IDE? Perhaps you have an amazing new feature to add to VS200? Either way, Visual Studio 2008 Shell may be just what you need. It comes in two flavours: integrated mode and standalone mode. In the first case, it is effectively a development framework for your amazing new feature that enables it to integrate seamlessly into VS2008. In the second case, it is the skeleton of an IDE that you can customise to your requirements and re-badge to fit your brand image, rather than Microsoft’s.

You can read more about it here.

Apple loses its shine as Leopard brings it out in spots

osxleopard.pngApple have, in recent years, turned the Mac from a specialist machine used by those focused upon graphic design and video to a functional object of desire for developers, designers and general users of all types. Hardware prices are comparable with PCs, the OS both looks good and is rock solid and it seems to lack the problems that plague the Windows world…

… Then came Leopard. Many reports abound of it being a nightmare to install, of it eating battery power, of frozen keyboards and of glitch-ridden applications. In fact, previous public advocates of the Mac have taken to apologising to their audience in advance when doing presentations due to the high risk of a problem occurring during a presentation.

So has Apple’s bubble burst? Have they created a product so bad that people will flee from OS X to Vista? Probably not, but it shows the danger of trying to innovate too fast. I have recently being listening to a set of podcasts by the innovation guru Phil McKinney. One of his key messages is to do with the innovation funnel, whereby hundreds of ideas are whittled down to one or two innovations. It strikes me that Apple – normally the Kings of Innovation – simply bit off more than they could chew with trying to develop Leopard, the iPhone and the iPod touch at the same time. Perhaps it’s simply a case of too many killer innovations spoil the apple stew.

Microsoft release a whole bundle of developer goodies

microsoft.pngMicrosoft saw fit to release a bunch of new stuff yesterday:

Visual Studio 2008
The express and team editions are available to download from MSDN (if you have a subscription). The express edition is available here (you’ll need Silverlight installed to access it), and a 90 day trial of the team addition can be downloaded from here.

You can read more about this release on Scott Guthrie’s blog and Somasegar’s blog.

.NET Framework 3.5
The .NET Framework 3.5 is bundled in with Visual Studio 2008, but it is also released as a separate download from here. Finally LINQ is let loose upon the great unwashed. Yah!

Sql Server 2008 CTP
The latest Community Technology Preview has been released for Sql Server 2008. More details here.

Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats
Version 3 of this package that enables you to read Ofiice 2007 files on Office XP/ 2003 was released a couple of days ago too. It can be downloaded from here. IMPORTANT: read the instructions carefully; you must install all priority updates before installing this support pack.

VLite 1.1 Beta 2
OK this isn’t a Microsoft product, but it’s a great one anyway and a new version was released yesterday, so I’m giving it a mention. VLite is a application that enables one to build a lightweight version of Vista with all the “bloatware” stripped out. The latest version can be downloaded from here.

Brighton Isn’t Just for Flashers; it’s Good for Geek Dinners too

pacman1.pngDo you live in or near Brighton?  Are you (at least accused of being) a geek? If so, you may be interested in the Geek Christmas Dinner organised by the  Sussex Geeks and Brighton Geek Girls.  If a meal with a  bunch of geeks floats your boat, then book early for the £20 a head, limited space event here. Apparently Aral  Balkan will be speaking. Let’s hope he does a better job than at Flash on the Beach 😉

Microsoft to Take Over the (PHP) World

php-med-trans-light.gifA couple of days ago, I reported that Microsoft had produced a SQL Server library for PHP. This reminded me of a recent news story regarding Microsoft backing the FastCGI extension to IIS and set me thinking as to why the sudden interest in PHP from Microsoft?

The obvious answer is that Microsoft still want to grow their share of the server market and by making PHP under IIS a great experience, they hope to wean PHP users away from Apache and Linux and over to Windows and IIS. However this smacks a bit too much of conspiracy theory for me. I’m not a big fan of conspiracy theories, but try as I might, I can think of no other reason.

Anyway, paranoia aside, if you do web sites with back-end computation of just about any form, the FastCGI component is well worth investigating as it isn’t just for IIS and PHP.

Test Driven Development: the promised links

logo100.pngSometime ago I posted an article on Test Driven Development (TDD) and promised that some useful links for the following day. I then ran into a problem. Two of the links I wanted to use were on Robert Martin’s butunclebob.com, which no longer seems to be working. However I have now found his “Three rules of TDD” on another site. I really like them. The reason is that they sound a really stupid set of rules if one hasn’t done TDD and yet, once one has used TDD for a while, they are spot on. They are therefore a useful benchmark as to whether you have “got it” with regard to TDD. If they sound daft to you, then you either haven’t done TDD yet, or you are doing it wrongly.

The butunclebob.com site also carried a powerpoint of a famous TDD example, the Bowling Game Kata. As the site is down, I’m serving the file from my site. I’ve contacted the copyright owners, www.objectmentor.com, to check if I can do this, so it might disappear in the future if I’m not legally allowed to.

Wikipedia carries a good article on TDD that is well worth reading.

Finally for now, the best source of all things TDD is TestDriven.com. They have a huge range of good quality material on TDD all gathered in one handy place.

I plan on making this post a constantly evolving one to which I’ll add more links as and when I find them. You may well wish to bookmark this page therefore.

Microsoft release a SQL Server driver for PHP

php-med-trans-light.gifMicrosoft recently released a SQL Server driver for PHP. Anyone who have ever attempted to connect PHP to SQL Server using php_mssql.dll will know how amazing it is to finally have a proper – Microsoft supported – driver. However being Microsoft, there are the usual caveats:

  1. It’s not open source (even though they make a big deal of it on the “open source” Channel 9) . This is unsurprising.
  2. It’s a Windows only driver. So no planning a “LASP” (Linux, Apache, Sql Server and PHP) box. This is annoying.
  3. It’s a PHP 5 only driver, yet it is a procedural-only driver with no OO support. This is just stupid.

So another “almost great news” announcement from Microsoft then.

If you want to keep up with news on this product, or give Microsoft feedback, they have a product specific blog and a forum that covers this driver along with other SQL Server connectivity options.

Flash on the Beach Day 3 with interesting “from the [Adobe] horse’s mouth” Q&As

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I thought I’d write up day three in a different style to the other days (mainly because I’m running out of ways of expressing “useful/ interesting session” when describing each one). Also for me there was one session on day three that made attending the event essential: the Adobe “Town Hall” session first thing in the morning. Such sessions can be great for teasing info out of a company (especially one as secretive of future plans as Adobe) and for getting good answers to questions that tend to stump local agents.

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Flash on the Beach Day 2

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Day 2 of the conference was a huge improvement over day 1. I was able to pick a set of sessions that were useful rather than just interesting. Technical glitches caused problems, but there was less amateurism on display.A session by Adobe’s Ted Patrick on Flex worst practices got the day off to a good start. Ted’s speech was more about how to avoid bad practices rather than a ‘train wreck’ list of them. Test driven development with ASUnit got a mention as a way of avoiding many problems, along with agile practices (no mention of scrum though) and the use of subversion. All of it was preaching to the converted from my point of view, but great to hear.

The next session was the low point of the day. Dave Yang was covering mobile devices. He arrived late and the technicians couldn’t get various devices to work with the projector. So we had a short session involving lots of shaky camera-pointed-at-device type demos. A shame as this is an important area for me.



Aral Balkan
was up next with his SWX talk. This was a classic piece of tempting fate. At the start of his speech he touched upon how he had moved away from unreliable Windows to his lovely reliable Mac. Later in his speach his lovely reliable Mac had to be rebooted as it refused to connect to the wireless network. Let’s just say it made me smile.


The end of the day was wrapped up with a stunning set of OpenGL particle processing animations by Robert Hodgin. All in all a good day.

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