Welcome to my blog

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Look at me, I got a new blog ;-)
Before starting to post more technical things, I'd like to say a few words about myself.

My name is Laurent, I am swiss, born in Lausanne in 1971. Currently I live not far from Zurich with my wife and my 2 daughters.

I work as a software engineer for Siemens since 1996. My work has made me touch a lot of different programming languages and environment, starting with embedded C, and moving to embedded C++, then Java, and for the last 4 years working with .NET technologies.

I actually came to software engineering through an unsual way, having studied latin and other literary things in school. My dream was always to become a professional pilot for Swissair, in preparation of which I entered engineer school, specializing in electronics. During engineer school, I really fell in love with technology and understood that there was more for me in that than just being a bridge to pilot school. When Swissair closed its pilot school due to financial reasons just before I started taking classes in it, I was not that sad that it gave me the occasion to work as an engineer and to put in practice what I had learned.

I started working for a relatively small company named Staefa Control Systems, which was making systems for building automation, especially heating, cooling and ventilation systems. This is when I started programming for a living, which led me 2 years later to follow a postformation in software engineering in the Engineer's school in Rapperswil. There I learned a lot of new things, especially OO programming, which very fast became one of my passions.

Parallelly to this, I also started making websites (in 1997) for myself and for friends and studying other web-related technologies. I discovered JavaScript very early, and took a huge liking in this language. One of the reasons I like it so much is that it's accessible to everyone, because you only need a text editor and a web browser to start programming. So many non-software specialists program JavaScript, and many had questions to ask, so I started answering some of them in comp.lang.javascript, which gave me great satisfaction in helping other people feeling the same joys I did when I programmed. I quickly became proficient in JavaScript, and I am very pleased to see this language becoming more and more significant in the web, with Atlas especially.

The web experiences I made led me to work with Java applets, and I specialized in "invisible applets", i.e. applets which are not visible on the web page, but which are controlled by JavaScript. One example of that is an applet which quite a lot of people downloaded, named WebLoadFile. This applet is able to connect to its own server and download a file's content, and then pass it to JavaScript. This allowed people to use pure client-side technologies to load files, check for their existence, make lists of files in a folder, etc... and was useful when you were not having the corresponding server-side technology (or that you were unable to use it for some reason). I now consider WebLoadFile deprecated, but it still works in the newer browsers anyway.

In 2002, I was contacted by O'Reilly to proof-read the french translation of their "JavaScript, the definitive guide", which was my JavaScript bible at the time (and which I still open to find references when I am not online). This work gave me great satisfaction, and a new experience.

The same year, I worked on a project in Visual Basic, which I didn't know yet. It was interesting to learn to know this language, which I still use to program macros (in Excel mostly) when needed. However, I never fell in love with the language, and use it only when I have to. Privately, I started developing small ASP projects with ADO, mostly because I wanted to learn to know this platform, and I realized for example a DVD database which my colleagues and I use to lend movies to each other.

In 2003, I started my first .NET project at Siemens (which has, in between, purchased my firm), and realized a desktop application used to manipulate data in an Access database. As this was the first .NET project we did, I used the opportunity to make the UI layer in VB.NET and the business logic layer in C# to compare these two languages. I came very fast to the conclusion that VB.NET is not needed anymore, expecially if you knew C, C++ or Java before. All the strength of VB (rapid UI development especially) were available in C#, and since then I didn't touch VB.NET anymore.

In 2004, I had the great chance to be able to combine my professional skills (C#, .NET) with my private skills (Internet, JavaScript, ASP) and started to work on a web application working as a "web companion" to our desktop product, which is a management station for building automation. I'll post more on that later, as the concept is an interesting one, and I believe that this product is a great achievement. We used JavaScript extensively (including web services, but without Atlas which was yet to come ;-) to improve the user's experience. Thanks to my prior experience in JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and .NET, I was in charge of coordinating the developers of the presentation layer of this application, and I also programmed most of the custom controls and of the "framework" that we used. For example, we implemented master pages in ASP.NET 1.1 (it's now included in ASP.NET 2.0), which was very interesting. We also use .NET Remoting for communication between the web server and the management station. More about all that later... see, I am so proud of this project I can't stop talking about it.

This project has kept me busy for the last 2.5 years, and now I started working on a new project, which is very much in the early stages... Once again we are thinking of using new technologies like WPF(/E), WCF, ASP.NET 2.0 etc... so I am back on the bleeding edge.

OK, I have been much more verbose than I originally planned to, so I'd better stop now and post this!

In the same process of thoughts that led me to start this blog, I am also revamping my website www.galasoft-lb.ch, so if you want to know more about me, you can visit it, subscribe to this blog or simply contact me. I am always happy to do my best and help fellow programmers when I can, and don't worry, I'll get your help when I need some too ;-)
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