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Spout Off With Latest Orcas CTP

Check out the new downloads available for include SQL Server SP2 and Virtual PC, as well as the latest CTP for Orcas.

This month brings several new downloads that you'll want to check out, including a new CTP for the next version of Visual Studio, code-named Orcas; a new version of VirtualPC (still free!); and an important service pack for SQL Server 2005. On a slightly procedural note, VSM is adopting TinyURL to shrink the length of long URLs and make it easier for you to enter them.

Visual Studio, code-named "Orcas"—March 2007 Community Technology Preview (CTP)
Finally! Microsoft has released an Orcas CTP release that contains a large chunk of the major features. Whether you've downloaded previous versions or have been holding off waiting for a more complete release, this is the release you should download. Do so at http://tinyurl.com/23qkyk.

You can choose to download the Orcas CTP as either a Virtual PC image or as an installer. There are two Virtual PC image options, one with Team Foundation Server and one without. The image downloads are extremely large, 6.3 GB and 4.5 GB respectively. Both of them have the guest OS as Windows Server 2003, which comes in a separate 1.2 GB download. If you have a spare, non-production machine or want to install the bits into a different Virtual PC guest OS such as Windows Vista, you can download the installer (4.6 GB) and the Team Foundation Server install (0.9 GB).

One highlight of this release: It supports Language Integrated Query (LINQ) in both VB and C#. LINQ allows you to work with enumerable data using statements similar to basic SQL. For example, assume you want to select customer names that reside in the US:

Dim USCustomerNames = From c in Customers _
Select c.Name _
Where c.Country = "USA"

That ability to query data in a natural language manner is made possible by the addition of extension methods, query comprehensions, and anonymous types. The flexibility of relying on extension methods allows you to have the compiler generate specialized queries based on whether you're working with objects, data entities, datasets, or XML. This release provides all the basics to enable you to write your own LINQ statements, including IntelliSense support. Visual Basic also includes new language integrated XML features.

Another major highlight of this Orcas CTP is the inclusion of the integrated WPF designer, code-named Cider. For now, Cider still doesn't provide an automated way to wire up events for C#, but in VB you can wire up events easily through the dropdown combos in the code editor, just as you do in Windows Forms. The only difference: You need to perform a new build after adding a control before it shows up in the combo box.

There are many other highlights, including support for Vista User Access Control (UAC), code metrics, and much more. The MSDN Library includes new samples for Orcas. Search the library for "LINQ Samples" and you will find VB and C# sample projects you can download.

Anyone interested in the future of Visual Studio should download this CTP.

Virtual PC 2007
Microsoft has released a new version of Virtual PC, and the good news is that it's still free. Virtual PC 2007 is compatible with Virtual PC 2004 images and includes the performance improvements found in Virtual Server, as well as full support for Windows Vista. This is a must-have download for developers, whether for testing, deployment builds, or trying out the latest beta bits. Download Virtual PC 2007 from http://tinyurl.com/yul3sl. An important caveat: Virtual PC is free, but you do need to license any guest OS. The Orcas CTP includes a limited license for Windows 2003 server).

SQL Server 2005
You can download a pair of significant items for SQL Server this month. The first is SQL Service Pack 2, which contains performance improvements and bug fixes for SQL Server 2005 editions. Find it at http://tinyurl.com/2erlhn.

The other notable download is SQL Server 2005 Express Edition with Advanced Services Service Pack 2. The express edition is a free version you can distribute with your applications. Advanced Services adds support for Reporting Services, full-text queries, and SQL Server Management Studio Express. Get it at http://tinyurl.com/bvnhy.

SQL Server 2005 Express is about 37 MB to distribute. SQL Server 2005 Express with Advanced Services is around 234 MB, so be aware of the large size if you need to distribute this with your application. If distribution size is a major issue, you might want to consider designing your application to work with SQL Server Compact Edition instead, which weighs in at a mere 1.7 MB to distribute http://tinyurl.com/yqhskc.

Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1 Update for Windows Vista
This service pack for Microsoft's new consumer OS addresses problems with running VS 2005 on Windows Vista. Download it at http://tinyurl.com/2tos7u.

About the Author

Bill McCarthy is an independent consultant based in Australia and is one of the foremost .NET language experts specializing in Visual Basic. He has been a Microsoft MVP for VB for the last nine years and sat in on internal development reviews with the Visual Basic team for the last five years where he helped to steer the language’s future direction. These days he writes his thoughts about language direction on his blog at http://msmvps.com/bill.

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