Monday, November 29, 2010

One week from today, on December 6, at the Microsoft office in Bloomington, MN you can attend a free two-track .NET developer training event: Code Mastery.

This event includes content from the Microsoft PDC 2010 event, plus custom content covering topics such as:

  • Windows Phone 7 (WP7) development
  • How to really use the MVVM design pattern in WPF
  • SQL Azure
  • Combining Scrum and TFS 2010
  • Best practices for development in .NET
  • and more!!

If that isn’t enough, there’s a raffle at the end of the day, with great prizes (including an MSDN Universal subscription), and our special guest Carl Franklin from .NET Rocks! will be in attendance to spice up the event.

Register now to reserve your seat!

Monday, November 29, 2010 10:21:14 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 
 Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanks to Russ Blair, there is now a time-based index available for the entire Core 3.8 video series.

The series can be purchased from http://store.lhotka.net.

Monday, November 22, 2010 3:05:35 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 

The first ebook in the Using CSLA 4 ebook series is now available.

Using CSLA 4: CSLA Overview

This ebook (in PDF format) is an introduction to CSLA 4, and will provide you with an overview of the framework, its goals and its most basic usage scenarios. All other ebooks in the Using CSLA 4 ebook series assume you have read this first ebook and understand the overall architecture and philosophy of the CSLA .NET framework.

You should also be aware that the Using CSLA 4 ebook series is also available for purchase, and it will be cheaper to buy the series than every individual ebook. Obviously right now purchasing the series only gets you access to the first book, but you'll gain immediate access to all subsequent books in the series as they come online.

Monday, November 22, 2010 2:02:49 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 

This is the proposed outline for the Using CSLA 4 ebook series. This is subject to change, but it is the outline I’m working against at the moment as I set up packaging and pricing for the ebooks and the ebook series.

The plan is to publish seven ebooks, and each will be released in PDF format for reading on the PC or any other PDF reader.

As a special note: I have not yet found a practical way to publish in native format for the Kindle because the Kindle can’t support different fonts or tables. And believe me, I really want this on the Kindle because I love, love, love my Kindle!! But I can’t delay publishing the content while I continue to try and find a cost-effective way to create a specific Kindle version.

You will be able to purchase each ebook individually, or purchase the entire ebook series. Purchasing the series will be cheaper than buying each book individually.

Individual books will be available for purchase as they enter the draft/review phase, and will be updated as corrections are made. I am doing this to get the content out as quickly as possible. If you don’t want a draft, wait until the DRAFT designation is removed from the description of the item on the store (http://store.lhotka.net/).

If you purchase the series, you will automatically gain access to each book as it enters the draft/review phase. In other words, you are buying future access to the entire series ebooks as they come out.

Here’s the current proposed outline for the series:

  1. Using CSLA 4: CSLA .NET Overview
    1. Introduction and Installation
    2. Architecture and Philosophy
    3. CSLA .NET framework design overview
  2. Using CSLA 4: Creating Business Objects
    1. Stereotypes
      1. Editable root/child
      2. Editable root/child list
      3. Dynamic list/root
      4. Read-only
      5. Read-only list
      6. NameValueList
      7. Command
      8. Unit of Work
    2. Object metastate
      1. IsNew, IsDirty, IsValid, etc.
    3. Property declarations
      1. PropertyInfo metastate field
      2. Managed backing fields
      3. Private backing fields
      4. Child object references
      5. Lazy loading of child objects
    4. Business rules
      1. Business rules
      2. Validation rules
      3. Authorization rules
      4. Sync/async rules
      5. DataAnnotations attributes
  3. Using CSLA 4: Data access
    1. Data access models
      1. DP_XYZ invoking DAL
      2. Factory objects as DAL
      3. DP_XYZ as DAL
      4. Factory objects invoking DAL
    2. Data access technologies
      1. ADO.NET
      2. ADO.NET Entity Framework
      3. OData services
    3. Data portal
      1. N-Tier
        1. 1-, 2-tier
        2. 3-tier
        3. 4-tier (Silverlight, WP7)
          1. MobileFactory
    4. Configuring the client
    5. Configuring the server
      1. IIS
      2. Windows Server AppFabric
      3. Windows Azure
    6. Using compression in Silverlight
  4. Using CSLA 4: Security
    1. MembershipProvider authentication
    2. Windows authentication
    3. Custom authentication
    4. IAuthorizeDataPortal
  5. Using CSLA 4: Silverlight 4 and WPF
    1. Development basics
      1. WPF
      2. Silverlight
    2. MVVM design pattern
      1. Basic XAML Framework (Bxf)
      2. TriggerAction
    3. Data binding
    4. ViewModelBase/ViewModel
    5. PropertyInfo/PropertyStatus
    6. Platform specifics
      1. WPF
      2. Silverlight
  6. Using CSLA 4: ASP.NET MVC 3
    1. ASP.NET MVC development basics
    2. Controller (Csla.Web.Mvc)
    3. CslaModelBinder
    4. Html authorization helpers
  7. Using CSLA 4: Windows Phone 7
    1. WP7 development basics
    2. MVVM design pattern
      1. Basic XAML Framework (Bxf)
      2. TriggerAction
    3. Data binding
    4. ViewModelBase/ViewModel
    5. PropertyInfo
Monday, November 22, 2010 11:01:22 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 
 Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Over the past few months there’s been this ongoing buzz about whether WPF is dead, or whether Silverlight is really mature – in short, people trying to figure out whether to use WPF or Silverlight or both.

Having worked with WPF since it came out, and with Silverlight 2.0 and higher since before it came out, I thought I’d share my thoughts.

This post flows from my experiences with CSLA .NET, UnitDriven and Bxf – three frameworks I’ve created or been directly involved with, that run on WPF (.NET), Silverlight and now Windows Phone 7 (WP7). With CSLA in particular, I’ve been maintaining this one codebase on .NET since 2001, and to my knowledge it was the first major framework ported to Silverlight from .NET. Also, as I write about this, I’m thinking about how I build XAML-based apps, using the MVVM pattern as discussed in the CSLA 4 MVVM video series and some of my previous blog posts.

The way I use SL and WPF there is no meaningful difference between them. My MVVM demos, for example, are mostly the same across WPF, SL and even WP7.

The business layer, created with CSLA 4, is typically identical across all three platforms. That’s one of the big benefits of CSLA 4, in that you can write your business, validation and authorization rules once and use them across multiple interface technologies. And with the data portal managing any interactions with the application server, you are shielded from any complexity or differences you’d normally encounter there as well.

The way I use MVVM, with a strong focus on having zero code-behind any XAML, means that nearly all interface control logic (any actual code in the presentation layer) is also reused. Any presentation layer code is either in the viewmodel, in value converters, in attached properties or custom controls. This reuse isn’t always 100%, especially when you get to WP7, because the tiny phone screen often forces a different user workflow than if you have a full-size screen like in WPF or SL. But between WPF and SL, the viewmodel code is typically the same, as is most value converter and attached property code. Some custom controls may be different – again especially on the phone.

This commonality of viewmodel code is thanks to the use of Bxf. But any decent MVVM framework will offer the same kind of abstractions, so your application code is never directly interacting with the UI shell or any platform-specific constructs or types.

With WPF and SL there are places of direct difference however, depending on how you structure your user experience.

  • WPF doesn't have a URL based navigation scheme or a navigation framework, so you have to come up with your own UI framework to manage any sort of navigation model. I usually do this by having exactly one Window, and that hosts all my content in the form of UserControl objects, but you could use many Window objects.
  • SL does have an optional URL based navigation scheme and framework, which is nice - makes things simpler. However, you can use the same "one Window that hosts UserControl objects" model just like WPF (hence my samples are the same). What you can't do is have a lot of Window objects (which to me is no loss, since the multiple SDI interface went out of style in 1997).
  • WP7 also has a URL based navigation scheme and framework. I still use the hosted UserControl idea too, and that makes a lot of the code common with SL and WPF.

I think the thing to understand, is that while SL runs in the browser, it is a smart client technology. It is far more like WPF than like HTML. In fact it is virtually identical to WPF in most ways that matter for a business app.

And the key to my success in this area, is that all my business “forms” or “pages” are always a subclass of UserControl. So every bit of meaningful UI content (forms/pages) are UserControl objects that can be hosted by the UI shell. This means that I can usually change out the shell, or even have different shell styles (URL navigation vs Outlook-style navigation for example) and this has no effect on the actual business UI elements. Yes, the shell code may be different, but the business code is unchanged.

This is one powerful technique that makes it quite realistic to create your app in Silverlight, even using the navigation framework, and then port it to WPF if you need to in the future. You might have to write some new WPF shell code, but your UserControl XAML, your viewmodels, your business domain objects, your data access code and your database remain unchanged.

Beyond UI and navigation differences, there are some technical differences between WPF and SL, including:

  • Some minor, niggling differences in XAML - this is the sort of thing I personally want fixed now that the WPF and SL product teams have merged - this niggling differences are stupid and are nothing but an annoyance – why is the binding Mode default different between WPF and SL (for example)??
  • SL requires that all server interactions be async, WPF allows sync or async - I tend to use async in both places, because the user experience is so superior with async, I can't figure out why I'd want to punish my end users just because they are using WPF
  • SL has the navigation framework, WPF doesn't
  • WPF has an application model that includes navigation, but it is hopelessly broken - it tried to emulate the worst features of the web without any of the benefits - to me this is the "ActiveX Documents" of WPF
  • WPF apps can use all of .NET, SL uses a subset - but the SL subset is everything I've needed to build typical business apps
  • WPF apps can interact with the full client workstation hardware (odd peripherals, the full hard drive, etc)
  • WPF apps are (typically) deployed via ClickOnce, SL apps are deployed transparently via the browser - so WPF is slightly more "in your face" for your users, but the difference should be pretty incidental
  • WPF apps can tap into all of DirectX, though SL now has hardware acceleration for some graphics scenarios too - so this difference is probably less meaningful for most business apps than for games
  • SL doesn't have the complexity of the legacy "crap" that comes with WPF (DataSet, IBindingList, etc) so it is a simpler, easier and more consistent programming environment
  • SL runs on Windows, in the browser, on the Mac, in the browser on the Mac, and in WP7; WPF of course runs only on Windows

Again however, I come back to the same thing - I always use as little of any platform/technology as necessary to get the job done. SL is a subset, so if I can get the job done with SL then that's the best thing to do (I can always upsize to WPF later if necessary). If I can't get the job done with SL, I'll use WPF.

In my mind it is a superset/subset decision - always default to the subset that meets your needs.

As long as you understand both technologies, you can architect your UI so transitioning from SL to WPF is relatively easy (the other way isn't always so easy - because your WPF code might use superset technologies).

In conclusion, my recommendation has been (since SL3 at least) to design your app for SL, and fall back to WPF only if SL can’t meet your needs. The most common scenarios for business apps to fall back to WPF are:

  • Your app is only occasionally connected, and is mostly offline, so you use a client-side database like SQL Express or SQL CE
  • Your app needs to interact with client-side peripherals
  • Your app needs full access to the client-side hard drive

I don’t think this is a “WPF vs SL” thing at all. I think it is a sliding scale, where you default to SL, and slide up to WPF if necessary. All the angst is unnecessary.

Bxf | CSLA .NET | Silverlight | WP7 | WPF
Tuesday, November 09, 2010 10:06:24 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [18]  | 
 Monday, November 08, 2010

This is a bit of a teaser, but I want to keep people posted on my progress.

I’m getting very close to finishing the first, and in some ways hardest, book in the CSLA 4 ebook series.

Overview Cover

It is arguably the hardest of the ebooks to write, because this is around 125 pages explaining the architecture, goals and basic design parameters of CSLA .NET. Lots of concepts, not so much code. While I’m still working on this, and will be for a few more days, here’s the rough outline:

  1. Introduction
    1. About this ebook and the ebook series
    2. Downloading, installing and building CSLA 4 and its samples
  2. Architecture and Philosophy
    1. Logical and Physical architecture
      1. 5 layer architecture
      2. N-tier vs service-oriented
      3. Applying the layers to real scenarios
    2. Managing business logic
      1. Defining a home for business logic
      2. Behavioral object design
      3. Mobile objects
    3. Architectures and frameworks
  3. CSLA .NET Framework
    1. Basic design goals
    2. Framework design
      1. Base classes and stereotypes
      2. Data binding
      3. N-level undo
      4. Business, validation and authorization rules
      5. Data portal
      6. Authentication
      7. Data access helpers
    3. Assembly and namespace organization

The next ebook will be easier and faster to write. Its title? Using CSLA 4: Creating Business Objects.

This current book should be online, in draft form at least, by November 19.

Monday, November 08, 2010 5:10:36 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [3]  | 

Listen to an interview where I talk about CSLA 4, UnitDriven and a lot of things related to Silverlight, WPF and Windows Phone (WP7) development.

Pluralcast 28 : Talking Business and Objectification with Rocky Lhotka

This was recorded in October at the Patterns and Practices Symposium in Redmond.

Monday, November 08, 2010 10:56:59 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
 Monday, November 01, 2010

Halloween is over, so it is time to quit being scared and get back to reality.

This is, perhaps, easier for me, because my wife and I attended the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear over the weekend. There’s nothing like being surrounded by 200,000+ sane people on a beautiful afternoon in Washington DC to refresh your spirit and appreciation for the true strength of America (and I think humanity in general).

Of course while we were enjoying great music, comedy and an inspirational speech by Jon Stewart, the Microsoft developer world was turning itself inside out with the hyperbole generated by last week’s PDC conference and some less than thoroughly explained remarks made by Bob Muglia in an interview.

My reaction, perhaps tempered by hours of restoring sanity, was relatively simple:

  1. Microsoft (and BobMu) clearly didn’t intend to gut their entire client-side development community
  2. Therefore this is just a (perhaps big) PR mistake, nothing more
  3. Therefore it is best to just wait for Microsoft to correct the mistake with clarification

I feel justified in that reaction, since we now have clarification from BobMu and SteveB:

Other Microsoft Silverlight bloggers, such as Tim Heuer, are starting to blog as well, so I’m sure there’ll be further reinforcement and refinement of these top-level responses. And I would expect to see continuing movement on the part of Microsoft and its product groups to prove their ongoing top-level commitment to Silverlight and the whole idea of a Microsoft-based smart-client experience.

I think what happened is this: at least in the US we’re just a day away from a big election. For weeks (months?) we’ve been bombarded with messages of fear and hatred from political candidates, political action committees and cable news channels. It is very challenging to maintain a positive or even moderate outlook on life itself when you are continually inundated (unless you never watch television or listen to the radio or go to your mailbox) by these vile messages from every side for weeks or months on end.

It is no surprise to me that the developers, at least in the US, fell right into the same fear/hatred mindset with the (clearly incongruous) information about Silverlight – everyone’s mind is already primed for a fight-or-flight response. Confusion leads instantly to fear, which (as we all know) leads to the dark side.

After tomorrow, the election will be over, along with the fear/hate ads. By the time our brain chemistry has returned to normal, the newly elected politicians will be well down the path of corporate-sponsored corruption and life will continue.

In the meantime, at least we now know (again) that Silverlight has a bright future as the smart client development tool of choice for Windows, the Mac, Windows Phone and other devices.

Monday, November 01, 2010 1:27:32 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [6]  |