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MSDN Event Fun and Excitement

October 25, 2006

I spent yesterday afternoon soaking in the excitement of the local MSDN event at the fancy Hyatt Regency downtown.  It was a nice break from the routine–though I was quite disappointed that there were no snacks (skipped lunch… /sulk).

In either case, the presenter, Mike Benkovich, was pretty darned good.  We discussed VSTS’s new Database Professional version, .NET 3.0’s Workflow Foundation (WF), and ironically enough, Expression Web. Overall, the presentation was interesting and worth the afternoon. 

VSTS Database Professional

Very amazing.  I’m somewhat sorry we didn’t go with the VSTS suite specifically for this tool.  Unlike most organizations, we do not have a “team” working projects–it’s just me.  Design, database, development, testing, and rollout.  Why buy a big package?  Well, for this tool…

Refractoring – AMAZING; the ability to dynamically change columns, stored procedures, etc. with a click of the mouse and not BREAK things.  The caveat is that your application is modern enough to always use stored procedures–which is common in almost all of my applications.  Very slick.

Generating Test Data – Slick, the ability to create real-esque data OTF without painful scripts, as I’ve previously done and/or manually creating it.

Management – The fact of managing the DATABASE from Visual Studio and not using the clunky Server Explorer.

.NET 3.0 – Windows Workflow Foundation (WF)

It eased my fears that .NET 3.0 truly wasn’t a rewrite of the language as 1.1->2.0 felt like.  The migration is more of an addition of functionality and methodology.  The demostration of WF sparked ideas in my head of the numerous processes that are difficult to explain to users/customers–because they cannot convey the process–and how these tools help visualize the … workflow….

Many of the examples were simplistic, but the interface seems well suited to the tasks–the most challenging task will be the paradigm shift in programming practices.  No longer do we assign events to code, but organize events and assign code to those events.

Expression Web Designer

After my recent blog review of the Expression Web, I thought this would be interesting: see another person’s perspective and see what MSFT really thinks this tool is all about.

After a while, and many odd errors later (understandable, it’s still Beta), we sort of gave up on the presentation.  I did come away with the fact that Expression isn’t really made for the developers–but as an intermediary between us and the designers (which I don’t have here).  The designer can go in, make things pretty, and save without breaking a project as FrontPage and some other tools might.

Dynamic web templates also seem to be the choice over master pages; though no one seemed to know why.  My only assumption is that master pages require .NET 2.0 and the framework on your production server–DWTs generate standard .HTML files and any web server could broadcast that information.  Meh.

Mike seemed to share many of the developers’ POV that we’ll stay in Visual Studio and let the designers stick to this tool; however, the reporting and style sheet management is pretty cool in Expression.  Perhaps it’s time to bug MSFT to add those to the next Visual Studio. 😉

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