Tag Archives: Microsoft

Rich Internet Application Jam at SRT January 14-16

SRT Solutions will be hosting an RIA Jam, with Bruce Eckel, James Ward (Adobe) and Josh Holmes (Microsoft).  This self-paced exploration of rich internet options will give participants the ability to learn about Flex and Silverlight and to talk about JavaFX, which doesn't seem to be quite ready for prime time just yet.

I've done several of the jams that Bruce has organized, and I have found them to be great learning experiences. I'm thrilled that we will be hosting this at our new office in Ann Arbor.  We've been getting inquiries about it already, and since enrollment is limited to 30 participants, it seems prudent to register early (plus, early bird pricing of $400 by Jan 2 versus $500 after that makes registering early wise as well).  Sure, you could learn these technologies on your own, but I've found that learning in a jam session like this helps me stay focused when I get frustrated, and that's proved to be really helpful.

Oh, and Adobe is throwing in a free FlexBuilder license with your paid registration fee.  Nice!

Registration and more information are available on Bruce's site

 

September Ann Arbor Tech Events

Ah, a new month and more tech events in Ann Arbor. All meetings are free and open to the public.  SRT is happy to say that we will be hosting several of these meetings in our new office, at 206 S. Fifth, Suite 200.  That's at the corner of Fifth and Washington, directly above the Linux Box.  Entrance is on Fifth; take the elevator to floor 2R (or you can take the stairs, but then you have to wind around on the 2nd floor to find our office).

Tomorrow, Wednesday September 5, Dave Strenski of Cray Inc., will be presenting a talk for the Ann Arbor Computer Society, entitled "Estimating FPGA 64-bit Floating Point Performance".  For a brief summary on FPGA (Field Gate Programmable Arrays), go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FPGA.  Dave will talk about the architecture of the Xilinx Virtec-4 and Virtex-5 FPGA chips, and demonstrate how to estimate their performance.  This meeting will be held at SPARK Central, 330 E. Liberty (lower level) for the last time.  Starting in October, SRT will be hosting the AACS meetings.

On Thursday, September 6, the Michigan Python User Group will talk about "Python 3.0: What's up with that?".  The group will meet at SRT's offices, at 206 S. Fifth Ave, Suite 200 (see directions above).

On Monday, September 10, at UM's North Campus (EECS 1200), the Ruby MI group will meet.  In addition to open discussion, the meeting will include:

  1. User Group Challenge – Boggle
  2. Ruby/Rails Editors lightening talks
  3. RubyConf*MI

 
The Ann Arbor Java User group, which usually meets the first Tuesday of the month, has moved its meeting to next Tuesday,September 11, because of the holiday.  Raj Rajen will be presenting Janeeva's experiences with Flex.  The AAJUG meeting will be held at its longtime location at Washtenaw Community College, Room WCC BE250

And finally, the Ann Arbor Dot Net Developer Group (AADND) meets on Wednesday, September 12 for a talk on Windows Workflow (WF) and "Following the Rules", by Michael Wood. AADND will also be meeting at SRT's office, at 206 S. Fifth Ave, Suite 200 (see directions above).

UI Smackdown: Session 3

XAML/MXML: Why both?

I'm always curious when we have competing standards emerging, and I wonder how that happens, and why.  So, since we had people who were knowledgeable about both Flex and WPF at the UI Smackdown, it seemed reasonable to explore this issue with respect to XAML (Microsoft's XML scripting language for use with WPF) and MXML (Adobe's XML scriptiong language for use with Flex).  How similar are they?  Do they strive to solve the same problem? Will one standard emerge?

MXML is Adobe's markup language. It's essentially a DSL (domain specific language) for ECMA script.  You write MXML and it compiles into Action Script.  It has a familiar feel to HTML.  Used for layout.

ActionScript is used for all procedural components.  In Apollo, ActionScript compiles to byte code on the server.

XAML is Microsoft's markup language.  You use it to write WPF applications.  Instead of ActionScript, procedural components are written in C# or VB.NET.  XAML is not just for WPF.  It's a serializable format that can be used to:

  • serialize event wireups
  • refer to other objects in serializing code
  • serialize property injections
  • add properties to a language

You can pull in more than just state with XAML.  WPF and WF use XAML (and other technologies will as well).

Thus, MXML is really more specific to layouts, while XAML manages serialized formats.  The general consensus from both vendors is that the technology needs to mature before it can be standardized.  It's hard to work with other primary vendors while trying to innovate (e.g., XUL, SVG).  It's better to give the technologies time to mature and then let them come together.

With that understanding, we moved on to what some described as the "real" question.  The tooling on top of XAML and MXML is really the key, not the underlying technologies that implement it.  So the real question is: WPF/E or Flex? 

In designing tools toward productivity in developers, Microsoft has the edge.  Adobe's process is more manual, but this will be addressed in Flex 3.

Microsoft's Expression UI writes to XAML source files in the same project as Visual Studio Developer.  On the other hand, pure designers feel more comfortable using Photoshop, so Adobe certainly has an edge there.

For now, the jury is out regarding which to use.  As they both mature, this will be interesting to watch.

MXML
Adobe's markup language, used to build Flex apps
XAML
Microsoft's markup language, used to build WPF apps

It’s a busy week in Ann Arbor!

I’m still trying to finish up my blog from my visit to Microsoft last week (and from the Michigan Celebration of Women in Computing over the weekend), but I wanted to make sure that I mentioned the busy week that we’re having in Ann Arbor this week.

James Ward, Flex evangelist from Adobe, is coming in from Oklahoma City to present Flex both Tuesday night at the Ann Arbor Java User Group (www.aajug.org), at 7:00 (note the earlier time!), and on Wednesday night at the Ann Arbor Computer Society (www.computersociety.org) at 6:00 pm. While James has sent me the same abstract for both nights, he’s said that the Tuesday night event will be more Java-focused and the Wednesday night event will be more about the technology. There’s not much overlap in attendance at the groups but since I’m planning to attend both nights, it will be great to hear something different the second night.

Here’s the abstract:

Sexy Web Apps with Java, Mozilla Tamarin, and Flex

In this session James Ward will do live demonstrations and write code to show how easy it is to build sexy web apps with Java, Mozilla Tamarin, and Flex. The session will cover the programming model, Java Remoting, Pub/Sub messaging & JMS integration, Data Synchronization, Hibernate integration, charting, cinematic experiences, and media integration.

I’ve seen James demo some incredible stuff with Flex. He built a TurboGears widget with Flex at CodeMash. He demo’ed a nice bookshelf photo application there as well (using photos from CodeMash!). And, he showed a demo at the Java Posse Roundup that used transparent pages from an old medical textbook … wow! To be able see the transparent pages turn, and to be able to see through them to the previous page is REALLY cool, and really does give you a flavor for the compelling interfaces that can be built with modern technologies.

We’re really making the best of James’ time while he’s here. In addition to the evening events, Adobe, Microsoft, and SRT Solutions are presenting, “UI Smackdown 2007: Using GWT, Flex, and WPF”. This is a one-day workshop to learn more about all of these toolkits in an open spaces type of environment. We’re going to start off by presenting a quick overview of each, and then the participants will be breaking out into groups of their choosing to work with the various toolkits. The $90 registration fee includes continental breakfast and lunch. There are still a few slots available, so if you still want to sign up, do so right away so that we can make sure that we order enough food!

Day 1 at the MTS07: Keynote


Keynote:

They keynote was delivered by Bill Hilf. Bill comes from the open source community but now works for Microsoft, as the General Manager of Platform Strategy. His intent is to build the community, for the benefit of the software community as a whole as well as for the benefit of Microsoft. Bill seems to get the idea about how open source can benefit Microsoft, and how collaboration can help as well.

Bill is unapologetic. Microsoft is in the OSS to make more money. For him, this is not an emotional process. By building partnerships with other companies, he can sell more software (licenses, etc.). They sponsor every open source conference, to some extent. They will speak and sponsor at every event.

Port25 is the community front end for communicating the strategy and intention coming out of the open source lab.

http://port25.technet.com

Codeplex is open source community for developers, based on Visual Studio

Bill described a set of lessons about cooperating as well as competing with other companies, that he has taken from his favorite video game: Official Strategy Guide, World of Warcraft

Collaborate and compete, but there are challenges to doing so:

  • The Observer Effect – when you enter into an environment you change it by becoming a part of it
  • Balance – how much to compete, how much to cooperate
  • Perceptions – small but loud open source philosophers.  They believe that commercial software shouldn’t exist.  Huge base of people who write and deploy code and make policy about code: much more pragmatic.  Understanding the audience is important, and don’t target the business policy to the philosopher.
  • Red Oceans and status quo – what could you build?  Windows and Office are existing markets that make a lot of money.  Moving those markets is not a trival task. 
  • Focus – limited resources
  • The benefit and bane of history.  History of Microsoft, what has been problematic, what has been done and what they don’t do well.

 

Things that matter include:

  • Relationships
  • Platforms
  • Communities
  • Ecosystems
  • Value
  • Making Money

 

Lessons:

  • Patience is the key
  • Learn what you can handle
  • Invest in friends and skilled allies (hire people smarter than yourself)
  • Identify goals and suitable targets
  • The right place at the right time
  • Use all resources – “play long, play hard, and use as many sources as you see fit”

 

Port25
Community front end for communicating strategy and intention coming out of open source lab
CodePlex
Open Source Community for developers, based on Visual Studio

Bill Wagner on DotNetRocks

Check out Bill Wagner’s latest appearance on DotNetRocks, Show #223. For anyone who doesn’t know, Bill is my business partner and author of Effective C#, The C# Little Black Book, and various articles. I haven’t listened to his DNR podcast yet, but I plan to listen to it on the way home from Redmond tomorrow.

Bill on Dot Net Rocks

UI Smackdown 2007 Early Bird Expires Today

If you’ve been planning to attend the User Interface Smackdown 2007 event to explore GWT, Flex, and WPF, today is the last day to get early bird pricing. At close of business today, we’ll be updating the pricing, so if you’ve been planning to attend and have just been procrastinating, the time is now.

We’re also getting really close to reaching capacity for the event. Unfortunately, the “Buy now” buttons for Google checkout don’t seem to support limiting quantity, so we’ve been manually watching registrations.

On a more technical note, I’m going to have to look into tying into the Google checkout API, I think. My wish list for Google checkout includes support for limiting quantity, being able to specify how many items to buy at a given time, and being able to add a comment field, so that people can manually add information about who they are registering. That’s probably a bit much to ask for in the Buy Now button realm, but hey! Anyhow, I’m looking forward to diving into the Google checkout API to see what we can do with it.

And, back on topic: register now if you’ve been planning to attend. Hope to see you there!

Registration link

UI Smackdown 2007 Event Details

Day 0 : Microsoft Technology Summit

I’m here in Redmond, WA, for the Microsoft Technology Summit, an event geared toward people who have been identified as community leaders in a geographic region and who do NOT predominantly use Microsoft development tools.

Travel here was uneventful. A friend who used to live in Ann Arbor, but now works for Microsoft (Stan Kitsis) picked me up at the airport and after lunch we went off for a hike at Snoqualmie Falls. The waterfall was rushing today, and mist was reaching the observation platforms. We did the hike to the bottom of the falls (about ¾ of a mile). It was a great hike, well worth the climb back up. And the weather here was gorgeous … sunny skies with high clouds.

Tonight was the Evening Welcome Reception at a restaurant near the hotel. This was a nice small party, with most of the people in attendance. There are people here from Thailand, Malaysia, even Australia (I may have missed one country). At dinner, I sat next to Yakov Fain. He is a certified Flex instructor from New Jersey and we both know James Ward, who is a Flex evangelist. In the “small world news”, Yakov lives in a town one over from where my husband grew up. On the other side of me was Duncan Buell, Computer Science Department Chair at the University of South Carolina. We had some interesting discussions about IDEs and teaching kids computer science (in addition to other things). Also at the table was Peter Laudati, Microsoft Developer Evangelist from New Jersey, and Tanya Young, who is coordinating the event. I also met Scott Preston from Columbus who was wearing his CodeMash t-shirt! Cool!

Yakov sent some links to his eBook: "Java for Kids, Parents and Grandparents", in response to Duncan's question about the right balance between spending time introducing OOP and actual coding. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’m looking forward to it. Duncan mentioned that his university is putting together a summer program for kids, using the Alice programming language. Interestingly enough, I’m heading to the Michigan Celebration of Women in Computing conference on Friday night, and there’s a session on using Alice to teach programming at that event. One of my colleagues in Ann Arbor, Aydin Akcasu, has done talks on using the Kids Programming Language (at Day of Dot Net in 2006)

Back to this conference, events kick off tomorrow, with a keynote followed by sessions on Microsoft Research, SOA, Dynamic Languages on the CLR, CardSpace, and XAML/WF/WCF, and the day will finish off with a visit to a local restaurant.

UI Smackdown 2007 Explained

Is this wrestling or deciphering software technologies? Definitely the latter!

A few people have asked me about the name we chose for our user interface event on April 4, which will include Flex, GWT, and WPF. Honestly, the name was proposed by one of the participants, and we couldn’t think of one that we liked better!

This will NOT be a confrontational event, and I hope that no one has signed up to witness the World Wrestling equivalent in the software world. Instead, like CodeMash, the idea is to bring together people interested in different technologies and learn an appreciation for what each one provides. We think that this is a huge win for the vendors involved, since it offers an honest glimpse into the perspective that programmers bring to technologies as they evaluate them.

I’m really looking forward to the event. I’ve seen quite a bit of Flex and it’s very impressive. I’ve seen enough WPF to find that compelling as well. GWT sort of serves a different purpose, but we included it because it’s a different approach to the same problem: how do we build user interfaces that customers can use, but that programmers can maintain and understand.

If you haven’t signed up yet, but have been planning to, the time is now (we had some glitches with our registration page, but I moved it to a different site and I think it’s all working now; if you have problems email info@srtsolutions.com and we’ll get you set up). We have had a great response, and we may end up cutting off registrations. The early bird deadline is Monday (March 26), and the fee through Monday is $75. After that, we’re raising the price to $90, but with the rate at which we’re getting signups, I may end up closing registration before we even get to that point. And from my perspective, that’s a VERY good thing. If we need to choose a larger venue for a future event of this sort, that’s just fine by me!

Microsoft Technology Summit 2007

No, you didn't stumble on Bill's blog accidentally. Really, I'm going to Redmond!

I’m heading off to Redmond on Sunday. Yes, Redmond. No, I do not typically develop on the Microsoft platform (at least not recently), but that’s the point of this conference. This is a conference targeted at community leaders not currently developing on the Microsoft platform. It’s an honor to be included (which is a response in large part, I’m sure, to the many hours I put in to help organize CodeMash). Only about 50 people have been invited and we will be meeting with the product and research teams. It sounds like we will have an opportunity to provide feedback to those teams as well as be exposed to the latest cool things that Microsoft has available. I’m looking forward to not only learning about the latest in what Microsoft has to offer, but I’m also interested in meeting the other participants and helping to build that community as well.

My involvement with CodeMash and my participation at the various Open Spaces events that Bruce Eckel has been hosting (including Programming the New Web, Web Frameworks Jam, TurboGears Jam, and most recently, the Java Posse Roundup) has given me the opportunity to realize that I really enjoy building community. I have been involved with this in the past (Ann Arbor Computer Society, and the Ann Arbor ITZone). I’m trying to work with the Ann Arbor Java User group, and I’ve been going to Python User Group meetings as well. A large part of being an entrepreneur in software is networking. I really dislike some aspects of that. I dislike going to meetings and shaking hands, and delivering elevator pitches. What I do like is getting to know people at conferences or user group meetings, learning what they do, who they work with, who they interact with in the community and what technologies they use. I LOVE meeting new people and talking geek stuff with them. I don’t like meeting business people and giving spiels. I know that this business requires a bit of both, but I would really rather spend time with the fun, cool, technical people when I can!

About a week before CodeMash, we created a google group for people to communicate with one another prior to the event. In addition to helping plan logistics, like carpooling, room sharing and such, it gave us an opportunity to build some community in advance of the event. Face it — geeks can be shy. If this helps to bring us out of our shells so that the face-to-face meeting is a little easier, then that’s great. It gives us all some context about the rest of the group, so that when we finally do meet, it’s a bit more relaxed (I think, at least).

Anyhow, I offered to create a group for the MTS2007 and the Microsoft staff took me up on the offer. People have been signing up all week and I’m looking forward to meeting all of them in person.

I’ll blog more from the event (Microsoft is OK with us blogging about it).