Tim Walters .NET Blog

Microsoft .NET, along with XML, XSL, XSD, SQL and other cool stuff
New activity, new focus, new tools, new toys!
I intend to start posting again, although the focus will be changing somewhat. I no longer use Flash, it just isn't worth the effort involved and the debugging nightmares to try and build applications with it. We don't use it where I work, and I no longer build apps in it personally, though I may use it for animations if a need arises.

So, what other option is there for graphically rich .NET applications then? I'm glad you asked! VG.Net fits this bill nicely, and it's managed code, with full Visual Studio 2003 support (2005 support coming).

In my posts I'll focus on my findings with VG.Net, the .NET Framework 2.0, Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005 and all things XML that I can get my hands on.

I welcome anyone who's got a question or a problem to post me a message here and I will consider it as a focus for a blog entry and/or article.

Anyway, my appologies for my extended absence, I hope I can update this more frequently in my spare time (limited as it is, since I have 1yr old twins).
Application Blocks for faster coding

I was at the Security Summit yesterday (based on the DevDays stuff in America), and was reminded yet again of the great Application Blocks that are available, so here's some links:

Microsoft patterns and practices for Application Architecture and Design (the main page)

Some of the Application Blocks that aren't as applicable for me, but here for reference:

Quite a few great bits of code there.

PS: I will be posting an update to my Heirarchial XML into SQL article, as well as it's companion article (SQL->XML), hopefully later this week

Posted: Mar 17 2004, 08:42 AM by XMLEvangelist | with 5 comment(s)
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InfoPath 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP-1) Preview

I saw the InfoPath 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP-1) Preview appear on the Microsoft Download Centre RSS feed recently, and I must say it's something I'd like to have a play with.

When InfoPath first came out I was very excited, but I realised that much of the functionality is available in the (now FREE) Altova Authentic®, which has supports a browser plug-in for Internet Explorer, comes with a free Windows Client, Placeholder Control for Microsoft CMS 2002 Server, and an ASP.NET Server Control.

The flip side of the coin is that InfoPath is a dream to use, looks sexy, and supports scripting. With the addition of the InfoPath 2003 Toolkit for Visual Studio .NET it has reached a level where it can be taken quite seriously.

Anyone out there have some experience with either the VS Toolkit or the SP1 Preview that they would like to share?

Hierarchical XML - importing into SQL Server 2000

I've just finished my first draft of a new article on how to import infinite-depth XML trees into a parent/child table in SQL Server 2000.

It uses table variables and OPENXML to do most of the tricks, along with an interesting WHILE loop.

Have a read and see what you think, I'd love to hear your feedback.

A year already?! Where do I go from here...

It turns out that I've been blogging for over a year already!

I was first introduced to this by a co-worker Darren Neimke, we've both since left that company and moved on to other seperate jobs.

I'm still trying to find my 'direction' for this blog... at this stage I'm thinking I should concentrate on XML technologies, C#, .NET, Flash and SQL as those are my main areas of expertise.

Last night while lying in bed awake I decided to write a list of article topics I would like to write, here's what I came up with:

  • XML
    • Introduction
      • moving from MSXML to .NET
      • how to use XmlDocument, XslTransform, XPathDocument etc
    • Intermediate topics (suggestions welcome)
    • Advanced topics (suggestions welcome)
  • Flash
    • Using XML - navigating the DOM, referring to Text Nodes, etc
    • Hosting in .NET Compact Framework apps (related to the HTML Viewer article idea)
    • Remoting and .NET (I'm currently reviewing FlashORB)
    • Talking to Web Services
  • Pocket PC and the .NET Compact Framework
    • HTML Viewer - getting the IE control to work in your .NET CF app
  • SQL Server
    • Introduction to using XML in SQL Server 2000
    • XML EXPLICIT - the pleasure and the pain
    • Tips and Tricks for faster queries
    • SQL Reporting Server (once I get a chance to play with it!)
    • Exposing your Stored Procedures as Web Services using SOAP

I'm keen to hear votes for what you would like to see first, and any ideas for topics. As I complete each article I'll post a blog entry with a summary and a link.

So, hit me with your comments on what you want to see!


SQL Reporting Services

Well, I just got back from the SQL Reporting Services MSDN Update session.

As always Adam Cogan was entertaining while still providing heaps of information, and live code demos!

I was in the beta for Rosetta (SQL Reporting Services), but never had a chance to even install it due to a heavy work load, so it was great to get a comprehensive overview of the features.

SQL Reporting Services provides a great option for those needing to do Web based reporting, and to some degree can be used for WinForms reporting.

One noticable area that's lacking is the ability to use it in a WinForms app and send the report directly to the printer! Anyone out there know a good way around it? I suggested perhaps a Rendering Extension could be created that would render to a network printer, I'll have to look into that more.

Of all the people that attended, only 2 didn't think they would start using it, and both for the same reason: easy "user" creation of reports, as provided by Crystal Enterprise Edition. I commented that if you were keen you could create something easy for the users that would generate the RDL (Report Definition Language) XML file and submit that to the server, but it's not the greatest solution since Crystal EE has it out-of-the-box.

Anyway, great session and a great product, and best of all both it's FREE (as long as you have a SQL Server 2000 license)!

PS: Adam, if you're reading this, the full scoop on Trackbacks for you!

PPS: Adam tells me I should blog more often... who else would like to see more from me? If so, what kind of content are you interested in? I prefer to keep this blog mostly technical, with a focus on .NET, C#, XML/XSLT/XSD/XPath/XQuery etc and Flash, but I'm happy to post about other things too like SQL, Pocket PC, handy utilities, tips and tricks, etc... post a comment, tell me what you want.

Posted: Feb 19 2004, 03:18 PM by XMLEvangelist | with 7 comment(s)
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The history of Reporting with the Microsoft Development environment

With SQL Reporting Services being released recently, it's interesting to look back on the history of reporting...

For me it began with MS Access v1.0 back in 1992. A nice reporting system, with some programmability, producing on-screen and printed reports with a minimum of fuss. I followed Access right through to Access 2000, along the way I became an Access MVP... it was a fun ride but I've moved on.

The VB world started getting controls to allow reporting too, with the addition of pseudo-Access style reporting added in VB 6.

As we progressed, Web Reporting became more popular, and many ASP developers began to feel the pain. It was easy enough to generate report for displaying in a web page, but printing ... well it sucked really! Some played with using Word or Excel to print by exporting from the page into the correct format, others tried PDF generators, and then there was products like Crystal Reports. Personally I found that putting your data in XML format and having 2 XSLTs to generate either a XHTML output or the XML/HTML required for Excel XP worked rather well, but it's a pain if you're not working in an Intranet environment where you know what the client PC's have installed, and there's all those extra clicks for the users who simply want a "Print" button.

With the release of .NET we got a 5-user license of Crystal Reports built in... this was a major step forward for many developers, but it was plagued with problems. There were bugs, and the nagging dialog telling you to register. The object model let many people confused, and it was quite a while before any decent samples started to appear.

Even now, many developers are using home-brew reporting systems to aviod these headaches... but now we have SQL Reporting Services available for free (assuming you have SQL 2000).

Anyway, this is my history of reporting as far as I recall it, what have your experiences been like? What are your plans for SQL Reporting Services? Do you think this spells the end for Crystal Reports?

I'd love to hear your story, so post a comment!

Posted: Feb 10 2004, 01:06 PM by XMLEvangelist | with 6 comment(s)
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Free defect tracking software

Axosoft is offering bloggers a free 3-user version of their .NET & SQL based OnTime defect tracking software (bug tracking software).  For more information, visit http://www.axosoft.com/Free3UserOffer.htm.

Posted: Feb 09 2004, 01:26 PM by XMLEvangelist | with 2 comment(s)
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I saw this a while back, but for some reason didn't download and install it... this time I gave in and it seems to be a very nice application. Support for .Text is great, about the only thing I've noticed so far that's missing is that it's hard to assign multiple categories to a post, but that's probably a bad idea anyway right?

If you want to try it out, take a look - BlogJet. It's a cool Windows client for blogging (loads of great features). Get your copy here: http://blogjet.com

"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." -- Pablo Picasso

Posted: Feb 06 2004, 10:31 AM by XMLEvangelist | with 4 comment(s)
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TabletPC advice please

I'm looking to get a TabletPC on salary sacrifice, and I would love to hear some advice from people who have them.

I will be using it to test TabletPC software I write, and will use it as a secondary development PC (though I imagine I'll use an external 17" or 19" display). It would also be nice if I could play some 3D games on it (Toshiba seems to win there!).

I've been looking at the Acer C300 and Toshiba M200. Here's the pros/cons I've come up with from my research so far:

Acer C300 Toshiba M200
14.1" screen 12.1" screen
DVD/CD-RW 1400 x 1050 resolution
7.5hr battery nVidia GeForce FX Go5200 (32Mb)
1024 x 768 resolution No CD/DVD drive as standard
Heavy (2.74Kg without DVD or extra battery) 4.5Hr battery

Anyone out there care to give me their advice?

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