Rockford Lhotka

 Friday, July 14, 2006

CSLA .NET version 2.0.3 is now available for download at www.lhotka.net/cslanet/download.aspx. This is a bug fix update to address various errata and issues that readers have found since version 2.0.2.

Most notably, this version (hopefully) fixes the issues with CslaDataSource, where it would sometimes fail to find the business assembly. Please note that the type name is case-sensitive and typos are now the primary reason the type/assembly can't be found.

To give you some idea what's going on with CslaDataSource, here's the short story:

In CSLA .NET 2.0 (and in the books), I implemented CslaDataSource so it loaded the business assembly at design time (in VS 2005) to get the assembly's metadata. The metadata is needed for the web forms designer so the GridView and DetailsView controls can show the right columns/rows. And that worked, but had the problem that changes to the business assembly during development weren't picked up by CslaDataSource.

In 2.0.1 I altered CslaDataSource to load the business assembly in a temporary AppDomain. That allows me to unload the AppDomain and thus unload the assembly - so CslaDataSource can always reflect against the latest assembly. Which is a great idea, except that there's no supported (or even unsupported really) way to find the current business assembly. It turns out that VS 2005 puts the assemblies into a shadow directory, creating a new shadow directory each time you build your project or update an external assembly. To work around this, I am doing a sort of hack by inferring the shadow directory location and then finding the most recently created shadow directory (by date/time).

Now, in 2.0.3 I altered CslaDataSource yet again, to better infer the shadow directory location. My previous approach didn't handle having Csla.dll in the GAC, and failed at other (seemingly random) times as well. The new approach infers the shadow directory inside the primary VS 2005 AppDomain, and using the business assembly/type as the source location (rather than Csla.dll). This change appears to have fixed the random failures and should allow Csla.dll to be in the GAC. I doubt it allows the business assembly to be in the GAC, but (imo) that's not a good idea anyway.

Friday, July 14, 2006 8:02:57 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Tuesday, July 11, 2006

After spending (what to me was) an unbelievable number of hours fighting with css, I have a new web site: www.lhotka.net is now ASP.NET 2.0, with master pages, themes and a pure css layout. Special thanks to Mike Gale for helping me with some issues, and to http://www.positioniseverything.net/ for providing tools that generate various types of css layouts. It continues to amaze me that you need a tool (and various browser-specific hacks) to generate simple tabular page layouts - but I guess that's the web for you...

Anyway, the end result is that the web site is no longer hosted on a ~7 year old dual P3/450 machine with 512 megs of RAM - but rather is hosted on a (relatively) new Athalon 3100 with a couple gigs of RAM. So not only does it look different, but it is a bit faster too :)

However, some of the speed is bled off by my choice to jump into virtualization. The web "server" is actually now a virtual machine. (yes, I know you are supposed to keep these sorts of details private to slow hackers - but sharing information is the key to forward motion...)

I chose to do this because it means I have a lot more flexibility going forward. In particular, if this physical machine were to crash, I could rehost the vhd files on another machine and get running again relatively fast. Trying to do that with an OS directly installed on the hard drive is non-trivial (requiring something like Ghost or Acronis TrueImage).

With the virtualization, I can script it so the VM shuts down, the vhd files are copied elsewhere (as a backup) and the VM is restarted. Full image backups in just a couple minutes! Hard to beat that as a feature!

It is also the case that this server box is largely underutilized. It isn’t like my web site or blog are popular enough to overwhelm the machine. So now I have the ability to host other virtual machines on the same physical box, for testing of beta software or hosting other types of servers if I have the need going forward.

I had also considered moving from cvs to svn at the same time as the rest of the upgrade process. In researching that, I decided there was simply too much risk. While Subversion installed OK, the cvs2svn tool was unable to handle the CSLA .NET code repository. As with many of these tools, it was written by Un*x people for their needs, and has never really be made to work with the Windows equivalent software (cvsnt in my case). While it works for some people, my repository is apparently too old and complex (tagging/branching/deleting of files/directories).

The end result is that switching to svn means abandoning all the history I have in cvs. I’m not quite ready to do that, nor do I want to lose the cvsgraph abilities from viewcv (because there’s no equivalent for svn at present I guess). So for now, at least, I’m sticking with cvs.

Of course the obvious question is why I didn’t switch to Microsoft VSTS/TFS. There are perhaps two good reasons: licensing and functionality. Licensing isn’t a problem for me directly – I have a workgroup license that would serve me fine. But it isn’t clear that I could expose the code repository externally and still satisfy the license – and I think there’s tremendous value in www.lhotka.net/cslacvs... And functionality is an issue too – primarily in that I don’t know of a viewcv equivalent for TFS. So even if licensing is/was a non-issue – the lack of a read-only web viewer for the repository is a show-stopper.

Given time I am sure these issues will work themselves out – so by the time I’m ready to move off cvs perhaps TFS will be a viable choice alongside Subversion. Time will tell…

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 12:31:12 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I am spending a few days working with a client for Magenic, having a great time discussing how to apply and extend CSLA .NET to meet their needs.

The client is from Montreal and so they speak French. Today I learned that CSLA, spoken quickly, sounds like c'est cela in French, which means "That's it".

Hopefully that equates to being cool, or being the "it" solution :)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006 6:43:36 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Sunday, June 25, 2006

I've never pretended to be a UI expert - especially not for the web. (I am very good at designing heads-down data entry screens that minimize keystrokes and avoid the use of the mouse - but that's far from being good at making things pretty)

So I'm trying to create an updated version of www.lhotka.net. To do this I'm using ASP.NET 2.0 master pages, and avoiding all use of tables - only div statements are allowed. This way I can use ASP.NET 2.0 theme/skin support to get the appearance (working with the div layout in the master page). And it looks pretty good in IE too. After a lot of time figuring out how css works - and how it cascades settings from one level down to the next - it finally looks pretty decent.

So then I open it in Firefox. Apparently FF doesn't follow the same rules at all. Settings don't cascade from one div to a lower div. Settings like height: 100% apparently are ignored entirely. And my content area refuses to sit beside the nav area, and when I manage to get them sitting side-by-side the width is different from the header - since the width apparently didn't cascade from the top-level div tag's style.

No wonder web development is so damn expensive. Doing something simple like laying out a standard page with header/nav/body is apparently radically different between IE and FF. Worse yet, FF must use a totally different mental model... Where Bill Clinton wanted to know the meaning of "is", it appears that FF needs to know the meaning of "cascade"...

Sunday, June 25, 2006 12:52:10 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Saturday, June 17, 2006

CSLA .NET version 2.0.2 is now available for download at www.lhotka.net/cslanet/download.aspx. This is a bug fix update to address various errata and issues that readers have found since version 2.0.1.

This version also introduces one change, which allows you to call DataPortal.Fetch with no criteria.

Saturday, June 17, 2006 9:53:34 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Friday, June 9, 2006

According to this blog post by Soma, WinFX is now going to be named .NET 3.0.

Now on one hand this makes sense. There's no doubt that WinFX introduces major functionality to .NET. Windows Presentation Foundation is the effective successor to Windows Forms after all - how much more major can you get??

On the other hand, the new .NET 3.0 doesn't break any .NET 2.0 code, and yet it "includes" .NET 2.0. All .NET 3.0 does is add new stuff. Typically, when I think of a major version number changing, I expect that I'll have to retest everything and that much of my stuff might break or be affected. None of that is happening here.

Even changing from .NET 1.0 to 1.1 brought tons of headaches (if you used Remoting or Enterprise Services at least). And that was a point release. Yet here we have a major version change that doesn't change any existing bits.

I guess it just goes to show that there are no hard-and-fast rules in the software industry ;)

In any case, there's no doubt that Microsoft will reduce confusion overall by keeping everything under the .NET moniker, so I think this is a wise move.

Friday, June 9, 2006 4:54:33 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Wednesday, May 31, 2006

CSLA .NET version 2.0.1 is now available for download at www.lhotka.net/cslanet/download.aspx. This is primarily a bug fix update to address various errata and issues that readers have found since the release of the original code. It does include a couple changes primarily geared toward simplification of code generation templates. You can see the change log here.

At a high level the changes (other than bug fixes) include:

  • A new Initialize() method for use by code generation templates
  • A new IEditableBusinessObject interface to allow polymorphic child objects in BusinessListBase-derived collections
  • Better support for lazy loading of child collections (EditLevel property now visible from BusinessListBase, and null child object references now restored in UndoChanges)

 

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 9:37:06 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Thursday, May 25, 2006

According to Bookscan (a service which tracks book sales for all sorts of books), Expert C# 2005 Business Objects is number 365 and Expert VB 2005 Business Objects is number 385 among all computer books out there. This includes consumer-oriented computer books too, so these numbers are incredibly good. Programming books have a hard time competing with consumer books for sales volume after all.

What I find most interesting is that the VB sales are comparable to the C# sales. Obviously there really is a market for higher end VB programming books, which I think validates a view I've held for a long time, that the VB community was waiting for .NET to mature before moving forward. Clearly VS 2005 is triggering a non-trivial movement of VB developers into .NET, and these are hard-core professional developers who are looking for something beyond the reference-style and tutorial style books out there.

Like I said a few months ago, in .NET 1.1 the C# book outsold the VB book rather substantially. These numbers appear to show that the dynamic is changing, and I find that quite exciting!

Thursday, May 25, 2006 2:09:19 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer

I have two updates for CSLA .NET for those who are interested.

CSLA .NET version 1.53 is now available from www.lhotka.net/cslanet/download10.aspx. This is a minor bug fix update to 1.52.

A beta of CSLA .NET version 2.0.1 is now available from www.lhotka.net/cslanet/download.aspx. This includes fixes for a number of bugs and errata (which you can find at www.lhotka.net/cslanet), as well as some minor enhancements due to unforseen limitations around areas like threading and polymorphic child objects. If you get a chance to try 2.0.1 I would appreciate it. Barring any negative feedback from the community I expect to finalize it in about a week.

Thursday, May 25, 2006 2:01:38 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer