Tuesday, April 29, 2008

.NET Ninja t-shirt giveaway winners

The contest is over. The entries have been collected. The true .NET Ninjas have shared their stories with us. And while the stories have no actual bearing on the winners, we did get some pretty incredible tales. Everything from someone who actually survived a caffeine-free development day to a true ninja master that never programs with caffeine. Truly inspiring.

To further establish his place a .NET Ninja master, commenter Nick (our caffeine-free developer) also relayed an incredible story that puts him in the running for .NET Ninja of the Year or the Darwin Awards- I haven't decided which yet. In short, while going about his normal, stealthy, .NET Ninja developer duties, assassins from KAOS sabotaged transformers near his building causing them to explode in a massive fireball. But rather than run for safety and rely on his trusty off-site back-ups...eh hem...Nick rushed in to the building right next to the burning fireball to try to save his database servers. Unfortunately, the flames licking at the building were too much even for a great .NET Ninja and the DB servers were lost, but the story is still impressive.

But since the .NET Ninja stories were all good, I have decided that there will be no losers in the giveaway. Everyone that commented by the deadline that meets the contest guidelines (primarily, that you're in the US), will get their very own .NET Ninja t-shirt! Who's the .NET Ninja master now? Winners- email me at todd [dot] anglin [at] telerik [dot com] and I'll send you your prizes.

Microsoft using Telerik RadControls for ASP.NET AJAX

Often- well, maybe not "often," but every now and then- I hear criticism that goes something like this: "Yeah, your UI controls look cool and work well in your simple little demo apps, but where can I see them working in the real world?!" It's a fair critique. After all, nobody at Telerik is ignorant to the fact that the applications you're building with our controls are much more complex than the demos we usually put out there. Largely this is to keep the demos simple enough to still be usable as learning tools (imagine trying to use your massive project as a learning tool......), but still, no excuses! You want some real-world proof that our controls really are the best out there!

I'm pleased to announce that after a number of month's of work, Microsoft has begun rolling out Telerik's RadControls for ASP.NET AJAX on its MSDN and TechNet websites. How's that for real world use?!

In this initial roll-out, Microsoft has replaced the rich text editor in their Wiki Annotation feature (used to add and edit Community Content in the MSDN and TechNet libraries) with the RadEditor for ASP.NET AJAX. If you ever add Community Content on the MSDN and TechNet websites in the future, you'll be using the RadEditor. To see the RadEditor in action, you will need to login to the MSDN or TechNet website with your LiveID. The partnership with Microsoft is also benefiting the RadEditor for all Telerik customers as we work hard to add features and maximize performance with Microsoft's valuable feedback.

So while survey-based awards and niche industry awards are good to have on your shelf, being able to point to your controls as Microsoft's choice for UI components on MSDN and TechNet (I think you'll agree) is much more valuable. Watch for more great announcements stemming from this partnership in the future, and in the mean time, enjoy developing with the tools the guys and gals in Redmond use.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Optimization Tips:The Rad Managers for ASP.NET AJAX

Today I am kicking-off a new series of blog posts that will focus on showing you specific ways you can optimize the performance of your applications built with Telerik's RadControls for ASP.NET AJAX. Whenever we use UI components to accelerate our web development, it is easy to forget that we still need to be "smart" developers when it comes to optimizing our web applications. Telerik tries to do as much as is possible at a component level to help with optimization, but as with any good thing like rich UI controls, too much is a bad thing. In this post and those that follow, I will delve in to optimization tips and tricks and show you the effects of each on a sample application. Hopefully it will help you become a better developer and enable you to maximize the performance of your apps, especially those with Telerik's RadControls.

Today's focus is on the new RadScriptManager and RadStyleSheetManager controls. These "manager" controls enable you to easily combine in to a single link all of the JavaScript and CSS links required by the RadControls. Why combine? One of the biggest bottlenecks for browsers these days is created by the concurrent requests limit. By default, both IE and Firefox limit concurrent requests per server to 4, as is recommend by the HTTP RFC guidelines. This limit can be changed, but expect few of your users to actually have done so as the process requires advanced computer skills.

With a limit of 4 concurrent requests (2 persistent connections), you can see how easy it is to clog the pipe with all of the request for images, JavaScript, and CSS on your page. Combining many links for CSS and JavaScript in to a single request can significantly improve your page load time by reducing the number of round-trip requests your page makes when it loads. And by doing the combining dynamically at runtime you don't have to send any unnecessary JavaScript to the client (for controls not in use) or manually maintain combined JavaScript files. It's one of the easiest and most effective optimization tips available.

Let's see the effect of these managers on a simple demo app that uses RadGrid, RadMenu, RadTreeview, RadAjax, and RadSplitter. We'll use FireBug (in Firefox 2) and Fiddler for our tests, and we'll run our site from IIS to ensure we get accurate performance numbers.

Requests and Bytes
The first thing you should notice when using the Managers is that the number of requests your page generates is reduced significantly. Let's take a look at the difference:

  • Requests without Managers
      • Unprimed cache: 32 @ 21.4 KB
      • Primed cache: 3 @ 2.6 KB
  • Requests with Managers
      • Unprimed cache: 16 @ 11.2 KB
      • Primed cache: 1 @ 1.8 KB
Clearly, the managers have a significant impact on your requests. In this demo app, they cut in half the number of requests and the number of bytes sent to the server on page load. That's a pretty significant gain and bandwidth savings for your user. Even on the download side, the Managers reduced the payload sent from the server about 11% on average, for both primed and unprimed page loads.

Page Load Times
While reducing the number of requests and bytes is good academically, it's ultimately page load time that matters to users. To see the effect the Managers have on page load time, I ran the demo through the online stopwatch in IE7, IE8 beta 1, FF2, and FF3 beta 5. I ran the stop watch 6 times for each browser, 3 unprimed cache tests, 3 primed cache tests. I then compiled the results in to the following chart.

This chart reveals a few interesting facts about the Mangers' effect on page load time:
  • Usually, for both primed and unprimed caches, the Managers reduce page load time
      • Unprimed improvement: 30%
      • Primed Improvement: less than 1%
      • Primed Improvement without FF2: 3%
  • As has been observed in other performance tests, FF2 is a poor performing browser
      • It renders pages slowly and renders cached pages slower than first request pages
      • FF3 is a lot faster than FF2 (yay!)
  • Almost all browsers tested render the test page in less than 1 sec with Managers
      • True for primed and unprimed cache
      • Key exception is FF2, but see note above. FF3 solves the problem.
Whether or not you'll see a 30% improvement on initial page load time in your app will require your own testing, but this analysis definitely makes it clear that the Managers can have a very real impact on improving your page's load time.

Optimization Tip Summary
To cut significantly reduce the requests and bandwidth required by your page on the initial visit, and to significantly trim your initial page load time, you should add the RadScriptManager and RadStyleSheetManager to your ASP.NET AJAX applications. For more details on how to add these controls to your page, see this page for the ScriptManager and this page for the StyleSheetManager in the Telerik documentation.

Next up, we'll look at the impact debug=true and the Visual Studio development server have on your page's performance.

Reminder: Reveal your .NET Ninja stories today

This serves as a quick reminder that the .NET Ninja t-shirt giveaway closes tonight at midnight, Texas time. That means you've got another 12 hours or so to let the world know how you've used the skills of the ninja to carry out your .NET programming tasks. We've already got some great stories from those that have commented, so you'll really have to turn it up a notch to be the ultimate ninja. That said, remember that you don't have to leave a great ninja story to win. Simply leave a comment on the original contest post and you'll be eligible for the prize. I promise a ninja assassin won't be lurking the shadows of your office if you don't have an interesting story to tell...or at least one you'll ever see.

So grab your .NET throwing stars and bound over to the contest post to leave your mark- and if you're a good ninja, we won't even notice you do it!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Second Life Heroes Launch Event Tomorrow

I regret not giving this event more coverage on my blog, but late is better than never (right?). Tomorrow, Saturday, April 26th, in the vast realms of Second Life, Microsoft and the Second Life .NET User Group are putting on a virtual Heroes Launch. You may have seen Heroes Happen Here Launch events in the "real world" over the last few months. They are being organized all over the globe to help get people introduced Visual Studio 2008, SQL Server 2008, and Windows Server 2008. And now they're even being organized "out of this world" and in the virtual realms of Second Life.

All of the action will kick-off tomorrow at 9:00 AM SLT (Second Life Time = PST) and run 'til about 5:00 PM. To join the fun, all you need to do is make sure you've downloaded and installed Second Life (it's free), created a goofy avatar (as in silly, not the Disney character...though I guess you could do that, too), and then transport on over to the new Microsoft User Group Island. It really couldn't be easier and it is a great way to get involved in the launch events if you've been unable to attend one in RL (real life, for uninitiated).

For a complete and detailed schedule of tomorrow's events, visit the Second Life DNUG website. It looks just like a real world conference schedule- the only difference is you can attend this one in your PJs. So get everything setup tonight and then come on out to the event tomorrow! If nothing else, I'll be at the event for a while and would love to meet you- look for the very normal avatar sporting the Telerik t-shirt and going by the name Bluelaser Hax.

Survey Says: You are (probably) not a programmer

In my opinion, the most interesting surveys (or polls) are those that return results very different from what you expected. It's something like watching a movie that has a twist at the end that you never saw coming. The experience is just more satisfying than having your preconceived expecations reinforced by the actual results. Such was the case with the most recent survey run on this blog asking you to answer the question: Why do you write code? In the survey, I asked you to identify with one of three groups: hardcore programmers, pragmatic programmers, and 9-to-5 programmers. When I created the survey, I fully expected the distribution of respones to be biased towards hardcore and pragmatic programmers. I expected very few people making the extra effort to read this blog to identify with the 9-to-5 group. Man was I wrong.

With the survey now closed, I was nothing short of shocked to see a near perfect bell curve distribution of developers in the three categories. Specifically, 30% of respondents identified themselves as "hardcore" programmers (programming because they love it), 30% identified themselves as "9-to-5" programmers (program only at work to pay the bills), and the remaining 40% fell in to the pragmatic programmer group (programing as a means to an end). I personally fall in to the middle group with the slight majority of you that read this blog (maybe that's why you read...), but that should be no surprise given my previous admissions of not be a programmer.

So what can you take away from this little super scientific survey? If nothing else, this should serve a stark reminder that we all program for different reasons and that we should never assume other .NET programmers are interested in super optimized, hard core programming. In fact, if anything, this survey suggests that the majority of .NET programmers- 70% by this count- are not interested in hard core programming.

Care to share why you selected the group you voted for in the survey? Sound-off in the comments and let everyone know why you write code and then answer the new survey question: Do you unit test your code?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hundreds of controls coming to Silverlight

Even though the vast majority of Scott Guthrie's ASP.NET Connections keynote yesterday was review for anyone following the .NET scene (which you are if you're reading this blog), he did manage to (intentionally or not) share a couple of interesting Silverlight news items.

First, while talking about Silverlight UI controls, Scott mentioned that there are thirty-five controls currently included in Silverlight 2. Thirty-five? Really? I suppose it depends on what you count as a "control," but by my best and most liberal count I don't see more than 30 controls in Silverlight 2 beta 1 (stay tuned for some interesting news about a new article I'm publishing on this very topic). Where are the other five controls Scott referenced? Is it possible he's alluding to some new controls that are ready to go in beta 2? I can't say for certain, but his next comment really makes this a moot point.

Continuing with his comments on UI controls, Scott said in a year's time (or so) there would be over 100 controls built-in to Silverlight. I know?! Over one-hundred? That's not only a lot of controls for a .NET platform, but it sounds like more controls than Microsoft has ever shipped for any of its previous application platforms. Again, the definition of "control" could be causing some confusion here, but the core message is the same: in about a year, Microsoft is going to more than triple the number of built-in controls in Silverlight.

So what? Well, this "news" should give you more comfort that Silverlight is getting aggressive investment from Microsoft and give you hope that anything you don't see in Silverlight today will probably be there in less than a year. It also means that when it comes to developing for Silverlight, Microsoft is going the extra-mile to make sure you have all the incentive you need to build your apps on the infant platform. I guess now it's time to wait and see what Microsoft delivers.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Share your ninja story, Win a .NET Ninja t-shirt

Sooo...I haven't given anything away in a while on this blog, and seeing as I'm in the giving mood with three people just recently winning over $3,500 in software from Telerik, I think it's time to run another giveaway contest. The prize for this contest is Telerik's brand new ".NET Ninja" t-shirt unveild at DevConnections. This shirt is hugely popular at the conference and it is in hot demand. Even other UI component vendors visited our booth looking to join the .NET Ninja ranks, so that should say something about how "hot" this shirt is. At tonight's DevConnections party, it looked like a Telerik company party with .NET Ninjas sporting their t-shirts everywhere. Geekettes were represented, too, but those shirts are so hot, I don't even have any to giveaway!

To win one of the .NET Ninja t-shirts I'm giving away (I've got at least one, maybe two or three if I can scrounge them up), simply leave a comment on this post by midnight on Monday, April 28th telling me why you think you deserve to join the ranks of the .NET Ninja. Have you coded an application blindfolded with killer alligators snapping around you? Have you solved a production problem without ever touching a keyboard? Have you ever programmed without caffeine? If you've managed any of these ninja-like developer feats- or anything else out of the ordinary while building .NET applications- sound off in the comments for your chance to win.

Standard rules apply: only one comment per person. Winners will be selected in a fair and random way. Shirts can only be shipped to the US and Canada (very sorry international readers, the shipping paperwork is just too hard to ship overseas). Comment now and check back next Tuesday to see if you've won!

DevConnections Presentation Follow-up, Slides and Code

In addition to being Platinum sponsors of this year's spring Dev Connections, Telerik also had the opportunity to do one "vendor session" presentation. I took the stage last night with Tervel Peykov from the Telerik ASP.NET product teams to deliver this session, and I am happy to report that it was a huge success! More than 150 people turned out to fill the room and catch our presentation on developing "rich, responsive, high-performance" applications with the new RadControls for ASP.NET AJAX. The presentation generated a lot of good questions- both on the general technologies covered and the RadControls- so all-in-all, we were very happy we had this chance to get in front of a big DevConnections audience and talk about our controls.

If you were among the crowd at the presentation, thanks again for coming out! It was a lot of fun to meet you- most of you - and I hope you enjoyed the content we covered. As promised, the slides and code from our presentation are being made available at the bottom of this blog post, so whether you were in attendance or not, you can download the slides and code and learn how the RadControls can help you as a developer. I also want to congratulate again the three people that won full RadControl subscriptions after our presentation- if you're reading this, send me some lucky lotto numbers!

Download the slides and code

Monday, April 21, 2008

LIVE from DevConnections 2008 Expo Floor

Now that you've vicariously attended the big Scott Guthrie ASP.NET Connections keynote, it's time to visit the spring DevConnections 2008 Expo floor! The expo space at DevConnections is not huge- especially by TechEd standards- but it is packed with a lot of good companies showing their wares. And Telerik is on the expo floor this year in a big way- a big, big way. We unveiled for the first time our brand new, 20' x 20', custom-built booth!

The booth (pictured above and in a new gallery) features a ton of hands-on demo space and it has a couple of big screen HDTVs for large audience viewing. When you visit us at a conference now, it will be easier than ever for us to show you all of our great product demos and even let you take the controls and try the demos for yourself. We've also got a swank audio system pumping out the tunes from our demo videos, giving our booth a nice laid-back, modern vibe. I think we have more than a "booth" now; now we have "Club Telerik."

We've already had some great conversations on the floor with people interested in our controls. Our dedicated fans customers have also shown-up to say 'hi', meet some of the guys from the product teams (there are 5 of them here), and tell us how they're using our tools. That's always the best part of these shows.

Finally, we also unvield a great new t-shirt at this conference. If you've been to any of the big conferences Telerik attended in the past, you may know that we've established a reputation for always giving away some of the "best" .NET t-shirts you can find. Among our big "hits" from the past are the ".NET Superstar" shirt and the female-oriented "Geekette" shirt. This year, we're proud to introduce the very cool ".NET Ninja" t-shirt!

I'll soon post details (and a picture) on how you can win one of these shirts for yourself, so keep your feed readers tuned-in for continuing "live" coverage of Connections 2008.

LIVE from ASP.NET Connections ScottGu Keynote

Note: Due to connection problems, this coverage was previously recorded.

8:00 AM - Okay, we're here, settled in to our seats, trying to get the Sprint wireless Internet to work. Hopefully things will work soon. Scott's on stage finishing some Starbucks and waiting for people to finish streaming-in.

8:03 AM - Here we go. Scott's welcoming us to the show and commenting on his past trips to speak at DevConnections. He's also running through the crazy list of teams he manages. This guy is a machine.

8:05 AM - Talking about VS 2008 and .NET 3.5. Just running down the basic list of features and benefits of these new releases. Nothing new if you've been following .NET and Visual Studio actively.

8:08 AM - Shreeeeeek! His wireless mic just had some major feedback that really woke-up this sleepy-eyed crowd. Now everybody's paying attention.

8:09 AM - Still talking Visual Studio features. Talking now about support for debugging in to the .NET framework. He polled the audience to ask how many people have used the feature before. No many people here have.

8:10 AM - Demo time! Scott's showing-off the ability to browse and debug the core ASP.NET code in Visual Studio 2008. The feature downloads the .NET source on-demand from Microsoft's servers so you can view it in the VS debugger. Pretty cool learning tool, if nothing else.

8:13 AM - Back to the slides and now time to talk about IIS7 and ASP.NET. Again with the basic feature coverage.

8:17 AM - Time for another demo. This time we're going to look at some IIS features and how they integrate tightly with ASP.NET. Scott reminded us that the IIS7 Manager communicates over HTTP, which means you can easily use the IIS7 Manager to manage servers through firewalls wherever they're hosted. Pretty cool. He's also showing us how you can use the IIS7 Manager to directly manage your ASP.NET Membership users and roles. You no longer have to build your own custom page or UI to manage your .NET Membership users- just use IIS7.

8:20 AM - Slides again. We're now talking IIS7 support for web farms. Mentions that Dell.com and some other huge commerce site are already running on .NET 3.5 and IIS7. Point: IIS7 can scale very well.

8:22 AM - Time to shift gear and talk about what's coming (vs. what we already have). Finally.

8:23 AM - First-up is talk about the extensions being added to ASP.NET this year, like Dynamic Data, history support in ASP.NET AJAX, and MVC. He said we can also expect additional improvements in VS 2008 that deliver better JS formatting and that make it easier to support other Ajax libraries (like JQuery).

8:25 AM - Demo. He's now showing us how Data Dynamics works and how you go about creating a Dynamics site in VS 2008. Just a minute before he polled the audience to ask how many people build SQL driven websites and again got crickets. This audience is -really- dead and just not than excited this morning. Scott made a joke that he thought he may be at the wrong conference speaking to an audience that's never heard of .NET that was received to chuckles.

8:33 AM - Still showing a Dynamic Data demo and how the scaffolding automatically builds a CRUD interface. He's also talking LinqToSQL/LinqToEntities and how those technologies play a central row to Dynamic Data's features. Actually, he's going to show us how to use LinqToSQL to do business rule validation when data is updated. With this dead crowd, though, nobody is "oohing" or "awing" when he shows a what is supposed to be a cool feature. Poor Scott. It's like talking to an oil painting. Finished the demo by saying Dynamic Data stuff would be officially released later this summer.

8:38 AM - Back to the slides and now on to ASP.NET MVC. Scott started talking about MVC as a "new way" to do ASP.NET programming then quickly caught himself when he switched slides and revised his language to "new option." It's clear they're -really- trying make sure people understand MVC is not going to replace WebForms. Case in point: the first bullet on his MVC slide called it a "new option," the last bullet said "it's not for everyone." Get the theme?

8:42 AM - Just talking about how MVC works. Nothing new or shocking here, but definitely look for Scott's slides later if you're interested in his diagrams.

8:44 AM - Now for the demo. Scott's going to show us how to build a MVC site in Visual Studio. It's just another MVC catalog demo (showing Product, Category, Detail views), which seem to be about as common as carousel demos for WPF. I understand that this is a very clear and easy concept to demo MVC's functionality, but 'common. Let's see some more creativity with MVC! Scott's also showing us how to write unit tests for MVC, which is actually a good way to demo MVC and get people familiar with seeing TDD.

8:55 AM - ...writing code for MVC demo...

8:58 AM - We're finally done with MVC and now we're back to the slides. Scott's talking ".NET Continuum"- essentially, the story of Silverlight. "We're coming-up with a plug-in called Silverlight." Really?! Shocking. Honestly, who is forking over $1800 to attend this conference without knowing about Silverlight?

9:01 AM - Scott's covering Silverlight's basic feature list (multi-language support, WPF UI framework, LINQ support, etc.). Says Silverlight is about 1000 times faster than JavaScript running in the browser in terms of processing time!

9:04 AM - Scott says Silverlight currently has 35 UI controls. Really? Last time I counted there were no more than 29. Maybe there are some new controls that haven't been revealed he's counting. He also says there will be over 100 controls provided in Silverlight in a years time! That's news (finally).

9:08 AM - Silverlight demo time. Scott's getting things started by showing us the Hard Rock Memorabilia site (that premiered at MIX) that showcases Deep Zoom. More evidence that Deep Zoom is a cool demo technology, but hard to demo for practical uses. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Memorabilia app has generated the most crowd excitement and interest so far. Let me rephrase, the most impractical technology shown by Scott today is the only one that got people stirring. Go figure.

9:15 AM - Scott's now moved past the Hard Rock site and is showing us how to build a simple Silverlight site in Visual Studio. Says 99% of the time a Silverlight content will be running in the content of an ASP.NET website. Thinks of it more as rich content enhancements you can add to your ASP.NET site. Interesting perspective.

9:21 AM - ...still building his basic Silverlight demo. Using Blend to show-off design-time features. Showing workflow integration between Visual Studio and Blend. He's now building the simple IM application in Silverlight that he's built a number of blog posts around. If you're interested, refer to his blog posts.

9:27 AM - Demo is still going. Looks like Scott is going to run a little past his 9:30 cut-off.

9:31 AM - "In the future, you may see an ASP.NET server control that uses Silverlight for rich UI presentation but keeps data processing on the server." Interesting! Microsoft is thinking about making Silverlight a core front-end option for ASP.NET.

9:33 AM - Scott's wrapping things-up now. Reviewing what we "learned" today. Still saying Silverlight is due "later this year"- no willingness to get more specific on the time frame.

9:35 AM - And that's it! Hope you enjoyed the coverage (even if there wasn't anything particularly "exciting" in this keynote). Clearly, a keynote at MIX and a keynote at DevConnections mean very different things.

With the keynote coverage wrapped, stay tuned for some live booth blogging from the expo floor soon.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

New RadControls Installer in Q1 2008

Did you notice something different when you installed your Q1 2008 RadControls for ASP.NET AJAX? If you didn't, welcome to the RadControls! This was probably your first install and I hope you enjoyed it. If you have been with Telerik for a while, though, then you probably noticed that the ASP.NET AJAX installer has received a major face lift! The new installer is more than an attractive face lift, its performance has also be radically improved. Gone are the days of needlessly long installs and uninstalls. Everything now happens in 5 to 10 minutes (depending on your rig's setup).

The new installer is hard to do justice in words alone, so I've gone the extra mile a prepared a complete, narrated photo gallery showing exactly what's new. If you're looking for yet another reason to upgrade to Q1 2008, check out my gallery and enjoy the beautiful new shots of the installer. The experience is elegant and fast and a great way to get started with the RadControls for ASP.NET AJAX.

The WinForms and Reporting installers haven't received the visual punch that the ASP.NET AJAX installer got, but they have still been improved in the Q1 2008 release. We spent a lot of time over the last several months optimizing our installers as much as possible so that your first experience with every release is positive and fast. We want you to be able to get right to developing solutions with the RadControls as quickly as possible. Hopefully you enjoy the new installation wizards and see the results of our hard work. Let us know what you think.

View installer image gallery

Friday, April 18, 2008

Join Telerik at DevConnections next week

We're here in sunny central Florida again (Orlando, to be specific) for spring DevConnections 2008! Actually, we're really here for ASP.NET Connections, but all of the "connections" kind of run together in my opinion. This is an exciting show for Telerik for a few reasons:

  1. We've got a brand new, custom designed, huge booth to premier at this show!
  2. We just released Q1 2008, so we've got some great new demos to show-off
  3. We've got a cool vendor session to present at the conference
If you're in the Orlando area, come on out to DevConnections and say hello. The Telerik crew (and our shiny new booth) will be in booth space 107 on the exhibit floor. We're also a Platinum Sponsor of this event, so I'm sure that means there will be some Telerik swag floating around that you can collect.

If you're not in the Orlando area (or if you just don't want to pay "the man" to get in the door), fret not. Just like I did at MIX in March, I'll be making my best effort to live blog the various keynotes that I attend so you can experience all of the action from the comfort of your keyboard. I'll also be updating the blog with periodic updates from the show floor, complete with pictures, so you'll almost feel like you're here with us at the event...almost...

These events are always a lot of fun and we love meeting customers in person. Stay tuned for all of the DevConnections updates- things kick-off Monday morning with ScottGu's keynote!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Q1 2008 release now live!

What better way to celebrate the end of tax season (you did file your taxes [US readers], didn't you?) than to welcome the huge, highly-anticipated Q1 2008 RadControls release! It's really not fair to call this a "RadControls" release anymore since the release encompasses both the RadControls for WinForms/ASP.NET and Telerik Reporting. But no matter what you call it, the release is big, loaded with great features and improvements (most of which have been aired on this blog), and is now ready for download!

And let's not forget that this release marks another huge occasion: RadControls "Prometheus" is now officially RadControls for ASP.NET AJAX and no longer in beta! This has been a huge effort, started well over a year ago, and I think anyone that's used the Prometheus controls can say it has truly been worth the work. A huge thanks goes out to all of you that downloaded and started using the Prometheus controls in 2007. Your feedback and ideas really helped make the RadControls for ASP.NET AJAX the best suite of UI components for ASP.NET on the market.

If you've been waiting for the beta to end to get started with the RadControls for ASP.NET AJAX, today's your lucky day. Don't waste any time in downloading the new controls (you'll find the RadControls for ASP.NET AJAX on the top of your download list, now, assuming its rightful place as "king of the hill").

WinForms and Reporting are also big players in this release. If you've been waiting for RTF export in Reporting or dying for the radically optimized RadGridView for WinForms, you'll also want to download the new release right away. In the weeks ahead, I'll start to demo more of the new features in all of Telerik's products so that those of you without time to see for yourself can be amazed at what's new. But trust me, this is a release worth downloading today.

So much to say, so little time. For now, I'll leave you with the excitement of release day and give you some time to play with the new controls. Enjoy!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Telerik, DiscountASP.NET partner (again) to save you money

Looking for ways to pass the time while you wait for this week's big Q1 2008 release? Why not check-out the recently announced new partnership between Telerik and DiscountASP.NET. As you may recall, Telerik partnered with DiscountASP.NET a couple of months ago to bring you a special Sitefinity offer. Under that partnership, you received a 15% discount on a Sitefinity license and 6 free months of hosting from DiscountASP. The new partnership is aimed at saving you (and your developer friends) money on Telerik's RadControls when they choose DiscountASP.NET as their host.

Here's how the new offer works:

  1. First, you need a DiscountASP.NET hosting account. This can be a new account or an existing account. And if you've never used Discount to host a site before, I have nothing but good things to say about their service after using them for years. Read my endorsement in my last Discount partnership post.
  2. Next, visit the DiscountASP.NET Marketplace (from your hosting Control Panel) and locate the Telerik deal. Discount will provide you with a coupon code.
  3. Take that code, visit Telerik.com, and get $50 off your purchase!
Easy enough, right? So if you've got a Telerik purchase planned (ahem...Q1 2008...) and you need some quality ASP.NET shared hosting, this is the best way to save $50 on your Telerik purchase. Well, either this or the $300 dollars you could save by completing the Reporting Challenge. So let's just call this the easiest way to save $50 on your Telerik purchase. Enjoy the discount and stay tuned for the Q1 release. It's only a couple of days away!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Telerik Reporting Challenge open, Win a $1000

A couple of weeks ago Telerik started a brand new challenge focused on Telerik Reporting. In this challenge, we're simply asking that you send us a short 1 - 2 page case study outlining how you've used Telerik Reporting to handle your reporting needs. We're very interested to see how different people are using Telerik Reporting to create innovative and elegant solutions in the .NET community, so now is your chance to show-off your Reporting skills. And the best part of the challenge is that everybody is a winner! No, really. Everybody.

Here's how the prizes work: You submit a short case study telling us how you use Telerik Reporting with a few screenshots. Assuming you meet the requirements (which you should if you spend any real amount of effort on this task), you'll be able to select one of three prizes:

  • A free 1-year extension of your Telerik Reporting subscription license
  • A free additional Telerik Reporting license (for you or a friend)
  • A $300 coupon towards any Telerik purchase!
Easy enough, but it gets better. After the deadline for accepting new case studies closes, all approved case studies will be featured on Telerik.com where the community will vote on which case study is the best. The case study that gets the most community votes will win the big $1000 Amazon Gift Card.

So get cracking on those case studies. Even if you haven't used Telerik Reporting yet, download the trial, implement a solution, and send us a case study. You've got until July to create and sumbit a case study, so you have some time to come-up with a great idea and submit it. Make it innovative enough, and you may just have a nice little summer bonus waiting for you.

Submit your case studies now

Reminder: Q1 2008 due next week

If you're not already counting down the days with the Q1 2008 quiz game (any why aren't you?!), don't forget that next week welcomes the introduction of the big Q1 2008 release! There has already been a lot of coverage on what to expect in this release in my past blog posts, and even more info is being revealed day-by-day in the Q1 game. I highly encourage you to review those resources to remind yourself what's new, what's changed, and what's important in the Q1 release.

Since I've dedicated most of my previous coverage to the enhancements coming in the ASP.NET AJAX controls, let me take a moment and highlight some of the cool new things coming to the Reporting and WinForms products:

Telerik Reporting

  • Brand new VS-integrated designer with much improved layout support
  • New! Export to RTF
  • New! Automatic report parameter UI (for accepting run-time user supplied parameters)
    • Available in both ASP.NET and WinForms viewers
RadControls for WinForms
  • Radically improved and highly optimized RadGridView
  • New! RadCarousel and RadForm controls
  • New! Help Desk and CAB demo apps
  • 2 new themes
Clearly, a lot happening across the Telerik portfolio of products. There are even some exciting new previews of the RadControls for WPF and Silverlight coming soon, but that's all I can say about that for now (more details soon). In the mean time, clear some time next week to start upgrading your projects to the Q1 2008 release, which should drop by mid-week. Keep your readers tuned to this blog for up-to-the-minute updates!

New Survey: Why do you write code?

I don't usually dedicate a full post to introducing a survey, but I think this survey needs some extra explanation to ensure accurate results. The question posed in the new blog poll is simple:

"What is the primary reason you write code?"

We all are motivated to write code for different reasons. No reason is necessarily better than another, but understanding that not all programmers are programming for the same reason is essential when we interact with people in the .NET community. For purposes of this survey, I want you to indicate which of these three groups most closely defines why you write code:

  1. "Enjoy coding" - this is the group for people that don't just write code, they write good code. Nobody's perfect, of course, but if you're in this group you would feel bad releasing code that wasn't at least covered by unit tests. If you're the type of person that is always using coding best practices, following well defined coding patterns, and in constant pursuit of writing the most optimized and concise code possible, this is the group for you.

  2. "To create solutions for problems" - this is the group for people that see coding as a means to an end. You enjoy coding and you may even occasionally try to implement a pattern here or there, but your primary motivation is to just write code that works so that a real world problem can be solved. You're aware of issues like performance and optimization, but you care more about seeing the solution than seeing great code.

  3. "To eat" - this group is for those of you that code but wish you didn't have to. At the very most, you don't mind coding because it pays the bills, but you'd rather be doing something else if you thought you could make money doing it. I don't expect many readers of this blog to fall in to this category, but you never know. If you consider yourself a "9 to 5" programmer (you're involvement and interest in anything code related ends when you leave work) this is your group. To you, a .NET User Group meeting might as well be a Tupperware party, and you wouldn't be caught dead at either.
There is obviously some gray area between these groups, and we all are probably a blend of these characteristics to some degree. For the survey, vote for the group that most identifies you. The goal is to discover how you think of your relationship with programming and to visualize the different types of programmers in the .NET community. Cast your vote now and check-back for the results in a couple of weeks.

Note to RSS subscribers: The poll is on the right side of the blog and cannot be embedded in posts. Please take a second to visit the site and cast your vote, too.

Survey Says: C# more popular than VB

Another survey and another set of interesting results. From the get go, I expected this survey to generate a lot of interest since the choice between VB and C# seems pseudo-religious. Mention you're a VB programmer in a room full of geeks and your liable to earn the scoffs, smirks- if not outright insults- of the crowd. Unfortunate, but true.

I got my start in .NET programming VB. "No!" you say. Actually, yes. My first real "programming" experience was as a web developer doing VBScript for ASP classic. Once I made the jump to ASP.NET, I had to choose a .NET language: VB.NET felt right at home, C# looked like geek speak. So VB.NET it was. I liked VB, too, even in the face of my younger brother (a much more talented programmer than I, now headed-off to work in Redmond) ribbing me with the fact that VB was created "to enable dumb people to program." He may not have got that exactly correct, but VB's naming roots (and little else these days) are in BASIC, which stands for...anyone?..."Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code."

Needless to say, I've since migrated to programming primarily in C#. Not because I'm ashamed of VB, but I finally realized how much syntactic overhead is involved in writing VB code. But enough about me, let's analyze you.

Over 60% of survey respondents indicate that C# is their primary programming language, about 34% VB, and a few people use J# or some other .NET language. This is absolutely consistent with other indicators I've recently seen- from O'Reilly book sales trends to Telerik customer requests- that suggest VB's usage is on the decline. The question is why?

I theorize that it may have to do with two primary factors:

  1. Visual Tool Support - For the legions of enterprise programmers out there (the group largely associated with defaulting to VB, thanks largely to the era of pre-.NET Windows dev tools), the visual tools that once only existed for VB now exist for C#. Using Visual Studio no longer means that you have to use VB. With more choices, enterprise developers (motivated by factor two) my be opting for C# with visual developer support.
  2. The VB Stigma - Good or bad, VB definitely carries a stigma in geek circles. Even "9 to 5" programmers know this and they would probably prefer to avoid the harassment. With the modern incarnations of Visual Studio, they can now use a C-like language with ease and "feel cool" when attending conferences and hanging out with other geeks. I'll toss a little personal experience at supporting this theory.
Clearly, this survey isn't definitive and it's only a moment in time. I'll have to run this survey again next year to see if any measurable trend emerges. Until then, let's all make an effort to embrace our VB and C# friends and promote language diversity in the .NET community. And if you have trouble communicating, there's always the handy Code Converter there to do the translation for you.

Watch for the next survey announcement soon.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Countdown to Q1, Join the game

The fun is finally beginning. We are only weeks away from our big Q1 2008 release and the energy and excitement is already building around the huge improvements in this release. But nothing helps mark the arrival of a new release like the start of another release game! That's right. We've got another fun community driven game that is launching today that will help you countdown the days to the big Q1 release. This Q's game is a little different from games past, though, and it will require you to do a little thinking. Here's how it works:

  1. You visit the Telerik Countdown site everyday between now and the release (14 days away)
  2. Answer the question of the day (it's multiple choice and easy)
  3. The questions highlight different Telerik product features. Once enough people answer correctly each day, some details about the Q1 release will be revealed.
See. That's not very hard. The game is built with Silverlight 2.0, so it's also another fun example of how Silverlight can be used on the web. To get you started, I'll also give you a hint about today's question so that you can contribute a right answer to the cause. The question asks about Telerik Reporting and my hint for you is that Telerik Reporting is a full featured reporting product. Take that hint, jump over to the Countdown site, and add your answer to the pot right now! As of this post, we need about 760 more correct answers today to reveal today's release details.

What are you waiting for? Play now!

TechExpo 2008 Wrap-up

As you know, last week I had the opportunity to visit the Little Rock area and speak at the 2008 TechExpo. While it was not the first year for the TechExpo (I've learned), it was the "first year" after a short hiatus. This year's event was a re-launch of sorts- a successful re-launch at that. Over 150 people turned out to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to join the .NET fun, and a group of about 7 speakers (self included) served-up sessions on everything from TFS to Silverlight. I personally did 3 sessions: a lunch session about Telerik and RadAjax Prometheus, a session on ASP.NET AJAX and the future of web development, and the closing keynote covering Silverlight 2.

If you were at the TechExpo and attended my sessions, thanks again for coming! If you didn't get to make it out to the Expo, I'm posting my slides and sample code below for your personal enjoyment. The demo code has not been cleaned-up for educational use (i.e. you probably won't find good commenting), so use it as an implementation reference for your own practice and don't try to learn from it directly. If you need help, come visit me at DevConnections later this month in Orlando and I'll be happy to assist!

ASP.NET AJAX, Silverlight, and the Future of Web Development (Slides & Code)

Intro to Silverlight 2.0 (Slides & Code)