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October 2007 Blog Posts

An ALT.NET group is born in Italy

Unveiled by one of the founders, yesterday an ALT.NET group is born in Italy (and I'm among the 5 founding members).

The main objective of the group is to organize OpenSpace meetings, to fosters exchange of experiences with tools and approaches that are not easy to find on the usual user groups. It's something very similar to the Lunches with Geeks organized by Ivan in Wellington, but unfortunately here in Milano it's not possible to gather at lunch time.

What is ALT.NET has already been said many times, so I'll not quote the usual paragraph, but I'll translate here what the ALT.NET philosophy is for Emanuele and Claudio, the 2 initiators of the group:

The ALT.NET philosophy can be seen as the "quest for happiness".

Follow this philosophy means being free to use the tools and approaches that work best, means being agile, means learning new things, means enjoying yourself

The group has a website, and a Yahoo! Group mailing list.

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2007 OpenSource Carved Pumpkin

In 2005, Shaun Walker, founder of DotNetNuke carved the DNN logo in his Halloween pumpkin.

Last year, in 2006, I carved into my pumpkin the Subtext submarine.

Now with Halloween just a few days away, who is going to carve the logo of his OpenSource project into his pumpkin?

Are we going to see Ayende carving his Rhino? Or Rob Conery carving the angle-bracketed DB of Subsonic? Or maybe Ivan carving the (Iron)Ruby gem?

So, who's next?

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Subsonic turns Microsoft

borg W00t....

Rob "Subsonic" Conery just joined Microsoft, and will make (more or less) Subsonic a high-level API on top of the MVC framework Phil Haack is the PM for.

Seems like MS is hiring the cream of the US based .NET bloggers lately: are they kind of endorsing their contribution to the .NET space or just assimilating them? "Ai posteri l'ardua sentenza" (cit.).

For the moment I just uber-happy for Rob and Phil, and for all of us .NET developer as whole: they will sure come up with something great.

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Web Browser History

Today was a rainy day here in Milano, so decided to do a bit of Autumn cleaning, and throw away all my old and, unfortunately obsolete, programming books.

I threw away some DHTML books and some ASP Classic ones, and reminded me of my early days of programming and doing web development: I remember that I tested my first website with Netscape 1.something and that my first server side application was built with ColdFusion version 1 and then with LiveWire, the server side JavaScript dialect used inside the old Netscape Enterprise Server.

And while looking on wikipedia for these old nostalgic things, I found a very nice visualization of the history of web browsers.

Click on the image to see the full image in SVG format.

 

 

It lists a lot of browsers I never heard about, such as AWeb (a browser for AmigaOS), Arachne (browser for DOS), ELinks and Dillo, a small footprint (350Kb) web-browser for old computer or embedded systems.

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How to answer to telemarketing phone calls

I already posted on my Italian blog last week, but I think this is great, so wanted to share here on Codeclimber:

 

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Information R/evolution

How do we store information? On a physical library we store books on shelves, and index their position in catalogues. Since the beginning of the web we started building websites like we were used to build libraries, and at the beginning search engines were catalogs of websites.

But digital information is different: it allows content to be reorganized dynamically, and we don't need categories anymore, because we already have heaps of keywords in each document, that can be searched.

I just found (thanks to Daniela) via information aesthetics, a cool video that explain in a very easy way why. Made by the same person that made the Web2.0 for dummies video this spring:

And another document that is very interesting to read about the topic is: Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags

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New Vista Gadgets download site

I just found out a new website that is meant to be a collection of Vista Gadgets: GadgetsDownload.com

For the moment there are only 5 gadgets (it has been announced a few days ago), and I just uploaded my CC.NET Monitor gadget.

The website is really good looking: I hope it will start receiving lot of submissions soon.

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Joining Avanade

As I already anticipated last week, I left Calcium, and after looking for some possible jobs I choose to join Avanade, which, if you don't already know, is a global IT consulting company specialized in solutions using Microsoft enterprise technology, jointly owned by Accenture and Microsoft.

In the .NET world Avanade is famous because the first release of the Enterprise Library was based on the Avanade Connected Architecture for .NET (ACA.NET).

I'm pretty excited to start this new professional adventure, since I never worked for a big company and also Avanade seems to be using all the latest Microsoft products and technologies to deliver good products and projects (like its own Software Lifecycle Platform built on top of VSTS)

Looking on the Internet I also found out that there are quite a few employees blogging around, including the Avanade Americas CTO Tyson Hartman.

There is also a corporate blog aggregator where any employee can have a blog, or have his own blog resyndicated.

For now I've 3 weeks of sabbatical, where I'll probably enjoy a few climbing during the weekdays and then will work on Subtext, and then, will start working for the Avanade Italy on November 12th... Looking forward my Avanade laptop bag.

If you are a reader of my blog, and work for Avanade, please contact me or post a comment here: I'd like to know you.

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Italian government is going to censor the web

Not a real censorship, like the Chinese one, but the Italian government is about to issue a new law to "organize" anything that can inform people: newspaper, magazines, public website but also private ones and blogs.

In order to have a blog, if this law is really issued, its owner must be registered to the ROC (Registro degli Operatori di Comunicazione), and must have a registered journalist as "Chief Editor".

I know this sounds like a joke, but it's not. Not a real law for the moment, but has been proposed in August and seems like it has been approved by one of the government commissions.

Here more link (unfortunately only in Italian):

After this news I might have to rethink about my decision to find a job in Italy and not come back to New Zealand. smile_regular

Nice is the image related to the news on Punto Informatico:

Emigrare means to migrate in Italian.

For all the TextMate wannabe: Vibrant Ink for Visual Studio v2

Last week I posted a screenshot of my VS pimped with the same color schema used by ScottGu and ScottHa during the MVC.NET presentation at the ALT.NET conference. I found out that it was developed by Rob Conery, which yesterday released a new version of the schema, switching back to Consolas (as I did in my personal version) and easing a bit the contrast.

Download the schema on Rob's blog, and remember to change the ApplicationIdentity version=”9.0″ to version=”8.0″ if you are still using (as I'm) Visual Studio 2005.

Leopard officially announced for October 26th

It's official: Leopard, the new operating system made in Apple, has been declared Gold Master, and will ship on October 26th, starting from 6pm.

You can already pre-order it on the Apple Store, or buy a MacBook online, and get the new OS X for only S&H when it will be released.

Mac OS X Leopard product page also display a count-down to the release time (10 days and 3 hours at the time of writing)

I think I'll wait till it ships so I'll not have to bother reinstalling the operating system.

Anyone at the Mono Day tomorrow in Milano?

Tomorrow, October 17th, I'll be at Mono Day, an event organized by Novell to spread the word about this Open Source project, sponsored by Novell, that implements the .NET API and allow .NET software to run on Linux, OS X and Unix.

I read the agenda and it seems that the only interesting part of the event is the last speech, by Massimiliano Mantione, developer part of the Mono core team. The rest is just promotion of Novell products and partnerships.

I hope the "Mono from the source" speech will be the main part of the event, and the other only a introduction.

Anyway, if you happen to be there, just let me know, and we will have coffee or something.

Want an ALT.NET meeting in Wellington? Go to Lunch with Geeks

Reading what Fowler and Palermo say about organizing an ALT.NET Conference my mind wandered back to the short chats Ivan Porto Carrero is organizing since mid-May at lunch time in Wellington: the Lunch with Geeks.

AltNetConf's are open spaces conferences where DotNetters get together to discuss how to build better .Net software.

They are held every Tuesday at midday at Syn Bar, in Bond Street, and, even if there is a rough topic of the day, they are kind of short OpenSpaces, and the usual topics, thanks to Ivan and the guys from MindScape (which are among the regular attendants), are usually about "alternative way of building better software" no matter the solution is a tool supplied by Microsoft or something more exotic.

I'm not back in Wellington even if someone is trying to push me, so I'll not be able to attend the Lunch, but if you are in Wellington, you are not busy this Tuesday, and you want to build better .NET software, you should definitely go. I went when I was in Wellington, I really liked them. And, furthermore, you can eat a good pizza.

Some clarifications on my opinion about ALT.NET

My opinion about the ALT.NET probably has been misunderstood by a few bloggers that only focused on the first part of the post.

Both Ayende and Jay Flowers disagree with my opinion that 80% of the developers can't get the concepts behind ALT.NET.

Actually I didn't say that they can't get it, I only said that they don't want to stay up to date, which is a lot different.

Even if there are a lot of talks going on, a lot of blog around (as Jay says in his post) most of the developers are not interested in "being on the edge", so they will never go to talks, and read blogs: just as example, in the Java space, how many Java developers exist in the Milan area? 1.000? 5.000? Why does the meetings of the Jug Milano only have 30 listeners?

And I'm not saying that Windsor, MonoRail or NHibernate won't succeed. Maybe the tools themselves won't live more than a few years, but the concept will, as they will probably be "assimilated" into something Microsoft will package and ship in a way that the masses can grasp.

I'm not debating whether this is good or bad, as also Steven Harman says:

I realize that much of the world only eats what it’s fed from Microsoft

I’d rather not debate why or why not developers are constricted to only using Microsoft technologies as opposed to some excellent alternatives ... but would rather we all agree that this is a reality in the world in which we live, OK?

And, one last clarification: my opinion is based on my experience working 10 years in Italy and 8 month for a small, marketing-lead company in Wellington, NZ: maybe the situation is different in the rest of the world.

Just to make you all feel a bit more what is like working in the IT field in Italy, I'd like to point you to a post, unfortunately in Italian:

Alessandro Sorcinelli, an Italian blogger, says:

"the problem is that the companies don't allocate working time for the developers to study and learn new technologies or approaches".

Andrea that:

"time is money and developers study if they can do it during the working hours and most of them, once they find the long searched permanent job, are satisfied and don't go on studying and learning".

Mauro Bennici, always commenting to the first post says:

"In Italy, the training during the working hours is perceived by the companies as a unnecessary expense".

I know that the best way to evangelize the 90% non alpha geeks is to teach them what the good practices are, but, as result of social, cultural and political issues, in Italy this is not possible.

And if you really interested in understanding more read the following 2 posts, especially the comments (sorry for the ugly automated translation)

Now you might understand why a lot of Italian developers are moving abroad to find a better job.

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Pimping my Visual Studio

One of the thing that excited me from last week videos about the ASP.NET MVC framework is the amazing color schema that both ScottHa and ScottGu had on their Visual Studio: I sent an email and Scott was soo kind to answer me back with the VS schema.

Looking on the net I found that the color schema was "developed" by John "DLR" Lam, porting to Visual Studio the Vibrant Ink theme for TextMate.

Later Rob "SubSonic" Conery tweaked it, changed the black to shade of gray, and replaced Consolas with Monaco.

Since I'm, as Jeff "CodingHorror" Atwood, a fan of Consolas, I used Rob's settings (actually the one that Scott sent me), and switched back to Consolas 10pt.

screenshot-vs

Here you can download the original Rob settings, together with Monaco fonts.

Yet another ALT.net opinion

I wanted to write my opinion about the ALT.net thing since a long time, but I really never find the time to sit down and organize my ideas into an organic post.
The event that "triggered" this post is my friend Lorenzo asking my opinion about his blog post "There are architect and Architects" (it's in Italian but here is the link to the auto-translated version by Google).

In his post Lorenzo, commenting on Sam's post about leaving CodeBetter and ALT.NET, adds some thoughts about something that usually the hard-core ALT.NET people don't get: imagine you have an Enterprise-level project, with 100 developers, how many of them are likely to grasp what IoC is? Or how many of them will understand why someone decided to use an exotic open-source not supported MVC framework that forces them to completely throw away all the knowledge they have on the ASP.NET webforms and their page life cycle?

The ALT.NET vs "MS tools and technologiesbattle in my opinion is similar to the Linux vs Windows one: even if the first choice in both battles is technically superior, cooler, and trendier it doesn't win the battle because of the users.

Linux doesn't win because of the ACU, ALT.NET doesn't win because of the so-called Morts, which are probably 90% of the developers in the real world (which is much bigger then the world of the developers reading blogs and taking part in the community).

I totally embrace the ALT.NET vision, but I also think that it's negative to build a wall between what is MS and what is ALTernative as some of the ALT.NET fanboys predicate.

What Lorenzo said is correct: if you have 50 developers in your team you can't use MonoRail or Windsor or even the kind of main-stream NHibernate, because 40 of them will not know what you talking about.

I don't want to point the finger against anyone, but in my experience with previous jobs, I was the only one interested in staying up to date with the technologies, learning new approaches. I was the only one that fought with the CTOs to setup a CI process and introduced a kind of TDD approach inside the projects. In January, I was the one that informed the dev team that there was a new version of the .NET framework, version 2.0 (no, not the 3.5, the 2.0... and it was 2 years after is has been released).
So, I might have been very unlucky, but the truth is that 80% or more of the developers only care about working 9 to 5, have their work done with the least possible effort, and don't study to stay up to date with the new trends or technologies, they goes to user group meetings only if they are during the working hours and their employer doesn't take off a day of annual leave.

These guys use whatever Mother MS gives them: 15 years ago it was the D&D winform development, then 5 years ago it was the D&D development of web forms that mimics the same development experience of winforms, then it was the typed dataset, now it's a no-look Ajax toolkit, next year it will be Linq, Entity Framework and in two years it will be the new MVC ASP.NET framework.

So, we can't blame Microsoft for building tool for Morts, because it builds what the market looks for and what it is ready and can use.

I think the ALT.NET movement is great because it brought to the world new ALTernative ways of building apps with the .NET framework, and all the discussions and exchange of ideas going on will set the way to the next Gen of developers and development tools and frameworks.

Like any other big change, this is fostered by a small group of people that firmly believe in a new way of doing things. ALT.NET is the way the .NET world is going, but not this year, not next year: probably in 5 years time, when the innovation in the processes and tools will be incorporated into the definitive tools Microsoft will ship after it made sense out of many similar frameworks.

Of course in 5 years doing MVC on ASP.NET, POCO, IoC, TDD, CI will be mainstream, and the "sons" of ALT.NET will use other and even more innovative approaches, and MS will again be "behind" and seen as "not cool", but that's the way the world goes.

Hope I explained myself well.

Oops... I was forgetting something: I like PragmaNET more then ALT.NET since ALT creates a lot of confusion and people feel a negative feeling about it. But it's just my opinion.

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P.S.: I know there has been a lot of talk, and many other blogger, more "famous" then me, already said their opinion: I didn't read all the posts about that topic, so, if I'm saying the same thing someone else already said... well... "Great minds think alike" smile_regular

P.P.S.: I want to thank Igor for listening to my words while driving back home after the "Pizzoccherata d'alta quota" of last Sunday.

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Hidden bug fix in iPod Nano Update 1.0.2

Last month I got the new iPod Nano Video (3G), and I was a bit disappointed when I saw it didn't work well with my Audi A3 iPod car radio adapter: it emulates a 6 disc CD charger (5 playlist and the all songs list) but with the new iPod it didn't recognize any playlist but only the "all songs" CD.

Last week Apple released a fix for the new Nano firmware (version 1.0.2), and even if the release note doesn't include anything about problem with integration with 3rd party devices, now my iPod car adapter recognize all the playlist (well, not all, only the first 5) available on the iPod. Sweet!!

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More details on the MVC for ASP.NET

I just watched the videos published by ScottHa with the presentation by ScottGu on the new MVC framework for ASP.NET, and really liked the approach the MS team that is going to be lead by Phil is having on this: everything is pluggable, everything is replaceable, no more postbacks, no more viewstate.

To view the video yourself, if you are not among the 20k subscribers of Scott Hanselman blog, go to his post and follow the links to watch the videos in Silverlight format. Or download the WMV files:

And following the DRY principle, I'm not repeating a complete description of the MVC framework, but I'd rather link to what Damien Guard wrote: Observations on Microsoft MVC for ASP.NET

ScottGu said that they are going to release a first public preview release in 6 to 8 weeks, so, by the end of November give or take: looking forward to have a look at it.

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Better late then never: fixed skin for IE6

A few weeks ago, while browsing my blog from a friend laptop with IE6 I noticed that the right sidebar sometimes was under the main content area of the blog, probably the width of some post was too wide for the main column of my skin so, with IE6, the broke the layout.

Today I finally downloaded the IE6 VPC image, tested it on my laptop, and fixed it.

But if I waited a few more months probably the percentage of users with IE6 would have dropped, since last Friday the IE team announced that from now on IE7 will be available also for the XP that don't pass the Genuine check (the ones installed with an invalid license).

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Something is going to change

Today it was my last day of work for the company that hired me last year and brought me to Wellington: we tried to go on working together from overseas, but with 12 hours of timezone difference was too difficult for me to manage the team of developers and lead the development of the new applications.

The "work from home" experience was great, but, in my 2 month experience with "that" kind of developers and with no overlapping working hours, is only good for development, not for managing people or projects, especially because you cannot make a phone call to ask why someone didn't finish something or if it takes 3 days for a simple 5 email exchange that could have been done in 2 hours.

What was the old saying? "Better alone than with morts"? smile_regular

And now I'm officially unemployed till I find a new job (I've got a few option to choose from), so I'll have time to finalize a cool new feature we are going to release with Subtext 1.9.6

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MVC framework for ASP.NET

Phil Haack already semi-announced it when he said he was going to work for Microsoft and would be the Program manager for the new MVC framework for ASP.NET that Microsoft was planning to build.

Today at the ALT.NET conference, Scott Guthrie officially announced it.

The main goals of the MVC for ASP.NET are:

  • Natively support TDD model for controllers.
  • Provide ASPX (without viewstate or postbacks) as a view engine
  • Provide a hook for other view engines from MonoRail, etc.
  • Support IoC containers for controller creation and DI on the controllers
  • Provide complete control over URLs and navigation
  • Be pluggable throughout

Read more on this from someone that attended the conference: Jeffrey Palermo

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Which Hero am I?

In Italy they just started broadcasting the first season of Heros, and a few bloggers of the local .NET usergroup took a personality test: Which 'Hero' are you?

And I am:

heroes

The same "hero" as Mr. President: does this mean something?

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YSlow 0.8 released

Yesterday Steve Souders, Chief Performance Yahoo!, released a new version of YSlow, the tool to help you improve the performances of your website.

Version 0.8 fixes a bug in the Firebug NET panel, where cached pages sometimes show up in the network monitor: here is a detailed explanation of problem and how to enable the fix.

They also fixed a small problem that caused stylesheets with mixed case not to be recognized as being in the head of the document (rule 5).

If you already installed YSlow, you already saw the update via the Firefox auto-update feature, otherwise you can install it from Mozilla Add-ons site.

As side note to this topic, I got the High Performance Web Sites (Essential Knowledge for Front-End Engineers) book, and I'll start to read as soon as I find the time to do it.

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Leopard to be released on October 26th

Pardon my excitement, but finally my wait for the my next laptop is going to be over soon: the usual sources of Apple rumors say that probably Mac OS X 10.5 codename Leopard is going to be announced on October 26th.

Funny to notice that at the moment Leopard is the 2nd most sold software on Amazon, and it's still in pre-sale.

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.NET Meeting at 6500 ft

This is about a meeting I'm organizing in Italy, in the Alps near the border with Swiss, under the Mt Disgrazia,  in the Gerli/Porro hut at 6500 ft.

The agenda is:

  • 1 hour climb uphill to reach the hut
  • lucullian lunch, based on Pizzoccheri, herbs pasta and polenta
  • short trek (1 1/2 hours) till the beginning of the glacier (for the ones who feel like doing it)
  • 40 minutes walk downhill

All interleaved with rests and tech talk

This is an Italian event, but anyone that happens to be around Milano this weekend can come.

If you want to join please do it on the thread on the UGIdotNET forum: http://forum.ugidotnet.org/default.asp?m=66847 (or write a comment here).

Here are the directions from Milano to Chaireggio, and if you can read italian, here is the official announcement: Pizzoccherata d'alta quota Domenica 7 Ottobre

Windows Media Center Development

Two years I developed, for the company I worked for in Milano, a video news website that runs inside the Windows Media Center, in the Italian spotlight section.

The site is an Hosted HTML Application: a normal HTML page that can interact with its host (the mediacenter process, not IE) via specific JavaScript API.

Today I was listening to the last episode of Hanselminutes about development on the Media Center for Vista, and I found out that the new version of the platform adds a new way of developing application on the Media Center.

The old way (XP/MCE)

With Media Center Edition 2005 you only had 2 different way of extending the MCE:

  • Hosted HTML Applications: remote DHTML applications built in JavaScript and HTML, hosted on a web server.
  • Media Center add-in: local applications, built using the full .NET library plus some features added by the MCE API.

The new way (Vista)

Now, with the Media Center bundled with some version of Vista, you have 3 ways of doing it:

MCML vs Hosted HTML

But what are the things you can do with MCML (MediaCenter Markup Language) applications that you couldn't do with Hosted HTML applications?

On the MSDN site there is a grid with the differences between the 3 new way to build applications: Choosing a Technology, but let's review them in a bit more detail.

First of all there is a compatibility notice: MCML runs only on Vista, so if you want your application to run on MCE2005, you are stuck with Hosted HTML or Add-in.

But moving on with the compatibility stuff... MCML doesn't run on a separate layer, but inside the same renderer of the main application: that means that the end user won't notice a drastic change of UI going from the main menu to a 3rd party application, so the user doesn't have to learn or understand another type of interaction or UI elements.

And from a developer stand point that means that:

  • if you add a button, the button has the same look&feel of all MC buttons, you don't have to style them with CSS and JS
  • navigation is done "auto-magically": if the user press the left arrow on the remote, the focus goes to the next button on the left, while with the Hosted HTML you had to intercept the "keypress" event, and write some navigation logic to understand where the next highlighted button should have been
  • you can overlay some graphics on a playing video, while previously it was not possible

Another structural change is that the MCML is build for remoteness. Probably 80% of the MediaCenter users use it on a remote device, being it an XBox360, or any other MediaCenter Extender: they have the main desktop in a room, but they watch movies, TV sitting on a couch in the living room. The new MediaCenter sends the MCML file to the extender and the rendering is done it, while with MCE2005 the rendering (of the Hosted HTML applications) was done on the main desktop and the result sent to the extender à la Remote Desktop.

This means that all the effects run on full speed on the extender as if running on the main box, while with the MCE2005 the bitrate was limited to 3-5fps (and in fact video hosted in HTML application didn't run from extenders, or run very slowly)

Last, but, from the developer stand point, MCML is XML + code-behind in C#, so with the full power of the .NET framework and with the usual great developer experience of Visual Studio, while the old Hosted HTML app is DHTML + JavaScript, that was hard to develop and debug (probably now with VS08 less difficult).

More info on Scott's "Hanselminutes Podcast 82 - 10 Foot Development for Media Center" and on the Vista Media Center blog, mediacentersandbox.com

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