November 2006 - Posts

ASP.NET 2.0 Web Parts in Action by Darren Neimke

I highly recommend the book ASP.NET 2.0 Web Parts in Action by Darren Neimke (Manning Publications).  This book assumes you are already experienced with ASP.NET, so it doesn't waste your time with yet another introduction.  Instead, everything in this book is just good content about Web Parts and the Portal Framework, a lot of which is hard to find anywhere else.  This book does not just show you how to build a Web Part based Portal, it will also teach you how to customize most every aspect of the process.  You'll learn about the Manager control, Connections, and Personalization, but also about changing the look of the Chrome that all Web Parts automatically get.  So if you are an experienced ASP.NET developer that is needing to learn about Web Parts, then this is a must-have book -- there's nothing else like it.
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ASP.NET 2.0 CSS Control Adapters Released

Its official -- the ASP.NET 2.0 CSS Friendly Control Adapters have finally been released !

What are CSS Friendly Control Adapters?  Here's what Microsoft says about them:

ASP.NET is a great technology for building web sites but it would be even better if it provided more flexibility for customizing the rendered HTML. For example, the Menu control makes it simple to add a menu to a web site, but it would be better if it didn't create <table> tags and was easier to style using CSS. Happily, it's easy to customize and adapt the Menu control to generate better HTML. Indeed, you can modify any ASP.NET control so it produces exactly the HTML you want.

The key is to use something that may be new to you: control adapters. These are little chunks of logic that you add to your web site to effectively "adapt" an ASP.NET control to render the HTML you prefer. The ASP.NET 2.0 CSS Friendly Control Adapters kit provides pre-built control adapters that you can easily use to generate CSS friendly markup from some of the more commonly used ASP.NET controls.

So go download and install them today -- and start building more CSS Friendly sites with ASP.NET. 

 

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Free Lunch-n-Learn on .NET v3.0 (WinFx) in Atlanta

Doug Turnure and Todd Fine will be hosting a few free lunch-n-learns on .NET v3.0 (formerly called WinFx) in Atlanta at the Microsoft offices in Alpharetta on Nov. 20 and Dec. 18 -- BYOL (bring your own lunch).
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Atlanta Cutting Edge .NET User Group on Nov. 6, Part 2

I'll be donating the following books, mostly sent to me by the publishers so they deserve the praise, to be given out at the Atlanta Cutting Edge .NET User Group on Monday night, November 6th:

  • The C# Programming Language by Hejlsberg, Wiltamuth, and Golde published by Addison Wesley
  • Building Intelligent .NET Applications by Rea published by Addison Wesley
  • Maximizing ASP.NET, Real World, Object-Oriented Development by Putz published by Addison Wesley
  • Seeing Data, Designing User Interfaces for Database Systems Using .NET by Riordan published by Addison Wesley
  • Designing Effective Database Systems published by Addison Wesley
  • ADO.NET and System.Xml v2.0, The Beta Version by Homer, Sussman, and Fussell published by Addison Wesley
  • A First Look at SQL Server 2005 for Developers by Beauchemin, Berglund, and Sullivan published by Addison Wesley
  • Introducing SQL Server 2005 for Developers by DeBetta published by Microsoft Press
  • Web Services Architecture and its Specifications by Cabrera and Kurt published by Microsoft Press
  • .NET Security and Cryptography by Thorsteinson and Ganesh published by Prentice Hall
  • Software Architect Bootcamp by Malveau and Mowbray published by Prentice Hall
  • Pro Visual Studio 2005 Team System Application Development by Shrimpton published by Apress
Of course the big give-away is still the full one-year subscription to Visual Studio 2005 Team Suite with MSDN Premium, a $10,939 value, being donated by me and Mimsware, so come on out.

MySpace: My "Space" and My Thoughts

I've recently finally joined MySpace and created my own "space".  I've looked a little at them before when they've been in the news, but I never really thought much of it.  The funny thing is that even now that I have created my own "space", I still don't think much of it.  I suppose its possible that I'm just too old to really "get it", but I don't think that's the case.  My problem with MySpace is that its just NOT a very user-friendly community site at all.

First, the layout is not at all personalizable -- like it or not, you get a single page with two columns with fixed content.  The left column has a brief overview of your details with your picture, info on how to contact you, your details which are your answers to a fixed set of questions, your school information, and a few other things depending on what information you provide.  The right column has a very limited blog summary, whether you use it or not, your detailed responses to a fixed set of more general questions, your friends, and comments.  There is no way to move things from one column to another, reorder the position of items in columns, add new content that doesn't fit their categories, or add new columns or pages.  In some cases if you don't supply the content then its entire area won't display, but in many cases you are still stuck with the content area even if you don't supply the content, and everyone gets this silly box at the top of their right column that says they are in your extended network or their profile is private.

There is also no built-in way to change the look and feel of your space, beyond just adding raw CSS in one of your response areas, and the site was obviously not originally developed with that intent either.  Now it is true that using CSS you can get a lot of customization, but my point is that there is no simple way to pick a set of colors or other look and feel properties, so everyone has to use CSS.  And while things can be made to "work" using CSS to a large extent, its not been setup with classes in the majority of cases to make this easy -- instead my CSS is changing properties for table, table table, table table table, table table table table, things like that -- very ugly.  Luckily there are plenty of other sites that have grown up around MySpace that give you the ability to specify what you want and then generate the CSS for you, but that's obviously not part of MySpace itself so its a really bizarre process for most users.  This may have been sufficient if MySpace had been created 10 years ago, but its pretty laughable that any community minded site would be built like this in the last 5 years.

So why is MySpace so popular?  The answer to that question is also why I decided to join -- everyone else is already on MySpace.  I'm not sure how it managed to grow to this point in the past, but that's irrelevant now that everyone is there.  In my case, I found every single one of my nieces and nephews that are old enough to be on MySpace, so whether I like it or not, it is the best way to keep in touch and see what they are up to.

Are there any lessons to be learned here?  Not really for the most part, I just thought I'd share my findings for all the older generation techies.  The only other thing I can say is that MySpace is a good example of why even though you should keep things "simple", you should also do things "right" when its easy to do.  What do I mean by that?  Maybe you don't need personalization in your first release, but you should at least use CSS in a good way so that it won't be hard to add later.  By not having done that at an early stage, MySpace is now very much stuck since changing their layout now would completely break thousands of existing user "spaces" that work due to the hacks that have been identified and applied.  So while you should keep things "simple", that should not be an excuse for sloppiness and spaghetti code -- you still should want to do things "right".  On the other hand, I seriously doubt that any of these other sites that are trying to do it right now will succeed in replacing MySpace due to everyone already being on MySpace -- unless MySpace messes up and breaks existing "spaces". 

Atlanta Cutting Edge .NET User Group on Nov. 6

I'm going to be presenting on Custom Providers in ASP.NET at the November 6th meeting of the Atlanta Cutting Edge .NET User Group.  This is pretty much a repeat of my session at the 2006 Atlanta Code Camp, but I keep getting lots of requests for it.  The primary goal is to introduce ASP.NET custom providers and discuss why you should care about them.  Of course we will also examine several sample custom providers as time allows.  Hopefully in a few months, at a future meeting, I will be able to dig deeper into a specific provider, probably the "Health Monitoring" provider for logging and diagnostics.  But for now, come out and learn about custom providers, and maybe win a full one-year subscription to Visual Studio 2005 Team Suite with MSDN Premium, a $10,939 value being donated by me and Mimsware.
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