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Building a Developer Community

Over the years, I’ve been involved in a number of Microsoft related user groups here in Portland.  For some I’ve just been an attendee, others I’ve spoken at, and a few I’ve even organized and ran.  Here’s a few that come to mind:

  • Portland Area Dot Net User Group (PADNUG)
  • PDXUX.Net
  • Portland Silverlight User Group (PDXSLUG)
  • Portland Windows Phone User Group (PWPUG)
  • Portland Area XNA User Group (PAXNAUG)

It’s been tough having my efforts split up amongst all these technology groups.  In fact, all of these groups except one had a specific technology as part of its name.  What’s scary is that I was thinking of doing this again with WinRT.  Really?

What’s needed here is convergence, not divergence.  I need something that allows me to focus (i.e. simplify) my efforts as a speaker/leader/member and not be overwhelmed.  Let’s be honest though, I’m not the only one who needs their life to be simpler.  Developers need less after-hour meetings to attend.  Recruiters need easier choices for which user groups to attend and sponsor.

I’ve discussed this topic thoroughly (both in public and in private) with various members and influencers in the community.  A consensus has been reached and I now have the following announcements:

  1. The Portland Silverlight User Group has been dissolved.
  2. The Portland Windows Phone User Group has been dissolved.

That was easy.  ;-)  Hah, I wish.

My efforts are now being joined with PADNUG to help transform it into more of a generic “Windows” user group.  PADNUG already caters to ASP.NET, C#, SharePoint, WPF, and WinForm developers.  Who it doesn’t cater to as much are WinRT, C++, Windows Phone, and HTML5 developers.  The focus will be on the platform and in using a variety of technologies that make sense.  While the technologies will change, and the devices we develop for will change, one thing that will not change is that of Windows being that platform on which our applications run.  Whether these apps are in the cloud, or on a PC, or on a phone, they will run on “Windows”.  In my opinion this was the central message that came out of BUILD.  Use what you know, build what you imagine, you know the rest.

So how is this going to kick off?  I’ve already accepted an invitation to join the PADNUG’s board of directors.  Next month I’ll be presenting on Windows Phone Development with HTML5 and PhoneGap at PADNUG.  That topic makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider there is a Windows Phone Camp and an HTML5 Webcamp being held next month.  Next year’s going to be exciting in preparing for WinRT.  However we don’t want to leave anyone to feel left out because of the work they’re doing right now.  There is a need to be forward thinking, but also relevant.  For me, this will be an interesting balance to strike.

So do you have any feedback?  Are you pissed?  Are you relieved?  Could you care less?  Assuming you do care, I encourage you to speak up and share your thoughts.  We’re all volunteers here.  If doing it your way means you’ll willing to pitch in and help, then I’m more than happy to hear what you think.

tags: Silverlight | PDXSLUG | PWPUG | wpdev | PADNUG | winrt

Mobile: The Market, The Web, and Windows Phone's Future

This month we had Jason Grigsby of Cloud Four presenting at the Portland Silverlight User Group. Jason also runs Mobile Portland, and gave a great presentation on the state of mobile, where it's going, and where we might want to strategize our efforts. His presentation was only 53 minutes long. I've watched it twice, and I was even there in attendance (it's really that good).

WHO: Jason Grigsby
Jason Grigsby was one of the project leads on the Obama iPhone Application and helped design the user inferface for the Wall Street Journal's Blackberry application. He founded and organizes Mobile Portland, a local mobile group.

Jason is a co-founder of Cloud Four, a small start-up focused on mobile and web development. He blogs at http://CloudFour.com/blog and provides a frequent updates about mobile as @grigs on Twitter.

TOPIC: The Market, The Web, and Windows Phone's Future
There are few things more frustrating than reading the tech press in the United States try to cover the mobile market. First Microsoft’s mobile efforts are going nowhere. Six months later, it will be bigger than the iPhone by 2015. Say what?

Let's back up for a moment from the day-to-day horse race coverage of Android versus iPhone and look at what the big picture trends are in the mobile market. What makes mobile unique? What makes a mobile product successful? And finally does Microsoft have a chance to get back into the mobile game?

Mobile: The Market, The Web, and Windows Phone's Future from Portland Silverlight User Group on Vimeo.

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | PDXSLUG | wp7dev | Mobile | Mobile Web

Windows Phone "Mango" Hackathon (7/18)

The Portland Windows Phone User Group will be having our July meeting on Monday the 18th. For our next meeting we’re using a hack-a-thon format.  It will be a full afternoon of creating, hacking, and helping you with your apps for Windows Phone “Mango”. Details are below, look forward to seeing you there!

FYI, I have three devices which have “Mango” installed to help you test your apps.


WHAT: PWPUG - July 2011 Meeting

WHEN: Monday, 7/18/2011
11:30 a.m. Lunch / Networking
12:00 p.m. Presentation on new “Mango” Features
1:00 p.m. Hackathon, Demos, Help with Apps
4:30 p.m. Wrap up & giveaways

WHERE: Microsoft PacWest Office (map)
1414 NW Northrup St
Portland, OR 97209-2798

WHO: Kelly White
Kelly White is a Windows Phone Development MVP and has a passion for startups and ideas that can change the world. Kelly co-founded both the Portland Silverlight User Group and Portland Windows Phone User Group with Erik Mork. Kelly presents regularly at User Groups and Code Camps throughout the Pacific Northwest on Silverlight and Windows Phone 7 Development.

TOPIC: Windows Phone 7 Hack-a-thon
This event is follow-on from the Windows Phone 7 Unleashed Events that were held last fall.  The format is less structured, and more hands-on.  Whether you need help developing, architecting, pricing, integrating ads, or are just getting started, this is the place to be.  Our primary goal is to help you get ready for when “Mango” apps can be published to the marketplace later this fall.  We’re happy to share lessons learned from our own experiences (e.g. Alchemy, RunPee).  If you find yourself to have been inspired by MIX and just want to get together and hack a cool app, we’re more than happy to jump in and help you with that as well.

NOTE: Devices will be available for testing your apps.

If you are new and want to learn, then this is the place to be.

Sponsors: While you are at it, consider visiting our premium sponsors that make these meetings possible:

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | wp7dev | PWPUG | XNA

Time to Stop Whining About Silverlight vs HTML5

People who know me know that I love Silverlight.  Just ask my wife or my 10 year-old daughter.  Ask any of my previous employers whom I consistently begged to let me use the technology to solve their problems.  I was there at MIX07 when Silverlight was first announced and I changed my life and bet big on this technology.  I started the PDXUX.Net User Group right after MIX07.  In 2009 Erik Mork helped me migrate that group into the Portland Silverlight User Group.  We worked with Microsoft and got a busload of 40+ user group members up to the Silverlight Firestarter event last December.  Like others, I started my own Silverlight consulting company.  I aspired to one day be awarded as a Microsoft MVP in Silverlight (yeah, that never happened).  I now create apps and games for the Windows Phone using Silverlight.  I have absolutely no regrets with how I've integrated Silverlight into my life.  Why should I?  Silverlight will continue to be a big part of my life.

Now, before you read any further you need to go watch this video where Mike Angiulo shows off Windows 8 and talks about what's coming in hardware (majority of the video) and hints at what is available for apps (29:40 in video).

I don't know about you, but after watching that video I am super excited about the opportunities coming in Windows 8.  I mean, seriously, how can you watch that video and not be excited?  Did you watch the video?  GO WATCH THE VIDEO!  Please.  :)

Let's be clear here, I'm aware that Microsoft's favorite new catchphrase is "hardware accelerated HTML".  They aren't mentioning Silverlight very much when it comes to Windows 8.  Meh, whatever.  I'm assuming Microsoft is trying to speak to non-Microsoft devs and get their attention.  Good for them.  That doesn't alienate me as a Silverlight developer.  However, this change in language is starting to pique my interest.  I mean, what if they are actually trying to speak to me?  Are they hinting at something new that I could benefit from?

Now I'm intrigued.  I rode the crest of the wave with Silverlight.  Now that I know there will be a Windows 8 app store, I want to make sure I'm at the forefront of whatever is Windows 8.  If that means learning HTML5 and CSS3, then I'm totally willing to invest that time.  I've already picked up a couple books and am reading those now.  I'm encouraging you to do the same.  Don't whine to me about having too much to learn (e.g. what's new in Mango, as well as XNA).  We're all smart people here and we studied multiple subjects while in college.  If you want to take advantage of all the opportunities in Windows 8 then you'll need to invest the time in HTML5/CSS3/Javascript now.

Also, don't whine to me and say "I did HTML+Javascript 'X' number of years ago and it didn't work then so why should I go back?"  Horse shit.  You haven't done HTML+Javascript with the tools/standards/language support/browser support that we have now, not to mention the tooling that will be announced at BUILD.  That–my friend–is a total game changer.

Honestly, it's time to stop whining and start learning.  You remember all the cynics back when Silverlight was first announced?  You remember how hard it was to get your boss to let you do a project in Silverlight back then?  You remember how it seemed they would say anything to fight this new technology?  Do you realize that is exactly who you have turned into?

Opportunity, my friends, it's all about opportunity.  That's exactly why I am attending BUILD, and exactly why you also need to attend.  If you decide to stay home and remain ignorant then you will be increasing my odds of success (I'll have fewer competitors).  But I'm a community guy and I run user groups and I try to help those around me.  All I'm saying is you need to take a hard and honest look at this and think about what this could mean to your future.  When .NET came on the scene there were plenty of VB6 developers who chose to pass on the opportunity before them and were slower in their adoption.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Just be honest with yourself about realize what this could potentially mean to you.

I know I'm going to be doing Silverlight development for a long time.  It will take a while for Windows 8 to ship, and even after it does ship, Silverlight will still be a large part of how we do application development.  Sure there will be HTML5/Javascript apps, but if you think that Silverlight doesn't play any part in the future of Windows 8, or with the Windows 8 app store, then YOU ARE INSANE.  I don't have any secret information, no one does yet.  However I'm continuing to bet heavily on the future of Silverlight, and I'm learning HTML5/CSS3 to expand my opportunities with whatever is announced at BUILD.

My recommendation for you is to do exactly the same.

tags: Silverlight | HTML5 | BUILD

Making Money with WP7

I gave a presentation at Portland Code Camp on my Alchemy game for Windows Phone 7.  The game has been live for about 2 months.  I was very transparent with my numbers and my experience in trying out different pricing strategies.  I talked about the challenges of maintaining a mobile app, and what process I went through when I found I needed to do an immediate rollback.  I've also made the slide decks used in this presentation available for download (presentation, alchemy case study).  Hopefully you find this interesting.

Making Money With WP7 from Silvertail Software on Vimeo.

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | wp7dev | Portland Code Camp | Alchemy

Portland Code Camp 2011 - Recap

Earlier this month I participated in the Portland Code Camp.  Talk about an awesome event, over 500 attendees showed up and participated on what turned out to be the first non-rainy Saturday in months.  While many of them could have instead been partying at the beach they instead choose to focus on their professional lives in both teaching and learning from others.  Each year I am completely amazed by the dedication of the technical and professional communities here in Portland, Oregon.

Originally I was scheduled for just 2 sessions, but I did finally end up speaking in 3.  I wound up filling in at the last minute for a speaker who became sick.

In the first session I had about 30 people and we talked about the importance of UX in your mobile applications.  None of the crowd had really seen Windows Phone 7, so I spent a lot of time talking about it and what is new in Mango.  I then talked about some of the UX paradigms and how those can be translated over to over platforms (e.g. Live Tiles -> Widgets in Android).  We spent a while talking about the importance of push notifications and why you need them.  While I had a slant of what works in Windows Phone 7, really the discussion was about the general UX paradigms and how you can build a more engaging mobile experience regardless of what platform you choose.

My second session was on Making Money with Windows Phone 7.  That session was recorded and the slide decks are also available for you to download (see my other post).

My last session of the day was sitting in on a panel with Walt Ritscher, Bill Moore, and Joe McBride.  We had a blast talking about how UI/UX is changing because of mobile, kinect, and html5.  It was a very well rounded crowd, with most people coming from a background of using a non-Microsoft web stack.

Final Thoughts

One observation I took away from code camp is that really we're all in this together regardless of what our technological background is, and what unites and excites all of us is creating these engaging and immersive user experiences.  At the end of the day it's all about UX, as that's the language that each of us speaks and understands.  With this perspective it really makes the "silverlight vs html5 / silverlight is dead" discussions seem like trivial, petty, and entirely useless conversations.  The technology isn't what matters, it's the human element or what we commonly refer to as the User Experience (UX).

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | wp7dev | Portland Code Camp | mango

Speaking at Mobile Portland - Recap

During the end of April I was able to share a 10 minute presentation for Mobile Portland on my Alchemy game.  I did a small demo and spent most of my time sharing actual numbers from the success I was seeing.  You can watch the presentation below.  I was the 4th of 5 speakers and start at 46:20.  My goal was to create a “successful” game in Silverlight and be able to use that as a case study for why developers should consider writing apps for the Windows Phone platform.

Mobile Demolicious, April Mobile Portland from Mobile Portland on Vimeo.

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | wp7dev | Alchemy | Mobile Portland

Windows Phone 7 Unleashed Portland - (5/6)

All Day (10 hours) of Hands on Programming, B.Y.O. Laptop!

Windows Phone 7 is HOT! Come check out Windows Phone 7 Unleashed for everything you need to know to develop for WP7. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or you’re just starting with .NET development, there’s something in it for you.

The first half of this deep dive event is lecture and hands on lab. At the half point mark of the day, you’ll have a solid foundation for building WP7 applications.

The second half of the day is going straight to code.

Build the best app and win a $500 (1st place), $200 (2nd place) or $100 (3rd place) American Express gift card!

Free MarketPlace tokens for those putting their application into the marketplace (a limited supply of these, organizers of each event will collect names and we will distribute)

Telerik is sponsoring a $5,000.00 Grand Prize for the best application over all of the WP7 Unleashed events that are submitted to marketplace. The top 25 will be selected and then one of the top 25 will be randomly picked for the prize (So get your app into the marketplace after the event). They are also giving EVERY attendee a free set of their $99.00 WP7 Controls.

PDSA, Inc. is pleased to sponsor the WP7 Unleashed Events. They will be giving 2 lucky winners from each event a chance to win four 1 hour long videos on Silverlight. In addition 1 lucky person will win our Haystack Code Generator for .NET at each event that allows you to create the business and data classes and the WCF services that can be consumed by Windows Phone 7 applications!

O’Reilly will be giving away a free ebook to every attendee (Many WP7 titles) and will also donate a few books to raffle at each event.

Food and Drink (Water, Sodas) will be provided.

In order to deliver the best possible experience for attendees, seating at these events is VERY limited. Register now!

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | wp7dev | XNA

Windows Phone 7 Hackathon (4/29)

The hackathon held on Monday was a success, especially for having such a short notice. Many folks expressed an interest in having a follow-up hackathon at the end of this month, so that's what we're going to do.

Reminder: Anyone who publishes an XNA game to the marketplace will get a sweet XNA jacket (already gave one out on Monday).

To help us plan for food, please visit our Facebook Page to let us know if you're attending.

WHAT: Windows Phone 7 Hackathon

WHEN: Friday, 4/29/2011
11:30 a.m. Lunch / Networking
12:00 p.m. Hackathon, Demos, Help with Apps
4:30 p.m. Wrap up & giveaways

WHERE: Microsoft PacWest Office (map)
1414 NW Northrup St
Portland, OR 97209-2798

DETAILS: This event is follow-on from the Windows Phone 7 Unleashed Events that were held last fall. The format is less structured, and more hands-on. Whether you need help developing, architecting, pricing, integrating ads, or are just getting started, this is the place to be. Our primary goal is to help you get your app ready and submitted to the marketplace. We’re happy to share lessons learned from our own experiences (e.g. Alchemy and Soak Your Head). If you find yourself to have been inspired by MIX and just want to get together and hack a cool app, we’re more than happy to jump in and help you with that as well.

This is the place to be, whether you're new and want to learn, or want the latest info on what's coming in the "Mango" release.

NOTE: Devices will be available for testing your apps.
NOTE: A light lunch and snacks will be provided.

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | wp7dev | PWPUG | XNA

Windows Phone 7 Hackathon (4/18)

To help us plan for food, please visit our Facebook Page to let us know if you're attending.

WHAT: Windows Phone 7 Hackathon

WHEN: Monday, 4/18/2011
11:30 a.m. Lunch / Networking
12:00 p.m. Hackathon, Demos, Help with Apps
4:30 p.m. Wrap up & giveaways

WHERE: Microsoft PacWest Office (map)
1414 NW Northrup St
Portland, OR 97209-2798

DETAILS: This event is follow-on from the Windows Phone 7 Unleashed Events that were held last fall. The format is less structured, and more hands-on. Whether you need help developing, architecting, pricing, integrating ads, or are just getting started, this is the place to be. Our primary goal is to help you get your app ready and submitted to the marketplace. We’re happy to share lessons learned from our own experiences (e.g. Alchemy and Soak Your Head). If you find yourself to have been inspired by MIX and just want to get together and hack a cool app, we’re more than happy to jump in and help you with that as well.

This is the place to be, whether you're new and want to learn, or want the latest info on what's coming in the "Mango" release.

NOTE: Devices will be available for testing your apps.
NOTE: A light lunch and snacks will be provided.

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | wp7dev | PWPUG | XNA

MIX Day Two Keynote - My thoughts on what to expect

Yesterday at MIX11 the keynote featured IE9, what’s coming in IE10, and the HTML5 strategy.  Yawn.  I’ll concede that Microsoft made the right move in not mentioning Silverlight at all.  This is “browser wars 2.0”, and nothing matters but the browser.  The browser is more important that Silverlight or even Windows Phone, I get that.  But that doesn’t mean that I have to be excited about it.  Moving on…

Obviously today’s keynote will be focusing on Silverlight 5 and what’s coming next for Windows Phone 7.  We got a preview of what to expect during the Silverlight Firestarter last December, and during Mobile World Congress earlier this year.  I consider it to be very significant that for the first time in MIX history, Silverlight doesn’t have to share the stage with MVC, Atlas/JQuery/Javascript, or whatever else they want to cram into the keynote.

I’m excited to see what new phone features and APIs get announced today.  For musicians their sophomore album is really important in identifying who they are and where they’re going.  I think this same “long view perspective” should be taken with Windows Phone.  With that said, what I’m really hoping to hear about are not the new features on the phone, but what changes they are making to the marketplace submission process.  I’m definitely spending way too much time in what should be a simple task of submitting an update.  C’mon guys, throw me a bone here.

So what won’t be announced or hinted at today.  How about the tablet/slate strategy?  We already got a preview of that yesterday when Sinofsky showed his version of IE9 (or was it IE10?) running on an ARM processor.  The reaction was almost absolute silence in the audience, because most people had their mouths wide open and were thinking “Holy Shit!”  That was totally cool.  I’m expecting that to be a huge part of PDC later this year.  Wow.

One last thing I want to say, and hopefully I don’t get in trouble for mentioning this:

At MVP Summit we got the chance to listen to Steve Ballmer.  I really like Steve, I always have.  For the last year Steve has been slammed with questions over how Microsoft is going to respond to the iPad.  Microsoft is being quiet about their strategy and keeping their cards close to their chest.  I’m sure many shareholders appreciate this, I know I would.  However, the developers (at large) seem to think that because Microsoft isn’t telling them what they’re working on, then Microsoft obviously must not be working on it.  It seems like this type of attitude permeates the MVP community and is even championed by some of the press.  This attitude frustrates me to no end.

The Apple community doesn’t get to know jack-shit about what is being worked on or will soon be released.  Yet everyone in that community trusts Apple to do the right thing, and to innovate in such a way that will change their lives instantly and for the better.  Why can’t the Microsoft developer community (and MVPs) have that same mindset and trust for Microsoft?  Just because Steve Ballmer isn’t announcing what Microsoft is working on right now (e.g. a slate strategy) doesn’t mean that they aren’t paying attention and that they’re not actively working on it.  I mean, come on, this is just way too obvious and they’d be crazy not to be targeting on it.  A little trust goes a long ways.  Believe me, it’s a lot more fun (and healthy) to hope and believe, and to be excited and surprised rather than to be an untrusting cynic.  Deep breaths…

I hope you’re as excited as I am for today’s keynote.  It feels as though it were Christmas morning and I’m getting ready to open a present that was sent to me personally from Steve Ballmer and Joe Belfiore.  Awesome!!!

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | MIX11

2011 will be a big year for PDXSLUG

As many of you know, late in 2009 Erik Mork and I started the Portland Silverlight User Group.  Since then we've had amazing success.  The average monthly meeting attendance is 50+ (that includes many at 80+, and even a Friday night event with 25).

I’m sure all of you remember the buzz surrounding Silverlight 4 last year.  Because of the advancements in Silverlight 4 we saw the overall adoption rate continue to grow.  However, what's really significant was the huge wave of adoption in utilizing Silverlight for intranet LOB applications behind the firewall.  That story is only getting better with the new features coming in Silverlight 5.  One feature that excites me is the new hardware accelerated 3D graphics support.  This has huge potential.  One of the demos Microsoft showed off was a health care application where layers of a body could be stripped away showing skin, muscles, bones, organs, and even a beating heart.  Wow.

Needless to say, we’re expecting this to be a huge year for the Portland Silverlight User Group.  Erik – who is also a Silverlight MVP – will be presenting at our next meeting, which coincidentally is the day of the keynote at Microsoft’s MIX conference (4/12).  That will be a big day, and we’re expecting a large crowd.

We're currently scheduling all our meetings for the remainder of the year, and we're looking for speakers on the following topics:

  • MEF (getting started / strategies)
  • MVVM Light
  • Advanced MVVM
  • Strategies for LOB applications
  • Best Practices for OOB Applications
  • Case Studies (e.g. Health Care Application Demo)
  • Expression Blend Tips and Tricks
  • 3D Support in Silverlight 5 (late fall)

Also, please let me know if you're interested in sponsoring the user group.  All sponsorship opportunities are available (including pizza sponsorship) and are described in our sponsorship agreement.

tags: Silverlight | PDXSLUG

Jeff Paries on Farseer Physics in Silverlight

Jeff Paries, Silverlight MVP and author, presented two weeks ago at the Portland Silverlight User Group on using the Farseer Physics Engine in Silverlight. This was an amazing presentation. I was blown away by what could be accomplished just by wiring up behaviors in Expression Blend. It's as simple as drag and drop, really.

NOTE: We're now recording each PDXSLUG meeting, so if you ever miss one you can check it out http://vimeo.com/pdxslug.

Farseer Physics in Microsoft Silverlight from Portland Silverlight User Group.

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | PDXSLUG | physics | farseer

March PDXSLUG Meeting - (3/8)

WHAT: PDXSLUG - March 2011 Meeting

WHEN: Tuesday, 3/8/2011
6:00 p.m. Pizza (by Vertigo)
6:30 p.m. Presentation
~9:00 p.m. Afterwards at Rock Bottom

WHERE: Webtrends (map)
851 SW 6th Ave.
Portland, OR 97204-1337

WHO: Jeff Paries
Jeff Paries is the Lead Silverlight Developer with Ascentium.

Jeff has a strong background in 3D graphics and animation, and is also an accomplished author and instructor in those areas — he has authored several books and numerous magazine articles related to 3D.

An early adopter of Silverlight, Jeff’s interests lie in developing animation concepts and methodologies within Silverlight. As a developer with design experience, Jeff’s mission is to help bridge the gap between design and development. His book, “Foundation Silverlight Animation” works to further this goal through a user-friendly, scenario-based approach.

TOPIC: Farseer Physics in Microsoft Silverlight
The Farseer Physics Engine is an easy to use 2D physics engine that supports a range of platforms, including Silverlight and XNA. There is a set of Expression Blend Behaviors that can easily be used by simple drag and drop to turn objects into physics objects. The Behaviors are available for both Silverlight and Windows Phone 7. Come and learn how to utilize the Farseer behaviors to create physics simulations, simple games, etc. Also, see how to access physics objects from the code-behind.

Warmup - Using Isolated Storage in WP7
At the beginning of the meeting (6pm) Gary Foubister will be demonstrating how to save and read data from Windows Phone 7 Isolated Storage.

Sponsors: While you are at it, consider visiting our premium sponsors that make these meetings possible:

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | PDXSLUG

MIX11 - Early Bird Registration

The last day for MIX11 early bird registration is this Friday (2/11/2011).

This early bird discount is not insignificant (contrasted to the $100 early bird discount to Google IO).  You'll save $500 on your conference pass ($1395 becomes $895), as well as receive one free night's stay at the Mandalay Bay when you book 2 or more nights through MIX.  Those saving alone make it worth going a day early to attend the workshops.

I've blogged previously on why I'm attending MIX11.  If you do decide to attend, then I highly recommend you make the effort to also attend the workshops.  I'll be sitting in on John Papa and Mike Taulty's Silverlight Boot Camp, as well as Adam Kinney and Grant Hinkson's Windows Phone 7 Boot Camp.

Hopefully I'll see you there!

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | MIX11

February PDXSLUG Meeting - (2/8)

WHAT: PDXSLUG - February 2011 Meeting

WHEN: Tuesday, 2/8/2011
6:00 p.m. Pizza (by Vertigo)
6:30 p.m. Presentation
~9:00 p.m. Afterwards at Rock Bottom

WHERE: Webtrends (map)
851 SW 6th Ave.
Portland, OR 97204-1337

WHO: George Clingerman
George isn't really much of anyone. George is just a family guy who loves to play around with game development in his spare time. He's not an expert and he's no professional, but he has fun and he's been awarded the Microsoft XNA MVP award for his contributions to that community for the past five years.

By day George is a coder, he used to do .NET but recently switched it up and now works out of a Linux shop doing Perl development just to see if he could (they haven't fired him yet so he seems to be catching on quickly!).

While George is busy having fun with XNA he runs a small tutorial site called XNADevelopment.com, helps out on the App Hub forums, manages a blog on GeeksWithBlogs, wrote an Xbox LIVE Indie Game for small children and recently just wrapped up a book for Wiley called Professional Windows Phone 7 Game Development: Creating Games using XNA Game Studio 4 which just goes to show you they'll ask just about anyone to write a book.

TOPIC: WP7 & XNA - Because all developers want to be game developers right?
It's rumored that Windows Phone 7 allows you to develop applications using Silverlight (you've heard those rumors right?) but did you know there's another powerful framework available for the phone? A framework that provides a way for many to fulfill a life long dream? With the XNA framework .NET developers can finally quickly and easily build games not just for the PC and for the Xbox 360 but also for Windows Phone 7! Finally, you can look your childhood self in the eye, the one that sat doodling in math classes dreaming of someday making a game like Pong but even better, pull out your WP7 device and show past you the XNA game you wrote while nodding your head sagely saying, "That's right past me, future us rocks!"

Come learn how you can fulfill your dreams with a quick introduction to the XNA framework and the basics of getting started with simple 2D game development.

Warmup - Programming against the Game Loop
At the beginning of the meeting (6pm) George Clingerman will present some of the challenges business developers have learning to program against the game loop among other topics he's sure to babble on about.

Sponsors: While you are at it, consider visiting our premium sponsors that make these meetings possible:

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | PDXSLUG | XNA

Opportunities for Mobile in Education

Last August I attended the Mobile Portland User Group and was completely blown away by what I heard.  The topic that night was a panel discussion on Mobile in Education (announcement / recap and slides).  Since that night I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it (it’s been almost six months now).  Be warned, I have a lot of strong opinions on this topic.  Hopefully we can all stay friends after you’ve read this.

Rather than me summarizing what I heard, I recommend you watch the discussion for yourself.  You don’t have to watch the whole thing, but at a minimum you should listen to what Joseph Morelock had to say.  Joe is the Director of Technology and Innovation for the Canby School District (South of Portland).  He talks from 19:25 - 31:55 in the video below (12 minutes).

Mobile in Education, August 2010 from Mobile Portland.

Here’s some additional links Joe provided during his presentation:

Another interesting piece of news, earlier this year the New York City public schools system ordered over 2,000 iPads for use in their schools (article).  No matter how you look at it, Mobile is becoming a large part of education and Apple is leading the charge.

Thoughts as a Parent

Kaitlyn on iPod Touch I have four kids whose ages are 10, 6, 4, and 2 years old.  Our family has a plethora of electronic devices, you name it and we’ve got it.  Out of all those devices, my kids choose to use the iPads and iPod Touches.  Consequently I’ve loaded up these devices with apps specific for my children.  I trust my kids 100% with those devices.  As a parent I love that these iDevices are locked down.  No installing apps without my permission.  No clicking a link and installing a virus.  My kids don’t use the browser, in fact they don’t even know it exists.  Sure, things are simple now and will get more complicated as they get older, but the point is that because of these devices I don’t have to worry about any of those things, period.

Joe’s discussion of how he is putting an iPod Touch in the hands of every 3rd grade kid in the school district really resonated with me.  I watch my four year old daughter use an iPod Touch and am completely blown away.  I see my two year old pick up the iPad and start to use it and am utterly amazed.  These little girls hunger for knowledge, they will be such a good students, I have such high hopes and dreams for them.

Now let’s talk about what is happening in my school district here in Hillsboro, Oregon.  We are the 4th largest school district in the state, and with current projected budget cuts we’re going to be somewhere between $19 million to $25 million short for next school year.  It costs roughly $500k to run the school district for one day, which means one option could be that the school year is two months shorter next year.  Honestly, I’m starting to envision a time where public schooling may no longer be provided.  I’m beginning to wonder if it is time to start home-schooling my children.  Suddenly I may find myself to be the school teacher with the iDevices looking for apps to complement my children’s learning.

Thoughts as an iOS Developer

Anyone who knows me also knows how much I love to talk about this topic and the possibilities it brings.  I am super excited about the opportunity for app development in this space.  The demand here is really taking off, in fact that is a key reason why Apple made changes last year to allow educational institutions to purchase iOS apps at volume discounts (App Store Volume Purchase Program).

I believe this opportunity is almost exclusive to the iOS platform.  While the Galaxy tablet is a great form factor, it is way too cost-prohibitive (vs iPod Touch).  You also can’t ignore the fact that the quality of apps in the Android marketplace is utter crap.  Why should teachers waste their time on that platform when there is already a well-established ecosystem and community surrounding Apple?  Don’t give me the argument about Android being “open” that you heard from your Verizon rep.  Free does not equal quality and this is an instance where quality is of utmost importance.

Thoughts as a .NET Developer

I used to be looking forward to seeing Microsoft’s response in this space.  I had been communicating my thoughts to a couple different people at Microsoft since August of last year.  I had hoped they would have passed it on up the chain and eventually Ballmer would hear my plea.  I was hoping for something along the lines of a ZuneHD that competes with the iPod Touch and can run apps downloaded from the WP7 Marketplace.  Perhaps even a WP7-like tablet, the important part being that there is a Marketplace I can submit apps to and where users can download my apps.  Yeah, I’m pretty sure my idea is nothing more than a fool’s wish.

I now wonder if Microsoft doesn’t have a strategy for Mobile in Education.  After CES I can’t help but think Microsoft’s goal is to focus on Windows and let the hardware vendors fight with Apple over the education space.  I mean, isn’t that the tablet strategy that Ballmer unveiled during his keynote?  Microsoft will focus on Windows and let the hardware vendors focus on building tablets that run Windows.  That’s the idea, right?  The problem is, who the hell is building the marketplace?  I refuse to trust the hardware vendors with that idea.  Come on Steve, the industry is moving to an app-centered world, don’t you get it?

Could Microsoft deliver some new concept that’s not app-centered and blow away Apple and everyone else?  Sure, anything is possible.  But I refuse to bet or bank on it.  Microsoft may rule the enterprise, but once again they are forfeiting the education space.

Don’t get me wrong, I would much rather utilize my partnerships with Microsoft and my strength in Silverlight.  However, my plan for now is to continue implementing all my ideas for educational apps exclusively in iOS.

tags: Silverlight | Mobile | Education | iOS

MIX11 Conference

I was scheduling out the list of PDXSLUG meetings for the new year and just realized that we won't be having our normal meeting in April.  During that month our typical meeting time falls on the first day of Microsoft's MIX11 conference.  I'm sure we'll do a special event later in the month, something informal similar to what we did last year.

MIX MIX is a great conference, and definitely a must-attend if you consider yourself a web developer trying to stay on top of the new technologies coming out of Microsoft.  However, now that Microsoft does stream live both the keynotes and many of the sessions, as well as making the keynotes and all sessions available for viewing later (stream/download), you may be wondering why you should pay to attend this conference.  Will you get a phone or any "good" swag?  Probably not, as historically the MIX swag pretty much sucks.  Although one year we did all get copies of Vista and Expression Suite 1.0, but then again, that was Vista and not Windows 7.

Unless I have tickets to watch the NCAA Basketball tournament then I'm always attending MIX in person.  That's the way it's always been and I imagine that's how it will stay.  Why?  Why pay to attend when I can watch the content for free?  I've previously blogged my reasons for attending conferences.  Interestingly enough, swag does play an important part in this decision, especially this year.  The bottom line is I don't go for the sessions, I go for everything else.

MIX11 registration hasn't opened up yet, but it will soon (late January).  If you register by February 11 then you'll save $500 on your conference pass, and receive one free night hotel when you book two or more nights at the Mandalay Bay.  That's a great deal, and please don't proscratinate and miss out on it.  Be sure to join the MIX email newsletter and be among the first to learn about open registration, special offers, speakers and technical content for this year’s event.

MIX11 Event Details

When:

April 12-14, 2001
MIX Boot Camps on April 11

Where:

Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

Cost: Full Price Conference Pass - $1395
MIX Boot Camps - $295

 

Hopefully I'll see you there.  Make sure to register for the workshops, otherwise you're wasting the whole trip (IMHO).

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | MIX11

Silverlight Firestarter / Bus Trip - Recap

I’ll be the first to admit that this post is a little late coming, but honestly it’s taken a while for me to absorb everything and recover from that event.  I think everything can be summed up in one word, WOW.

Mini-MIX Conference

I was joking beforehand that I thought the Silverlight Firestarter would be like a miniature MIX conference.  If you ask me now, then I’ll tell you that’s exactly what this event turned out to be.  The swag was almost identical to what you’d get at MIX.  Meh.  The people were a smaller subset, but all the core players were there (e.g. Rick Barazza and Mike Wolf weren’t there, but Dave Wolf did an awesome job representing for the rest of Cynergy).  Scott Stanfield was there, as were a bunch of the folks out of Vertigo’s Portland office (they came up on the bus).  I was a little surprised that Vertigo didn’t have a demo in the keynote, although to be fair, the keynote did seem to focus on line-of-business scenarios.  As far as folks from Microsoft, everyone was there that you would have expected.

Keynote

Scott Guthrie hit it out of the park.  Please watch the keynote now if you haven’t already.  I absolutely loved that the first thing Scott did was address the “elephant in the room”.  No, Silverlight is not dead.  Not even close.  Scott talked about three technology pillars that Microsoft is focusing on (HTML5, Silverlight, WPF).  Every developer out there should take note that this is what they should be focusing on now as it will easily carry them for the next 5 years and most likely beyond.

There were lots of cool demos about what’s coming in Silverlight 5.  You should note that this is only what Microsoft was ready to show right now.  I’m expecting more announcements and demos at MIX about stuff they haven’t even hinted at yet.  I’m also expecting to see a beta version of Silverlight 5 at MIX11.  I think Scott Guthrie hinted at that when he announced the timeframe.  I’m very comfortable with the fact that Microsoft won’t be releasing Silverlight 5 until late 2011, probably at PDC11.  This is going to be a huge release for Silverlight.  In order for us developers to be ready when it comes we need to first get cracking on Silverlight 4 right now.  Seriously.  Go buy Pete's book and start reading it either today or tomorrow, but make sure you get it finished before MIX11.

Networking

This whole event felt very similar to MIX.  I spent a lot of time catching up with folks and meeting new faces.  The Silverlight community is fairly small and easy to be a part of.  It’s a very welcoming community.  In think the coolest part of it is just that, it’s a community.  I don’t see there being groups within groups, i.e. a super-elite group that is hard to break into.  Everyone is very approachable and happy to help you out.  At PDC10 I got to talk to a lot of people.  This time around I got to talk to even more.

Bus Trip

Ahhh, the bus trip.  Each time I think of it I just shake my head and can’t believe it actually happened.  I don’t know of any other company that would charter a bus for a user group to bring 40 of its members up for a full day of technology training.  I’m still surprised that it actually happened.  A huge thanks goes out to John Papa and Brian Goldfarb for having the vision and for being so kind.  We had 45 people registered for the bus trip, of which 38 showed up at 4:30am.  That’s completely unheard of, especially for a free event.  Typically the drop off rate for a free event is like 30%, and we had less than 20%.  Time after time, I am utterly amazed at the support and turnout we get from the Portland Silverlight community.  Scott Stanfield mentioned to Erik Mork and I that we have something special and unique here.  I agree.  Hopefully I can capture and share whatever that is so this success can be experienced elsewhere.

Final Thoughts

Watch the keynote.  Silverlight is not dead, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  If there is any way you can attend MIX11 in person, then I recommend you take advantage of that opportunity.  At the very least, be sure to watch the MIX11 keynote live as well as many of the sessions.  The three technology pillars you should be focusing on now are Silverlight, WPF, and HTML5.  Be open minded and start learning all three.

 

tags: Silverlight | PDXSLUG | SLFS10

Firestarter Bus - Swag for First 40 on the Bus

I blogged earlier about the free bus ride from Portland to Redmond for the upcoming Silverlight Firestarter.    We'll be leaving at 5am sharp and don't want to leave anyone behind, so the question is how do I motivate you to wake up early so you don't miss the bus?  How about we give away swag for the first 40 people to show up and get on the bus?  Consider it done!

The bus ride is sponsored by Microsoft, the Portland Silverlight User Group, and the Portland Windows Phone User Group.

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | PDXSLUG | PWPUG | SLFS10

Why Choose Silverlight

Lot's can be, has been, and will continue to be said on this topic.  Here's some thoughts I recently came up with.

Why Choose Silverlight

Silverlight’s primary appeal is in developing and deploying modern business applications for both internal and external scenarios on both sides of the firewall.

Supported Operating Systems

  • Windows
  • Mac OSX
  • Linux (via Moonlight from Novell)

Supported Browsers

  • Internet Explorer
  • Firefox
  • Safari
  • Chrome

Installation Base

RIA Stats is the defacto standard for Silverlight usage statistics across the internet (http://riastats.com/).  While Silverlight does not exist on as many machines when compared with Flash, the upgrade story is significantly different.  When Microsoft decides to “flip the switch” and release an update for the plugin, within two weeks we can see that 90% of the existing user base has been upgraded.

Silverlight Usage Statistics

Features

  • Extensive tooling support with Visual Studio and Expression Blend
  • Copy/paste and drag-and-drop support
  • Comprehensive printing support
  • Localization enhancements including bidirectional text, right-to-left support
  • Webcam and microphone capture support
  • IIS Smooth-streaming video support
  • Silverlight DRM powered by PlayReady
  • Hardware acceleration for Deep Zoom
  • Multi-touch gesture support
  • Multicast networking and polling duplex support
  • XAP signing and verification

Out of Browser Capabilities (OOB)

  • Desktop popup or toast notifications
  • Offline DRM
  • Network connectivity detection
  • Increased Isolated Storage Capacity

Additional Features for Trusted Applications (OOB)

  • Read/write to My Documents, My Music, My Pictures and My Videos folder (or equivalent for non-Windows platforms)
  • COM automation access to devices (e.g. USB security card reader)
    • Note: COM support only works in Windows
  • Cross-domain network access no longer needs a security policy file

Evaluating Silverlight

Silverlight is the natural choice for building business applications on the web.  The tooling and platform support cannot be beat.  I’ve talked with various companies in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho who all mention that it’s easier to find developers who know C# and can quickly learn Silverlight, rather finding Flex developers.

Because Silverlight is also the development model on the Windows Phone 7 platform, companies who leverage Silverlight can easily enter the mobile market without having to train or hire new developers.

There are many scenarios where it makes sense not to use Silverlight.  For example, ads must reach as many users as possible.  Thus we see zero ads in HTML5, almost no ads built in Silverlight, some ads built in Flash, but most built as static images.  If a technology is chosen to deliver an experience and the user does not have this technology then additional costs must be incurred to support a “graceful degradation”.

Ultimately the choice of whether to choose Silverlight for a specific project will also include outside factors.  Some of those factors will have nothing to do with how Silverlight compares against Flash.  Listed below are questions that I use when determining whether to choose Silverlight for a specific project.

  • Will the app be living inside or outside the firewall?
  • Does IT control over what is installed on the user’s machine?
  • Who will be using the app?
    • What is the likelihood that Silverlight is already installed on their machine?
    • Is the user averse to installing a new plugin?
    • Can the user be compelled to happily spend 30 seconds to install Silverlight?
      (examples below)
      • Membership service (e.g. Netflix)
      • Premium content (e.g. Olympics, NBC Sunday Night Football)
  • What technology is the team already familiar with?
  • How long will the application need to be maintained?
  • What features are required for future versions of the app?
  • Does the app require features that are only available in Silverlight?

Conclusion

Obviously there is a ramp-up period where teams must learn the tools, framework, and controls to become proficient in Silverlight.  Once they’ve learned the technology I’ve found that most teams are able to create apps in Silverlight faster than in Flash or HTML5.  The increase in productivity is primarily because of the tools and language support provided by Microsoft.  How must faster?  I recently saw one app which originally took four weeks that was rebuilt using Silverlight in only two weeks.

Normally I would not recommend rewriting an existing Flash app in Silverlight.  Rewrites of existing software are expensive.  The best time to switch an app from Flash to Silverlight is when an update is already scheduled where a rewrite is essentially happening under the covers anyway.

tags: Silverlight

Scott Stanfield on HTML5

Scott Stanfield, CEO of Vertigo presented two weeks ago at the Portland Silverlight User Group on HTML5. We had a packed room with 80+ attendees for this amazing presentation. Scott has a unique perspective on HTML5, having built his company primarily on Silverlight.

NOTE: We're now recording each PDXSLUG meeting, so if you ever miss one you can check it out http://vimeo.com/pdxslug.

Scott Stanfield on HTML5 from Portland Silverlight User Group.

tags: Silverlight | PDXSLUG | HTML5

Firestarter Bus - A Rolling Hackathon

Silverlight Firestarter

I blogged earlier about the upcoming Silverlight Firestarter.  Since that time there's been tons of discussion about the future of Silverlight.  What's super exciting now is that Scott Guthrie will be keynoting the event and talking about the future of Silverlight.  Last week Tim Heuer tweeted that they'll be showing off the next version of Silverlight at this event.

Did you hear that?  Silverlight 5 baby!  Microsoft showing off a preview of it now lines up really nice for having a beta version of Silverlight 5 ready at MIX11.*  Talk about exciting news!  I'm curious if you're still content with just watching this event online, or would you rather attend it in person?

The Portland Silverlight User Group is partnering with Microsoft to charter a bus to drive developers up to Redmod to attend the Silverlight Firestarter in person.

We'll be leaving around 5am (at the latest), and will be getting back around 10pm (at the earliest).  There is no cost to ride the bus.  I've got an inside source telling me wifi might be available.  What a perfect opportunity for a rolling hackathon.  We've got plenty of room, so talk to your boss, get the day off, and we'll go participate in what's starting to feel like a mini-MIX conference.

Register for the bus ride at:
http://slfs10-portland.eventbrite.com/

 

*Disclaimer: I'm not an MVP, I'm not on the insider's list, and I have no inside information.  I'm just a regular guy making observations and calling the shots as I see them.  Don't blame me if the Silverlight 5 beta ships before then.  :)

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | SLFS10

PDC10 - Recap

PDC10

Last week I recorded a show with Erik Mork where we talked about PDC10, the announcements, the content, the activities, and the swag.  One of us may not have sounded too enthused about having attended the conference (you’ll have to listen to find out who).  Last week I also got an email from a friend asking me if I was happy with having attended PDC10.  I’m starting to get the vibe that some folks were disappointed with PDC10.  Here’s my take…

When I walked away from PDC10 I was 100% satisfied.  Why?  I can promise that it’s not because they handed out Windows Phones for each attendee (though that was awfully nice).  First let me say that I attend conferences for a variety of reasons:

  1. Ask-the-expert sessions
    1. One-on-one opportunities to ask questions to team members
  2. Workshops
    1. Often taught by actual team members
  3. Opportunities to participate in user studies
    1. Giving feedback on the technologies that matter most to me
    2. Being the “squeaky wheel”
  4. Networking with other industry professionals
  5. Networking with Microsoft employees
  6. Swag
  7. Be included as part of Justin Angel's entourage
  8. Tweetups
  9. Sessions
  10. Keynote Announcements

When I mention “team members” I’m talking about Microsoft team members.  This would be Joe Stegman, Mike Harsh, Pete Brown, Jesse Liberty, Tim Heuer, John Papa, Shawn Hargreaves, Yochay Kiriaty, Jaime Rodriguez, Clint Rutkas, Karl Shifflett, Scott Hanselman, Phil Haack, Glenn Block, those kinds of team members.  I’m not name-dropping, these are people that I had actual conversations with, and because I’m a “squeaky wheel” they actually know who I am.  These guys are more than happy to answer questions, help you with your app, and help you be successful.  To be fair, Joe Stegman will most likely only remember me as a punk Boise State fan.  Meh.

At PDC10 I stayed a day later and participated in an all-day workshop for Windows Phone 7.  It was a deep dive on tips and tricks from team members.  About half of my time was spent getting answers to questions on apps I’m currently building.  You can listen to me talk about my experience with Jesse Liberty (begins at 6:15).  That extra day of workshops and one-on-one time was the most important thing that happened at PDC10.  During MIX10 I came a day early to participate in the workshops.  Mike Taulty and John Papa did a Silverlight 4 Bootcamp that was absolutely phenomenal.  Seriously, Mike’s opening session was the best Silverlight presentation I’ve ever seen, period.  In my experience, workshops at a Microsoft conference are worth their weight in gold.

You might be surprised to see how high swag is on my list.  Let’s be honest, attending conferences is expensive in both time and money.  Many professionals are trying to maximize their opportunities while remaining platform agnostic and I’m not any different.  That means I’m much more likely to go to a conference such as Adobe MAX where I can get some “bleeding edge” hardware, rather than one that typically hands out nothing (e.g. MIX).  This is playing a huge factor as I’m evaluating what conferences to attend next year.  The question is which conference will give me the best bang for the buck?

Believe it or not, the Silverlight community is fairly small.  The WP7 community is even smaller.  The XNA community is the smallest of all.  Getting out and being a part of these communities is pretty easy.  You’ll find that these are tight knit groups who are more than happy to welcome newcomers.  I’m not going to extol the benefits of networking, but I will say that conferences are the best place to do it.

Let me summarize by saying that I don’t attend conferences for the sessions or the keynote announcements.  Honestly, you shouldn’t attend conferences for those reasons either.  Your boss will be quick to tell you that the sessions are recorded and broadcast for free, and he’s right.  If your primary reasons for attending PDC10 were the sessions and keynotes then it’s no surprise that you were disappointed.  I’d have been disappointed too as there weren’t any “big” announcements.

I attend conferences for everything else, and my advice is that you should do the same.  As the old adage goes, you get out what you put into it.

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | PDC10

State of Silverlight - PDC10

During the PDC10 and the last few days there's been some discussion on the state of Silverlight, and some speculation on what Microsoft may plan on doing with it.  Mary Jo Foley summed it up best:

After I published a blog post last week about Microsoft’s shift in its Silverlight strategy (based on an interview I did at the Professional Developers Conference with Server and Tools President Bob Muglia), there were a lot of concerned and angry Silverlight developers and customers.

Heh, no kidding. Since then a lot has been written on the subject.  Today I shared some of my thoughts with Erik Mork on the Sparkling Client podcast. Listed below are links to the original articles by the key contributors in this story:

More thoughts by key individuals:

Silverlight is not going away, it is and will still be used for the same purposes as before.  Silverlight is the future of application development on mobile devices for the Windows platform.  This discussion has been somewhat interesting, but sadly more just a waste of my time.  I have no desire to speculate or debate this anymore,  Say what you want, I'm very busy doing Silverlight application development for web, desktop, and mobile platforms.

Lastly, please feel free to come to the PDXSLUG meeting on 11/9 and ask Scott Stanfield (CEO of Vertigo) his opinion on the topic (http://portlandsilverlight.net).  He’ll be talking about HTML5 in the context of his company being known predominantly for their amazing work in Silverlight.

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | PDC10

HTML5 Crash Course w/ Scott Stanfield on 11/9

Scott Stanfield will be in town for the next Portland Silverlight User Group meeting and will be talking about HTML5.  Confused?  Don't be.  I'm pretty sure Scott hasn't gone over to the dark side completely, but I've got a list of questions that will help me get to the bottom of this.  (j/k)

I'm expecting a great discussion on why and when to choose HTML5 vs some other plugin architecture (e.g. Flash/Silverlight).  This is a meeting you'll be sure you don't want to miss.

 

WHAT: PDXSLUG - November 2010 Meeting

WHEN: Tuesday, 11/9/2010
6:00 p.m. Pizza (by Vertigo)
6:30 p.m. Presentation
~9:00 p.m. Afterwards at Rock Bottom

WHERE: Webtrends (map)
851 SW 6th Ave.
Portland, OR 97204-1337

WHO: Scott Stanfield
Scott Stanfield is the CEO of Vertigo Software, Inc., a Microsoft Gold Partner specializing in designing and building unique software. Scott is a proud member of the Microsoft Regional Director community and participates in the Microsoft Partner Architect Council. He is a frequent public speaker, keynoting for Microsoft and other industry events. Before starting Vertigo in 1997, Scott worked at Pixar in Point Richmond, California, which happens to be the current home of Vertigo. Scott holds a BS in Computer Science for Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

TOPIC: HTML5 Crash Course
It's been nearly a decade since the last big changes to HTML, which frankly weren't all that interesting. But this time it's different. With all the excitement around the latest features and browsers, it's time to take a closer look, especially if you've been heads-down on Silverlight, like I have been. If you haven't had time to look into the HTML5 family of technologies, it's time to start.

Warmup - Connecting to the Cloud With Windows Phone 7
At the beginning of the meeting (6pm) Gerald Aden will present his strategies for connecting to the cloud with Windows Phone 7.

Sponsors: While you are at it, consider visiting our premium sponsors that make these meetings possible:

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | PDXSLUG | HTML5

Silverlight Firestarter - 12/2

Silverlight Firestarter

Light up your Silverlight skills with the all-new Global Silverlight Firestarter!

December 2, 2010 from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm pacific time — It's completely free!


What is the Silverlight Firestarter?

  • An Event. A one day, global, live streamed and on demand event keynoted by Scott Guthrie.
  • Training. New self-paced labs and walk through videos.
  • Interactive. Watch live and ask the Silverlight product team questions during the event.
  • Why Silverlight? Silverlight is a powerful development platform for creating engaging, interactive user experiences for Web, desktop, and mobile applications when online or offline.

Something for Everyone

  • Just starting out with Silverlight? Watch our On-Ramp sessions to get you started.
  • Already Building business applications? Watch live to improve your skills and understanding.
  • Got questions? Chat with the Silverlight product team live or in person.

Firestarter Live Agenda

Time Presenter Session Details
8:00 am Scott Guthrie  Scott Guthrie Silverlight Firestarter Keynote
9:00 am Yavor Georgiev  Yavor Georgiev /
Jesse Liberty  Jesse Liberty
Building Compelling Apps with WCF Using REST and LINQ for Silverlight and WP7
10:00 am 15 minute break
10:15 am Dan Wahlin  Dan Wahlin Building Feature Rich Business Apps Today with RIA Services
11:15 am John Papa  John Papa MVVM: Why and How? Tips and Patterns using MVVM and Service Patterns with Silverlight and WP7
12:15 pm Lunch break
1:00 pm Silverlight Today and Tomorrow (Special Guest Panel)
1:30 pm Tim Heuer  Tim Heuer Building Real World Silverlight Apps
2:30 pm 15 minute break
2:45 pm Scott Guthrie   Mike Cook &
  Jossef Goldberg
Tune Your Application: Profiling and Performance Tips
3:45 pm Jaime Rodriguez  Jaime Rodriguez Killer Performance Tips for Silverlight Windows Phone 7
5:00 pm After Party!

Sessions are subject to change.

After the live event keep fueling the fire!

Dive deeper with additional hands on labs and videos that build on the live session content, accelerating you ahead of the crowd.

  • Watch the entire event on demand!

  • Plus, new self-paced labs and walk through videos

  • On Ramp Labs (100 level)
    • Hands on labs specifically focused on helping new developers get up to speed quickly on Silverlight
    • Do you know WinForms? HTML? ASP.NET? Want to learn Silverlight? We have a lab for you!
  • Building Better Business Apps (200-300 level)
    • Hands on labs focused on taking advantage of Silverlight to build real world business applications
    • Apply Data Strategies, Patterns, Out of Browser, RIA Services, and much more using Silverlight
  • Turnabout is fair play! Watch a video of our experts doing the labs themselves.

tags: WP7 | Silverlight

Promo Video - WP7 Unleashed

My good friend Erik Mork took the time to create a promo video for the free WP7 Unleashed training events that we're currently involved in.  I've included the video below using the embeddable player provided in the Microsoft Silverlight Media Framework.  This is really simple to do, all you need is the correctly encoded video file, the embeddable player, and then add some HTML markup to your page.  No coding required, no Visual Studio and no Expression Blend.  Talk about simple!  Here's the markup I'm using.

<div class="fullscreenPlayer">
<object data="data:application/x-silverlight-2," type="application/x-silverlight-2" width="100%" height="100%">
<param name="source" value="/ClientBin/ProgressiveDownloadPlayer.xap" />
<param name="onError" value="onSilverlightError" />
<param name="background" value="white" />
<param name="minRuntimeVersion" value="4.0.50826.0" />
<param name="autoUpgrade" value="true" />
<param name="InitParams" value="autoplay=false,mediaurl=http://kelly.whitepdx.com/videos/2010/10/05/WP7Unleashed_small.mp4" />
</object>
</div>

Enjoy the video, hopefully I'll see some of you at these events.

tags: Silverlight | SMF

Using WriteableBitmap to Create Images in Silverlight

Recently, a friend had a question on how you'd create a compressed image from what was being displayed by his Silverlight application. He knew he needed to use a WriteableBitmap but wasn't sure how he'd get from there to then having a PNG or JPEG file. Any files that he did manage to generate were way too large in file size.

I did some checking around and found a great library on CodePlex called ImageTools. I really like this library because it does both PNG/JPEG encoding and then handles the compression as well.

I've created a sample project that illustrates how you'd use that library to create PNG and JPEG files from your WriteableBitmap in Silverlight (download the sample project or view online demo).

First a couple caveats about running this code. You can extract it and hit F5, but you’ll need to right-click on the app to install it and then run it in OOB mode. The reason I did this is so I could save the generated images to the “My Images” folder and see how big they actually get. When you’re done you can launch the app from your desktop and then right-click on it to uninstall the app from your machine (or you can always uninstall it from the Control Panel).

The online demo will let you save the generated image as either a PNG or JPEG, but only if you've first installed the app and then run it in Out of Browser mode. These images are named "masoli.png" and "masoli.jpg" and are saved to your "My Pictures" folder.

This is a simple and straight-forward example with not a lot to it, hence no MVVM to confuse those new to Silverlight. I believe this is a good illustration of how you can create a compressed PNG or JPEG image from a WriteableBitmap in Silverlight.

tags: Silverlight | Out-of-Browser | WriteableBitmap

Mobile Development - Which Platform?

A friend raised a great question on the PADNUG mailing list today (emphasis mine):

After seeing this:

http://www.engadget.com/2010/08/11/android-gps-navigation-x-wing-edition/

I'm really considering playing around with Air apps on my droid phone. That's a nice looking app that someone built just for the fun of it (it's not on the app store, doubtful it ever will be don't you think?). I'd like to be able to build Silverlight apps for my phone, but that's unlikely. Erik says Silverlight on Android is a big maybe: http://www.sparklingclient.com/silverlight-android-maybe/ (congrats Erik you were on the first page of the google search for silverlight and android).

I'm concerned that MS will ignore Android in favor of putting resources into Winphone7. The combination of Air + Android is very friendly to developers. Add in the momentum that Android has gained in the past 6 months plus the sheer numbers of handsets, well Air + Android seems like a valid choice. Winphone7 has zero handsets in the hands of consumers so far. Great development environment though, but not free (I've never used the free version of VS, so no idea there).

I'm ignoring the iphone completely here because Apple has very clearly said that if you don't code in Obj-C you won't get your app on the store.

Another thing that worries me a bit about Silverlight: I don't have any apps that I use that are in Silverlight. I noticed this the other day when I was using Balsamiq. Pandora, TweetDeck and Balsamiq are all great app experiences and are all made in Air. What's going on there? Is Silverlight just not catching the eye of independent developers?

Android

Let me begin by saying that I am not a fan of Android.  I've owned my Motorola Droid for 9 months.  I've had to reset it by taking out the battery at least half a dozen times.  I don't have many apps on it, I've tried to keep it clean.  I think it is a great phone for email and I love it much more than the blackberries I've had in the past.  The new 2.2 version of the OS is a much needed improvement.  The MS Exchange support is great.  The GPS Directions app is a must have.  With that said I hate my phone.

I've spent a while over-analyzing the Android marketplace.  I have a dozen or so free apps, but only one that I've actually purchased.  That was a very painful process.  The app that I paid for is psx4droid.  I have only one game that I've tried to play which is Final Fantasy VII.  The music was choppy, the video stuttered, the game was near unplayable.  That game definitely was pushing the device beyond what it could handle.  Maybe the emulator was poorly coded, or maybe my device just isn't that great.  I did get to a save point, so let me know next time you see me and I'll show you the experience I had.

My takeaway?  If you want to write high-performant games, don't develop for Android.

Silverlight - Windows Phone 7

I want to talk about my friend's observation that Silverlight is not catching the eyes of independent developers.  First let me say that I think his observation is right on.  We don't see a lot of free Silverlight OOB apps like we do with Adobe Air.  Maybe that's because the Silverlight guys are trying to make money instead of giving away great software for free.  Who knows, however I must concede that most of the Silverlight developers I know are capitalists.  Here's what I think.  I believe that many independent developers are jumping to develop for the marketplace rather than jumping to developer for a technology.  Trust me, once the Windows Phone 7 marketplace is live and the devices are in the hands of the consumers, then you'll be seeing thousands upon thousands of developers jumping to this new opportunity.

Apple and Objective-C

The last thought I have is about developing for "iDevices" and being forced to use Objective-C.  I used to rail against Objective-C as being total garbage, reasoning that I would never code in that cruft because my expertise was thankfully in the pristine world of C# and LINQ.  Why should I stoop to coding in a "lesser" language?  I was an arrogant prick (probably still am).  I must concede that Objective-C isn’t that bad.  The APIs aren’t that bad.  There are libraries out there like cocos2D that are pretty freaking amazing.  If you’ve got a CS background then you definitely don’t have anything to be scared about when learning this language and platform.  If you don’t have a CS background then it *may* be a bit tougher initially, but you’ll get over it and be just fine.

With that said there are still some philosophical questions you should still to ask yourself:

  • Is this a platform you *want* to develop for?
  • Are you willing to purchase the required hardware?  Note: both a Mac and either an iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch are required to develop apps.

And perhaps most importlantly:

  • Are you willing to strip away all your preconceptions and allow yourself to become a part of their culture?

Let's be honest, Apple users are primarily designers, at least this was the case in my background, and I'd wager that it's probably the case for most of you.  Traditionally developers haven’t gotten along well (or perhaps at all) with designers.  The whole Mac vs PC thing is more a reflection of the culture fight between developers and designers, then it is between the actual platforms.  If you're going to develop apps for that platform then you really need to understand the users of that platform.  Any anthropologist will tell you that the best way to understand a group of people is to integrate yourself in with them.  If culturally you can make this change then there is no reason why you shouldn't be developing for the Apple platform.  Let's be honest, that's where all the money is right now.  I mean, they have paid out over $1 billion dollars paid out to app developers.

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | Android | Objective-C

PDXSLUG - 8/10 - Building toolable Silverlight applications

Next Tuesday (8/10) the Portland Silverlight User Group will be meeting out at the Intel Ronler Acres Auditorium (RA1) to listen to Adam Kinney and Karl Shifflett show how to build toolable Silverlight applications that enable the developer/designer workflow.  If the topic and speakers aren't reason enough to attend, then consider the fact we have killer swag we'll be giving away.

  • 1 MSDN Ultimate subscription valued at over $200,000
  • Website Spark subscriptions valued at over $100,000

Look forward to seeing you there!


 

WHAT: Portland Silverlight User Group - August Meeting

WHEN: Tuesday 08/10/2010
6:00 p.m. Pizza (by Vertigo)
6:30 p.m. Presentation
~9:00 p.m. Afterwards at On The Border

WHERE: Intel Ronler Acres 1 (RA1) Auditorium (map)
2501 NW 229th Ave.
Hillsboro, OR 97124-5506

WHO: Adam Kinney & Karl Shifflet
Adam Kinney is a creative developer with a strong focus on UI technologies including HTML, CSS, Canvas, Processing, Flash, WPF and Silverlight. He enjoys working in the space between design and development teams enabling the best results from both sides. Having spent the last five years as an Evangelist for Microsoft, Adam also enjoys sharing his knowledge and helping others learn new UI technologies and tools. Recently leaving Microsoft, he is currently working on a variety of interesting projects and experiments with the crew at Pixel Lab and posting tutorials on his personal site: http://adamkinney.com.

Karl Shifflett is a Program Manager at Microsoft working on the WPF and Silverlight Designer since August of 2008. Before Microsoft, Karl was a software architect, former Microsoft MVP and Code Project MVP. He has been designing & developing business applications since 1989 and transitioned to .NET in March of 2003. In April of 2007 he joined the list of WPF fanatics & evangelists. He is a member of Team Mole that delivered the Mole Visualizer for Visual Studio to the world. He is the author of the very popular XAML Power Toys; loves WPF and Silverlight LOB and is developing a passion for Windows Phone 7 and ASP.NET MCV. You can read his blog at: http://karlshifflett.wordpress.com/.

TOPIC: Building toolable Silverlight applications that enable the designer developer workflow
Warning: We won’t be 20 seconds into this session before mashing the gas pedal to the floor. After looking at the XAML tools Blend & Cider, we’ll dive deep into toolable application design. Toolable applications not only enhance the initial development experience but also provide benefits to long term application maintenance. An additional benefit is the enabling of the designer developer workflow. See the two roles played out in the presentation as they collaborate without clobbering each other.

Sponsors: While you are at it, consider visiting our Premium Sponsors that make these meetings possible:

tags: Silverlight | PDXSLUG | Blend

PDXSLUG - 4/13 - Creating Great UX with Expression Blend

Hey guys, tomorrow the Portland Silverlight User Group (PDXSLUG) will be meeting at WebTrends.  Corrina Black, a UX Designer on the Microsoft Developer Division team will be talking about how to create great user experiences with Expression Blend.

We build software products with certain features, and our competitors come along and include those same features.  Eventually the only way we can distinguish ourselves from our competitors is by creating great user experiences.  This is how the iPhone leapfrogged both Windows Mobile and the BlackBerry, and how the Xbox became the dominant gaming console.

IMHO, this session is a must-attend, regardless of whether you are a designer or a developer.  And even if you don't use Microsoft tools, you can still benefit because creating a great UX is independent of platform (Adobe vs Microsoft vs Java vs Objective-C).

Hopefully I'll see you there.


 

WHAT: Portland Silverlight User Group - April Meeting

WHEN: Tuesday 04/13/2010
6:00 p.m. Pizza (by Vertigo)
6:30 p.m. Presentation
~9:00 p.m. Afterwards at TBD

WHERE: Webtrends (map)
851 SW 6th Ave.
Portland, OR 97204-1337

WHO: Corrina Black
Corrina Black grew up sketching pictures and cartoons, but didn’t turn to design until she discovered the Web and taught herself to design and code simple websites. She focused instinctively on user flow, interaction, and attractive solutions. Corrina is currently a UX Designer on the Microsoft Developer Division team. To broaden her impact, Corrina pursued a software engineering degree to combine with her passion for user experience design. For Corrina, user experience is what matters. A product that doesn’t solve a problem, is difficult to use, and doesn’t draw the user in, regardless of how amazing the technology, will fail.

TOPIC: Creating Great UX with Expression Blend
Corrina will do an intro to Blend and walkthrough the process of creating a great user experience; this will involve SketchFlow because detailing and iterating on user flow, layout, and animations and transitions prior to full-scale implementation is key to great UX design and this is done in tools like SketchFlow. She will also likely walkthrough the process of building a simple application in Blend to show the core functionality of Blend (maybe create a phone application).

Warmup - The Reactive Framework (Rx) in Silverlight
At the beginning of the meeting (6pm) our own Eric Sterling of Vertigo will be giving a short introduction to Rx. Have you had trouble writing asynchronous code (including unit testing code)? If so, Rx offers a compelling and syntactically attractive way of handling events.

Sponsors: While you are at it, consider visiting our Premium Sponsors that make these meetings possible:

tags: Silverlight | PDXSLUG | Expression Blend

Boise Code Camp 2010

This weekend is the Boise Code Camp (Mar 27-28). These guys do a great job putting on a great show. I know it's short notice, but if there is anyway you can attend then know that I whole-heartedly recommend it. While I'm there I'll be presenting two sessions on developing for the Windows Phone 7 Series platform (WP7). I'm currently scheduled for right before/after lunch on Saturday.

  • Building Games in XNA for the Windows Phone 7 Series

    We'll first walk through an overview of developing XNA games for the Windows Phone 7 Series (WP7) platform, and then examine the tools provided for building these games. We'll then jump into a demo of creating an XNA game similar to MineSweeper for the WP7 platform.

  • Developing Silverlight Applications for the Windows Phone 7 Series Platform

    We'll first go through an overview of the Windows Phone 7 Series (WP7) application platform, and then examine the tools provided for developing WP7 applications. The majority of the session will be a demo of building a WP7 application in Silverlight.

While this is a code camp and I'd prefer to spend most of mine time in the code, I realize that with this topic I'll be doing a lot of explaining and QA at first. Let me make this clear, there will be code. However, I've also discovered that I'll need to be prepared to spend some slides and time discussing other things such as developing for the enterprise and how the marketplace works. I'm assuming that most of my audience will be folks who most likely haven't downloaded the tools, and watched all the MIX sessions. If I'm wrong in this assumption then please correct me.

If you're planning on being there then please do find me and say hi. I'm excited, the Boise Code Camp is always a ton of fun and always worth my time in attending. One thing you might find interesting is that when we do the planning for the Portland Code Camp it is Boise that we look to as example for what we define as success.

tags: WP7 | Silverlight | XNA | Boise Code Camp

This Week in Silverlight - #4

Earlier this morning the Sparkling Client Podcast released their 4th episode of This Week in Silverlight.  Assuming you're not familiar with it, this is a show that I participate in with Brian Henderson and Erik Mork.  We discuss Silverlight and Windows Phone 7 Series (WP7) rumors, well actually they discuss them while I sometimes promote them.  We also talk about recent news in Silverlight, identify quality blogs/tutorials, and highlight a Silverlight app of the week.

Please listen to it and feel free to send me feedback.  Don't hesitate to let me know if there is anything you think I should focus on or mention.

tags: Silverlight | Sparkling Client | This Week in Silverlight

Seesmic Stickers

Two weeks ago I saw a tweet where the folks at Seesmic were offering free stickers.  Being a die-hard Seesmic fan myself, I decided to hit them up and see if they would kick in some stickers for the Portland Silverlight User Group.  Needless to say, Loic did not disappoint.  Here's the catch though, I only have 80+, and I'm only going to hand them out one at a time.  If you want one then you must show up to our next user group meeting.  We are meeting this Friday, 6pm at WebTrends (map).  Shawn Wildermuth will be here answering all your Silverlight questions.  The folks at Vertigo are providing the free pizza and soda.  I will be handing out Seesmic stickers.  Look forward to seeing you there.

tags: Silverlight | PDXSLUG | Seesmic

This Week in Silverlight - Podcast

Last Thursday I had the privilege or recording my first podcast with Brian Henderson and Erik Mork.  It was a blast.  If you listen to it then you can tell that I absolutely loved having a platform to spew Zune phone rumors.  This was a new format for the Sparkling Client, where we got to talk about what is new in Silverlight, what excites us, and what we think people should pay attention to.  I think the goal is that we record these regularly, similar to This week on Channel 9.

Please listen to it and by all means, feel free to send me feedback.  I'm already aware that I need to pickup a new headset for recording.  If there is anything you think I should focus on or mention, please don't hesitate to let me know about it.

tags: Silverlight | Sparkling Client | This Week in Silverlight

Portland Silverlight User Group

Last spring Erik Mork and myself started talking about the difficulties I was facing with PDXUX.Net and what it's future should be.  The group had shrunk in size and was starting to average an attendance of 12-15 people.  I wasn't sure if the problem was location, or speakers, or the fact that the group had too broad of a focus.  Erik thought the group was just too ahead of its time.  I decided to stop having group meetings while I tried to figure out whether it should continue on.  The sad thing is, no one complained.

Shortly after the release of Silverlight 3, Erik suggested that PDXUX.Net should evolve into the Portland Silverlight User Group.  It's amazing how long we spent thinking up names until we settled on that one.  We thought this group could start in November where we would have a big-name speaker come to town to kick off our event.  The two problems with that idea were 1) I was already scheduled to speak on MVVM during the November PADNUG meeting, and 2) the speakers we were soliciting would be at PDC.  We knew my MVVM presentation would draw a lot of folks (80+) and didn't want to compete against that.  Instead we decided to use that as an opportunity to publicize our December kickoff.  Somehow Scott Stanfield heard we were starting this user group and wanted to get involved, and before I knew it we had our big-name speaker.

For our December meeting with Scott Stanfield presenting we had 80+ folks show up.  This was held clear out in Hillsboro at Corillian/CheckFree/Fiserv (map).

In January we had Mike Downey come and share his story of joining Microsoft and switching from Flash to Silverlight.  This time we held the meeting downtown at WebTrends (map) and had 70+ people show up.

At the end of January we organized a Silverlight Hackathon.  Kimberly Wallmark had suggested this on the Silverlight/PADNUG mailing list and the community response was overwhelmingly in favor of it.  The hackathon was held on Sunday, January 31st at Souk where we had 40+ people show up to code/learn between 1-6pm.

Our next meeting is on Friday, February 19th, again at WebTrends (map).  This will be Q&A session with Shawn Wildermuth.  Shawn's mind will be overflowing with top secret information he'll have just learned at MVP Summit.  If you're interested at all in Silverlight, then you'll definitely want to attend this meeting.

Overall I have to admit that the success of the Portland Silverlight User Group has exceeded my wildest expectations.  We have a lot of interest from other potential speakers who want to be a part of the magic that is happening here in the northwest.  Thanks for your attendance and support.  As you folks continue to attend and be a part of this user group, Erik and I are commited to making it our top priority to have premium speakers.  We want this to be the best Silverlight User Group in the world.  With your help we can be.

tags: Silverlight | PDXSLUG

Shawn Wildermuth speaks at PDXSLUG (2/19)

WHAT: Portland Silverlight User Group - February Meeting

WHEN: Friday 02/19/2010 - (Yes, Friday is Correct)
6:00 p.m. Pizza (by Vertigo)
6:30 p.m. Presentation
~9:00 p.m. Afterwards at TBD

WHERE: Webtrends (map)
851 SW 6th Ave.
Portland, OR 97204-1337

WHO: Shawn Wildermuth
Shawn Wildermuth is a Microsoft MVP (C#), member of the INETA Speaker's Bureau and an author of six books on .NET. Shawn is involved with Microsoft as a Silverlight Insider, Data Insider and Connected Technology Advisors (WCF/Oslo/WF). He has been seen speaking at a variety of international conferences including SDC Netherlands, VSLive, WinDev and DevReach. Shawn has written dozens of articles for a variety of magazines and websites including MSDN, DevSource, InformIT, CoDe Magazine, ServerSide.NET and MSDN Online. He has over twenty years in software development regularly blogs about a range of topics including Silverlight, Oslo, Databases, XML and web services on his blog (http://wildermuth.com).

TOPIC: Silverlight Conversation and QA w/ Shawn Wildermuth
Do you have questions about Silverlight? Shawn's the person to ask. He's full of Silverlight knowledge, and he's coming to Portland to have a conversation with us. Shawn is extremely well known and respected in the Silverlight community, and it's going to be a real treat to have him. If you want to have a complex and nuanced discussion about Silverlight, join us for this meeting.

Warmup - Operating System in Your Browser Window
At the beginning of the meeting (6pm), Marc Schulper will show us how to write Silverlight applications for a web based operating system.

Sponsors: While you are at it, consider visiting our Premium Sponsors that make these meetings possible:

tags: Silverlight | PDXSLUG

A Path to Learning Silverlight

Lately I've been trying to figure out how to immerse myself in Silverlight 4.  There's a lot that's new, and to be honest I'm still catching up on Silverlight 3.  I admit that it's tough to learn new technologies when your employer is not eager to adopt them.  I've also noticed that occasionally when I talk about Silverlight some people will quickly become overwhelmed.  A few have mentioned that they feel so far behind in learning Silverlight, they're now worried they may never be able to catch up.  If they only realized that now is the perfect time to start learning Silverlight.

The first thing I recommend is listening to Scott Guthrie's keynote from PDC (skip to 53:30).  This will help you understand how far the Silverlight reach extends (45% as of 11/09), as well as see scenarios where major companies are choosing to go with Silverlight (fyi, it's not just multimedia).

Next I suggest that you download and listen to the Silverlight 4 Podcast Pack with Erik Mork and Tim Heuer.  After you download it you can extract it directly into the MyMusic/Zune folder.  Zune will automatically pick up the new audio files and add them to your music library (see screenshots below).  The average length of each podcast is just over six minutes.  I recommend listening to these today if you haven't already.

I'm a big fan of user groups.  These are great opportunities for networking, finding new leads and opportunities, and learning where you should focus your efforts in order to keep your skills sharp.  Adam Kinney maintains a list of Silverlight User Groups.  If you have to drive 100 miles to attend it once a month, then by all means DO IT!  In my opinion you can't afford not to attend these meetings.  If you don't have a local Silverlight User Group, then search for a local .Net User Group.  Get on their mailing list, find out when the next Silverlight presentation is, and tell them you're willing to help find sponsors if they'll have more meetings centered on Silverlight.  :)  I realize there are some individuals who live where there are no user groups at all.  If you're one of those folks, feel free to ping me and I can share some advice in starting your own user group.

Finally, I recommend attending one of the Silverlight Tour courses.  Let me clarify, I very, very strongly recommend this.  Back in December Agilitrain came to PDX and I made sure to sign up and attend.  I am 100% convinced this is the best way to immerse yourself in Silverlight.  Their coursework now includes Silverlight 4 material, and you get a free copy of Telerik RadControls for Silverlight.  Their instructors are smart, well-trained, and experts with hands-on experience.

Good luck in your efforts, and please fight the urge to continue living in the world of WinForms.  It's so much nicer out here in the light.

tags: Silverlight

Workshops at MIX10

Before the MIX conference starts, on Sunday there will be a full day of workshops.  These aren't free, people have to pay extra to attend ($295).  By registering for a pre-conference workshop pass you get to attend two 3-hour workshops (one before lunch and one after).  These workshops are the speaker is able to go deep on a topic and really help you grok new concepts, tools, technologies and disciplines.  Note that these workshops will not be posted online after the conference.

I've been telling folks about a few of the workshops from last year’s MIX conference.  My favorite was Design Fundamentals for Developers by Robby Ingebretsen.  As Jaime Rodriguez explained, folks had to pay extra to attend these workshops.  Because this one was accidentally posted online they decided to leave it up for everyone.  Thank-you!

I noticed that Robbie is presenting the same workshop again this year.  I wasn't sure how similar it would be to what he had done before, but he did clarify that in a recent twitter conversation:

schallerje @ingebretsen Hey Robby, will your "Design Fundamentals for Developers" workshop @MIX10 be the same as last year?

ingebretsen @schallerje yeah, believe it or not, MS asked me NOT to change the workshop content too much this year...but expect some small updates.

schallerje @ingebretsen OK, then I guess I will skip the workshop day this year, but don't get a false impression: You workshop was really great! ;)

Some folks say that developers can’t do design, that they just weren’t born with it.  In my mind that’s a cop-out, and it simply isn’t true.  Having spent a couple years working for different interactive agencies and working very closely with designers I’ve come to realize that we’re actually quite similar.  Robbie's workshop and life experiences validate my thoughts.

I won't be attending Robbie's workshop this year, but will instead be attending John Papa's Silverlight 4 Boot Camp and Arturo Toledo's Design Tools and Techniques (tips and tricks, all about learning how to use Blend).  If you are going to MIX then you definitely should consider attending a few of the workshops.  I'll keep an eye out for you.

tags: Silverlight | Blend | MIX10 | Design

Attending MIX10

I'm attending MIX this year, are you?  If you're unfamiliar with MIX, or maybe you aren't sure who this conference is for, then check out this short 3 minute video from Channel 9 (Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of MIX10).

This year the conference is breaking tradition and will be held at the Mandalay Bay.  Previously, this conference has always been held at the Venetian.  Block out your calendars now for March 15-17.  Try to get there a day early so you can participate in the workshops.  These do cost extra, but they're totally worth it.

If you have any interest in Silverlight then you'll definitely want ot attend MIX this year.  There will be sessions on Silverlight 4, Silverlight for Mobile, Silverlight for MonoTouch, and Silverlight for line-of-business apps.  Judging by the frequency that Microsoft has been pumping out releases, I'd be surprised if Silverlight 4 didn't ship during MIX.  I know that's hoping for a lot, but remember, I'm the guy that hopes for a Zune phone announcement everytime Robbie Bach takes the stage.

This year MIX will be awesome and you'll be remiss if you didn't attend, but don't take my word for it.

tags: Silverlight | MIX10

Books to Learn Silverlight

A question came through the PADNUG mailing-list asking about good beginner Silverlight books.  I've included my response below.

You really owe it to yourself to take a hard look at the book Pete Brown is currently working on (http://www.manning.com/pbrown/).  Today at PDC he announced this book would be modified to cover Silverlight 4.  His book will officially be released roughly during the same time that Silverlight 4 goes RTM.  What’s great about the Manning Early Access Program (MEAP) is that if you purchase it now you can read the chapters as they come online and watch as they are revised.  Take a look at the table of contents.  Today on Channel 9 Pete promised that the next drop of his updated chapters would be sometime next week.  If there was only one book I could recommend, it would be this one.  You simply cannot get a better author.

I don't work for Manning and I don't get any kickbacks from Pete.  I stand by the statement that I believe Pete is the best author for this topic (learning Silverlight/MVVM and starting from nothing).  Hopefully I didn't offend anyone with that statement.  If so, please feel free to send me a copy of your "better" book.  I'd be happy to read it and be proven wrong.

tags: Silverlight | PADNUG

Silverlight Usage Statistics

The Illusion

Last week I was discussing Silverlight vs. Flash with a friend of mine.  He seemed to think that the only criteria for deciding which platform to use was marketshare.  He then referred me to http://riastats.com/.  While I appreciate his desire to reach all audiences, I believe he is failing in his analysis.  Let me explain...

This website (http://riastats.com/) is a service provided by a hosting company.  While their data is interesting, I find that it changes drastically from day to day.  Last Friday their reports stated that Silverlight had only 29% penetration, yet tonight I checked and it says Silverlight now has 33% penetration.  Do you know how many people would had to have installed Silverlight in the last 72 hours for these numbers to be anywhere close to correct?  Needless to say, these guys have a pretty big margin of error.  The fine print mentions that the statistics are gathered from 77 websites.  It would be nice to know exactly what 77 websites they use to collect their data.  I mean, how can anyone presume that their their user base is the same as what's being serviced by these 77 anonymous websites?

My friend and I were discussing Silverlight vs. Flash and it eventually devolved into trash-talking.  :)  But what about folks who take these statistics as absolute truth?  What about folks who aren't just talking trash, but I planning their IT strategy around these statistics?  For anyone to make a business decision of which platform to use, and then to reference this service (http://riastats.com/) as the authoritative resource is ignorant at best and criminal at worst.

Most online companies have some form of advertising revenue in their business plan, yet very few depend on it for 100% of their profits.  So if you are a company who isn't 100% dependent on advertising revenue, then why do you care what percentage of the world has Silverlight installed?  I mean, you're making money through other means.  Shouldn't you be focusing on understanding the users who generate the majority of your reveune?  What if you found out that their habits and online experiences meant that 86% already had Silverlight installed and the rest were highly likely to install it?  What if?

Now let's pretend that you're one of those arrogant startups (present employer excluded) who claims your user base is really the entire world.  Seriously guys, you're not Google or Facebook.  You don't service the entire world right now (remember, you're a startup).  Believe it or not, in 12-24 months of all the things that will change, this won't be one of them.  Seriously.

The Reality

On September 17th, Scott Guthrie talked about both the current state of Silverlight and where things are heading in the near future (watch video).  While this was very informative, the "meaty" announcements won't be happening until next week at PDC.  Here's some of my notes from what Scott said back in September:

  • Earlier this summer Microsoft released that Silverlight is on about 1 in 3 of all internet connected devices (desktop, mobile, and embedded).
  • Some countries are above 50% and in fact pushing 60% penetration.
  • Worldwide they expect Silverlight to above 50% in the next couple months.

A couple other points to consider:

  • NBC used Silverlight for the 2008 Summer Olympic games.
  • NBC will again be using Silverlight to broadcast the 2010 Winter Olympic games.
  • NCAA March Madness streamed all their games using Silverlight.
  • The Democratic National Convention last summer (2008) was broadcast using Silverlight.
  • President Obama’s Inauguration was broadcast using Silverlight.
  • UFC uses Silverlight for their online pay-per-view events.
  • Netflix uses Silverlight for their online player.
  • NFL Sunday Night Football is streamed live each week using Silverlight Smooth Streaming.
    • Week 1 had over 500,000 viewers watching it for an average of 55 minutes
    • Player was built with full DVR support
    • Included slow-motion
    • Replay of key events (touchdown, interception, etc)
    • Included Highlight reel
    • Included chat
    • Displayed video in 720p HD
    • All this was done off 2 web servers

Conclusion

I would argue that of the people who purchase and consume video online, a very high percentage of them have Silverlight installed.  Those who do not have Silverlight installed would have no problem with installing and using it.

The argument that you should not consider a platform because it doesn't have a certain level of marketshare just doesn't hold water any more.  Otherwise no one would have considered building apps for the iPhone, rather than sticking with the Blackberry.

tags: Silverlight

Silverlight 3 Firestarter Simulcast in PDX

The Seattle Silverlight Firestarter is September 17th in Seattle. Speaking will be Scott Guthrie (keynote) followed by presentations from Tim Heuer, Brad Abrams, Karl Shifflett and others. If you can get up to Seattle, consider going. It's going to be amazing!

For those of you interested in hearing this event live from Portland, there will be a simulcast. Sign up and reserve a seat now. This will be held at the Microsoft office in Tigard, so space is limited.

Also, there's going to be a free lunch, prizes and local Silverlight expertise on hand to answer your questions.

I'll be attending this event up in Seattle. Erik Mork, from the Sparkling Client Podcast, will be attending in Portland. He's an expert Silverlight Trainer and Silverlight Consultant, and will be available to answer questions. If you have a project coming up where you need some expertise, give him a call. For Silverlight Development you can't get much better, I mean, he is a Silverlight MVP after all.

Silverlight-3 FireStarterSpeaker
8:45 – 9:00Event Kickoff Mithun Dhar
9:00 – 10:00KeynoteScott Guthrie
10:00 – 11:00App Dev/Scenarios for Silverlight 3Tim Heuer
Break (11:00 – 11:15)
11:15 – 12:15Expression 3 Overview (Includes Behaviors)Adam Kinney
Lunch Break(12:15 – 1:00)
1:00 – 1:30Sketch Flow Adam Kinney
1:30 – 2:30Toolkit & ControlsJustin Angel
2:30 – 3:30RIA ServicesBrad Abrams
Break (3:30 – 3:45)
3:45 – 4:30XAML Power toysKarl Shifflett
4:30 – 5:00Q&A PanelAll Speakers

tags: Silverlight