Simple API Opens Up Cloud Storage

Microsoft is taking another step towards cloud interoperability with today's launch of the Simple API for Cloud Application Services project. The Simple Cloud API gives PHP developers a set of programming interfaces for common operations to access cloud storage services across vendors.

The open source project is lead by Zend Technologies, sponsor of the open source Zend Framework. Along with Zend, Microsoft, IBM and Rackspace are among the co-founding partners in the open source initiative.

With the Simple Cloud API, PHP developers can use three reference interfaces to target cloud vendors' file storage (Windows Azure Blob storage, Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloud Files, Nirvanix), document storage (Windows Azure Table Storage, Amazon Simple DB) and queues (Windows Azure Table Storage, Amazon SQS).

The Simple Cloud API is directed at cloud application services, not elastic compute cloud services, according to the project's Web site. One of the goals of the project is to define interfaces that will eventually become a component of the Zend Framework, called Zend_Cloud.

Microsoft first announced its support for PHP at PDC08 when it unveiled Windows Azure. In May, the company released the open source PHPAzure SDK on CodePlex in partnership with RealDomen, a Belgium-based Microsoft integrator. Microsoft wants to contribute the SDK to the Zend Framework. Even though it is still a CTP, RealDomen submitted the PHPAzure SDK to Zend for review in July.

Vijay Rajagopalan, principal architect on the Interoperability Technical Strategy team at Microsoft, stressed in a Channel9 video today that Azure is an open and interoperable computing platform:

"The value proposition of the PHP SDK is that the PHP developer doesn't have to learn the intricacies of Windows Azure Storage to start to build to CRUD operations using these strongly typed PHP classes," he explained.

The Windows Azure for PHP SDK targets Windows Azure Storage, which consists of Blobs, tables of queues. It also provides PHP programming interfaces for Windows Azure's compute and management services.

Today's announcement gives the PHP developer more product choice, said Rajagopalan. "I don't have to worry about which cloud vendor I am targeting instead I can drive my cloud application logic without worrying about different cloud implementations…It provides one simple API to access the common storage classes across heterogeneous cloud vendors."

Zend Technologies hopes the Simple Cloud API will bring attention to PHP and the cloud community and drive innovation. The current APIs are pre-production quality and are likely to change during the Zend Framework proposal process.

Open source efforts that help mitigate the perception of vendor lock-in in the cloud may help Microsoft get Azure off the ground. Are you interested in Azure? How important is openness and interoperability in your cloud development strategy? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at [email protected]

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 09/22/2009 at 1:15 PM4 comments


More Bandwith for Microsoft AJAX

Web development, once the Cinderella story at Microsoft, seems to be getting the royal treatment this year as new technologies and services continue to emerge at top speed. This week, the ASP.NET folks introduced a free Content Delivery Network for geo-located caching of ASP.NET AJAX and jQuery libraries.

To date, the CDN supports the September preview of ASP.NET AJAX 4.0 (version 0909) and jQuery version 1.3.2. This latest version of the AJAX libraries, ASP.NET AJAX 4.0 Preview 5, is available on CodePlex. It adds support for the ASP.NET UpdatePanel, among other client-side data improvements (dynamic and recursive templates).

With Microsoft's AJAX CDN, static content can now be hosted for free across thousands of edge servers worldwide. In theory, this should allow developers to utilize Microsoft's bandwidth to better optimize content (images, CSS, JavaScript) delivery on their Web sites, as end users' browsers request script files from the closest network servers.

The CDN can be used without registration for commercial and non-commercial content, according to Microsoft. It works with Microsoft's ASP.NET AJAX and jQuery libraries in ASP.NET MVC and ASP.NET Web Forms apps. New tools and technologies in ASP.NET 4.0 and Visual Studio 2010 will improve developers' ability to take advantage of Microsoft's CDN. The ScriptManager control in ASP.NET 4.0, will include a new EnableCdn property that will allow developers to automate this functionality in their Web Forms apps, according to a blog posting by Scott Guthrie, announcing the AJAX content delivery network.

It's early days –- the AJAX CDN was announced on Tuesday -- and developers have already peppered Microsoft with questions about privacy, support for custom libraries, security and failover to local servers.

In response to a question about remote JavaScript IntelliSense from a commenter on Guthrie's blog, Stephen Walther, a member of the ASP.NET AJAX team, responded:

"Visual Studio 2010 supports JavaScript Intellisense from the CDN. When you add a script that refers to the CDN, Visual Studio 2010 grabs the vsdoc or debug file that corresponds to the script in the background automatically (You don't have to do anything special to get the Intellisense to work). We are already hosting the debug versions of the Microsoft Ajax scripts and the vsdoc files for both jQuery and the jquery.validate plug-in on the CDN."

At this point, the CDN does not support automatic failover to local scripts, which Walther noted was a great suggestion, or apparently, custom or open source JavaScript libraries other than jQuery.

Google offers a free CDN as part of its AJAX Libraries API. It supports open source JavaScript libraries such as jQuery, script_aculo_us, Dojo, and Yahoo! User interface Libraries, among others.

"The whole issue of which JavaScript library to use among Web developers in general is an embarrassment of riches," says Al Hilwa, program director of Application Developer Software for market researcher IDC. He notes that even though Microsoft has globbed on to jQuery, there are more than a hundred libraries that are popular with developers.

"It is good for Microsoft to be seen as just as gung ho as their competitors are, because clearly Web development is where the excitement is in terms of new application development today," says Hilwa. "Like everything else that is new, Microsoft's CDN may take some time to stabilize in terms of performance, but it is definitely a plus to have this kind of support for external Web sites."

The AJAX market is still much bigger, according to Hilwa, than the use of plugins such as Flash, Silverlight and the emerging JavaFx. "It is not an either or proposition," he explains. Developers still think of AJAX techniques as the baseline development for Web apps.

Is Microsoft's Content Delivery Network something that your company would consider using for its external Web apps? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at [email protected]

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 09/17/2009 at 1:15 PM4 comments


iNET Arrives, Where's Silverlight for Mobile?

A frequent question that developers ask Microsoft is whether the company has any plans to get Silverlight on the iPhone. Someone hit Scott Guthrie with this question during his Linked In .NET Users Group online talk late last month. Guthrie said, "Right now we don't have anything to announce."

Guthrie went on to point out that there are some cool games in Apple's AppStore that were built using Mono, the open source UNIX version of .NET. "It's possible right now to do .NET development," he said during the Linked In chat. "It is not really fully .NET --- but it is possible to use C# and .NET to build iPhone apps today."

That's why, it wasn't too surprising earlier this week, when Miguel de Icaza, the lead on the Mono Project, and his team at Novell released MonoTouch for building iPhone and iPod Touch apps for the AppStore. Unlike the open source Mono Project, MonoTouch is a commercial tool. It requires a Mac, the iPhone SDK and integrates with MonoDevelop, an ASP.NET and C# IDE. MonoTouch is licensed at $399 for the Personal Edition. Some Twitter comments bemoaned the steep price and suggested that "Professional" might be more fitting than Personal Edition. There was also some discussion of a hidden message in the MonoTouch logo—some people spied what looked like a middle finger--and the logo was quickly updated. News editor Jeff Schwartz interviewed de Icaza this week to get more details about MonoTouch and how to use it. Read his story, "Tool Opens Windows on the iPhone."

Guthrie fielded another question during his Linked In online talk, when a participant asked if there were any compelling reasons to use Silverlight for Windows Mobile. "It is something that we have been hard at work on," Guthrie said. "I've personally been involved in the mobile space for about nine months and do run the Silverlight for Mobile team now," he explained and acknowledged the wait for the platform. "We will have some compelling stuff to talk about…I think when we do come out, it is a very good story and an awesome developer story."

More than 1 in 3 Internet connected devices, already have Silverlight deployed, according to Microsoft, but Silverlight for Mobile, despite an agreement to offer it with Nokia S60/Symbian and S40 devices, an announcement made in March of 2008, has yet to appear. According to Microsoft's Silverlight for Mobile Web site, it will be based on Silverlight 2 and it is expected this year.

Developers are probably safe asking Guthrie just about anything, but Steve Ballmer does not hide his animosity towards the iPhone. As Todd Bishop reported in his TechFlash blog earlier this month another Ballmer incident occurred at a private company meeting:

"As the story goes, it happened when Ballmer was making his big entrance -- slapping hands, running around, and generally whooping things up, as is his tradition at these events. That was when he spotted someone at field level, allegedly a member of the Windows group, using an iPhone to take his picture.

Ballmer grabbed the Apple device from the employee and made some funny remarks as everyone booed. Then he put it on the ground and pretended to stomp on it, before walking away."

Express your thoughts on MonoTouch and the iPhone, Silverlight for Mobile and Microsoft's slow to market approach. Can they get there from here or is your company betting elsewhere? Comment below or drop me a line at [email protected]

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 09/15/2009 at 1:15 PM9 comments


In Search of Apps Powered by Windows Azure

Microsoft unveiled its Azure platform and cloud computing strategy to developers at its Professional Developers Conference last October. So what types of apps and services have developers built and tested on Azure?

The Windows Azure Gallery showcases numerous samples, but the majority are not line-of-business apps.

The first external Azure app from Microsoft appeared in beta in late June. Called Microsoft Hohm, it is designed to help consumers monitor their home energy consumption and ultimately save money. The free online beta app, which requires a Windows Live ID and zip code, is currently available only to U.S. residents.

Troy Batterberry, the product unit manager of the Energy Management & Home Automation division at Microsoft, explained the origination of Hohm (formerly codenamed Niagara) in a July blog post and noted that it was built on Azure:

"All of this complex processing takes considerable computing resources. That is why we built Hohm on top of Azure, the new cloud operating system from Microsoft. With Azure, we can easily dispatch distributed high performance computing resources on demand as users visit our application."

In July, Microsoft finally announced its consumption-based pricing model for the Windows Azure Platform. Some people expect the more concrete pricing model to build interest in Azure. Many workshops and sessions are planned at PDC09 in November, along with a not so secret Bob Muglia keynote that will officially announce the commercialization of Windows Azure, .NET Services (excluding workflow) and SQL Azure.

Last month, Microsoft released Project Riviera on CodePlex, the first Azure line-of-business reference app, developed in collaboration with ISV partner Cumulux. Designed to support a Customer Loyalty Management program, the sample code uses multi-tenant storage via the Windows Azure Table and SQL Azure, Silveright 3 and several other technologies. Of particular interest is Project Riviera's use of Federation, the Geneva Framework and an upcoming Security Token Service, a scenario that is not currently supported in the Windows Azure July CTP. Cumulux offers a video and some explanation about building Project Riviera on its Web site.

With the anniversary of Azure fast approaching, we are looking for developers who have experimented or built apps with the Azure technologies. Your experiences or comments may find their way into the November cover story of Visual Studio Magazine. Tell us what you've learned or want to know about building software for the Azure cloud. Express your comments below or drop me a line at [email protected]

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 09/08/2009 at 1:15 PM6 comments


VS2010 and .NET 4 Beta 2 Expected Soon

A few weeks ago, Scott Guthrie answered a wide array of developers' questions in a Linked .NET Users Group Webcast. Of particular interest was the timeframe of the Visual Studio 2010 and .NET 4 release. According to Guthrie, the corporate vice president of Microsoft's .NET developer platform, the final beta of VS2010 and .NET 4 is expected in short order.

"That will be coming a little later this fall, so it is not that far away," he said. "We have hit the zero bug balance for our Beta 2 release last Friday [Aug. 21] so we are cranking away at that."

He continued, "Performance is pretty good, especially compared to Beta 1, there was a lot of performance work that we needed to do…"

When asked about the timeline for the final release, Guthrie said he was feeling pretty good about release in the first half of 2010, with the usual qualifiers. The RTM is typically four to six months after the final beta, noted Guthrie. "We are not making any promises right now, ultimately the quality of the product will matter in terms of delivering that," he said.

ASP.NET MVC did not make it into Beta 1. It is in Beta 2, according to Guthrie. Version 1 of the technology was released in March. Version 2, which adds support for data annotation and validation including a JQuery validation plug-in, is in the preview stage. ASP.NET MVC v2 will support VS2010 and .NET 4, as well as VS2008 and .NET 3.5, according to Guthrie.

The ASP.NET MVC technology is getting some traction. Bing.com was built on ASP.NET MVC, and major companies such as Walmart and Starbucks, among others are using it on their sites.

VS2010 and .NET 4 will offer improvements to both Web Forms and ASP.NET MVC, said Guthrie, who said on the Webcast, "both will be fully supported forever."

When asked if developers could expect any revolutionary technologies in the same vein as ASP.NET MVC, LINQ or Silverlight in the upcoming developer tooling and framework, Guthrie explained that one of the goals of VS2010 and .NET 4 is to "complete" the developer experience. Some of the improvements to Web Forms are indicative of this strategy, he said, such as better control over client IDs for script and CSS, "fine-grained" ViewState control, web.config files that can be left blank (without a bunch of entries) and still work, and the ability to use the same URL routing engine with ASP.NET MVC and Web Forms.

Guthrie kicked off a series of blog posts in late August that discuss what's coming in Visual Studio 2010 and .NET 4. He will also be at PDC09 and "probably part of the keynote in some way," he said. You can download his 90 minute online chat with the Linked .NET Users Group here.

Windows 7, which includes .NET 3.5, may arrive before Visual Studio 2010 and .NET 4 beta 2. Are you developing apps with Windows 7 in mind? We want to include your insights in an upcoming Visual Studio Magazine feature on the new client OS. Express your opinions in our survey and tell us what aspects of Win7 are most intriguing and most disappointing to .NET developers.E-mail Visual Studio Magazine’s editor in chief Michael Desmond[email protected]

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 09/03/2009 at 1:15 PM10 comments


Is Hyper-V a Virtual Showstopper for Developers?

Timing can make or break you in many professions other than comedy. Releasing a major product on the Friday before your competitor’s must-attend conference is the attempted showstopper in the technology industry.

That scenario played out again last week. On Friday, Microsoft released its standalone hypervisor, Hyper-V Server 2008 R2, to manufacturing on the eve of VMworld 2009, the annual event of market leading VMware, the virtual target in Microsoft’s crosshairs.

Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 adds support for live migration, a feature already offered by VMware’s ESXi, and high availability, among other enhancements. Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper V were "officially" released to manufacturing in July, according to Microsoft.

But for developers who simply want to queue up virtual machines on their workstations for 64-bit testing or SharePoint development, Microsoft doesn’t yet offer a desktop solution, outside of its enterprise-level desktop virtualization (MED-V) product. Hyper-V requires a dedicated server and remote management tools. Microsoft RTMed the Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 7, which includes the Hyper-V management tools, on August 11.

The company’s Virtual PC 2007 can be configured to (unofficially) host Windows 7, but it does not support 64-bit processing. The upcoming Windows Virtual PC for Windows 7 requires hardware virtualization support (Intel and AMD).

Developers who are used to hosted environments, such as VMware’s Workstation, may balk if their company mandates use of the "free" Hyper-V for their virtual testing and development.

Ben Armstrong, aka the "Virtual PC Guy" and lead program manager on the core virtualization team at Microsoft, explained the company’s virtualization offerings in a recent blog:

"Hyper-V has been developed to be a great solution as a dedicated virtualization server, not as a desktop computing environment. Similarly, Windows Virtual PC has been developed as a great application compatibility solution. This means that neither of these solutions are ideal for people who want to use server class virtual machines (64-bit, multiprocessor, etc…) on a system that they also want to get a high fidelity desktop experience on."

Traditionally, Hyper-V has not played well with high end video cards on the desktop. It also consumes too much power, according to Microsoft, and interferes with PC’s sleep and hibernate modes.

Windows XP Mode for Windows 7, currently a release candidate, is a host-based compatibility solution for running Windows XP apps alongside Windows 7 apps on desktop machines. It will be offered free with Windows XP Professional and requires Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP with Service Pack 3.

Are you developing apps with Windows 7 in mind? We want to include your insights in an upcoming Visual Studio Magazine feature on the new client OS. Express your opinions in our survey and tell us what aspects of Win7 are most intriguing and most disappointing to .NET developers. E-mail Visual Studio Magazine’s editor in chief Michael Desmond at [email protected]

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 09/01/2009 at 1:15 PM0 comments


In Sync with the Cloud

As we head towards PDC09 and the commercialization of Windows Azure, Microsoft is apparently cutting the cord on some murky affiliations.

Last Friday, David Treadwell, the corporate VP of Live Platform Services, announced that the Live Framework CTP would end on September 8, 2009:

At the Professional Developer Conference 2008, we gave the developer community access to the technical preview of the Live Framework. The Live Framework is core to our vision of providing you with a consistent programming interface. Now we are working to integrate existing services, controls and the Live Framework into the next release of Windows Live.

For those, who have had a hard time keeping up with Microsoft's shifting cloud formation, the Live Framework consists of a Live Operating Environment and APIs for working with Microsoft's Live Services and Live Mesh. It was lumped in with the cloud computing tools and associated with Live Services, part of the original Azure Services Platform--now called the Windows Azure Platform. The Live Framework SDK, services, and tools for Visual Studio 2008 and Visual Web Developer Express 2008 are distinct from the Windows Azure SDK and Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio.

According to Microsoft, developers could use the Live Framework for building local and cloud apps that incorporated Live Services. The strategy put forth also indicated that developers would be able to create Live Mesh-enabled apps for the desktop, Web or mobile devices, using programming libraries for .NET, JavaScript, and Silverlight. The most recent updates to the Live Framework SDK and Tools CTPs were released in April at MIX09.

Starting September 8, the Live Framework SDK, tools and controls such as Contacts, MessengerChat, IDLoginStatus, IDLoginView, SilverlightStreaming will no longer be available. Treadwell's Live Services update blog suggests workarounds and provides some answers to anticipated questions.

Live Mesh, which is still in beta, remains part of the Azure story.

"I believe Mesh is still under Azure auspices, because its DataSync features are the foundation for the mysterious Azure Data Hub," comments Roger Jennings, in an email. Jennings, who authored "Targeting Azure Storage" for Visual Studio Magazine in July, also writes a weekly blog on Windows Azure and cloud computing.

"Data Hub is presumably based on the "Huron" incubator project," says Jennings. The Data Hub technology is projected to be released sometime this year, after PDC. Microsoft has not made any official announcements about the technology or the timeline.

Project Huron is based on the Microsoft Sync Framework and SQL Data Services, now called SQL Azure. Sync Framework v1.0 was released last August. Sync v2.0, which adds built-in provider support for Live Mesh and SQL Azure was announced PDC08 and the first CTP was made available to attendees.

Microsoft released Sync 2.0 CTP2 in June. To learn more about the Sync Framework, check out the Redmond Developer News TechBrief, "Inside Sync" and "Microsoft Testing Cloud Based Data Sharing."

"It's always been a mystery to me as to why the Windows Live stuff other than Mesh had any connection with Windows Azure other than it might run in the same data centers," says Jennings.

Maybe Microsoft has reached the same conclusion. Have you looked at Live Mesh or the Sync Framework? What do you think of Microsoft's evolving cloud strategy? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at [email protected]

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 08/25/2009 at 1:15 PM2 comments


Decoding Microsoft's Unexplained Events

"We may be through with the past, but the past is not through with us."

I'm not sure where this quote came from originally, but it was the theme of the excellent but lengthy film in 1999 by Paul Thomas Anderson (of Boogie Nights fame) called Magnolia. The movie starts by re-telling three unexplained events (urban legends) in the 1930's and then interweaves several stories, among them the suffering of whiz kids that excel on game shows, the broken family of a morally corrupt game show host, and a sleazy "Seduce & Destroy" motivational speaker played by Tom Cruise, who attempts to make peace with his estranged, dying father. It sounds grim but if you've got three hours to kill, it's entertaining, thought provoking and well worth it.

Most developers can relate to the movie's theme quite well: Whether it's untangling spaghetti code left by former company employees, the headaches of supporting multiplatform Windows environments--XP, Vista and soon Win7--or simply keeping up, as Microsoft suddenly changes course, again. The theme song from Magnolia, "Save Me" by Aimee Mann, unfortunately rings true in many dev environments.

The past is clearly not through with Microsoft. We see this everywhere and developers have to deal with it. When it comes to native APIs versus .NET, the company is in unison publicly about its commitment to managed code but the reality is quite different.

In response to a recent RDN Express, ".NET and Windows 7: It's a Wrap!," Kevin Daly of New Zealand commented:

"This is a bugbear of mine. I attended PDC 2003 where we were given a very clear message that Microsoft expected developers to go with .NET over native code for everything above the level of device drivers and so on….This was an excellent idea, but sadly it was abandoned. Vista shipped with more native libraries, and Windows 7 (which I love by the way) with a truckload...the .NET wrappers are an afterthought. I won't even mention Windows Mobile (where there would have been a real opportunity to break with an unsatisfactory past). I'm not saying "Use .NET for everything" or "Don't support native code", but the truth is that all of the documentation for every current version of Windows makes it clear that the assumption is that by default people are programming in C/C++, and all new features are implemented with that in mind."

He goes on to note:

"I think the primacy of native interfaces is a symptom of Real Programmerism: the OS teams are dominated by people who think "Real Programmers Use C++". What really bothers me is that .NET seems to have been shuffled into the same mental pigeonhole that VB occupied in the pre-.NET era: little more than a scripting tool for corporate developers working on in-house projects."

If you've got your hands on Windows 7, we want to hear from you. How is your company going to handle multiplatform Windows support and what is the likely role of .NET in your Windows 7 development? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at [email protected]

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 08/20/2009 at 1:15 PM2 comments


Betting on the Mobile Enterprise

People are getting used to leaving their laptops behind and conducting all of their email, Internet and other mobile business on smartphones. Have you seen how fast some middle-aged business types can tap on tiny keyboards?

The trend hasn’t been lost on Microsoft, which announced a major alliance with Nokia on August 12. The companies will work to optimize Mobile Office apps for future Symbian devices, starting with Mobile Office Communicator Mobile in 2010 on the Nokia Eseries, which targets business professionals.

If Microsoft optimizes Mobile Office for devices that don’t run Windows Mobile -- a very smart business move –- what does the future hold for the Windows Mobile OS, especially as hardware manufacturers start to embrace other operating systems?

On August 19, a Windows Mobile Dev Camp is taking place in Seattle. Developers are urged to bring a development project and learn about Windows Mobile 6.5 development alongside the Windows Mobile team and industry representatives such as T-Mobile and AT&T. The dev camp will not cover Windows Mobile 7.

News editor Jeffrey Schwartz offers more details about tomorrow’s bar-camp style event, which will be streamed, in his article, "Can Dev Camps Give Windows Mobile a Boost?"

Interestingly, the host of the WinMoDevCamp is Giovanni Gallucci, notes Schwartz. Gallucci was among those who spearheaded the PreDevCamp for the Palm Pre but stepped aside in June following a dispute with Palm.

"I've have a long career with Microsoft, that's actually the original platform I developed on," said Gallucci, in an interview explaining his switch in focus from one platform to another.

It’s hard to figure out what Microsoft’s mobile strategy is and the “choice” mantra meant to cover the myriad of devices and inconsistent UX with Windows Mobile, may backfire as hardware manufacturers and users adopt operating systems with more current functionality.

On a more positive note, this month blogs such as Gizmodo have noted the Zune-like UI of the latest demos of Windows 6.5. WMExperts is also raving about the upcoming Zune HD and hopes a similar UX finds its way into Windows Mobile 7.

Microsoft announced that retailers were taking pre-orders for Zune HD, the first touch-screen Zune, expected to hit stores on September 15. The Zune HDs (16GB and 32GB with estimated retail prices of $219.99 and $289.99), support HD radio and HD video output with an HDMI A/V docking station sold separately.

Is Microsoft all over the place or headed in the right direction? Is the Nokia partnership the real future of Microsoft software on smartphones? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at [email protected]

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 08/18/2009 at 1:15 PM1 comments


The LAMP Attack

The debate about using an object-oriented framework for Web development versus the Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP stack anchored by a scripting language rages on. Last week, Microsoft Senior Program Manager Joe Stagner, who writes PHP and ASP.NET code and claims to love them both, blogged about his unofficial (non-Microsoft sanctioned) findings:

“ASP.NET is universally faster than PHP (on Windows and on Linux) with the exceptions of File Copy and Attribute operations.

MySQL Access from PHP on Linux is a TINY bit faster than SQL Server access on Windows (assuming common data types and SELECT statements) but probably not enough to matter.

ASP.NET (C#) operations, object use, library calls, etc. are SIGNIFICANTLY faster that the PHP equivalents.”

What?!!!! Our news editor, Jeffrey Schwartz, investigated these claims further, getting Zend’s Andi Gutmans and Stagner himself to weigh in. You can read his article, “PHP Versus ASP.NET Benchmarks Drive Debate,” here.

After the backlash, Stagner clarified his findings today, back-peddling a bit in his blog, “PHP Linux Windows ASP.NET Performance – Redux !”

There have also been some interesting developments on the model-view-controller front. ASP.NET MVC 1.0, released in April, did not make it into Visual Studio 2010 Beta 1. After all the fanfare about the potential successor to WebForms, this raised some concern, but the Microsoft team released an out of band installer on CodePlex in early June.

Late last month, the team introduced ASP.NET MVC 2 Preview 1. Preview 1 added some features that are similar to concepts in ASP.NET Dynamic Data, namely support for data annotations and templated helpers, which is largely the same as field templates in ASP.NET Dynamic Data, according to Microsoft. The team also introduced an “areas” concept that enables developers to divide large Web applications into isolated projects.

ASP.NET MVC 2 Preview 2 will be in Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2, according to project lead Phil Haack. On the to-do-list are client validation, strongly typed input and link helpers and asynchronous controller actions. Microsoft is not committing to a timeframe for these features, but ASP.NET MVC 2 will RTM along with the Visual Studio 2010 RTM, according to Haack.

In case you missed it, Rob Conery, hired by Microsoft to work on the ASP.NET team and creator of data access tooling SubSonic 3 for ASP.NET MVC (T4 templates), is leaving Microsoft. Conery blogged earlier this week:

“I’ve made the tough decision to leave Microsoft and go back to working for myself. My last day is August 28th.”

With the push for Entity Framework and effort to get ASP.NET Dynamic Data and ASP.NET MVC enterprise ready, did Microsoft’s interest in SubSonic subside along with LINQ to SQL? What’s your take on the ASP.NET versus PHP debate? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at [email protected]

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 08/13/2009 at 1:15 PM4 comments


.NET and Windows 7: It's a Wrap!

Microsoft is pulling out all the stops to get developers -- both native and managed coders -- on board the Windows 7 roll out.

Last week, along with the availability of the Windows 7 RTM (in English) to MSDN and TechNet subscribers, Microsoft released RTM versions of the Windows 7 SDK, Windows API Code Pack for the .NET Framework and the Windows 7 Training Kit for Developers.

The Windows API Code Pack for .NET is essentially a library of managed code wrappers that enables .NET programmers to access some of Windows 7's features along with functionality in earlier versions of Windows. It is the successor to the Windows Vista Bridge project.

Version 1.0 includes the Windows 7 Taskbar (Jump lists, Progress Bar, Overlay), Windows 7 Libraries and Shell, Explorer Browser, Sensor Platform APIs, Direct 3D 11.0 and earlier, Windows 7 and Vista Common File and Task dialogs and much more.

As a reminder, the definition of a "library" is expanded to include an end user perspective in the new operating system. "A Windows 7 Library is a user-defined collection of content that represents the user's data independently from the folder hierarchy," explains Yochay Kiriaty, Microsoft technical evangelist, in a blog on the subject.

The Windows API Code Pack for .NET RTM update adds support for Shell Search API and Direct 3D and 2D interoperability, among other enhancements. It does not include the Windows Ribbon, which Microsoft says will not be in Version 1.0, or multi-touch support.

The Windows 7 Training Kit for Developers, which offers hands-on labs to both native and .NET programmers, has been updated and features a new user interface. It also adds labs on common app compatibility issues: Version Checking, Data Redirection, UIPI, Installer Detection, Session 0 Isolation, and High DPI.

The always entertaining Scott Hanselman offers 10 tips to Windows 7 developers in his ComputerZen.com blog. He says that developers can write the same app and have it run on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 and points to a sample app. There's more to come on that topic, he promises.

As Hanselman's blog attests, Microsoft is indeed calling on .NET programmers to optimize or build apps for the new operating system, but is .NET still a second class citizen in the Windows world? The .NET Framework was lauded as the third generation of Windows development when it debuted in 2002. Almost a decade later, the .NET framework that ships with the operating system still lags behind the latest version of the framework and we won't get started on the abyss that is native and managed interoperability.

Windows 7 ships with .NET 3.5 SP1, it does not support .NET 4, expected to RTM later this year or in early 2010. The Windows API Code Pack for .NET offers a workaround of sorts, but will these libraries be part of .NET 4? Not if .NET 4 Beta 1 is any indication. Developers are left with a quandary, build apps with the not-so-new framework for the latest operating system or deal with issues related to getting the latest version of .NET on Windows 7 users' desktops when many Windows 7 apps are ready for prime time in 2010 and beyond.

Microsoft is offering lots of resources for .NET Windows 7 programming but should the folks in Redmond do more? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 08/11/2009 at 1:15 PM7 comments


Windows 7 RTM Is Released to MSDN

Developers with an MSDN subscription can download the Windows 7 RTM in English today.

When I checked MSDN, a little before noon East Coast time, the Windows 7 release candidate was still the latest download. I'm guessing that the Windows 7 RTM will be made available later today.

Brandon LeBlanc of the Windows Team offered guidance on when developers and everyone else could expect to have access to the Windows 7 RTM in his Windows Team Blog post on July 21.

"Developers with MSDN Subscriptions will be able to download Windows 7 RTM in English on August 6th and remaining languages by October 1st."

LeBlanc outlines availability for business customers with various licenses, Microsoft partners and OEMs, IT professionals -- they can also get it today via TechNet -- beta testers and consumers.

The Windows XP Mode Release Candidate was also made available earlier this week. According to LeBlanc, this XP virtualization for Windows 7 is targeted at small and medium-sized businesses that have XP apps that can't be made compatible with the new operating system. The Windows XP Mode RC, which requires Windows Virtual PC, works with the Windows 7 RTM and the Windows 7 RC Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise editions. The Windows 7 RC expires on March 1, 2010.

Windows 7 is receiving accolades from many developers who have tested it. App compatibility with Windows 7 is a must for every company that provides software to their customers.

The hiccup will be getting Windows 7 onto desktops. As Denise Richards likes to say, it's complicated. The migration path for anyone using XP is going to be painful. Outside of purchasing new hardware -- unlikely for many folks in this climate -- or turning your systems over to techies who feel comfortable wiping out hard drives for clean installs -- yikes! -- Windows 7 for many users may have to wait.

What's the migration path from where you sit? Express your views below or drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 08/06/2009 at 1:15 PM4 comments


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