Friday, July 27, 2007

Visual Studio 2008 Beta 2 is here!

The signs have been very clear during the last couple of days, but it is finally official. Beta 2, which is 99% feature complete is there and can be downloaded immediately.

Monday, July 16, 2007

About free cocktails, dolphins and lots of fun

We are already back for three weeks, but until now, I have not found the time yet to report on our great holiday.

Including traveling time, the holiday lasted only ten days, which is way too short for fully enjoying the awesome Sandos Caracol Beach Resort. Since taking the car to Schiphol is too cumbersome, in the early morning of Thursday June 22th we left home by train. Martinair, a Dutch airline, was chartered to bring us to Mexico. We booked Comfort Class because it add about 10cm more room for your legs and a personal video player. Unfortunately, I already saw all of the ten available movies so I had to kill time by watching some documentaries and sitcoms.

According to the weather forecasts, it was supposed to be around 30 degrees Celsius. Usually this is a great temperature, but I forgot that the humidity in Mexico is about 80%. Even after a week, I still had not fully adapted (looking at the pearls of drops while carrying around our luggage). The resort was amazing and very clean and organized. Even the lawns between the buildings are constantly monitored and neatly cut. The airconditioned apartment was spacious and we had our own Jacuzzi (in addition to a separate shower) and a minibar.

The resort has three buffet restaurants (international, Italian and Mexican) and three a-la-carte restaurants (a steak house,  Mediterranean and Asian). Moreover, they serve warm snacks (like hamburgers, tacos, and hot dogs) virtually around the clock. We skipped the Mediterranean restaurant since we are not really fond of fish. But the restaurants offered so much variety, we never felt like we were eating the same things every day. Although tempting, I actually managed to restrain myself from eating too much.

Many people have asked me if we've seen anything of Mexico. To be honest, not much. I usually bring a few books and magazines to read while enjoying the beach all day. But the resort's animation team really makes an effort to ensure that there are plenty of activities. To name a few: water-polo, aqua-jogging, volleyball, soccer, bingo, dancing lessons, Spanish lessons, scuba-diving trial, and even taking a small 2-4 person catamaran is included. And if that isn't enough for you, they also organize a dancing/music show each night. And not to forget, on Thursday we had an awesome beach party.

Although it may not seem so, we actually did leave the resort a few times. On one trip we took a cab to downtown Playa del Carmen after we took a high-speed boat to the island of Cozumel. From there, we took a two-hour snorkeling trip with a small glass-bottom-boat. Since we were accompanied by Marcello (an LAPD officer) and Grace, a couple from Los Angeles, it also allowed me to practice my English a bit more.

 

On the day before we left, we enlisted for a day trip with a big catamaran. On the way over there, we met the Mason's from Littleton, Colorado with which we hung out for the remainder of the day. The trip included snorkeling, shopping on a nearby island, eating on a beach and enjoying lots and lots of cervezas (beers). Even worse, after the lunch, the crew started to poor Tequilla and rum-punches. As I'm not accustomed to drinking a lot anymore (no, not even if it's all-inclusive :-)), you can picture the effect on me. Nevertheless, this trip was the absolute highlight of my holiday. I had so much fun talking to Dean and his family that I did not notice that I was getting drunk more quickly than I wished.

 

As many do when they go to Mexico, we also went swimming with dolphins. Unlike my girlfriend Barbara, I did not really care about it upfront, but many people said that I would regret skipping this trip. Well, for me, it was not worth the 130 dollars (per person). You get to swim with the dolphins for about 30 minutes, but don't expect to be allowed to swim around freelly. Everything is fully choreographed! We were with a group of 10 people and each couple gets a chance to do things like a footpush, swim-by, kiss and some other small activities. And what's more? You're not allowed to take your own camera because they want to charge you with 12 dollars a picture or 50 dollars for a DVD of the entire group.

It's not a secret that I like cars, so I thought lets share some of my observations here. First of all, the amount of European cars easily surpasses the amount of traditional American cars. In fact, I have never seen that many Volkswagen Jettas (Bora in Europe) in my life. Moreover, in Mexico you see a lot of common small European cars such as the Renault Clio, Opel Corsa or Volkswagen Pola. But somehow they feel the urge attach an ugly trunk to these cars (a.k.a. a sedan or saloon). I also noticed an Opel Astra with a Chevrolet sign. At first, I thought the owner was simply addicted to the Chevrolet brand, but then I noticed that all cars known as Opel had a Chevrolet sign. It seems Opel is an European brand only, but at the end, both Chevrolet and Opel are part of the General Motors brand.

In the afternoon of Friday, June 29th, we returned to the airport to get our flight back. Unfortunately, the flight was overbooked and people were asked to stay one night longer in exchange for a free hotel and 300 dollars each. Luckely some people were willing to accept that offer, regardless of the fact that they have been waiting in the queue for over an hour already. Anyway, the flight was okay but a bit borring because they showed the same movies as on the way to Mexico.

This concludes probably my best holiday ever. And not to forget, it was a pleasure to chat with Marcello and Grace from L.A., Dean Mason and his family from Colorado, Chuck from Texas, the forget-their-name couple from Munchen Germany and of course Akash from Canada (a.k.a the cashman) and Josh from London.

For the ones amongst you who want to see all the other pictures we've made, I've uploaded them to a web album on Google's Picasa Web. Check them out here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

What's new in .NET 3.5 and Visual Studio 2008

Update July 25th: Huge signs that beta 2 will arrive THIS week.

Update July 16th: There are some 'signs' that beta 2 will arrive really soon

Most of the community information on Visual Studio 2008 has been focussing on the Language INtegrated Query (LINQ) features of C# 3.0, but in fact, there's a lot more in stock for us. I've compiled a list of links that elaborate a bit more on all the other features Visual Studio 2008 will bring us at the official launch in Los Angeles on February 27th 2008. Since official launches typically occur a month or so before the RTM version shipped, it may well be possible that the RTM will ship around Christmas, but who will know... Anyway, many of the links originate from Daniel Moth's blog, since he has been posting a lot of really interesting stuff recently.

  • First, check out this article and this post to find out how .NET Framework 3.5 relates to 3.0 and 2.0 from a compatibility standpoint, and how they relate to the Visual Studio versions. 
  • Then you'll be happy to know that Visual Studio 2008 will completely replace Visual Studio 2005. It's new multi-targetting features allow developing .NET 2.0 and 3.0 applications without the risk of introducing .NET 3.5 or C# 3.0 dependencies.
  • Finally! Javascript intellisense for both ASP.NET AJAX libraries as well as your own script libraries. Some additional examples can be found here.
  • WCF has been extended to add support for JSON web services that are compatible with ASP.NET AJAX, support for exposing services as RSS feeds, and support for new protocol versions (OASIS WS-AtomicTransaction 1.1, WS-ReliableMessaging 1.1, WS-SecureConversion 1.1. Expose Workflows as WCF services).  
  • The WPF designer has been enhanced and integrated into the IDE, WPF performance has been improvement in general, and support for SilverLight is part of it as well.
  • Support for nested master pages.
  • The ASP.NET webforms designer has been redesigned, including support for split views, faster design/source switching, enhanced support for stylesheet, and support for AJAX.
  • DLINQ (LINQ to SQL) should not be forgotten of course. 
  • XLINQ (LINQ to XML) may potentially make the XmlDocument and XmlReader classes obsolete.
  • Closely related to LINQ is the new Entity Framework, which is, from my point of view, a major competitor of the awasome NHibernate object-relational mapper. 
  • Although not integrated in Visual Studio 2008, Microsoft's Patterns & Practices team expects to ship the next generation of the Service Factory at the same time. There are already some great alpha drops available (which work great in a production environment).
  • Peer-to-peer classes that allow you to build applications that use technologies like People-Near-Me or instant messaging systems.
  • Client Application Services that allow you to use the same authentication and profile services available in ASP.NET AJAX in a Windows application.
  • Strong Active Directory support.
  • A new set of classes that can help you to add add-in support to yoru applications. 
  • Code Name Astoria is a set of classes for exposing very lightweight XML or JSON based data services over HTTP. It is specifically targetted at rich client technologies such as ASP.NET AJAX and Silverlight.
  • If you already know the Smart Client Software Factory, you will recognize many of the concepts and patterns used in Code Name Acropolis. It provides a flexible architecture for building Windows applications using Windows Presentation Foundation. The first CTP bits are already available.

If you want to read a great article that explains the troubles and challenges of a Pakeflages-kind of site using ASP.NET 2.0 AJAX, the AJAX Control Toolkit, Windows Workflow Foundation, and DLINQ, read this.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Guidance Automation Extensions 1.3 is coming...

A very short blog entry that triggered me. Hopefully, it will arrive soon, since that makes it potentially possible to use the Web Client Software Factory on a Visual Studio 2008 (Orcas) environment. For those guys that also use the V3 alpha drops of the Service Software Factory, be patient. P&P is planning to internally move to VS2008 somewhere in July, and deliver a proper VS2008 version in August or September.