TechEd India 2010: PPTs, Demos & Code Snippets

I had two sessions at TechEd India 2010 – one on a lap around VS2010 Web and Cloud Development and the other on Lighting up Apps on Windows 7 using the Windows API Code Pack. The entire set of demos and content is given below. Please read to see how to use them.

The entire set is available on this SkyDrive folder. You can download the PPTs and demos for the ones you want. To create the demos yourself, you will also need to download the “Snippets” file and unzip it somewhere. Load these snippets into VS2010 using the Snippet Manager.

Open any of the projects and go through each “page” of code. You will see comments by me where you need to add some snippet. Simply type in the snippet and press tab twice to insert the appropriate code.

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Categories: ASP.NET | Development | Microsoft | Windows 7

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WebsiteSpark and What It Means

Yesterday Microsoft made an announcement that has extremely important implications if you are into Web application development. The WebsiteSpark program offers a ton of Microsoft software for free for web developers and web development companies that qualify. You get all these software for 3 years for both development and production usage. The list of software is:

  • 3 licenses of Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition
  • 1 license of Expression Studio 3
  • 2 licenses of Expression Web 3
  • 4 processor licenses of Windows Web Server 2008 R2
  • 4 processor licenses of SQL Server 2008 Web Edition
  • DotNetPanel control panel

You can read more about the program on Scott Guthrie’s blog post and at the main site.

What I want to explore in this post is what it means for Web development in general. Currently, there is a trend or impression that if you need to create a software for a SME, you need to use the LAMP stack to remain competitive cost-wise. While true to some extent, what you do lose out is in terms of productivity and time-to-market with tools such as VS2008 and the Expression suite. But the cost of entry to use these has often been a pitfall to getting individual Web developers or smaller Web project companies as well as for the SME.

With WebsiteSpark this so-called “advantage” of the LAMP stack goes for a toss. Not only do you get all the tools you need for free for developing projects for SME companies you also get a number of other additional options that help ease your development, such as:

  • The Web Application Toolkits: A set of pre-packaged templates, samples, source code, etc. that can be simply plugged into your site to extend it with some extra features.
  • The Web Platform Installer: Allows you to quickly set up a developer or even production machine with not just the base requirements but also a number of free Web Applications such as WordPress, Umbraco, SugarDRM, DotNetNuke, Moodle etc. by simply following the setup prompts. Take a look at the Web Application Gallery and see how easy it is to setup these without having to mess around with configuration files and database connection settings on Windows.

This basically means that setting up and using Windows as a platform for Web application development not only is easier and faster but also is now available for free! You can also run most of the open source Web apps on Windows with better performance and scalability. So is there any real reason to still go for the LAMP stack? Try the above stuff out and then decide.

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Categories: ASP.NET | Development | Internet | Microsoft | Rave

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Oracle Java and Oracle MySQL

Ever since news broke about the surprising takeover of Sun Microsystems by Oracle Corporation, people have started discussing the future of some of the important platforms in this context. This is what I think:

The Future of Java

Oracle is not traditionally a framework platform company. Sun, on the other hand, is the creator of one of the most widely used application frameworks – Java. So what happens once this takeover is done?

  • Oracle continues innovating in Java: This is fairly possible – however may be unlikely. After all for Oracle, Java is more of a application platform that they use rather than something they contribute to.
  • Oracle kills off Java slowly: This is very unlikely as they do have something that is used by a large number in the developer community and is also a competitor to Microsoft’s .NET.
  • Oracle makes Java completely open source under the GPL*: this is something that I see as very likely. Not only will they win a ton of brownie points with the FOSS folks, but to a great extent get rid of the development and maintenance overhead of keeping Java fully internal.

* Java is quite open sourced already. However as the FAQ states, there are still a bunch of things that remain to be opened.

The Future of MySQL

This is where I see more of an issue. After all, MySQL was a competitor in the same space (or at least, that’s what MySQL followers claim). So will Oracle continue to develop and support MySQL? If they do, not only will they have different “divisions” competing with each other in the same space, but also will need to provide an “official” migration path forward.

As I see it, MySQL as a “brand” will probably go away in a couple of years. Oracle will incorporate some of its features into the lower end database platforms it currently offers. Open Source “forks” of the last MySQL version to be released will come up and try to take up the place let vacant by its departure.


Solaris, though now fully open source, has not really got the momentum of something like Linux. And I don’t see Oracle changing that too much. I think Oracle will downplay the Solaris significance and slowly end it mercifully. However…

Sun’s cloud computing initiative on Solaris combined with Java and the Oracle database make it a powerful stack – quite enough to compete with the Amazon and Microsoft Azure platforms.

It’ll be interesting to note the reactions from companies like IBM, HP, Microsoft and others to see what they think of this as well.

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Categories: Development

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A great time to be a Computer Science student in India

As is usual to a slightly long post, I start with a bit of historical context. In the days back when I was a student in school, computers were a fairly new thing. I was lucky to have started early on BBC Micros and having access to the Internet waaaay before most people had heard of it thanks to growing up in one of India’s premier universities. In school, our PCs, PC-XTs and PC-ATs were major drool points for us geeks.

However, software was another issue. A few of us loved programming – but access to software was fairly impossible. Getting Turbo Pascal and Turbo C++ was quite difficult and it was usually from a (friend-of-a-friend)^n from where we would (ahem) make copies to try out our pieces of code. I remember writing (literally) entire programs on sheets of paper with dry run notations on the side for each variable for each pass and then go type it out in school to try out some new stuff that I had “created”.

These days however, access to software is much easier. Unfortunately, professional quality software is usually quite expensive and for a student in India, typically out of their budget. This is where Microsoft’s recently announced DreamSpark initiative comes to their rescue.

DreamSpark allows students in India to download or get a DVD of most of the Microsoft programming and designing stack for FREE! All a student needs to do is register at the site, get their student status verified and they can get access to the free download and go and simply pick up the free DVD from any of the over 200 locations in India and start using it.

And what is it that they get for free? The list includes:

  • Windows Server 2003 Standard
  • Visual Studio 2008 Professional
  • Visual Studio 2005 Professional
  • SQL Server 2005 Developer
  • Expression Studio
  • XNA Game Studio 2.0

Remember that these are FULL versions of these products, without any restrictions (time or uses) for FREE.

This means that computer science students can now start working with professional level tools right from the start. Also, if anybody uses the “Open Source is best for learning programming” argument, this is no longer true. The Microsoft programming stack is so much more productive and now is accessible by any student in India and all for free to. I wish this was available to me when I was in school too.

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Categories: Development | Internet | Microsoft | Rave | SQL Server

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I'm a PC - and proud of it

I always found the Apple "I'm a Mac/I'm a PC" ads funny when I saw them - but not for the reasons that Apple thought. Their claims were fairly weird considering > 95% of the world uses PCs with Windows. and not only that, the PCs come in a gazillion different combinations with another gazillion types of hardware and software setups. Whereas Apple has complete control over the hardware and the software that gets installed on their machines - so making their systems work is the least they can do.

 The PC (and by this I mean the generic PC combination whether it be desktops or notebooks + Windows) is a much, much more versatile device and can do so much more. And finally Microsoft is showing people the true story with their new ads. The video ads show people from normal walks of life and some celebrities - all who use PCs for a huge number of varied tasks - showing the true power of the PC. And combined with the Windows Mobile platform (for PDA/SmartPhones) and Windows Live (for services on the 'Net), the PC is at a much more powerful stage than it ever was.

The best part is that you can upload your own videos as well to say how you have been using your PC and how it has affected your life, work and personal way of working. Think of this as a way to show your appreciation for this system.

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Categories: Internet | Microsoft | Rave | Windows Live

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Microsoft Product Pacement in a Hindi Movie

I recently happened to watch the new Hindi movie Bachna Ae Haseeno (loosely translated: “Watch Out Girls!”) with my famiy. I was pleasantly surprised to see massive Microsoft product placement in it! The movie stars some very well known names as both the male and female cast - Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Bipasha Basu and Minissha Laamba.

While watching the movie, the hero suddenly states that he’s completed his college and joined MICROSOFT! Parts of the movie (seemingly) are shot in the MS office in Mumbai! There are tons of “Vista rocks” & Xbox posters all over the place.

Not only that, the Xbox 360 and Halo 3 are shown and talked about in detail. Even when Ranbir moves to the MS office in Sydney, he continues being in the Xbox team and talking about this - for instance, "Master Chief's flamethrower is the coolest video game weapon ever!".

His romantic interest played by Deepika, also happens to be a geek girl who not only knows that “Halo 3 is the most talked about video game ever” (actual quote from the movie) but also discusses Xbox live and multiplayer gaming on the Xbox in a party.

This is the first time that I’ve seen such detailed product placement – not just as props but as part of the story and dialogue – in an Indian movie! Kudos to Microsoft for getting this right. The props are not jarringly placed and the dialogue by two of India’s current heart throbs touting the Xbox and Halo 3 is great for a movie that’s gonna be watched by young moviegoers.

After seeing a ton of Mac ads as product placement - every other Hollywood movie has somebody typing away on a Macbook or something similar – it was great to see MS stuff so nicely placed and that too in a Hindi movie! Cool

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Categories: Movies | Rave

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Office 2007 & the OOXML Test: The Real Interpretation

Recently Alex Brown of the ISO made a blog post regarding a test he ran on a Word 2007 DOCX (OOXML) file on the final standard of OOXML that was ratified by the ISO. Suddenly, the infamous Groklaw took up the results, mangled it out of proportion and came up with a sensational verdict of "Office 2007 itself fails the OOXML standard with 122,000 errors". Other news sites quickly picked this up and started reporting the same. I too was quite surprised with this result till I went over to the actual blog post and read through it myself, instead of trusting what Groklaw had reported. Let's analyze what's been said.

Very clearly, Alex states that:

The STRICT conformance model is quite a bit different from Ecma 376, essentially because most of that format's most notorious features (non ISO dates, compatibility settings like autospacewotnot, VML, etc.) have been removed. Thus the expectation is that existing Office 2007 documents might be some distance away from being valid according to the strict schemas [My emphasis --Vinod]

This basically means that since the format's specification has changed (due to the changes requested by many countries in the first round of voting after it was submitted), it can be expected that these changes wouldn't have gotten implemented yet. It's obvious if you think about it. Microsoft submitted the original specification for its OOXML format to the ISO. When countries decided that the specification requires a large number of changes, Microsoft went back, worked hard and incorporated those changes into the specification. Obviously they didn't spend time and effort in making those changes into the product itself before the specification was accepted - since for all they knew it might get rejected again or more changes could have been asked for.

So when there are 122K errors on the STRICT conformance model, it is to be expected - as Alex Brown very clearly states above. Somehow people tend to skip over that part for their own convenience. The really great part comes a little further down:

TRANSITIONAL conformance model is quite a bit closer to the original Ecma 376. Countries at the BRM (rather more than Ecma, as it happened) were very keen to keep compatibilty with Ecma 376 and to preserve XML structures at which legacy Office features could be targetted. The expectation is therefore that an MS Office 2007 document should be pretty close to valid according to the TRANSITIONAL schema.
Sure enough (again) the result is as expected: relatively few messages (84) are emitted and they are all of the same type
... [My emphasis again --Vinod] 

Reading this lets you know that a different conformance model also exists for working on a transitional format which contains a super set of stuff that the STRICT has and Office 2007 is expected to be compatible with it. And surprise, surprise, it sure is. There were 84 warnings that were generated on the same document using the TRANSITIONAL model - and they were all for an element

<m:degHide m:val="on"/>

which according to the specification should have been using "true" instead of "on" (and "false" instead of "off"). That's it - a simple little thing to fix isn't it? Now that the OOXML spec is becoming a standard, MS can go ahead and make the changes in the product to make it conform to the standard and apply it in any major Office 2007 update as well as in the next version of Office. And this is what the entire hullabaloo was about.

Basically I think it is time that news sites read the original source of any "news" and make interpretations themselves, rather than rely on obviously biased reports from sites like Groklaw or Slashdot. Anti-OOXML fanatics also need to get their act together and when they make a claim, substantiate it with actual facts rather than spewing fire and brimstone over nothing. You can also read a much more detailed analysis of this over at Doug Mahugh's blog and discuss it different forums.

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Categories: Microsoft | Rant

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WideOpen Web: The Future is Just Beginning

Thanks to Kevin, our RD Dad, we had a (literally) closed door meeting with none other than Scott Guthrie himself. This was the first time I was meeting him and I found Scott to be a warm, friendly, funny, down-to-earth, and really knowledgeable guy.

We had a great open discussion with Scott - praising and criticizing Microsoft technologies and policies, asking him his thoughts on a number of topics, getting the inside scoop on the future roadmap and more. Unfortunately, all our discussion comes under our NDA and I can't say anything about what we talked about.

I will however leave you with this one thing - if you're a developer or designer in the Web world this is a great time for you. The stuff that is already here and the stuff that is coming up - both soon and in the longer term - will let you expand the boundaries of the way that the Web works and give your users a whole new way of working with it. Be sure to keep an eye on what Microsoft is doing in this space.

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Categories: Internet | Microsoft | Rave

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