Sandcastle - Documentation Tool

9/27/2006 2:09:57 PM
Sandcastle (August CTP available now) enables managed class library developers throughout the world to easily create accurate, informative documentation with a common look and feel. Sandcastle produces accurate, MSDN style, comprehensive documentation by reflecting over the source assemblies and optionally integrating XML Documentation Comments.

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Library

Another EBook Failure Released

9/27/2006 9:37:33 AM
Sony has released their new Sony Reader, which is another eBook effort announced earlier this year at CES. I like the idea of an electronic book that I can just add new titles to over time. But there are two issues that have typically doomed such efforts to failure.

For portable devices such as the Sony Reader, the form factor and reading experience are critical. I haven't seen the Sony Reader up close and in person, but past efforts have been lame. It is very hard to create something that is as easy to use and read as a traditional book, especially a paperback. Light, portable, and legible, the traditoinal paperback is a high standard to meet. In the past, such eBook efforts haven't even come close to providing a decent reading experience, especially when combined with the need to keep the device charged.

But assuming that the Sony Reader provides an adequate experience, the thing that has always killed eBooks is the cost of the eBooks themselves. We hear all the time that the cost of publishing books is extremely high, to the point that some will say the publishing industry is in crisis. I looked at the Content Store for the Reader and found that at best, the e-versions of books are the same price as their paper counterparts, and in some cases, cost twice as much!!! For example, Dan Simmon's excellent Illium novel cost me about $8 dollars at Barnes and Noble. I can keep it forever, take it anywhere. At the Sony Content store, the eBook version of Simmons' novel was a whopping $15.96!!! WTF!?!?! How can the eversion of a book cost twice what the paper version does? Add to that a reading experience that is less than ideal (most likely - could be wrong), this effort is doomed just like the previous ones.

If you want me to give a great reading experience, you need to entice me with cheap books. I'm not even mentioning that the Sony Reader alone costs $350 - or the approximate cost of 40 paperbacks. Sheesh. Traditional books will be around for a long, long time.

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Slick Thoughts

Atlas Releasing Earlier

9/12/2006 6:49:50 AM
ScottGu posted this announcment about Microsoft's plans to release Atlas earlier than originally planned. It all goodness for ASP.NET developers and customers. Read up and get coding!

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Headlines

Swimming in the WPF Pool

9/9/2006 8:12:40 AM
I have been immersing myself in WPF for the past week, building a prototype app for a customer (more like a demo really) that may possibly address one of their business opportunities. This post by Karsten hits the nail on the head. WOW!

There is a ton of stuff in WPF, and all of is cool, but trying to get a handle on it certainly takes time. I think the one thing the Karsten fails to mention is that one of the tremendous difficulties is that really is not great tool support (minimal at best, is the term that comes to mind) for creating WPF apps. Eventually Expressions Interactive Designer and Visual Studio itself will fill that gap, but right now the coding experience is more circa-1989 HTML dev then what we are used to with ASP.NET or WinForms. IMHO, the tool set from Microsoft is really just Super Notepad with 90% schema Intellisense. But it works and the upside is you really learn WPF that way since your are directly exposed to the markup instead of being shielded by a tool doing the markup for you. I will be a better WPF developer because of it.

The other big "challenge" (can't think of a better word) is that WPF lets you see how bad of a GUI designer you really are! Yes - WPF demos show some amazing things that make applications dance and sizzle, but that is not default behavior my friend. This is where tooling may hurt the most, since one would assume that any tool would at least provide some visual candy (gel buttons, for example) that you just dont get out of the box. My WPF stuff looks even uglier than some of my WinForms stuff just because I am a) not a graphic designer and b) still trying to get a good feel on how styles and layouts work in WPF.

Having said all that, WPF is still very, very cool. I am working a lot with the document rendering and annotation stuff and it is truly amazing what is in there. Very well thought out and extremely flexible. Despite the big curve, I give WPF a big thumbs up.

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Slick Thoughts

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Jeff Brand Jeff Brand

This is the personal web site of Jeff Brand, self-proclaimed .NET Sex Symbol and All-Around Good guy. Content from my presentations, blog, and links to other useful .NET information can all be found here.

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