Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Posting Code in Your Blog

On some of my resent posts Ive been having trouble displaying code on my blog due to blogger trying to turn the code into HTML objects such as buttons, so instead of seeing the code like I wanted an actuall button would be displayed.

My first thought was to use the <code></code> tags but this wouldnt display properly so I also tried <pre></pre> but still I had the same problem the page was converting the HTML to an object and not displaying the code.

After searching the net for a while I found a site that would encode / decode HTML so that it can be displayed in a browser and not converted to an object etc.

The page is give it a try,it's worked wonders for me!

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

WPF Calculator

In my last post I went through creating my first application in WPF and straight away I started thinking about creating a much more visually attractive application, so I decided to create another basic application, this time a simple calculator.

Using Orcas Beta 2 I was able to create a WPF form with 2 text boxes for user input, a combo box, button and a label for the result of the calculations.

I first started out with the combo box displaying text to signify different calculations (e.g. +, -, /,*) however as I was making the rest of the application found myself getting more confident and decided to add images to the combo box so that a user can select an image representing there choice. Implementing this was much easier that I first thought it would be and using only a couple of lines of code in the XAML file and altering some of the code behind file I was able to use the image combo box to select the type of calculation. The XAML for this is:

<ComboBox Margin="40,107.457,0,79.968" Width="120" Name="comboBox1" HorizontalAlignment="Left">

<Image Name="add" Source ="images\add.jpg" />
<Image Name="minus" Source ="images\minus.jpg" />
<Image Name="multiply" Source ="images\multiply.jpg" />
<Image Name="divide" Source ="images\divide.jpg" />


And in the code for this to find which of these images your user selected simply find the index of the items in the combo box.

All the images that I have used in the combo box were created in Expressin Design and Exported as jpg files. With creating the images myself I was able to directly match the hex color value for the rest of the application to this creating a unified feel to the program.

Overall I dont think it was a bad effort at all for an hours work, an experienced programmer would be able to create some amazing things with WPF can't wait till it hits the mainstream and all released products look this good.

WPF "Hello, World"

So I managed to complete the WPF introduction course which I last posted about and after doing this I thought I would like to create a simple application using XAML and WPF to feel a little more at home with the whole subject, so I decided to download me a copy of Orcas Beta 2 Express and create a Hello World App.

Hello World applications are normally the first application (if you can even call them that) that most people will make when they start looking at a new programming language or programming concept. So heres how I went about creating my first WPF application.

I used Orcas, which is really nice I love the split layout that is used to display the design in the top half of the screen and the XAML code in the bottom section, this reminds me of using Expression Web and how the design and code is split on a single screen making it easy to tweak little bits of the program without constantly switching to a code view. However to see the code behind file for the application (much like the code behind files in ASP.NET) you have to open a new tab to get to this.

So getting started I just dragged and dropped a button and text box onto the form, this like i said before generates the XAML in the bottom half of the screen, so you can see how buttons are made in XAML. The XAML is really easy to understand and if like myself you have had some previous experience with XML you will find it pretty straigh forward.

Once I have my form layout how I want it, I then have to get the XAML button to respond to an event, this can either be done just like in a C# windows application by double clicking on the button or it can be done in the XAML code itself. To add an on click event you simply add a "click" attribute to the button tag.

So we now have:

click = "button1_click"

added to the attribue list for the button tag.

The click attribute says that when the button is clicked go and find the event handler called button1_Click in the code behind file.

For this event handler in the code it is extremly simple to display the desired text in the text box done just how you would if you were using any other language.

private void button1_Click(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
textBox1.Text = "Hello, World";

This then just simply displays the text "Hello, World" in the text box we created in design view. Now we can run the code and see the amazing aplication in all its glory.

I am hoping to get a little time to play about with WPF before I have to start uni so hopefully will start to make some better appliations than this.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

MS E-Learning on WPF

I decided with the upcoming events both MIX:UK 07 and the MSP "Boot Camp" I should do a little geeking up on some of the subjects which are going to be appearing at both of the events, I have chosen to first take a look into the new exciting world of WPF, otherwise known as Windows Presentation Foundation. This enables designers and developers to work together without compromise to create a "rich" (the current buzz word) user interface.

I took a free e-course called "Clinic 5135: Introduction to Developing with Windows® Presentation Foundation and Visual Studio® 2005 " which can be found here. The course is split into a number of sections:
  • Introduction to WPF
  • History of WPF
  • WPF Features
  • Creating WPF Applications
  • Building WPF Applications
  • Hosting and Deploying WPF Applications and Custom Controls
  • Interoperating WPF and Other Application Models
  • Undestanding WPF Object Models
  • The WPF Application Object Model
  • The WPF Programming Object Model

Each of these sections of the course have content to either read, listen to or watch, when you have then completed the section there is a short self test to partisipate in making sure you have understood the section.

I found each of these sections easy enough to follow although at time I felt like some of it was going over my head and if I knew more about programming I would be faring a little better, in saying this the course has now given me a much better understanding of how WPF is incorperated into the development of applications.

The only disapointing part about the course is that it didnt run us thorough much more than how to create a simple hello, world application. I would of liked to of seen a bit more on the development side of this like a couple of videos that walked you through creating say an RSS reader or such like.

Overall the course was well worth the time spent reading throught the material (even with a bad internet connection in my new flat). I would advise anyone who is inerested in WPF or just wants to know some more of the technical stuff behind creating WPF applications to give it a shot.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Microsoft SkyDive

For me the future looks bleak for desktop PC as we know it today, for a number of years I have been waiting eagerly for the "on line" hard drive to come into play and now it has. Microsoft has released SkyDive, this is an on line storage space where users can upload there documents, music and videos.

To be honest I thought Google would be the first to offer such a service, but as far as I know they have yet to do so, this is good news for the guys at Microsoft to be at the forefront of this technology.

You log into SkyDive using your Live account, which is the same thing which you would use to log into your Hotmail accout, meaning that you dont have to remember any new username and password, this is why I really like the Windows Live services you can access them all from one username and password. If you do not have a Live account yet your really should jump on the bandwagon and go sign up.

SkyDive is a great online service once you log in you can upload and manage files just like you would on your hard drive and it seems to follow the same layout and icons as are used in Vista which is really cool. SkyDive also gives you the ability to share folders and make them public as well meaning everyone can assess what you published in that folder, all you have to do is send them a link to the folder or embed the folder into your website. This solves a lot of trouble with overly large emails and also problems with people not being able to pickup the files.

At the minute each user has been given 500 MB of space and seen as though SkyDive is still in its beta stages I can see this growing exponentially in the future, especially with the recent announcement that Hotmail are taking there inbox upto something like 4GB. File upload is very much dependent on your connection as you would expect so expect some waiting when trying to upload your favorite songs or video clips. However all is not glum, when waiting you can play a really cool bouncing ball game which is a nice addition to the site and makes uploading files less boring, however I find it a convenient break to go make a coffee.

This upload game is a really neat idea, I have also seen it put into action on the adidas site and makes waiting for long page loads much less of a hassle, however I would much prefer not the have the upload wait to start with.

Office Outlook Connector

Most people now have several email accounts spread out around the web, some for personal, some business and whatever else you want to use them for. So having set up a Google account, a Hotmail account and also having a work email it would be nice to have them all linked together right? Well now you can.

Microsoft recently released Office Outlook Connector, this allows users for the first time to recive Hotmail emails through Outlook all you have to do is download the file here. Follow the on screen instructions and you should have Hotmail via Outlook. Then you can add your Google and other mail accounts via the normal Tools --> Email Accounts... route.

So setting this up should be a doddle, but it wasn't the case for me. I validated my version of Office and downloaded the file which pops up asking me if I want to save or open. So I save the file, which is called msnolcon.msi and follow the on screen instructions to install and set up my Hotmail Live account with Outlook. Now all I get in the bottom corner of Outlook is an error symbol and when I click on it, it kindly informs me that there is a connection error and the Outlook Connector is only available to subscribers.

Now I know that this isn't the case, as its all over the place that this service can be used without being a subscriber (paying for hotmail) however you will not be able to sync your calender and tasks, which I have no problem with. So After talking with various other people about the problem I go of on a mission to get it working correctly. I installed it on Vista, XP, Office 2007, Office 2003 and none of these seem to fix the problem.

After a good few hour I go back to try and find some help from Microsoft Download Center and when I get to the help I find a file called "OutlookConnector.exe" so I download this, follow the on screen instructions and ... bam it work!

Now trying to find this file again is a nightmare and I still havn't been able to find it again in the maze that is Microsoft Download Center. The difference between the two downloads is that one of the files are an old version and this is the one that auto downloads. Here are the version numbers:

msnolcon.msi --- Outlook Connector Version 1.8.3501.0

OutlookConnector.exe --- Outlook Connector Version 12.0.4518.1058

Thats a massive difference in versions!!! So just make sure you are downloading the right file if you are having problems with trying to configure the Outlook Connector.

Anyway when I have got this download it works like a treat, I can now use this to download all my emails without having to scour the whole of the web and refreshing alot of different pages.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

How to crash Vista in 1 easy step!

I recently found an article saying that you can crash Vista by only pressing 2 keys, what your support to do is press:

Ctrl + E (keep hold)

Now this normally brings up the My Computer window, where you can see all your drives, however in Vista if you keep it held down its suppose to crash the OS.

Give it a try.

(Got to say I'm not running Vista so have yet to test out this little "trick" so please dont shout at me if it dosn't work)

MIX:UK 2007

Woohoo! I got some great news today, I have been given a ticket to attend MIX-UK 2007 this is a technology event held each year by Microsoft, displaying its latest technologies and gadgets.

I got the ticket as part of the MSP program and will be doing a video review, which hopefully will be put on channel8 and blogging about the experience. This is a brilliant opportunity for me to learn about the newest things that are about to be released.

The schedule for the event can be found on the MIX-UK web site and the current event which have been penciled in seem to focus heavily on Silverlight and Orcas. Which are tipped to be the hottest things for is year.

Schedule Includes:

  • Building Silverlight Applications
  • Design for Silverlight
  • Windows Live Services
  • Visual Studio 2008
  • ASP.NET 3.5
  • 3D solutions on the web
These are just a few of the topics being covered over the event, one session that I am really interested to find out what it's about is "Who's afraid of the blue monster?" I suspect that this will be a session about Vista and why people shouldn't be scared of the move.

Overall the event looks great and I'm really stoked to be attending, I will be attending along with my fellow MSP Kevin Pfiser who's blog can be found here.

I will keep you updated about what happens and the event and where the reviews can be found.

MSP 'Boot Camp'

Ok so it's been confirmed, its official the first MSP 'Boot Camp' is nearly upon us. The first 'Boot Camp' of the academic year is being held at Microsoft London on the 17th and 18th of September and looks to be a great event.
It will be the first time that this years UK MSP's will meet and I'm really looking forwards to meeting the rest of the crew, talking to each other in online forums is great but meeting and getting to know someone in person is much better. Hopefully this will make us a much tighter group and result in more topics and ideas being shared online.
At the current time I do not have a run down of what will be happening at the even, there will be some presentation techniques invloved which will help all the MSP's give better demonstrations and presentations to there respective universitys about the new Microsoft technologies. I am also hoping that there will be a number of workshops focusing on such things as WPF, WF, WCF, XAML and AJAX.
I will be traveling down to London the day before the event so that I don't have to rely on British transport to get me from Manchester to London for 10am. So if anyone else is in London at this time it would be great to hear from you and meet up.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Network Management Tools

I received a letter through the post this morning about my university final year project, I have been given a project with the title and project brief:

Network Management Tools

This project is to develop a network management tool that provides graphical and table information for network management. The tool will run under the Linux operating system and build on the SNMP protocol.

I am really looking forwards to getting my teeth into this project, I have yet to do any work with the SNMP protocol but find it an interesting subject.

No doubt I will be blogging about my ideas and how the project is maturing in the future.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Visual Studio 2006 'Orcas' Event

There is an upcoming event from Microsoft to demonstrate the new features of Visual Studio 2008, formerly codename 'Orcas'.

The event will be split into 2 sessions the first covering LINQ (Language Integrated Query) which I am personally looking forward to as LINQ looks extremly promising and looks as though it will be easy to pick up due to the syntax being much like that of SQL. I can see LINQ being a major part of new development, especially if all documents etc. have an XML back end.

The second session of the day covers the remaining features of Visual Studio 2008.

The event will take place both in Reading and London with the same content on each day, links to the event are below:

Reading - 04 September 2007

London - 05 September 2007

If I can find a cheap ticket I will be attending, hope to see you all there!

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Vista Service Pack

Microsoft have announced that the only service pack that they will not be releasing a full service pack for Vista this year, however they will be releasing a beta version of the SP sometime in 2007.

Hopefully the official SP will be release early 2008.