PDC 2005

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Better late than never, but today the DVD with Beta 1 of Office "12" that was promised at PDC05 arrived.

I decided not to go with the default "upgrade" option, because that removes all Office 2003 components. Installing side-by-side went pretty smooth. The installation stalls at about 90% in the progress bar, so it has the usual Microsoft  Progress Bar Syndrome. That's okay because I am used to it 😉

The only strange thing was that Outlook was selected to be installed at the top level in the list of install options. But it wasn't present after installation. I reran setup and manually selected the main Outlook "12" components. After that the version 12 binaries were present. But this new Outlook version quits on startup after complaining that MAPI cannot load mspst.dll. I guess Outlook doesn't support running side-by-side with an older version. Too bad, I like living on the edge, but handing over my PSTs to a beta 1 version is a bit over the edge for me.

Since the PDC I have been reading the blog of Jensen Harris. He tells a lot about the history of Office and where the product suite is going. It's amazing how much usability work has gone into Office "12" and how refreshing the new UI is. I am hooked already!

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Ever since the November 2005 CTP of WinFX I have had trouble running any Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) sample application on my machine. Every WPF program would crash on startup with weird BAML related exceptions. Even freshly created WPF programs in Visual Studio 2005 with a single empty form refused to run. I wasn't able to find a solution at the time.

Last week Microsoft released the January 2006 CTP together with the first public release of Microsoft Expression Interactive Designer aka "Sparkle". Guess what, "Sparkle" crashed on startup on my machine as well. That was to be expected, since "Sparkle" is a 100% WPF managed code application.

Because I saw great demos of this "Avalon" design tool at PDC05, I badly wanted to be able to run this application. So I had to invest some time in fixing my problems. 

Luckily, our ASP.NET 2.0 application for Windows Media Center is done. After two months of hard work I have time to look into WinFX again. Expect more details about that Media Center project as soon as it goes live. Well it is semi-live already, meaning you can access it on the Internet if you know the URL, but I cannot divulge that information just yet.

This time Google led me to this blog entry by Nick Kramer. Nick describes that WPF scans every assembly in the Global Assembly Cache (GAC) and chokes if it cannot read one of those assemblies. The troublemaker on my machine turned out to be the Microsoft Enterprise Instrumentation Framework. It tries to load the .NET 1.0 version of System.Management, which I don't have installed on my machine. Removing Enterprise Instrumentation fixed my problem.

So I can finally run WPF applications again.

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<rant>

Checkout Windows Live in Firefox. Go read the comments about it on Robert Scoble's blog. Go read Joel on Software about it.

This is indeed a PR disaster. Announcing something web based at this day and age with Firefox support as an afterthought is pretty stupid.

And it is another branding disaster. I disliked the Windows Media Audio and Video branding. I dislike the Windows Blah Foundation branding. And now I dislike the Windows Live branding. Why? Because it sends a confusing message. Is WMA and WMV only supposed to be available on the Windows platform? This seamed to be the case for Windows Presentation Foundation, so I thought I could live with it. But then at PDC05 Microsoft announced Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere (WPF/E). If it is supposed to be available everywhere, why brand it with Windows?!

.NET suffered from serious branding misuse in the past. Remember every MS server product getting the .NET label stuck on it, even if it had almost nothing to do with the .NET Framework. Since then Microsoft has backed off from using .NET in product names. Did you notice it has even disappeared from the Visual Studio product name: it's Visual Studio 2005 and not Visual Studio .NET 2005.

Maybe Microsoft should completely drop the Windows term for the next version of its OS and just call it Vista.

</rant>

Through this blog post I just noticed that a new white paper on Windows Presentation Foundation ("Avalon") is up on the Vista Developer Center on MSDN.

The paper provides a very good overview of all the different features and aspects of WPF. It focuses more on the whys than the hows. Like why Microsoft has decided to build a new unified presentation platform to supersede GDI and DHTML.

On a side note: The homepage of the Vista Developer Center has an RSS feed, but strangely enough the last entry on the feed dates back to September 14, 2005. What's the point of having an RSS feed, when it's not up to date?! The MSDN Just Published RSS feed does have recent entries, but does not include the WPF white paper.

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You gotta love Microsoft for this one. All PDC05 sessions, panel discussions and symposia can be viewed online for free for the coming six months. Better still, you can download the PowerPoint slides and the entire presentations for offline viewing. This is a screenshot of one of the PDC05 sessions in Internet Explorer:

Screenshot of online viewing of a PDC05 presentation (click for larger version)

You can see both an audio/video stream and the slides simultaneuosly. For demos the slides are swapped for the captured video of the demo computer:

Screenshot of online viewing of a demo during one of the presentations at PDC05 (click for larger version)

It's almost as good as being there 😉 More details can be found on Michael Swanson's blog.

Today I found the time to get my hands dirty on C# 3.0 and LINQ. At PDC05 I went to a couple of sessions on these topics and I read the excellent whitepaper on the LINQ project by Hejlsberg and Box. But I was too busy attending other sessions to try out the hands-on-labs. The hands-on-labs are available for download as Word documents containing instructions.

During download and installation of the C# LINQ Tech Preview I read a most excellent blog post by Ian Griffiths on Expression Trees. If you are interested in C# 3.0 go read it, if you haven't already done so! It talks about the parts of C# 3.0 that impressed me the most.

After the installation of the C# LINQ Tech Preview I hit a little snag. The new project templates for LINQ didn't show up in Visual Studio. An investigation with File Monitor showed that the templates were installed in a subfolder of My DocumentsVisual Studio 2005TemplatesProjectTemplates. It turned out the user setting for the user project templates location in Visual Studio pointed to the wrong location. It pointed to a subfolder of My DocumentsVisual StudioTemplatesProjectTemplates (so without the 2005 in the name). I have installed a lot of CTP and beta builds of Whidbey in the past and this folder probably changed sometime ago. I didn't notice this problem before, because WinFX installs its project templates elsewhere.

So now I am all set to start experimenting. I also want to check out VB 9.0, because of its support for dynamic typing and XML. I am impressed by anonymous classes and extension methods in C# 3.0. They alleviate some of the need for dynamic typing. But is it enough?

And I also want to check out Atlas and Windows Workflow Foundation. Sigh, so much to explore, so little time...

 

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Finally found the time to give Microsoft Max a spin. Dennis blogged about this WinFX application on the day of its release. That day I saw it demoed at the PDC05 but couldn't try it out myself.

I had to first uninstall Beta 1 of WinFX, its SDK and the Visual Studio 2005 integration from my computer. Max uses the September CTP of WinFX. Fortunately that version still runs on Beta 2 of the .NET Framework 2.0, so I didn't have to uninstall that. The setup for Max automatically downloads and installs the correct versions of .NET 2.0 and WinFX when not already present.

Picture of Microsoft MAX showing some three of my USA photographs (click for larger version)

Max really showcases the new possibilities for UI with Windows Presentation Foundation and sharing photo presentations through Windows Communication Foundation. It is hard to judge exactly how difficult it was to create such an application because Microsoft has not released Max' source code ;( Since Max is said to be a codename, I suspect Microsoft wants to productize it (and give it away for free to genuine Windows users) and will never release the source code.

A lot of people were not impressed by Max because there are better photosharing applications out there. I think that is not the point. Max is about how relatively easy it is to create such an application using WinFX. Of course it can be done using other technologies, but Microsoft claims that will take considerably more effort. And I believe them.

And yes, Max is a memory hog, but remember it runs on pre-release software that's not fully optimized yet.

 

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Today I checked the referrer logs for my blog entries about the PDC. I noticed that two of my PDC posts were not syndicated on PDC Bloggers.NET. Although evidently about the PDC, they were apparently ignored by the editors of PDC Bloggers.NET.

Of course I can can only speculate about the cause of this, but I noticed that these two posts were my two most critical posts about the PDC:

I sure hope this was just a coincidence and not some sort of censorship. In the FAQ the site states that

"How do you choose posts for the main aggregated feeds?

Most posts that appear in your blog that relate to the Microsoft PDC or technologies discussed at the PDC will appear in the feed as long as we can determine they are in fact about the event. Mentioning the Microsoft PDC in the post will help. There are a few exceptions, for example, very short posts will probably not be picked for the main feed."

Although the PDC Bloggers site is said not to be run by Microsoft, such sneaky censorship by entities not governed by Microsoft is not without precedence. The proposal for a Birds of a Feather session about Mono at the PDC was quietly ignored by INETA. More details can be found on this blog entry by Miguel Icaza. I find that sneaky because Microsoft and INETA pretended that all proposals would be up for voting by PDC attendees. Final selection would be based on popularity. The Mono proposal never made it to this voting process.

[Update 2005-10-16: I received an apology from an aggregating editor of PDCBloggers.net because the two posts in question were overlooked by mistake.]

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This year's PDC is now officially over. I changed the flair on my blog. The hallways in the Convention Center are slowly starting to drain. If this post suddenly ends, you know I have been kicked out of the building.

I'll be in the States for another two weeks on holiday, so my blog will probably go quiet for that period. Any US or Canadian citizens reading this, who are jealous of that many holidays: it's one of the perks of working in the Netherlands. But hey, we Europeans don't get the free SQL Server license that was promised in the keynote!

I liked most of what I saw here at the PDC. The bad news:

  • We have no idea when C# 3.0, VB 9.0 and (D/X)LINQ are going to be released.
  • IIS 7.0 will be a long wait.
  • Mary Jo Foley was right again: there are no Office 12 and Sparkle bits handed out to attendees. All PDC attendees will get access to Beta 1 of Office 12 when it is released in a couple of months. But Sparkle will only be opened up for those of us who can present a "business need" to have access to a preview version. I fear working in the Financial Services sector will not count as a business need.

It was very nice to meet two Microsoft employees in person after their talk: Adam Nathan and Matt Warren. Well, Matt didn't speak in person, but it was a lot of his work on (D)LINQ that got presented by Anders Hejlsberg and others.

Adam was actually the only presenter of a talk I went to, that had bumped up the font size of the non-code windows in Visual Studio. It's amazing that so few speakers at Microsoft know how to and/or take the effort to do so. Thanks Adam, for that courtesy to the audience.

The best talk this year for me was COM325 Workflow + Messaging + Services: Developing Distributed Applications with Workflow. It really openened my eyes on the new possibilities with Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF) and Windows Communication Foundation (WCF aka Indigo). Of course, Don knows how to present his and Dharma's stuff.

Workflows are transparent, Activities/Services are opaque. But as Don said don't go put that on a T-shirt or present it as a tenet of workflow.

More to come after I get back home.

[Update 2005-10-04: fixed hyperlink for Adam Nathan's blog]

As you may have noticed I have been pretty quiet on the blogging front during this PDC. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • There are so many interesting sessions here, including lunch sessions, that it is very hard to find the time to blog if you can't or won't blog during sessions. The program extends far into the evening and in order to be awake the next day, it's necessary to catch some sleep.
  • I don't want to blog just about what I saw because so many people are already doing that.
  • It takes time to digest all the new stuff and write a good blog post about it. This post alone took 40 minutes.

That said, let's go the the subject of the title of this post. This was something that I didn't want to hold back on.

As you may have seen already at the PDC, on blogs or on Channel 9: the new IIS 7.0 rocks! The complete modularization of the IIS functionality and ASP.NET like distributed XML based configuration system, makes this a much better and manageable web server than IIS 6.0. IIS 6.0 is of course already a great web server in terms of performance, stability and security.

Now the bad news. Microsoft's current plans are that IIS 7.0 will only be available on the Longhorn Server platform and not on Windows Server 2003. This means that we will have to wait till at least 2007 before we can use IIS 7.0 for production web sites. It will be released as a crippled pre-release in Windows Vista. I say crippled because it will be limited in some way (connection or bandwith limit) so we won't be tempted to use Vista (the client platform) as a server platform.

Of course I understand the business reasons for doing this. IIS 7.0 is a good driver to sell more Longhorn Server licenses. But linking releases together like that means that it will take way too long to ship IIS 7.0. It looks pretty well baked already. Of course PDC demoers know which things to avoid to give the impression that a product is stable and almost finished. But I don't believe it will take another two years to ship it.

IIS 7.0 as it stands today goes way beyond the capabilities of Apache. But where will it stand in 2007? The development of other web servers is not going to wait until Microsoft is ready to release the shipping vehicle that makes money.

This is a good example of where Microsoft's concept of  Integrated Innovation really hinders Microsoft's ability to ship software and stay ahead of the competition. Shipping version 2.0 of the .NET Framework and related technologies has taken already way too long.

Of course I can appreciate the benefits that Integrated Innovation brings when aligning a lot of products on one version of the .NET Framework and Visual Studio. But in the case of IIS 7.0, I really see no technical merit whatsoever. When I asked a Microsoft employee at the IIS booth at the PDC about the availability of IIS 7.0, he first started by claiming that there were technical reasons why IIS 7.0 could not be released on Windows Server 2003. He also stated, quite honestly, that there were business reasons for doing this. Then I told him I heard that IIS 7.0 was being developed on Windows Server 2003 and not on Longhorn Server. He admitted that was true and that the technical reasons are not really there yet.

I am afraid that customers will not migrate immediately after the release of Longhorn Server just to get IIS 7.0. That means we wil have to wait till 2008 and beyond before adoption will take off.

This is why I hope Microsoft will rethink its strategy and make IIS 7.0 available for Windows Server 2003. This will not be a backporting effort as IIS 7.0 is already up-and-running on Windows Server 2003. Microsoft, please release IIS 7.0 as early as possible and include an even better IIS 7.1 in Longhorn Server if you need a business driver!