DevConnections Day 1 Wrap: Microsoft Day at a Microsoft Conference

See Day 0 Coverage.

Day 1 of DevConnections Spring 2007 begins with what is called “Microsoft Day.” Basically, it means Microsoft employees present all day, and it closes with the very informal “Microsoft Unplugged” session.

I started the day with a session on SharePoint. But SharePoint is boring, even if Joe Olsen was not, so I will spare you all the details. Following that, I hit Scott Guthrie’s extended demo on WPF/E. For the uninitiated, WPF/E is Microsoft’s Flash Killer of the day. And it has a lot more potential than I previously believed. It has some of the best characteristics of HTML—such as being text based and easily machine generated and manipulated using DOM —while having all the capabilities of Flash. Highlights include:

  • Expression Blend looks very, very good. It felt kind of like Flash Studio meets Visual Studio but in a good way. As in it provided very usable graphics editing tools and a good coding environment. Scott was very keen on the fact that they designed Visual Studio and the Expression line to work very well together.
  • Multi-media support consists of MP3, WMA and WMV. The very good news is that the browser plugin includes the codecs and such so there is no need for a separate download. And, remember that WMV blows FLV out of the water from any other technical angle save compatibility.
  • JavaScript library for loading and interacting with WPF/E objects is very, very slick. It effectively exposes a DOM which one can manipulate, up to and including dynamic object creation—or inclusion via AJAX.
  • The rendering engine is software based for compatibility purposes. In fact, cross-platform capabilities are a major focus—down to and including mobile devices. Best quip of the session: Scott noting that there are more mobile clients on the web than Linux clients on the web.
  • .NET programmability support is not there yet, but stay tuned for big announcements regarding that at MIX 07.

Rounding out the ASP.NET portion of my day, I also visited Jeff King’s very entertaining Visual Studio Orcas demo. I must say I really cannot wait for it to hit the streets—it is just way too cool. Highlights:

  • Orcas will not be tied to any particular version of the .NET stack. Well, so long as you are on 2.0 or better.
  • CSS support in Orcas is very, very real. It looked quite a bit like TopStyle Pro on steroids integrated into the Visual Studio designer. They still don’t have a toolset that can intelligently assign CSS properties and selectors as well as a knowledgeable CSS junkie. But they have at least setup the tool so that you need not fight it, and you can see the results immediately in the integrated preview. Probably the neatest tidbit was the ability to visually highlight which entities a given CSS selector applied to.
  • JavaScript intellisense is very, very real. I suspect it works with the same plumbing required for some .NET 3.5 goodies, like lambda classes. But JavaScript is a first-class citizen. Including working debugging and breakpoints.
  • LINK2SQL—a pseudo ORM for Sql Server Databases—looks slick. Or at least it demos well. In any case, it was becoming pretty clear that MS has started taking ORM, as opposed to WHYSIWIG data mapping, more of a priority.
  • Jeff showed off what I now crown the Coolest ASP.NET Control Ever: the ListView. It is basically a GridView, without the HTML grid. It is the server control I have been dreaming about. He demoed the control in conjunction with a very functional LinqDataSource control.

Brian Dawson, from the ADO.NET team made two presentations on the Entity Framework, which is very, very impressive and very, very ambitious. If it comes off properly, it will be very, very cool. Microsoft’s approach to ORM is interesting. They have created the LINK2SQL for the low-end scenarios—automatically generated, Sql Server Only option. And the Entity Framework, a much more N-Tier solution. Highlights from his demo:

  • The Entity Framwork splits concerns so that it can effectively talk to the application layer and the data layer using 3 different mapping files. This lets them make the developers asking for persistence ignorance happy while not driving the database integrity oriented DBAs off the wall.
  • From the data end, they are working with other data vendors to ensure that there are providers available for their databases.
  • The Entity Framework is designed to handle inheritance, polymorphism, interface-based design and all that other OO madness impressed upon Microsoft at the MVP summit a few weeks ago.
  • It uses loads and loads of XML to get to where it is going.

After a short visit to the big blue room, I managed to make it back to the conference center for the Microsoft Unplugged event. It was quite entertaining—any event that is hosted by “two fat guys in fishing shirts” and starts with them pelting the audience with stuffed cartoon icons cannot be too bad. First, Scott Guthrie did a short IIS 7 demo. It was a pretty standard IIS 7 demo, but he did drop two bombshells:

  • Expect to see a go-live license for IIS 7 sometime very, very soon.
  • MySpace is running on IIS 7 today, and apparently loving it.

Check back tomorrow as I see if I can actually make my head explode with all these sessions as I continue to avoid direct sunlight.

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  • Ards

    You like Microsoft, do you? :)

  • http://www.realityedge.com.au mrsmiley

    It uses loads and loads of XML to get to where it is going

    Is this a good or bad highlight? As much as its touted as the answer to interoperability, its a bad in the you-know-what to code the data structures by hand. Are there tools for auto-generating these mapping files? That’s one of the beefs I have with apps like N-Hibernate and friends.

  • wwb_99

    Kind of middling rant/rave–I think loads of XML for this kind of task are unavoidable in this day and age. Reason being XML is easy to generate–and generation tools were demoed–and easy to write other tools to interface with. Not the least of which is Visual Studio as a schema-bound XML editor. It really is not too bad in a pinch. I should also add that the XML was very intelligible, unlike, say, the IIS 6.0 metabase XML.

    If I were the NHibernate folks, I would start looking hard at writing some mapping file generation utilities sooner rather than later . . .

  • wwb_99

    @ards: Well, someone has to be the M$ schill around here . . .