MIX07 day 2

.NET, MIX, Technical stuff, Work
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On Tuesday, most of the day was packed with sessions. I managed to see very interesting information. Microsoft is really pushing SIlverlight a lot, and while it’s great news for web applications, I really hope that they will not release their effort on WPF. We’re waiting for V2!!

Building Silverlight Applications using .NET (Part 1 of 2)

This session was most probably great for developers without experience with WPF. For me, however, after a certain point, I found myself thinking “I know all that already”. And then I suddenly realized that it is actually great: It means that the Silverlight programming model in .NET is so close from full-featured WPF that the learning curve is actually very small. This is a great realization.

As we progress through the conference, I have been thinking a lot about the future of JavaScript. As you may know, I really like JavaScript. It’s been with JavaScript that I started making my first contibutions to the programming community already more than 10 years ago. I really love that language and have been evangelizing it quite a lot within Siemens. But now I think that I’ll find myself using C# on the target web browser more. This is actually what I have done already years ago with Java and LiveConnect. Java has the ability to do things that JavaScript cannot: Open sockets to the server, read and parse server-side files, etc. So I made invisible applets (1*1 pixels, and getting the same background color as the page). However, the communication Java – JavaScript using LiveConnect was always cumbersome. Silverlight pushes this a lot further, and allows direct access, because the Silverlight DOM is totally exposed to JavaScript. Also, you can hook JavaScript event handlers to Silverlight events, and you can also hook Silverlight event handlers to HTML events. Honestly, if I had to choose one feature that really tops all others in this conference, that’s the one. I just went to another session called “Extending the browser’s programming model with Silverlight”, and I will write more about this soon, so stay tuned.

Oh, BTW: When you work with Silverlight on .NET, you must add references to the System DLL and also mscorlib. However, there is a different version of them for Silverlight. So the way it works is: The libraries don’t have all the .NET 3.0 classes, but eventually the CLR engine is exactly the same as the full blown WPF one. This is a great model for extensibility.

Design Rich Client Experiences with Expression Blend and WPF

This session was rather meant for designers, but I had a lot of fun anyway.

Side note: We got some rubber bracelets with different colors: Yellow for designers, Blue for developers and Green for business. I decided to make a statement and to wear one blue and one yellow, and to fully embrace my devigner identity ;)

So anyway. The session showed a lot of using Blend, and it really made me realize that so far, I only touched the surface of what you can do with that tool. That leads us to the “motto du jour”: Keep your projects blendable as long as possible. If you data bind in XAML, you need to come up with a kind of simulation data making you able to see the data items in Blend as you design them. That’s a trick that I don’t master yet, I’ll need to test this more.

Developing ASP.NET AJAX Controls with Silverlight

I am a big fan of Nikhil Kothari, and it was great to see him again do a very nice session. Nikhil showed how to use ASP.NET controls to integrate Silverlight in a web page. There are two basic controls allowing you to very easily add Silverlight experience to your web page: XAML control and Media control

These two controls allow a fairly unexperienced developer to easily integrate Silverlight in the page. The Media control, for example, comes with skins, and these skins can be controlled using ASP.NET control properties. So you can use pre-designed skins.

There is, however, more than that: You can actually edit the XAML skins files in the Expression tools, and basically you have 100% control over the code! This is great for people confident with XAML and the Expression tools.

Lessons Learned: Designer/Developer Productivity in Windows Presentation Foundation

Great session again by IdentityMine. Especially great to hear about my biggest interest of the moment, how to improve designer-developer collaboration in WPF.These guys have a huge experience in the subject. We also heard about the newest product shipped by IdentityMine, a set of controls which will no doubts be very useful in many WPF projects. The package is called “Blendables”. Learn more about it on www.blendables.com.

One blendable I love: EvalBinding. This markup extension allows you to specify expressions in your bindings! Tired of writing converters: Then EvalBinding is for you. For example:

{b:EvalBinding [(double) Column1.Width + (double) Column2.Width]}

General session

I attended only the first 20 minutes or so of the general session. The first part was OK, with Disney demonstrating a Vista gadget they implemented. This gadget is especially used in HongKong, where Disney needs to advertise their Disneyland, but where broadband is not widely available. People in HongKong often go to Internet cafés to have broadband. The gadget makes the Disney marketing available easily to these computers.

After a while, though, I started to feel a little tired of the marketing talk… So I decided to go and take a walk on the strip, and had a great time taking pictures and observing that amazing place.

Dinner with Infragistics

After my walk, I had dinner with people form Infragistics, who also just released V1 of their WPF controls set. Lots of great stuff to play with, and they are currently working a lot of these controls and also whole new ones. It’s certainly great to see all big names in the .NET world coming up with tons of applications and controls.

Cirque du Soleil

To conclude a great and packed day, I crossed the road to Treasure Island and had a great time watching the late show of Cirque du Soleil Mystere. It was simply fantastic. I had seen Ka last year, and liked it but Mystere is very different, much more circus-like (though à la Cirque du Soleil, so with a lot of amazing costumes and props). When the show was over, I was sure only one hour had passed, but no, actually it had been going on for two full hours. Make sure to catch one of these shows when you’re in Vegas, it’s really worth it.

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