I just returned from attending the latest MSDN Event (Winter 2005) where once again, we had Rory Blyth as our presenter. The three segments today were WinForms Bonanza, Debugging ASP.NET Web Apps, and Visual Studio Team System. Althouth I have to agree with Rory that the name WinForms Bonanza was just so much markety spiel because I don't know what they consider to be a bonanza, but at least it did have some useful content.
OK, one of the best things about these events is that they give you a DVD at the end that has all of the presentations included plus code plus copies of new beta software (such as SQL Express 2005) plus other resources. That's some good stuff and makes it particularly nice so you don't have to scribble notes furiously when something catches your eye. You can just go back and review it on the DVD. Oh yeah, they also have a handful of other giveaways as prizes for filling out the feedback form.
In the WinForms Bonanza section, the main points were showing how to create a custom skin for your application, and implementing Drag & Drop. Looks like the Drag & Drop stuff is pretty easy to take advantage of now. Although I have to admit that for most of my business applications I write, it just isn't obvious where that might come in handy, but now that it's been raised in my consciousness, maybe something cool will come to mind. I'll have to look at dropping info into forms for easy data entry, or something like that. Curiously, with transparency, you can create a click-through-able hole in the middle of your application. Try it sometime.
One of the more interesting items that was covered in the Debugging ASP.NET Web Apps was the Trace functionality. Did you know that when you have Trace turned on, there is a magical web page called Trace.axd that is available on your web site? Rory demo'd writing to the Event Log and recommends reading KnowledgeBase article 329291 if you are going to do this. There is an error that you will likely run into and this KB article shows you how to fix it. We also covered how to attach the debugger to a currently running process which could be handy. In response to a question that was asked, Rory noted that in web/server-side computing, Try...Catch blocks were “fairly expensive“ and that if there are other conditions you can use to handle processing, you should use them first. The specific example was using If Reader.read() to test whether a datareader actually had returned data to be read rather than a Try...Catch block to capture it if it failed. This sounds like a classic example of using flow control logic to control the flow of your program instead of exception handling to control the flow. Makes perfect sense, but it might be an interesting subject to keep in mind, especially if you are working with new developers who might make this easy mistake.
The Visual Studio Team System demo was a quick view of the features of this product which is still in beta. It looks like a handy tool for large organizations with defined roles such as Infrastructure Architect, Software Architect, Developer, Tester, etc. As an independent, I don't expect I'll be using it, but it's good to know about it in cases where I'm making recommendations for my clients. Check out the VSTS web site to get more details. For smaller groups, NAnt and NUnit are worth looking into.
If you're doing development work, and you're not going to these events, WHY NOT? It certainly can't be the direct price, which is zero, so it has to be the indirect costs such as giving up billable work time like I do, or your boss making you take vacation time to go. Or maybe you have a mean old boss who just won't let you go to any training. If that's the case, I have two things to say: 1) Aren't you tired of someone else determining your future like that? 2) Have you checked out the “Things your boss needs to know” link on the MSDN Events web site? What other excuse do you have other than “there's no event being held within 100 miles of me” which might apply to a couple of you, but most of you have no excuse. It's only a half of a day. And if you are an independent contractor, you might just make an important contact or two while you're there! So go, already!
And finally, you might be interested in the Developer Community Champions webcasts which for a limited time include drawings for a free PocketPC.
Update: The Spring 2005 program will cover Web Services, Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005
posted @ Wednesday, February 09, 2005 6:29 PM