Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Final thoughts on Boston and new adventures in .NET 3.0

Boston was cool but I'm glad to be back. My flight didn't leave till Saturday afternoon (last minute planning) so I had some time Friday after Tech Ed ended and a few hours Saturday morning to go exploring.

One of the things I liked about Boston was the subway. For an investment of $1.25 and a short walk you can be anywhere in the city in about 20 minutes. This is good because the streets can be a bit confusing. Between all the tunnels and the "spaghetti-roads" I'm sure some of the cabs were taking the "scenic route" but not knowing the area, I couldn't really argue with them.

I did notice that the cost of living in Boston is a bit higher than Columbus as well. For example, they are paying about $.30 more for a gallon of gas than we are.

So, Tech Ed ended at 4:00, and I was back to the hotel by 4:30. I decided to check out the Boston Museum of Science which was pretty cool. They have the world's largest air-insulated Van de Graaff generator that they used to scare the crap out of the kids. They were hosting an Accenture party there, but the place seemed pretty empty, which was great frankly. I'm not a big "crowd" person.

For dinner I went to a place called "Legal Seafood" (as opposed to fugitive seafood I suppose) largely on the recommendation of Brian <Anzalone> who has gotten some of their stuff mail-order. Everybody talks about the Clam Chowder in Boston and how wonderful it is, so I had to try some. I ordered a cup of it and..... it was OK. I didn't have the religious experience everybody describes, but it was better than Campbell’s.

I walked around part of the city and Chinatown, where I was offered drugs three separate times. Welcome to the big city.

The next morning I had several hours to kill, so I went to Quincy market and got souvenirs for a few people, then back to the airport and home. Boston is a cool city with a lot of stuff to do. Definitely someplace to consider next time I go on vacation.

As a "welcome home" gift from the Sharon Township police department, I got a $100.00 ticket for driving with expired plates, which the officer amazingly was able to pick out at 70MPH on I-270. I completely forgot to get that taken care of last month, and apologized profusely to the officer. No dice, I still go the ticket. Well, it was after the 15th and they do have a quota to meet I suppose...

So now that I'm back at work and the client I'm currently working with want's to know what's up with "the .NET 3.0 thing." I explained to them the re-branding and that a first blush it seems like a stupid idea. But, between the announcement last week and my return to Columbus, I've had a little time to think about it. In retrospect, I don't know that it's really that bad of an idea. Does including the components of WinFX in .NET qualify it as a "major upgrade" to the framework?

Well, seeing first hand last week what WCF and WF are capable of and hearing from Tim how much he was impressed with CardSpace (formerly InfoCard) I would say it sounds like a major upgrade. And the naming makes a little more sense. One of the criticisms I see with Java is that there are too many frameworks. It's not enough to just be "Java" it's got to be "Java with struts" or "Java with Spring" or "Java with whatever." And while I think a few powerful frameworks are a good thing, I don't necessarily subscribe to the "more is better" philosophy here. If it suddenly became ".NET with WinFX" you could make the argument that .NET would be sliding down the same slop. There are already a lot of frameworks available for .NET, but you don't hear a lot about them because, well, .NET already does a lot out of the box. Sure, I use nHibernate, but my whole .NET app isn't inexorably tied to it like it would be to WinFX. So I guess in that regard, making it .NET 3.0 makes sense.
Now that I've had a chance to talk to a few people about it, I think the major source of fear around this is falls into two categories:
  • We just upgraded our code to .NET 2.0 and went through that learning curve. Now we have to do it again?!


  • We just spend a butt-load of money on Visual Studio 2005, now we're going to have to pay for another upgrade?

Obviously, the answer to both questions is "No." I'm describing .NET 3.0 to people as (for better or worse) just an addition and extension to what .NET 2.0 already does. The core language and CLR didn't change; your .NET 2.0 code will compile and work in a .NET 3.0 world. Yes, there is a learning curve to use the new stuff in WinFX, but if your developers are worth their salt, they've already known about WinFX and what it can do for about a year. Maybe they've done some Virtual Labs and visited the WinFX homepage or even better, they've already downloaded the beta and read the Go-Live licence. In any case, most developers I know are chomping at the bit to start using something in WinFX. And if they aren't, well, this is just my opinion, but you may have bigger problems on your hands....

There is also no new Visual Studio on the horizon except "Orcas" which is still a ways off. But, I think I can see where this bit of FUD may come from. When .NET 1.0 came out, so did Visual Studio 2002 and in short order, the .NET 1.1 framework was shipped with Visual Studio 2003. .NET 2.0 hits the streets, and so does Visual Studio 2005. All of these Visual Studio upgrades have also brought a certain degree of pain (besides the kind that hits you in the wallet) although my experience so far has been that the move from 1.1/2003 to 2.0/2005 has been much smoother than the move from 1.0/2002 to 1.1/2003, but of course your mileage may vary. What Microsoft has done here is seems is break with the notion that each version of the .NET framework necessitates an upgrade to the development environment. I like this. Frankly, you're programming to the frame work (in this case the .NET CLR) and too many people think of development in terms of what the IDE will allow you to do easily. Not that I’m saying that Visual Studio is limiting in anyway, but you could write a .NET program in note pad. Visual Studio makes it a lot easier and faster, and I'm glad I don't have to use notepad, but it would work. I guess what I'm saying is that the IDE is a great tool, but the framework is the key.

And no, I'm not volunteering to start doing my development in notepad!

Of course this is just what I think; I may be reading too much into this...

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