Saturday, December 30, 2006

voting ends tomorrow

In case you missed my first post (or just failed to read the details), tomorrow (December 31st) is the last day you can vote for telerik in Sys-Con's 2007 Readers' Choice Awards. Voting is easy (once you know what to do), so take a minute and vote today if you enjoy using your r.a.d.controls. And just so Sys-Con's less than helpful site doesn't stop you, here are complete voting instructions:

  1. Click here to go to the voting page
  2. Enter your email address
  3. Navigate to page 5 of the ballot ("Best .NET Libraries and Controls")
  4. Select telerik's r.a.d.controls suite and finish voting
This is the final post for 2006, so happy New Year to everyone! Here's to another fun year with the "Best .NET Library" in 2007!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

reporting December CTP review

Around the time telerik released the Q4 r.a.d.controls, they also released an update to the telerik reporting CTP (see my original review of CTP1). In the new CTP, telerik has started to introduce some fit-and-finish improvements to the Visual Studio design-time experience and they have delivered a major feature to the report viewers: PDF export. Read on for my full review or check out my new screenshot gallery to see what's new in CTP2.

Not much has changed during the installation process in CTP2. The install took about five minutes to complete, but this time it had no trouble installing the sample AdventureWorksT database on my local copy of SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition (something CTP1 choked on). Still, the installer failed to update the configuration of the provided samples with the name of my local SQL Server (MSSQLSERVER vs. SQLEXPRESS), so to use the designer previews I had to manually update the SqlConnection object connection string. Not a big deal for a CTP or for demo files, especially since the Web.Config and App.Config did get correctly updated by the installer.

Design-time experience
The look and feel of the Visual Studio Report Designer has been significantly improved since the first CTP. The bars splitting each report section in the designer are larger- which makes it easier to right-click on the bar and reveal options such "Add New Group"- and have a nice Outlook-esque gradient fill (screenshot). There are still just two report element types: textbox and imagebox. More report elements should be available by the time the beta roles around, but in the mean time telerik has improved the design-time placeholder appearance for the imagebox elements.

The Report Explorer also works in CTP2 (I don't think it was working in CTP1) and it is a very helpful tool for traversing the layout of your report. Using the Explorer, you can quickly access any element in your report, which makes it much easier to work with large, complicated reports. It's also one of the most annoying parts of the CTP because every time you open a report Visual Studio re-opens the Report Explorer and Data Explorer windows (even if you've closed them). It gets old to wait on these windows to open when you switch between design view and code view. Very old. If you download CTP2, don't close these windows.

CTP2 ships with the same group of demo reports that we saw in CTP1 and it adds a couple of new reports that highlight report event handling and styling. The event handler report shows how you can use the Report and ReportItem events to apply custom formatting to a report, such as changing the color a ReportItem textbox OnDataBound based on criteria you code (Fig 1). Hopefully future versions of reporting will provide a visual designer that enables code-less conditional formatting of ReportItems (similar to Crystal Reports), but for now you can manually write the C# to apply formatting on these events. The styling report highlights the reporting's ability to style report objects a la CSS by using defined StyleNames (Fig 2).

Otherwise, the designer still works the same way- you have a main design view, a Preview View (or WinForms Preview), and a HtmlPreview (or WebForms Preview).

Changes to Viewer
The most significant change in this CTP is definitely the addition of PDF export in the viewers. This marks the beginning of telerik's journey down the road of building and supporting a full PDF export engine that may eventually make its way out of reporting and give developers a new .NET PDF export option (WebSupergoo is good, but I want more (good) choices!). To export any report to PDF, simply select the PDF format from the Export drop down and click Export. After that everything happens as you'd expect: your report opens in an Adobe PDF viewer looking just like it did in the viewer (Fig 3).

So far the PDF export looks good. The (quickly) rendered PDF is very true to the original report format and the page breaks are clean on multi-page reports (Fig 4). With the addition of PDF, the viewers can now export to three formats: TIFF, MHTML, and PDF. We're still waiting on HTML, Word, and JPEG.

We did not see tons of change in CTP2, so this is still a very alpha version of the product. The December CTP of telerik reporting is another solid step towards the final telerik reporting product, though. PDF export will be a big part of reporting's feature set, so getting that functionality on the table is a good sign that things are going well. Telerik has previously said that we can expect to see the first beta in the Q1 2007 time frame but they have made not indication of when reporting will ship. Based on the progress I've seen in CTP2, I would guess that reporting will not be ready for prime time until late Q2 or Q3 of 2007. And when it does, it will definitely be a great .NET reporting product.

Download the December CTP

//Todd Anglin
//December 28, 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006

chart 3.0 review

One of the controls that received a major overhaul in the Q4 2006 is r.a.d.chart, telerik's long ignored and relatively basic charting component. The Q4 release did little to add functionality to chart (there are still no 3D charts or chart integration with AJAX), but it did radically change chart's design-time experience. If you have ever used chart before, you know that designing a chart in Visual Studio is a long, frustrating cycle of guess-and-check coding. That all changes in Q4. The new chart design-time experience Version 3.0 of chart introduces a new WYSIWYG Visual Studio designer that makes designing a new r.a.d.chart as easy as designing a Microsoft Office chart. When you drop a chart control on your page, you get a Visual Studio SmartTag to set some of your chart's properties AND you get a full, multi-step wizard that you can also use to set 95% of your chart's properties. On top of that, all of the changes you make with the SmartTag or Wizard are applied in real-time to the chart on your page. That's right: No more guessing. You can adjust settings to your hearts content and in real-time see how those settings affect your chart in the Visual Studio design view. The new design-time experience is so vast, I decided pictures would do a much better job of telling the full story. Check out my screenshot gallery to see chart 3.0 in action. My only complaint is that the wizard has so many settings it can be overwhelming. The wizard reminds me of the r.a.d.controls for WinForms configuration dialogs (which have TONS of settings), and I think telerik will eventually need to find a more balanced ground between offering "magical" wizards and wizards that allow you to tweak every chart property. Not a big deal, though. the "gotchas" No update this large can be made without a few lingering issues, and in my early use I found a couple of things that you'll need watch for in your own projects. First, if you use the Chart Wizard to layout your chart, try visiting the Auto Format tab before you go through each wizard step customizing layout items. If you select an Auto Format after you've made a number of customizations, your changes will be overridden by the auto styles. In my opinion, the Auto Format tab should be presented earlier in the wizard so you can pick a style before you begin your customizations. Also, you'll need to watch the formatting of the axis labels. For some reason, the labels don't seem to inherit the styles of your format correctly and are rendered in a default black Times font. This is obvious in the Visual Studio designer, so just make sure you manually set the styles for these items if you display them. Finally, (and this is more of a FYI than a gotcha) make sure your chart looks correct in Visual Studio before publishing your project. Your chart will render in the browser exactly as it looks in Visual Studio, so if you see labels that are illegible in Visual Studio they will also be illegible in the browser. This is a nice behavior because it makes it very easy to tell of you chart settings are well formed before you publish your project to a browser. conclusion The new designer for chart is very impressive and finally makes chart a "r.a.d." control. I really can't express how exciting these changes are for chart. If you've had a bad experience with chart in the past, now is the time to give it another try. If you don't believe me, check the full screenshot gallery I've created showing off the new designers while you download the latest release. But believe me, you'll want chart 3.0!

Friday, December 22, 2006

telerik changes trial licensing

In a move that is sure to make it easier for people evaluating r.a.d.controls to fully test the controls in their development environments, telerik announced in their recent Q4 Newsletter that it would be eliminating the need for license files on all future trial downloads. Instead, the trials will now be "time bombed" and they will expire after 30 days.

The huge upside to this is that you can now use the trial version of the components on any domain that you please. Trails won't be restricted to localhost (0r the single domain that you request for your trial license) and will be easy to use wherever you need to do your testing.

As subscription developers, we enjoy unusually pain-free, no-hassle licensing with r.a.d.controls and now new comers to the r.a.d. suite can enjoy the same...well, for 30 days at least.

updated assembly references for Q4 2006

If you have control of your server (in other words, you're not using shared hosting), one of the easiest ways to deploy your r.a.d.controls is in the GAC (Global Assembly Cache). Deploying to the GAC allows you to deploy once for all of your applications, which can be a big time saver if you run a number of apps on your server that use r.a.d.controls. Until the Telerik installer gives us the option to install to the GAC automatically, we must manually copy and paste the r.a.d.control assemblies to GAC (usually located at C:\WINDOWS\assembly) and update our machine.config (or web.config, depending on your preference) with the new assembly version numbers. It's a relatively easy task, but if you've never used the GAC before it can be time consuming process to add all of the r.a.d.control references. Save your time and use this handy Q4 2006 machine.config update. The sections available on this document are for the .NET2 r.a.d.control assemblies and they can be copied and pasted to your machine.config or web.config for quick upgrading (note: a reference for the last release of r.a.d.callback (Q1 2006 SP2) is in the document. Remove that reference if you no longer use r.a.d.callback.). Hopefully this will help make your upgrading to Q4 quick and painless. If you have any trouble or questions, just ask for help in the comments. Enjoy~

Thursday, December 21, 2006

download Q4 today!

The waiting is over: Telerik officially released Q4 2006 today. And even though they missed the original release target, delivering a release this big a day late is pretty significant accomplishment (especially after the week long release delays earlier this year).

Most of the major features in Q4 have been covered here before, but there a ton of enhancements to all of the controls that you're sure to enjoy. There are far too many enhancements to list here, but here are some of the more significant previously unannounced features that made it into this release:

  • New pager modes in grid: Slider, Advanced (type in page number and page size), and NextPrevNumericAndAdvanced
  • New commands in grid: EditSelected, UpdateEdited, DeleteSelected (cool!)
  • SEO optimization mode for grid
  • New transparency setting in ajax AjaxLoadingPanel (see image)
  • Full design-time wizard setup for chart (finally!)
For a full list of changes in this release, check out the release history. There are a couple if controls in this release that are not backwards compatible, namely calendar and spell. Make sure you have time to update those controls on your pages before you upgrade.

So stop reading this and start downloading Q4 right now. It's a great release- the improved spell and chart should be reason enough- and all developers are going to want to run this version. Enjoy the Holidays and enjoy Q4!

visually appealing skins for the blind

Well, visually appealing skins for the color blind to be more accurate. According to an August 2000 article by Chuck Newman, approximately 1 in 12 (or about 8%) of the visitors to your website may be suffering from one form of color blindness or another. For those of us that do not suffer from any form of color blindness, understanding what our sites look like through their eyes can be an extremely challenging (and often overlooked) task. Telerik's controls go a long way to make our site's accessible to most of our visitors. Half of telerik's 18 r.a.d.controls for ASP.NET offer out of the box Section 508 compliance at a W3C "AA" or "AAA" level (the other half offers at least "A" level support). The W3C sets forth guidelines that encourage developers to create designs that don't rely on color alone, but recognizing the usability problems caused by color is difficult (especially when were caught up in using all of the great looking (to non-colorblind users) telerik skins). Fortunately, there is a tool that allows non-colorblind developers to see through colorblind eyes. The Colorblind Filter by Wickline is a free, web-based tool that will process any URL you provide and spit out a colorblind variant of the page. While the color representations may be rough, they do enable developers and designers to quickly recognize possible color problems. I ran a number of telerik skins through the Filter and most of them proved remarkably usable to all forms of colorblindness. Telerik has done a good job maintaining high contrast in their controls, meaning that even with distorted colors their controls remain usable. If you've created a custom skin, though, you should definitely run it through the Colorblind Filter and make sure it's accessible to all of your users. You may be surprised at how your site looks through someone else's eyes.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Q4 delayed, due tomorrow (again)

We came so close to receiving a quarterly release on the published release date, but alas the history making event will have to wait for another release to make the record books. In a very open and timely post, telerik explained the reasons for the one day delay citing the recent releases of ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 RC and Visual Studio 2005 SP1 as the primary causes for delay. Rather than deliver Q4 today and a Q4 SP1 next week (which I appreciate, since deploying releases and SPs takes some time), telerik will take one more day to finalize testing and packaging of the release. I find it hard to believe that this delay couldn't have been predicted before the scheduled release day, but telerik has learned something from the last release by posting this announcement prominently in our accounts (where we've been sitting all morning, hitting F5, waiting for the release). At the end of the day, though, I think this delay is for the best. I'd prefer to wait one more day to get a good stable release with support for ASP.NET AJAX than get a rushed release today. So relax your browsers and stop checking for the release today. Tune in tomorrow (hopefully) for all of the release news.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Q4 (still) due tomorrow

After months of waiting, 3 service packs, and a handful of betas, it is finally time to get official with the Q4 2006 r.a.d.controls release. All indications are that telerik is on track to deliver the Q4 release to your accounts tomorrow, December 20th (as I previously announced). This is a huge improvement over the Q2 and Q3 releases where the announced release dates were missed by over a week and is a great a way to close the 2006 release cycle. I've covered the Q4 release extensively over the last few months, and I thought I'd share the top 10 things I'm looking forward to as we wait for our early Christmas present:

  1. r.a.d.spell 3.0 with AJAX spellcheck
  2. r.a.d.editor 7.0 (with AJAX spellcheck!)
  3. r.a.d.chart 3.0
  4. New Video Library help on
  5. New grid row click PostBack
  6. Client-side operations for grid
  7. r.a.d.calendar 2.0 TimePicker
  8. ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 RC compatibility
  9. New Visual Studio design-time Learning Center
  10. Full update to r.a.d.controls for WinForms
If you don't want to refresh your page all day watching for the new bits, just set your RSS reader to this blog and I'll let you know as soon as the release is available. In the mean time, let me know you're most looking forward to in the Q4 release in the comments.

Monday, December 18, 2006

aptana code assist and telerik

Late last week I discovered an incredible new (free) application for working with JavaScript called Aptana (see my introduction). One of the most useful features of the new IDE is its support for JavaScript "Code Assist" - Intellisense for client-side programming. Using Aptana, you can create "Code Assist Profiles" by adding JavaScript files to special Code Assist Profile folders. Once the files are in a Code Assist folder and you make that folder the active Profile, you get full "Code Assist" support as you write your JavaScript code.

Telerik has huge client-side APIs built-in to the r.a.d.controls and I decided to see what would happen if I setup a Code Assist Profile for one of the r.a.d.controls. To do this yourself, you'll need the r.a.d.control source code (available to all subscription developers) and the uncompressed, unobfuscated JavaScript files for each r.a.d.control. Once you've got the source, setting up the Profile is very easy.

Start by creating a Code Assist Profile for your telerik control(s) and add the JavaScript desired files (Fig 1).

Fig 1: Code Assist Profiles can be configured with r.a.d.control JavaScript files

Once your Profile is setup, create a new JavaScript file to test the r.a.d.control Code Assist. Just to test the Code Assist view, I created a new RadAjaxManager object in a dummy JavaScript function and then tried to access it's members. Like magic, the Code Assist window popped-up and revealed all of the available Functions (shown as a green circle with an F) and Properties (small green circle) for the RadAjaxManager JavaScript class! (Fig 2) Fig 2: Aptana "Code Sense" with r.a.d.ajax JavaScript While conducting this test, I found a few issues with this early beta version of Aptana that will likely make it less appealing to ASP.NET developers. Aptana is great at handling HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, but when you open an ASPX file in Aptana and try to edit JavaScript you get no syntax highlighting or Code Assist support. That means Aptana will not be your tool of choice for editing JavaScript embedded in your ASPX files- at least not directly.

There is another tool, though, that may make Aptana worth downloading even if you don't use if for coding. The Outline tool provides full document outlines for both HTML, CSS, and JavaScript documents. When used with telerik JavaScript files, the Outline view becomes a handy class explorer for digging around and understanding the r.a.d.control client-side APIs. (Fig 3) Fig 3: Browse JavaScript files using Aptana Outline tool

The integration that Orcas will likely bring to JavaScript Intellisense and ASP.NET programming will probably make it the better tool for .NET developers in the long run, but if you're looking for a free tool that can do JavaScript Code Assist now I still recommend Aptana.

Friday, December 15, 2006

ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 RC and Visual Studio SP1 released

I'd be remiss not to throw up a quick post about two big releases from Microsoft that affect most of us doing development with Telerik controls. Yesterday, Microsoft released Visual Studio SP1 and today they released the release candidate for ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 (the final release before the final, supported product ships). Scott Guthrie has great posts about both releases on his blog, but if you want to skip the introduction and go straight to the download you can follow these links:

Visual Studio SP1 Download
ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 RC Download

Rumen Stankov has a good post on the telerik blogs regarding r.a.d.controls compatibility with this latest release. In short, the new RC will not work with the current Q3 SP3 r.a.d.controls release, but the Q4 2006 release (due next Wednesday) will deliver full support.

Looks like it will be a busy weekend installing SP1, downloading the latest ASP.NET AJAX and Toolkit releases, and playing with Aptana. Don't pretend you won't be doing it too.

how to enjoy JavaScript programming: Aptana

With the increasing popularity of AJAX, the upcoming release of ASP.NET AJAX, and seemingly ubiquitous JavaScript UI libraries available one the web, there is one thing that ASP.NET developers seem to be doing a lot more of these days: JavaScript. And if you're like me, you've been bouncing around from tool to plug-in looking for a decent JavaScript productivity and debugging IDE that enables you to do JavaScript just as easily as you do ASP.NET.

Until today I thought the promised land was Orcas, the next version of Visual Studio due in 2007. Orcas will ship with an integrated JavaScript debugger and powerful JavaScript Intellisense engine that will bring the act of programming for the client much closer to the blissful, Intellisense-powered server programming we enjoy today. One of the biggest barriers to wide(r)sperad adoption of AJAX in .NET applications is the lack of good tools for writing and debugging JavaScript, and Orcas will definitely help lower that barrier. But why wait for late 2007 to begin enjoying JavaScript programming?

An amazing JavaScript/HTML/CSS editor has been built that brings all of the future promises of Orcas to your desktop today. Aptana is the brain child of former JRun developer Paul Colton and it is an incredibly beautiful and powerful tool that provides unparalleled JavaScript (and CSS) editing and debugging tools. And it's free.

Aptana is being developed and distributed under the EPL (Eclipse Public License), which means the binaries and source code are being made publicly available for free. What's more, the EPL allows developers to take EPL licensed software, build proprietary add-ons or modifications, and redistribute them commercially and royalty free. The EPL is much more liberal in that sense than the GPL and it amazes me that a tool as incredible as Aptana is being given away so freely. Aptana is still a beta product, though, so maybe plans for a commercial version will emerge with time. I hope they do because this development team is doing great work.

As telerik developers, we have huge client-side libraries that we can take advantage of with all of the r.a.d.controls. I'm not sure how well suited Aptana is in its current state to help provide "Intellisense" support for the control client-side APIs due to their obfuscated state, but it will certainly make the task of writing JavaScript that consumes those APIs more enjoyable. Perhaps the telerik team can find an easy way to expose their client-side APIs through tools like Aptana and Orcas in the future.

My words can do little justice to the Aptana project, so I encourage you to check out their site (which itself is amazingly well constructed!) and see Aptana firsthand. If Aptana remains a free product once it leaves beta, I think it could easily stand second only to FireFox as one of the best looking and most useful Open Source projects ever created.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

r.a.d.editor 7.0 beta revealed

The Q4 beta program got a big boost today with the release of r.a.d.editor 7.0 beta. The headline-grabbing feature of the new editor is the much anticipated AJAX spellcheck mechanism that eliminates the need to use a dialog based spellchecker (though the dialog checker will still be available). I'm happy to report that Christmas comes early this year because the new spelling mechanism rocks!

The early preview of spell 3.0's AJAX spellchecker (the foundation for editor's new spellchecker) was pretty ugly and did not seem to be doing much that improved upon existing AJAX spellcheckers (such as those found in Google Docs, Blogger, etc.). The pre-release version we see in the editor beta, though, is amazing. It is the best AJAX spellcheck I've used to date and it looks great, too. Unlike other AJAX spell checkers, telerik's new checker will automatically jump to misspelled words in your document as you check them (vs. forcing you to hunt for and click the highlighted misspellings). This combines the fluid, in-document context of an AJAX checker with the convenience of a dialog checker in way that many other AJAX checkers fail to do.

The beta also sports a few additional enhancements, including a number of performance tweaks and optimizations that are supposed to produce more consistent editor output in different browsers. There have not been any major changes to the editor structure in Q4 (you still need the editor RadControls folder), but telerik has said that editor will see some major changes in 2007 as they try to move towards a more modularized, RadControls-folder-independent control.

The AJAX spellcheck has been one of the most highly anticipated new features of the Q4 release and I think telerik has hit a home run with their implementation. Check it our for yourself today by visiting the beta demo and start scheduling time to upgrade all of your spell and editor implementations today!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

first Q4 beta: calendar 2.0

Telerik finally got a Q4 2006 beta out the door today with the delivery of calendar 2.0. As predicted back in November, calendar 2.0's major enhancement is the addition of a new time picker. The time picker, like the date picker, allows users to click a button and and select a time from a table of available times. Developers have complete control over the time table template, time selection interval, and time format, which should make the control flexible enough for many different implementations. Combined with the existing date picker, telerik has delivered a rudimentary scheduling control that lays a foundation they will be able to expand upon in future releases.

There are some other notable changes in calendar 2.0 that all upgrading developers should know. First and foremost, calendar 2.0 is not backwards compatible with previous calendar versions. Telerik has changed the entire skinning mechanism of calendar (eliminating the VisualSettings properties) so that calendar now uses the standard telerik skinning process. The benefit of this change is that multiple calendars on the same page can use different skins, a feat previously unachievable. Telerik has also removed the "Mode" (client, server, ajax) settings for calendar. By default, calendar will operate entirely client-side and will only operate server-side if AutoPostBack is enabled. Calendar's internal AJAX mechanism has also been removed requiring all future calendar AJAX request use r.a.d.ajax integration.

You can play with the new beta on the telerik website or you can read the (hidden) help documentation for calendar 2.0 here. All in all this looks like a solid improvement for the calendar control and any developer waiting for telerik to add time picking features should be happy with this release. So far Q4 is looking good!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

r.a.d.ajax nominated for best AJAX framework

The 2007 Sys-Con Readers' Choice Awards have nominated telerik's r.a.d.control suite in the "Best .NET Libraries and Controls" category and r.a.d.ajax in the "Best AJAX Framework" category. Telerik is up against some large industry players in both categories, such as Microsoft's ASP.NET AJAX in the Framework category and Infragistics NetAdvantage for .NET in the Library category. In 2005 (the last award year), telerik was first runner-up in the "Best .NET Libraries and Controls" category, coming in second to Sybase's DataWindow.NET.

According to Sys-Con's website, nominations for these awards closed October 1st and voting began November 1st. Their site is in need of some attention, though, because it appears that the nomination form is still active and the voting form is nowhere to be found. Nonetheless, if you are a fan of the telerik products and you want to participate in the "Oscars for the Software Industry", you have until December 31st to make your vote count. That is, of course, if you can figure out where to vote.

Update: No thanks to the Sys-Con site, I've found the real link to the 2007 Readers' Choice voting page. Click here to officialy get your vote on.

Monday, December 11, 2006

10 days 'til Q4...maybe

It's hard to believe that Q4 is already upon us...well, almost upon us. According to numerous comments from the telerik team over the last few weeks, December 20th is the target release date for the big Q4 2006 release. This release will introduce a number of new product features and lots more product documentation (including a brand new Video Library), much of which I've commented on before. There are no betas for the Q4 release at the time of this post, though they should be available very soon. Once they hit the streets, I'll be sure to bring you any new news regarding what you'll find in the Q4 controls. So keep your RSS readers tuned-in for the latest updates and get ready for another fun-filled release. If there are any announced delays or changes in the release schedule, you can find the information here first.

help redesign

Do you use a lot as you work with the r.a.d.controls? Are there things about the site that you wish were different? Now is the time to let your voice be heard by participating in the new telerik "Web-site Survey" available from your account homepage.

Telerik will be redesigning their website in 2007, pulling together the separate Sitefinity, DotNetNuke, Sharepoint, and Microsoft Content Management Server sites into one telerik site that is better structured to display all of telerik's products. At the same time, telerik will be trying to improve for those of us that use it often, making common tasks easier to complete and making helpful information easier to find.

If you participate in the short, nine question survey you'll also get 2500 Telerik Points good towards any telerik purchase (that's $25 for those exhausted from converting Microsoft Points and Nintendo Points for online game play of late). Not a bad deal for a few minutes out of your Monday routine.

Update: I wasn't sure if the direct link to the survey was tied to each account, but I now know that it's not. You can go directly to the suvery by following this link. You'll just need to provide your email address to get your points at the end of the survey.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

WPF/e CTP released

The first publicly available CTP for Windows Presentation Foundation (everywhere) (WPF/e) was announced yesterday and the veil has finally been lifted on what WPF/e can do. There are a number of great blog posts from the Microsoft Product Managers detailing what's available in this release, so rather than duplicating the effort I'll give you quick access to their posts:

The value and impact of WPF/e really depends on your perspective. From a Microsoft developer point of view, WPF/e will definitely open up a whole new world of interactive design that utilizes existing platform knowledge and skills (like XAML, C#, and JavaScript). Developers will be able to create rich, platform-independent experiences that embedded video (the most trumpeted feature of WPF/e to date) and do other "neat" UI things without ever leaving the comfort of Visual Studio or Visual Expression Developer. No longer will separate applications and languages (like Flash and ActionScript) be necessary to create these experiences.

From an end user perspective, I don't think WPF/e is going to do much to change the way people interact with the web. All of the existing demos showing possible implementations of WPF/e do things that Flash is already doing and that users are already used to (such as platform-independent web video). Some of the WPF/e demos feature "innovative 3D interfaces"- those that allow users to pick an item from a floating, spinning 3D environment- that remind me of the serious usability errors made by early implementations of Flash. Just because you can do (faux) 3D doesn't mean that you should, and most web usability experts would say you shouldn't. Flash had to learn that the hard way, stigmatized as a bad tool to include on "professional" web pages for many years because of its early gratuitous over use (do we really want our menus to bounce when we click them?). Hopefully developers won't do the same thing with WPF/e.

The real challenge for WPF/e, though, will be the rate at which the WPF/e plug-in is adopted. Like Flash and Flash Player, WPF/e requires the user to download and install a small plug-in to view WPF/e pages. The success of Flash has long been attributed (in part) to its 98% global desktop penetration. Developers can count on Flash player being installed on users' computers and design for it. WPF/e will likely achieve good penetration on Windows PCs, but it has a lot of ground to make up to make the platform as pervasive as Flash.

There is no doubt that WPF/e is a great new tool to add to our developer tool-belt, and it will be interesting to watch how telerik interacts with the new platform. Will it radically change the web as some suggest? I don't think so, but I suppose time will tell. What do you think?

Monday, December 04, 2006

testing in IE6 and IE7

If you develop for the web (and you care about your users) then you must test your applications in the 4 - 5 "top tier" browsers, which include Internet Explorer, FireFox, Safari, Opera, and Netscape. Furthermore, you usually need to test your applications in a few different versions of the top tier browsers to make sure you know how your site will behave when users of old browsers come a knockin'. This is a straight forward task for all browsers but one: Internet Explorer.

Microsoft officially introduced Internet Explorer 7 to the world last month and officially made developers lives harder. You cannot run IE6 on a computer that has IE7 installed. While there are hacks out there that allow you to "trick" the OS into running a special IE7 build on an IE6 computer, they are not supported by Microsoft and they do not accurately simulate your users' IE7 experience. It is unclear why Microsoft thought developers would not need to continue IE6 testing for years to come (and thus provide no support for side-by-side testing), but they have seen the error of their way and offered a new option.

Last week, the IEBlog announced that Microsoft would be making Virtual PC 2004 bundled with a pre-activated copy of Windows XP SP2 and IE6 a free download. That's right, you can now do Virtual PC testing of you web apps without the need to purchase an additional Windows XP license (the requirement until last week). This is huge news and a very generous (albeit necessary) peace offering from Microsoft to help developers test applications in older versions of IE. It is possible that VPC images with older versions of IE (like IE5.5, IE5, etc.) may become available, but for now it's just IE6.

So if you're like me and you've been running hacks to test with IE7 and IE6, dump the hacks, install IE7 on your primary dev box, and download the free goods from Microsoft today!

Friday, December 01, 2006

LAMP, WISA, LAMA, and telerik

If you pay any attention to the varying philosophies on web development, you'll know that there is an "enthusiastic" (dare I say religious) following of the Open Source Linux + Apache + MySql + Php/Perl/Python (or LAMP) stack. This "stack" (a word that roughly means "platform") carries the banner for Open Source web development and it has several huge websites to trumpet its ability run modern applications that scale well, such as and At the core of this stack is the Linux operating system, which many people consider to be a more secure and better scaling OS than Windows.

As ASP.NET developers, we don't often give second thought to running happily along on our easy to manage and well supported Windows + IIS + SQL Server + ASP.NET (or WISA) "stack". Microsoft created all of the technologies in this "stack"- from our venerable database software to our modern web programming language- so why mess with what works? Besides, everyone knows that you need IIS to run ASP.NET, so that automatically precludes you from even considering Linux or Apache. Or does it?

Earlier this month Novell and Microsoft announced a patent truce that prevents the companies from suing each other over patent disputes for certain technologies. Among the covered technologies in Mono, an open source project that has been doing the work to enable .NET applications (Web or Windows) to run on Linux. Several days after the announced truce, the Mono project announced a new release that delivers full support for the .NET 1.1 run-time and "preview" support for much of the .NET 2.0 run-time (including ASP.NET). With its new found protection and aggressive Road Map to deliver full .NET 2.0 (and eventually .NET 3.0) support, can ASP.NET developers realistically consider new stacks?

That's the question I will address in future posts on Telerik Watch, specifically focusing on how well (if at all) the telerik controls function in a Mono environment and what considerations you must make in your application design if you plan to try Mono in the future. There is no question that the WISA "stack" will always be the easiest (and probably fastest) way to run .NET, but it's always good to know your options. If Mono 2.0 makes it easy for ASP.NET to run on a Linux + Apache + MySql + ASP.NET (or LAMA) stack, perhaps LAMA will become the new LAMP.