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June 2012 - Posts

POP Forums v10 beta posted for ASP.NET MVC 4

Finally got some momentum and replaced the beta formerly known as v9.3. You can get it here, where you’ll find the information below. You can also read my previous post on why I ditched jQuery Mobile.

This is the beta for POP Forums v10, with the mobile special sauce. It requires ASP.NET MVC 4 RC, which you can download here. Of course, feel free to submit bugs to the issue tracker.

See a live demo here: http://popforums.com/Forums

What's new?

  • Uses a very light weight CSS and Javascript package to provide a touch-friendly interface for mobile devices.
  • Numbers are formatted (sensitive to culture) when 1,000 or higher.
  • CSS is more integration friendly, and specific to the ForumContainer element.
  • Mail delivery from queue is now parallel, so you can specify a sending interval, and the number of messages to process on each interval.
  • Background "services" refactored, and will only run with a call on app start to PopForumsActivation.StartServices(). This is partly to facilitate future use in Web farms/multiple Web roles.
  • Update to jQuery v1.7.1.
  • Replaced use of .live() with .on() in script, pursuant to jQuery update, which deprecates .live().
  • FIX: Bug in topic repository around caching keys for single-server data layer.
  • FIX: Pager links on recent topics pointed to incorrect route.
  • FIX: Deleting a post didn't update last user/post time.
  • FIX: Ditched attempt at writing to event log with super failures, since almost no one has permission in production.
  • FIX: Bug in grayed-out fields in admin mail setup.
  • FIX: Weird color profiles would break loading of images for resize.
  • FIX: TOS text on account sign-up was double encoded.

Known issues

None yet, but ditching jQuery Mobile from the previous beta turned out to be a good decision.

photo

.NET development on a “Retina” MacBook Pro

The rumor that Apple would release a super high resolution version of its 15” laptop has been around for quite awhile, and one I watched closely. After more than three years with a 17” MacBook Pro, and all of the screen real estate it offered, I was ready to replace it with something much lighter. It was a fantastic machine, still doing 6 or 7 hours after 460 charge cycles, but I wanted lighter and faster. With the SSD I put in it, I was able to sell it for $750.

The appeal of higher resolution goes way back, when I would plug into a projector and scale up. Consolas, as it turns out, is a nice looking font for code when it’s bigger. While I have mostly indifference for iOS, I have to admit that a higher dot pitch on the iPhone and iPad is pretty to look at.

So I ordered the new 15” “Retina” model as soon as the Apple Store went live with it, and got it seven days later. I’ve been primarily using Parallels as my VM of choice from OS X for about five years. They recently put out an update for compatibility with the display, though I’m not entirely sure what that means. I figured there would have to be some messing around to get the VM to look right.

The combination that seems to work best is this: Set the display in OS X to “more room,” which is roughly the equivalent of the 1920x1200 that my 17” did. It’s not as stunning as the text at the default 1440x900 equivalent (in OS X), but it’s still quite readable. Parallels still doesn’t entirely know what to do with the high resolution, though what it should do is somehow treat it as native. That flaw aside, I set the Windows 7 scaling to 125%, and it generally looks pretty good. It’s not really taking advantage of the display for sharpness, but hopefully that’s something that Parallels will figure out.

Screen tweaking aside, I got the base model with 16 gigs of RAM, so I give the VM 8. I can boot a Windows 7 VM in 9 seconds. Nine seconds! The Windows Experience Index scores are all 7 and above, except for graphics, which are both at 6. Again, that’s in a VM. It’s hard to believe there’s something so fast in a little slim package like that. Hopefully this one gets me at least three years, like the last one.

Dude, what’s up with POP Forums vNext?

Yeah, it has been awhile. I posted v9.2 back in January, about five months ago. That’s a real change from the release pace I had there for awhile. Let me explain what’s going on.

First off, in the interim, I re-launched CoasterBuzz, which required a lot of my attention for about two of those months. That’s a good thing though, because that site is just about the best test bed I could ask for. The other thing is that I committed to make the next version use ASP.NET MVC 4, which is now at the RC stage. I didn’t think much about when they’d hit their RTW point, but RC is good enough for me.

To that end, there is enough change in the next version that I recently decided to make it a major version upgrade, and finish up the loose ends and science projects to make it whole. Here’s what’s in store…

  • Mobile views: I sat on this or a long time. Originally, I was going to use jQuery Mobile, and waited and waited for a new release, but in the end, decided against using it. Sometimes buttons would unexplainably not work, I felt like I was fighting it at times, and the CSS just felt too heavy. I rolled my own mobile sugar at a fraction of the size, and I think you’ll find it easy to modify. And it’s Metro-y, of course!
  • Re-do of background services: A number of things run in the background, and I did quite a bit of “reimagining” of that code. It’s the weirdness of running services in a Web site context, because so many folks can’t run a bona fide service on their host’s box. The biggest change here is that these service no longer start up by default. You’ll need to call a new method from global.asax called PopForumsActivation.StartServices(). This is also a precursor to running the app in a Web farm (new data layer and caching is the second part of that). I learned about this the hard way when I had three apps using the forum library code but only one was actually the forum. The services were all running three times as often with race conditions and hits on the same data. That was particularly bad for e-mail.
  • CSS clean up: It’s still not ideal, but it’s getting better. That’s one of those things that comes with integrating to a real site… you discover all of the dumb things you did. The mobile CSS is particularly easier to live with.
  • Bug fixes: There are a whole lot of them. Most were minor, but it’s feeling pretty solid now.

So that’s where I am. I’m going to call it v10.0, and I’m going to really put forth some effort toward finishing the mobile experience and getting through the remaining bugs. The roadmap beyond that will likely not be feature oriented, but rather work on some other things, like making it run in Azure, perhaps using SQL CE, a better install experience, etc.

As usual, I’ll post the latest here. Stay tuned!

The best computer ever

(This is a repost from my personal blog… wow… I need to write more technical stuff!)

About three years and three months ago, I bought a 17" MacBook Pro, and it turned out to be the best computer I've ever owned.

You might think that every computer with better specs is automatically better than the last, but that hasn't been my experience. My first one was a Sony, back in the Pentium III days, and it cost an astonishing $2,500. That was even more ridiculous in 1999 dollars. It had a dial-up modem, and a CD-ROM, built-in! It may have even played DVD's.

A few years later I bought an HP, and it ended up being a pile of shit. The power connector inside came loose from the board, and on occasion would even short. In 2005, I bought a Dell, and it wasn't bad. It had a really high resolution screen (complete with dead pixels, a problem in those days), and it was the first laptop I felt I could do real work on.

When 2006 rolled around, Apple started making computers with Intel CPU's, and I bought the very first one the week it came out. I used Boot Camp to run Windows. I still have it in its box somewhere, and I used it for three years. The current 17" was new in 2009.

The goodness was largely rooted in having a big screen with lots of dots. This computer has been the source of hundreds of blog posts, tens of thousands of lines of code, video and photo editing, and of course, a whole lot of Web surfing. It connected to corpnet at Microsoft, WiFi in Hawaii and has presented many a deck. It has traveled with me tens of thousands of miles.

Last year, I put a solid state drive in it, and it was like getting a new computer. I can boot up a Windows 7 VM in about 19 seconds. Having 8 gigs of RAM has always been fantastic. Everything about it has been fast and fun. When new, the battery (when not using VM's) could get as much as 10 hours. I can still do 7 without much trouble. After 460 charge cycles, the battery health is still between 85 and 90%.

The only real negative has been the size and weight. It's only an inch thick, but naturally it's pretty big with a 17" screen. You don't get battery life like that without a huge battery, either, so it's heavy. It was never a deal breaker, but sometimes a long haul across a large airport, you know you're carrying it.

Today, Apple announced a new, thinner and lighter 15" laptop, with twice the RAM and CPU cores, and four times the screen resolution. It basically handles my size and weight issues while retaining the resolution, and it still costs less than my 17" did. So I ordered one. Three years is an excellent run, but I kind of budgeted for a new workhorse this year anyway.

So if you're interested in a 17" MacBook Pro with a Core 2 Duo 2.66 GHz CPU, 8 gigs of RAM and a 320 gig hard drive (sorry, I'm keeping the SSD), I have one to sell. They've apparently discontinued the 17", which is going to piss off the video community. It's in excellent condition, with a few minor scratches, but I take care of my stuff.

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