ASP.NET MVC Release Candidate

The ASP.NET MVC team released their Release Candidate product last Tuesday.  The team is still tracking well to their 1.0 release later this month.

You can download the RC version from the ASP.NET MVC web site.

On a semi-related note, there is also a MEAP (Manning Early Access Program) update for the ASP.NET MVC in Action including a handful of new chapters.  Currently the first 11 of 14 are available.

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jQuery to Ship With VS2010!

In a move to improve its tool set, Microsoft announced that the next version of its development flagship, Visual Studio, version 2010 will include the jQuery Javascript library.

Rich Internet Applications (RIA’s) represent a growing proportion of our custom software development. Using such libraries as jQuery or Prototype we are able to deliver rich client-side functionality that is cross-browser compatible with greater ease than ever before.

With this announcement, it is clear that Microsoft understands the trend and is looking for opportunities to capitalize on it.

For us as developers, VS2010 will allow us to build even better, more robust web applications that can run on a multitude of browsers and operating systems.

Gotta love it!

Looking for Silverlight Books?

So am I.  I decided to at a look at some well known software development publishers to see what they have available for Silverlight books.

Apress has five titles listed for Silverlight, but as of this blog posting, all are “NOT YET PUBLISHED”.  It doesn’t look like they are offering a Silverlight 1.0 book as most titles reference specifically Silverlight 1.1.  I like Apress books and I highly recommend their “Pro” series.  I am a little disappointed in their lack of a decent Silverlight 1.0 book.

O’Reilly has three titles that are currently in print, all three at an introductory (or essentials) level.  Their “Getting Started with Silverlight” began shipping back in April 2007.  There are not many reviews listed with this title, but the average rating is five stars out of six.

SAMS has a single contribution in their “Unleashed” titles in “Silverlight 1.0 Unleashed“.  Generally speaking, their “Unleashed” series are high end, but it was only published this month and there have been no reviews posted yet.  Perhaps if you’ve read it you can post one.

Wrox has two titles currently shipping including “Silverlight 1.0” and “Silverlight 1.0 Animation”.  I’ve read a good review of the Silverlight title by Palermo4.

No doubt, the weeks ahead will see more and more titles being published on Microsoft’s Silverlight technology.  If only one can demonstrate a killer application BEYOND a media player.

AJAX Options

AJAX is still a large buzz in the industry.  For some that are just beginning to use this technology, it can be confusing to know where to start.  There are dozens of choices of technologies that will allow you to create AJAX enabled systems, but which do you choose?  Which is the “right” one?

This post will explore some the options we’ve tried as well as the pros and cons of each.

Our experiences in developing web-based applications have not been limited to developing only ASP.NET applications.  We have run the gamut of development technologies though we have standardized on two technologies in particular in the recent number of years; ASP.NET and PHP.

We looked at a number of technologies to help us implement AJAX in our web applications. The first decent package was Anthem.NET.

Anthem has an extended set of ASP.NET controls that have AJAX built right into them. For example, if you want an ASP.NET Button on your form make the post-back call through
AJAX, you can simply reference the Anthem library and change your ASP.NET Button to an Anthem Button:

From:  <asp:button id=”someId” />
To:     <anthem:button id=”someId” />

And your call back to the server-side processing will be made through AJAX.  Very easy and Anthem has extended all common ASP.NET controls including the DataGrid, DataList and Calendar controls.  Also, Anthem handles both 1.1 and 2.0 versions of ASP.NET.

A draw back to Anthem.NET is that you cannot control the order of AJAX calls to the server.  For complicated forms, the asynchronous calls can be confused and fired out of order.  Anthem is a great solution for simple systems.

Next, we looked at a Microsoft initiative, code named Atlas at the time.  Atlas was in alpha testing and it we decided not to pursue it further until the project matured.  Atlas bloomed into its 1.0 release as ASP.NET AJAX, a much leaner and production ready toolset.  I can’t help but feel that ASP.NET AJAX is the proverbial elephant gun to allow us developers to hunt rabbit. It’s a large toolset that is difficult to retrofit into an existing web application as there are a number of elements that need to be added to the project’s web.config file.  On the plus side, once it is integrated with your web application, making use of AJAX calls is as simple as adding an <UpdatePanel> to your ASPX page. Don’t forget to also add that <ScriptManager> or your calls will fail and the server will complain.  An post back thrown inside the update panel is handled through AJAX.

ASP.NET AJAX may be large, and a bit of a challenge to implement, but it is a very powerful and thorough implementation of AJAX.  Coupled with the powerful ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit, we are deciding to use ASP.NET AJAX more often in our web applications.

As I said earlier, not all of our web applications are based on ASP.NET.  For these systems, we have standardized on using Prototype. Prototype is an amazing JavaScript library that can be easily added to any web page by simply referencing the prototype.js file.  Doing so exposes a number of client side javaScript enhancements including an AJAX model for executing AJAX requests and handling the response.  Prototype is so helpful, that we’ve also used it in a number of ASP.NET web applications for everything from client side UI handling, wiring client side events and process AJAX requests.

We have made tremendous inroads to finding meaningful ways of integrating Prototype with ASP.NET applications to create robust web applications that offer very rich user
experiences.

Introducing Silverlight

“Using the Technology You Don’t Know About to Deliver the Systems You Never Knew You Wanted”

There’s been a buzz in the air recently about this new fangled technology from Microsoft <insert groan here>.   The buzz surrounding Microsoft Silverlight has been building over the last number of months for us in the programming community and has recently come to a head with the official release of Silverlight 1.0 only a few weeks ago.

What is Silverlight?  Silverlight is a technology specializing in delivering rich Internet applications (RIA, another buzz word you may have heard with the whole web 2.0) using a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in.  In other words, it’s a fancy new do-hickey for your web browser that will give you access to some really cool new web sites.

Web sites offering Silverlight content are able to deliver a fully customized user interface with support for embedded audio and video.  Many big companies have begun deploying Silverlight enabled web sites including the WWE, Entertainment Tonight, Home Shopping Network, MajorLeague Baseball, and the DiscoveryChannel.

One of the great aspects of Silverlight 1.0 is that any web site can take advantage of the technology independent of the web server platform or technology supported.  So, if you have a PHP application running on an Apache web server with a MySQL database,
no problem.  If you want a web site that delivers a full on multimedia interface with protected, encoded media files, again… with Silverlight, it’s no problem.

Part of the magic of Silverlight 1.0 is the fact that it is 100% client-side scripted using the Silverlight JavaScript toolkit.  This powerful toolkit supports Firefox, Internet Explorer and Opera on Windows, Macintosh and Linux computers and Safari on the Macintosh platform and Konqueror on Linux.   It truly is cross browser and cross platform.

What does the future hold for this budding new technology?  Silverlight 1.1 is already in the works set for a 2008 release.  This next version will extend Silverlight to make it tightly integrate with Microsoft’s ASP.NET web application platform.  This will allow developers to deliver even more powerful web-based applications where the only limit is the developer’s own imagination. Visit http://silverlight.net/ for more information.