Friday, September 21, 2007

Orcas Beta 1 and other new stuff

It seems to me that the development world is experiencing another period of rapid evolution again, much as it did in '99-'01 around web application servers, XML, and all the XML spinoff technologies. Interestingly, during the last evolution many people left javascript in the dust; but it has had a massive resurgence to the forefront this time around. I think it also interesting to note that the lastest tools and technologies are clearly evolutionary in that most are still new ways of utilizing the XML breakthrough. Well, I am sure someone more knowledgable wrote about this years ago; but it's clear that it is time to dig deep into the recent mountain of information.

As one who is primarily an MS-based developer, a lot of that mountain I am facing is coming out Redmond lately.

  • .net 3.0
    • Windows Communication Foundation
    • Windows Workflow Foundation
    • Windows Presentation Foundation
  • Silverlight
  • C# 3/3.5 (lambdas, extensions, implicit types, anonymous types, type initializers, expression trees, and LINQ)
  • AJAX Framework
  • PowerShell scripting
  • Vista/Longhorn Server (IIS7 being the big one here so far)

Along with this has been the birth of Ruby and the resurgence of javascript.

Of course, many of these things have been around or brewing for years, but the pressure has mounted as more of the MS stuff nears release.

I've had the opportunity to play with Orcas the last couple of days, and it has been fun. Silverlight programming isn't really something I think I'll do a lot of, but it provided a good way to mess around with XAML and learn about what's available. It also provided a way to get into VS 9, and the new Blend tool.

First, the XAML stuff is cool, especially the web delivered Silverlight. Updating markup, and then watching visuals automatically update was great. However, my artistic skills approach those of a first grader so the appeal is limited. I can see a potential upside in using Silverlight for rich administrative interfaces. I hate all-flash sites because they are usually more about style than substance (i don't need to hear sounds when I drop down menus or wait for transition effects when I go to a new page), but if used carefully and mixed with AJAX it could be good.

VS 9 has some fairly exciting innovations too. I especially like the javascript editor has improvements (though it could be a lot better - see Aptana). 

C# 3.5 has some great stuff going on. Scott Guthrie's coverage of LINQ features has been excellent. It does take some time to get used to the LINQ programming model (which utilizes most of the new language features), but it's well worth it. Start investing the time now.

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