The rumours of my demise have been exaggerated.

So, I haven’t been very active on this blog for quite a while and you would be forgiven for thinking that I’d given up on it. This couldn’t be further from the truth – it’s just that I’ve been a busy little bee for the last few months.

So what have I been doing that has kept me away from finding time to blog? Well, I’ve been working with the inestimable Sacha Barber on a project called CodeStash. CodeStash is an online snippet manager which allows you to take snippets directly from Visual Studio via an addin, and save them online. OK, so that doesn’t sound too exciting, but CodeStash goes much further. You can group the snippets together, so that you can have related snippets grouped together (why just have a piece of XAML when you can have the styling and the code behind in there).

We have big plans for CodeStash, and have managed to hook up with those wonderful people at CodeProject to host this service. Go on, hop on over to the site and sign up; download the extension and contribute your snippets for the betterment of mankind; well, those people who will be cool enough to appreciate your awesome logic. Best of all; this service is free.


MoXAML goes Codeplex

One of the commonest questions I’ve been asked about MoXAML was whether or not I would be maintaining it in a repository of some description. While I’ve not been against the idea, I just haven’t got around to doing it. Well, that is I hadn’t got around to doing it. I am pleased to announce that MoXAML is now open source and is available on CodePlex at

By putting MoXAML on CodePlex, it is going to be easier for me to maintain the whole setup/installation package and I’m toying with an idea on how to automatically pull down updates to MoXAML – these are architectural ideas only, no code has been written, it’s just notes and diagrams so far.

Anyway, sorry for not posting something “witty” or silly – this post’s relatively normal for me. Abnormal service will resume shortly.

It’s time to dock with the mothership

It seems that the many headed Hydra that is VS Live is coming round again in October, and it’s bigger and better than ever. If you thought it was good before, you haven’t seen anything yet.

While I can’t promise that attending it will make you more successful with members of whichever sex you prefer, I can tell you that some of my favourite speakers are going to be there. Rachel Appel will be delivering talks on creating data driven web sites with WebMatrix and Razor, a dive into how Orchard CMS works and will finish off with a high dive off Microsoft 1 into a thimble containing an inch of water.

If you think that’s impressive, Pete Brown will be delivering a whole host of XAMLicious goodness and rumour has it that he will do this tied up in chains, dangling upside down in a big box of water, wearing nothing other than a goose-fat thong. You owe it to yourself to get along to the Redmond mothership and catch these outstanding talks, and a whole lot more.

Disclaimer: Some of this shizzle is made up, but the bit about the great speakers and the topics they’ll be talking about is 100% straight up.

So where do we go from here?

Well, Microsoft has finally unveiled what is commonly known as Windows 8. If you have been learning Kung Fu in a secret Tibetan monastery or yak fishing off the coast of Antarctica, you may have missed the announcements this week and the blizzard of opinion and talking heads pronouncements. To some it’s the death knell of Windows, to others it’s a brave and bold move. Whatever your take, one thing is clear, the Metro UI represents a dramatic step forward for Windows applications.

First of all, let me make it clear that the Metro UI is not the only UI that you can use in Windows. It’s a great choice for Tablets, and if you’ve used a Windows Phone, you’ll know just how useful it really is (I love my Live Tiles), but if you want to use a non touch UI you still have the Aero interface to provide that familiar gooey goodness. What the new version of Windows represents is a step out to other processors and technologies; a move beyond Wintel, and this has to be good news for all concerned. As a developer, the exciting thing is that I should be able to write software that targets tablets, phones and PCs all from the same environment.

Let me clear something else up. Despite what you may think you have heard, Microsoft is not abandoning all other languages and technologies in favour of HTML 5 and JavaScript. Yes, this represents an important plank in Microsoft’s strategy to write once run-anywhere, and have applications run in the cloud. I was one heck of an HTML 5 sceptic, but having looked into HTML 5 and WCF vNext, I can’t believe just how good developing for it can be in the MS stack – I will be writing more on this in the future; take it from me, you’re going to love it. The thing is, though, while this is great in webby, cloudy environments, HTML apps just don’t mut the custard in desktop environments, or in applications where you really don’t want your IP exposed. This is why I’m excited about the future of technologies like .NET, Silverlight, WPF and C++. Microsoft has made a huge investment in .NET and XAML, and it seems incredibly unlikely that they will alienate virtually their entire developer ecosystem – and rumour has it that Win C++ is going to have a big impact in Windows 8.

Indeed, Microsoft’s biggest problem still seems to be that it isn’t communicating this information effectively. They get so excited about all the new stuff that’s coming, they don’t mention the existing stuff; after all, why should they? They assume that people realise that they aren’t cutting their own noses off, and forget that people remember the history of failed tech. Let me assure you, from conversations I’ve had, and from talking to those in the know, your technological investment is safe. Your apps may look different in the future, and respond to different inputs, so you may need to learn some new APIs, but that should excite you, not frighten you.

Finally, let me quote the great Jeremiah Morrill:

“Anyways, why is everyone so surprised about the annoucement?  People have been saying this was going to be a feature of Win8 for at least 5 or 6 months 😉

I think it’s important to remember what Ballmer said in his Swiss keynote.  That Win8 applications can be written using, C++, C# and JS.  He was very careful to NOT mention a framework, only languages.  Now there are is a lot of “Will it run Silverlight?” or “Will it run WPF?”.  Microsoft will respond with “Yeah, its Windows”.  This is true.  They did demo Win8 also running “traditional” applications.

I think we should be asking:  What technologies can I use to make these new immersive Win8 applications?

The other question I would ask, mostly to devs is, “Does this new thing perform better than Silverlight/WPF at making fluid user interfaces?”  If so, besides backwards compatibility, what advantages does Silverlight/WPF have over this new thing?  Will Silverlight (or WPF) still be an island of richness, or an island of relative choppiness and CPU tax?

One thing I can say for certain, is XAML is part of Microsoft DNA.  They have promised us our investment in XAML is safe, over and over.  What I’m not certain about is, what is our investment defined as?  Knowledge/familiarity or our actual code?  Will there be a solid upgrade path, or will we be left dumping old code?  My advice is we should all be patient until Sept.  There’s just too many questions that cannot be answered with a Win8 demo that wasn’t geared for devs.”

Possibly the wisest words you’ll hear on the subject.

Well Bipply-flipply. More VS Live

All round good guy and guru of gurus, the lurv god of cod himself, Mr Walt Ritscher will be presenting three talks at VS Live, one on the Tuesday and two on Thursday:

If Walt can make them then you owe it to yourself to as well. Go on, see this giant of the development world in action – it’s true, he really is a giant; he’s 8 foot 6.

This is me kissing MVPship goodbye forever

So, I posted a question a couple of days ago asking those who’d been to the MVP summit this week whether or not a feature I requested on the vNext request was being developed. Now, I got jumped up and down on in that question because the MVPs have been slapped this year with NDAs up the wahoo, and they are all too scared to talk about what they’ve learned – I like and respect these guys a lot, but the response on the thread was a little bit OTT in my opinion.

Now, the point of this blog post. I think Microsoft have gone too far with this whole NDA thing. While I understand that they have commercial confidences that they need to keep from the competition, but not everything that they cover in the summit will be so secret that the wider world can’t be told about it. This brings me to the point – Microsoft in the past has relied on the MVPs to be the advocates of the up and coming releases, they are the front line in evangelising the technologies that Microsoft have come up with.  When a product reaches a certain level of maturity, the whole product evangelist thing stops as an official marketing tool for Microsoft. At this point, the reliance on MVPs to act as the funnel of information out to the development community becomes more important.

Now, with the use of the NDA creating an effective barrier to this, Microsoft has just hamstrung their key marketing frontline from preparing the wider public and getting them excited about what’s coming. (BTW – this is in reaction to an MVP last year letting the cat out of the bag on upcoming features that were genuinely NDAd – leading to this knee-jerk blanket NDA). Bear in mind that Microsoft has suffered some embarrassing marketing SNAFUs over the last few months (way to go Muglia), you’d think that it would want all the help that it can get, but apparently this is not so.

Off topic slightly: Microsoft, WPF is the best development framework you have ever produced. Don’t dilute and dumb it down, or even run it down. Improve it and continue to see how it can be innovated, and you will find the take up increases. Initially WPF was such a step change that people were scared off it, but now they are more exposed to it thanks in no small part to your MVPs, that takeup is increasing – ironically at just the point you’ve lost interest in it.

Now, the amazing comment was that they couldn’t even discuss what was said with other MVPs from the same discipline who weren’t able to attend. I’m sorry Microsoft, but you’ve lost the plot here. You need to stop being so insular and actually start communicating with people – you could take a leaf from Apple’s book here and start to get a better marketing campaign going.

Well, I had to get my frustration off my chest here. In the last few weeks, I’ve heard a real company line from the guys and girls inside the Redmond ivory tower. The thing that has become markedly apparent is that they don’t get how their decisions affect those of us in the wider world. With every bit of marketing foul-up and crossed wires, they can negatively affect entire companies – and they just don’t get it; and this is incredibly frustrating.

Oh well, I guess this post has just kicked any chances of getting nominated for MVP into touch and, you know what, I don’t care? I am too old to put up with the crap I heard this week and I am now, officially going to take a look at what other platforms can give me and my company.

What the hell. Nobody reads my ramblings anyway, and Microsoft certainly don’t care about small business owners, so if you do happen to stumble across this; please help, I’m a prisoner in a jam factory. It will be interesting to see if any of my compatriots on the Disciples read my blog – if they do, this post should stir things up.

Well scupper me sideways and butter me with kippers.

Right, now that I got your attention with that rather bizarre title, I’d like to bring your attention to the forthcoming VS Live event in Las Vegas. The Early Bird registration ends on 23rd March, and if you register by then you should save $200 – good value in my book (available at all good retailers if I’d bothered to write it). Register here.

Visual Studio Live is the ideal opportunity for you to meet some of the Microsoft dev team and MVP rock stars. Press them hard enough and they should treat you to some amazing deep dive coding sessions, and if they don’t, don’t forget to tie their hair in a bun and call them Ethel.

Sample sessions include DotNetMaster’s Billy Hollis and the ever magnetic Rocky Lhotka (don’t take your harddrive too near to him), presenting a day workshop on April 18th. This session, “Making Effective Use Of Silverlight And WPF”, should be a good one and promotes two of my favourite topics – don’t forget to attend. Rocky also presents another subsession about another of my favourite topics, as if you can’t tell what that one is; it’s the exciting sounding “Leveraging the MVVM Pattern in Silverlight, WPF and Windows Phone”. Find out more about these and other wonderful sessions here.