Friday, September 02, 2011

Tasks in Silverlight…

Yep, the RC for Silverlight 5 now supports Tasks. You can do your own parallel processing in Silverlight 5 now.

Oh, and here are some of the other features:

  • P/Invoke (Native function calls)
  • 64 Bit
  • Vector Printing
  • Remote Control and Media Command Support (I have no idea what this is.. time to do some reading)
  • DataContextChanged Event
  • In-Browser Trusted Applications
  • PivotViewer Control
  • Power Awareness

All in all, some cool features seem to be coming..

More reading is here


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

OMG It’s the Ribbon!!

That’s what I’ve woken up to today. The web is ablaze about Microsoft’s decision to put the ribbon into Explorer in Windows 8. Everybody seems to be an expert about the ribbon, and the critics are all busy bagging it out. Exhibit A

Now, a lot of people may well be correct when they talk about the ribbon taking up extra room, and showing items that normally are not used. But I take a very different view on the ribbon.

In file explorer, 95% of what I do is hidden in the right mouse click context menu, or it’s done with shortcut keys. nice… But in this new world of touch screens, how does this work? I can’t just right mouse click or press Control + N as I no longer have a keyboard or mouse…

The ribbon provides common ground within the OS, allowing all form factors to perform the same tasks using the same mechanism. Is this a bad thing?

I think my only concern is to do with the one size fits all. Microsoft’s previous incarnations of Windows Mobile all tried to turn Mobile phones into computers.. It didn’t work. Finally they came out with Windows Phone 7, the phone OS that’s not a computer. Are Microsoft about to come undone in the same way with tablets? Are they trying to hard to force a PC based OS onto a tablet. I hope not.

If you have any thoughts, great opinions etc, drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you.


Friday, June 03, 2011

Pure Speculation

I’ve had a night to kick back and mull over the whole Windows 8 live tiles HTML 5/JavaScript thing. The more and more I think about this, the more interested I get in it. I need to clarify again that this is all speculation, based on a single presentation which lacked any information about technical aspects, but based on current implementations of various technologies we can come up with some fun speculation.

HTML, JavaScript and .Net are all interpreted. That’s probably the key thing about this whole argument that I find the most interesting. HTML and JavaScript have had a lot of love from the IE team, and more recently from within the Windows Team.

From various sources around the web, we’ve heard about Native HTML, and even the effort being put into a faster JavaScript engine. It’s the “Our JavaScript Engine is fastest” trend in the industry at the moment that’s driving a lot of this. Not so much the adoption within windows, but more the fact that Microsoft have a fast JS engine.

Just like JavaScript and HTML, .Net is interpreted at runtime. All .Net code is compiled down to IL, which is then JIT compiled on the fly. This isn’t a bad thing. What is a bad thing, is the current load time for .Net. The load time is still a pain for managed developers, and in fact, IE can now load and render a web site faster than even the most simple .Net apps can load. This isn’t a good thing.

So, we have 2 different technologies, one is lightning quick to load, while the other isn’t.

From here, we need to look at yet another trend in the industry, the “I want it now” trend. People expect PCs/devices to be running and usable in seconds, not minutes, and the Windows Team are busy playing this same game. This is pure speculation, but I suspect that by focusing only on HTML5 and JavaScript, they can have a “Start Screen” loaded and responsive well before the rest of the OS has time to finish spinning up services, pre-caching apps and all the other nice to have features used on desktop machines.

It’s this desire for a fast start up time that hurts .Net. Spinning up the .Net runtime is expensive at the best of times, and adding that cost to the start up time for Windows is expensive.

So, I would hazard a guess that this is the decision that the Windows Team were stuck with.

Now for my grumpy .Net Rant… It’s been the Windows Team that have done nothing for years to help the world of .Net performance, so in effect, this whole situation is probably of their own making. Had they put in some effort to help out, we may be in a completely different position today.

Now after this little rant, I’d like to say that I still hold out hope that yesterdays presentation was just a little poorly thought out, and the .Net is going to be treated like a first class citizen within the new tablet interface.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

First thoughts on Windows 8

I love it.. It’s different, vibrant and looks like it may be a massive winner on touch/portable devices. This is the exact area that Microsoft have been struggling in.. That would make this a Win++

Unfortunately, I have some massive issues that come to mind straight away.. I’ll do my best to explain, but while I do, please remember that I’m a desktop jockey, I’ve working in WinForms, WPF and Silverlight since .Net was first released.

Desktop Machines and Monitors

I work on PCs, I play serious PC games. Both my work machine and home machines have multiple/large monitors, and I always have a bucket load of apps running at any given time. Visual Studio can easily consume 2 screens, while a third hosts a browser, email, whatever. That’s three screens of content that’s needed at a given time.

From the initial view of Windows 8 (and yes, it’s still very early days), it seems to focus around a single application running in full screen mode. Multitasking is done via hiding the other programs, or even snapping 2 programs into onto a single screen. I’d like to see how this strategy works across multiple monitors, for what I consider “power” users.

The other thing I’d like to add to this is “Large” screens. I use where possible, the largest screens I can get my hands on at a decent price. 24” monitors are now cheap and plentiful. 24” touch screens are virtually non-existent.. The new UI, while it can be navigated with a mouse, looks to be way more fun and focused on touch. I’m really hoping MS know something about the future of touch screens and availability that isn’t currently available.

I’m not going to bother with the whole ergonomics of touch screens on desktops..

HTML5 and Javascript

The strategy is good.. Lets let all the little script kiddies to write apps for Windows… The more people we have the better.. Right??

It’s an interesting strategy, but one that I’m really hoping the guys in the windows team have thought long and hard about. As I noted about, I’m a desktop jockey. I write and support some apps that are just not suitable for the web.

I understand that “Windows” still exists under all the pretty tiles etc, but will this new interface be accessible to some of the existing desktop tools? It’s been no secret that WPF isn’t getting any love, and Silverlight’s life is being heavily evaluated. Am I about to be put into a position where I choose between becoming a HTML5/Javascript kiddie or going back to the dark ages and working with C++… I really hope now.

Windows Phone

This somewhat goes back to the whole HTML5/Javascript thing above. Right now, I have a nice, shiny HTC Mozart. It’s powered by Windows Phone 7. Apps on my phone are written in managed code, using Silverlight or XNA. Basically, apps are powerful, can do lots of things, and are very easy to write. What my phone can’t do is run apps written in HTML5 natively. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that, but why then, does my powerful desktop machine now have to run apps written by script kiddies, while it can’t run the same thing my phone can?

The rest.

Clearly, some of what I’ve written is quite possibly over the top. I hope that some managed languages continue to be supported as first class citizens in Windows 8, and that MS have their schiznitz together in the desktop department. I hope that Windows 8 isn’t so focused on winning ground in the tablet market that it completely abandons heavy desktop users.

As with most things like this, it’s still very early days. These are my first reactions (and appear to be the same as thousands of others based on my twitter feeds), and I can only hope that MS have a lot more information to announce over the coming months.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


I’ve just been having a conversation with a college, and something very interesting popped up. It’s something that has been hinted at a bit through a few channels of late, but wasn’t until this conversation that I actually realised how bad it’s been.

The conversation was about Windows Phones. I have a HTC Mozart, which I flashed all around the office when I got it. The problem is, that nobody else around here has heard much about Windows Phone 7. Nada, not a peep. Now, being in the Microsoft space, I get bombarded with advertisement for all things Microsoft, but the conversation I had delved deeper into Microsoft Technology. We talked about Windows 7, IE9, Live Essentials, Security Essentials, Windows Phone, Silverlight etc but everything came back to the same “Really”.. The person I was talking to has not seen (or remembered) the smallest bit of advertising related to ANY of the newest things coming out of Microsoft.. Nothing, nada, zilch..

This person doesn’t hide in a closet, he’s out playing with Android Phones, Linux, anything that you can possibly imagine a geek playing with. Despite his love for tech, none of the Microsoft Advertising has made it his way… He’s seen Apple advertising, he’s seen ads on TV for Android based phones, Junk Mail with full pages dedicated to android etc.. But where is the Microsoft Advertising.

Microsoft have really turned the corner with the last wave of releases, their software if looking nicer, working better, and all round just awesome. Yet despite this, Microsoft just haven’t had a chance to capitalise. Being good is one thing, but you also have to make sure everybody knows it..

I think this is part of what’s killing technology such as Silverlight and WPF.. Microsoft just aren’t pushing them… With a small bit more work, they can become very compelling products, but what they really need is more advertising dollars thrown at them.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Microsoft failing with Windows Mobile 7 in Australia

Today Microsoft announced MSN Onit, “The essential guy’s guide” for windows phone 7. I thought I’d take a peek, because, you know, I like guys things (including my blue crocodile skin shoes)..

The reviews looked good, I found it in the Marketplace using Zune then *bam*… There is no download button.. It seems that Microsoft (or MSN) has decided that this application should be locked down to only the US and a few other regions.

I understand that there are issues relating to copy write, licensing and all sorts of other legal nasties that can pop up when working across multiple regions, but it seems to me that Microsoft are happy to release everything to the US market without any thought of other markets. This is further evident with the lack of music available in Zune Marketplace.

It this something we should be blaming on Microsoft as a whole? Or is it something that the Australian branch of Microsoft has just been unable to work on. My bet is that it’s a combination of both. Unfortunately the result is that Windows Mobile users in Australia continue to have a broken user experience (don’t get me started on location based searching) when using Windows Mobiles. I really hope the Microsoft is working hard on getting these things fixed, particularly with the major update for the platform later this year that really targets business users. Right now there is no way I can recommend a Windows Mobile as a business platform with this lack of support outside of the US.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Where is it?

Where’s my phone update.. I want it now..

Ok, let me slow down a little.. I have a HTC Mozart, I love this phone. It does everything I need it to do (though copy/paste would be useful because I’m to lazy to write down the occasional phone number).. Microsoft are in the process of rolling out a small update to improve the update process before they release the much anticipated NoDo update..

So, the update updates the updater and does nothing else for me… So why do I want it so badly..


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Technical Debt

We’ve all head this phrase before, we all know it exists, but yet it always seems to be the one thing that all projects carry around. Technical Debt tends to be more apparent in larger, longer running projects but I think it tends to stem from 2 main sources.


As projects continue, more often than not you’ll find that the original assumptions made at the start of a project turn out to be incorrect, or that the system was designed with set requirements in mind but may not suit requirements that will pop up in the future.

The other thing that adds to “change” are phased project implementations. It’s implementing a core system that will have future features implemented.


Technology is the other key to technical debt. I know that the software I write now is massively different to the software I wrote 3-4 years ago. Dependency Injection, Linq, Entity Framework, Unit Testing, Mock Frameworks, Continual Integration, the list just goes on. The problem is that retrofitting some of these new technologies that can help to make your development efforts more productive, more testable and everything else costs time and money.

In addition to this, larger technology shifts like Windows Forms –> WPF/Silverlight are often not feasible.


I’ve read a lot of articles about how to reduce the risk of technical debt, and a lot of it is focused around Agile. “Embrace Change”. Well, this is all well and good, but there are still issues with this. The assumption is that the system(s) were developed in the first place with a full suit of unit test, encapsulation and everything else you can imagine to reduce the risk of change. The simple fact is that this very rarely happens.

The other end of this is the cost. Any project that will help to reduce technical debt needs to factor this work in, and unfortunately, it’s one of the first things dropped from a project because of time/cost constraints. Businesses just don’t care about it, as long as the application continues to run.

So, my question is, how else can you deal with Technical Debt in a way that has little cost on business?

Plan B?

I was just made aware of an open letter from a few “young” Nokia Shareholders who seem to be a little less than happy with the latest happenings at Nokia. While reading the open letter, all I could do was laugh.

My thoughts on the new strategy are fairly straight forward.. Nokia’s brand is declining and they have a large amount of money being sunk into two different smart phone operating systems. If Nokia don’t do something soon, they will start loosing money at a massive rate. The cost of bringing Symbian up to scratch is going to be huge which leaves them with Meego.

The problem with MeeGo is that there is no app or developer eco system for it, which will mean that if/when the OS is ready, they will be on the back foot fighting for developers. The time lag between releasing the OS and phones running it is likely to be long, and the whole time Nokia will be losing more Market share and shrinking any money they have left in the bank.

Taking up another OS may not be an ideal solution for a company that has always stood on it’s own, but it is a strategy that can be executed quickly and can ensure the brand continues in the short term. This is the only reason (in my opinion) why Nokia are moving to an existing Smartphone OS. It’s about turning the company around quickly, with the biggest profit margin possible to allow them the freedom to execute a longer term strategy to differentiate themselves from the market.

Plan B in my option, would be the ultimate mistake for a company that’s lost it’s way, and would only speed up the decline of the once leader in the mobile space.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

IE9, Windows Phone and More

What an exciting time.. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d know that I’m a heavy user of Microsoft Technology, it’s part of my job, it pays the bills and all that other stuff. Sometimes, working with Microsoft Technologies can be painful. I have had several older windows mobiles, and cursed nearly every day, I’ve worked in office environments where IE6 was the standard, and cursed at older versions of SQL Server. You name it, I’ve played with it.

But lately, I’ve been really excited about the software coming out of Microsoft, and the announcements from the last week are no exception.


Last week, the IE9 RC was released. I’ve been using the Beta since it was released, but the RC just blew me away. It’s performance was impressive, leaving the beta looking like panda bear on pot. The hardware rendering is awesome, start up time quick,and in general just feels extremely responsive.

This has all been achieved by:

  • A new Java Script engine
  • Hardware accelerated rendering through via GPU
  • Running the Java Script engine in process (no more COM interop)
  • Multi-threaded support
  • Reduced Memory usage.

The biggest punch with this release is the new Anti-Tracking protection. This is something that had been hinted at but nothing had been shown until the RC.

Usability has also had a big working over in the RC thanks to lots of feedback from the beta. Tabs are now by default next to the address/search bar, but can be moved to sit under the bar like they were in previous versions.

I think Microsoft are on a winner with this, and I hope they keep this sort of innovation up for future versions of IE.

Windows Phone

The first update for Windows Phone should be out in the next few weeks (March??), and this brings with it a few small updates related to 3rd party app performance and copy paste. Both of these features are nice, but not killer inclusions.

What IS exciting, is the talk about the first Major update which should ship this year. The update is now looking like it will include IE9 (sure, trimmed a little for mobiles) with the same rendering capabilities of the desktop counterpart. And by “same”, Microsoft are even talking hardware accelerate via the phones GPU!!! This I can’t wait to see.

The other big part of the announcement is the support for running apps in the background. Yes, I know, other mobile platforms have this, even the old windows mobile had this.. But it’s still big news for WinPho7..

Last but not least is the feature that I think is going to increase the uptake the most (besides the Nokia announcement) is the integration of Sky Drive. Right now, office documents are stuck on your phone (unless you have SharePoint), but being able to load/save documents in the cloud is a HUGE update, and one that was sorely missing. This one feature is probably the biggest inhibiter of businesses picking up these new phones.

And then..

There are lots of other bits happening as well, like Win 7 SP1, NuGet, the fast approaching VS SP1 and lots of other projects that have been popping up around the place.

I think in general, Microsoft has really turned a corner and seem to be shipping quality software again with fairly regular releases.

I think it’s a great time to be involved in the MS Tech space.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Windows Phone on Nokia

It seems that the rumours were all correct, Nokia and Microsoft have announced (finally) that Nokia will be dropping the Symbian OS that has been their staple platform for over a decade in favour of Windows Mobile 7.

With Nokia’s declining market share at the cost of both iOS (iPhone) and Android, Nokia really needed to do something and quick. I believe there were 3 options that Nokia could of taken:

  • Upgrade Symbian
  • Android
  • Windows Mobile

Upgrading Symbian as far as I’m concerned was the least optimal solution. The cost of bringing Symbian up to scratch (Modernisation) would cost a large amount of money, and leave Nokia in the phone OS Market. By dropping Symbian, Nokia now has the ability to cut the fat from their business and focus on more innovating hardware.

Both Android and Windows Mobile could have been options, particularly when you look deeper into the announcement. This isn’t just about the phone OS, it’s also about the eco system including Maps, Advertising and Search.

The other part of the announcement is what I believe the real clincher for Nokia was. By dropping it’s focus on the Mobile OS, it allows Nokia to continue working on areas where it still leads the market. That is innovative hardware and it’s market lead in mobile imaging.

I believe that this move is going to be huge for both Nokia and Microsoft in the long term, but unfortunately the announcement has already been met with a log of negativity, including Nokia’s Developers staging a walkout, and compounding Nokia’s problems with a falling share price.

Personally, I’m excited, and can’t wait to see where this new partnership heads.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Geek Rage

I thought I’d give it a few days to let the dust settle before I threw my opinion out into the world about Red Gate’s recent announcement about charging a fee for .Net Reflector.

This tool has been effectively free for a long period of time, from way back when Lutz Roeder first created it, right through the purchase by Red Gate. Not long after the initial purchase, Red Gate broke the product into two versions which were Free and Pro. As you can imagine, one was free and the other not.

This next part is purely speculation, but I suspect that Red Gate have not made very much money from the Pro Version because the Free version was adequate for most people. I mean, lets face it.. I don’t actually NEED .Net Reflector. It’s just a nice to have tool.

This brings me to the point of my post.. Red Gate are a commercial company. No commercial company is in the market to not make money. Even those big and nasty open source companies are in the business of making money, but they work by generating revenue through services.

But it’s $35 dollars.. Yep, the free version is now $35 dollars. I don’t know about you guys, but I spend more money than that on Coffee each week.. It’s also not even close to amount of money that most .Net Developers spend on tools like ReSharper ($199 for a personal license) or many of the third party control libraries out there.

I don’t think $35 dollars is a lot to ask for to ensure that a tool used by a large amount of the community continues to be maintained for future versions of .Net, and I think Red Gate have the right to do this.

That’s my though on the issue, and I know that if/when I need to use reflector again, I’ll happily suck it up and spend my $35 dollars (Tax deductable of course) .