Time to get seriously hands on–Windows Phone (Silverlight), Azure, C#4 & Futures, EF4/WCF Data Services & Futures

This past 2 months has brought a slew of new technologies into my life. The biggest surprise was the families new Epson Artisan 725 All-in-One  inkjet which replaces the retched Epson R800. ThatR80was crap from the moment I got it, but I suffered thinking that when it did print well, I was getting something that was superior to what the multi-function amateurs were getting. Was I ever wrong. The fact that I suffered – as did my entire family – under the R800’s reign of garbage is unacceptable. The last straw came when we needed in cartridges for an emergency project and B&H Photo is the only place the tocks them reliably, it was a Saturday, so no B&H that day – so my wife decided she just build a new machine – why not – costs just about as much as the cartridges.  At first I resisted the multifunction machines – I wanted image quality – prosumer stuff. But everything was gigantic and I had no faith in the high end – so we picked the Artisan for about $200 and picked it up at Staples. Within 5 minutes of unpacking it, it was on my wireless network, all 4 machines could print to it – and printing like never before. The scanner was also a huge surprise. So, if you haven’t bought a printer in 3-5 years, do your self a favor and something like this – it frees your mind and lowers your stress level and increases family harmony. Though you will be buying more plain and photo paper. But this was just that tip of the iceberg.

For quite some time I have been following and doing the occasional hello world spike on a bunch of technologies that have happened to catch my fancy. I like the Azure services and I like the way they integrate tightly to the standard dev experience, and yet are very open, friendly and interoperable – cost effective too. But, I haven’t personally, on my own, put any code into production – lotta whiteboards, but not nearly enough running code. This needed to change.

Three things – aside form having small kids and a day job – were getting in my way. The plethora of new core and ancillary features that I also want to get up to speed on. I have been a fan of Entity Frameworks (sneer if you like) and in particular I have always loves the simple elegant power of WCF Data Services 4.0 (nee Astoria) and oData – I am also very excited about some of the futures stuff they have cooking. Plus, any time I get to chat with Pablo Castro is time well spent. Then looking at some of the language & framework  changes and stuff from the community – MEF comes to mind – RIA Services. This list goes on and on. And we are not even touching on the Web Matrix stuff.

The other major piece was the release of Windows Phone. I held out. Put my Android desires on hold and waited. So far I am pleased. Let’s see what I say after this series is complete. I have a bit (read very limited) Silverlight experience. But, I have been itching to get out of the browser for some time now – and this was the perfect excuse. This is also perfect time for me to do some stuff that will run on the awesome set of services offered up by Fran, Hoi & Patrick in Azure and Bing). V2 of this endeavor will certainly find me talking identify and Live with Angus, which is always fantastic.

The final – and most daunting obstacle was simply getting my self back into a place where I could write code without if being pure hell. I has been more years that I would care to remember since I put any of my own code into production. Heck, I haven’t written any POC code for over a year – unacceptable! But getting back on the horse can be scary.

So I am arming myself with some new books (primarily Joseph Albahari’s “C# in a 1,000 page nutshell” and Petzold’s older Programming in the Key of C# and his latest Programing Windows Phone. The additional trick here is I am trying to use an iPad to be the reader for these books.

My experience with the iPad if the past two weeks has been no love affair, I find reading books – books that you are just reading – not working with, is fine. I prefer eInk to the light bulb, and al the swirls and swooshes, but it is serviceable reading a straight up book.  For a manual or instructional text, well this is what we will be testing out.

So with all that going against me, I have set a goal to have a Windows Phone app, in the Marketplace, by the new year. The app will be simple. It will focus around a particular task in lower school education, if will run on the windows phone, use Azure and Bing service as well as some that are quite familiar to the community. It will be the kind of app ScottGu will be searching for in a year or two  – I should be out of beta by then.

I will try to lay bare all of the pains I face as I re-enter the practice of building. When I find myself stuck, I will take little time of to show you my iPad unboxing experience – shot with my Windows Phone. I will also likely do a little monologuing on the iPad as a book replacement.

Folks, It’s late thanksgiving night. I have already beaten the l-Tryptophan, but now I am plain old sleepy. Time to sign off, fire up Albahari and see if I can get past Literals, Punctuators & Operators.

I sincerely hope that all of you can feel as thankful as I do tonight.

All the best,


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