Friday, 30 September 2011

Daily Review #12: Nothing but The Links

The Daily Review - 30th September 2011
Photo © Shawn Hempel |

Nothing But The Links

A very short Daily Report today as things went a bit quiet yesterday, with nothing new of any real interest to note.

I don't THINK it has anything to do with the Kindle Fire announcement.

I've got a WPF UI that I want to make 'fast and fluid'. Too bad I've got to get a new OS to do that!

There has been a lot of speculation/demand for WinRT on Windows Phone, and if I were a Windows Phone 7 developer I'd be wondering what the heck the future held and why Microsoft were being so quiet about the platform now that Mango's out in the wild.

Given the paucity of new information 'The Daily Report' will be back on Monday, with no weekend reports unless a major new story breaks.

Have a great weekend!

Every time i hear 'Metro-style applications' I die a little bit on the inside

Today's "News" Links

OK! Goldman: Microsoft Is Getting $444 Million Annually From Android Patent Licenses (Jay Yarrow, Business Insider)
Apparently this is an empty victory :-O
OK! Microsoft Want Help to Figure Out How to Translate 'Charm' and 'App' (Palle Petrsen, Microsoft)
Like most, I found both of these terms irritating, but since Microsoft want them translated to other languages it looks like they're here to stay. Wonder if insistence on saying App instead of Application all the time is anything to do with fight over right to use the term 'App Store'!
OK! Windows 8 and Infragistics ControlsControls vendor Infragistics explain how they'll be moving forward with their various component models in the light of the recent Windows 8 announcements.

Today's "Opinion" Links

OK! RadChart for Windows 8 WinRT - A Prelude (Georgi Atanasov, Telerik)
Nothing much to see here. Mainly pre-marketing for upcoming launch of Telerik's Metro controls. But don't worry Silverlight's not dead! ;-)
OK! Windows RunTime Must Come to Windows Phone (Tim Anderson, IT Writing)
Tim is unimpressed with the number of apps and the quality of those apps in the Windows Phone 7 App Store. He thinks Windows RT support is needed to make it a development platform to love.
OK! Amazon Kindle Fire, the Silk Browser and its Impact on Web Development (Craig Buckler, Sitepoint)
Important, but not a reason to set fire to your iPad apparently.

Today's "Technical" Links

Good Read! First Look at Windows Simulator (Navneet Gupta, Microsoft)
Help with Debugging Your Metro Apps
Good Read! Enabling Frame Rate Counters for HTML Appplications (Michael Crump, Telerik)
Michael follows up his XAML-oriented post of a few days ago with changes for the HTML5 developer!
Good Read! Windows 8 Development Tip: Dispatching Calls to the UI Thread (AviP, MSDN)
A slight changes although not needed so often now that Windows 8 is all async and stuff! Make sure you also read Avi's previous three Windows 8 tips which deal with things like the missing Tab control, packaging and loading files and 'ObservableCollection doesn't work'.
Good Read! My First Windows 8 Application: Metro Puzzle (Shai Raiten, Code Project)
Soup-to-nuts walk-through of creating a Word puzzle game in Metro.
Good Read! Running the Windows Azure Tools SDK on Windows 8 (Wade Wegner)
Jump through hoops time (again!)
Good Read! Visual C++ and WinRT/Metro: Some Fundamentals (Nishant Sivakumar, Code Project)
"Using C++ to write Metro apps is the way to go because when you do that it's metal on metal!", says the author.

Today's "HTML5" Links

Good Read! HTML5: Briefing Notes for Journalists and Analysts (Bruce Lawson, HTML5 Doctor)
Devs new to HTML5 should find it interesting too.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Daily Review #11: Kindling the Fire

The Daily Review - 29th September 2011
Photo © Shawn Hempel |

Kindling the Fire

What a fickle lot you are!

Last week it was all "Windows 8 Tablets. The iPad is dead. Pah!".

Yesterday, it was every Microsoft employee and MVP boasting on Twitter that they'd pre-ordered the shiny new Amazon Kindle Fire, with the obligatory phrase "for the wife" added as a late retweet just in case Mr Ballmer should be listening in.

No doubt next week (with Apple's announcements due) it'll all be "I'm getting an iPhone 5" (while the 3 people who actually bought a Windows Phone 7 jump in and tell us all how disappointing the new iPhone is now that Mango's just been released)!

It was impossible to miss the big Amazon launch - it even made the main 6 o'clock news and the mainstream newspapers this morning (see how early I get up and how much research I do to put together this Daily Review for y'all?!). And if you thought the Windows 8 reveal at Build excited the stock market for Microsoft shares - well let's just say that what the Kindle Fire did for Amazon's shares yesterday put that pitiful little spurt to shame.

Not that Microsoft will be worried. They've got about USD 5 a handset coming in from every Blackberry - and as of yesterday, if some reports can be believed, every Samsung - handset running their rival Google's Android operating system, thanks to their playing the whole patent game in what Google have referred to as sheer 'extortion'. Like anybody was surprised. I mean, really?!

This is where the lawyers really get excited, because with a competing device that sells for less than half the price of the cheapest tablet in the range that has over a 75% share of the market AND THE CONTENT TO BEAT IT (Pah! Take that Microsoft!) you can bet your bottom dollar that Apple's lawyers will be all over Amazon saying anything that resembles anything is theirs and they have a patent on it.

And here's the real rub about the Kindle Fire. It has a shiny new browser - called Amazon Silk - AND IT SUPPORTS PLUG-INS!

Oh the beautiful irony of it all!

Silverlight is gasping its last dying breaths, but along comes Amazon to give it a few more breaths. You couldn't make this stuff up in a Silverlight MVP's wet dream!

In all seriousness, yesterday's announcement of a new sub-USD200 device that's multi-touch, full colour, smaller than the iPad, has eight hours battery life, supports Flash and uses Amazon's cloud-based services (oh the data mining opportunities!) really puts Microsoft in a bad position, no matter what spin the echo chamber may try and put on it. As I've been saying like a broken record for the last 18 months Microsoft continually ignore the market and then wake up to deliver "Way too little, way too late".

Admittedly I haven't checked recently (life's too short to keep spending unpaid hours/months/years helping Microsoft sell their never-ending stream of 'new shit') but this time last year their Azure cloud offering was an embarrassingly immature offering that guaranteed never-ending pain for anybody stupid enough to take the evangelists and the marketeers at their word. It would have been less painful to just stick forks in your eyes than try and get around all the flakey, partial release crap that constituted developing and deploying applications for Microsoft's offering in the cloud!

Amazon have always done a better job on the cloud front. Look at all the video/photo social network sites and check where they actually store everything!

As for the tablet..., Well that Samsung tablet device given to Build developers may be able to run "real code" - but what is that real code again? Oh yeah, in the new shiny Metro world it's "HTML5" that's the first class citizen of coding. That'll be the HTML5 technologies which are also supported by devices like the Kindle and the iPad will it? Ooops!

Suddenly that heavy, 'barely 3 hours battery life', seriously over-priced Samsung tablet isn't looking QUITE so sexy, is it?

And that's before we get into discussing THE CONTENT. Because make no mistake - it's all about the content baby, and Amazon have so much of it they can afford to sell Kindles as loss leaders until the cows come home (about a month or so before Windows 8 actually ships!)

Amazon aren't stupid - they're not revealing any figures, but their recent announcement that sales of electronic books now outsold the paper variety clearly put the writing on the wall about where the future is, and why they're being so aggressive in this tablet space.

In the meantime we're all waiting for Microsoft's answer - the one that Build session after Build session told us they'd been working on for two years. TWO YEARS!

Wasn't that the same period of time they told us they'd been working on mobile Silverlight before showing us incredibly immature prototypes of Windows Phone 7? The phone that in its second release (yesterday) some sad sacks are saying is going to trash the competition and take over the world (How I laughed! No really, I struggled to get home what with the queues around the block and all after yesterday's release of Mango!)

Funny that 'two years' figure though because in the same breath as they're telling us all this stuff has been worked on for two years Microsoft will talk about the problems they had with for example, putting the Portable Library together, the problem being that when they started they had to support limitations and differences of things like Windows Phone that had already shipped. That'll be the Windows Phone that shipped about a year ago, right? Oh, wait. One year? Two years? What's the real story here?

Either someone has a really bad memory and can't work out how many months there are in a year, or all this 'two years' nonsense continually promoted at Build is a big fat, white lie.

Microsoft lying to its developers? Surely not? It must just be a "re-imagining" of the calendar!

Oh well. We only have to wait another year for the fruits of all that hard work, however long it is that it's really taken! That'll be Microsoft being 'fast and fluid' while their competitors are presumably 'slow and lethargic'!

In the meantime while everyone else cleans up in the mobile space, Microsoft can always live off all that 'exortion' money from Android handset sales!

Like I said, you really couldn't make all this stuff up!

You can now buy the entire Kindle range for less than the cost of a 32GB iPad

Fast and fluid Update

Despite all the snarkiness above, I like Windows 8 a lot. I've updated the company home page with a teaser video that gives a clue as to something that's in the pipeline. Because I know you lot are too lazy to go and click on a link I've also included a smaller version of that video below.

Unfortunately, there is one nasty side effect of all this recent activity: The Fundamentals of MEF product review I promised for Friday is now going to slip to next week. Nothing to do with the fantastic Summer weather we suddenly started experiencing in London yesterday honest (whistles nonchallently) - just the result of higher priority projects taking precedence!

WinRT would make a better phone OS than the current wp7 - native code, JavaScript, better design

Today's "News" Links

Must Read! Amazon Kindle Fire to Enter Tablet Computer Market (BBC)
News and quotes about yesterday's big Amazon announcement.
Watch It! Introducing Amazon Silk (Amazon)
Amazon engineers/marketeers hype up their proxy in the cloud. Suddenly the launch date for Microsoft's Windows 8/Windows Live/cloud offerings look even more like 'too little too late'
Must Read! Microsoft and Samsung sitting in a tree, patent s-h-a-r-i-n-g (Engadget)
Microsoft just grabbed itself a hefty wedge of money. Google can't be happy!
Good Read! Google on Microsoft's Android Tactics: It's Extortion (M G Siegler, TechCrunch)
Google actually used the word 'extortion'! Wow!

Today's "Opinion" Links

Good Read! Top 10 Over-Engineering Mistakes in Silverlight (Jeremy Likness, Wintellect)
Silverlight? I thought this was a Windows 8 Daily Review?! Thing is we don't want to go repeating the mistakes of the past do we, and this is all good stuff which as Jeremy pointed out in a tweet is probably applicable to other technologies too!
Good Read! How Will Windows 8 Tablets Fare Against Amazon's Kindle Fire? (Mary Jo Foley, Ziff-Davies)
Too many of the reviewers are pitching the new super-cheap, super-content driven Kindle against the iPad, but they're foolishly ignoring Windows 8 tablets, says Mary Jo.
Good Read! Windows 8 Raises The Bar for Security (Neil MacDonald, Gartner)
Bullet point list of security improvements in Windows 8 from The Gartner Group
Good Read! Amazon Silk: Fast Cloud-Powered Browser, Or a New Way to Mine Your Data? (Tim Anderson, IT Writing)
All the excitement for the Windows 8 slates seems to have dissipated with Amazon's new tablet announcements yesterday. But Tim thinks there's some over-hyping of basic caching going on.
Good Read! Is a 10 inch Kindle Fire coming? Amazon says 'Stay tuned'. (Engadget)
If the Kindle Fire seems too small at 7 inches, Amazon Kindle's VP has hinted that a 10 inch version is on its way.
Good Read! Behind the Windows 8 User Interface. (Channel 9)
Channel 9 are publishing more of their live broadcasts from the Build Conference. This 30 minute interview features Sam Moreau, giving a bit more background filler material to the big overview '8 Traits' presentation. Easy watch but nothing new here. 'Should we migrate all apps to Metro?' 'We don't know. That's for developers to figure out.'

Today's "Technical" Links

Must Read! Extending Windows 8 Apps to the Cloud with Skydrive (Stephen Sinofsky, MSDN)
Good overview with instructions for how to set things up to use the Developer Preview of the Live SDK. This stuff is important.
OK! Viewing the Windows Developer Preview Documentation Offline (Gus Class, MSDN)
Windows 8 documentation has moved into an 'encapsulated experience' meaning some folks are struggling. Gus tries to walk you through the thinking and how best to use the documentation!
Meh! Installing the Windows 8 Developer Preview on a Dell Inspiron Duo (Ian Walker)
Short walk-through of how a Dell Tablet PC running Windows 7 to Windows 8. Brave man! Mainly just some screenshots of Windows Update screen and Dell Drivers web page!

Today's "HTML5" Links

Must Read! How to Choose Between Canvas and SVG (Patrick Dengler, Sitepoint)
Excellent article highlighting the differences between the two vector graphics formats, with illustrated examples.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Daily Review #10: Build Session transcripts

The Daily Review - 28th September 2011

Build Transcripts

As well as being a C# .NET and Silverlight developer who's looking at Metro and Windows 8, I'm a video guy (you can see some of my videos here, although you might want to avoid the most recent wedding video trailer that heads up the list!)

For the last few years I've been recording video for UK user groups like the Silverlight UK User Group, The Edge User Group and The Azure User Group and even a guest slot for the NxtGen User Group. I'm a big fan of video for capturing good user group talks and making them accessible around the world.

But I know the limitations of video, and to my mind the Microsoft Build Conference videos, just like those of training companies like Pluralsight, and Total Training are of limited usefulness without backup in the form of collateral representing the reference material that was presented. They're missing a trick here!

After all, if you go on an external training course you get a course manual - something to help you refer back to the material that was presented and which you haven't got the time to go back and sit through all over again.

Why should online training - and many of the Build sessions were effectively online training - be any different?

This whole thing about online training and the lack of support collateral is no doubt a subject I'll come back to on Friday when I publish the first official fast and fluid Product Review. This will be for the new Fundamentals of MEF video course put together by Jeremy Likness for Addison-Wesley (Pearson). Like all product reviews it will be a product I've paid for, rather than the sort of 'favour to friends' review that pollutes so many of the blogs these days. That being said, the teaser preview for the full reviews goes something like this: Outstanding!

The lack of summary collateral from any of the online training companies is something I find so irritating that you can expect to see an announcement about some better video online training, WITH SUPPORTING COURSEWARE, from a company not a million miles removed from the one behind this blog ;-) Watch this space!

Anyway to get back to Windows 8 in general, and the Build Conference in particular: At the time of writing MSDN really doesn't have the collateral that Windows 8 developers need.

There are some basic bits there, but lots of holes and gaps, as might be expected for an operating system that's a year away from being stablisied and launched. What's irritating is that there is actually a treasure trove of information to be found amongst several hundred hours of Build videos that nobody in the world has the chance of sitting all the way through, even if you do have the good sense to play them back at double speed.

A few days ago I was watching Krzysztof Cwalina's excellent A .NET Developer's View of Windows 8 Application Development talk and it occurred to me that here was training material that answered pretty much 90% of the questions and complaints and misunderstandings I see being raised and re-raised in my Twitter stream. Small sections of it seemed to provide the source for whole pages of blogs, most of which, as I pointed out rather tersely on Sunday, didn't credit the original source.

It occurred to me that a transcript of a fact-packed talk like Krzysztof's would prove an extremely valuable reference document.

And so began my plan to publish transcripts of the more information packed Build talks.

Page screenshot from the first Fast and fluid Build transcript

The problem was deciding where to start. Krzysztof's talk was perhaps an obvious choice, but there was one Big Overview talk that, although padded out with a lot of repetition and marketing material, was absolutely essential to understanding the background to the new operating system BEFORE starting to dive into the developer essentials.

I then had to choose how to best present the good stuff from these talks. Should I go for short, edited 'key point' transcripts, or should I go for full transcripts which, in the case of long talks like the Big Overview ones, would represent up to 200 pages of transcript - a veritable book that even with a decent table of contents would take some time to pick through.

To avoid accusations of 'censorship', or 'picking the most controversial bits', I decided to go with the full transcript approach, and today sees the first transcript available for download at the Fast and Fluid web site.

Page screenshot from the first Fast and fluid Build transcript

The videos, of course, should be your primary resource.

However the transcripts will hopefully be good reference backups - the missing 'course handbooks' that I feel are needed given the paucity of information about Windows 8 that's available other than from these videos. The transcripts have the advantage of being portable on laptops, netbooks, iPads and even phones if need be, with an index that enables you to dive in to the appropriate section of the talk, and frequent cross-references to the timing of the video so that you can go back and check the original source if you need to. For those talks missing PowerPoint downloads (which annoyingly are not stored anywhere on the associated video download pages, and are missing for many talks) they also offer hard copy of the slides that were projected.

I hope you find these transcripts as useful as I do. The plan is to release Krzystof's talk transcript early next week, with Anders Heljsberg's excellent The Future of C# and Visual Basic to follow shortly after.

Please let me know if there's a particularly strong talk you really want to see in transcript form from fast and fluid, or if you have any suggestions for how future transcripts can be improved, based on your analysis of the first one.

WPF murdered, Silverlight taken into custody

Today's "News" Links

Must Read! Windows 8: Through the Eyes of Consumers (Mashwork)
An analysis of social media and the public reaction to Windows 8. It all looks very encouraging for an operating system that's a year away from delivery.
Good Read! Firefox 7 Now Officially Available. Promises 'Significantly' Reduced Footprint (Donald Menelson, Engadget)
Mozilla are claiming 'up to' 50% reduction in memory usage. This has about as much validity as me claiming that I've improved my productivity by 'up to 95%' when I've barely made any difference at all! Remember when Scott Guthrie told us that Silverlight was installed on 'up to' 60% of all internet connected devices?! See what I mean!
Good Read! Microsoft releases security advisory on SSL 3.0 and TLS 1.0 (Jerry Bryant, Microsoft)
There's a problem, but apparently it's "industry-wide" with "limited impact".
Good Read! Adobe VP on HTML5 and Why He's Not Giving Up On Flash Yet (Austin Carr, Fast Company)
He likes HTML5 but thinks Flash is faster to innovate!

Today's "Opinion" Links

Good Read! 10 Days with Windows 8 Developer Tablet: "Too Early To Tell" (Patrick Moorhead, Techpinions)
Patrick highlights some important issues around his first 10 days (as a non-developer) using Windows 8 on a tablet.
Good Read! Build Conference Developers Have Decisions To Make (Takeshi Eto, Discount ASP.NET)
Apparently Microsoft has not really taken something away, just given us something new to develop on. Hmmm. So removing plug-in support from Metro is not really taking something away, huh? My bad! </sarcasm>
OK! So I Was Wrong About Silverlight on Windows 8 (Jon Davis)
"Think of Metro as Silverlight's Windows counterpart rather than as Silverlight's would-be host / container.", says Jon. Sounds about right to me.
OK! Windows 8 & Windows Live Id: Microsoft's Privacy Policy (Todd Bishop, GeekWire)
"A recap of yesterday's announcement from Microsoft.
OK! Did Microsoft Employees Really Walk out on Ballmer at Microsoft's Annual Meeting? (Preston Gralla, Computer Weekly)
Basically the answer is "Nobody knows."
Meh! A Gentle Comparison Between Windows 8, 7 and Vista (Praveen, Daily Blogging)
Gentle??!? More like 'extremely thin'.

Today's "Technical" Links

Watch It! .NET 4.5 Portable Libraries (David Kean & Marcea Trofin, Channel 9)
Channel 9 (50 minute video) walk us through the Portable Libraries in .NET 4.5. A bit long and meandering, but there's good information in there. They neglect to mention that you need to be an MSDN subscriber though since the Portable Library project template isn't in the Express edition SKU of Visual Studio 11.
Good Read! INotifyPropertyChanged Woes? Too Much Ceremony? (Matt Duffield)
Matt introduces the INotifyPropertyWeaver project to remove all that databinding fluff from your viewmodels.
Good Read! Windows 8: "All You Want to Know" Help Guide (BitHacker, Webscopia)
If you're struggling to find your way around the new Windows 8 UI, this should help.
Good Read! Windows 8: How to Close Tile Apps and How do They Work? (PureInfoTech)
Short and sweet comparison between Metro and Windows 7 closing of applications.
Good Read! Day 2: Building a Metro App with Visual Studio Express (Stephen Forte)
Stephen's written his first 'Hello world' Metro app and even has a video of the finished results for you to watch. If you haven't yet dived into Visual Studio 11 you might find this a fun place to start.
Good Read! WPF 4.5 Part 8: Finally I can Use the WebBrowser Control (Jonathan Antoine)
Part 8? How did I manage to miss parts 1 to 7? Click on the Home page link to get to the other parts if you're using WPF on Windows 8.

Today's "Fun Stuff" Links

Good Read! Microsoft Sends an Ie9 Cupcake to Mozilla For Shipping Firefox 7 (Tom Warren, WinRumours)
Actually I'm not sure this should be filed under 'Fun Stuff' rather than 'Extremely Childish Stuff'. As my old schoolteacher used to say 'First time was't laff. Second time was't bore. And third time was downright rude'!