A Ton of News on the ASP.NET and Silverlight Fronts

11/30/2007 5:15:00 PM

Ok, I am probably a day behind the rest of the Microsoft world in posting something on this, but I was traveling most of yesterday so I have a partial excuse.

First, make sure to check out ScottGu's blog post for the definitive details on my short summary...

- Silverlight 1.1 is not going to be called Silverlight 2.0:  That makes complete sense.  Silverlight 1.1, errrr 2.0, is a huge upgrade in functionality over what we have today with Silverlight 1.0.  A much more extensive control set (ok, you will actually have controls, let's be honest), the CLR on multiple platforms, and better performance all make it a significant upgrade.  The first beta should be out in the first quarter of 2008 along with a limited "Go Live" license so stay tuned on that.  Tim Sneath has a pretty good write up on Silverlight 2.0.

- ASP.NET 3.5 Extensions Release: There will be an extension release for ASP.NET next year with a preview of that release coming next week.  Things to be in that release include the new ASP.NET MVC framework, some AJAX improvements, Silverlight support, ADO.NET Data Services (Entity Framework and Astoria), and a couple of other nuggets.

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Make Sure to Check out Weird Code

11/29/2007 12:43:42 PM

Good friend and co-worker Denny Boyton posted the first installment of his Weird Code show.  It was awhile ago and I totally spaced off posting about it (happening a lot lately).  Make sure to check it out - it's pretty darn good!


Call of Duty 4

11/28/2007 10:14:39 AM

cod4 I've been playing CoD4 for a couple of weeks now and figured I would post my thoughts.  First, let it be known that my unofficial XBOX Live nickname is Bullet Catcher (real XBOX Live ID is SpartyGuy - hit me up if you see me!).  I really enjoy some nice virtual warfare despite my propensity to be proof positive why online gaming should never incorporate physical feedback as an option - I would be hospitalized on a regular basis.  Secondly, I am a huge Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 fan.  LOVE THAT GAME!  It is my reference for this style of "realistic" military shooter.

I was both disappointed and interested to see CoD4 would be like as it left its WWII roots.  On one hand, I was excited because GRAW2 is a bit long in the tooth now so seeing a modern military sim that really pushed the XBOX 360 platform was exciting.  But I had really enjoyed playing CoD3 despite its many flaws.  The biggest thing holding CoD3 back was also its biggest attraction for me, and that was its utter simplicity.  Two sides, a couple handfuls of weapons, and pretty much a run around like crazy shooting stuff but at the same time you could get a few tactics in play that, for me at least, increased my survival rate.  It was arcade like, but that was part of the appeal for me.  GRAW 2 on the other hand, is pretty darn realistic. Some of the maps lend themselves to running and gunning exclusively (not my forte by any stretch of the imagination) but it also allowed you to slink and sneak and be a bit more tactically aware quite often as well.

While CoD4 has great graphics and sound, I find myself feeling as if it couldn't make up its mind on what it wanted to be.  The weapon simulation is pretty good though I struggle immensely when I try and do the sniper thing - a problem I experience to a much lesser degree in the other two games.  But the biggest problem is the whole level progression and what I think of as the "magic item" rewards.  CoD4 gives you experience points as you play, and with those points and completing challenges you unlock more weapons and more importantly, more perks.

Perks are a bit ridiculous in my opinion.  For example, you can get a perk that lets you resist more damage.  You can get one that lets your bullets do more damage, penetrate through thicker walls, reload faster, automatically drop a grenade or pull out your pistol and get a few shots as your dying action, etc.  When you are struggling to make it to officer rank and you unload your SAW into an enemy to only watch him head shot you as if you were as annoying as the buzzing of flies can be a bit discouraging.  Ok, a bit of any exaggeration, but you get the idea.  I find the whole perk thing just a tad bit ridiculous and it ruins a large part of the "authenticity" flavor for me.  I'm a purist I guess.  It also creates a lot of "class warfare" as I have been booted on a fairly regular basis from games because I did not have enough experience to be considered teammate material.

The maps also seem to promote the "run and gun" mode of game playing.  Everything is city fighting and while certainly the battlefields of the real world have become predominately urban in nature, it still makes for an unreal simulation as you see hordes of people running around with automatic weapons like chickens on speed.  Granted, the infinite respawns makes life cheap, but there are a lot of maps in GRAW that reward a more reserved combat approach.  Maybe if I could find a decent perch and snipe like crazy I would be happier, but its to hard to be effective - at least for me on a lot of the maps.

I was also disappointed with the change to the Domination game play (it was War in CoD3).  Both game modes center around the idea that teams battle over a collection of objectives.  What made CoD3 so much fun was that you had to capture objectives in order to go on to the next objective. If you captured all of the objectives (with the last one being right in the enemies lap), you won. CoD 4 lets you go after any objective at any time. Whoever has the most points at the end of the match wins. I like the give and take, the ebb and flow, of War in CoD3 much better than the Domination game play of CoD4.

All in all, its a decent game - better than most probably. I have played about 30 minutes of the actual offline game so I can't speak to that at all.  I am almost exclusively a Live gamer, though BioShock intrigued me long enough to play it for several hours before sending it back to BlockBuster.  I think I  will be heading back to GRAW 2 soon, but will play CoD4 from time to time.  But my heart hopes there is a GRAW 3 sometime in the near future!!!!



Utterly Hilarious

11/27/2007 1:41:58 PM

Check out Jav's Dilbert...



The Vista Security Pay Off???

11/26/2007 9:48:00 PM

There is a what I consider to be a great look at Microsoft's big security investment into Vista and it's "pay off" on InfoWorld - read it here.  I generally find these types of write ups to be barely worth the time reading, but his article is dead on the mark, IMHO.

The gist of the article is that Microsoft put a lot of time, effort, resources, and marketing behind the security push for Vista.  In many ways, it had to be done.  But the fact remains that all of that investment has meant little for Microsoft as far as users reaction to and adoption of Vista. 

I have seen this phenomenon first hand at the grass roots level.  It's a classic example of "good enough" in action and something that is completely ignored by the Microsoft security zealots. Yes, I will call them zealots. I think security is important and needed to be improved, but it is not what defines a successful product for the computing masses.  This is something that the security zealots (both inside and outside of Microsoft - the "Linux is better because its more secure" crowd is a another great example) seem to miss.

For Joe Average User and even Joe Average Developer/Geek, security is something they want and expect, but it is not something that makes them want to rush out and buy a new product.  During the bad years of Microsoft security problems, Linux did not take over the desktop even though it was more secure because it was nowhere near as usable or convenient.  Volvo is a good example in another industry.  If people cared so much about safety (in this case a form of physical security), Volvo cars would dominate the roadways.  But they don't, and that is but one reason that Vista has not captured more hearts and minds.  Security is boring, and "in your face" security is down right annoying.  We all want to be safe on airplanes, but we all hate the security lines and the "3 oz max in a plastic baggy" checks.

Do not mistake my statements here to mean that I do not think security is important.  Or that Microsoft should not devote time and energy to making all of its products as secure as possible.  What I am saying is that security does not sell, and it never will in most markets.  Lack of security will absolutely kill sales, but making security a primary selling point or feature is not good for the mass market, in general.  Yes, there are exceptions to the rule (servers, certain vertical markets, etc.), but in the case of the mass desktop operating system market, I think it has been proved many times over that security is rarely a deal maker but often a deal breaker.

Security appeals to a very small subset of the population, both geek and non-geek alike.  The organization I am part of in Microsoft has had a big security push over the last few years in so much that we had to talk about security all the time.  To the point that it was mandated that you have security slides in EVERY presentation (and as far as people know, I did - lol).  We had entire sessions devoted to security topics.  I laughed/argued about that effort from the get go.  You can't jam security down peoples throats - they either care or they don't.  Sure, you may affect change in a person or two along the way, but at the expense of boring the other 99%.  I am very pragmatic in my approach to what people want to hear about, and more importantly, what they will be interested in.  Security is not it 99.9% of the time.  When it is relevant I included security info, but if you are talking about a basic intro to Windows Workflow and then slides on Windows security or what not suddenly show up, its more of a distraction than anything else.

Other examples? I have had a grand total of three, yes three (unless I forgot one or two) customers ever ask for a presentation on developing secure code and applications.  I had about the same number of takers when I offered to do sessions on developing secure code/applications.  Remember, this was over a couple year time period. Any time Microsoft put on sessions that had a security theme, attendance was down compared to other topics.  If we used a ramrod and slipped security stuff into topics that were primarily not security focused, we often saw lower evaluation scores (not always but often enough to be noticeable - the last official "DevDays" anyone????).  If people that develop software are not interested in security, how in the world do you think people who just use it will be?

Security bores people, and to spend about a third of your value proposition telling people that Vista is the most secure operating ever from Microsoft is not going to enflame the desire of computer users world over.  Even more so when that really is one of the things that makes it "different" compared to its competition and predecessors.  If anything, it raises more red flags than not since people immediately become suspect since what you are essentially saying is, "we told you the OS you had before was secure, but now we are saying this one is even more secure, so the one we said was secure really wasn't all that secure.  But you can believe me this time."  Ughhhhhh.  Apple does not tout the security of their OS as a key feature.  It's almost slipped in there as a simple statement while they talk about all of the other things their OS offers.  Sort of a "it does this, and this, and this is really cool, we have really good security so don't worry it, and oh, check out the great performance...."  That is how you market security; you don't - it just is.  Sure, Microsoft may have needed to make it more of a point than Apple or others due to past track record, but you do not lead with it.  You don't make it one of the CORE marketing value propositions.  I have yet to have a single family member or friend say "gee, I really need to get that Vista OS because it is more secure."  Nope, not once.

I understand that in light of the wave of security issues Microsoft had while Vista development was just getting started (ahhhh, the heady days of Longhorn and when it really was cool), Microsoft had to do something fundamentally different to address the issues.  By the time Vista shipped, however, Windows XP SP2 was recognized as a much more secure OS than it had been, and for many, many users, it had reached the "secure enough" stage.  Heck, there was not a massive rush to deploy SP2 in enterprise customers' environments despite the obvious security benefits!  During that time though, the security zealots had sacrificed usability, performance, and ground breaking feature development time on the alter of "security security security".  I am not saying security should be sacrificed to achieve some feature.  And in the server world, it absolutely is a selling point.  But at the same time, the other factors need to play an important role.  It is a difficult balancing act.  It can be done.  Microsoft must find a way to do it moving forward.


Slick Thoughts

Twin Cities .NET UG Holiday Party and InstallFest!

11/26/2007 6:35:13 PM

Hey everybody,

Get signed up for the Twin Cities UG Holiday Party and InstallFest at the Boomington, MN Microsoft office on Dec 16th!

This party is your opportunity to get your hands on the released version of VS 2008 before anyone else!  Every person that installs Visual Studio 2008 on their computer at the event will receive a FREE fully licensed copy of Visual Studio 2008 Professional in the mail shortly after public release.

Don’t miss out on a great evening of fun, food, the latest XBOX 360 games and your very own copy of Visual Studio 2008 Professional!  We'll being having demo contests with some great prizes award to the person that can come up with the coolest short demo!!!

Register here - http://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=1032360732&Culture=en-US



Kindle This and Kindle that

11/20/2007 11:12:06 AM

Seems that Amazon's new Kindle is garnering a lot of press and blog reviews.  Personally, I feel that Kindle will be yet another DOA ebook effort.  No one has succeeded before and I'm not sure why exactly that folks think Kindle is the magic bullet beyond the fact that it has Amazon's name behind it.  Sony's now forgotten ebook (I can't even remember the name) has fallen off the radar make already after a lot of initial "the ebook has arrived" hype.

My biggest issue is the cost of the device and the ongoing cost of reading.  I plop down a few hundred dollars for just the device.  Say its $300 bucks, for most casual readers, that is at least 30 books right there.  More if you are a B&N member like me and save at least 10% on every purchase - ok, I've signed up a few too many years in a row and the marketing spiel has stuck in my head.  But even bigger than that is the fact that I pay the exact same amount (if not more) for an ebook that I do for a real book.  $9.99 for an ebook that I also need to make sure has a good charge so I can read it and it more delicate and less portable than the "old world" version? 

I don't get it.  Now there may be some esoteric ebooks out there that are cheaper than the hard copy version, but again, for the frequent but casual reader (someone who is always reading at least one "mainstream" book at a time) what is the value prop.  I don't re-read a lot of books anymore.   The ones I really like I put on a shelf to collect dust, others I pass on to friends if they were decent or send to the trash if it wasn't.  So for about a dollar less I get a reading experience I can take anywhere, is extremely durable (I beat the crap out of my books), requires no up front investment, and has zero power dependency.  There would be absolutely nothing worse than getting on a three and a half hour flight to Seattle to find out I had forgotten to charge my ebook the night before! 

So my verdict - Yawn.


Slick Thoughts

Is It Just Me, or Is Scrubs Mailing In Their Final Season???

11/19/2007 8:32:51 PM

Ok, I'm (was?) a huge Scrubs fan.  I know the show is not for everyone, but I found the show really funny over the years.  Anyone who can watch their "musical" episode and not say it was great entertainment, regardless of what you think of the rest of the show, has a screw loose! ;-)

This is Scrubs last year after having barely dodged the cancellation bullet on more than one occasion.  I will tell you what, however, if the first few episodes are any indication, they should have just ended it last year.  The writing has been substandard and they are reusing the same style of jokes, sight gags, etc. that used to be great when used in moderation, but have lost their touch when they are the staple of every episode.

I am becoming more and more a fan of the "fixed length" model that seems to be taking hold in television.  Go into a series saying it will last exactly "x years" and its off the races.  The focus really keeps the writers on point since they don't have to try and make stuff up just to keep things going.  Lost is a great example of how a show, once it was decided it will only last three more seasons, suddenly got back on track and started to recapture some of its initial edge (not all, but a big improvement).

I don't watch a ton of TV, but I can appreciate quality when I see it!  Ok, maybe that statement shouldn't be used when discussing TV. ;-)


Junk | Rant

Visual Studio 2008 RTMs and Available for MSDN Subscriber Download

11/19/2007 3:45:45 PM

Yep - VS 2008 is officially in the wild now.  MSDNers can get the bits here.  LINQ, Silverlight, better web dev experience, and WPF designer support.  Throw in multi-runtime targeting and this is a pretty cool release.



PopFly Contest Contact Info

11/19/2007 2:52:35 PM

Hi all!

The PopFly contest has closed and voting wrapping up.  Please make sure that your entries have good contact information so we can contact you if you win.  Some of the entries are just Popfly apps with no real way to contact you. 




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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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