# Thursday, June 07, 2007

I went to a more detailed (possibly too detailed) presentation on the ADO.NET entity model this morning.  This is pretty exciting stuff, although obviously people will have some reservations.  It's easy to dismiss EDM as just another in a long line of O/R mapping attempts, and while that's a valid criticism, I think there are some interesting and instructive differences.  Because EDM is built on top of support all the way down at the ADO.NET provider level, it's more than just an O/R map.  You can define entities (this is done using XML files for now) that span multiple tables, or otherwise hide complex structures in the underlying data store, as well as defining relationships between those entities that express a higher level relationship than a relational foreign key.  These relationships can be navigated at a much higher level, without having to deal with complex joins, etc.  Because that the Entity Model actually passes down to the data provider is an expression tree, the data provider is free to optomize into its native dialect as best it can.  So when you are taking advantage of complex relationships in your entity model, you aren't just fetching a bunch of objects and then making them relate to one another.  That relationship is handled at the provider level in ways that can be optimized, so that you aren't bringing back any more data then necessary. 

Plus, because of the deep support at the provider level, you can specify a query using the simplified entity syntax, but still return a forward only dataset for best performance, skipping the object translation step all together. 

Granted, they still have quite a bit of work ahead of them to improve the tooling, and make it as transparent as possible, but I think there's a lot of value to be had here. 

I'm looking forward to taking some time with the bits and trying out some different scenarios, so hopefully I'll have some good examples later.

TechEd | Work
Thursday, June 07, 2007 11:22:39 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 

I saw some great stuff yesterday afternoon on how to host WPF controls in WinForms and vice versa.  I've been wondering for a while if it would be possible to host WPF controls in MMC 3.0 for some management apps we need to write, and now I know it's at least possible, and possible with Whidbey, although the desinger experience will be better in Orcas for WPF on WinForms.

Jon Flanders did a very good presentation on real world tips and tricks for hosting WF in WCF services, without waiting for Silver (WF/WCF integration in Orcas).  Since our new app does exactly this, I learned some things I'll have to try out, specifically using the ManualSchedulerService.  I hadn't considered the implications of ASP.NET and WF contending for the same thread pool.  The manual scheduler might also simplify some things around identity management and impersonation that I've been puzzling over.  Jon is a very compelling speaker, and I got a lot out of his presentation.

To wrap up the day yesterday I got a preview of what's coming as part of the Acropolis project.  I was totally blown away by how much they've already accomplished, and how thoughtfully they have proceeded.  Acropolis is basically CAB for WPF, but they really took it in a positive direction.  While CAB is (IMHO) too technology focused, Acropolis is very much designed for building real applications quickly, and providing (again IMHO) exactly the right level of support.  I'm a big Smart Client fan, and I think they're really expanding the horizons for building smart client apps quickly and with a minimum of overhead.  If you are interested in build any kind of client app with WPF, be sure to follow their work.

This morning started off with a very good presentation on the new language features in C# 3.0 by Luke Hoban.  He did some very compelling demos to show off the new features, including the LINQ over Objects syntax.  Then, just to show there was no magic involved, he removed his reference to LINQ, and reimplemented the where and select operators using the new language features.  It really showed off the new features, and put them in a context that was very accessible.  Well done!

The rest of the day holds more on Acropolis, and more details of the LINQ over Entities project, which is pretty groovy stuff. 

TechEd | Work
Thursday, June 07, 2007 6:36:06 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Chris Anderson's session on using XAML as a modelling language for declaratively expressing programmer intent is easily the best thing I've seen so far.  I've been struggling to grok the beauty that is XAML for a while now, and while I'm not totally sure I've grokked it in its fullness, I'm a good deal closer now.  I think I'll have to play around with it for a while before it's fully cemented.  One thing he mentioned that I'm very interested in pursuing is using LINQ expression trees in non-data oriented ways.  There could be some huge opportunities for building declarative models using this technique.  Much to think on. 

I think this was actully the first time I'd seen Chris speak, and I was very impressed.  Not only by his style, but by his fabulous wardrobe.  Chris eschewed the MS-blue shirt for a fantastic brown and orange Aloha shirt with a huge (possibly embroidered) green and yellow palm tree across the front.  Excellent choice.

As an only vaguely related side note: how far back does the nerd fondness for Aloha shirts go?  Maybe it's just because we're in Florida, but I've seen some truly stunning examples of the genre.  Being a big fan (possibly even proponant) of the Aloha shirt myself, it's been fun checking out the good ones.  Better than birdwatching. 

To bring this back to something slightly more relavent, I think there are several developments underway, including the Software Factories initiative discussed a few Architecture Journals back, the rise of DSL Toolkit, etc. that make model driven development much more feasible, and it will be interesting to see what part XAML has to play there.  Very exciting times.

TechEd | Work
Wednesday, June 06, 2007 8:44:35 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, June 05, 2007

One more thing about TechEd today...

The food has been much better than last year.  The breakfasts have been pretty lackluster, but the lunches and after hours snacks have been first rate.  Lots of veggies, including some nice pickles and raw veggies at the partner expo last night.  The snacks have also been quite diverse.  I particularly appreciated the afternoon carrot sticks and dip, and not the usual ding-dongs and twinkies to go with your cheetos.  I must say that the Buffalo wings were better in Boston last year, but that's the exception that proves the rule so far. 

Hopefully tomorrow I'll have slept a bit, and have something less trivial to report (although it seems important just now).

Tuesday, June 05, 2007 7:22:36 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 

More goodness today.  One of my favorites today was a presentation on the new features for building Smart Client applications with "Orcas".  Smart Clients hold a special place in my heart, so I'm glad to see them investing in better support.  Very cool stuff, including the new "SQL Compact Edition" which can run in-proc to your client app, and better still a new "sync provider" that allows you to write your smart client against the local "Compact Edition" database, then do a two way sync with a full SQL database, which provides a super-easy way to deal with offline use of your client app.  Also in Orcas, you'll be able to host WPF in WinForms and vice versa, which makes it easy to both extend and leverage existing applications.

Other highlights from the day include SQL 2008 support for "non-relational" data like files, spatial data, full text documents, etc.  They've really gone out of their way to make it easy to integrate all your data into SQL Server.

One big thing I'm taking way this year is Microsoft's continued commitment to responding to customer input.  In several arenas (SQL, Orcas, ADFS, etc) over and over I keep hearing "you said it was too hard, or not feature rich enough, so we fixed it".  It's really encouraging to see the extent to which real world customer input is having a direct impact on feature direction. 

Both of my BOF sessions went well.  The lunchtime session on NDepend was well attended, and sparked some interesting discussions.  This evening's session on ADAM and AzMan provoked some interesting responses.  One that surprised me was an assertion that MS must not intend to support AzMan because it doesn't get a managed interface in Longhorn Server.  I'm pretty sure I disagree with that statement, since there has been quite a bit of investment in the Longhorn (sorry Server 2008) version of AzMan, but I think it's illustrative of MS's lack of advertisement around AzMan.  It's a great feature, but it goes largely under-represented, so nobody takes it seriously.

Anyhow, busy day, once more into the breach tomorrow...

TechEd | Work
Tuesday, June 05, 2007 7:18:14 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 

I've only got a few minutes between sessions, so I'm going to hit the highlights, more details to come later when I can focus a bit. ;)

The keynote was way better than last year's.  The focus this year seems to be much less on developer-related technology, and more on IT, and more specifically on what IT pros can do right now today, rather than any vision for the future.  Bob Muglia set the tone in the keynote by saying that they didn't want to give people any more MSBSVS, or Microsoft BullS**t Vision-Speak.  A very positive direction, and there's plenty to talk about.  I just came away from a session on the next version of the Identity Lifecycle Manger, and I think they're really nailed it.  Identity management in the enterprise is hard, and they've gone a long way towards fixing it.  If I was in IT, I'd be even more excited.

Yesterday I saw talks on the next version of ADFS (Active Directory Federation Services) and again they are headed in the right direction.  ADFS "2" will basically allow you to expose an STS on top of your AD store, with CardSpace support, etc.  Very cool. 

I also saw some stuff on the LINQ "Entity Data Model", which, in summary, is basically Rails-style active record support at the platform level, with some very advanced querying capabilities via LINQ.  This will be very useful in the future for getting rid of DAL code in the middle tier. 

Lastly, I saw an overview of SQL 2008 (Katmai) features.  Again, some very cool stuff, and new features that look like they've been developed in response to user feedback.  Always nice to see.  For all those groovy new mashups, there's a new LOCATION datatype.  Spacial data as first class citizen.  There's also some brilliant management-by-policy features that will make DBA's very happy.

Gotta run.  NDepend BOF at lunch, ADAM/AzMan tonight, so if you're reading this in a timely fashion, stop on by!

TechEd | Work
Tuesday, June 05, 2007 7:10:30 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Friday, June 01, 2007

I'll be flying out for Orlando way too early on Sunday morning, but I should be recovered by Monday morning, so see you all there...

Friday, June 01, 2007 11:14:44 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I finally got around to building some docs for our latest project, and decided to go with Sandcastle rather than NDoc for the time being.  I got the March CTP of Sandcastle and started trying to figure out how to get it working with our build. 

While the resulting CHM file came out looking really nice, I'd have to say that Sandcastle is WAY not ready for prime time.  There is little to no documentation, so figuring out how to customize things is largely an exercise for the user.  I was willing to exercise, but many aren't. :-)  The build itself is very complicated, with 10-12 separate steps required to produce the CHM file, and lots of rough edges, like the fact that the MRefBuilder tool won't look for dependencies in the GAC, so I had to copy a bunch of core BCL assemblies out of the GAC and into my build directory to get the docs to build.  Lame. 

As it stands now, Sandcastle is useful only to serious build weenies, since it's too cumbersome for the average developer to deal with.  This is too bad, since it's being touted (at least in some circles) as the "right" solution for building docs going forward.  It smacks of something that the VS 2005 team built to create there docs, then decided to make public.  It's not quite there yet.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007 2:01:33 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [3]  | 

I've picked up another BOF session, BOF09: Exiting the Zone of Pain: Static Analysis with NDepend, scheduled for Tuesday, June 5, 2007 at 12:00 PM, in Room S331 A.  We'll be discussing how and why to use static analysis tools like NDepend.  I'm especially interested in hearing not just how people use tools like NDepend, but who uses them (in their orgainization) and how often.

As a reminder, I'll also be doing BOF51: ADAM and AzMan, later the same day at 6:30 PM, in Room N310 A.  Bring your stories about ADAM and AzMan, how you are using them, or why you aren't.  I think these tools are vastly under-appreciated, so I'm looking forward to spreading the love.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007 1:50:42 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, May 07, 2007

We've been estimating a large new project for the last week or so using the "planning poker" technique.  So far I think it's working out very well, although the biggest learning so far has been that you really need a solid task list before you enter this process.  On backlog items where we already had task lists defined, we didn't have any trouble coming to consensus about how long it would take.  This morning we entered into a backlog item without the task list already in place, and it led to an hour-long discussion that delved into design, etc. rather than getting any estimating done.  While I understand that part of the planning poker process is group learning and making sure everyone is on the same page, we would have made a lot more progress with even a tentative task list rather than none at all.

Now we know.

Monday, May 07, 2007 3:35:19 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  |