Silverlight 5 Hosting is Here

On December 20, 2011, in Internet, Technical, by Michael

Michael OssouSilverlight 5 is finally here. With all the talk about HTML 5, Silverlight has kind of taken a back seat. In real life however, using the right tool for the right job is more important than doing what is in vogue. There are many scenarios where Silverlight is still the better platform to choose.

This latest release takes that a step further by making some major improvements. You can see the complete list of whats new in Silverlight 5 over at MSDN. But I wanted to mention some key features that I think are really noteworthy.

– My absolute favorite is the Pivot Viewer Control.  If you haven’t seen this thing in action, you are really missing out. This is one of those super cool things that can actually be useful in real life.

– The addition of hardware accelerated 3D graphics using XNA. Here is a great tutorial on building a Silverlight 5 3D box that you can host on your account. I should also mention, low latency sound can be achieved using XNA’s audio classes. I can’t wait to see some Silverlight drum machines!

– There are some major performance improvements as well. The one that I think will make most people happy is that HTTP web requests now occur in a background thread. The JIT also has multi-core support. So the start up times of a Silverlight 5 application are much faster.

– 64 bit browser support! Need I say more?

You have a hosting account already, so why not try to build something fun with Silverlight 5? If you build something, put a link to it in the comments section below, because we would love to see it!

– Michael Ossou, Developer

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Visual Studio LightSwitch 2011 and You

On August 11, 2011, in Internet, Technical, by Michael

As some of you may know, Microsoft released version 1.0 of Visual Studio LightSwitch 2011. In a nutshell, its a development tool that allows you to easily build business applications. What does that mean in non-marketing terms? Think of Microsoft Access of old. You could click, drag, tab, and wizard your way into building  an application. Only this time, everything is compiled into a Silverlight application for you. Yes, you could customize the application and write code as well, but my question to you is…would you want to?

As an initial test, I downloaded the bits, built a phone book application and deployed it. This whole process took me all of 30 minutes without reading a single article or watching a video. Granted, it’s a silly example, but the point is, with 30 minutes of time invested, I have an application hosted that’s accessible from anywhere, backed by SQL server, and can be used by multiple users at the same time. Doing it a second time around, I could probably do it in 10 minutes. That makes for a pretty compelling story for any development tool.

Looking at the other side of the wall, we don’t live in a world of phone book apps. The more complex the application, the more you have to dig under the abstraction that LightSwitch provides and get your hands dirty, the more some may question its usefulness. There is a huge grey area in between. How much of that grey area LightSwitch can effectively address will ultimately decide how successful of a product it is. And the final judge of that success is you.

So I want to know what you think. Do you plan on hosting a Visual Studio LightSwitch application? Do you have a wish list of applications that you would have liked to have built, but didn’t think they were worthy of building out a full blown web project for? Are you of the opinion that “real developers” build all applications, no matter how trivial, by hand in assembler? Or…do you think the world has gotten too complicated and want to see more stuff that will make life easier?

There is a comments section below. Use it, let me know your thoughts. In fact, feel free to fight it out this time.

– Michael Ossou

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Silverlight 5 Beta Available

On April 26, 2011, in Technical, by Michael

The long awaited beta of Silverlight 5 is finally here and the timing could not be any better. This is another major release with a lot of significant improvements. In addition to the expected improvements to video playback and UI, Microsoft has made significant improvements under the hood.  Starting with 64 bit support. As we have a lot of customers hosting their Silverlight applications with us, I’ve outlined a few other improvements below that I believe are important to you.

  • Debugging support now allows breakpoints to be set on a binding, so you can step through binding failures. This addresses one of the most common issues our hosting customers run into. The intentional decoupling from the View and the Models themselves had made the process of troubleshooting issues complicated. Hosting a Silverlight 5 application will be much easier now.
  • The DataContextChanged event is being introduced. Markup extensions allow code to be run at XAML parse time for both properties and event handlers, enabling cutting-edge MVVM support.
  • Reduced network latency by using a background thread for networking. This is a fantastic improvement. Especially for those that initiated network calls to a hosting provider in their button click events. Doing so would lock up the UI until the network call was completed even when using Asynchronous methods.

– Michael Ossou

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It’s a brand new year and what a better way to start out the new year but with a research article…

The challenge for all technology innovators is to ensure their technologies stay relevant for users who consume the technology, remain important to the developers who develop with the technology and adapt to competitive forces in a constantly changing technology landscape. One important aspect of business intelligence is to track the opinions and attitudes of developers. Based on the results of a September 2010 survey of DiscountASP.NET customers, general attitudes of ASP.NET web developers toward new technologies are explored, including MVC 3, Silverlight, HTML 5 and Internet Explorer 9. The survey results are viewed using different comparisons and segmentation techniques to observe underlying trends.

Here’s a link to the article:

Exploring Attitudes of ASP.NET Web Developers toward New Technologies:
Silverlight, MVC 3, HTML 5, Internet Explorer 9

[PDF version of the report.]

Let us know what you think.

Takeshi Eto
VP Marketing and Business Development

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Silverlight 5 was announced today and will be available next year. This announcement apparently was made earlier than originally planned, as a result of rumors regarding the state of Silverlight after PDC. The heavy promotion of HTML 5 , during the IE 9 demos, coming after a series of tweets by Scott Barnes earlier in the year, led to concerns over the future of Silverlight.

Prior to today, Scott Guthrie addressed this issue on at least two separate occasions, stating unequivocally that Silverlight is, and remains a “Key Development Platform”. Today’s announcement appears to be the punctuation on those remarks.

The reality is that HTML 5 and Silverlight are NOT competing technologies.  Yes, there is some crossover, but the differences are so major, the conversation is just silly and not worth even entertaining.

For more information regarding this announcement and new features, visit Scott Guthrie’s blog.

– Michael Ossou

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Windows Phone 7

DiscountASP.NET Windows Phone 7 Starter Kit

Last week we released the Silverlight Control Panel Starter Kit. This week, I’m following up with a Windows Phone 7 version. Just as with the last release, this proof of concept is intended as a starter kit for our customers. We welcome you to use it as a starting point to build your own Windows Phone 7 control panel. We also hope you can provide us with some feedback.

The first thing you are going to need is the Developer Tools. Most of you will be running this inside of a VM as I elected to do. While this is great as it doesn’t alter anything in your desktop environment, you may experience slowness and application sluggishness. This is a result of running the emulator within the VM, as the emulator itself is a VM. In the office we are calling this the “Inception effect,” as running a VM within a VM can lead to instability.

Outside of delays and slow response, you might have to try to launch the application a few different times from within the emulator itself. But once it’s running, it has been fairly stable.

I also recommend that you hard code your API key and database name into the application. The best place to do this would be in the mainpage.xaml. Simply replace the default text of the textbox to your own values.

The lines I am referring to are:

<TextBox x:Name="TbApiKey" TextWrapping="Wrap" Margin="0,31,0,0" d:LayoutOverrides="Height" FontSize="10.667" Text="HARD CODE YOUR API HERE FOR SIMPLICITY" FontWeight="Bold"/>


<TextBox x:Name="TbSqlDb" TextWrapping="Wrap" Margin="0,31,0,0" d:LayoutOverrides="Height" FontSize="21.333" Text="HARD CODE DATABASE NAME HERE"/>

The complete project folder is available here.

– Michael Ossou

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For those of you who don’t know, we offer an API for our customers to use. We expose enough methods to allow you to pretty much do anything you want. Some of the more popular include:

–    Ability to recycle application pool as well as Start/Stop IIS
–    Backup SQL database
–    Create/Delete email addresses and email aliases
–    Get usage information for SQL, Diskspace, Email

You can get can see a complete list of methods here.

DiscountASP.NET Customer API - Silverlight 4 Project

IIS Screen

Even though some of you may not have a need for our API, it’s still a great way to test out something else your working on. For example, I started a Silverlight project that uses the API to create a scaled down version of our control panel. I thought it would be a good idea to make the project available to our customers and let them use it and turn it into whatever they want – make it an open source project of sorts.

You can download the project here.

One thing to note is that you are going to need to enable access to the DiscountASP.NET API. This can be done via the Customer API section of your control panel. You can also get your API key there. You will also need to make sure you have the Silverlight 4 Tools for Visual Studio if you don’t already. As well as the Silverlight 4 Developer Runtime. Some of you may also want the Expression Blend SDK if you do not have expression blend installed on your computer

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