Some stuff about Web and .NET development
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  • Surface group on LinkedIn

    Posted on March 29th, 2009 Thibaut No comments

    As no belgian community was existing on LinkedIn about Surface, I decided to create the group Microsoft Surface Belgian Developers. First member of this group is a well-known personality in the belgian (and also international) web sphere : Brice Le Blévennec, founder of Emakina, a previous company I worked for. Promoted as manager of the group, his rich network will be a huge benefit, enabling to bring belgian developers and companies interested in Surface together.

    So join the group now if you’re a belgian guy or company interested in Surface !


  • Surface : your first app

    Posted on March 26th, 2009 Thibaut No comments, one of the largest french developers community, has published an article/tutorial on how to build Surface apps. This is one of the first Surface tutorials available right now. This article should be also understandable by the non-french speaking guys out there as the screenshots and the code are full english. To know more about, just follow the link ;)


  • Companies already using Surface

    Posted on March 24th, 2009 Thibaut 2 comments

    Although Surface is still new (not even shipped in Europe yet), some companies are already using it. AT&T, famous American phone operator, is using Surface in some of its shops. The table, surrounded by cell phones, enable customers to get information about a phone by dropping it on the table or even comparing two models when layed on Surface. Pretty cool !

    The table is also used in some casinos and iBars as the picture below shows. Click on the picture for more info.

    Also note that Londonian restaurant Inamo, using interactive tables. More information here.


  • Surface : the potential

    Posted on March 23rd, 2009 Thibaut No comments
    Microsoft Surface In my last post, I said that, according to me, Surface has a great potential. Here’s why :
    • Surface is a kind of revolution in the way people use computers. In fact, computers are designed for one user (and that’s why we call them personal computers). They do not allow multiple users at the same time. Surface does. And it’s a real big difference. Instead of showing pictures of your latest vacation on your computer, with people getting bored because you switch between pictures too slowly (or too fast), or because they would have liked you to rotate, zoom, … let them decide on which ones they would like to see and manipulate them as they wish. This video is a great illustration of this, where people naturally manipulate pictures their way
    • Surface is a more natural way of using computers. You don’t have an intermediate device such as the mouse and complex user interface to perform operations. Let’s take the example of the picture application again : you only have to touch things, although they are virtual of course, but the interaction if far more natural this way, using your fingers. You virtually eliminate that intermediate device to interact with the computer (I say virtually because surface is the intermediate device, but you don’t feel like you’re using one)
    • Surface has many very interesting applications. Just watch the videos on the official website to make your opinion. Personally, I just find totally great that you can order your dish at a restaurant by choosing it on a table, dropping your camera with pictures instantly popping out, and copying them to another device by drag/dropping pictures on another device laying on the table. What about putting your drink on the table with information telling you what’s inside ? Or performing bank operations by laying, you and a friend, your credit cards on the table and drag/dropping dishes that you’ve ordered on the card which will pay for this ? These are really cool features
    • You can develop for Surface using existing technologies such as WPF, so you don’t have to learn a completely new development SDK. Adoption rate should then be really fast


  • Surface at the Techdays

    Posted on March 23rd, 2009 Thibaut 1 comment

    I had the chance to test Microsoft Surface at the latest Techdays edition. I’m particularly interested in this new device which, according to me, is the future of the lounge table and will surely also find its way in restaurants and other public places. Often thought as a gadget at first sight (me included), this experiment really allowed me to realize that it’s far more than that. I’ll explain in a future post why I think this table has a great potential (I’ve created a section specially dedicated to Surface), but in the meantime, you can watch the videos I’ve taken to make your own opinion.


  • Website referencing & management

    Posted on March 21st, 2009 Thibaut No comments
    Forem Cepegra I’ve just completed a 3-day training at the Cepegra about website referencing & management. Here is a subset of the things I’ve learned and you might find interesting :

    • Relevance of content is the key, for referencing, but also to achieve your goal. Forget the “I”-oriented speech such as “we’re the bests” but focus instead on what you can offer to the customer, and by understanding his needs, showing your products or services that he might be searching for
    • Importance of the target : what is the target audience of your website ? You think that if you’re selling glasses, your audience is just partially sighted persons ? Then get prepared to loose opticians, wholesalers, schools for partially sighted persons or for opticians, hospitals, etc
    • Landpage : if possible, avoid a single page for language selection (there are referencing reasons behind it) and the typical philosophy of the company which is really boring for the visitor. Instead, show content that best targets your audience such as a new product or discounts
    • Web 2.0 : give multiple ways to your visitors to reach your website and give your company some visibility on the web. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are just a little portion of the tools in the realm of social networks that you can use to improve your online visibility
    • Redudancy : give the visitor several ways to reach the same information on your webiste
    • 3-clicks rule : in maximum 3 (or 4) clicks, the visitor should have found the information he/she’s searching for
    • Importance of the semantic and the standards : well structured websites will have a higher rank in search engines
    • Don’t cheat on Google : robots are able to detect if you’re placing fake keywords (no relevance in the context), backlink abuse, and many other things. Cheating ones are just permanently removed from Google’s index without warning
    • The deeper an information is (in the hierarchy of pages), the less importance it is given
    • Google almost doesn’t care about the meta keyword tag. So don’t expect to boost your traffic by inserting names of naked stars or the like
    • Flash websites are, according to the trainer, awful for referencing so far (content cannot be analyzed by search engines bots)
    • PageRank : the higher the better is well known but keep in mind that it’s now just a variable of the big equation
    • Search engines like dynamism : try to update your website regularly, but keep in mind that the relevance is the most important and performing little modifications just for the sake of updating won’t give you extra points
    • Viral marketing and buzz : make some noise about your project, including on social networks

    And that’s it for the sample of this training. Don’t hesitate to comment if you’ve got remarks about what was written here. Have a nice W-E ;)


  • Visug : new events

    Posted on March 20th, 2009 Thibaut No comments

    After some time of inactivity, the Visug is back again with a lot of new sessions. They also introduced the very interesting concept of back 2 basics, but unfortunately these sessions are planned during working hours so far… So I won’t be able to assist to them. Other sessions remain organized during the evening just like before. I’ve already registered for the ones listed below :

    According to Gill Cleeren, more sessions are to be announced in the next days to check it regularly ! See you there ;)


  • Books from the Techdays

    Posted on March 18th, 2009 Thibaut No comments
    Books from Techdays I’ve bought 3 books from the Techdays as discounts up to 30% were applicable. These books are Code Complete, .NET Architecting - Applications for the Enterprise and Visual Studio Tips. So expect to find reviews of these ones in the Books section later on ;)


  • Back from the Techdays

    Posted on March 16th, 2009 Thibaut No comments

    Here is a summary of the sessions I assisted at the Techdays on Wednesday 11th.

    Techdays 09


    • Evolution of software : SOA trend and cloud computing advent
    • Demo of Blend : the graphist and the developer work at the same time on the same project, the graphist makes some modifications and the developer gets the result when launching the app the next time (and vice-versa)
    • Demo of Surface : very impressive, visit the official website to watch the videos. Easy to make apps for surface as that’s WPF with just one lil’ layer onto it
    • Video of Microsoft’s future vision for apps in 2019

    .NET continuum: ASP.NET, AJAX, Silverlight and WPF (by Laurent Bugnion)

    • From the less powerful to the most : ASP.NET, AJAX, Silverlight then WPF
    • Shows how to interact with a WCF service with ASP.NET MVC (postback), ASP.NET AJAX (asynchronous, better UI reaction), Silverlight (only asynchronously, subset of .NET power) and WPF (asynchronous or synchronous, full .NET power)
    • Description of the Model/View pattern
    • Introduction of Dr WPF, a blogger very active in the WPF world

    Silverlight CoreCLR: Bringing the power of .NET to the net (by Andrew Pardoe)

    • Demonstration of the performance of Silverlight, compared to a Javascript application. Chess game, averaging 420,000 nodes per second in Silverlight vs. Javascript at 23,000 nodes per second in the search tree. Complete source code is available for the doubtful guys
    • Anything that can host ActiveX can host CoreCLR
    • Sandboxed execution : one execution domain per Silverlight app. Security increased
    • Same application model between browser and desktop : very easy to port a desktop-WPF app to a browser-Silverlight one
    • Dynamic Language Runtime (DLR) : language interoperability. App written in Python or Ruby can interact with the CoreCLR. Ex : IronPython or IronRuby

    WPF performance & best practices (by Dirk Primbs)

    • First advice about performance : focus on scenario and customer expectations. Do not try all the new visual effects on the same page or it obviously risks to slow down your app
    • The visual tree (containing all the controls and parts of them) can become too large. Use Snoop, a very powerful tool, that enables you to visualize that tree
    • Use optimized controls. For example, the VirtualizingStackPanel instead of the StackPanel, will render its content only when visible (suppose you have a lot of elements, and only a portion of them are visible through scrolling, rendering all of them in your page load isn’t a good solution)
    • Picture processing : try to avoid using large pictures and use caching options such as BitmapCacheOption
    • WPF Performance Suite : great tool for measuring performance of WPF apps
    • Hardware acceleration : 3 tiers (tier 0 : old pc, < DX7, tier 1 : between DX 7 and 9, tier 2 : DX >= 9). App can be set to run at a determined tier to simulate behaviour of less powerful machines and thus tune the perfs of your apps

    Under the hood in Silverlight’s controls skinning framework (by Gill Cleeren)

    • Speaker showed how to create a skin for a button (a purple ellispe with gradient brush)
    • Styling vs. skinning : styling is limited, skinning is completely new look, visual tree and properties
    • Parts & states model : separate logic from visual, contract between coder and designer, supported by Blend. Enables you to add new properties to existing ones on a control
    • Part : the working thing. Eg : a button has no part since the button is itself the part, but in a slider, the part is the little thumb that can be dragged
    • States : the different states of a control, such as mouseover, pressed, etc

    Windows 7 for developers (by Katrien De Graeve)

    • New features for consumers but also for developers
    • Showed the new features for the consumer (the docking features, etc, many articles available on the web about that)
    • Developer point of view : multi monitor support, even when remoting. Problem step recorder : screenshots of every steps of a bug reproduction are taken and then submitted to the developer
    • Compatibility : what works on Vista will work on Win 7 almost for sure

    And that’s all about this very interesting day. See you next year ;)


  • Run browsers directly from the web

    Posted on March 14th, 2009 Thibaut No comments

    As every good web developer, you have to test your website under different browsers such as Firefox, Safari, Opera, Chrome, etc. And of course, all of these programs must be installed on your machine and kept up to date. This is where Xenocode comes in : you connect to their website and thanks to a virtualization process, you launch the application you want from a catalogue, without the need to download or install it. Very handy !