Brian Muirhead

You Want Me To Do What!?!?

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Sunday, March 4, 2012 #

When I installed Win 8 Customer Preview last week, the installer kept failing around 35% complete. I was installing it on an Acer W500 that was already running the Developer Preview (which installed without a single hiccup).

The solution ended up being something simple, I removed the SD card from the tablet. Once it was removed, the install went smoothly.

Before stumbling across the solution, I tried all of the following (to no avail):

  • Tried installing from different flash drives
  • Tried using different USB ports
  • Tried installing from an external USB drive
  • I even made a trip to a local store and bought an external USB DVD drive

I don’t know if this is specific to my machine or to the W500, but removing the SD card before install takes very little effort and might save you from a failed install (or two, or three, or…)


Tuesday, January 24, 2012 #

Four or five years ago I was “introduced” to ComponentOne’s Winform controls while working on a fairly large, data-intensive application. I remember being very surprised at how easy their controls were to use compared to others I had worked with.

Based upon my earlier experience with their products, I had pretty high expectations when I started evaluating Studio for Entity Framework. I’m happy to say that the product easily met my expectations and in some areas, moved the bar a bit higher.

Before discussing any product features, I was to point out that ComponentOne’s documentation was top-notch. This is one of the areas that impressed me the most because the help file is 170+ pages with little or no ‘filler content’. It’s comprised of one tutorial after another demonstrating how to use the toolset in specific scenarios, with each ‘lesson’ building on the last.

If you’ve worked with Entity Framework for a while, you know how convoluted things can get when you try to put everything in a single data context or when you’re working with data from multiple back-end data sources. Studio for Entity Framework cleans this mess up by combining a client-side data cache with an abstraction layer that lets you work with multiple data contexts as if they were one.

All of their documentation refers to this as a ‘Unified Data Context’, so I’ll use the same term for consistency.

The client-side cache and Unified Data Context not only simplifies your code, it drastically reduces the amount of code you need to write. The added bonus here is that clean, easy to understand code reduces complexity, maintenance costs, and the risk of bugs creeping into your code.

To work with and manage the client side caching, the team built some pretty sophisticated memory management into the tooling to ensure application performance isn’t affected by the client-side data cache (which saves you the trouble of writing code to monitor\manage it yourself).

Studio for Entity Framework also adds a great deal of functionality that both simplifies and extends data binding. I’ll point out a couple of those here and refer you to their website for a detailed feature list.

If you’re using the MVVM pattern in your application, you should definitely check out Studio for Entity Framework and what ComponentOne calls “Live Views”. Live Views can serve as your ViewModel and are automatically kept in sync with their source.

One of the coolest features from a user perspective is something ComponentOne calls “Virtual Mode”. This allows you to load small portions of a large data set as you need it and give the user a ‘continuous scroll’ type experience rather than paged views of data.

I’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of functionality. I encourage you to check out their site and test\evaluate Studio for Entity Framework. It’s a great toolset that can save you a


Thursday, January 19, 2012 #

I’ve been testing\evaluating ComponentOne’s Studio for ASP.NET Wijmo suite for an MVC 3 project and I’m quickly becoming a fan! This product has so many things going for it that I’m not sure where to start.

I’m going to focus on the Wijmo components, but the suite also contains a set of controls for ASP.NET WebForms development. If the Webform controls are as good as the MVC controls, they’re worth a look.

There are two versions of the Wijmo components. An open source version containing 30 widgets (Wijmo Open) and a commercial, supported version that has over 40 components included (Wijmo Complete).

Rather than list all of the controls included in the suite (you can read that on their site), I’m going to point out a few of my favorite features.

 

jQuery based

Rather than ‘reinvent the wheel’ the way most companies do, ComponentOne decided to build their product to extend and work seamlessly with jQuery UI – their controls can even use regular jQuery UI themes. As their site states, “If you know jQuery, you know Wijmo”.  This makes the learning curve so small that it’s almost non-existent.

Here’s their treeview component used with an unordered list:

Treeview

 

Believe it or not, it only took a few lines of javascript to render the list as a collapsible treeview.

$(document).ready(function () {
      $("#demoTree").wijtree();
      $("#demoTree li.hasChildItem").wijtreenode("option", "collapsedIconClass").wijtreenode("option", "expandedIconClass");
});

New Project Type in Visual Studio

When you install Studio for ASP.NET, you’ll see a new project type in Visual Studio that already includes all of the references needed to use the components. While it may not seem like much at first glance, this is a huge timesaver!

NewVsProjectType

Example code that is clean, simple, and easy to understand

To find out how to use one of the Wijmo controls, you don’t need to read through a dozen articles or a bunch of help files. ComponentOne set up a great demo site that shows how to use the controls and tells you what the most common options\setting are for each of them.

Having a free version to play with before buying

Having both a free and paid version allows you ‘try before you buy’ without the annoying nag screens and without having to convince your boss that it’s a good investment before you can test it on a real project.

You can use the free version to show your boss how great the controls look and how much development time they save. After that, it shouldn’t take much effort to persuade your boss to buy the full package.

 

 

In the testing I’ve done with the product thus far, I haven’t found a single thing to complain about - and yes, I did try to find something because I like to complain (just ask my boss)… <smile>

 

This looks to be a great product and I’ll definitely be recommending it to many of my clients.


Friday, March 16, 2007 #

After reading this post on Jeff Atwood's blog, I decided to try one of the Raptor drives. I bought a 74GB drive to use as the primary on a machine that I wanted to repave.

I rebuilt the machine and was amazed at the difference it made. Boot time is noticeably faster and software installs went a lot faster than before. I expected some improvement, but didn't think it would be enough to justify the higher price of the Raptor drive. I was wrong - there's a big difference!

Based on what I've seen thus far, Jeff nailed it perfectly when he wrote:

It's gotten to the point now where I won't even consider building a machine without a Raptor as the boot drive. Sure, your computer may have 2 or even 4 gigabytes of memory, but going to disk is inevitable. And every time you go to disk, you'll become thoroughly spoiled by the speed of the Raptor.

Hmmm, maybe I should upgrade the 5400 RPM drive in my laptop to a 7200 RPM drive...