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Going into the (Silver)Light. April 29, 2008

Posted by gcorbin in ASP.NET, Silverlight.
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4 comments

By now everyone has seen Microsoft’s latest web technology, Silverlight. If you haven’t you got to go check it out. Many blogs I’ve seen have compared it to Macromedia Flash. But, I’ve got to tell you that it differences are just as great as its similarities to Flash. I’ve done work in Flash in the past and it is a great technology. But, Silverlight is in position to become new technology to dominate the client-side browser. There are a few reasons for this.

 

First, the learning curve for Silverlight is much lower for developers that already understand how to use the .Net Framework. Even thou Silverlight 1.0 only supports javascript , the XAML syntax is exactly the same as if you were creating a desktop WPF application. Once Silverlight 2.0 is out, the learning curve will be even less as that version will support managed C#.

 

Second, the IDE for creating Silverlight applications is Visual Studio. This is the same development tool that many developers use for building other windows applications.

 

Third, the event model in Silverlight is the same as ASP.NET. Flash uses an event model that is based on a storyboard that repeats on a specified interval. Silverlight has the typical OnLoad, OnClick, etc. In addition, Silverlight does have a storyboard control that you can use if you need the events to all fire as in Flash.

 

After doing a fare amount of research into Silverlight 1.0, I decided it give it a try. I wanted to see how well, if at all, it could integrate with my existing ASP.NET site. I found that it ties in very easily. For ease of use, I created an ASP.NET Server control that embeds all the client-side JS files and XAML files needed for my Silverlight application. Then all that I needed to do was to drop that server control on my ASP.NET page and set a few parameters.

 

My Silverlight app is very simple. I decided to make use of the WPF Ink class to create a Silverlight Signature Control. You can check it a live demo and find the source code for it here. One of the nice things about this control is that is demonstrates several things. With this sample you can see to following:

 

  • Creating an ASP.Net Server control
  • Working with embedded JavaScript resources
  • Embedding XAML for use with Silverlight.
  • Creating a Silverlight application

 

Enjoy.

Totally free asp.net web site in just 3 weeks March 31, 2008

Posted by gcorbin in Uncategorized.
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2 comments

For the past 12 years I’ve been working as a software engineer, mostly building software for web applications. I’ve had many people over the years ask me “What is the URL for my personal site?”. Unfortunately, my response was always the same. “I don’t have a personal site”. It did make me think, how can I claim to be a decent software engineer and not have a web site of my own. So, my project over the last month was to build myself a personal web site. I started by thinking about what type of content, layout, and features I’d like to have. After I make that list, I started looking into designing a site map and flows for my features. Not too long after this did I realize that this was going to take me a bit of time. Then I discovered the Microsoft web site starter kits. I spent some time looking through the various templates until I finally found on that kind of fit what I wanted. So, I took the “Personal Site Starter Kit” as my base for my new site. I spent a few weeks modifying it to fit my needs and then added all the content. That’s it. There you have it. A fully functional completed web site in 3 weeks.

The next step was that I needed to host this site somewhere. So, the answer was to take an old desktop that I was no longer using and to install IIS and Visual Studio Express. This would be the system that would host my site. Since I only have Windows XP Professional and SQL Server Express running there, that means that the site will be limited to only 10 concurrent connections, but that’s fine its just a personal site and not a e-commerce system.

Now comes the issue of how to get it available on the Internet. The first this that I needed to do was to expose my web server outside of my firewall. There are a few ways to do this. You can move the entire server out site by placing it in the DMZ or open a port to the application that needs access through the firewall or you can do some port forwarding and filters on the firewall. I decided to just open port 80 through the firewall so that IIS can communicate with the world. This exposes the bare minimum needed, but it does have some limitations, but for my needs its fine. Another issue that we need to fix is with the DHCP server. We should only be opening port 80 to the web server. To do this, our web server is going to need to have a static IP address within the LAN. Changing this on my internal LAN is simple, the real problem here is with the external ISP. We could call them and ask to have a static IP on the WAN, but that would cost a lot extra. Fortunately, we can install a piece of freeware called No-IP that will solve this problem for us. This freeware runs as a service on the web server and keeps an eye on the servers IP address. When the ISP DNS server changes it, this software will update the domain name for our site with the new IP that our ISP assigned. Now were ready for Internet traffic.

Now comes the last piece. What name do I give this site? If I want to choose my own domain name, that will cost a bit to register it. However, there is a free solution to that also. There is a free site that allows you to create an account that will redirect all Internet traffic to your site. You get to choose the host name and you can choose from a list of domain names that they own. This site also integrates with the freeware that update the domain name for us when the ISP changes our IP.  So, for this last step, just create an account with no-ip.com and pick a host and domain name. That it!

So, you too can build a site free fully featured asp.net site in just 3 weeks.  Enjoy.

Links for this entry:

http://corbin.bounceme.net    (My personal site)

http://www.no-ip.com  (Freeware and domain account site)

The latest technology January 30, 2008

Posted by gcorbin in Commentary.
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Technology changes so often that sometimes it can be overwhelming to try and keep up. This is most noticeable when dealing with software. Since software is made from nothing but thoughts, it is a technology that can have a lot of new concepts and techniques within a very short time frame. This is most obvious for people that work within the Microsoft technologies. Microsoft has been releasing new software platforms, frameworks, and APIs at a crazy rate over the last 10 years. Within that time, we’ve seen complete paradigm shifts from desktop client/server apps to distributed smart clients that live in the web. The technology to do this has also change drastically. We saw everything from the introduction of Xml to 5 released versions of the .NET platform. This leaves many software engineers struggling to keep up with the latest craze from Redmond. I find the best solution for this problem is to stay informed at a high level. If a new technology turns out to become a big hit, then it’s worth the time to really understand it in depth. The best way to stay informed it through technical web sites and magazines. The list of content that I regularly read is listed below:

                       Web Sites

                        http://www.asp.net

                        http://msdn.microsoft.com/asp.net/

                        http://msdn.microsoft.com/

                        http://www.codeproject.com/

                        http://sourceforge.net/

                        http://slashdot.org/

                        http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/default.aspx

                        http://www.dotnetrocks.com/

                        http://www.dnrTV.com/

                       

                        Magazine subscription

                        ASP.NET Pro             

                        Visual Studio.Net

                        MSDN Magazine

                        User Groups

                        http://beantowndotnet.org/

As you can probably tell from this list, I’m mostly interested in web development. The web sites I try to read at least 3 times a week and the magazine subscriptions are once a month. The user group is a meeting that occurs once a month. It’s a great place to interact with other .NET developers. This is something new to me, but highly recommended. Of all the sites listed above, my favorite is dotnetrocks. This site release a pod cast on every Tuesday and Thursday that discusses so .NET technology. Each pod cast is 60 minutes in length. I like to download them and listen to them whenever I’m offline. They are a great way to keep informed with the constant changes in .NET.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make here is that you should have some strategy for staying up to date with the latest stuff. Without one, you’ll go crazy with the constant flood of new things.