Tag Archives: Silverlight

Cross training in software

Several months ago, the opportunity arose to work on a project in Flex.  Brian Genisio has had a lot of experience with WPF and Silverlight and he expressed interest in the Flex project.   While there are a lot of differences between the Adobe world and the Microsoft world, Brian found similarities as well.  And he learned that there are things about each platform that he appreciates over the other.  By learning Flex, he’s become a better Silverlight developer, and by knowing Silverlight, he had quick and substantial success with Flex.  He’s been blogging about the experience, and it’s quite interesting.

We asked James Ward if he would like to do a Flex Jam in Ann Arbor, as we’ve done in previous years. We were thrilled when he agreed.  If you think that you might want to join James (and Brian) in learning Flex in an interactive coding workshop, you can get more information or register at http://www.srtsolutions.com/flex-training.  It’s not just for Java or Flex developers!  If you’re a Silverlight developer, check out Brian’s blog and see if you think learning Flex would help make you a better developer.

How I spent my software stimulus …

A few months ago, Bill Wagner (my business partner at SRT Solutions) and I were talking about how companies were really pulling together in this economy and doing what they could to help others. I was really impressed with the brillant marketing of Atlassian when they rolled out several of their enterprise tools for $5 for 5 days for 5 users.  Nice.  And so we started to think about what we could do, how we could contribute.  The result of that was the SRT Software Stimulus Lab, which we held last Monday at Automation Alley in Troy.  We held a low-cost, no-frills event.  We told people to bring bag lunches and their own coffee.  We made it cheap for employed developers ($50 early bird) and free for those who are unemployed.  And it was … fun, interesting, and productive.  During the registration process, we asked registrants what they wanted to learn and we found that C#, Silverlight, WPF, and Scala were high on the list, as were version control, unit testing, and functional testing.

We started out the day talking one of the most fundamental and, in my opinon, essential tools: version control.  While most people had used version control in one form or another, many of them had only used tools like Visual Source Safe (which, you will likely recall mainly led to annoyance with your coworkers for leaving files locked).  We talked about tools like subversion as today's tools and looked forward a bit toward distributed version control, like bazaar and mercurial.  We set up a repository for the attendees to access and made sure that everyone was able to do so.

After that, we broke into mainly 2 groups.  One attendee, who I know from the Detroit Java User Group, came to learn more about Scala.  He's a Java developer with a significant amount of experience in Groovy.  I enjoyed my time with him, ane he seemed to have fun too.  I don't think that I sold him on Scala (that wasn't my objective), but I believe he left knowing enough about it to decide if he wants to pursue it further or to determine if he wants to stick with Groovy.  We compared and contrasted some features of the languages, and it was fun for both of us (I think!). People from the other group filtered in and out.  One guy teaches C++ on the side, and he was interested,  Another was a PHP developer who was popping in periodically.  We spent some time looking at unit testing in Scala as well as at a lot of the language features, and the preview of what's to come.  Fun stuff!

The other group worked mainly on WPF and Silverlight. The attendees seemed to really appreciate Silverlight (as well as the demos and tutorials that they worked on with the SRT staff).  The attendees also wanted to delve into multithreaded programming a bit, so the SRT staff came up with some demos and an impromptu discussion on that topic.

All in all, the day was what a Jam session should be: a group of people self-organizing into groups to work on things that they enjoy, free to move on if they changed their minds. I really enjoyed spending time with the attendees and I think that we'll probably do the Lab again sometime.  I know that I won't always get to do Scala.  And that's just fine.  I wouldn't have minded learning more about Silverlight myself!

Startup Weekend Ann Arbor … and RIA Tools Tutorial

On Tuesday, June 17, Microsoft is presenting a free one day RIA Tools Tutorial day at SRT Solutions.  Spend the day with Microsoft developer evangelist Jennifer Marsman and RIA evangelist Josh Holmes to learn how to effectively use Visual Studio and Expression Suite to build Silverlight applications.  The event will be heavily hands-on, and space is limited to 15 participants. Register soon.

Next weekend, Ann Arbor is hosting a Startup Weekend. These have been held all over the country and now it's our turn!  Here's a quick blurb about what that means, from startupweekend.com:

Startup Weekend is a intense 54 hour event bringing together brilliant tech minds (developers, designers, marketers, ect.) together to create a company (or as many as the community wants) from concept to launch!

The event will start on Friday June 20 at 6 pm, when teams will be chosen.  By Sunday June 22,  COMPANIES will be launched.  On June 23, some people may begin hiring to move foward if they're ready. Others will probably wait.  SPARK is offering its "Starting your own Business" program to startup weekend participants, for free.  

If you want to attend Startup weekend, sign up soon!


Rich Internet Application Jam: Silverlight and Flex

Last week, James Ward (Adobe), Josh Holmes (Microsoft), and Bruce Eckel (well, Bruce Eckel!) conducted a Rich Internet Application Jam at our office. This was NOT a competitive event.  Rather, in the spirit of CodeMash, people came together to learn about competing technologies in a cooperative manner.  Each attendee decided which technologies to explore, and how much time to spend on them.  Most of the attendees were interested in Flex, but Silverlight was represented as well.  And of course, the Jam included discussions of the strengths of each.  It appears that Flex has strong support for controls, yet to be provided in Silverlight.  Silverlight shines in its support of vector graphics, which Flex doesn't currently provide.

I spent some time looking at the AdvancedDataGrid in Flex 3.  One of the attendees had a customer requirement for a lot of grid data, including summaries and rollups.  The advanced data grid supported what he needed to do, using a combination of summary rows and groupings.  On the summary rows, he was able to choose one of five functions that are baked into the advanced data grid: min, max, average, count, and sum.  Nice!  If you're interested in this, note that the documentation is apparently not available in the Flex 3 docs that are downloaded, but is available online.  Sreenivas Ramaswamy's blog has a nice writeup about this control (and others!).

Andy Beaulieu's site has a cool Silverlight demo.  If you enter an address for which there is Virtual Earth data, you can play a game that allows you to destroy UFO's while flying over that address.  Impressive!

Once again, I was impressed by the Jam format.  With Bruce, James, and Josh to help people over any rough spots, attendees were able to work on exercises that interested them, and spend as much time as they needed on any particular task.  I like this better than the typical situation where a class is in lock step for exercises, and individual attendees are either sitting around waiting for someone to finish, or frantically trying to rush through so that everyone else can move on.  And these people were able to focus on using the technology in a way that is meaningful for their purposes, but have the support of an expert right there.

The attendees seemed to enjoy themselves and learn a lot.  I can't wait til our next Jam: it's a C# Jam with Bill Wagner, Jamie King, and Bruce Eckel.  It will be held at our office April 8-11.  Bruce and Jamie are working on a C# book, and Bill's working on his 3rd C# book.  This Jam will focus on C# 3.0 and its new language features.   The early bird deadline for that event is January 31.


Day 1 of the RIA Jam … and RIA at Special User Group meeting tomorrow

Today was the first day for the Rich Internet Application Jam, being held at SRT Solutions' offices.  James Ward (Adobe)  and Bruce Eckel are here, working side-by-side with people who are in various stages of learning Flex and Josh Holmes (Microsoft) is here representing Silverlight and working with people interested in that.  The Jam goes through Wednesday.

Tomorrow night (Tuesday January 15), James and Bruce will present a talk, "Connecting Java with Flex using Open Source Blaze".  The discussion will include how Blaze differs from LiveCycle Data Services and perhaps even a little bit of Scala.  You see, James spent some time this past weekend connecting Flex to Scala.  Interesting.

This is a special joint meeting of the Ann Arbor Computer Society and Ann Arbor Java User Group, and will be held at 206 S. Fifth Ave, Suite 200, Ann Arbor, MI 48104.  The meeting starts at 6 pm, and is free and open to the public.  AACS is providing pizza. 

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