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  • A Fresh Start

    - by Laila
    As you may already be aware, I'm no longer responsible for the .NET Reflector newsletter. That publication is now in the very capable hands of the Reflector team. But fear not; starting in early April, I'll be launching a brand new .NET Newsletter, and I invite you to enjoy the very first edition by subscribing to our new mailing list, or by updating your Simple-Talk subscriptions, and joining the .NET Newsletter mailing list. With a fresh and snappy design (it might even be described as idiosyncratic. but I can say no more at this stage), we'll be making a brand new start. Each month, a member of my team (that's the Red Gate .NET team) will host the .NET Newsletter, bringing you the choicest cuts of breaking news, the very best .NET content from Simple-Talk, alongside details of hot upcoming events. To top it off, not only will you be among the first to get access to free resources (including free wall-charts, training videos and eBooks), but you'll also get exclusive access to betas, early access programs, and special offers. We can't wait to share the new design and exciting new content with you! If you have any questions about the changes to the newsletter, please feel free to send an email to [email protected] or post a comment on my blog. If I don't hear from you before next month, then I'll simply say that I hope you enjoy the new look. Cheers, Laila

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  • The .NET Rocks! Visual Studio 2010 Road Trip

    - by Laila
    Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell, the two .NET Rocks radio show hosts, have decided to set off to 15 cities in the US, between April 19th and May 7th, in their DotNetMobile (a 30 foot RV). What for you'll ask me? Well, to drive around the US, meet up with .NET developers, and show off the latest and greatest in Visual Studio 2010 and .NET 4.0! Each evening, they stop in a city and host a three hour event in front of a 100 to 300 crowd of developers, where Carl is showing off media features in Silverlight 4 and their road trip tracking application, whilst Richard is demo-ing the web performance testing features of VS2010 using his portable server rig. But before they take to the stage, they have a special guest brought in - a rock star from the Visual Studio world - whom they interview for an hour as a .NET Rock episode. So far, they've had - amongst others - Phil Haack, a Program Manager with the ASP.NET team working on ASP.NET MVC, Dan Fernandez, an Evangelism Manager in the Developer and Platform Evangelism team at Microsoft, and Beth Massi, Senior Program Manager on the Visual Studio Community Team at Microsoft. I love the fact that the audience gets a chance to participate, ask questions and have a great laugh, as you can hear in the first episode! Along the way, the .NET Rocks guys are giving away great prizes (including .NET Reflector Pro, ANTS Memory Profiler licenses, and "40" LCD TVs!). Even more out of the ordinary, at each stop on the road trip, one lucky attendee (who entered in the Ride Along competition) gets to jump in the RV with Carl and Richard and ride along with them to the next stop on the roadtrip. How cool is that! Richard told us: "Our first winner in Mountain View was Eric Ziko. I was looking for him to announce that he had won, when he found us and gave us a bottle of scotch he had brought just to say 'thanks for the great show'. We all had a toast from the bottle the next night when he headed back home." Cheeky! There's still space to a few of these events, so if you want to attend, register now, because it's first come first serve. We're grateful to Richard and Carl for giving us the opportunity to sponsor this major .NET event! A unique .NET adventure worth following for sure. Cheers, Laila

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  • Making the WPeFfort

    - by Laila
    Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 will be launched on April 12th. The basic layout looks pretty much as it did, so it is not immediately obvious on first inspection that it was completely rewritten in the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). The current VS 2008 codebase had reached the end of its life; It was getting slow to initialize and sluggish to run, and was never going to allow for multi-monitor support or easier extensibility. It can't have been an easy decision to rewrite Visual Studio, but the gamble seems to have paid off. Although certain bugs in the betas caused some anxiety about performance, these seem to have been fixed, and the new Visual Studio is definitely faster. In rewriting the codebase, it has been possible to make obvious improvements, such as being able to run different windows on different monitors, and you only being presented with the Toolbox controls and References that are appropriate to your target .NET version. There is also an IntelliTrace debugger, and Intellisense has been improved by virtue of separating a 'Suggestion Mode' and 'Completion Mode' (with its 'Generate From.' 'Highlight References.', and 'Navigate to...' features). At the same time, there has been quite a clearout; Certain features that had been tucked away in the previous versions, such as Brief or Emacs emulation support, have been dropped. (Yes, they were being used!) There are a lot of features that didn't require the rewrite, but are welcome. It is now easier to develop WPF applications (e.g. drag-and-drop Databinding), and there is support for Azure. There are more, and better templates and the design tools are greatly improved (e.g. Expression Web, Expression Blend, WPF Sketchflow, Silverlight designer, Document Map Margin and Inline Call Hierarchy). Sharepoint is better supported, and Office apps will benefit from C#'s support of optional and named arguments, and allowing several Office Solutions within a Deployment package. Most importantly, it is a vote of confidence in the WPF. VS 2010 is the essential missing component that has been impeding the faster adoption of WPF. The fact that it is actually now written in WPF should now reassure the doubters, and convince more developers to make the move from WinForms to WPF. In using WPF, the developers of Visual Studio have had the clout to fix some issues which have been bothering WPF developers for some time (such as blurred text). Do you see a brighter future as a result of transferring from WinForms to WPF? I'd love to know what you think. Cheers, Laila

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  • Back-sliding into Unmanaged Code

    - by Laila
    It is difficult to write about Microsoft's ambivalence to .NET without mentioning clichés about dog food.  In case you've been away a long time, you'll remember that Microsoft surprised everyone with the speed and energy with which it introduced and evangelised the .NET Framework for managed code. There was good reason for this. Once it became obvious to all that it had sleepwalked into third place as a provider of development languages, behind Borland and Sun, it reacted quickly to attract the best talent in the industry to produce a windows version of the Java runtime, with Bounds-checking, Automatic Garbage collection, structures exception handling and common data types. To develop applications for this managed runtime, it produced several excellent languages, and more are being provided. The only thing Microsoft ever got wrong was to give it a stupid name. The logical step for Microsoft would be to base the entire operating system on the .NET framework, and to re-engineer its own applications. In 2002, Bill Gates, then Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect said about their plans for .NET, "This is a long-term approach. These things don't happen overnight." Now, eight years later, we're still waiting for signs of the 'long-term approach'. Microsoft's vision of an entirely managed operating system has subsided since the Vista fiasco, but stays alive yet dormant as Midori, still being developed by Microsoft Research. This is an Internet-centric fork of the singularity operating system, a research project started in 2003 to build a highly-dependable operating system in which the kernel, device drivers, and applications are all written in managed code. Midori is predicated on the prevalence of connected systems, with provisions for distributed concurrency where application components exist 'in the cloud', and supports a programming model that can tolerate cancellation, intermittent connectivity and latency. It features an entirely new security model that sandboxes applications for increased security. So have Microsoft converted its existing applications to the .NET framework? It seems not. What Windows applications can run on Mono? Very few, it seems. We all thought that .NET spelt the end of DLL Hell and the need for COM interop, but it looks as if Bill Gates' idea of 'not overnight' might stretch to a decade or more. The Operating System has shown only minimal signs of migrating to .NET. Even where the use of .NET has come to dominate, when used for server applications with IIS, IIS itself is still entirely developed in unmanaged code. This is an irritation to Microsoft's greatest supporters who committed themselves fully to the NET framework, only to find parts of the Ambivalent Microsoft Empire quietly backsliding into unmanaged code and the awful C++. It is a strategic mistake that the invigorated Apple didn't make with the Mac OS X Architecture. Cheers, Laila

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  • Will HTML5 make Silverlight redundant?

    - by Laila
    One of the great features of Adobe AIR v2 that was launched this month was its support for some of the 2008 draft of HTML5. The HTML5 specification was started in 2004, but the full spec will probably not be approved by W3C until around 2022. One might have thought that it would take years yet from now to reach the point where any browsers were remotely HTML5-compliant, but enough of HTML5 is published and agreed to make a lot of it possible, and Safari and Adobe have got there thanks to Apple's open-source WebKit. The race for HTML 5 has been fuelled by the demand by Apple and Google for advanced graphics, typography, animations and transitions without having to rely on third party browser plug-ins such as Adobe Flash or Silverlight. There is good reason for this haste: Flash doesn't support touch-devices and has been slow in supporting hardware video decoders such as H.264. There is a strong requirement to do all that Flash can do in an open-standards way. Those with proprietary solutions remain sniffy. In AIR 2, Adobe pointedly disables the HTML5 and tags that allow basic playing of media content, saying that the specification is not final and there is still no standard for the supported formats, and adding that Safari implements a 'disjoint set' of codecs. Microsoft also has little interest in HTML 5 as it has so much invested in Silverlight. Google stands to gain by the Adobe AIR for Android as it will allow a lot of applications to be migrated easily to the platform, so sees Apple's war on Flash as a way of gaining market share. Why do we care? It is because HTML5/CSS3 provides facilities much far beyond HTML4, bring the reality of browser-based applications a lot closer. Probably most generally useful is the advanced typography: Safari and AIR already both support a way of reflowing text in a container across an arbitrary number of columns; Page-specific fonts can also be specified. Then there is 2D drawing, video, transitions, local storage, AJAX navigation and mutable DOM prototypes. HTML5 is likely to provide base functionality that is required but it is too early to be certain that it will render Flash, Silverlight or JavaFX obsolete. In the meantime, Adobe Air provides the best vehicle for developing HTML5/CSS3 applications without a twinge of worry about browser incompatibilities. Cheers, Laila

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  • Windows 8 and the future of Silverlight

    - by Laila
    After Steve Ballmer's indiscrete 'MisSpeak' about Windows 8, there has been a lot of speculation about the new operating system. We've now had a few glimpses, such as the demonstration of 'Mosh' at the D9 2011 conference, and the Youtube video, which showed a touch-centric new interface for apps built using HTML5 and JavaScript. This has caused acute anxiety to the programmers who have followed the recommended route of WPF, Silverlight and .NET, but it need not have caused quite so much panic since it was, in fact, just a thin layer to make Windows into an apparently mobile-friendly OS. More worryingly, the press-release from Microsoft was at pains to say that 'Windows 8 apps use the power of HTML5, tapping into the native capabilities of Windows using standard JavaScript and HTML', as if all thought of Silverlight, dominant in WP7, had been jettisoned. Ironically, this brave new 'happening' platform can all be done now in Windows 7 and an iPad, using Adobe Air, so it is hardly cutting-edge; in fact the tile interface had a sort of Retro-Zune Metro UI feel first seen in Media Centre, followed by Windows Phone 7, with any originality leached out of it by the corporate decision-making process. It was kinda weird seeing old Excel running alongside stodgily away amongst all the extreme paragliding videos. The ability to snap and resize concurrent apps might be a novelty on a tablet, but it is hardly so on a PC. It was at that moment that it struck me that here was a spreadsheet application that hadn't even made the leap to the .NET platform. Windows was once again trying to be all things to all men, whereas Apple had carefully separated Mac OS X development from iOS. The acrobatic feat of straddling all mobile and desktop devices with one OS is looking increasingly implausible. There is a world of difference between an operating system that facilitates business procedures and a one that drives a device for playing pop videos and your holiday photos. So where does this leave Silverlight? Pretty much where it was. Windows 8 will support it, and it will continue to be developed, but if these press-releases reflect the thinking within Microsoft, it is no longer seen as the strategic direction. However, Silverlight is still there and there will be a whole new set of developer APIs for building touch-centric apps. Jupiter, for example, is rumoured to involve an App store that provides new, Silverlight based "immersive" applications that are deployed as AppX packages. When the smoke clears, one suspects that the Javascript/HTML5 is merely an alternative development environment for Windows 8 to attract the legions of independent developers outside the .NET culture who are unlikely to ever take a shine to a more serious development environment such as WPF or Silverlight. Cheers, Laila

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  • Modernizr Rocks HTML5

    - by Laila
    HTML5 is a moving target.  At the moment, we don't know what will be in future versions.  In most circumstances, this really matters to the developer. When you're using Adobe Air, you can be reasonably sure what works, what is there, and what isn't, since you have a version of the browser built-in. With Metro, you can assume that you're going to be using at least IE 10.   If, however,  you are using HTML5 in a web application, then you are going to rely heavily on Feature Detection.  Feature-Detection is a collection of techniques that tell you, via JavaScript, whether the current browser has this feature natively implemented or not Feature Detection isn't just there for the esoteric stuff such as  Geo-location,  progress bars,  <canvas> support,  the new <input> types, Audio, Video, web workers or storage, but is required even for semantic markup, since old browsers make a pigs ear out of rendering this.  Feature detection can't rely just on reading the browser version and inferring from that what works. Instead, you must use JavaScript to check that an HTML5 feature is there before using it.  The problem with relying on the user-agent is that it takes a lot of historical data  to work out what version does what, and, anyway, the user-agent can be, and sometimes is, spoofed. The open-source library Modernizr  is just about the most essential  JavaScript library for anyone using HTML5, because it provides APIs to test for most of the CSS3 and HTML5 features before you use them, and is intelligent enough to alter semantic markup into 'legacy' 'markup  using shims  on page-load  for old browsers. It also allows you to check what video Codecs are installed for playing video. It also provides media queries  and conditional resource-loading (formerly YepNope.js.).  Generally, Modernizr gives you the choice of what you do about browsers that don't support the feature that you want. Often, the best choice is graceful degradation, but the resource-loading feature allows you to dynamically load JavaScript Shims to replace the standard API for missing or defective HTML5 functionality, called 'PolyFills'.  As the Modernizr site says 'Yes, not only can you use HTML5 today, but you can use it in the past, too!' The evolutionary progress of HTML5  requires a more defensive style of JavaScript programming where the programmer adopts a mindset of fearing the worst ( IE 6)  rather than assuming the best, whilst exploiting as many of the new HTML features as possible for the requirements of the site or HTML application.  Why would anyone want the distraction of developing their own techniques to do this when  Modernizr exists to do this for you? Laila

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  • Modernizr Rocks HTML5

    - by Laila
    HTML5 is a moving target.  At the moment, we don't know what will be in future versions.  In most circumstances, this really matters to the developer. When you're using Adobe Air, you can be reasonably sure what works, what is there, and what isn't, since you have a version of the browser built-in. With Metro, you can assume that you're going to be using at least IE 10.   If, however,  you are using HTML5 in a web application, then you are going to rely heavily on Feature Detection.  Feature-Detection is a collection of techniques that tell you, via JavaScript, whether the current browser has this feature natively implemented or not Feature Detection isn't just there for the esoteric stuff such as  Geo-location,  progress bars,  <canvas> support,  the new <input> types, Audio, Video, web workers or storage, but is required even for semantic markup, since old browsers make a pigs ear out of rendering this.  Feature detection can't rely just on reading the browser version and inferring from that what works. Instead, you must use JavaScript to check that an HTML5 feature is there before using it.  The problem with relying on the user-agent is that it takes a lot of historical data  to work out what version does what, and, anyway, the user-agent can be, and sometimes is, spoofed. The open-source library Modernizr  is just about the most essential  JavaScript library for anyone using HTML5, because it provides APIs to test for most of the CSS3 and HTML5 features before you use them, and is intelligent enough to alter semantic markup into 'legacy' 'markup  using shims  on page-load  for old browsers. It also allows you to check what video Codecs are installed for playing video. It also provides media queries  and conditional resource-loading (formerly YepNope.js.).  Generally, Modernizr gives you the choice of what you do about browsers that don't support the feature that you want. Often, the best choice is graceful degradation, but the resource-loading feature allows you to dynamically load JavaScript Shims to replace the standard API for missing or defective HTML5 functionality, called 'PolyFills'.  As the Modernizr site says 'Yes, not only can you use HTML5 today, but you can use it in the past, too!' The evolutionary progress of HTML5  requires a more defensive style of JavaScript programming where the programmer adopts a mindset of fearing the worst ( IE 6)  rather than assuming the best, whilst exploiting as many of the new HTML features as possible for the requirements of the site or HTML application.  Why would anyone want the distraction of developing their own techniques to do this when  Modernizr exists to do this for you? Laila

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  • Analysing and measuring the performance of a .NET application (survey results)

    - by Laila
    Back in December last year, I asked myself: could it be that .NET developers think that you need three days and a PhD to do performance profiling on their code? What if developers are shunning profilers because they perceive them as too complex to use? If so, then what method do they use to measure and analyse the performance of their .NET applications? Do they even care about performance? So, a few weeks ago, I decided to get a 1-minute survey up and running in the hopes that some good, hard data would clear the matter up once and for all. I posted the survey on Simple Talk and got help from a few people to promote it. The survey consisted of 3 simple questions: Amazingly, 533 developers took the time to respond - which means I had enough data to get representative results! So before I go any further, I would like to thank all of you who contributed, because I now have some pretty good answers to the troubling questions I was asking myself. To thank you properly, I thought I would share some of the results with you. First of all, application performance is indeed important to most of you. In fact, performance is an intrinsic part of the development cycle for a good 40% of you, which is much higher than I had anticipated, I have to admit. (I know, "Have a little faith Laila!") When asked what tool you use to measure and analyse application performance, I found that nearly half of the respondents use logging statements, a third use performance counters, and 70% of respondents use a profiler of some sort (a 3rd party performance profilers, the CLR profiler or the Visual Studio profiler). The importance attributed to logging statements did surprise me a little. I am still not sure why somebody would go to the trouble of manually instrumenting code in order to measure its performance, instead of just using a profiler. I personally find the process of annotating code, calculating times from log files, and relating it all back to your source terrifyingly laborious. Not to mention that you then need to remember to turn it all off later! Even when you have logging in place throughout all your code anyway, you still have a fair amount of potentially error-prone calculation to sift through the results; in addition, you'll only get method-level rather than line-level timings, and you won't get timings from any framework or library methods you don't have source for. To top it all, we all know that bottlenecks are rarely where you would expect them to be, so you could be wasting time looking for a performance problem in the wrong place. On the other hand, profilers do all the work for you: they automatically collect the CPU and wall-clock timings, and present the results from method timing all the way down to individual lines of code. Maybe I'm missing a trick. I would love to know about the types of scenarios where you actively prefer to use logging statements. Finally, while a third of the respondents didn't have a strong opinion about code performance profilers, those who had an opinion thought that they were mainly complex to use and time consuming. Three respondents in particular summarised this perfectly: "sometimes, they are rather complex to use, adding an additional time-sink to the process of trying to resolve the existing problem". "they are simple to use, but the results are hard to understand" "Complex to find the more advanced things, easy to find some low hanging fruit". These results confirmed my suspicions: Profilers are seen to be designed for more advanced users who can use them effectively and make sense of the results. I found yet more interesting information when I started comparing samples of "developers for whom performance is an important part of the dev cycle", with those "to whom performance is only looked at in times of crisis", and "developers to whom performance is not important, as long as the app works". See the three graphs below. Sample of developers to whom performance is an important part of the dev cycle: Sample of developers to whom performance is important only in times of crisis: Sample of developers to whom performance is not important, as long as the app works: As you can see, there is a strong correlation between the usage of a profiler and the importance attributed to performance: indeed, the more important performance is to a development team, the more likely they are to use a profiler. In addition, developers to whom performance is an important part of the dev cycle have a higher tendency to use a much wider range of methods for performance measurement and analysis. And, unsurprisingly, the less important performance is, the less varied the methods of measurement are. So all in all, to come back to my random questions: .NET developers do care about performance. Those who care the most use a wider range of performance measurement methods than those who care less. But overall, logging statements, performance counters and third party performance profilers are the performance measurement methods of choice for most developers. Finally, although most of you find code profilers complex to use, those of you who care the most about performance tend to use profilers more than those of you to whom performance is not so important.

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  • How to make software development decisions based on facts

    - by Laila
    We love to hear stories about the many and varied ways our customers use the tools that we develop, but in our earnest search for stories and feedback, we'd rather forgotten that some of our keenest users are fellow RedGaters, in the same building. It was almost by chance that we discovered how the SQL Source Control team were using SmartAssembly. As it happens, there is a separate account (here on Simple-Talk) of how SmartAssembly was used to support the Early Access program; by providing answers to specific questions about how the SQL Source Control product was used. But what really got us all grinning was how valuable the SQL Source Control team found the reports that SmartAssembly was quickly and painlessly providing. So gather round, my friends, and I'll tell you the Tale Of The Framework Upgrade . <strange mirage effect to denote a flashback. A subtle background string of music starts playing in minor key> Kevin and his team were undecided. They weren't sure whether they could move their software product from .NET 2 to .NET 3.5 , let alone to .NET 4. You see, they were faced with having to guess what version of .NET was already installed on the average user's machine, which I'm sure you'll agree is no easy task. Upgrading their code to .NET 3.5 might put a barrier to people trying the tool, which was the last thing Kevin wanted: "what if our users have to download X, Y, and Z before being able to open the application?" he asked. That fear of users having to do half an hour of downloads (.followed by at least ten minutes of installation. followed by a five minute restart) meant that Kevin's team couldn't take advantage of WCF (Windows Communication Foundation). This made them sad, because WCF would have allowed them to write their code in a much simpler way, and in hours instead of days (as was the case with .NET 2). Oh sure, they had a gut feeling that this probably wasn't the case, 3.5 had been out for so many years, but they weren't sure. <background music switches to major key> SmartAssembly Feature Usage Reporting gave Kevin and his team exactly what they needed: hard data on their users' systems, both hardware and software. I was there, I saw it happen, and that's not the sort of thing a woman quickly forgets. I'll always remember his last words (before he went to lunch): "You get lots of free information by just checking a box in SmartAssembly" is what he said. For example, they could see how many CPU cores their customers were using, and found out that they should be making use of parallelism to take advantage of available cores. But crucially, (and this is the moral of my tale, dear reader), Kevin saw that 99% of SQL Source Control's users were on .NET 3.5 or above.   So he knew that they could make the switch and that is was safe to do so. With this reassurance, they could use WCF to not only make development easier, but to also give them a really nice way to do inter-process communication between the Source Control and the SQL Compare products. To have done that on .NET 2.0 was certainly possible <knowing chuckle>, but Microsoft have made it a lot easier with WCF. <strange mirage effect to denote end of flashback> So you see, with Feature Usage Reporting, they finally got the hard evidence they needed to safely make the switch to .NET 3.5, knowing it would not inconvenience their users. And that, my friends, is just the sort of thing we like to hear.

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  • Design a T-shirt for .NET Reflector Pro

    - by Laila
    Win a .NET Reflector Pro license, a box of Red Gate goodies, and a t-shirt printed with your design! Red Gate likes t-shirts. Each of our teams has one. In fact, each individual person has one, numbered according to when they joined the company: Red Gate's 1st, 2nd, and so on right up to Red Gate's 170th, with the slogan "More than just a number". Those t-shirts are important, chiefly because they remind the people wearing them that they are important. But that isn't enough. What really makes us great are the people who choose to use our tools. So we'd like to extend our tradition of t-shirts to include you and put the design of our next shirt entirely in your hands. We'd like you to come up with a witty slogan or create an inventive or simply beautiful t-shirt design for .NET Reflector Pro, our add-in for Visual Studio, which allows you to step into decompiled assemblies whilst debugging in Visual Studio. When you're done, post your masterpiece to Twitter with the hash tag #reflectortees, and @redgate will take a look! We'll pick the best design, and the winner will get a licensed copy of .NET Reflector Pro and a box of Red Gate goodies - not to mention a copy of their t-shirt. The winning design will go into production and be worn and given out at tradeshows, conferences, and user group events across the world, proudly bearing the name of their designer. We'll also pick three runners-up who will receive licenses for .NET Reflector Pro. Red Gate goodie box Interested? If you're up for the challenge, then we've got some resources to get you started. Inside the .zip file you'll find high-quality versions of the following: T-shirt templates: don't forget to design the front and the back! Different versions of the .NET Reflector Pro logo and Red Gate logo. Colour sheets to give you an easy reference to the Red Gate colours, including hex and RGB values. You can create and send us as many designs as you like, and each of them will be considered for the prize. To submit your designs, simply tweet including the competition hash tag, #reflectortees, and a link to somewhere we can see your design: either an image hosting site such as Twitpic, Flickr or Picasa, or a personal blog. You will need to create a Twitter account (which is free), if you don't already have one. You only have three limits: The background colour of the t-shirt should be one of our brand colours (red, light/dark grey or black), though you're welcome to use other colours in the rest of the design. You need to make use of either the .NET Reflector Pro logo OR the Red Gate logo (please keep them as they are) If you include any text or slogan, stick with just one or two colors for it. Apart from that, go wild. Go and do whatever it is you do when you get creative: whether you walk barefoot on the grass with a pencil and paper, sit cross-legged on a pile of cushions with a laptop, or simply close your eyes and float through a mist of ideas, now is your chance. Make sure you enjoy it. We're looking forward to seeing your creations. Terms and conditions 1. The closing date for entries is June 11th, 2010 (4 p.m. UK time). Red Gate Software Ltd reserves the right to extend the competition deadline at its discretion. If there is a revision, the revised date will be published on this blog and the date for announcing the results will be postponed accordingly. 2. The winning designer will be notified on June 14th, 2010 through Twitter. The winner must claim his/her prize by sending us a high-resolution image of their design via email (i.e. Illustrator EPS files or appropriate format, ideally at 300dpi). If the winner does not come forward within 3 days of the announcement, they will forfeit their prize and another winner will be selected from the runners-up. The names of the winner and runners-up will be posted on this blog by June 18th.  3. Entry is completed on the designer posting a link to their entry in a tweet with the correct hash tag, #reflectortees. 4. Red Gate Software needs to hold the rights to using the winning design in order to put the t-shirt into production. We will make sure that this is fine with the winner before we do so, but if you do not want us holding the rights to your design, please do not submit your designs. We reserve the right to slightly alter or adjust any artwork we decide to use (mainly to make it easier to print), but we will make sure we contact the winner for approval first. The winner will also need to allow us the use of his/her name for purposes of promoting your design. 5. Entries must be entirely your own original work and must not breach any copyright or third party rights. Red Gate Software Ltd will not be made partially or fully liable for any non-original work submitted by you. 6. This competition is free: you do not need to buy anything or be an existing customer to enter. 7. This competition is not open to employees of Red Gate Software Ltd, their families, or any other company directly connected with the administration of this promotion.

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  • .NET Reflector Pro T-shirt contest - and the winner is...

    - by Laila
    Three weeks ago, I kicked off a T-shirt design contest. We've been eagerly poring over the results and today, it's finally announcement time! Although many of you raced to design some great t-shirts for us, we ended up with a clear winner who came up with a nice design and an original slogan that accurately represents what .NET Reflector Pro lets you do: decompile and debug C# and VB.NET code. So, the winner is... Mandeep Sangha! Mandeep sent us the following awesome design via the Twitter account, mss_10: We liked the combination of detective and superhero elements through the magnifying glass and the slogan. Batman (possibly the most eminent of detective-superheroes?) would be proud to wear this under his suit. Mandeep will become the happy owner of a free copy of .NET Reflector Pro and an exciting box of Red Gate goodies... as well as a copy of their very own t-shirt once it's been brought to life by our printing shop! The t-shirts will bear the name of their designer, and will be made available at .NET developer events around the world, such as conferences, tradeshows and user group events. Congratulations, Mandeep! We'll be in touch to sort out the details of your prizes. But that wasn't the only great design we received. We chose three runners-up as well: Sam Beauvois: http://twitpic.com/1vvsi9 Sherwin Rice: http://www.greenwaytechno.com/img/tee-1.png Mathieu Grétry: http://blog.section9.be/public/tshirt_reflector_01.png Thanks to you all for taking part in the contest. You'll all receive a free license for .NET Reflector Pro! We'll get in touch with you individually through twitter, so that we can get you your prizes. Keep an eye out for this T-shirt - it'll soon be making its way to an event near you!

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  • Automated Error Reporting = More Robust Software

    - by Laila
    I would like to tell you how to revolutionize your software development process </marketing hyperbole> On a more serious note, we (Red Gate's .NET Development team) recently rolled a new tool into our development process which has made our lives dramatically easier AND improved the quality of our software, and I (& one of our developers, Alex Davies) just wanted to take a quick moment to share the love. I work with a development team that takes pride in what they ship, so we take software testing rather seriously. For every development project we run, we allocate at least one software tester for every two developers, and we never ship software without first shipping early access releases and betas to get user feedback. And therein lies the challenge -encouraging users to provide consistent, useful feedback is a headache, but without that feedback, improving the software is. tricky. Until fairly recently, we used the standard (if long-winded) approach of receiving bug reports of variable quality via email or through our support forums. If that didn't give us enough information to reproduce the problem - which was most of the time - we had to enter into a time-consuming to-and-fro conversation with the end-user, to get scrape together the data we needed to work out where the problem lay. As I'm sure you're aware, this is painfully slow. To the delight of the team, we recently got to work with SmartAssembly, which lets us embed automated exception and error reporting into our software with very little pain, and we decided to do a little dogfooding. As a result, we've have made a really handy (if perhaps slightly obvious) discovery: As soon as we release a beta, or indeed any release of software, we now get tonnes of customer feedback through automated error reports. Making this process easier for our users has dramatically increased the amount (and quality) of feedback we get. From their point of view, they get an experience similar to Microsoft's error reporting, and process is essentially idiot-proof. From our side of things, we can now react much faster to the information we get, fixing the bugs and shipping a new-and-improved release, which our users rather appreciate. Smiles and hugs all round. Even more so because, as we're use SmartAssembly's Automated Error Reporting, we get to avoid having to spend weeks building an exception reporting mechanism. It takes just a few minutes to add reporting to a project, and we get a bunch of useful information back, like a stack trace and the values of all the local variables, which we can use to fix bugs. Happily, "Automated Error Reporting = More Robust Software" can actually be read two ways: we've found that we not only ship higher quality software, but we also release within a shorter time. We can ship stable software that our users are happy to upgrade to, and we then bask in the glory of lots of positive customer feedback. Once we'd starting working with SmartAssembly, we were curious to know how widespread error reporting was as a practice. Our product manager ran a survey in autumn last year, and found that 40% of software developers never really considered deploying error reporting. Considering how we've now got plenty of experience on the subject, one of our dev guys, Alex Davies, thought we should share what we've learnt, and he's kindly offered to host a webinar on delivering robust software with Automated Error Reporting. Drawing on our own in-house development experiences, he'll cover how to add error reporting to your program, how to actually use the error reports to fix bugs (don't snigger, not everyone's as bright as you), how to customize the error report dialog that your users see, and how to automatically get log files from your users' machine. The webinar will take place on Jan 25th (that's next week). It's free to attend, but you'll still need to register to hear Alex's dulcet tones.

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  • Sunshine after the iCloud release?

    - by Laila
    "Why should I believe them? They're the ones that brought us MobileMe? It was not our finest hour, but we learned a lot." Steve Jobs June 6th 2011 Apple's new cloud service has been met with uncritical excitement by industry commentators.  It is wonderful what a rename can do.  Apple has had a 'cloud' offering for three years called MobileMe, successor to .MAC and  iTools, so iCloud is now the fourth internet service Apple have attempted. If this had been Microsoft, there would have been catcalls all around the blogosphere.  I'll admit that there is a lot more functionality announced for iCloud than MobileMe has ever managed to achieve, but then almost anything has more functionality than MobileMe.  It's an expensive service (£120 a year in the UK, $90 in the states), launched as far back as  June 9, 2008, that has delivered very little and suffered a string of technical problems; the documentation was mainly  a community effort, built up gradually by the frustrated and angry users. It was supposed to synchronise PC Outlook calendars but couldn't manage Microsoft Exchange (Google could, of course). It used WebDAV to allow Windows users to attach to the filestore, but didn't document how to do it. The method for downloading and uploading files to the cloud-based filestore was ridiculously clunky. It allowed you to post photos on a public site, but forgot to include a way of deleting photos. I could go on with the list, but you can explore the many sites that have flourished to inhabit the support-vacuum left by Apple. MobileMe should have had all the bright new clever things announced for iCloud. Apple dropped the ball, and allowed services such as Flickr to fill the void. However, their PR skills are such that, a name-change later (the .ME.com email address remains), it has turned a rout into a victory, and hundreds of earnest bloggers have been extolling Apple's expertise in cloud matters. This must be frustrating for the other cloud providers who have quietly got the technology working right. I wish iCloud well, even though I resent the expensive mess they made of MobileMe. Apple promise that iCloud will sync files, apps, app data, and media across all the different iOS5 devices, Macs, and PCs. It also hopes to sync music across devices, but not video content. They've offered existing MobileMe users free use of the MobileMe service for a year as the product is morphed, and they will be able to transfer to iCloud when it is launched in the autumn.  On June 30, 2012, MobileMe will die, and Apple's iWeb is also soon to join iTools and .MAC in the hereafter. So why get excited about iCloud? That all depends on the level of PC integration. Whereas iOS5 machines will be full participants in the new world of data-sharing (Sorry iPod Touch users) what about .NET libraries? There is talk of synchronising 'My Pictures' libraries with iOS5 and iMac machines, but little more detail as yet. Apple has a lot to prove with iCloud and anyone with actual experience of their past attempts to get into cloud services will be wary.

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  • Finding bugs is difficult, right?

    - by Laila
    Something I hear developers tell us all the time is that they take pride in being a developer.and that bugs are a dent in that pride. Someone once told me "I know I have found bugs years later, and it's the worst feeling in the world." So how can you avoid that sinking feeling when you find out a bug has been in production months before someone lets you know about it? Besides, let's face it: hearing about a bug often means a world of pain, because it can take hours to track down where the problem is and more hours (if not days) to fix it. And during that time, you're not working on something new, and that, my friends, is really frustrating! So to cheer you up, we've created a Bug Hunt game, where you battle against the clock to spot bugs. We've really enjoyed putting this together and hope you enjoy playing it too. Once you're done with the bug hunt, we explain how easy it can be to find and fix bugs in real life, using a neat mechanism that we call Automated Error Reporting. Play the game now.

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  • Calling all developers building ASP.NET applications

    - by Laila Lotfi
    We know that developers building desktop apps have to contend with memory management issues, and we’d like to learn more about the memory challenges ASP.NET developers are facing. To be more specific, we’re carrying out some exploratory research leading into the next phase of development on ANTS Memory Profiler, and our development team would love to speak to developers building ASP.NET applications. You don’t need to have ever used ANTS profiler – this will be a more general conversation about: - your current site architecture, and how you manage the memory requirements of your applications on your back-end servers and web services. - how you currently diagnose memory leaks and where you do this (production server, or during testing phase, or if you normally manage to get them all during the local development). - what specific memory problems you’ve experienced – if any. Of course, we’ll compensate you for your time with a $50 Amazon voucher (or equivalent in other currencies), and our development team’s undying gratitude. If you’d like to participate, please just drop me a line on [email protected]

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  • Turnkey with LightSwitch

    - by Laila
    Microsoft has long wanted to find a replacement for Microsoft Access. The best attempt yet, which is due out in, or before, September is Visual Studio LightSwitch, with which it is said to be as 'easy as flipping a switch' to use Silverlight to create simple form-driven business applications. It is easy to get confused by the various initiatives from Microsoft. No, this isn't WebMatrix. There is no 'Razor', for this isn't meant for cute little ecommerce sites, but is designed to build simple database-applications of the card-box type. It is more clearly a .NET-based solution to the problem that every business seems to suffer from; the plethora of Access-based, and Excel-based 'private' and departmental database-applications. These are a nightmare for any IT department since they are often 'stealth' applications built by the business in the teeth of opposition from the IT Department zealots. As they are undocumented, it is scarily easy to bring a whole department into disarray by decommissioning a PC tucked under a desk somewhere. With LightSwitch, it is easy to re-write such applications in a standard, maintainable, way, using a SQL Server database, deployed somewhere reasonably safe such as Azure. Even Sharepoint or Windows Communication Foundation can be used as data sources. Oracle's ApEx has taken off remarkably well, and has shaken the perception that, for the business user, Oracle must remain a mystic force accessible only to the priests and acolytes. Microsoft, by comparison had only Access, which was first released in 1992, the year of the Madonna conical bustier. It looks just as dated. Microsoft badly needed an entirely new solution to the same business requirement that led to Access's and Foxpro's long-time popularity, but which had the same allure as ApEx. LightSwitch is sound in its ideas, and comfortingly conventional in its architecture. By giving an easy access to SQL Server databases, and providing a 'thumb and blanket' migration path to Access-heads, LightSwitch seems likely to offer a simple way of pulling more Microsoft users into the .NET community. If Microsoft puts its weight behind it, then it will give some glimmer of hope to the many Silverlight developers that Microsoft is capable of seeing through its .NET revolution.

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  • Reflector Pro has now been released!

    - by CliveT
    After moving into the .NET division in May , and having a great time working on Reflector, I'm pleased to say that the results of that work are now available. Reflector Pro has now been released! The old Reflector as you know and love it is still available free of charge, and as part of this project we've fixed a number of bugs in the de-compilation that have been around for a long time. The Pro version comes as an add-in for Visual Studio - this offers dynamic de-compilation and generation of pdb files which allow you to step into the de-compiled code. Alex has some good pictures of this functionality on his beta post from around a month ago. Thanks to the other guys who've worked on this for taking me along for the ride - Alex, Andrew, Bart and Jason. Stephen did some great usability work, Chris Alford did some great technical authoring and Laila handled the launch publicity. Like all projects, there's always more I'd like to have done, but what we have looks like a pretty powerful addition to the developer's set of tools to me. Please try it and give us feedback on the forum.

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  • RSS Feeds currently on Simple-Talk

    - by Andrew Clarke
    There are a number of news-feeds for the Simple-Talk site, but for some reason they are well hidden. Whilst we set about reorganizing them, I thought it would be a good idea to list some of the more important ones. The most important one for almost all purposes is the Homepage RSS feed which represents the blogs and articles that are placed on the homepage. Main Site Feed representing the Homepage ..which is good for most purposes but won't always have all the blogs, or maybe it will occasionally miss an article. If you aren't interested in all the content, you can just use the RSS feeds that are more relevant to your interests. (We'll be increasing these categories soon) The newsfeed for SQL articles The .NET section newsfeed The newsfeed for Red Gate books The newsfeed for Opinion articles The SysAdmin section newsfeed if you want to get a more refined feed, then you can pick and choose from these feeds for each category so as to make up your custom news-feed in the SQL section, SQL Training Learn SQL Server Database Administration TSQL Programming SQL Server Performance Backup and Recovery SQL Tools SSIS SSRS (Reporting Services) in .NET there are... ASP.NET Windows Forms .NET Framework ,NET Performance Visual Studio .NET tools in Sysadmin there are Exchange General Virtualisation Unified Messaging Powershell in opinion, there is... Geek of the Week Opinion Pieces in Books, there is .NET Books SQL Books SysAdmin Books And all the blogs have got feeds. So although you can get all the blogs from here.. Main Blog Feed          You can get individual RSS feeds.. AdamRG's Blog       Alex.Davies's Blog       AliceE's Blog       Andrew Clarke's Blog       Andrew Hunter's Blog       Bart Read's Blog       Ben Adderson's Blog       BobCram's Blog       bradmcgehee's Blog       Brian Donahue's Blog       Charles Brown's Blog       Chris Massey's Blog       CliveT's Blog       Damon's Blog       David Atkinson's Blog       David Connell's Blog       Dr Dionysus's Blog       drsql's Blog       FatherJack's Blog       Flibble's Blog       Gareth Marlow's Blog       Helen Joyce's Blog       James's Blog       Jason Crease's Blog       John Magnabosco's Blog       Laila's Blog       Lionel's Blog       Matt Lee's Blog       mikef's Blog       Neil Davidson's Blog       Nigel Morse's Blog       Phil Factor's Blog       [email protected]'s Blog       reka.burmeister's Blog       Richard Mitchell's Blog       RobbieT's Blog       RobertChipperfield's Blog       Rodney's Blog       Roger Hart's Blog       Simon Cooper's Blog       Simon Galbraith's Blog       TheFutureOfMonitoring's Blog       Tim Ford's Blog       Tom Crossman's Blog       Tony Davis's Blog       As well as these blogs, you also have the forums.... SQL Server for Beginners Forum     Programming SQL Server Forum    Administering SQL Server Forum    .NET framework Forum    .Windows Forms Forum   ASP.NET Forum   ADO.NET Forum 

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