Kevin Dente's Blog

The Blip in the Noise

October 2006 - Posts

MS Ajax beta 1 goodies

Lest I be seen purely as a big fat winer ;), here's some of the really positive things I've noted in the MSAjax beta 1 release:

  • Opera support (or at least, a commitment to it) - fantastic, Microsoft really listened to the community on this one
  • Improved debuggability - much needed, spelunking through earlier Atlas CTPs in the debugger wasn't very fun
  • Replaceable script library - again, oft requested by the community
  • ScriptManager.EnablePartialRendering defaults to true - I never did understand why it was false originally.
  • UpdatePanel client-side events - woohoo!
  • Extender controls now look a lot more like regular ASP.NET controls - a good thing

I'm planning on digging into the beta a lot more over the next couple of weeks. More later...


Posted Friday, October 20, 2006 1:12 PM by kevindente | 1 comment(s)

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First thoughts on MSAjax (Atlas) Beta 1

I spent a little time this morning looking over documentation for the new MSAjax Beta 1 bits. Although it's great to see the product moving forward toward release, my first reaction is a bit of disappointment.

 As Scott describes, MSAjax has been split into a "Core" component, which defines the base client and server-side framework that will ship with RTM, and a "Value Add" component, which basically includes things that were in previous CTPs but didn't make it into the Core. There's a feature matrix in the CTP-to-beta migration whitepaper which describes what's in Core and what's in Value-Add. If were to summarize the contents in a single phrase, it would be this - server-side AJAX wins, client-side AJAX loses.

What do I mean by that? Most of the super-cool client-side script capabilities in the previous CTPs are in the Value-Add component, not the Core. The various UI glitz behaviors like drag drop, floating, hover, popups, and opacity - not in Core. Virtually all of the controls, extenders, and behaviors - not in Core. XML-Script, the toolable, declarative, XAML-for-Javascript goo - not in Core.

Don't get me wrong, there's still lots of client-side Javascript framework-y stuff in MSAjax beta 1. But the focus seems to be clearly on UpdatePanel and Extender controls. For people hoping to do much with MSAjax without using ASP.NET - well, there isn't much there there, as far as the Core is concerned. This is unfortunate - isn't that whiz-bangy UI stuff part of why people dig Ajax? While the UpdatePanel is a nice gateway drug into the world of AJAX, I've always thought that Microsoft over-emphasized it in the past. You won't be building Google Maps with UpdatePanels. You won't be build Gmail with UpdatePanels. To do the really slick stuff, you need more. Perhaps the Control Toolkit folks will be picking up more of the responsibility here.

The roadmap for how and when Value-Add becomes Core is still unclear to me. Similarly with the license - does Value-Add have a Go-Live license? Can we redistribute it? If we end of having to wait for Orcas to work with it in production, and worse if it requires the next version of the framework...well, that would be a major bummer.







Posted Friday, October 20, 2006 11:16 AM by kevindente | 6 comment(s)

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Sometimes, Apple gets it exactly right

Recently, my wife and I replaced our antiquated cell phones with snazzy new Motorola RAZR phones. Not overjoyed by the thought of manually reentering all of our phone numbers, we were hoping to simply copy the numbers from our respective computers to the phones (not ALL of our contacts phone numbers, of course, just the select few that merit being on the cell).

My wife is a web designer, so naturally she uses a Mac, while I use a PC. We sat down at her machine and connected it via a USB cable to the phone. We launched iSync, and the phone was automatically recognized and identified correctly. Her contact list in iSync didn't look right, but we quickly realized that was because she didn't have Entourage set to sync with iSync. One checkbox later and that was fixed. She created a special "Cell phone" group, copied the contacts that she wanted on the phone into that group, and synced the phone. It worked perfectly.

Sitting down at my PC to accomplish the same task, I realized...I got nothing. Some quick Googling revealed that doing something similar requires either paying for a software package called Motorola Phone Tools (so I can sync with my free phone), or using some open source software called BitPim. In either case, I need to install a USB driver for the phone (before plugging it in - is that bit of stupidity being fixed in Vista?). A that point, I realized I didn't have time to mess with it for now.

I'm not one to lavish Apple with usability praise out-of-hand - generally I think a lot of the Mac's UI is not intrinsically easier to use than the Windows equivalent, it's just different. In this case, though, I've got to hand it to Apple - everything worked exactly as it should have.

I hope that the new Windows Mobile Device Center that comes with Vista will provide a a similarly simple experience for us Windows users.

Posted Thursday, October 12, 2006 10:15 PM by kevindente | 10 comment(s)

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MSN Groups for Windows Live Writer support

My last couple of blog posts have been written using the excellent Windows Live Writer tool. It's a fantastic blogging tool. I wanted to send a suggestion or two to the WLW team, so I clicked the Send Feedback menu item. That takes you to an MSN group that's as close to an official support channel as there is.

Before posting my suggestions, I went to do what I would always do - search to see if the suggestions had already been made. Lo and behold, there's no search. Are you KIDDING me? A community forum with no search capability? How brain-dead is that?

In the end, I was able to use Google to search the group. But that should so not be necessary. Sometimes I really wish MS would come up with a single communication forum strategy. Newsgroups, MSDN forums, ASP.NET forums, MSN Groups, Connect - it's all over the map.

Posted Thursday, October 12, 2006 8:55 PM by kevindente | with no comments

Microsoft Atlas - should I be worried?

For some time, I've been following the Atlas framework (now ASP.NET Ajax) with great interest. The ASP.NET team has proven to be one of the most agile at Microsoft lately, and with Atlas it seemed that they were continuing that trend. Regular CTP drops were being released, the open source-y goodness of the Atlas Control Toolkit was announced, and things seemed to be moving along well.

Since the release of the July CTP, however, things seem to have taken an ominous turn. No further CTPs have been released since July. The ASP.NET has been conspicuously absent from the Atlas forums, nor have they been doing much blogging. The bug reports having been piling up, with no fixes in sight.

In fact, for a long time, there was no clear answer on how to report bugs, period. The community even resorted to tracking their own unofficial bug list on the ASP.NET forums. The official word finally came down that Connect is the official channel, but there's still no Atlas category to post under. People have complained that bugs reported on Connect have been simply closed as "unreproducible" when they clearly are. I myself reported a bug there and haven't seen any update on it for over a month.

In the meantime, two major bits of news have been announced. One is that the Atlas framework is ungoing a major refactoring. Not much is known about it, except that it shrinks the minimum footprint of the client scripts, that it switches to using prototype-based classes instead of closure-based classes, and that it doesn't include all of the features of the current CTP. There have been hints that lots of the current bugs are fixed in the new version, and that we'll see it some time this month.

The second bit of news is that Microsoft intends to ship Atlas 1.0 by the end of this year. Assuming that means around the end of the month, that means we'll have November, and maybe parts of December if we're lucky, to play with the new bits before the product ships. I don't know about you, but that leaves me a bit uncomfortable.

Certainly everyone (including me) is excited for this technology to be generally available so we can start using it. But, given Microsoft's fanatical approach to backward compatibility, I want it to go out as fully baked as possible.

What do you think?

Posted Thursday, October 12, 2006 8:15 PM by kevindente | 6 comment(s)

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