I made it to last night's Atlanta .NET User Group meeting, as well as having dinner with Marcie (aka DataGrid Girl). I don't get to these things very often -- I think this was my third total and second in the last year or so. I was impressed with the size of the group (96) and the interaction that actually occurred amongst all us geeks. Marcie did a great job -- I learned how to use the datagrid without enabling its viewstate! Steven Heckler also gave a short talk on Regular Expressions which had to be the best explanation I've ever heard or seen. There were also a good number of job announcements, which appeared to interest many attendees. I was also pleasantly surprised at the number of people that knew who I was and wanted to talk to me -- and all I did was sit quietly in the back. Anyhow, if last night was typical, then I would recommend attending if you are in Atlanta, although I still prefer going home to be with my family.
I've been at my new job at PRG-Schultz for 5 weeks now, or a day or two past a month if you prefer. Things are going very well, culminating in a very high profile demo yesterday in front of the CIO, VP, and other important folks. This was an ASP.NET web application, with a SQL Server backend, that has a rather significant dynamic user interface. Its also the first application based on a new GUI specification that was put together by a leader in the industry. Of course, everything worked flawlessly -- I can't stand it when presentations are full of bugs so I make sure I do it right! I suppose that's easier said than done, and I don't want to sound cocky, but I really do think that many people just don't think bugs are a big deal. So lets get this straight if you are doing demos or presentations -- bugs are a big deal and you should work hard to avoid them. This may mean you simply don't give into the impulse to add something new at the last minute, but its something that you must keep as a high priority no matter what. OK, end of rant.
I think I'm fitting in well with my new team also. I certainly have a lot to learn from them about the business, and my application could not have been successful without some of the help I received from the team. Our new .NET coding standards seem to be well-received, but we'll see if that continues to hold up after I get around to some code checks soon. I think we've also nearly made our decision to go with ActiveReports for .NET as our main reporting solution. My experience working with it has been that its actually easier than Crystal, and its also more flexible in most cases, and it works extremely well for what I need to do. The few other people on my team that have cared to look seem impressed also, so we certainly haven't identified any reason to stick with Crystal, which costs just as much or more anyhow. By the way, I had a couple recommendations to look at SQL Server's new Reporting Service which is currently in Beta. I wish I could consider it more, but most of us simply can't use Beta products in production or wait for them to be released. I'm also not sure that it would have met all my needs, but I can't claim to have tried it seriously enough to have give it a good evaluation.
I'm going to start moving on to more architectural tasks now, although I'll still be doing some development too. I need to design our security infrastructure and create some reusable components that the rest of the team can use, for both web and windows apps. This should not be too hard, but there are some peculiar requirements, like a combination of Windows authentication and "Forms" authentication when necessary. I'm also going to be starting up a "lunch-n-learn" series here soon, which was one of the things that my ex-colleagues and I really enjoyed at Roche. I also nearly have my next article for ASP.NET Pro Magazine on MasterPages done -- its supposed to be in the November issue which will be given out at the PDC. I also need to catch up on some of my own articles on ASPAlliance, since I've been meaning to write one up on O/R mappers like Norpheme and Sisyphus. On the home front, my kids are doing well in Kindergarten, and we're considering buying a bigger house in the next year, although acreage seems to expensive. As usual, too much to do in too little time.
We need to make some decisions about reporting tools for .NET, including but not limited to ASP.NET. I know ActiveReports is very popular, and of course Crystal is common since its included with VS.NET. I've personally never been a big Crystal fan, but I haven't used it in a long time either, so maybe its improved. Anyone have any thoughts or experiences with these, or other, reporting tools for .NET. I would be especially interested in developer vs. end-user customizations, and licensing issues.