Sunday, 19 April 2009

WebDD Roundup

I had a really enjoyable day at WebDD yesterday. Aside from presenting my own session and catching up with people like Andy Westgarth and Barry, I attended four other sessions:

ASP.NET 3.5 - Miss something? - Dan Maharry
This was a really interesting session covering a number of out-of-band releases from Microsoft that may have been a little overshadowed by the ASP.NET MVC release. For me, the high points that I need to go off and investigate further are:
Lightweight Test Framework
This is a framework which was initially used internally by Microsoft's QA teams for ASP.NET but has now been released on Codeplex. It is a single DLL which works cross-browser and supports integration testing for ASP.NET sites. It also supports AJAX callbacks.
AJAX HistoryState and Back-button Support
This is a feature that was added in ASP.NET 3.5 SP1. It provides a method enabling the Back button to be fully supported by AJAX postbacks so that the browser's History list includes entries showing different states. I'm afraid I threw Dan a little bit as I asked about how well supported this is across different browsers - my thoughts were that I could see this would work with IE but I wasn't really expecting it to work in Firefox (or, to be frank, any other browser). However Dan confirmed that it does work in Firefox, though he hadn't tested it in against the other browsers. Definitely one to look into.
Composite Scripts
This is a method by which a number of JScript references can be combined into a single file, meaning your site only has one file to download instead of opening up a number of connections to download seperate files. I was unsure about this from a scalability point of view as it involves referencing scripts inside the ScriptManager control (which normally prevents the browser caching scripts since the URL is different for each postback), however the combined file is also put into the output cache instead of being compiled on the fly.
This was Dan's first time presenting at a DDD but I thought he presented very well and I'd like to see more from him in the future.

What's Good in .NET 4.0 and VS2010 - Alex Mackey
This session covered a number of things from the next release of the CLR and Visual Studio 2010. The things that stood out for me from this session were:
The improved code editing experience, including highlighting of every instance of a method call whenever you enter one of them, and showing the hierarchy of calls down to the method you are currently editing.
Something called variance and contravariance - I'll be honest, I didn't understand this. At all.
Much better control around disabling Viewstate, including better support in the grid controls around working without Viewstate.
Static client IDs for controls.
The ability to compress Viewstate (though attendees to my session will have seen that this is possible in ASP.NET 2.0)
Environment-specific changes for web.config files e.g. web.config.debug, which looks like a mix of XSLT and the .dconfig configuration deltas from the Enterprise Library.
Better server-side control over META tags, for those developers interested in SEO-type activities.

For Workflow:
Performance improvements - up to 10x better performance.
A new workflow type, the Flowchart, which is a hybrid between the existing Sequential and State Machine workflows.
It will be easier to include information in a workflow, hopefully remving the need for the ExternalDataExchange object.
Overall, Alex' recommendation was that if you're currently thinking of developing a workflow application, wait for this version. This was particularly relevant for me, as I'm currently looking at a workflow app for a project at work.

I want it on that one, that one and that one! And it all needs to be synched! - Andy Westgarth
This session from VBUG Chairman Andy Westgarth covered the new Web Deployment bits coming from Microsoft. This tool is built on top of MSBuild and allows you build deployment packages to be deployed to IIS. These packages are not MSIs, the idea of the tool is to produce a package that can be passed to IT types without the need to handhold them as they deploy your application.

ASP.NET 4.0 - Mike Ormond
This session from Mike Ormond of Microsoft was, like Alex, concerned with .NET 4.0, however it was much more focussed on ASP.NET. The highlights I picked out were:
VS2010 is going to be productivity-focussed - there will be a new range of snippets for both HTML and AJAX authoring, although Mike pointed out that a snippet called 'requiredfieldvalidator' doesn't actually save you much typing. A nice feature is that when you add a validator, it will try and attach itself to the nearest control that can be validated - nice, but it seems Microsoft haven't grasped that not many people use the designer, they code the HTML in Source View.
Mike covered some of the new provider-based caching functionality and demonstrated a custom cache provider. Velocity was mentioned, but only as one of the available providers. Mike also mentioned that the existing System.Web.Cache namespace is likely going to be moved to a more general namespace, which explains the decision of the Velocity team to change their namespace - it seems likely to me that SYstem.Web.Cache will become System.Data.Caching. This is a small change but will clear up a lot of confusion over whether you should use System.Web.Cache in a WinForms application.
In WebForms, the need for the CSSFriendly adapters will go away - controls will be much easier to style in CSS out of the box. Mike also covered the Routing engine (which was split off from the MVC effort) which gives you much better control over URLs you generate inside your application, and the NamingPanel, a new control which is part of increased control you will have over client IDs.

I'd have liked to have seen Andy Gibson's session on jQuery but it was on at the same time as me :-( however all the sessions have been videoed so I will be able to see it on the web!
I had a great day, it was just a shame I couldn't stick around for beers afterwards. Next time!

No comments: