WPF Bootcamp 2008

If you, like me, didn’t have a chance to attend the WPF Bootcamp 2008 (Note: Requires Silverlight 2), or, if you attended and would like to download and watch the sessions again, they are available for download here. The source code used in the demonstrations is also available. Session presenters include Karsten Januszewski, Robbie Ingebretsen, Jonathan Russ, Greg Schechter, Jaime Rodriguez, Adam Smith, Alan Le, Josh Wagoner & Josh Smith. Sessions of particular interest are by Adam Smith (WPF Performance), Josh Wagoner (Real World WPF) and the excellent introductory series by Jonathan Russ and Robbie Ingebretsen.

These free resources are definitely worth going through, I am sure they will help in the WPF journey!

The dreaded AddressAccessDeniedException

About six months ago, I made the switch from developing with the .NET framework on Windows XP to Windows Vista (My main development rig runs Windows Vista Business 64-bit which is rock solid, I use Virtual PC 2007 SP1 to run virtual machines for development, testing, trials, etc. I even have a openSuse VM for Mono work!). I was flying high with Vista Service Pack 1 installed on the development VM until I hit the dreaded AddressAccessDeniedException –

AddressAccessDeniedException in Visual Studio 2008

AddressAccessDeniedException in Visual Studio 2008

Fortunately, this was not the first time I encountered this exception. In the first major project where I developed a workflow-driven business layer exposed with the WCF WorkflowServiceHost, I spent about three hours fighting with the exception during a deployment drill, until I hit the cause of the issue and found a solution. Digging deep to find a nice solution, I initially tried using httpcfg.exe as outlined in this MSDN article but soon gave up.

Fast forward to present – I am using a console application to host a workflow which is exposed to clients using a WCF WorkflowServiceHost. I use WSHttpContextBinding as the binding for the endpoint. The console application runs well within Visual Studio 2008 when I use a Windows XP Service Pack 3 VM for testing. I encounter the exception when I attempt to run the same console application in Vista. I turned off UAC (Yes, you may ask me why do I use Vista then!), restarted Visual Studio and it was all good. Next, I turned on UAC, right-click on the Visual Studio 2008 shortcut, and select “Run as administrator”. The console application runs fine without any exceptions! I coudn’t justify myself running Visual Studio with elevated permissions in Windows Vista without finding a way to add the reserved HTTP namespace to the group of users my logged in account belongs to.

I refreshed my memory of an excellent tool that I used the last time I encountered the same exception during the deployment drill on a server running Windows Server 2003. This tool is called HttpNamespaceManager, developed and shared by Paul. This tool can be used to manage HTTP namespaces. It provides a user interface that is simple and easy to follow. When adding a reserved HTTP namespace to the list, use the string http://+:9000/ (This is only an example; I was using http://localhost:9000 to host the workflow) in the “Enter URL” popup, followed by “BUILTIN\Users” in the “Permissions” popup – “Group or User Names” section. After entering the users group, turn on the “GenericExecute” option. Close all the pop-up windows and try running the application. The exception does not appear again.

In summary, there are two (nice) ways to resolve the exception –

  • Run Visual Studio 2008 as administrator.
  • Run the HttpNamespaceManager tool and the HTTP namespace the group of users your user account belongs to.

I had hoped that with Visual Studio 2008 SP1 this issue will have been resolved. However, this is not the case. I am guessing this is perhaps the a requirement for Visual Studio 2008 – not to allow the user to access reserved HTTP namespaces unless explicit permission is granted.

Have a nice day!

The WPF journey

Why WPF?

This was the question recently asked by a client when I was presenting a proposal for a new smart client application. I have used Windows Forms to develop smart clients for the last few years. When Microsoft had the “Orcas” release out, I started playing with the WPF bits and have been very excited about the potential of using this new technology to design and develop smart clients for LOB (Line Of Business) applications. The content of this post was inspired by the experience of my journey so far developing applications with WPF.

Like many other software developers & UI designers around the world, I have had a hard time convincing customers and prospects to adopt WPF as the technology for developing new smart client applications or enhancing existing products. MFC had a recent “refresh” release and Windows Forms, with the plethora of third-party controls (ComponentFactory has excellent Windows Forms controls that are available for free!), it is very tempting to stick on with Windows Forms for smart client development. However, when you think of the time few years from now, WPF will have gone through several refreshes, bug fixes and enhancements, making it more robust and stable and ready for enterprise grade application development. To “future-proof” your product, it is essential to give some thought in investing time to learn and adopt WPF as the technology of choice for smart client development. I regularly watch dnrTV shows and had a chance to watch Billy Hollis demonstrate a line of business application developed using WPF. I learnt a lot from the show and was inspired to continue with my journey with WPF (you can download the show from here). In addition, the WPF application showcase provides a list of applications that are developed with WPF. The applications in the showcase highlight the fact that the next generation smart clients will benefit a lot from WPF.

Climbing up the WPF learning curve

Adopting WPF is a challenge as there is a steep learning curve involved, a developer is expected to slip and trip while climbing the curve! I recall a comment from a very successful entrepenuer I recently met in a meeting – “When you think you are falling down a cliff, be as close to the edge as possible and grab hold of any shrubs and branches – try to slow down the speed with which you are falling down. As you get hold of more shrubs and branches, you will eventually slow down and not hit yourself hard at the bottom of the cliff”. As an analogy, while climbing the curve, we can always refer to samples, useful blog posts, resources available from Microsoft and its partners, etc. There are some really good references that people have blogged about elsewhere. I have been using “Pro WPF in C# 2008” as my “workbook”, while having WPF Unleashed and Programming WPF by my side for digging deeper. Working through a tutorial or workbook may not be the ideal way for every new developer to learn and master WPF, however, it can certainly make the climb up the curve a lot more comfortable.

WPF Training Resources 

In addition the books and blogs, there are some really helpful and illustrative resources available for free. Downloading them and viewing them while working through a book or tutorial helps getting a concept or two across. Some training resources that I have used and found really useful are –

WPF Code Samples

Sample applications (with source code) developed with WPF and WPF code samples can help a lot in understanding fundamental concepts or illustrate how a feature should be used the right way. I have picked the following from my list of resources I always keep handy while developing a WPF application.

I hope you find the links and resources in this post useful in your journey. Good Luck!

SQL Server 2008 Beta Exams

Microsoft recently announced two Beta exams for SQL Server 2008 DBAs and developers. Interested candidates can register with their local Prometric centers (Outside US and Canada, you can register through the Prometric website) and take these exams for free, yes, FREE! Note that the results for these exams are not available immediately after you write the exam, you hvae to wait several weeks after the exams are publicly available (These exams will be publicly available later this year in November time frame). The two exams you may wish to attempt are –

Exam 71-450: Microsoft SQL Server 2008 : Designing, Optimizing, and Maintaining a Database Administrative Solution

This exam will be available later this year as 70-450. Passing the exam will count towards a credit for Microsoft Certified IT Professional: Database Administrator 2008 certification [Note that you need to pass Exam 70-432: TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance in order to obtain this certification]. The official study guide for this Beta exam is available here. To register for this exam, use the promotional code 239F4. Registration for this exam will be available from August 15 until 24 hours before the exam period ends on September 16.

Exam 71-452: Designing a Business Intelligence Infrastructure Using Microsoft SQL Server 2008

This exam will be available later this year as 70-452. Passing the exam will count towards a credit for Microsoft Certified IT Professional: Business Intelligence Developer 2008 certification [Note that you need to pass Exam 70-448: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance in order to obtain this certification]. The official study guide for this Beta exam is available here. To register for this exam, use the promotional code 3568C. Registration for this exam is currently open, and will be available up to 24 hours before the exam period ends on September 10.

How do I prepare for these exams?

There are no preparation guides or resources available at the moment for us to refer and prepare for the exams. The lack of resources actually adds to the excitement of doing the exam! Earlier this year, I passed the Beta version of Exam 70-504 : Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 : Windows Workflow Foundation Application Development. Other than the official study guide, there were no training resources available to prepare for the exams. I used the Visual Studio 2008 training kit, worked through the samples and hands-on labs, did a number of virtual labs, viewed a number of webcasts and read through several dozen blog posts! Once I felt I was ready to look at a book for more in-depth knowledge while I was developing couple of applications using WF for practice, I used Microsoft Windows Workflow Foundation Step By Step By Kenn Scribner and Pro WF: Windows Workflow in .NET 3.0 by Bruce Bukovics as references. The preparation strategy worked out well and I passed the Beta exam.

To prepare for the SQL Server 2008 Beta exams, it is perhaps beneficial to start with the available SQL Server 2005 books. A book like Pro SQL Server 2005 Database Design and Optimization by Louis Davidson et. al. lays the foundation well. Add a good reference book on the track you are willing to pursue after you have worked your way through one book. Follow this up with the SQL Server 2008 Virtual Labs, some demos and videos, SQL Server 2008 Books Online & the SQL Server Developer Center for downloads and other resources.

Update [29 August 2008]

While trawling the web for some SQL Server 2008 resources, I found a few links that I would like to share –

Note/Disclaimer: My suggestions above do not gurantee success! They are simple guidelines and thoughts that I have shared and could possibly help you in achieving success. Good Luck!

Visual Studio 2008 SP1 & SQL Server 2008 released

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced the RTM of Visual Studio 2008 Service Pack 1 & SQL Server 2008. These are available for MSDN subscribers for download. SQL Server 2008 evaluation versions are available for a 180 day trial (The SQL Express Edition is freely available for download). Service pack 1 for Visual Studio 2008 and the .NET framework 3.5 is available here.

Some caution while installing the Visual Studio 2008 SP1 if you had the SP1 Beta installed. A cleanup utility is available here which removes any Visual Studio KBs installed. The readme file has some detailed information about installing the service pack.

So, whats new in these releases?

SQL Server 2008 adds enhancements to the database engine, new T-SQL programmability features, enhancements to Integration Services, Reporting & Analysis services have been rewritten & no longer require IIS, Powershell is now integrated and entirely new management feature [Performance Studio] has been added to monitor speed and efficiency of databases. Microsoft has also announced the availability of Beta exams on SQL Server 2008 (I’ll post about these exams later).

The Visual Studio & .NET framework service packs contain a number of enhancements targeted for developers, improving the productivity while using Visual Studio as well as ehancing several existing features in ASP.NET, WPF, and other technologies. Visual Studio (with SP1) now has better javascript intellisense support, support for classic ASP intellisense & support for refactoring WCF services in ASP.NET projects. ASP.NET enhancements include dynamic data, URL routing engine (used for MVC and dynamic data support) & AJAX script combining (asp:ScriptManager can now be configured to combin all the configured scripts & sent to the client as a single script). Several new windows forms controls including vector shapes and a datarepeater have been added. Windows Presentation Foundation has had several improvements and enhancements, detailed discussion of them should perhaps form the content of different post. Most notable amongst the WPF improvements include performance and data improvements (20-45% without any code changes – that’s very encouraging!), addition of shader effects, DirectX Interop [Dr. WPF has an article on Codeproject on this], etc. Visual Studio now supports navigation to definition of items declared in XAML.

.NET Framework 3.5 Enhancements Training Kit

The .NET framework 3.5 enhancements training kit contains material to help you understand and explore the new enhancements. This kit is available for download here. The kit is an enhacement to the very useful Visual Studio 2008 training kit.

I am excited like any other .NET developer about the release! I look forward to exploring the feature improvements and enhancements and blog about any interesting bits that I find useful to share.

Hello & Welcome

Being a developer, I was tempted to use the title “Hello World!” for this first post. My interests in music inspired me to choose Hello & Welcome instead! Being a fan of music by Enigma, I choose their popular single to be the title of this first post.

I will be using this blog to post about my travels with .NET, Voice over IP, embedded technologies, well, almost anything that comes to my mind! You are welcome to comment on the posts and suggest topics that I could share in this blog.