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  • Integrating HTML into Silverlight Applications

    - by dwahlin
    Looking for a way to display HTML content within a Silverlight application? If you haven’t tried doing that before it can be challenging at first until you know a few tricks of the trade.  Being able to display HTML is especially handy when you’re required to display RSS feeds (with embedded HTML), SQL Server Reporting Services reports, PDF files (not actually HTML – but the techniques discussed will work), or other HTML content.  In this post I'll discuss three options for displaying HTML content in Silverlight applications and describe how my company is using these techniques in client applications. Displaying HTML Overlays If you need to display HTML over a Silverlight application (such as an RSS feed containing HTML data in it) you’ll need to set the Silverlight control’s windowless parameter to true. This can be done using the object tag as shown next: <object data="data:application/x-silverlight-2," type="application/x-silverlight-2" width="100%" height="100%"> <param name="source" value="ClientBin/HTMLAndSilverlight.xap"/> <param name="onError" value="onSilverlightError" /> <param name="background" value="white" /> <param name="minRuntimeVersion" value="4.0.50401.0" /> <param name="autoUpgrade" value="true" /> <param name="windowless" value="true" /> <a href="http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=149156&v=4.0.50401.0" style="text-decoration:none"> <img src="http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=161376" alt="Get Microsoft Silverlight" style="border-style:none"/> </a> </object> By setting the control to “windowless” you can overlay HTML objects by using absolute positioning and other CSS techniques. Keep in mind that on Windows machines the windowless setting can result in a performance hit when complex animations or HD video are running since the plug-in content is displayed directly by the browser window. It goes without saying that you should only set windowless to true when you really need the functionality it offers. For example, if I want to display my blog’s RSS content on top of a Silverlight application I could set windowless to true and create a user control that grabbed the content and output it using a DataList control: <style type="text/css"> a {text-decoration:none;font-weight:bold;font-size:14pt;} </style> <div style="margin-top:10px; margin-left:10px;margin-right:5px;"> <asp:DataList ID="RSSDataList" runat="server" DataSourceID="RSSDataSource"> <ItemTemplate> <a href='<%# XPath("link") %>'><%# XPath("title") %></a> <br /> <%# XPath("description") %> <br /> </ItemTemplate> </asp:DataList> <asp:XmlDataSource ID="RSSDataSource" DataFile="http://weblogs.asp.net/dwahlin/rss.aspx" XPath="rss/channel/item" CacheDuration="60" runat="server" /> </div> The user control can then be placed in the page hosting the Silverlight control as shown below. This example adds a Close button, additional content to display in the overlay window and the HTML generated from the user control. <div id="RSSDiv"> <div style="background-color:#484848;border:1px solid black;height:35px;width:100%;"> <img alt="Close Button" align="right" src="Images/Close.png" onclick="HideOverlay();" style="cursor:pointer;" /> </div> <div style="overflow:auto;width:800px;height:565px;"> <div style="float:left;width:100px;height:103px;margin-left:10px;margin-top:5px;"> <img src="http://weblogs.asp.net/blogs/dwahlin/dan2008.jpg" style="border:1px solid Gray" /> </div> <div style="float:left;width:300px;height:103px;margin-top:5px;"> <a href="http://weblogs.asp.net/dwahlin" style="margin-left:10px;font-size:20pt;">Dan Wahlin's Blog</a> </div> <br /><br /><br /> <div style="clear:both;margin-top:20px;"> <uc:BlogRoller ID="BlogRoller" runat="server" /> </div> </div> </div> Of course, we wouldn’t want the RSS HTML content to be shown until requested. Once it’s requested the absolute position of where it should show above the Silverlight control can be set using standard CSS styles. The following ID selector named #RSSDiv handles hiding the overlay div shown above and determines where it will be display on the screen. #RSSDiv { background-color:White; position:absolute; top:100px; left:300px; width:800px; height:600px; border:1px solid black; display:none; } Now that the HTML content to display above the Silverlight control is set, how can we show it as a user clicks a HyperlinkButton or other control in the application? Fortunately, Silverlight provides an excellent HTML bridge that allows direct access to content hosted within a page. The following code shows two JavaScript functions that can be called from Siverlight to handle showing or hiding HTML overlay content. The two functions rely on jQuery (http://www.jQuery.com) to make it easy to select HTML objects and manipulate their properties: function ShowOverlay() { rssDiv.css('display', 'block'); } function HideOverlay() { rssDiv.css('display', 'none'); } Calling the ShowOverlay function is as simple as adding the following code into the Silverlight application within a button’s Click event handler: private void OverlayHyperlinkButton_Click(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e) { HtmlPage.Window.Invoke("ShowOverlay"); } The result of setting the Silverlight control’s windowless parameter to true and showing the HTML overlay content is shown in the following screenshot:   Thinking Outside the Box to Show HTML Content Setting the windowless parameter to true may not be a viable option for some Silverlight applications or you may simply want to go about showing HTML content a different way. The next technique I’ll show takes advantage of simple HTML, CSS and JavaScript code to handle showing HTML content while a Silverlight application is running in the browser. Keep in mind that with Silverlight’s HTML bridge feature you can always pop-up HTML content in a new browser window using code similar to the following: System.Windows.Browser.HtmlPage.Window.Navigate( new Uri("http://silverlight.net"), "_blank"); For this example I’ll demonstrate how to hide the Silverlight application while maximizing a container div containing the HTML content to show. This allows HTML content to take up the full screen area of the browser without having to set windowless to true and when done right can make the user feel like they never left the Silverlight application. The following HTML shows several div elements that are used to display HTML within the same browser window as the Silverlight application: <div id="JobPlanDiv"> <div style="vertical-align:middle"> <img alt="Close Button" align="right" src="Images/Close.png" onclick="HideJobPlanIFrame();" style="cursor:pointer;" /> </div> <div id="JobPlan_IFrame_Container" style="height:95%;width:100%;margin-top:37px;"></div> </div> The JobPlanDiv element acts as a container for two other divs that handle showing a close button and hosting an iframe that will be added dynamically at runtime. JobPlanDiv isn’t visible when the Silverlight application loads due to the following ID selector added into the page: #JobPlanDiv { position:absolute; background-color:#484848; overflow:hidden; left:0; top:0; height:100%; width:100%; display:none; } When the HTML content needs to be shown or hidden the JavaScript functions shown next can be used: var jobPlanIFrameID = 'JobPlan_IFrame'; var slHost = null; var jobPlanContainer = null; var jobPlanIFrameContainer = null; var rssDiv = null; $(document).ready(function () { slHost = $('#silverlightControlHost'); jobPlanContainer = $('#JobPlanDiv'); jobPlanIFrameContainer = $('#JobPlan_IFrame_Container'); rssDiv = $('#RSSDiv'); }); function ShowJobPlanIFrame(url) { jobPlanContainer.css('display', 'block'); $('<iframe id="' + jobPlanIFrameID + '" src="' + url + '" style="height:100%;width:100%;" />') .appendTo(jobPlanIFrameContainer); slHost.css('width', '0%'); } function HideJobPlanIFrame() { jobPlanContainer.css('display', 'none'); $('#' + jobPlanIFrameID).remove(); slHost.css('width', '100%'); } ShowJobPlanIFrame() handles showing the JobPlanDiv div and adding an iframe into it dynamically. Once JobPlanDiv is shown, the Silverlight control host has its width set to a value of 0% to allow the control to stay alive while making it invisible to the user. I found that this technique works better across multiple browsers as opposed to manipulating the Silverlight control host div’s display or visibility properties. Now that you’ve seen the code to handle showing and hiding the HTML content area, let’s switch focus to the Silverlight application. As a user clicks on a link such as “View Report” the ShowJobPlanIFrame() JavaScript function needs to be called. The following code handles that task: private void ReportHyperlinkButton_Click(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e) { ShowBrowser(_BaseUrl + "/Report.aspx"); } public void ShowBrowser(string url) { HtmlPage.Window.Invoke("ShowJobPlanIFrame", url); } Any URL can be passed into the ShowBrowser() method which handles invoking the JavaScript function. This includes standard web pages or even PDF files. We’ve used this technique frequently with our SmartPrint control (http://www.smartwebcontrols.com) which converts Silverlight screens into PDF documents and displays them. Here’s an example of the content generated:   Silverlight 4’s WebBrowser Control Both techniques shown to this point work well when Silverlight is running in-browser but not so well when it’s running out-of-browser since there’s no host page that you can access using the HTML bridge. Fortunately, Silverlight 4 provides a WebBrowser control that can be used to perform the same functionality quite easily. We’re currently using it in client applications to display PDF documents, SSRS reports and standard HTML content. Using the WebBrowser control simplifies the application quite a bit since no JavaScript is required if the application only runs out-of-browser. Here’s a simple example of defining the WebBrowser control in XAML. I typically define it in MainPage.xaml when a Silverlight Navigation template is used to create the project so that I can re-use the functionality across multiple screens. <Grid x:Name="WebBrowserGrid" HorizontalAlignment="Stretch" VerticalAlignment="Stretch" Visibility="Collapsed"> <StackPanel HorizontalAlignment="Stretch" VerticalAlignment="Stretch"> <Border Background="#484848" HorizontalAlignment="Stretch" Height="40"> <Image x:Name="WebBrowserImage" Width="100" Height="33" Cursor="Hand" HorizontalAlignment="Right" Source="/HTMLAndSilverlight;component/Assets/Images/Close.png" MouseLeftButtonDown="WebBrowserImage_MouseLeftButtonDown" /> </Border> <WebBrowser x:Name="JobPlanReportWebBrowser" HorizontalAlignment="Stretch" VerticalAlignment="Stretch" /> </StackPanel> </Grid> Looking through the XAML you can see that a close image is defined along with the WebBrowser control. Because the URL that the WebBrowser should navigate to isn’t known at design time no value is assigned to the control’s Source property. If the XAML shown above is left “as is” you’ll find that any HTML content assigned to the WebBrowser doesn’t display properly. This is due to no height or width being set on the control. To handle this issue the following code is added into the XAML’s code-behind file to dynamically determine the height and width of the page and assign it to the WebBrowser. This is done by handling the SizeChanged event. void MainPage_SizeChanged(object sender, SizeChangedEventArgs e) { WebBrowserGrid.Height = JobPlanReportWebBrowser.Height = ActualHeight; WebBrowserGrid.Width = JobPlanReportWebBrowser.Width = ActualWidth; } When the user wants to view HTML content they click a button which executes the code shown in next: public void ShowBrowser(string url) { if (Application.Current.IsRunningOutOfBrowser) { JobPlanReportWebBrowser.NavigateToString("<html><body><iframe src='" + url + "' style='width:100%;height:97%;' /></body></html>"); WebBrowserGrid.Visibility = Visibility.Visible; } else { HtmlPage.Window.Invoke("ShowJobPlanIFrame", url); } } private void WebBrowserImage_MouseLeftButtonDown(object sender, MouseButtonEventArgs e) { WebBrowserGrid.Visibility = Visibility.Collapsed; }   Looking through the code you’ll see that it checks to see if the Silverlight application is running out-of-browser and then either displays the WebBrowser control or runs the JavaScript function discussed earlier. Although the WebBrowser control’s Source property could be assigned the URI of the page to navigate to, by assigning HTML content using the NavigateToString() method and adding an iframe, content can be shown from any site including cross-domain sites. This is especially handy when you need to grab a page from a reporting site that’s in a different domain than the Silverlight application. Here’s an example of viewing  PDF file inside of an out-of-browser application. The first image shows the application running out-of-browser before the user clicks a PDF HyperlinkButton.  The second image shows the PDF being displayed.   While there are certainly other techniques that can be used, the ones shown here have worked well for us in different applications and provide the ability to display HTML content in-browser or out-of-browser. Feel free to add a comment if you have another tip or trick you like to use when working with HTML content in Silverlight applications.   Download Code Sample   For more information about onsite, online and video training, mentoring and consulting solutions for .NET, SharePoint or Silverlight please visit http://www.thewahlingroup.com.

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  • Handling WCF Service Paths in Silverlight 4 – Relative Path Support

    - by dwahlin
    If you’re building Silverlight applications that consume data then you’re probably making calls to Web Services. We’ve been successfully using WCF along with Silverlight for several client Line of Business (LOB) applications and passing a lot of data back and forth. Due to the pain involved with updating the ServiceReferences.ClientConfig file generated by a Silverlight service proxy (see Tim Heuer’s post on that subject to see different ways to deal with it) we’ve been using our own technique to figure out the service URL. Going that route makes it a peace of cake to switch between development, staging and production environments. To start, we have a ServiceProxyBase class that handles identifying the URL to use based on the XAP file’s location (this assumes that the service is in the same Web project that serves up the XAP file). The GetServiceUrlBase() method handles this work: public class ServiceProxyBase { public ServiceProxyBase() { if (!IsDesignTime) { ServiceUrlBase = GetServiceUrlBase(); } } public string ServiceUrlBase { get; set; } public static bool IsDesignTime { get { return (Application.Current == null) || (Application.Current.GetType() == typeof (Application)); } } public static string GetServiceUrlBase() { if (!IsDesignTime) { string url = Application.Current.Host.Source.OriginalString; return url.Substring(0, url.IndexOf("/ClientBin", StringComparison.InvariantCultureIgnoreCase)); } return null; } } Silverlight 4 now supports relative paths to services which greatly simplifies things.  We changed the code above to the following: public class ServiceProxyBase { private const string ServiceUrlPath = "../Services/JobPlanService.svc"; public ServiceProxyBase() { if (!IsDesignTime) { ServiceUrl = ServiceUrlPath; } } public string ServiceUrl { get; set; } public static bool IsDesignTime { get { return (Application.Current == null) || (Application.Current.GetType() == typeof (Application)); } } public static string GetServiceUrl() { if (!IsDesignTime) { return ServiceUrlPath; } return null; } } Our ServiceProxy class derives from ServiceProxyBase and handles creating the ABC’s (Address, Binding, Contract) needed for a WCF service call. Looking through the code (mainly the constructor) you’ll notice that the service URI is created by supplying the base path to the XAP file along with the relative path defined in ServiceProxyBase:   public class ServiceProxy : ServiceProxyBase, IServiceProxy { private const string CompletedEventargs = "CompletedEventArgs"; private const string Completed = "Completed"; private const string Async = "Async"; private readonly CustomBinding _Binding; private readonly EndpointAddress _EndPointAddress; private readonly Uri _ServiceUri; private readonly Type _ProxyType = typeof(JobPlanServiceClient); public ServiceProxy() { _ServiceUri = new Uri(Application.Current.Host.Source, ServiceUrl); var elements = new BindingElementCollection { new BinaryMessageEncodingBindingElement(), new HttpTransportBindingElement { MaxBufferSize = 2147483647, MaxReceivedMessageSize = 2147483647 } }; // order of entries in collection is significant: dumb _Binding = new CustomBinding(elements); _EndPointAddress = new EndpointAddress(_ServiceUri); } #region IServiceProxy Members /// <summary> /// Used to call a WCF service operation. /// </summary> /// <typeparam name="T">The type of EventArgs that will be returned by the service operation.</typeparam> /// <param name="callback">The method to call once the WCF call returns (the callback).</param> /// <param name="parameters">Any parameters that the service operation expects.</param> public void CallService<T>(EventHandler<T> callback, params object[] parameters) where T : EventArgs { try { var proxy = new JobPlanServiceClient(_Binding, _EndPointAddress); string action = typeof (T).Name.Replace(CompletedEventargs, String.Empty); _ProxyType.GetEvent(action + Completed).AddEventHandler(proxy, callback); _ProxyType.InvokeMember(action + Async, BindingFlags.InvokeMethod, null, proxy, parameters); } catch (Exception exp) { MessageBox.Show("Unable to use ServiceProxy.CallService to retrieve data: " + exp.Message); } } #endregion } The relative path support for calling services in Silverlight 4 definitely simplifies code and is yet another good reason to move from Silverlight 3 to Silverlight 4.   For more information about onsite, online and video training, mentoring and consulting solutions for .NET, SharePoint or Silverlight please visit http://www.thewahlingroup.com.

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  • Getting Started Building Windows 8 Store Apps with XAML/C#

    - by dwahlin
    Technology is fun isn’t it? As soon as you think you’ve figured out where things are heading a new technology comes onto the scene, changes things up, and offers new opportunities. One of the new technologies I’ve been spending quite a bit of time with lately is Windows 8 store applications. I posted my thoughts about Windows 8 during the BUILD conference in 2011 and still feel excited about the opportunity there. Time will tell how well it ends up being accepted by consumers but I’m hopeful that it’ll take off. I currently have two Windows 8 store application concepts I’m working on with one being built in XAML/C# and another in HTML/JavaScript. I really like that Microsoft supports both options since it caters to a variety of developers and makes it easy to get started regardless if you’re a desktop developer or Web developer. Here’s a quick look at how the technologies are organized in Windows 8: In this post I’ll focus on the basics of Windows 8 store XAML/C# apps by looking at features, files, and code provided by Visual Studio projects. To get started building these types of apps you’ll definitely need to have some knowledge of XAML and C#. Let’s get started by looking at the Windows 8 store project types available in Visual Studio 2012.   Windows 8 Store XAML/C# Project Types When you open Visual Studio 2012 you’ll see a new entry under C# named Windows Store. It includes 6 different project types as shown next.   The Blank App project provides initial starter code and a single page whereas the Grid App and Split App templates provide quite a bit more code as well as multiple pages for your application. The other projects available can be be used to create a class library project that runs in Windows 8 store apps, a WinRT component such as a custom control, and a unit test library project respectively. If you’re building an application that displays data in groups using the “tile” concept then the Grid App or Split App project templates are a good place to start. An example of the initial screens generated by each project is shown next: Grid App Split View App   When a user clicks a tile in a Grid App they can view details about the tile data. With a Split View app groups/categories are shown and when the user clicks on a group they can see a list of all the different items and then drill-down into them:   For the remainder of this post I’ll focus on functionality provided by the Blank App project since it provides a simple way to get started learning the fundamentals of building Windows 8 store apps.   Blank App Project Walkthrough The Blank App project is a great place to start since it’s simple and lets you focus on the basics. In this post I’ll focus on what it provides you out of the box and cover additional details in future posts. Once you have the basics down you can move to the other project types if you need the functionality they provide. The Blank App project template does exactly what it says – you get an empty project with a few starter files added to help get you going. This is a good option if you’ll be building an app that doesn’t fit into the grid layout view that you see a lot of Windows 8 store apps following (such as on the Windows 8 start screen). I ended up starting with the Blank App project template for the app I’m currently working on since I’m not displaying data/image tiles (something the Grid App project does well) or drilling down into lists of data (functionality that the Split App project provides). The Blank App project provides images for the tiles and splash screen (you’ll definitely want to change these), a StandardStyles.xaml resource dictionary that includes a lot of helpful styles such as buttons for the AppBar (a special type of menu in Windows 8 store apps), an App.xaml file, and the app’s main page which is named MainPage.xaml. It also adds a Package.appxmanifest that is used to define functionality that your app requires, app information used in the store, plus more. The App.xaml, App.xaml.cs and StandardStyles.xaml Files The App.xaml file handles loading a resource dictionary named StandardStyles.xaml which has several key styles used throughout the application: <Application x:Class="BlankApp.App" xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation" xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml" xmlns:local="using:BlankApp"> <Application.Resources> <ResourceDictionary> <ResourceDictionary.MergedDictionaries> <!-- Styles that define common aspects of the platform look and feel Required by Visual Studio project and item templates --> <ResourceDictionary Source="Common/StandardStyles.xaml"/> </ResourceDictionary.MergedDictionaries> </ResourceDictionary> </Application.Resources> </Application>   StandardStyles.xaml has style definitions for different text styles and AppBar buttons. If you scroll down toward the middle of the file you’ll see that many AppBar button styles are included such as one for an edit icon. Button styles like this can be used to quickly and easily add icons/buttons into your application without having to be an expert in design. <Style x:Key="EditAppBarButtonStyle" TargetType="ButtonBase" BasedOn="{StaticResource AppBarButtonStyle}"> <Setter Property="AutomationProperties.AutomationId" Value="EditAppBarButton"/> <Setter Property="AutomationProperties.Name" Value="Edit"/> <Setter Property="Content" Value="&#xE104;"/> </Style> Switching over to App.xaml.cs, it includes some code to help get you started. An OnLaunched() method is added to handle creating a Frame that child pages such as MainPage.xaml can be loaded into. The Frame has the same overall purpose as the one found in WPF and Silverlight applications - it’s used to navigate between pages in an application. /// <summary> /// Invoked when the application is launched normally by the end user. Other entry points /// will be used when the application is launched to open a specific file, to display /// search results, and so forth. /// </summary> /// <param name="args">Details about the launch request and process.</param> protected override void OnLaunched(LaunchActivatedEventArgs args) { Frame rootFrame = Window.Current.Content as Frame; // Do not repeat app initialization when the Window already has content, // just ensure that the window is active if (rootFrame == null) { // Create a Frame to act as the navigation context and navigate to the first page rootFrame = new Frame(); if (args.PreviousExecutionState == ApplicationExecutionState.Terminated) { //TODO: Load state from previously suspended application } // Place the frame in the current Window Window.Current.Content = rootFrame; } if (rootFrame.Content == null) { // When the navigation stack isn't restored navigate to the first page, // configuring the new page by passing required information as a navigation // parameter if (!rootFrame.Navigate(typeof(MainPage), args.Arguments)) { throw new Exception("Failed to create initial page"); } } // Ensure the current window is active Window.Current.Activate(); }   Notice that in addition to creating a Frame the code also checks to see if the app was previously terminated so that you can load any state/data that the user may need when the app is launched again. If you’re new to the lifecycle of Windows 8 store apps the following image shows how an app can be running, suspended, and terminated.   If the user switches from an app they’re running the app will be suspended in memory. The app may stay suspended or may be terminated depending on how much memory the OS thinks it needs so it’s important to save state in case the application is ultimately terminated and has to be started fresh. Although I won’t cover saving application state here, additional information can be found at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/apps/xaml/hh465099.aspx. Another method in App.xaml.cs named OnSuspending() is also included in App.xaml.cs that can be used to store state as the user switches to another application:   /// <summary> /// Invoked when application execution is being suspended. Application state is saved /// without knowing whether the application will be terminated or resumed with the contents /// of memory still intact. /// </summary> /// <param name="sender">The source of the suspend request.</param> /// <param name="e">Details about the suspend request.</param> private void OnSuspending(object sender, SuspendingEventArgs e) { var deferral = e.SuspendingOperation.GetDeferral(); //TODO: Save application state and stop any background activity deferral.Complete(); } The MainPage.xaml and MainPage.xaml.cs Files The Blank App project adds a file named MainPage.xaml that acts as the initial screen for the application. It doesn’t include anything aside from an empty <Grid> XAML element in it. The code-behind class named MainPage.xaml.cs includes a constructor as well as a method named OnNavigatedTo() that is called once the page is displayed in the frame.   /// <summary> /// An empty page that can be used on its own or navigated to within a Frame. /// </summary> public sealed partial class MainPage : Page { public MainPage() { this.InitializeComponent(); } /// <summary> /// Invoked when this page is about to be displayed in a Frame. /// </summary> /// <param name="e">Event data that describes how this page was reached. The Parameter /// property is typically used to configure the page.</param> protected override void OnNavigatedTo(NavigationEventArgs e) { } }   If you’re experienced with XAML you can switch to Design mode and start dragging and dropping XAML controls from the ToolBox in Visual Studio. If you prefer to type XAML you can do that as well in the XAML editor or while in split mode. Many of the controls available in WPF and Silverlight are included such as Canvas, Grid, StackPanel, and Border for layout. Standard input controls are also included such as TextBox, CheckBox, PasswordBox, RadioButton, ComboBox, ListBox, and more. MediaElement is available for rendering video or playing audio files. Some of the “common” XAML controls included out of the box are shown next:   Although XAML/C# Windows 8 store apps don’t include all of the functionality available in Silverlight 5, the core functionality required to build store apps is there with additional functionality available in open source projects such as Callisto (started by Microsoft’s Tim Heuer), Q42.WinRT, and others. Standard XAML data binding can be used to bind C# objects to controls, converters can be used to manipulate data during the data binding process, and custom styles and templates can be applied to controls to modify them. Although Visual Studio 2012 doesn’t support visually creating styles or templates, Expression Blend 5 handles that very well. To get started building the initial screen of a Windows 8 app you can start adding controls as mentioned earlier. Simply place them inside of the <Grid> element that’s included. You can arrange controls in a stacked manner using the StackPanel control, add a border around controls using the Border control, arrange controls in columns and rows using the Grid control, or absolutely position controls using the Canvas control. One of the controls that may be new to you is the AppBar. It can be used to add menu/toolbar functionality into a store app and keep the app clean and focused. You can place an AppBar at the top or bottom of the screen. A user on a touch device can swipe up to display the bottom AppBar or right-click when using a mouse. An example of defining an AppBar that contains an Edit button is shown next. The EditAppBarButtonStyle is available in the StandardStyles.xaml file mentioned earlier. <Page.BottomAppBar> <AppBar x:Name="ApplicationAppBar" Padding="10,0,10,0" AutomationProperties.Name="Bottom App Bar"> <Grid> <StackPanel x:Name="RightPanel" Orientation="Horizontal" Grid.Column="1" HorizontalAlignment="Right"> <Button x:Name="Edit" Style="{StaticResource EditAppBarButtonStyle}" Tag="Edit" /> </StackPanel> </Grid> </AppBar> </Page.BottomAppBar> Like standard XAML controls, the <Button> control in the AppBar can be wired to an event handler method in the MainPage.Xaml.cs file or even bound to a ViewModel object using “commanding” if your app follows the Model-View-ViewModel (MVVM) pattern (check out the MVVM Light package available through NuGet if you’re using MVVM with Windows 8 store apps). The AppBar can be used to navigate to different screens, show and hide controls, display dialogs, show settings screens, and more.   The Package.appxmanifest File The Package.appxmanifest file contains configuration details about your Windows 8 store app. By double-clicking it in Visual Studio you can define the splash screen image, small and wide logo images used for tiles on the start screen, orientation information, and more. You can also define what capabilities the app has such as if it uses the Internet, supports geolocation functionality, requires a microphone or webcam, etc. App declarations such as background processes, file picker functionality, and sharing can also be defined Finally, information about how the app is packaged for deployment to the store can also be defined. Summary If you already have some experience working with XAML technologies you’ll find that getting started building Windows 8 applications is pretty straightforward. Many of the controls available in Silverlight and WPF are available making it easy to get started without having to relearn a lot of new technologies. In the next post in this series I’ll discuss additional features that can be used in your Windows 8 store apps.

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  • The Challenge with HTML5 – In Pictures

    - by dwahlin
    I love working with Web technologies and am looking forward to the new functionality that HTML5 will ultimately bring to the table (some of which can be used today). Having been through the div versus layer battle back in the IE4 and Netscape 4 days I think we’re headed down that road again as a result of browsers implementing features differently. I’ve been spending a lot of time researching and playing around with HTML5 samples and features (mainly because we’re already seeing demand for training on HTML5) and there’s a lot of great stuff there that will truly revolutionize web applications as we know them. However, browsers just aren’t there yet and many people outside of the development world don’t really feel a need to upgrade their browser if it’s working reasonably well (Mom and Dad come to mind) so it’s going to be awhile. There’s a nice test site at http://www.HTML5Test.com that runs through different HTML5 features and scores how well they’re supported. They don’t test for everything and are very clear about that on the site: “The HTML5 test score is only an indication of how well your browser supports the upcoming HTML5 standard and related specifications. It does not try to test all of the new features offered by HTML5, nor does it try to test the functionality of each feature it does detect. Despite these shortcomings we hope that by quantifying the level of support users and web developers will get an idea of how hard the browser manufacturers work on improving their browsers and the web as a development platform. The score is calculated by testing for the many new features of HTML5. Each feature is worth one or more points. Apart from the main HTML5 specification and other specifications created the W3C HTML Working Group, this test also awards points for supporting related drafts and specifications. Some of these specifications were initially part of HTML5, but are now further developed by other W3C working groups. WebGL is also part of this test despite not being developed by the W3C, because it extends the HTML5 canvas element with a 3d context. The test also awards bonus points for supporting audio and video codecs and supporting SVG or MathML embedding in a plain HTML document. These test do not count towards the total score because HTML5 does not specify any required audio or video codec. Also SVG and MathML are not required by HTML5, the specification only specifies rules for how such content should be embedded inside a plain HTML file. Please be aware that the specifications that are being tested are still in development and could change before receiving an official status. In the future new tests will be added for the pieces of the specification that are currently still missing. The maximum number of points that can be scored is 300 at this moment, but this is a moving goalpost.” It looks like their tests haven’t been updated since June, but the numbers are pretty scary as a developer because it means I’m going to have to do a lot of browser sniffing before assuming a particular feature is available to use. Not that much different from what we do today as far as browser sniffing you say? I’d have to disagree since HTML5 takes it to a whole new level. In today’s world we have script libraries such as jQuery (my personal favorite), Prototype, script.aculo.us, YUI Library, MooTools, etc. that handle the heavy lifting for us. Until those libraries handle all of the key HTML5 features available it’s going to be a challenge. Certain features such as Canvas are supported fairly well across most of the major browsers while other features such as audio and video are hit or miss depending upon what codec you want to use. Run the tests yourself to see what passes and what fails for different browsers. You can also view the HTML5 Test Suite Conformance Results at http://test.w3.org/html/tests/reporting/report.htm (a work in progress). The table below lists the scores that the HTML5Test site returned for different browsers I have installed on my desktop PC and laptop. A specific list of tests run and features supported are given when you go to the site. Note that I went ahead and tested the IE9 beta and it didn’t do nearly as good as I expected it would, but it’s not officially out yet so I expect that number will change a lot. Am I opposed to HTML5 as a result of these tests? Of course not - I’m actually really excited about what it offers.  However, I’m trying to be realistic and feel it'll definitely add a new level of headache to the Web application development process having been through something like this many years ago. On the flipside, developers that are able to target a specific browser (typically Intranet apps) or master the cross-browser issues are going to release some pretty sweet applications. Check out http://html5gallery.com/ for a look at some of the more cutting-edge sites out there that use HTML5. Also check out the http://www.beautyoftheweb.com site that Microsoft put together to showcase IE9. Chrome 8 Safari 5 for Windows     Opera 10 Firefox 3.6     Internet Explorer 9 Beta (Note that it’s still beta) Internet Explorer 8

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  • Mobile Friendly Websites with CSS Media Queries

    - by dwahlin
    In a previous post the concept of CSS media queries was introduced and I discussed the fundamentals of how they can be used to target different screen sizes. I showed how they could be used to convert a 3-column wide page into a more vertical view of data that displays better on devices such as an iPhone:     In this post I'll provide an additional look at how CSS media queries can be used to mobile-enable a sample site called "Widget Masters" without having to change any server-side code or HTML code. The site that will be discussed is shown next:     This site has some of the standard items shown in most websites today including a title area, menu bar, and sections where data is displayed. Without including CSS media queries the site is readable but has to be zoomed out to see everything on a mobile device, cuts-off some of the menu items, and requires horizontal scrolling to get to additional content. The following image shows what the site looks like on an iPhone. While the site works on mobile devices it's definitely not optimized for mobile.     Let's take a look at how CSS media queries can be used to override existing styles in the site based on different screen widths. Adding CSS Media Queries into a Site The Widget Masters Website relies on standard CSS combined with HTML5 elements to provide the layout shown earlier. For example, to layout the menu bar shown at the top of the page the nav element is used as shown next. A standard div element could certainly be used as well if desired.   <nav> <ul class="clearfix"> <li><a href="#home">Home</a></li> <li><a href="#products">Products</a></li> <li><a href="#aboutus">About Us</a></li> <li><a href="#contactus">Contact Us</a></li> <li><a href="#store">Store</a></li> </ul> </nav>   This HTML is combined with the CSS shown next to add a CSS3 gradient, handle the horizontal orientation, and add some general hover effects.   nav { width: 100%; } nav ul { border-radius: 6px; height: 40px; width: 100%; margin: 0; padding: 0; background: rgb(125,126,125); /* Old browsers */ background: -moz-linear-gradient(top, rgba(125,126,125,1) 0%, rgba(14,14,14,1) 100%); /* FF3.6+ */ background: -webkit-gradient(linear, left top, left bottom, color-stop(0%,rgba(125,126,125,1)), color-stop(100%,rgba(14,14,14,1))); /* Chrome,Safari4+ */ background: -webkit-linear-gradient(top, rgba(125,126,125,1) 0%, rgba(14,14,14,1) 100%); /* Chrome10+,Safari5.1+ */ background: -o-linear-gradient(top, rgba(125,126,125,1) 0%, rgba(14,14,14,1) 100%); /* Opera 11.10+ */ background: -ms-linear-gradient(top, rgba(125,126,125,1) 0%, rgba(14,14,14,1) 100%); /* IE10+ */ background: linear-gradient(top, rgba(125,126,125,1) 0%, rgba(14,14,14,1) 100%); /* W3C */ filter: progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.gradient( startColorstr='#7d7e7d', endColorstr='#0e0e0e',GradientType=0 ); /* IE6-9 */ } nav ul > li { list-style: none; float: left; margin: 0; padding: 0; } nav ul > li:first-child { margin-left: 8px; } nav ul > li > a { color: #ccc; text-decoration: none; line-height: 2.8em; font-size: 0.95em; font-weight: bold; padding: 8px 25px 7px 25px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; } nav ul > li a:hover { background-color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.1); color: #fff; }   When mobile devices hit the site the layout of the menu items needs to be adjusted so that they're all visible without having to swipe left or right to get to them. This type of modification can be accomplished using CSS media queries by targeting specific screen sizes. To start, a media query can be added into the site's CSS file as shown next: @media screen and (max-width:320px) { /* CSS style overrides for this screen width go here */ } This media query targets screens that have a maximum width of 320 pixels. Additional types of queries can also be added – refer to my previous post for more details as well as resources that can be used to test media queries in different devices. In that post I emphasize (and I'll emphasize again) that CSS media queries only modify the overall layout and look and feel of a site. They don't optimize the site as far as the size of the images or content sent to the device which is important to keep in mind. To make the navigation menu more accessible on devices such as an iPhone or Android the CSS shown next can be used. This code changes the height of the menu from 40 pixels to 100%, takes off the li element floats, changes the line-height, and changes the margins.   @media screen and (max-width:320px) { nav ul { height: 100%; } nav ul > li { float: none; } nav ul > li a { line-height: 1.5em; } nav ul > li:first-child { margin-left: 0px; } /* Additional CSS overrides go here */ }   The following image shows an example of what the menu look like when run on a device with a width of 320 pixels:   Mobile devices with a maximum width of 480 pixels need different CSS styles applied since they have 160 additional pixels of width. This can be done by adding a new CSS media query into the stylesheet as shown next. Looking through the CSS you'll see that only a minimal override is added to adjust the padding of anchor tags since the menu fits by default in this screen width.   @media screen and (max-width: 480px) { nav ul > li > a { padding: 8px 10px 7px 10px; } }   Running the site on a device with 480 pixels results in the menu shown next being rendered. Notice that the space between the menu items is much smaller compared to what was shown when the main site loads in a standard browser.     In addition to modifying the menu, the 3 horizontal content sections shown earlier can be changed from a horizontal layout to a vertical layout so that they look good on a variety of smaller mobile devices and are easier to navigate by end users. The HTML5 article and section elements are used as containers for the 3 sections in the site as shown next:   <article class="clearfix"> <section id="info"> <header>Why Choose Us?</header> <br /> <img id="mainImage" src="Images/ArticleImage.png" title="Article Image" /> <p> Post emensos insuperabilis expeditionis eventus languentibus partium animis, quas periculorum varietas fregerat et laborum, nondum tubarum cessante clangore vel milite locato per stationes hibernas. </p> </section> <section id="products"> <header>Products</header> <br /> <img id="gearsImage" src="Images/Gears.png" title="Article Image" /> <p> <ul> <li>Widget 1</li> <li>Widget 2</li> <li>Widget 3</li> <li>Widget 4</li> <li>Widget 5</li> </ul> </p> </section> <section id="FAQ"> <header>FAQ</header> <br /> <img id="faqImage" src="Images/faq.png" title="Article Image" /> <p> <ul> <li>FAQ 1</li> <li>FAQ 2</li> <li>FAQ 3</li> <li>FAQ 4</li> <li>FAQ 5</li> </ul> </p> </section> </article>   To force the sections into a vertical layout for smaller mobile devices the CSS styles shown next can be added into the media queries targeting 320 pixel and 480 pixel widths. Styles to target the display size of the images in each section are also included. It's important to note that the original image is still being downloaded from the server and isn't being optimized in any way for the mobile device. It's certainly possible for the CSS to include URL information for a mobile-optimized image if desired. @media screen and (max-width:320px) { section { float: none; width: 97%; margin: 0px; padding: 5px; } #wrapper { padding: 5px; width: 96%; } #mainImage, #gearsImage, #faqImage { width: 100%; height: 100px; } } @media screen and (max-width: 480px) { section { float: none; width: 98%; margin: 0px 0px 10px 0px; padding: 5px; } article > section:last-child { margin-right: 0px; float: none; } #bottomSection { width: 99%; } #wrapper { padding: 5px; width: 96%; } #mainImage, #gearsImage, #faqImage { width: 100%; height: 100px; } }   The following images show the site rendered on an iPhone with the CSS media queries in place. Each of the sections now displays vertically making it much easier for the user to access them. Images inside of each section also scale appropriately to fit properly.     CSS media queries provide a great way to override default styles in a website and target devices with different resolutions. In this post you've seen how CSS media queries can be used to convert a standard browser-based site into a site that is more accessible to mobile users. Although much more can be done to optimize sites for mobile, CSS media queries provide a nice starting point if you don't have the time or resources to create mobile-specific versions of sites.

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  • Tales from the Trenches – Building a Real-World Silverlight Line of Business Application

    - by dwahlin
    There's rarely a boring day working in the world of software development. Part of the fun associated with being a developer is that change is guaranteed and the more you learn about a particular technology the more you realize there's always a different or better way to perform a task. I've had the opportunity to work on several different real-world Silverlight Line of Business (LOB) applications over the past few years and wanted to put together a list of some of the key things I've learned as well as key problems I've encountered and resolved. There are several different topics I could cover related to "lessons learned" (some of them were more painful than others) but I'll keep it to 5 items for this post and cover additional lessons learned in the future. The topics discussed were put together for a TechEd talk: Pick a Pattern and Stick To It Data Binding and Nested Controls Notify Users of Successes (and failures) Get an Agent – A Service Agent Extend Existing Controls The first topic covered relates to architecture best practices and how the MVVM pattern can save you time in the long run. When I was first introduced to MVVM I thought it was a lot of work for very little payoff. I've since learned (the hard way in some cases) that my initial impressions were dead wrong and that my criticisms of the pattern were generally caused by doing things the wrong way. In addition to MVVM pros the slides and sample app below also jump into data binding tricks in nested control scenarios and discuss how animations and media can be used to enhance LOB applications in subtle ways. Finally, a discussion of creating a re-usable service agent to interact with backend services is discussed as well as how existing controls make good candidates for customization. I tried to keep the samples simple while still covering the topics as much as possible so if you’re new to Silverlight you should definitely be able to follow along with a little study and practice. I’d recommend starting with the SilverlightDemos.View project, moving to the SilverlightDemos.ViewModels project and then going to the SilverlightDemos.ServiceAgents project. All of the backend “Model” code can be found in the SilverlightDemos.Web project. Custom controls used in the app can be found in the SivlerlightDemos.Controls project.   Sample Code and Slides

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  • Silverlight TV with Myself, John Papa, Shawn Wildermuth and Ward Bell

    - by dwahlin
    I had the chance to go on a live episode of Channel 9 while at DevConnections and had a lot of fun chatting about various Silverlight topics and answering some fairly unique questions posted on Twitter.  Here’s more info on the episode from John Papa’s blog: John interviews a panel of 3 well known Silverlight leaders including Shawn Wildermuth, Dan Wahlin, and Ward Bell at the Silverlight 4 launch event. The guest panel answers questions sent in from Twitter about the features in Silverlight 4, thoughts on MVVM, and the panel members' experiences developing Silverlight. This is a great chance to hear from some of the leading Silverlight minds. These guys are all experts at building business applications with Silverlight. Relevant links: John's Blog and on Twitter (@john_papa) Shawn's Blog and on Twitter (@shawnwildermuth) Dan's Blog and on Twitter (@danwahlin) Ward's Blog and on Twitter (@wardbell) Silverlight Training Course on Channel 9 Follow us on Twitter @SilverlightTV or on the web at http://silverlight.tv You can see the episode online by clicking the image below:

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  • Learning AngularJS by Example – The Customer Manager Application

    - by dwahlin
    I’m always tinkering around with different ideas and toward the beginning of 2013 decided to build a sample application using AngularJS that I call Customer Manager. It’s not exactly the most creative name or concept, but I wanted to build something that highlighted a lot of the different features offered by AngularJS and how they could be used together to build a full-featured app. One of the goals of the application was to ensure that it was approachable by people new to Angular since I’ve never found overly complex applications great for learning new concepts. The application initially started out small and was used in my AngularJS in 60-ish Minutes video on YouTube but has gradually had more and more features added to it and will continue to be enhanced over time. It’ll be used in a new “end-to-end” training course my company is working on for AngularjS as well as in some video courses that will be coming out. Here’s a quick look at what the application home page looks like: In this post I’m going to provide an overview about how the application is organized, back-end options that are available, and some of the features it demonstrates. I’ve already written about some of the features so if you’re interested check out the following posts: Building an AngularJS Modal Service Building a Custom AngularJS Unique Value Directive Using an AngularJS Factory to Interact with a RESTful Service Application Structure The structure of the application is shown to the right. The  homepage is index.html and is located at the root of the application folder. It defines where application views will be loaded using the ng-view directive and includes script references to AngularJS, AngularJS routing and animation scripts, plus a few others located in the Scripts folder and to custom application scripts located in the app folder. The app folder contains all of the key scripts used in the application. There are several techniques that can be used for organizing script files but after experimenting with several of them I decided that I prefer things in folders such as controllers, views, services, etc. Doing that helps me find things a lot faster and allows me to categorize files (such as controllers) by functionality. My recommendation is to go with whatever works best for you. Anyone who says, “You’re doing it wrong!” should be ignored. Contrary to what some people think, there is no “one right way” to organize scripts and other files. As long as the scripts make it down to the client properly (you’ll likely minify and concatenate them anyway to reduce bandwidth and minimize HTTP calls), the way you organize them is completely up to you. Here’s what I ended up doing for this application: Animation code for some custom animations is located in the animations folder. In addition to AngularJS animations (which are defined using CSS in Content/animations.css), it also animates the initial customer data load using a 3rd party script called GreenSock. Controllers are located in the controllers folder. Some of the controllers are placed in subfolders based upon the their functionality while others are placed at the root of the controllers folder since they’re more generic:   The directives folder contains the custom directives created for the application. The filters folder contains the custom filters created for the application that filter city/state and product information. The partials folder contains partial views. This includes things like modal dialogs used in the application. The services folder contains AngularJS factories and services used for various purposes in the application. Most of the scripts in this folder provide data functionality. The views folder contains the different views used in the application. Like the controllers folder, the views are organized into subfolders based on their functionality:   Back-End Services The Customer Manager application (grab it from Github) provides two different options on the back-end including ASP.NET Web API and Node.js. The ASP.NET Web API back-end uses Entity Framework for data access and stores data in SQL Server (LocalDb). The other option on the back-end is Node.js, Express, and MongoDB.   Using the ASP.NET Web API Back-End To run the application using ASP.NET Web API/SQL Server back-end open the .sln file at the root of the project in Visual Studio 2012 or higher (the free Express 2013 for Web version is fine). Press F5 and a browser will automatically launch and display the application. Using the Node.js Back-End To run the application using the Node.js/MongoDB back-end follow these steps: In the CustomerManager directory execute 'npm install' to install Express, MongoDB and Mongoose (package.json). Load sample data into MongoDB by performing the following steps: Execute 'mongod' to start the MongoDB daemon Navigate to the CustomerManager directory (the one that has initMongoCustData.js in it) then execute 'mongo' to start the MongoDB shell Enter the following in the mongo shell to load the seed files that handle seeding the database with initial data: use custmgr load("initMongoCustData.js") load("initMongoSettingsData.js") load("initMongoStateData.js") Start the Node/Express server by navigating to the CustomerManager/server directory and executing 'node app.js' View the application at http://localhost:3000 in your browser. Key Features The Customer Manager application certainly doesn’t cover every feature provided by AngularJS (as mentioned the intent was to keep it as simple as possible) but does provide insight into several key areas: Using factories and services as re-useable data services (see the app/services folder) Creating custom directives (see the app/directives folder) Custom paging (see app/views/customers/customers.html and app/controllers/customers/customersController.js) Custom filters (see app/filters) Showing custom modal dialogs with a re-useable service (see app/services/modalService.js) Making Ajax calls using a factory (see app/services/customersService.js) Using Breeze to retrieve and work with data (see app/services/customersBreezeService.js). Switch the application to use the Breeze factory by opening app/services.config.js and changing the useBreeze property to true. Intercepting HTTP requests to display a custom overlay during Ajax calls (see app/directives/wcOverlay.js) Custom animations using the GreenSock library (see app/animations/listAnimations.js) Creating custom AngularJS animations using CSS (see Content/animations.css) JavaScript patterns for defining controllers, services/factories, directives, filters, and more (see any JavaScript file in the app folder) Card View and List View display of data (see app/views/customers/customers.html and app/controllers/customers/customersController.js) Using AngularJS validation functionality (see app/views/customerEdit.html, app/controllers/customerEditController.js, and app/directives/wcUnique.js) More… Conclusion I’ll be enhancing the application even more over time and welcome contributions as well. Tony Quinn contributed the initial Node.js/MongoDB code which is very cool to have as a back-end option. Access the standard application here and a version that has custom routing in it here. Additional information about the custom routing can be found in this post.

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  • Slides and Code from my Silverlight MVVM Talk at DevConnections

    - by dwahlin
    I had a great time at the DevConnections conference in Las Vegas this year where Visual Studio 2010 and Silverlight 4 were launched. While at the conference I had the opportunity to give a full-day Silverlight workshop as well as 4 different talks and met a lot of people developing applications in Silverlight. I also had a chance to appear on a live broadcast of Channel 9 with John Papa, Ward Bell and Shawn Wildermuth, record a video with Rick Strahl covering jQuery versus Silverlight and record a few podcasts on Silverlight and ASP.NET MVC 2.  It was a really busy 4 days but I had a lot of fun chatting with people and hearing about different business problems they were solving with ASP.NET and/or Silverlight. Thanks to everyone who attended my sessions and took the time to ask questions and stop by to talk one-on-one. One of the talks I gave covered the Model-View-ViewModel pattern and how it can be used to build architecturally sound applications. Topics covered in the talk included: Understanding the MVVM pattern Benefits of the MVVM pattern Creating a ViewModel class Implementing INotifyPropertyChanged in a ViewModelBase class Binding a ViewModel declaratively in XAML Binding a ViewModel with code ICommand and ButtonBase commanding support in Silverlight 4 Using InvokeCommandBehavior to handle additional commanding needs Working with ViewModels and Sample Data in Blend Messaging support with EventBus classes, EventAggregator and Messenger My personal take on code in a code-beside file (I’m all in favor of it when used appropriately for message boxes, child windows, animations, etc.) One of the samples I showed in the talk was intended to teach all of the concepts mentioned above while keeping things as simple as possible.  The sample demonstrates quite a few things you can do with Silverlight and the MVVM pattern so check it out and feel free to leave feedback about things you like, things you’d do differently or anything else. MVVM is simply a pattern, not a way of life so there are many different ways to implement it. If you’re new to the subject of MVVM check out the following resources. I wish this talk would’ve been recorded (especially since my live and canned demos all worked :-)) but these resources will help get you going quickly. Getting Started with the MVVM Pattern in Silverlight Applications Model-View-ViewModel (MVVM) Explained Laurent Bugnion’s Excellent Talk at MIX10     Download sample code and slides from my DevConnections talk     For more information about onsite, online and video training, mentoring and consulting solutions for .NET, SharePoint or Silverlight please visit http://www.thewahlingroup.com.

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  • The Art of Productivity

    - by dwahlin
    Getting things done has always been a challenge regardless of gender, age, race, skill, or job position. No matter how hard some people try, they end up procrastinating tasks until the last minute. Some people simply focus better when they know they’re out of time and can’t procrastinate any longer. How many times have you put off working on a term paper in school until the very last minute? With only a few hours left your mental energy and focus seem to kick in to high gear especially as you realize that you either get the paper done now or risk failing. It’s amazing how a little pressure can turn into a motivator and allow our minds to focus on a given task. Some people seem to specialize in procrastinating just about everything they do while others tend to be the “doers” who get a lot done and ultimately rise up the ladder at work. What’s the difference between these types of people? Is it pure laziness or are other factors at play? I think that some people are certainly more motivated than others, but I also think a lot of it is based on the process that “doers” tend to follow - whether knowingly or unknowingly. While I’ve certainly fought battles with procrastination, I’ve always had a knack for being able to get a lot done in a relatively short amount of time. I think a lot of my “get it done” attitude goes back to the the strong work ethic my parents instilled in me at a young age. I remember my dad saying, “You need to learn to work hard!” when I was around 5 years old. I remember that moment specifically because I was on a tractor with him the first time I heard it while he was trying to move some large rocks into a pile. The tractor was big but so were the rocks and my dad had to balance the tractor perfectly so that it didn’t tip forward too far. It was challenging work and somewhat tedious but my dad finished the task and taught me a few important lessons along the way including persistence, the importance of having a skill, and getting the job done right without skimping along the way. In this post I’m going to list a few of the techniques and processes I follow that I hope may be beneficial to others. I blogged about the general concept back in 2009 but thought I’d share some updated information and lessons learned since then. Most of the ideas that follow came from learning and refining my daily work process over the years. However, since most of the ideas are common sense (at least in my opinion), I suspect they can be found in other productivity processes that are out there. Let’s start off with one of the most important yet simple tips: Start Each Day with a List. Start Each Day with a List What are you planning to get done today? Do you keep track of everything in your head or rely on your calendar? While most of us think that we’re pretty good at managing “to do” lists strictly in our head you might be surprised at how affective writing out lists can be. By writing out tasks you’re forced to focus on the most important tasks to accomplish that day, commit yourself to those tasks, and have an easy way to track what was supposed to get done and what actually got done. Start every morning by making a list of specific tasks that you want to accomplish throughout the day. I’ll even go so far as to fill in times when I’d like to work on tasks if I have a lot of meetings or other events tying up my calendar on a given day. I’m not a big fan of using paper since I type a lot faster than I write (plus I write like a 3rd grader according to my wife), so I use the Sticky Notes feature available in Windows. Here’s an example of yesterday’s sticky note: What do you add to your list? That’s the subject of the next tip. Focus on Small Tasks It’s no secret that focusing on small, manageable tasks is more effective than trying to focus on large and more vague tasks. When you make your list each morning only add tasks that you can accomplish within a given time period. For example, if I only have 30 minutes blocked out to work on an article I don’t list “Write Article”. If I do that I’ll end up wasting 30 minutes stressing about how I’m going to get the article done in 30 minutes and ultimately get nothing done. Instead, I’ll list something like “Write Introductory Paragraphs for Article”. The next day I may add, “Write first section of article” or something that’s small and manageable – something I’m confident that I can get done. You’ll find that once you’ve knocked out several smaller tasks it’s easy to continue completing others since you want to keep the momentum going. In addition to keeping my tasks focused and small, I also make a conscious effort to limit my list to 4 or 5 tasks initially. I’ve found that if I list more than 5 tasks I feel a bit overwhelmed which hurts my productivity. It’s easy to add additional tasks as you complete others and you get the added benefit of that confidence boost of knowing that you’re being productive and getting things done as you remove tasks and add others. Getting Started is the Hardest (Yet Easiest) Part I’ve always found that getting started is the hardest part and one of the biggest contributors to procrastination. Getting started working on tasks is a lot like getting a large rock pushed to the bottom of a hill. It’s difficult to get the rock rolling at first, but once you manage to get it rocking some it’s really easy to get it rolling on its way to the bottom. As an example, I’ve written 100s of articles for technical magazines over the years and have really struggled with the initial introductory paragraphs. Keep in mind that these are the paragraphs that don’t really add that much value (in my opinion anyway). They introduce the reader to the subject matter and nothing more. What a waste of time for me to sit there stressing about how to start the article. On more than one occasion I’ve spent more than an hour trying to come up with 2-3 paragraphs of text.  Talk about a productivity killer! Whether you’re struggling with a writing task, some code for a project, an email, or other tasks, jumping in without thinking too much is the best way to get started I’ve found. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have an overall plan when jumping into a task, but on some occasions you’ll find that if you simply jump into the task and stop worrying about doing everything perfectly that things will flow more smoothly. For my introductory paragraph problem I give myself 5 minutes to write out some general concepts about what I know the article will cover and then spend another 10-15 minutes going back and refining that information. That way I actually have some ideas to work with rather than a blank sheet of paper. If I still find myself struggling I’ll write the rest of the article first and then circle back to the introductory paragraphs once I’m done. To sum this tip up: Jump into a task without thinking too hard about it. It’s better to to get the rock at the top of the hill rocking some than doing nothing at all. You can always go back and refine your work.   Learn a Productivity Technique and Stick to It There are a lot of different productivity programs and seminars out there being sold by companies. I’ve always laughed at how much money people spend on some of these motivational programs/seminars because I think that being productive isn’t that hard if you create a re-useable set of steps and processes to follow. That’s not to say that some of these programs/seminars aren’t worth the money of course because I know they’ve definitely benefited some people that have a hard time getting things done and staying focused. One of the best productivity techniques I’ve ever learned is called the “Pomodoro Technique” and it’s completely free. This technique is an extremely simple way to manage your time without having to remember a bunch of steps, color coding mechanisms, or other processes. The technique was originally developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 80s and can be implemented with a simple timer. In a nutshell here’s how the technique works: Pick a task to work on Set the timer to 25 minutes and work on the task Once the timer rings record your time Take a 5 minute break Repeat the process Here’s why the technique works well for me: It forces me to focus on a single task for 25 minutes. In the past I had no time goal in mind and just worked aimlessly on a task until I got interrupted or bored. 25 minutes is a small enough chunk of time for me to stay focused. Any distractions that may come up have to wait until after the timer goes off. If the distraction is really important then I stop the timer and record my time up to that point. When the timer is running I act as if I only have 25 minutes total for the task (like you’re down to the last 25 minutes before turning in your term paper….frantically working to get it done) which helps me stay focused and turns into a “beat the clock” type of game. It’s actually kind of fun if you treat it that way and really helps me focus on a the task at hand. I automatically know how much time I’m spending on a given task (more on this later) by using this technique. I know that I have 5 minutes after each pomodoro (the 25 minute sprint) to waste on anything I’d like including visiting a website, stepping away from the computer, etc. which also helps me stay focused when the 25 minute timer is counting down. I use this technique so much that I decided to build a program for Windows 8 called Pomodoro Focus (I plan to blog about how it was built in a later post). It’s a Windows Store application that allows people to track tasks, productive time spent on tasks, interruption time experienced while working on a given task, and the number of pomodoros completed. If a time estimate is given when the task is initially created, Pomodoro Focus will also show the task completion percentage. I like it because it allows me to track my tasks, time spent on tasks (very useful in the consulting world), and even how much time I wasted on tasks (pressing the pause button while working on a task starts the interruption timer). I recently added a new feature that charts productive and interruption time for tasks since I wanted to see how productive I was from week to week and month to month. A few screenshots from the Pomodoro Focus app are shown next, I had a lot of fun building it and use it myself to as I work on tasks.   There are certainly many other productivity techniques and processes out there (and a slew of books describing them), but the Pomodoro Technique has been the simplest and most effective technique I’ve ever come across for staying focused and getting things done.   Persistence is Key Getting things done is great but one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in life is that persistence is key especially when you’re trying to get something done that at times seems insurmountable. Small tasks ultimately lead to larger tasks getting accomplished, however, it’s not all roses along the way as some of the smaller tasks may come with their own share of bumps and bruises that lead to discouragement about the end goal and whether or not it is worth achieving at all. I’ve been on several long-term projects over my career as a software developer (I have one personal project going right now that fits well here) and found that repeating, “Persistence is the key!” over and over to myself really helps. Not every project turns out to be successful, but if you don’t show persistence through the hard times you’ll never know if you succeeded or not. Likewise, if you don’t persistently stick to the process of creating a daily list, follow a productivity process, etc. then the odds of consistently staying productive aren’t good.   Track Your Time How much time do you actually spend working on various tasks? If you don’t currently track time spent answering emails, on phone calls, and working on various tasks then you might be surprised to find out that a task that you thought was going to take you 30 minutes ultimately ended up taking 2 hours. If you don’t track the time you spend working on tasks how can you expect to learn from your mistakes, optimize your time better, and become more productive? That’s another reason why I like the Pomodoro Technique – it makes it easy to stay focused on tasks while also tracking how much time I’m working on a given task.   Eliminate Distractions I blogged about this final tip several years ago but wanted to bring it up again. If you want to be productive (and ultimately successful at whatever you’re doing) then you can’t waste a lot of time playing games or on Twitter, Facebook, or other time sucking websites. If you see an article you’re interested in that has no relation at all to the tasks you’re trying to accomplish then bookmark it and read it when you have some spare time (such as during a pomodoro break). Fighting the temptation to check your friends’ status updates on Facebook? Resist the urge and realize how much those types of activities are hurting your productivity and taking away from your focus. I’ll admit that eliminating distractions is still tough for me personally and something I have to constantly battle. But, I’ve made a conscious decision to cut back on my visits and updates to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other sites. Sure, my Klout score has suffered as a result lately, but does anyone actually care about those types of scores aside from your online “friends” (few of whom you’ve actually met in person)? :-) Ultimately it comes down to self-discipline and how badly you want to be productive and successful in your career, life goals, hobbies, or whatever you’re working on. Rather than having your homepage take you to a time wasting news site, game site, social site, picture site, or others, how about adding something like the following as your homepage? Every time your browser opens you’ll see a personal message which helps keep you on the right track. You can download my ubber-sophisticated homepage here if interested. Summary Is there a single set of steps that if followed can ultimately lead to productivity? I don’t think so since one size has never fit all. Every person is different, works in their own unique way, and has their own set of motivators, distractions, and more. While I certainly don’t consider myself to be an expert on the subject of productivity, I do think that if you learn what steps work best for you and gradually refine them over time that you can come up with a personal productivity process that can serve you well. Productivity is definitely an “art” that anyone can learn with a little practice and persistence. You’ve seen some of the steps that I personally like to follow and I hope you find some of them useful in boosting your productivity. If you have others you use please leave a comment. I’m always looking for ways to improve.

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  • Pluralsight Meet the Author Podcast on Structuring JavaScript Code

    - by dwahlin
    I had the opportunity to talk with Fritz Onion from Pluralsight about one of my recent courses titled Structuring JavaScript Code for one of their Meet the Author podcasts. We talked about why JavaScript patterns are important for building more re-useable and maintainable apps, pros and cons of different patterns, and how to go about picking a pattern as a project is started. The course provides a solid walk-through of converting what I call “Function Spaghetti Code” into more modular code that’s easier to maintain, more re-useable, and less susceptible to naming conflicts. Patterns covered in the course include the Prototype Pattern, Revealing Module Pattern, and Revealing Prototype Pattern along with several other tips and techniques that can be used. Meet the Author:  Dan Wahlin on Structuring JavaScript Code   The transcript from the podcast is shown below: [Fritz]  Hello, this is Fritz Onion with another Pluralsight author interview. Today we’re talking with Dan Wahlin about his new course, Structuring JavaScript Code. Hi, Dan, it’s good to have you with us today. [Dan]  Thanks for having me, Fritz. [Fritz]  So, Dan, your new course, which came out in December of 2011 called Structuring JavaScript Code, goes into several patterns of usage in JavaScript as well as ways of organizing your code and what struck me about it was all the different techniques you described for encapsulating your code. I was wondering if you could give us just a little insight into what your motivation was for creating this course and sort of why you decided to write it and record it. [Dan]  Sure. So, I got started with JavaScript back in the mid 90s. In fact, back in the days when browsers that most people haven’t heard of were out and we had JavaScript but it wasn’t great. I was on a project in the late 90s that was heavy, heavy JavaScript and we pretty much did what I call in the course function spaghetti code where you just have function after function, there’s no rhyme or reason to how those functions are structured, they just kind of flow and it’s a little bit hard to do maintenance on it, you really don’t get a lot of reuse as far as from an object perspective. And so coming from an object-oriented background in JAVA and C#, I wanted to put something together that highlighted kind of the new way if you will of writing JavaScript because most people start out just writing functions and there’s nothing with that, it works, but it’s definitely not a real reusable solution. So the course is really all about how to move from just kind of function after function after function to the world of more encapsulated code and more reusable and hopefully better maintenance in the process. [Fritz]  So I am sure a lot of people have had similar experiences with their JavaScript code and will be looking forward to seeing what types of patterns you’ve put forth. Now, a couple I noticed in your course one is you start off with the prototype pattern. Do you want to describe sort of what problem that solves and how you go about using it within JavaScript? [Dan]  Sure. So, the patterns that are covered such as the prototype pattern and the revealing module pattern just as two examples, you know, show these kind of three things that I harp on throughout the course of encapsulation, better maintenance, reuse, those types of things. The prototype pattern specifically though has a couple kind of pros over some of the other patterns and that is the ability to extend your code without touching source code and what I mean by that is let’s say you’re writing a library that you know either other teammates or other people just out there on the Internet in general are going to be using. With the prototype pattern, you can actually write your code in such a way that we’re leveraging the JavaScript property and by doing that now you can extend my code that I wrote without touching my source code script or you can even override my code and perform some new functionality. Again, without touching my code.  And so you get kind of the benefit of the almost like inheritance or overriding in object oriented languages with this prototype pattern and it makes it kind of attractive that way definitely from a maintenance standpoint because, you know, you don’t want to modify a script I wrote because I might roll out version 2 and now you’d have to track where you change things and it gets a little tricky. So with this you just override those pieces or extend them and get that functionality and that’s kind of some of the benefits that that pattern offers out of the box. [Fritz]  And then the revealing module pattern, how does that differ from the prototype pattern and what problem does that solve differently? [Dan]  Yeah, so the prototype pattern and there’s another one that’s kind of really closely lined with revealing module pattern called the revealing prototype pattern and it also uses the prototype key word but it’s very similar to the one you just asked about the revealing module pattern. [Fritz]  Okay. [Dan]  This is a really popular one out there. In fact, we did a project for Microsoft that was very, very heavy JavaScript. It was an HMTL5 jQuery type app and we use this pattern for most of the structure if you will for the JavaScript code and what it does in a nutshell is allows you to get that encapsulation so you have really a single function wrapper that wraps all your other child functions but it gives you the ability to do public versus private members and this is kind of a sort of debate out there on the web. Some people feel that all JavaScript code should just be directly accessible and others kind of like to be able to hide their, truly their private stuff and a lot of people do that. You just put an underscore in front of your field or your variable name or your function name and that kind of is the defacto way to say hey, this is private. With the revealing module pattern you can do the equivalent of what objective oriented languages do and actually have private members that you literally can’t get to as an external consumer of the JavaScript code and then you can expose only those members that you want to be public. Now, you don’t get the benefit though of the prototype feature, which is I can’t easily extend the revealing module pattern type code if you don’t like something I’m doing, chances are you’re probably going to have to tweak my code to fix that because we’re not leveraging prototyping but in situations where you’re writing apps that are very specific to a given target app, you know, it’s not a library, it’s not going to be used in other apps all over the place, it’s a pattern I actually like a lot, it’s very simple to get going and then if you do like that public/private feature, it’s available to you. [Fritz]  Yeah, that’s interesting. So it’s almost, you can either go private by convention just by using a standard naming convention or you can actually enforce it by using the prototype pattern. [Dan]  Yeah, that’s exactly right. [Fritz]  So one of the things that I know I run across in JavaScript and I’m curious to get your take on is we do have all these different techniques of encapsulation and each one is really quite different when you’re using closures versus simply, you know, referencing member variables and adding them to your objects that the syntax changes with each pattern and the usage changes. So what would you recommend for people starting out in a brand new JavaScript project? Should they all sort of decide beforehand on what patterns they’re going to stick to or do you change it based on what part of the library you’re working on? I know that’s one of the points of confusion in this space. [Dan]  Yeah, it’s a great question. In fact, I just had a company ask me about that. So which one do I pick and, of course, there’s not one answer fits all. [Fritz]  Right. [Dan]  So it really depends what you just said is absolutely in my opinion correct, which is I think as a, especially if you’re on a team or even if you’re just an individual a team of one, you should go through and pick out which pattern for this particular project you think is best. Now if it were me, here’s kind of the way I think of it. If I were writing a let’s say base library that several web apps are going to use or even one, but I know that there’s going to be some pieces that I’m not really sure on right now as I’m writing I and I know people might want to hook in that and have some better extension points, then I would look at either the prototype pattern or the revealing prototype. Now, really just a real quick summation between the two the revealing prototype also gives you that public/private stuff like the revealing module pattern does whereas the prototype pattern does not but both of the prototype patterns do give you the benefit of that extension or that hook capability. So, if I were writing a library that I need people to override things or I’m not even sure what I need them to override, I want them to have that option, I’d probably pick a prototype, one of the prototype patterns. If I’m writing some code that is very unique to the app and it’s kind of a one off for this app which is what I think a lot of people are kind of in that mode as writing custom apps for customers, then my personal preference is the revealing module pattern you could always go with the module pattern as well which is very close but I think the revealing module patterns a little bit cleaner and we go through that in the course and explain kind of the syntax there and the differences. [Fritz]  Great, that makes a lot of sense. [Fritz]  I appreciate you taking the time, Dan, and I hope everyone takes a chance to look at your course and sort of make these decisions for themselves in their next JavaScript project. Dan’s course is, Structuring JavaScript Code and it’s available now in the Pluralsight Library. So, thank you very much, Dan. [Dan]  Thanks for having me again.

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  • AngularJS in 60-ish Minutes – The eBook

    - by dwahlin
    Back in April of 2013 I published a video titled AngularJS in 60-ish Minutes on YouTube that focused on learning the fundamentals of AngularJS such as data binding, controllers, modules, factories/services and more (watch it by clicking the link above or scroll to the bottom of this post). One of the people that watched the video was Ian Smith (his blog is at http://fastandfluid.blogspot.com). But, Ian did much more than just watch it. He took the time to transcribe the audio into text, added screenshots, and included the time that the topic appears in the original video. Here’s an example of one of the pages: The funny thing about this whole story is that I’m currently working on an AngularJS eBook concept that I plan to publish to Amazon.com that’ll be called AngularJS JumpStart and it’s also based on the video. It follows the same general format and I even paid a transcription company to generate a document for me a few months back. Ian and I have both developed training materials before and it turns out we were both thinking along the same lines which was funny to see when he first showed me what he created. I’m extremely appreciative of Ian for taking the time to transcribe the video (thank him if you use the document) and hope you find it useful! Download the AngularJS in 60-ish Minutes eBook here   AngularJS in 60-ish Minutes Video   If you’re interested in more articles, blog posts, and additional information on AngularJS check out the new The AngularJS Magazine (a Flipboard magazine) that I started:   The AngularJS Magazine

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  • JavaScript Data Binding Frameworks

    - by dwahlin
    Data binding is where it’s at now days when it comes to building client-centric Web applications. Developers experienced with desktop frameworks like WPF or web frameworks like ASP.NET, Silverlight, or others are used to being able to take model objects containing data and bind them to UI controls quickly and easily. When moving to client-side Web development the data binding story hasn’t been great since neither HTML nor JavaScript natively support data binding. This means that you have to write code to place data in a control and write code to extract it. Although it’s certainly feasible to do it from scratch (many of us have done it this way for years), it’s definitely tedious and not exactly the best solution when it comes to maintenance and re-use. Over the last few years several different script libraries have been released to simply the process of binding data to HTML controls. In fact, the subject of data binding is becoming so popular that it seems like a new script library is being released nearly every week. Many of the libraries provide MVC/MVVM pattern support in client-side JavaScript apps and some even integrate directly with server frameworks like Node.js. Here’s a quick list of a few of the available libraries that support data binding (if you like any others please add a comment and I’ll try to keep the list updated): AngularJS MVC framework for data binding (although closely follows the MVVM pattern). Backbone.js MVC framework with support for models, key/value binding, custom events, and more. Derby Provides a real-time environment that runs in the browser an in Node.js. The library supports data binding and templates. Ember Provides support for templates that automatically update as data changes. JsViews Data binding framework that provides “interactive data-driven views built on top of JsRender templates”. jQXB Expression Binder Lightweight jQuery plugin that supports bi-directional data binding support. KnockoutJS MVVM framework with robust support for data binding. For an excellent look at using KnockoutJS check out John Papa’s course on Pluralsight. Meteor End to end framework that uses Node.js on the server and provides support for data binding on  the client. Simpli5 JavaScript framework that provides support for two-way data binding. WinRT with HTML5/JavaScript If you’re building Windows 8 applications using HTML5 and JavaScript there’s built-in support for data binding in the WinJS library.   I won’t have time to write about each of these frameworks, but in the next post I’m going to talk about my (current) favorite when it comes to client-side JavaScript data binding libraries which is AngularJS. AngularJS provides an extremely clean way – in my opinion - to extend HTML syntax to support data binding while keeping model objects (the objects that hold the data) free from custom framework method calls or other weirdness. While I’m writing up the next post, feel free to visit the AngularJS developer guide if you’d like additional details about the API and want to get started using it.

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  • Pluralsight Meet the Author Podcast on HTML5 Canvas Programming

    - by dwahlin
      In the latest installment of Pluralsight’s Meet the Author podcast series, Fritz Onion and I talk about my new course, HTML5 Canvas Fundamentals.  In the interview I describe different canvas technologies covered throughout the course and a sample application at the end of the course that covers how to build a custom business chart from start to finish. Meet the Author:  Dan Wahlin on HTML5 Canvas Fundamentals   Transcript [Fritz] Hi. This is Fritz Onion. I’m here today with Dan Wahlin to talk about his new course HTML5 Canvas Fundamentals. Dan founded the Wahlin Group, which you can find at thewahlingroup.com, which specializes in ASP.NET, jQuery, Silverlight, and SharePoint consulting. He’s a Microsoft Regional Director and has been awarded Microsoft’s MVP for ASP.NET, Connected Systems, and Silverlight. Dan is on the INETA Bureau’s — Speaker’s Bureau, speaks at conferences and user groups around the world, and has written several books on .NET. Thanks for talking to me today, Dan. [Dan] Always good to talk with you, Fritz. [Fritz] So this new course of yours, HTML5 Canvas Fundamentals, I have to say that most of the really snazzy demos I’ve seen with HTML5 have involved Canvas, so I thought it would be a good starting point to chat with you about why we decided to create a course dedicated just to Canvas. If you want to kind of give us that perspective. [Dan] Sure. So, you know, there’s quite a bit of material out there on HTML5 in general, and as people that have done a lot with HTML5 are probably aware, a lot of HTML5 is actually JavaScript centric. You know, a lot of people when they first learn it, think it’s tags, but most of it’s actually JavaScript, and it just so happens that the HTML5 Canvas is one of those things. And so it’s not just, you know, a tag you add and it just magically draws all these things. You mentioned there’s a lot of cool things you can do from games to there’s some really cool multimedia applications out there where they integrate video and audio and all kinds of things into the Canvas, to more business scenarios such as charting and things along those lines. So the reason we made a course specifically on it is, a lot of the material out there touches on it but the Canvas is actually a pretty deep topic. You can do some pretty advanced stuff or easy stuff depending on what your application requirements are, and the API itself, you know, there’s over 30 functions just in the Canvas API and then a whole set of properties that actually go with that as well. So it’s a pretty big topic, and that’s why we created a course specifically tailored towards just the Canvas. [Fritz] Right. And let’s — let me just review the outline briefly here for everyone. So you start off with an introduction to getting started with Canvas, drawing with the HTML5 Canvas, then you talk about manipulating pixels, and you finish up with building a custom data chart. So I really like your example flow here. I think it will appeal to even business developers, right. Even if you’re not into HTML5 for the games or the media capabilities, there’s still something here for everyone I think working with the Canvas. Which leads me to another question, which is, where do you see the Canvas fitting in to kind of your day-to-day developer, people that are working business applications and maybe vanilla websites that aren’t doing kind of cutting edge stuff with interactivity with users? Is there a still a place for the Canvas in those scenarios? [Dan] Yeah, definitely. I think a lot of us — and I include myself here — over the last few years, the focus has generally been, especially if you’re, let’s say, a PHP or ASP.NET or Java type of developer, we’re kind of accustomed to working on the server side, and, you know, we kind of relied on Flash or Silverlight or these other plug-ins for the client side stuff when it was kind of fancy, like charts and graphs and things along those lines. With the what I call massive shift of applications, you know, mainly because of mobile, to more of client side, one of the big benefits I think from a maybe corporate standard way of thinking of things, since we do a lot of work with different corporations, is that, number one, rather than having to have the plug-in, which of course isn’t going to work on iPad and some of these other devices out there that are pretty popular, you can now use a built-in technology that all the modern browsers support, and that includes things like Safari on the iPad and iPhone and the Android tablets and things like that with their browsers, and actually render some really sophisticated charts. Whether you do it by scratch or from scratch or, you know, get a third party type of library involved, it’s just JavaScript. So it downloads fast so it’s good from a performance perspective; and when it comes to what you can render, it’s extremely robust. You can do everything from, you know, your basic circles to polygons or polylines to really advanced gradients as well and even provide some interactivity and animations, and that’s some of the stuff I touch upon in the class. In fact, you mentioned the last part of the outline there is building a custom data chart and that’s kind of gears towards more of the, what I’d call enterprise or corporate type developer. [Fritz] Yeah, that makes sense. And it’s, you know, a lot of the demos I’ve seen with HTML5 focus on more the interactivity and kind of game side of things, but the Canvas is such a diverse element within HTML5 that I can see it being applicable pretty much anywhere. So why don’t we talk a little bit about some of the specifics of what you cover? You talk about drawing and then manipulating pixels. You want to kind of give us the different ways of working with the Canvas and what some of those APIs provide for you? [Dan] Sure. So going all the way back to the start of the outline, we actually started off by showing different demonstrations of the Canvas in action, and we show some fun stuff — multimedia apps and games and things like that — and then also some more business scenarios; and then once you see that, hopefully it kinds of piques your interest and you go, oh, wow, this is actually pretty phenomenal what you can do. So then we start you off with, so how to you actually draw things. Now, there are some libraries out there that will draw things like graphs, but if you want to customize those or just build something you have from scratch, you need to know the basics, such as, you know, how do you draw circles and lines and arcs and Bezier curves and all those fancy types of shapes that a given chart may have on it or that a game may have in it for that matter. So we start off by covering what I call the core API functions; how do you, for instance, fill a rectangle or convert that to a square by setting the height and the width; how do you draw arcs or different types of curves and there’s different types supported such as I mentioned Bezier curves or quadratic curves; and then we also talk about how do you integrate text into it. You might have some images already that are just regular bitmap type images that you want to integrate, you can do that with a Canvas. And you can even sync video into the Canvas, which actually opens up some pretty interesting possibilities for both business and I think just general multimedia apps. Once you kind of get those core functions down for the basic shapes that you need to be able to draw on any type of Canvas, then we go a little deeper into what are the pixels that are there to manipulate. And that’s one of the important things to understand about the HTML5 Canvas, scalable vector graphics is another thing you can use now in the modern browsers; it’s vector based. Canvas is pixel based. And so we talk about how to do gradients, how can you do transforms, you know, how do you scale things or rotate things, which is extremely useful for charts ’cause you might have text that, you know, flips up on its side for a y-axis or something like that. And you can even do direct pixel manipulation. So it’s really, really powerful. If you want to get down to the RGBA level, you can do that, and I show how to do that in the course, and then kind of wrap that section up with some animation fundamentals. [Fritz] Great. Yeah, that’s really powerful stuff for programmatically rendering data to clients and responding to user inputs. Look forward to seeing what everyone’s going to come up with building this stuff. So great. That’s — that’s HTML5 Canvas Fundamentals with Dan Wahlin. Thanks very much, Dan. [Dan] Thanks again. I appreciate it.

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  • More FlipBoard Magazines: Azure, XAML, ASP.NET MVC & Web API

    - by dwahlin
    In a previous post I introduced two new FlipBoard magazines that I put together including The AngularJS Magazine and The JavaScript & HTML5 Magazine. FlipBoard magazines provide a great way to keep content organized using a magazine-style format as opposed to trudging through multiple unorganized bookmarks or boring pages full of links. I think they’re really fun to read through as well. Based on feedback and the surprising popularity of the first two magazines I’ve decided to create some additional magazines on topics I like such as The Azure Magazine, The XAML Magazine and The ASP.NET MVC & Web API Magazine. Click on a cover below to get to the magazines using your browser. To subscribe to a given magazine you’ll need to create a FlipBoard account (not required to read the magazines though) which requires an iOS or Android device (the Windows Phone 8 app is coming soon they say). If you have a post or article that you think would be a good fit for any of the magazines please tweet the link to @DanWahlin and I’ll add it to my queue to review. I plan to be pretty strict about keeping articles “on topic” and focused.   The Azure Magazine   The XAML Magazine   The ASP.NET MVC & Web API Magazine   The AngularJS Magazine   The JavaScript & HTML5 Magazine

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  • Testing Mobile Websites with Adobe Shadow

    - by dwahlin
    It’s no surprise that mobile development is all the rage these days. With all of the new mobile devices being released nearly every day the ability for developers to deliver mobile solutions is more important than ever. Nearly every developer or company I’ve talked to recently about mobile development in training classes, at conferences, and on consulting projects says that they need to find a solution to get existing websites into the mobile space. Although there are several different frameworks out there that can be used such as jQuery Mobile, Sencha Touch, jQTouch, and others, how do you test how your site renders on iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, and the variety of mobile form factors out there? Although there are different virtual solutions that can be used including Electric Plum for iOS, emulators, browser plugins for resizing the laptop/desktop browser, and more, at some point you need to test on as many physical devices as possible. This can be extremely challenging and quite time consuming though especially when you consider that you have to manually enter URLs into devices and click links on each one to drill-down into sites. Adobe Labs just released a product called Adobe Shadow (thanks to Kurt Sprinzl for letting me know about it) that significantly simplifies testing sites on physical devices, debugging problems you find, and even making live modifications to HTML and CSS content while viewing a site on the device to see how rendering changes. You can view a page in your laptop/desktop browser and have it automatically pushed to all of your devices without actually touching the device (a huge time saver). See a problem with a device? Locate it using the free Chrome extension, pull up inspection tools (based on the Chrome Developer tools) and make live changes through Chrome that appear on the respective device so that it’s easy to identify how problems can be resolved. I’ve been using Adobe Shadow and am very impressed with the amount of time saved and the different features that it offers. In the rest of the post I’ll walk through how to get it installed, get it started, and use it to view and debug pages.   Getting Adobe Shadow Installed The following steps can be used to get Adobe Shadow installed: 1. Download and install Adobe Shadow on your laptop/desktop 2. Install the Adobe Shadow extension for Chrome 3. Install the Adobe Shadow app on all of your devices (you can find it in various app stores) 4. Connect your devices to Wifi. Make sure they’re on the same network that your laptop/desktop machine is on   Getting Adobe Shadow Started Once Adobe Shadow is installed, you’ll need to get it running on your laptop/desktop and on all your mobile devices. The following steps walk through that process: 1. Start the Adobe Shadow application on your laptop/desktop 2. Start the Adobe Shadow app on each of your mobile devices 3. Locate the laptop/desktop name in the list that’s shown on each mobile device: 4. Select the laptop/desktop name and a passcode will be shown: 5. Open the Adobe Shadow Chrome extension on the laptop/desktop and enter the passcode for the given device: Using Adobe Shadow to View and Modify Pages Once Adobe Shadow is up and running on your laptop/desktop and on all of your mobile devices you can navigate to a page in Chrome on the laptop/desktop and it will automatically be pushed out to all connected mobile devices. If you have 5 mobile devices setup they’ll all navigate to the page displayed in Chrome (pretty awesome!). This makes it super easy to see how a given page looks on your iPad, Android device, etc. without having to touch the device itself. If you find a problem with a page on a device you can select the device in the Chrome Adobe Shadow extension on your laptop/desktop and select the remote inspector icon (it’s the < > icon): This will pull up the Adobe Shadow remote debugging window which contains the standard Chrome Developer tool tabs such as Elements, Resources, Network, etc. Click on the Elements tab to see the HTML rendered for the target device and then drill into the respective HTML content, CSS styles, etc. As HTML elements are selected in the Adobe Shadow debugging tool they’ll be highlighted on the device itself just like they would if you were debugging a page directly in Chrome with the developer tools. Here’s an example from my Android device that shows how the page looks on the device as I select different HTML elements on the laptop/desktop: Conclusion I’m really impressed with what I’ve to this point from Adobe Shadow. Controlling pages that display on devices directly from my laptop/desktop is a big time saver and the ability to remotely see changes made through the Chrome Developer Tools (on my laptop/desktop) really pushes the tool over the top. If you’re developing mobile applications it’s definitely something to check out. It’s currently free to download and use. For additional details check out the video below:  

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  • Silverlight Firestarter Wrap Up and WCF RIA Services Talk Sample Code

    - by dwahlin
    I had a great time attending and speaking at the Silverlight Firestarter event up in Redmond on December 2, 2010. In addition to getting a chance to hang out with a lot of cool people from Microsoft such as Scott Guthrie, John Papa, Tim Heuer, Brian Goldfarb, John Allwright, David Pugmire, Jesse Liberty, Jeff Handley, Yavor Georgiev, Jossef Goldberg, Mike Cook and many others, I also had a chance to chat with a lot of people attending the event and hear about what projects they’re working on which was awesome. If you didn’t get a chance to look through all of the new features coming in Silverlight 5 check out John Papa’s post on the subject. While at the Silverlight Firestarter event I gave a presentation on WCF RIA Services and wanted to get the code posted since several people have asked when it’d be available. The talk can be viewed by clicking the image below. Code from the talk follows as well as additional links. I had a few people ask about the green bracelet on my left hand since it looks like something you’d get from a waterpark. It was used to get us access down a little hall that led backstage and allowed us to go backstage during the event. I thought it looked kind of dorky but it was required to get through security. Sample Code from My WCF RIA Services Talk (To login to the 2 apps use “user” and “[email protected]”. Make sure to do a rebuild of the projects in Visual Studio before running them.) View All Silverlight Firestarter Talks and Scott Guthrie’s Keynote WCF RIA Services SP1 Beta for Silverlight 4 WCF RIA Services Code Samples (including some SP1 samples) Improved binding support in EntitySet and EntityCollection with SP1 (Kyle McClellan’s Blog) Introducing an MVVM-Friendly DomainDataSource: The DomainCollectionView (Kyle McClellan’s Blog) I’ve had the chance to speak at a lot of conferences but never with as many cameras, streaming capabilities, people watching live and overall hype involved. Over 1000 people registered to attend the conference in person at the Microsoft campus and well over 15,000 to watch it through the live stream.  The event started for me on Tuesday afternoon with a flight up to Seattle from Phoenix. My flight was delayed 1 1/2 hours (I seem to be good at booking delayed flights) so I didn’t get up there until almost 8 PM. John Papa did a tech check at 9 PM that night and I was scheduled for 9:30 PM. We basically plugged in my laptop backstage (amazing number of servers, racks and audio devices back there) and made sure everything showed up properly on the projector and the machines recording the presentation. In addition to a dedicated show director, there were at least 5 tech people back stage and at least that many up in the booth running lights, audio, cameras, and other aspects of the show. I wish I would’ve taken a picture of the backstage setup since it was pretty massive – servers all over the place. I definitely gained a new appreciation for how much work goes into these types of events. Here’s what the room looked like right before my tech check– not real exciting at this point. That’s Yavor Georgiev (who spoke on WCF Services at the Firestarter) in the background. We had plenty of monitors to reference during the presentation. Two monitors for slides (right and left side) and a notes monitor. The 4th monitor showed the time and they’d type in notes to us as we talked (such as “You’re over time!” in my case since I went around 4 minutes over :-)). Wednesday morning I went back on campus at Microsoft and watched John Papa film a few Silverlight TV episodes with Dave Campbell and Ryan Plemons.   Next I had the chance to watch the dry run of the keynote with Scott Guthrie and John Papa. We were all blown away by the demos shown since they were even better than expected. Starting at 1 PM on Wednesday I went over to Building 35 and listened to Yavor Georgiev (WCF Services), Jaime Rodriguez (Windows Phone 7), Jesse Liberty (Data Binding) and Jossef Goldberg and Mike Cook (Silverlight Performance) give their different talks and we all shared feedback with each other which was a lot of fun. Jeff Handley from the RIA Services team came afterwards and listened to me give a dry run of my WCF RIA Services talk. He had some great feedback that I really appreciated getting. That night I hung out with John Papa and Ward Bell and listened to John walk through his keynote demos. I also got a sneak peak of the gift given to Dave Campbell for all his work with Silverlight Cream over the years. It’s a poster signed by all of the key people involved with Silverlight: Thursday morning I got up fairly early to get to the event center by 8 AM for speaker pictures. It was nice and quiet at that point although outside the room there was a huge line of people waiting to get in.     At around 8:30 AM everyone was let in and the main room was filled quickly. Two other overflow rooms in the Microsoft conference center (Building 33) were also filled to capacity. At around 9 AM Scott Guthrie kicked off the event and all the excitement started! From there it was all a blur but it was definitely a lot of fun. All of the sessions for the Silverlight Firestarter were recorded and can be watched here (including the keynote). Corey Schuman, John Papa and I also released 11 lab exercises and associated videos to help people get started with Silverlight. Definitely check them out if you’re interested in learning more! Level 100: Getting Started Lab 01 - WinForms and Silverlight Lab 02 - ASP.NET and Silverlight Lab 03 - XAML and Controls Lab 04 - Data Binding Level 200: Ready for More Lab 05 - Migrating Apps to Out-of-Browser Lab 06 - Great UX with Blend Lab 07 - Web Services and Silverlight Lab 08 - Using WCF RIA Services Level 300: Take me Further Lab 09 - Deep Dive into Out-of-Browser Lab 10 - Silverlight Patterns: Using MVVM Lab 11 - Silverlight and Windows Phone 7

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  • Getting Started with ASP.NET MVC 3 and Razor

    - by dwahlin
    I had a chance to give a talk on ASP.NET MVC 3, Razor and jQuery today at a company and wanted to post the slides and demos from the talk. The focus was on getting started with ASP.NET MVC 3 projects and .cshtml files including creating pages using the new Razor syntax (which I personally love….never going back to the Web Forms View Engine) as well as working with jQuery. Topics covered in the demos (download below) include: Binding form data to custom object properties Validating a model using data annotations and IValidatableObject Integrating jQuery into MVC sites (using the DataTables plugin) Using the new WebGrid class to generate tables with sorting and paging functionality Integrating Silverlight applications into MVC sites Exposing JSON data from a controller action and consuming it in Silverlight Using the Ajax helper to add AJAX functionality (without jQuery)     The code and slides from the talk can be downloaded here.     If you or your company is interested in training, consulting or mentoring on jQuery or .NET technologies please visit http://www.thewahlingroup.com for more information. We’ve provided training, consulting and mentoring services to some of the largest companies in the world and would enjoy sharing our knowledge and real-world lessons learned with you.

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  • A Few of My Favorite HTML5 and CSS3 Online Tools

    - by dwahlin
    I really enjoy coding up HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript applications but there are some things that I’m better off writing with the help of a development tool. For example, CSS3 gradients aren’t exactly the most fun thing to write by hand and the same could be said for animations, transforms, or styles that require various vendor extensions. There are a lot of online tools that can simplify building HTML5/CSS3 sites and increase productivity in the process so I thought I’d put together a post on a few of my favorites tools. HTML5 Boilerplate HTML5 Boilerplate provides a great way to get started building HTML5 sites. It includes many best practices out of the box and even includes a few tricks that many people don’t even know about. The custom download option allows you to pick the features that you want to include in the files that’s generated. You can read more about it here.   Initializr Although HTML5 Boilerplate provides a great foundation for starting HTML5 sites, it focuses on providing a starting shell structure (namely an html page, JavaScript files, and a CSS stylesheet) and doesn’t include much in the way of page content to get started with. Initializer builds on HTML5 Boilerplate and provides an initial test page that can be tweaked to meet your needs. It also provides several different customization options to include/exclude features. CSS3 Maker CSS3 provides a lot of great features ranging from gradient support to rounded corners. Although many of the features are fairly straightforward there are some that are pretty involved such as gradients, animations, and really any styles that require custom vendor extensions to use across browsers. Sure, you can type everything by hand, but sites such as CSS3 Maker provide a visual way to generate CSS3 styles. CSS3, Please! CSS3, Please! is a code generation tool that can be used to generate cross-browser CSS3 styles quickly and easily. All of the main things you can do with CSS3 are available including a clever way to visually generate CSS3 transform styles.       Ultimate CSS Gradient Generator CSS3 Maker (above) has a gradient generator built-in but my favorite tool for creating CSS3 gradients is the Ultimate CSS Gradient Generator. If you’ve created gradients in tools like Photoshop then you’ll love what this tool has to offer especially since it makes it extremely straightforward to work with different gradient stops. @font-face Fonts Although @font-face has been available for awhile, I think fonts are cool and wanted to mention a site that provides a lot of font choices. When used correctly fonts can really enhance a page and when used incorrectly (think Comic Sans) they can absolutely ruin a page. Several sites exist that provide fonts that can be used with @font-face definitions in CSS style sheets. One of my favorites is Font Squirrel.   HTML5 & CSS3 Support and Tests Interested in knowing what HTML5 and CSS3 features a given browser supports? Want to know how various browsers stack up with each other as far as HTML5/CSS3 support. Look no further than the HTML5 & CSS3 Support page or the HTML5 Test page.   CSS3 Easing Animation Tool CSS3 animations aren’t widely supported across browsers right now (I’m not really using them at this point) but they do offer a lot of promise. Creating easings for animations can definitely be a challenge but they’re something that are critical for adding that “professional touch” to your animations. Fortunately you can use the Ceaser CSS Easing Animation Tool to simplify the process and handle animation easing with…...ease.   There are several other online tools that I like but these are some of the ones I find myself using the most. If you have any favorite online tools that simplify working with HTML5 or CSS3 let me know.     For more information about onsite or online training, mentoring and consulting solutions for HTML5, jQuery, .NET, SharePoint or Silverlight please visit http://www.thewahlingroup.com.

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  • WCF RIA Services DomainContext Abstraction Strategies–Say That 10 Times!

    - by dwahlin
    The DomainContext available with WCF RIA Services provides a lot of functionality that can help track object state and handle making calls from a Silverlight client to a DomainService. One of the questions I get quite often in our Silverlight training classes (and see often in various forums and other areas) is how the DomainContext can be abstracted out of ViewModel classes when using the MVVM pattern in Silverlight applications. It’s not something that’s super obvious at first especially if you don’t work with delegates a lot, but it can definitely be done. There are various techniques and strategies that can be used but I thought I’d share some of the core techniques I find useful. To start, let’s assume you have the following ViewModel class (this is from my Silverlight Firestarter talk available to watch online here if you’re interested in getting started with WCF RIA Services): public class AdminViewModel : ViewModelBase { BookClubContext _Context = new BookClubContext(); public AdminViewModel() { if (!DesignerProperties.IsInDesignTool) { LoadBooks(); } } private void LoadBooks() { _Context.Load(_Context.GetBooksQuery(), LoadBooksCallback, null); } private void LoadBooksCallback(LoadOperation<Book> books) { Books = new ObservableCollection<Book>(books.Entities); } } Notice that BookClubContext is being used directly in the ViewModel class. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but if other ViewModel objects need to load books then code would be duplicated across classes. Plus, the ViewModel has direct knowledge of how to load data and I like to make it more loosely-coupled. To do this I create what I call a “Service Agent” class. This class is responsible for getting data from the DomainService and returning it to a ViewModel. It only knows how to get and return data but doesn’t know how data should be stored and isn’t used with data binding operations. An example of a simple ServiceAgent class is shown next. Notice that I’m using the Action<T> delegate to handle callbacks from the ServiceAgent to the ViewModel object. Because LoadBooks accepts an Action<ObservableCollection<Book>>, the callback method in the ViewModel must accept ObservableCollection<Book> as a parameter. The callback is initiated by calling the Invoke method exposed by Action<T>: public class ServiceAgent { BookClubContext _Context = new BookClubContext(); public void LoadBooks(Action<ObservableCollection<Book>> callback) { _Context.Load(_Context.GetBooksQuery(), LoadBooksCallback, callback); } public void LoadBooksCallback(LoadOperation<Book> lo) { //Check for errors of course...keeping this brief var books = new ObservableCollection<Book>(lo.Entities); var action = (Action<ObservableCollection<Book>>)lo.UserState; action.Invoke(books); } } This can be simplified by taking advantage of lambda expressions. Notice that in the following code I don’t have a separate callback method and don’t have to worry about passing any user state or casting any user state (the user state is the 3rd parameter in the _Context.Load method call shown above). public class ServiceAgent { BookClubContext _Context = new BookClubContext(); public void LoadBooks(Action<ObservableCollection<Book>> callback) { _Context.Load(_Context.GetBooksQuery(), (lo) => { var books = new ObservableCollection<Book>(lo.Entities); callback.Invoke(books); }, null); } } A ViewModel class can then call into the ServiceAgent to retrieve books yet never know anything about the DomainContext object or even know how data is loaded behind the scenes: public class AdminViewModel : ViewModelBase { ServiceAgent _ServiceAgent = new ServiceAgent(); public AdminViewModel() { if (!DesignerProperties.IsInDesignTool) { LoadBooks(); } } private void LoadBooks() { _ServiceAgent.LoadBooks(LoadBooksCallback); } private void LoadBooksCallback(ObservableCollection<Book> books) { Books = books } } You could also handle the LoadBooksCallback method using a lambda if you wanted to minimize code just like I did earlier with the LoadBooks method in the ServiceAgent class.  If you’re into Dependency Injection (DI), you could create an interface for the ServiceAgent type, reference it in the ViewModel and then inject in the object to use at runtime. There are certainly other techniques and strategies that can be used, but the code shown here provides an introductory look at the topic that should help get you started abstracting the DomainContext out of your ViewModel classes when using WCF RIA Services in Silverlight applications.

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  • Demystifying Silverlight Dependency Properties

    - by dwahlin
    I have the opportunity to teach a lot of people about Silverlight (amongst other technologies) and one of the topics that definitely confuses people initially is the concept of dependency properties. I confess that when I first heard about them my initial thought was “Why do we need a specialized type of property?” While you can certainly use standard CLR properties in Silverlight applications, Silverlight relies heavily on dependency properties for just about everything it does behind the scenes. In fact, dependency properties are an essential part of the data binding, template, style and animation functionality available in Silverlight. They simply back standard CLR properties. In this post I wanted to put together a (hopefully) simple explanation of dependency properties and why you should care about them if you’re currently working with Silverlight or looking to move to it.   What are Dependency Properties? XAML provides a great way to define layout controls, user input controls, shapes, colors and data binding expressions in a declarative manner. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in order to make XAML work and an important part of that magic is the use of dependency properties. If you want to bind data to a property, style it, animate it or transform it in XAML then the property involved has to be a dependency property to work properly. If you’ve ever positioned a control in a Canvas using Canvas.Left or placed a control in a specific Grid row using Grid.Row then you’ve used an attached property which is a specialized type of dependency property. Dependency properties play a key role in XAML and the overall Silverlight framework. Any property that you bind, style, template, animate or transform must be a dependency property in Silverlight applications. You can programmatically bind values to controls and work with standard CLR properties, but if you want to use the built-in binding expressions available in XAML (one of my favorite features) or the Binding class available through code then dependency properties are a necessity. Dependency properties aren’t needed in every situation, but if you want to customize your application very much you’ll eventually end up needing them. For example, if you create a custom user control and want to expose a property that consumers can use to change the background color, you have to define it as a dependency property if you want bindings, styles and other features to be available for use. Now that the overall purpose of dependency properties has been discussed let’s take a look at how you can create them. Creating Dependency Properties When .NET first came out you had to write backing fields for each property that you defined as shown next: Brush _ScheduleBackground; public Brush ScheduleBackground { get { return _ScheduleBackground; } set { _ScheduleBackground = value; } } Although .NET 2.0 added auto-implemented properties (for example: public Brush ScheduleBackground { get; set; }) where the compiler would automatically generate the backing field used by get and set blocks, the concept is still the same as shown in the above code; a property acts as a wrapper around a field. Silverlight dependency properties replace the _ScheduleBackground field shown in the previous code and act as the backing store for a standard CLR property. The following code shows an example of defining a dependency property named ScheduleBackgroundProperty: public static readonly DependencyProperty ScheduleBackgroundProperty = DependencyProperty.Register("ScheduleBackground", typeof(Brush), typeof(Scheduler), null);   Looking through the code the first thing that may stand out is that the definition for ScheduleBackgroundProperty is marked as static and readonly and that the property appears to be of type DependencyProperty. This is a standard pattern that you’ll use when working with dependency properties. You’ll also notice that the property explicitly adds the word “Property” to the name which is another standard you’ll see followed. In addition to defining the property, the code also makes a call to the static DependencyProperty.Register method and passes the name of the property to register (ScheduleBackground in this case) as a string. The type of the property, the type of the class that owns the property and a null value (more on the null value later) are also passed. In this example a class named Scheduler acts as the owner. The code handles registering the property as a dependency property with the call to Register(), but there’s a little more work that has to be done to allow a value to be assigned to and retrieved from the dependency property. The following code shows the complete code that you’ll typically use when creating a dependency property. You can find code snippets that greatly simplify the process of creating dependency properties out on the web. The MVVM Light download available from http://mvvmlight.codeplex.com comes with built-in dependency properties snippets as well. public static readonly DependencyProperty ScheduleBackgroundProperty = DependencyProperty.Register("ScheduleBackground", typeof(Brush), typeof(Scheduler), null); public Brush ScheduleBackground { get { return (Brush)GetValue(ScheduleBackgroundProperty); } set { SetValue(ScheduleBackgroundProperty, value); } } The standard CLR property code shown above should look familiar since it simply wraps the dependency property. However, you’ll notice that the get and set blocks call GetValue and SetValue methods respectively to perform the appropriate operation on the dependency property. GetValue and SetValue are members of the DependencyObject class which is another key component of the Silverlight framework. Silverlight controls and classes (TextBox, UserControl, CompositeTransform, DataGrid, etc.) ultimately derive from DependencyObject in their inheritance hierarchy so that they can support dependency properties. Dependency properties defined in Silverlight controls and other classes tend to follow the pattern of registering the property by calling Register() and then wrapping the dependency property in a standard CLR property (as shown above). They have a standard property that wraps a registered dependency property and allows a value to be assigned and retrieved. If you need to expose a new property on a custom control that supports data binding expressions in XAML then you’ll follow this same pattern. Dependency properties are extremely useful once you understand why they’re needed and how they’re defined. Detecting Changes and Setting Defaults When working with dependency properties there will be times when you want to assign a default value or detect when a property changes so that you can keep the user interface in-sync with the property value. Silverlight’s DependencyProperty.Register() method provides a fourth parameter that accepts a PropertyMetadata object instance. PropertyMetadata can be used to hook a callback method to a dependency property. The callback method is called when the property value changes. PropertyMetadata can also be used to assign a default value to the dependency property. By assigning a value of null for the final parameter passed to Register() you’re telling the property that you don’t care about any changes and don’t have a default value to apply. Here are the different constructor overloads available on the PropertyMetadata class: PropertyMetadata Constructor Overload Description PropertyMetadata(Object) Used to assign a default value to a dependency property. PropertyMetadata(PropertyChangedCallback) Used to assign a property changed callback method. PropertyMetadata(Object, PropertyChangedCalback) Used to assign a default property value and a property changed callback.   There are many situations where you need to know when a dependency property changes or where you want to apply a default. Performing either task is easily accomplished by creating a new instance of the PropertyMetadata class and passing the appropriate values to its constructor. The following code shows an enhanced version of the initial dependency property code shown earlier that demonstrates these concepts: public Brush ScheduleBackground { get { return (Brush)GetValue(ScheduleBackgroundProperty); } set { SetValue(ScheduleBackgroundProperty, value); } } public static readonly DependencyProperty ScheduleBackgroundProperty = DependencyProperty.Register("ScheduleBackground", typeof(Brush), typeof(Scheduler), new PropertyMetadata(new SolidColorBrush(Colors.LightGray), ScheduleBackgroundChanged)); private static void ScheduleBackgroundChanged(DependencyObject d, DependencyPropertyChangedEventArgs e) { var scheduler = d as Scheduler; scheduler.Background = e.NewValue as Brush; } The code wires ScheduleBackgroundProperty to a property change callback method named ScheduleBackgroundChanged. What’s interesting is that this callback method is static (as is the dependency property) so it gets passed the instance of the object that owns the property that has changed (otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get to the object instance). In this example the dependency object is cast to a Scheduler object and its Background property is assigned to the new value of the dependency property. The code also handles assigning a default value of LightGray to the dependency property by creating a new instance of a SolidColorBrush. To Sum Up In this post you’ve seen the role of dependency properties and how they can be defined in code. They play a big role in XAML and the overall Silverlight framework. You can think of dependency properties as being replacements for fields that you’d normally use with standard CLR properties. In addition to a discussion on how dependency properties are created, you also saw how to use the PropertyMetadata class to define default dependency property values and hook a dependency property to a callback method. The most important thing to understand with dependency properties (especially if you’re new to Silverlight) is that they’re needed if you want a property to support data binding, animations, transformations and styles properly. Any time you create a property on a custom control or user control that has these types of requirements you’ll want to pick a dependency property over of a standard CLR property with a backing field. There’s more that can be covered with dependency properties including a related property called an attached property….more to come.

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  • Syncing Data with a Server using Silverlight and HTTP Polling Duplex

    - by dwahlin
    Many applications have the need to stay in-sync with data provided by a service. Although web applications typically rely on standard polling techniques to check if data has changed, Silverlight provides several interesting options for keeping an application in-sync that rely on server “push” technologies. A few years back I wrote several blog posts covering different “push” technologies available in Silverlight that rely on sockets or HTTP Polling Duplex. We recently had a project that looked like it could benefit from pushing data from a server to one or more clients so I thought I’d revisit the subject and provide some updates to the original code posted. If you’ve worked with AJAX before in Web applications then you know that until browsers fully support web sockets or other duplex (bi-directional communication) technologies that it’s difficult to keep applications in-sync with a server without relying on polling. The problem with polling is that you have to check for changes on the server on a timed-basis which can often be wasteful and take up unnecessary resources. With server “push” technologies, data can be pushed from the server to the client as it changes. Once the data is received, the client can update the user interface as appropriate. Using “push” technologies allows the client to listen for changes from the data but stay 100% focused on client activities as opposed to worrying about polling and asking the server if anything has changed. Silverlight provides several options for pushing data from a server to a client including sockets, TCP bindings and HTTP Polling Duplex.  Each has its own strengths and weaknesses as far as performance and setup work with HTTP Polling Duplex arguably being the easiest to setup and get going.  In this article I’ll demonstrate how HTTP Polling Duplex can be used in Silverlight 4 applications to push data and show how you can create a WCF server that provides an HTTP Polling Duplex binding that a Silverlight client can consume.   What is HTTP Polling Duplex? Technologies that allow data to be pushed from a server to a client rely on duplex functionality. Duplex (or bi-directional) communication allows data to be passed in both directions.  A client can call a service and the server can call the client. HTTP Polling Duplex (as its name implies) allows a server to communicate with a client without forcing the client to constantly poll the server. It has the benefit of being able to run on port 80 making setup a breeze compared to the other options which require specific ports to be used and cross-domain policy files to be exposed on port 943 (as with sockets and TCP bindings). Having said that, if you’re looking for the best speed possible then sockets and TCP bindings are the way to go. But, they’re not the only game in town when it comes to duplex communication. The first time I heard about HTTP Polling Duplex (initially available in Silverlight 2) I wasn’t exactly sure how it was any better than standard polling used in AJAX applications. I read the Silverlight SDK, looked at various resources and generally found the following definition unhelpful as far as understanding the actual benefits that HTTP Polling Duplex provided: "The Silverlight client periodically polls the service on the network layer, and checks for any new messages that the service wants to send on the callback channel. The service queues all messages sent on the client callback channel and delivers them to the client when the client polls the service." Although the previous definition explained the overall process, it sounded as if standard polling was used. Fortunately, Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie provided me with a more clear definition several years back that explains the benefits provided by HTTP Polling Duplex quite well (used with his permission): "The [HTTP Polling Duplex] duplex support does use polling in the background to implement notifications – although the way it does it is different than manual polling. It initiates a network request, and then the request is effectively “put to sleep” waiting for the server to respond (it doesn’t come back immediately). The server then keeps the connection open but not active until it has something to send back (or the connection times out after 90 seconds – at which point the duplex client will connect again and wait). This way you are avoiding hitting the server repeatedly – but still get an immediate response when there is data to send." After hearing Scott’s definition the light bulb went on and it all made sense. A client makes a request to a server to check for changes, but instead of the request returning immediately, it parks itself on the server and waits for data. It’s kind of like waiting to pick up a pizza at the store. Instead of calling the store over and over to check the status, you sit in the store and wait until the pizza (the request data) is ready. Once it’s ready you take it back home (to the client). This technique provides a lot of efficiency gains over standard polling techniques even though it does use some polling of its own as a request is initially made from a client to a server. So how do you implement HTTP Polling Duplex in your Silverlight applications? Let’s take a look at the process by starting with the server. Creating an HTTP Polling Duplex WCF Service Creating a WCF service that exposes an HTTP Polling Duplex binding is straightforward as far as coding goes. Add some one way operations into an interface, create a client callback interface and you’re ready to go. The most challenging part comes into play when configuring the service to properly support the necessary binding and that’s more of a cut and paste operation once you know the configuration code to use. To create an HTTP Polling Duplex service you’ll need to expose server-side and client-side interfaces and reference the System.ServiceModel.PollingDuplex assembly (located at C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SDKs\Silverlight\v4.0\Libraries\Server on my machine) in the server project. For the demo application I upgraded a basketball simulation service to support the latest polling duplex assemblies. The service simulates a simple basketball game using a Game class and pushes information about the game such as score, fouls, shots and more to the client as the game changes over time. Before jumping too far into the game push service, it’s important to discuss two interfaces used by the service to communicate in a bi-directional manner. The first is called IGameStreamService and defines the methods/operations that the client can call on the server (see Listing 1). The second is IGameStreamClient which defines the callback methods that a server can use to communicate with a client (see Listing 2).   [ServiceContract(Namespace = "Silverlight", CallbackContract = typeof(IGameStreamClient))] public interface IGameStreamService { [OperationContract(IsOneWay = true)] void GetTeamData(); } Listing 1. The IGameStreamService interface defines server operations that can be called on the server.   [ServiceContract] public interface IGameStreamClient { [OperationContract(IsOneWay = true)] void ReceiveTeamData(List<Team> teamData); [OperationContract(IsOneWay = true, AsyncPattern=true)] IAsyncResult BeginReceiveGameData(GameData gameData, AsyncCallback callback, object state); void EndReceiveGameData(IAsyncResult result); } Listing 2. The IGameStreamClient interfaces defines client operations that a server can call.   The IGameStreamService interface is decorated with the standard ServiceContract attribute but also contains a value for the CallbackContract property.  This property is used to define the interface that the client will expose (IGameStreamClient in this example) and use to receive data pushed from the service. Notice that each OperationContract attribute in both interfaces sets the IsOneWay property to true. This means that the operation can be called and passed data as appropriate, however, no data will be passed back. Instead, data will be pushed back to the client as it’s available.  Looking through the IGameStreamService interface you can see that the client can request team data whereas the IGameStreamClient interface allows team and game data to be received by the client. One interesting point about the IGameStreamClient interface is the inclusion of the AsyncPattern property on the BeginReceiveGameData operation. I initially created this operation as a standard one way operation and it worked most of the time. However, as I disconnected clients and reconnected new ones game data wasn’t being passed properly. After researching the problem more I realized that because the service could take up to 7 seconds to return game data, things were getting hung up. By setting the AsyncPattern property to true on the BeginReceivedGameData operation and providing a corresponding EndReceiveGameData operation I was able to get around this problem and get everything running properly. I’ll provide more details on the implementation of these two methods later in this post. Once the interfaces were created I moved on to the game service class. The first order of business was to create a class that implemented the IGameStreamService interface. Since the service can be used by multiple clients wanting game data I added the ServiceBehavior attribute to the class definition so that I could set its InstanceContextMode to InstanceContextMode.Single (in effect creating a Singleton service object). Listing 3 shows the game service class as well as its fields and constructor.   [ServiceBehavior(ConcurrencyMode = ConcurrencyMode.Multiple, InstanceContextMode = InstanceContextMode.Single)] public class GameStreamService : IGameStreamService { object _Key = new object(); Game _Game = null; Timer _Timer = null; Random _Random = null; Dictionary<string, IGameStreamClient> _ClientCallbacks = new Dictionary<string, IGameStreamClient>(); static AsyncCallback _ReceiveGameDataCompleted = new AsyncCallback(ReceiveGameDataCompleted); public GameStreamService() { _Game = new Game(); _Timer = new Timer { Enabled = false, Interval = 2000, AutoReset = true }; _Timer.Elapsed += new ElapsedEventHandler(_Timer_Elapsed); _Timer.Start(); _Random = new Random(); }} Listing 3. The GameStreamService implements the IGameStreamService interface which defines a callback contract that allows the service class to push data back to the client. By implementing the IGameStreamService interface, GameStreamService must supply a GetTeamData() method which is responsible for supplying information about the teams that are playing as well as individual players.  GetTeamData() also acts as a client subscription method that tracks clients wanting to receive game data.  Listing 4 shows the GetTeamData() method. public void GetTeamData() { //Get client callback channel var context = OperationContext.Current; var sessionID = context.SessionId; var currClient = context.GetCallbackChannel<IGameStreamClient>(); context.Channel.Faulted += Disconnect; context.Channel.Closed += Disconnect; IGameStreamClient client; if (!_ClientCallbacks.TryGetValue(sessionID, out client)) { lock (_Key) { _ClientCallbacks[sessionID] = currClient; } } currClient.ReceiveTeamData(_Game.GetTeamData()); //Start timer which when fired sends updated score information to client if (!_Timer.Enabled) { _Timer.Enabled = true; } } Listing 4. The GetTeamData() method subscribes a given client to the game service and returns. The key the line of code in the GetTeamData() method is the call to GetCallbackChannel<IGameStreamClient>().  This method is responsible for accessing the calling client’s callback channel. The callback channel is defined by the IGameStreamClient interface shown earlier in Listing 2 and used by the server to communicate with the client. Before passing team data back to the client, GetTeamData() grabs the client’s session ID and checks if it already exists in the _ClientCallbacks dictionary object used to track clients wanting callbacks from the server. If the client doesn’t exist it adds it into the collection. It then pushes team data from the Game class back to the client by calling ReceiveTeamData().  Since the service simulates a basketball game, a timer is then started if it’s not already enabled which is then used to randomly send data to the client. When the timer fires, game data is pushed down to the client. Listing 5 shows the _Timer_Elapsed() method that is called when the timer fires as well as the SendGameData() method used to send data to the client. void _Timer_Elapsed(object sender, ElapsedEventArgs e) { int interval = _Random.Next(3000, 7000); lock (_Key) { _Timer.Interval = interval; _Timer.Enabled = false; } SendGameData(_Game.GetGameData()); } private void SendGameData(GameData gameData) { var cbs = _ClientCallbacks.Where(cb => ((IContextChannel)cb.Value).State == CommunicationState.Opened); for (int i = 0; i < cbs.Count(); i++) { var cb = cbs.ElementAt(i).Value; try { cb.BeginReceiveGameData(gameData, _ReceiveGameDataCompleted, cb); } catch (TimeoutException texp) { //Log timeout error } catch (CommunicationException cexp) { //Log communication error } } lock (_Key) _Timer.Enabled = true; } private static void ReceiveGameDataCompleted(IAsyncResult result) { try { ((IGameStreamClient)(result.AsyncState)).EndReceiveGameData(result); } catch (CommunicationException) { // empty } catch (TimeoutException) { // empty } } LIsting 5. _Timer_Elapsed is used to simulate time in a basketball game. When _Timer_Elapsed() fires the SendGameData() method is called which iterates through the clients wanting to be notified of changes. As each client is identified, their respective BeginReceiveGameData() method is called which ultimately pushes game data down to the client. Recall that this method was defined in the client callback interface named IGameStreamClient shown earlier in Listing 2. Notice that BeginReceiveGameData() accepts _ReceiveGameDataCompleted as its second parameter (an AsyncCallback delegate defined in the service class) and passes the client callback as the third parameter. The initial version of the sample application had a standard ReceiveGameData() method in the client callback interface. However, sometimes the client callbacks would work properly and sometimes they wouldn’t which was a little baffling at first glance. After some investigation I realized that I needed to implement an asynchronous pattern for client callbacks to work properly since 3 – 7 second delays are occurring as a result of the timer. Once I added the BeginReceiveGameData() and ReceiveGameDataCompleted() methods everything worked properly since each call was handled in an asynchronous manner. The final task that had to be completed to get the server working properly with HTTP Polling Duplex was adding configuration code into web.config. In the interest of brevity I won’t post all of the code here since the sample application includes everything you need. However, Listing 6 shows the key configuration code to handle creating a custom binding named pollingDuplexBinding and associate it with the service’s endpoint.   <bindings> <customBinding> <binding name="pollingDuplexBinding"> <binaryMessageEncoding /> <pollingDuplex maxPendingSessions="2147483647" maxPendingMessagesPerSession="2147483647" inactivityTimeout="02:00:00" serverPollTimeout="00:05:00"/> <httpTransport /> </binding> </customBinding> </bindings> <services> <service name="GameService.GameStreamService" behaviorConfiguration="GameStreamServiceBehavior"> <endpoint address="" binding="customBinding" bindingConfiguration="pollingDuplexBinding" contract="GameService.IGameStreamService"/> <endpoint address="mex" binding="mexHttpBinding" contract="IMetadataExchange" /> </service> </services>   Listing 6. Configuring an HTTP Polling Duplex binding in web.config and associating an endpoint with it. Calling the Service and Receiving “Pushed” Data Calling the service and handling data that is pushed from the server is a simple and straightforward process in Silverlight. Since the service is configured with a MEX endpoint and exposes a WSDL file, you can right-click on the Silverlight project and select the standard Add Service Reference item. After the web service proxy is created you may notice that the ServiceReferences.ClientConfig file only contains an empty configuration element instead of the normal configuration elements created when creating a standard WCF proxy. You can certainly update the file if you want to read from it at runtime but for the sample application I fed the service URI directly to the service proxy as shown next: var address = new EndpointAddress("http://localhost.:5661/GameStreamService.svc"); var binding = new PollingDuplexHttpBinding(); _Proxy = new GameStreamServiceClient(binding, address); _Proxy.ReceiveTeamDataReceived += _Proxy_ReceiveTeamDataReceived; _Proxy.ReceiveGameDataReceived += _Proxy_ReceiveGameDataReceived; _Proxy.GetTeamDataAsync(); This code creates the proxy and passes the endpoint address and binding to use to its constructor. It then wires the different receive events to callback methods and calls GetTeamDataAsync().  Calling GetTeamDataAsync() causes the server to store the client in the server-side dictionary collection mentioned earlier so that it can receive data that is pushed.  As the server-side timer fires and game data is pushed to the client, the user interface is updated as shown in Listing 7. Listing 8 shows the _Proxy_ReceiveGameDataReceived() method responsible for handling the data and calling UpdateGameData() to process it.   Listing 7. The Silverlight interface. Game data is pushed from the server to the client using HTTP Polling Duplex. void _Proxy_ReceiveGameDataReceived(object sender, ReceiveGameDataReceivedEventArgs e) { UpdateGameData(e.gameData); } private void UpdateGameData(GameData gameData) { //Update Score this.tbTeam1Score.Text = gameData.Team1Score.ToString(); this.tbTeam2Score.Text = gameData.Team2Score.ToString(); //Update ball visibility if (gameData.Action != ActionsEnum.Foul) { if (tbTeam1.Text == gameData.TeamOnOffense) { AnimateBall(this.BB1, this.BB2); } else //Team 2 { AnimateBall(this.BB2, this.BB1); } } if (this.lbActions.Items.Count > 9) this.lbActions.Items.Clear(); this.lbActions.Items.Add(gameData.LastAction); if (this.lbActions.Visibility == Visibility.Collapsed) this.lbActions.Visibility = Visibility.Visible; } private void AnimateBall(Image onBall, Image offBall) { this.FadeIn.Stop(); Storyboard.SetTarget(this.FadeInAnimation, onBall); Storyboard.SetTarget(this.FadeOutAnimation, offBall); this.FadeIn.Begin(); } Listing 8. As the server pushes game data, the client’s _Proxy_ReceiveGameDataReceived() method is called to process the data. In a real-life application I’d go with a ViewModel class to handle retrieving team data, setup data bindings and handle data that is pushed from the server. However, for the sample application I wanted to focus on HTTP Polling Duplex and keep things as simple as possible.   Summary Silverlight supports three options when duplex communication is required in an application including TCP bindins, sockets and HTTP Polling Duplex. In this post you’ve seen how HTTP Polling Duplex interfaces can be created and implemented on the server as well as how they can be consumed by a Silverlight client. HTTP Polling Duplex provides a nice way to “push” data from a server while still allowing the data to flow over port 80 or another port of your choice.   Sample Application Download

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  • Text Trimming in Silverlight 4

    - by dwahlin
    Silverlight 4 has a lot of great features that can be used to build consumer and Line of Business (LOB) applications. Although Webcam support, RichTextBox, MEF, WebBrowser and other new features are pretty exciting, I’m actually enjoying some of the more simple features that have been added such as text trimming, built-in wheel scrolling with ScrollViewer and data binding enhancements such as StringFormat. In this post I’ll give a quick introduction to a simple yet productive feature called text trimming and show how it eliminates a lot of code compared to Silverlight 3. The TextBlock control contains a new property in Silverlight 4 called TextTrimming that can be used to add an ellipsis (…) to text that doesn’t fit into a specific area on the user interface. Before the TextTrimming property was available I used a value converter to trim text which meant passing in a specific number of characters that I wanted to show by using a parameter: public class StringTruncateConverter : IValueConverter { #region IValueConverter Members public object Convert(object value, Type targetType, object parameter, System.Globalization.CultureInfo culture) { int maxLength; if (int.TryParse(parameter.ToString(), out maxLength)) { string val = (value == null) ? null : value.ToString(); if (val != null && val.Length > maxLength) { return val.Substring(0, maxLength) + ".."; } } return value; } public object ConvertBack(object value, Type targetType, object parameter, System.Globalization.CultureInfo culture) { throw new NotImplementedException(); } #endregion } To use the StringTruncateConverter I'd define the standard xmlns prefix that referenced the namespace and assembly, add the class into the application’s Resources section and then use the class while data binding as shown next: <TextBlock Grid.Column="1" Grid.Row="3" ToolTipService.ToolTip="{Binding ReportSummary.ProjectManagers}" Text="{Binding ReportSummary.ProjectManagers, Converter={StaticResource StringTruncateConverter},ConverterParameter=16}" Style="{StaticResource SummaryValueStyle}" /> With Silverlight 4 I can define the TextTrimming property directly in XAML or use the new Property window in Visual Studio 2010 to set it to a value of WordEllipsis (the default value is None): <TextBlock Grid.Column="1" Grid.Row="4" ToolTipService.ToolTip="{Binding ReportSummary.ProjectCoordinators}" Text="{Binding ReportSummary.ProjectCoordinators}" TextTrimming="WordEllipsis" Style="{StaticResource SummaryValueStyle}"/> The end result is a nice trimming of the text that doesn’t fit into the target area as shown with the Coordinator and Foremen sections below. My data binding statements are now much smaller and I can eliminate the StringTruncateConverter class completely.   For more information about onsite, online and video training, mentoring and consulting solutions for .NET, SharePoint or Silverlight please visit http://www.thewahlingroup.com.

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  • Call for Abstracts for the Fall Silverlight Connections Conference

    - by dwahlin
    We are putting out a call for abstracts to present at the Fall 2010 Silverlight Connections conference in Las Vegas, Nov 1-4, 2010. The due date for submissions is April 26, 2010. For submitting sessions, please use this URL: http://www.deeptraining.com/devconnections/abstracts Please keep the abstracts under 200 words each and in one paragraph. No bulleted items and line breaks, and please use a spell-checker. Do not email abstracts, you need to use the web-based tool to submit them. Please submit at least 3 abstracts. It will help your chances of being selected if you submitted 5 or more abstracts. Also, you are encouraged to suggest all-day pre or post conference workshops as well. We need to finalize the conference content and the tracks in just a few short weeks so we need your abstracts by April 26th. No exceptions will be granted on late submissions! Topics of interest include (but are not limited to): Silverlight Data and XML Technologies Customizing Silverlight Applications with Styles and Templates Using Expression Blend 4 Windows Phone 7 Application Development Silverlight Architecture, Patterns and Practices Securing Silverlight Applications Using WCF RIA Services Writing Elevated Trust Applications Anything else related to Silverlight You can use the URL above to submit sessions to Microsoft ASP.NET Connections, Silverlight Connections, Visual Studio Connections, or SQL Server Connections. Please realize that while we want a lot of the new and the cool, it's also okay to propose sessions on the more mundane "real world" stuff as it pertains to Silverlight. What you will get if selected: $500 per regular conference talk. Compensation for full-day workshops ranges from $500 for 1-20 attendees to $2500 for 200+ attendees. Coach airfare and hotel stay paid by the conference. Free admission to all of the co-located conferences Speaker party The adoration of attendees Your continued support of Microsoft Silverlight Connections and the other DevConnections conferences is appreciated. Good luck and thank you. Dan Wahlin and Paul Litwin Silverlight Conference Chairs

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  • Building Web Applications with ACT and jQuery

    - by dwahlin
    My second talk at TechEd is focused on integrating ASP.NET AJAX and jQuery features into websites (if you’re interested in Silverlight you can download code/slides for that talk here). The content starts out by discussing ScriptManager features available in ASP.NET 3.5 and ASP.NET 4 and provides details on why you should consider using a Content Delivery Network (CDN).  If you’re running an external facing site then checking out the CDN features offered by Microsoft or Google is definitely recommended. The talk also goes into the process of contributing to the Ajax Control Toolkit as well as the new Ajax Minifier tool that’s available to crunch JavaScript and CSS files. The extra fun starts in the next part of the talk which details some of the work Microsoft is doing with the jQuery team to donate template, globalization and data linking code to the project. I go into jQuery templates, data linking and a new globalization option that are all being worked on. I want to thank Stephen Walther, Dave Reed and James Senior for their thoughts and contributions since some of the topics covered are pretty bleeding edge right now.The slides and sample code for the talk can be downloaded below.     Download Slides and Samples

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