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  • ReMIX 09 @ Brussels : Summary

    Posted on October 7th, 2009 Thibaut No comments


    This last 29th of September was organized at Kinepolis Brussels the 2009 edition of the ReMIX, which is a one-day summary of the MIX edition (held last March in Las Vegas).

    Two session tracks were available : the Web developer track and User Experience (UX) track. But before this, an introduction was given by some well-known people of Microsoft belgium.


    By Luc Van de Velde, Katrien De Graeve, Gill Cleeren, …

    Here are some key points of the presentation :

    • A demo of the Microsoft Web Platform Installer by Katrien De Grave. More info on her blog post about it
    • Demos of Silverlight 3 new features : smooth streaming, rich media capabilities, SEO & deep linking, improved performance, …
    • Zendster, the first belgian web hoster to provide smooth streaming for Silverlight
    • Companies (such as Elia) performing demos about their Silverlight apps for critical, line-of-business applications
    • A demo of SketchFlow by Arturo Toledo
    • Interviews of companies reflecting the important shift towards UX, which is given more and more importance
    • VTM news (a dutch television company) is using Surface, manipulating a newspaper as a support for presenting news but also to present election results

    • A demo of the Surface application of Belgian Beer Cafe, featuring a wonderful background simulating beer liquid and providing infos about the beers you put on the table. Check out the video below :
    • The launch of WebsiteSpark, an Microsoft initiative for providing training, free licences for small companies, etc

    Session #1 : Prototyping with Sketchflow

    User Experience (UX) track
    By Arturo Toledo

    • No slides, live demo of prototyping an app using SketchFlow
    • More than a mockup tool, SketchFlow allows you to make it behave a real app (and used as is)
    • Effects, such as transitions, can directly be set easily in SketchFlow. No need to code to get everything working (although you can write some if you want to fine-tune some stuff)
    • The user (typically the customer) can test his app mockup as it’s a classic Silverlight application
    • Comments can be drawn on the mockups or feedback can be written in a column next to the mockup screens

    • The flow of the application can be designed visually, creating transitions by linking nodes representing pages

    • The creation of datasources is very easy in SketchFlow. Indeed, in a typical mockup, you need to create dummy data (lorem ipsum for texts, fake names or numbers for forms or grids, etc). Such data can be autogenerated by defining the type of data we want (ex: price, date, text, …), which is a great save of time

    Session #2 : Building Amazing Business Applications with Silverlight and RIA Services

    Web developer track
    By Brad Abrams

    According to Brad Abrams, the must-haves for a great app is :

    1. Professional feel
    2. Rich data query
    3. Validating data update
    4. Authentication
    5. Different views (of the same data)
    • A little Silverlight application was built in a RAD fashion using Entity Framework, featuring a GridView, a form to add/update/edit values and Regex attributes on the properties (code behind) for validations
    • A SiteMap of the app was provided in Robots.txt for indexing by search engines. Different views (html pages) were provided for search engines bots to parse the content of the application

    Session #3 : Creating Silverlight Experiences with Blend 3

    User Experience (UX) track
    By Arturo Toledo

    • An Adobe Illustrator file was imported in Expression Design (a character in a spaceship)
    • Showed then how to build a custom control (a button with glossy effects, mouseover growing animation effect without coding, …)
    • Custom button fires an event, starting a storyboard to make the spaceship fly on the screen
    • Timeline manipulations are performed to make the spaceship make a U-turn before flying back to its original position

    Session #4 : ASP.NET MVC Wisdom : building a real-world app in 60′

    Web developer track
    By Maarten Balliauw

    This session covered the following points in ASP.NET MVC :

    • Validation
    • Templated helpers
    • Security
    • Routing

    Slides of the presentation are available below and source code here



    A very interesting event as you can tell, providing lots of news, demos and other stuff about RIA development in general. See you next year ;)


  • REMIX 09 : I’ll be there !

    Posted on August 3rd, 2009 Thibaut No comments
    REMIX The REMIX, re-edition of the popular MIX event will take place at Kinepolis Bxl on September 29. This free event will propose two different tracks :

    1. User Experience Track : prototyping with SketchFlow, Surface, creating Silverlight experiences, …
    2. Web Developer Track : Silverlight 3 new features, Expression Blend, …

    And as usual, I’ll post a summary of the event on my blog so don’t forget to check it out. See you there ;)


  • 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.


  • 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 ;)