Sunday, 1 February 2009

February News

With the beta release of Windows Azure and Windows 7, the forthcoming release of Internet Explorer 8 and many new or updated developer tools, these are eventful times. Here’s a roll-up of what’s been happening.

Microsoft News

  • Microsoft have released a Beta version of Windows 7 to the public which is getting very favourable reviews. This beta is regarded as feature complete and is relatively stable. Microsoft are not adding any major new features over Windows Vista aside from a completely new Task Bar interface to make Window management far easier. Improvements are focused on performance. This is for two reasons. Firstly, Vista was heavily criticised for being very sluggish and secondly, sales of Netbooks are growing and Microsoft will want their flagship operating system to run on them. Note that the general availability of the Windows 7 Beta will end on February 10th. The new features that have been added in this version of Windows are covered in some detail by Microsoft watcher, Neowin. It is understood there will be no second Beta release and the operating system will go straight to Release Candidate. This is a statement of confidence from Microsoft and a clear signal to partners that this edition of Windows is coming soon.
  •  Anyone who missed the news from the Professional Developers Conference last October should catch up on Windows Azure, Microsoft’s new services platform for The Cloud. My write-up can be found here.
  • Microsoft have also announced the availability of Internet Explorer 8 Release Candidate 1 which is widely expected to be the last release before the final version. IE 8 has far better support for open internet standards such as those defined by the standards body, W3C. On paper this sounds brilliant, in practice it will risk breaking those millions of web sites explicitly designed to work for earlier versions of Internet Explorer. Historically, web sites have been designed to work on Internet Explorer at the cost of other browsers owing to its overwhelming market share. Microsoft have provided a “compatibility mode” in IE 8 so that it behaves the same as older versions of the browser.
  • It was impossible to escape news that the United States of America has a new president. The inauguration was probably one of the most photographed events in history owing to the one million plus people who turned up to see it in person. Microsoft’s Photosynth technology has was used to provide a 3-D view of the event using photographs uploaded by the public. Photosynth is a project that came out of Microsoft Research and has been built with Silverlight, Microsoft’s platform for building cross platform Rich Internet Applications. Silverlight is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux and works on Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari web browsers making it a compelling platform. Take a look at some other “Photosynths”.
  • Microsoft’s Surface technology is being used to co-ordinate security for the Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida on 1st February. Surface is an interactive table top display technology that has some interesting applications, it is built on the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) that was introduced with .NET Framework 3.0.
  • Microsoft are rumoured to be launching brand new mobile services as competition to Apple’s MobileMe offering. Called “SkyBox”, it allows user to sync or share phone information such as contact and data and provides back-up and restore features. This is a further expansion to Microsoft’s Software + Services vision, of which Windows Azure, Windows Live and Office Live have already been launched.
  • Developers should look at the latest MSDN Flash for details of upcoming web casts, events, new downloads and a look at Visual Studio 2010 and the .NET Framework 4.0. You can subscribe to the MSDN Flash email.

Articles & Blogs

Downloads and Tools

  • Microsoft have pushed out a Release Candidate for the ASP.NET MVC Framework. Version 1.0 is likely to ship next month. The current beta release already has a go-live licence.
  • There is a January release of the Windows Azure SDK CTP. This refresh provides better Visual Studio integration with the tooling.
  • There is also a January release of the Oslo SDK CTP.
  • For people who use ReSharper, version 4.5 has entered the Early Adopter Program (EAP) and you can use this without affecting your existing version 4.1 installation using the Visual Studio hive.
  • Microsoft have released version 1.0 of the Web Platform Installer. This is a tool which installs free editions of Microsoft’s entire Web Platform stack including Visual Web Developer 2008 Express Edition, SQL Server 2008 Express Edition and the .NET Framework. This probably not a toolset you would typically use for enterprise level development but is a useful answer where licence costs are an issue or for very small scale projects.
  • Microsoft have released the source code and unit tests for the managed Silverlight 2 controls. This is of great use if you wish to extend these controls or build new ones as it shows you the inner workings of Silverlight. This is similar to last year’s release of the source code for the .NET Framework Base Class Libraries.
  • Microsoft have put a page onto MSDN that gives a comprehensive listing of all current supported Microsoft SDKs, this page will be updated.
  • The open source JavaScript library, JQuery, that ships with now ships with Visual Studio and ASP.NET has seen a release of Version 1.3.1. A JQuery cheat sheet is also available.
  • LINQPad is an excellent LINQ tool, it will even let you interactively query SQL databases.
  • Download Internet Explorer 8 RC1 for Windows XP and for Windows Vista/Server 2008.
  • Chirp is a beautiful Twitter client written in WPF.

And Finally...

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