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 Monday, July 01, 2013

After having a couple days to collect my thoughts regarding last week’s Build 2013 conference I want to share some of my observations.

First, I left Build happier with Microsoft than I’ve been for a couple years. Not necessarily due to any single thing or announcement, but rather because of the broader thematic reality that Microsoft really is listening (if perhaps grudgingly in some cases) to their customers. And the display of truly amazing, cool, and sexy laptops and tablets running Windows 8 was really something! I was almost literally drooling over some of the machines on display!

Now to summarize some of my thoughts.

The bad:

  1. They didn’t add support for Silverlight in the WinRT browser (not that anyone really thought they would).
  2. They didn’t fix (or even discuss) the nasty business licensing cost issues around side-loading, meaning most businesses will still find WinRT unpalatable as a development target.

The good:

  1. The changes in Windows 8.1 to provide some accommodations for people who are attached to the Start button are quite nice. To be honest, I was pretty skeptical that these changes were just silliness, but having used 8.1 Preview for a few days now I’m sold on my own positive emotional reaction to having the wallpaper the same on the desktop and start screen (though I’m still not booting to desktop, nor do I plan to do so).
  2. The Windows 8.1 changes that bring the start screen experience more in line with Windows Phone are even nicer. The new item selection gesture (tap and hold) and the fact that new apps don’t automatically appear on the start screen (only on the “app apps” screen) are just like the phone, and make the system easier to deal with overall.
  3. The updates to WinRT XAML are extremely welcome – especially around data binding – these are changes I’ll use in CSLA .NET right away.
  4. The added WinRT API capabilities demonstrate Microsoft’s commitment to rapidly maturing what amounts to a Version 1 technology as rapidly as possible.
  5. The fact that Azure had no big announcements, because they’ve been continually releasing their new stuff as it becomes available is wonderful! In fact, this whole “faster release cadence” concept from Windows, Azure, and Visual Studio is (imo) a welcome change, because it means that the overall .NET and Microsoft platform will be far more competitive by being more agile.
  6. There was a serious emphasis on XAML, and most of the JavaScript content was web-focused, not WinRT-focused – and I think this is good because it reflects the reality of the Microsoft developer community. Most of us are .NET/XAML developers and if we’re going to shift to WinRT someday in the future it’ll be via .NET/XAML. For my part, if I’m forced to abandon .NET for JavaScript I’ll learn general JavaScript, not some Microsoft-specific variation or library – but if I see a viable future for .NET in the WinRT world, then I’ll continue to invest in .NET – and this conference was a start on Microsoft’s part toward rebuilding a little trust in the future of .NET.
  7. The new 8” tablet form factor is way nicer than I’d expected. I had a Kindle Fire and ultimately gave it to my son because I already have an eInk Kindle and couldn’t see a good use for the Fire. But an 8” Win8 tablet is a whole different matter, because it runs the Kindle app and it runs Office and WinRT apps so it is immediately useful. The small screen means amazing battery life and light weight, and the ATOM processor means it runs Win32 and WinRT apps – I’m really enjoying this new Acer device!

The neutral:

  1. As I tweeted last week the one recurring bit of feedback I heard from people was disappointment in the lack of WPF announcements or content. I’m not overly concerned about that, because I view Windows Forms, Silverlight, and WPF as all being the same – they are all in maintenance mode and Microsoft is just keeping them running. The same unprecedented stability enjoyed by Windows Forms developers for the past 8 years is now the reality for WPF too. Sure, this might be a little boring to be on an unchanging platform, but the productivity is hard to beat!!
  2. Related to the lack of WPF content I want to suggest a different interpretation. WinRT with .NET/XAML is (imo) the “future of WPF”. What we really need to see is WinRT XAML continuing to rapidly evolve such that it becomes a natural progression to move from WPF/Silverlight to WinRT at some point in the future. I am encouraged by what was presented at Build in terms of the evolution of WinRT XAML, and if that continues I think we’ll find that moving to WinRT will become pretty attractive at some future time.
  3. There was some content on the use of WinRT to create business apps, and that content was welcome. If-and-when Microsoft does fix the side-loading licensing issues so WinRT becomes viable for business use it is nice to know that some serious thought has gone into design and development of business apps on the new platform.

In conclusion, the overall vibe at the conference was positive. Attendees were, from what I could see, enjoying the conference, the content, and the technology. Moreover, I think Microsoft has taken a first small step toward rebuilding their relationship with (what was once) the Microsoft developer community (not that Azure ever lost this rapport, but the Windows client sure did). If they continue to build and foster this rapport I think they can win back some confidence that there’s a future for .NET and/or Windows on the client.

Monday, July 01, 2013 4:14:12 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [4]  | 
 Thursday, May 23, 2013

OK5KOutside of my professional life in computing, one of the many things I’m involved with is the Eden Prairie Optimists.

(I know this blog has a global reach, but I also know a lot of people in and around the Twin Cities read it, and this post is mostly for you)

The Optimist organization is focused on helping our youth grow up to be good citizens and successful people. To that end the many chapters around the world help organize and/or fund many different youth oriented programs.

Our particular chapter funds local anti-drug and alcohol programs in the schools, organizes an annual fishing derby for kids, helps fund children’s cancer research, teaches firearms safety classes, holds oratorical and essay contests for youth, and several other programs each year.

We just wrapped up the spring firearms training class, and plan to hold another in late summer.

In June we’ll send all the crossing guards (kids) from Eden Prairie schools to an amusement park to thank them for their service to the community.

June will also see our annual fishing contest, where we get kids and their parents (and sometimes grandparents and others) outside in a nice city park to see who can catch the biggest fish. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the excitement on the face of 5 or 6 year old who just caught their first fish ever!

July 4 is the date for our annual OK 5K run/walk. This is one of our primary fundraising events, raising the money that allows us to provide these services and programs to the community. Even better, this is a great family event that is open to all ages. We’ve had little kids walk the route, and a WWII veteran run it. This year we’re honored that the City of Eden Prairie asked us to include our event as part of their overall series of events for the July 4 week, and I expect the event to be bigger and better than ever!

Later in the year we’ll sponsor the Halloween on the Mall event so kids have a safe, fun, and warm place to trick or treat. My kids always went around the neighborhood in the dark, their costumes hidden beneath coats to keep them warm. These days kids can show off their costumes in the warmth of the mall, without the risk of cars racing down the streets.

And we’ll fund next year’s drug and alcohol awareness programs, student achievement awards, and organize our annual essay and oratorical contests.

Although a lot of people look at all these things and wonder how someone like me, who has kids now, has time to be involved. My answer is simple: I include my kids. What’s the point of a youth focused organization that does youth focused events if you don’t include your own kids? Both of my boys have been involved in a lot of the Optimist activities – either as participants or as contributors. Personally I hope that this grounding in civic activities stays with them through their lives so they become involved in something similar as adults. I know my interest in civic involvement flows from my father and the ways he got me involved when I was a youth.

Thursday, May 23, 2013 9:41:20 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
 Monday, May 06, 2013

Mary Jo reports that Windows 8 sales are roughly on par with Windows 7 sales. Which is good news for Windows 8, because Microsoft said (at the time) that Windows 7 was the fastest selling OS to that point.

She also points out that actual usage of Win8 isn’t terribly high at this point – which isn’t at all surprising (see my blog post on if Windows 8 is a success).

The real value of the numbers just provided by Microsoft is that they are an apples to apples comparison between Win7 and Win8, and that they demonstrate that Win8 is following roughly the same track as Win7 in terms of production and sales.

That’s good news, given that Win7 is (by nearly any measure) extremely successful, and is considered by many people to be the best OS Microsoft has released. Windows 8 on an x86 machine can basically be viewed as a faster version of Windows 7, plus the ability to run WinRT apps, and so I pretty much think of Windows 8 as a slight improvement over the already excellent Windows 7.

As Mary Jo notes, we don’t know if the 100 million figure includes Windows RT. At this point I’m not sure if that really matters – at least not from a business app dev perspective. Windows RT can only run WinRT (Windows Runtime) apps, and the WinRT dev platform is too new and immature to risk targeting it when building large enterprise apps (not to mention the side-loading cost issues).

At this point most organizations appear to be building new smart client apps using WPF, and of course they continue to maintain a great many Windows Forms apps. The strength of Windows 8, as I see it, is that it remains an extremely relevant and potent business app platform via its desktop mode, which runs Win32/.NET apps at least as well as its predecessor.

If Microsoft resolves the side-loading cost issues so licensing and deployment becomes reasonable for small, medium, and large organizations I do think WinRT has a reasonable shot at being the successor to Win32/.NET for business developers. In another version or two it should stabilize and mature to the point that it is pretty comparable to WPF, and thus is attractive and useful to C#/XAML developers. That’ll probably take a couple years, which is also the timeframe that corporate IT groups will probably be willing to consider upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 8.

In summary: good Windows 8 sales today means that betting on WPF for smart client development should be pretty safe, and will hopefully have a decent migration path to WinRT in 2-3 years.

Monday, May 06, 2013 10:30:54 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [6]  | 
 Thursday, May 02, 2013

This question keeps floating around the Internet, and I thought I’d give my viewpoint.

Obviously I have no more intel on sales numbers than anyone else (which means pretty much nothing). So anything anyone says at this point is pretty much speculation, and that includes me too.

So rather than speculate uselessly, let me provide a bit of narrative.

Almost nobody buys operating systems. This is a truth that has existed since the dawn of the concept of an operating system. Operating systems exist as an abstraction over the hardware that allow developers to build applications without having to deal with the low-level details of interacting with hardware.

Of course over the past couple decades “operating system” has come to include a lot of things. At a minimum these days people expect the OS to include drivers for every type of device ever invented (or to be invented), a nice user interface, and a set of pre-installed “first party” apps. None of that stuff actually is the OS, but most people view it as part and parcel.

Even so, very few people buy an OS. They buy a device (computer, ultrabook, tablet, phone) because the device enables them to do something useful. More precisely the device allows them to run software (apps) that do something useful.

(I’ll freely admit that I’m biased. As a software developer, I do tend to see software as the most important part of this whole picture. And I think I’m correct, because if you give anyone a device and tell them they can’t install any software on that device I can pretty much guarantee you that they won’t be able to use the device for much of anything.)

I’d also suggest that there are two broad categories of “person” in this discussion.

There are regular individuals like you and me. We buy devices ourselves, investing hundreds or thousands of dollars so we can do things like access the Internet, write letters, manage home budgets, send email, play games, etc. Our motivations in buying a device are to gain access to the apps that allow us to do those things we consider worthwhile in life – whatever that might be for each of us. And yes, people like me also get joy out of the device itself because we’re geeks, but most people just see these things as extremely useful tools or toys.

There are organizations (which are also apparently “people” thanks to Citizens United). They buy devices for their employees so the employees can do things that provide productivity and value to the organization. Some organizations are OK with employees using those devices for personal reasons, others aren’t. In almost no case does an organization buy devices other than because an employee needs the device to perform important aspects of their job.

I keep running into people who think there’s no difference between these scenarios. And maybe I’m a little slow, but I really struggle to see how organizations are going to start buying (and supporting) devices outside the scope of enabling employees to be productive. Nor do I see how dock workers, administrative assistants, lab technicians, and other employees are going to start purchasing devices for the intent of using them at work. Actual human people buy devices to make their personal lives better, not because they intend on using them as an alternative for a work-supplied device.

(In other words BYOD is pretty much bunk – but that’s another blog post.)

To judge the success of Windows 8 then, one must evaluate it in the context of people buying devices for their own use, and organizations buying devices for their employee’s use.

 

From what I’ve seen there is some resistance on the part of people in terms of buying Windows 8. On the tablet side of things there aren’t a lot of apps, and people buy these devices for apps, not the device itself. On the ultrabook, laptop, and desktop side of things people buy a PC because they want to run PC software – all of which runs on Windows 7 just fine, so there’s no obvious reason to go to Windows 8. But there is an obvious reason not to go to Windows 8: everyone knows it is different, and people fear change.

So if I’m a regular person looking to buy a tablet, I’ll probably gravitate toward the tablet with the most apps – hence an iPad or perhaps a Kindle Fire. And if I’m a regular person looking for personal productivity with Office, CAD software, or gaming, I’ll be perfectly happy with Windows 7 (or even Vista) as long as my current computer keeps working.

Please note that I am personally not a regular person in this context. I’m a geek, and thus have been running Windows 8 since long before it was released. But I have sat in restaurants and overheard conversations about Windows 8 by random people – conversations that lead me to be pretty confident that my previous paragraph is correct.

None of this says that people won’t slowly adopt Windows 8 as their existing computers need replacing, because they probably will. And as more people actually start using Windows 8 and tell their friends and neighbors that it really isn’t that scary, then the fear of change will fade. And with any luck the number of apps available for WinRT will grow relatively fast so people will consider buying Windows 8 tablets because they feel confident those devices have good and useful apps.

Does this mean Windows 8 is a success or failure? I don’t know. We are in uncharted territory to some degree, because today’s computers (with their i3, i5 and i7 processors) are essentially identical in performance to computers from three years ago. For the first time in recent memory (and perhaps ever) computers have stopped getting faster, eliminating one of the primary reasons why people would buy a new computer. Now the only reason to buy a new computer is a complete failure of your existing computer, and computers often last a very long time…

In other words, Windows 8 adoption in the personal space might be slower than in the past (we don’t really know). But if it is, I strongly suspect one major factor has less to do with Windows 8 than the reality that few people are motivated to spend hundreds of dollars to buy a computer that isn’t any faster than the one they already have.

 

On the organizational side of things the dynamic is entirely different. Organizations try to minimize the number of device types, operating systems, and operating system versions because it is extremely expensive to support more than one. Organizations use “apps” (applications, or enterprise software) that is required for the organization to function. When those apps fail the business loses money by the second – often many thousands of dollars per second. Upgrading from Windows X to Windows Y is never done without extensive testing to ensure those important apps work on the new operating system version. And such upgrades are done according to an orchestrated plan that minimizes the time the organization is forced to support both versions.

This is nothing new. This is the reality of enterprise computing that has existed for as long as I can recall (thus dating back well more than 2 decades).

Strangely, I’ve had people argue that this dynamic is no longer true. That organizations are now going to adopt BYOD, even though that directly means supporting numerous devices, operating systems, and operating system versions all at the same time. I’m not sure what these people are smoking, nor am I sure I want to try it because I think whatever they’ve smoked caused some brain damage. But I could be wrong – perhaps organizations are ready to radically increase their IT support costs in order to allow employees to use random hardware devices and operating systems? Or perhaps there is no increased cost to IT because (as one person told me) it will now be the employee’s responsibility to ensure they have a working device at all times – thus all IT support costs will be born by the end users. Something I’m sure will thrill the minimum wage workers in the warehouses who’ll apparently now have to buy and support computers they’d never have purchased before?!?

Back in the world of the sane, what is actually happening is that a great many (most?) organizations are just now migrating from Windows 2000 or Windows XP to Windows 7. This is because those older operating systems are off support, or will be off support in April 2014. No more bug fixes. No more security patches. Nothing. I truly pity any poor souls left on XP a year from now.

This migration from XP to 7 is not cheap. It is not only an IT issue in terms of upgrading hardware, drivers, and operating system installs. It usually also means updating or replacing ancient enterprise software that was written in VB6 or PowerBuilder or other technologies that haven’t been current for many years.

As a result, almost no organizations even have Windows 8 on their radar at all. Virtually nobody is planning for a Windows 8 migration, because they are just now getting to Windows 7. In fact, my informal polling while speaking at conferences around the world is that nobody expects to move to Windows 8 until 3+ years from now.

Does this mean Windows 8 is a failure? Of course not. Remember, these organizations are just now moving from XP to 7. Windows 7 was released in 2009, and only eclipsed XP in 2012 in terms of installs.

Following that time schedule, we won’t know of Windows 8 is a success or failure until around 3 years from now: in 2015.

 

In summary, is Windows 8 a success or failure? I can’t say. Nor can anyone else, even though a lot of people (including myself) speculate about it quite a lot Smile

The space to watch is the personal/individual computing space, because that’ll move somewhat faster than the organizational space.

Like every previous version of Windows, we won’t know the success or failure of this version until 3+ years after its launch, because enterprises always move at a stately (if not glacial) pace.

Thursday, May 02, 2013 10:39:31 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [3]  | 
 Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I was recently confronted by an odd bit of reality, about which I thought I’d vent a little.

I am the creator and owner of a widely used open source project (CSLA .NET) that has (in one form or another) been around since 1996. If you want an example of an open source project with longevity, CSLA .NET ranks right up there.

And CSLA is “true” open source, in that it uses a liberal and non-viral license, and there’s no commercial option (a lot of OSS projects use a viral license as a “poison pill” to drive any real use of the project to a paid commercial license that isn’t free as in beer or speech).

Recently at a conference I and some colleagues were presenting on some development techniques and patterns, and the code makes use of several open source projects – including CSLA.

Oddly this was a source of blow-back from some in the audience, who thought the talk was “overly commercial”.

Apparently talking about other people’s free open source products are fine, but if you talk about your own then that’s commercial?

And for that matter, how can it be commercial if you are talking about software that is free as in beer and speech? If anything, FOSS is anti-commercial by its very definition…

It would seem, by this ‘logic’, that the primary experts on any given OSS project should not talk about their project, but should instead talk about tools they might use, but don’t actually create or build.

In other words, people attending conferences should never get the best or most direct insight into any OSS product, because presentations by the people who create that product would be somehow “too commercial” if they talk about the stuff they’ve built.

So much for learning about Linux from Linux developers, or jquery from jquery developers, etc.

Obviously that’s all pretty dumb, and similarly I suspect the majority of the people at this conference (or any conference) don’t feel this way and do want the highest quality information they can get.

I think the real issue here is that some reasonable number of people just don’t understand open source.

A lot of people (especially in the Microsoft dev space) have never knowingly used open source – living entirely within the realm of products provided by Microsoft and component vendors.

(whether these people have actually used open source is another matter – and odds are they have unwittingly used things like jquery, ASP.NET, Entity Framework, MVVM Light, Subversion, git, etc.)

I only bother blogging about this because over the past couple years it has become virtually impossible to create any modern app without the use of some open source products.

I can’t imagine anyone building a modern web site or page without some OSS products. Much less a web app that’ll be based almost entirely on OSS products.

Similarly, it is hard to imagine building a XAML app without the use of at least one OSS MVVM framework.

And the same is true with unit testing, mocking, etc.

In short, the best tools available today are probably open source, and if you aren’t using them then you are depriving yourself and your employer of the best options out there.

What this means imo, is that people who think talking about your own open source product is “too commercial” had better grow up and get a clue pretty fast, or they’ll be finding everything to be too commercial…

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 12:04:39 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [5]  | 
 Thursday, April 04, 2013

In 1991 I was a DEC VAX programmer. A very happy one, because OpenVMS was a wonderful operating system and I knew it inside and out. The only problem was that the “clients” were dumb VT terminals, and it was terribly easy to become resource constrained by having all the CPU, memory, and IO processing in a central location.

This was the time when Windows NT came along (this new OS created by the same person who created OpenVMS btw) and demonstrated that PCs were more than toys – that they could be considered real computers. (yes, this is my editorial view Smile )

From that time forward my personal interest in software has been expressed entirely via distributed computing. Sure, I’ve built some server-only and some client-only software over the past 22 years, but that was just to pay the bills. What is interesting is building software systems where various parts of the system run on different computers, working together toward a common goal. That’s fun!!

This type of software system implies a smart client. I suppose a smart client isn’t strictly necessary, but it is surely ideal. Because most software interacts with humans at some point, a smart client is ideal because that’s how you provide the human with the best possible experience. Obviously you can use a VT terminal or a basic HTML browser experience to provide this human interface, but that’s not nearly as rich or powerful as a smart client experience.

For the past couple decades the default and dominant smart client experience has been expressed through Windows. With smart client software written primarily in VB, PowerBuilder, and .NET (C#/VB).

The thing is, I am entirely convinced that our industry is at a major inflection point. At least as big as the one in the mid-1990’s when we shifted from mainframe/minicomputer to PC, and when n-tier became viable, and when the infant web became mainstream.

Prior to the mid-1990’s computing was chaos. There were many types of mainframe and minicomputer, and none were compatible with each other. Even the various flavors of Unix weren’t really compatible with each other… Software developers tended to specialize in a platform, and it took non-trivial effort to retool to another platform – at least if you wanted to be really good.

Over the past couple decades we’ve been spoiled by having essentially one platform: Windows. Regardless of whether you use VB, PowerBuilder, .NET, or Java, almost everyone knows Windows and how to build software for this one nearly-universal platform.

Now we’ve chosen to return to chaos. Windows is still sort of dominant, but it shares a lot of mindshare with iOS, OS X, Android, and ChromeOS. We appear to be heading rapidly into an environment more like the late 1980’s. An environment composed of numerous incompatible platforms, all of which are viable, none of which are truly dominant.

There is one difference this time though: JavaScript.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not a rah-rah supporter of js. I am extremely skeptical of cross-platform technologies, having seen countless such technologies crash and burn over the past 25+ years.

But there’s an economic factor that comes to bear as well as technical factors. Unlike in the late 1980’s when computing was important but not critical to the world at large, today computing is critical to the world at large. Individuals and organizations can not function at the levels of productivity we’re used to without computing and automation.

In other words, in the late 1980’s we could afford to be highly inefficient. We could afford to have a fragmented developer space, split by myriad incompatible platforms.

Today the cost of such inefficiency is much higher. I suspect it is too high to be acceptable. Think about your organization. Can you afford to build every client app 3-6 times? Will your board of directors or company owner accept that kind of increase in the IT budget?

Or can you afford to pick just one platform (iOS, Windows, whatever) and tell all your employees and partners that you only work with that one type of device/OS?

(btw, that’s what we’ve done for the past 20 years – we just tell everyone it is Windows or nothing, and that’s been working well – so such a move isn’t out of the question)

Let’s assume your organization can’t afford a massive increase in its IT budget to hire the dev/support staff to build and maintain every app 3-6 times. And let’s assume we collectively decide to embrace every random device/OS that comes along (BYOD). What then?

I suggest there are two options:

  1. Return to a terminal-based model where the client device is a dumb as possible, probably using basic HTML – to which I say BORING! (and awful!)
  2. Find a common technology for building smart client apps that works reasonably well on most device/OS combinations

Personally I am entirely uninterested in option 1. As I said, I spent the early part of my career in the minicomputer-terminal world, so I’ve been there and done that. Boring.

The only technology that looks even remotely capable of supporting option 2 is JavaScript.

Is that a silver bullet? Is it painless? Clearly not. Even if you ignore all the bad bits of js and stick with JavaScript: The Good Parts it is still pretty messy.

However, VB 1, 2, and 3 were also pretty immature and messy. But a lot of us stuck with those products, pushing for (and getting) improvements that ultimately made VB6 the most popular development tool of its time – for apps small and big (enterprise).

So sure, js is (by modern standards) immature and messy. But if the broader business development community sees it as the only viable technology going forward that’ll bring a lot of attention and money into the js world. That attention and money will drive maturity, probably quite rapidly.

OK, so probably not maturity of js itself, because it is controlled by a standards body and so it changes at a glacial pace.

But maturity of tooling (look at the amazing stuff Microsoft is doing in VS for js tooling, as well as TypeScript), and libraries, and standards. That’ll be the avenue by which js becomes viable for smart client development.

If it isn’t clear btw, I am increasingly convinced that (like it or not) this is where we’re headed. We have a few more years of Windows as the dominant enterprise client OS, but given what Microsoft is doing with Windows 8 it is really hard to see how Windows will remain dominant in that space. Not that any one single device/OS will displace Windows – but rather that chaos will displace Windows.

As a result, barring someone inventing a better cross-platform technology (and I’d love to see that happen!!), js is about to get hit by a lot of professional business developers who’ll demand more maturity, stability, and productivity than exists today.

This is going to be a fun ride!

Thursday, April 04, 2013 8:44:57 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [10]  | 
 Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The final release of CSLA 4 version 4.5.20 is now available for download

http://www.cslanet.com/Download.html

It is also available via NuGet.

CSLA .NET is a software development framework that helps you build a powerful, maintainable business logic layer for WinRT (Windows 8), WPF, Web, service-oriented, Windows Phone, Silverlight, and workflow applications.

This new release adds support for Windows Phone 8 to the existing support for .NET 4, .NET 4.5, Windows Runtime (WinRT), and Silverlight 5.

It also includes some important bug fixes, and relatively minor enhancements in other areas of the framework. So if you are using any previous version of 4.5 you really should upgrade to this new release to realize these benefits.

One other note: this release uses a new WIX-based installer, and so it shouldn’t have the issues people encountered with the InstallShield-based installer used in the previous release. As always, I generally recommend using NuGet to include the assemblies in your projects, as that’s the simplest and most reliable approach.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 9:56:18 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 
 Wednesday, March 06, 2013

I know a lot of people have complained that Windows 8 replaced the start menu with the start screen. Personally I rather like the start screen in Windows 8, and haven’t felt the need to seek out a start menu replacement (like the popular Start8).

However, like a lot of people I run Win8 on multiple monitors (on my desktop and when I dock my laptop). Being able to run WinRT apps in only one window, and to really only see one app at a time is extremely limiting to power users or developers or people with multiple monitors.

About 90 minutes ago I installed ModernMix, a program from the creators of Start8 that basically fixes this whole issue. It allows WinRT apps to run in windows, so you can have multiple WinRT apps running at once, and on different monitors.

It is literally like unlocking the potential of Windows 8! Just 90 minutes later my love of Win8 and WinRT has jumped an order of magnitude (and keep in mind, I already really liked Win8).

The ability to have some of my favorite WinRT apps running and visible while using other WinRT apps and/or Win32 desktop apps improves productivity immensely.

For example, I really like Xaml Candy (http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/app/8b9e2d69-feed-409c-befb-4ea97f97351a) and have always wished I could have it in one monitor while using Visual Studio in another. Now I can!

Similarly, the ability to have Feed Reader (http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/app/d03199c9-8e08-469a-bda1-7963099840cc) sitting in a window on my second monitor makes it much more useful. It never needed to consume all of my massive monitor space, and now it fits in a much more appropriately sized window.

Seriously, installing ModernMix is like night and day in terms of productivity for Windows 8. If you use multiple monitors and/or are a power user or developer you really want this tool.

(note, I don’t work for those guys, nor did I get the product for free – I’m just so happy with the results I wanted to share!)

Wednesday, March 06, 2013 4:31:46 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [4]  | 
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