Scott Hanselman and Daniel Crenna (aka Dimebrain) advise NBC that all they need for Monday Night Football is a Vado or a Flip Mino

OK this is just a bit of fun as I respect the work that these guys do and the information they put out there for we poor mortals.

Scott Hanselman Vado

Dimebrain-Flip

I have been traveling around the country over the summer taking videos of my son at his various track meets.  I created a website and decided to add a video gallery using silverlight.  The intention was to provide a similer experience as provided by the BBC iPlayer.  In particular, I wanted viewers to be able to view the videos in Full Screen mode with one click.  I use a Panasonic SDR-S15 Camcorder, Sony Vegas Movie Studio to edit and Expression 3 to Encode at 1Mb/s.

Iam sure that the Vado HD and the Flip Mino HD perform really well in the environments used by both Scott and Daniel, but it really is a matter of horses for courses.

The Panasonic is a great little camera, lightweight, SDHC memory, and most importantly for me 10 x optical zoom.  When editing these videos and encoding them for the web one very quickly realises that if you do not have the desired quality on the original then you are not going to get the desired results on the end product.  If you check the Video Gallery then you will notice that the movies get better over time as I learn more.  Most importantly, use a tripod for these high zoom shots.

My next camera will definitely be HD and I will look to get better than 10 x zoom.  I am afraid that I can envisage an $1100 camera (UK prices really suck by the way) and I am absolutely certain that NBC will be paying a lot more than $1100 for the cameras that they use for Monday Night Football.

My point is, do not let Scott and Daniel talk you out of getting the camera you need.  If you need a Smith & Wesson 45, the most powerful hand camcorder ever made then make your day.

Silverlight, WCF, Security And Things You Might Not Know

Silverlight-Security-WCF

On 24-Jul-2009, I wrote an article entitled Where are the guides to Security Best Practices in Silverlight? , and followed this up with an article entitled Silverlight Security – Part One – Code Obfuscation.  Since then of I have been keeping an eye open for any new articles that tackled this very important subject.

Today, I found an article by Robbe Morris over at eggheadcafe.com entitled Silverlight, WCF, Security And Things You Might Not Know.

This article covers many of the security steps that you will want to implement in any Silverlight / WCF application.

Have you got lost in the maze of tutorials available for Silverlight and WPF?

Silverlight Confusion

Silverlight Confusion

 

I was looking for a tool that would allow me to organize links to all the articles that I have read.

I would like to add notes about each of the articles to tell me what important feature or technique is being explained. The notes would also tell me where to find the projects I installed or implemented on my own development systems.

I would also like to be able to index the articles by tags and categories and order the articles, videos, or tutorials in a way that will help me learn the subject in detail without missing anything out. Maybe something like a learning tree.

So for instance in Silverlight, you may have:

Silverlight Tutorial Part 1 (of 8): Creating “Hello World” with Silverlight 2 and VS 2008 by Scott Guthrie, here.

Find on my computer here:
C:\Documents and Settings\Luddite\My Documents\Visual Studio 2008\Projects\Silverlight\MSDiggSample_VB

Jesse Liberty has started Project Turing, here.

This project uses RIA Services which is currently in beta, I will want to come back to this when RIA Services has been officially released.

Brad Abrams has a series on BusinessApps for Silverlight 3 RTM and .NET RIA Services (and now Azure), here.

The articles are numerous and varied and some way of keeping things up to date, allowing you to replace articles that have become obsolete, or replace articles which you have found to do a better job.

Can anyone recommend a good product that would help with this.

Scot Hanselman recommends Evernote, not for this, but I was wondering if something like Evernote would fit the bill…

UK Developers are being overcharged by 67% for Microsoft Expression Studio 3

UK Developers are being overcharged by 67% for Expression Studio 3

UK Developers are being overcharged by 67% for Expression Studio 3

In a previous post, I mentioned that  the Microsoft Upgrade offer for Expression Studio 3 was available to those who held a license for Visual Studio 2005 or later.  In the US that means the Upgrade is available for $349 and the full product is available for $599. Both prices exclude tax.

If you live in the UK (or anywhere in the EC) you will almost certainly be overcharged to the tune of 67%

The UK Price is

£394.61

This excludes VAT of

£51.47

Price Excluding Tax (VAT) is

£343.14

Exchange Rate is £1 = $1.70

 

Dollar Price (Excl Tax) in UK is

$583.34

Dollar Price in US is

$349.00

UK developers are being overcharged

67%

 

Expression 3 Upgrade Offer for Visual Studio Developers

Expression 3 Upgrade Offer for Visual Studio Developers

 

Click on the image above, or click here to verify the situation for yourself.

This is the type of situation that the UK government and the EU parliament should be addressing.  Users do not need or even want IE unbundled from the Windows operating system.

Using the Background Worker Process for Long Running Processes in WPF and Silverlight

Using the Background Worker Process for Long Running Processes in WPF and Silverlight

Using the Background Worker Process for Long Running Processes in WPF and Silverlight

In a previous article WPF DataBinding using Visual Basic (VB.NET), a problem was encountered when trying to keep the User Interface active during Long Running Processes as a result of a button click.  Either the whole system would hang until the process was completed or the program would crash.

This hang-up is due to the fact that both the Long Running Process and the UI are using the same thread.  The solution is to run the Long Running Process in a separate thread.  The BackgroundWorker component, gives you the ability to execute Long Running Processes in the background asynchronously, on a separate thread from the application’s main UI thread.

I have just started a project which is going to have quite a few of these Long Running Processes and so what I need is a simple implementation of the Background Worker  process which I can expand as required.

The implementation consists of a WPF page with a start button, a cancel button and three labels to let the user know what is happening before, during and after the Long Running Process has been started by the start button.


<Page x:Class="BackGroundWorkerExample"
    xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation"
    xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml"
    Title="BackGroundWorkerExample"
    x:Name="BackGroundWorkerExample"  WindowTitle="WPF Luddite Test Bed: Background Worker Example" Width="1024" Height="768">
    <StackPanel>
        <Button x:Name="btnStartBackgroundProcess" Width="300" Height="30" Margin="0 20 0 0"
            Content="Start Background Process">
        </Button>
        <Label x:Name="lblStartedCompleted" Content="" Width="500" Height="30" Margin="0 20 0 0">
        </Label>
        <Label x:Name="lblCounter" Content="" Width="500" Height="30" Margin="0 20 0 0">
        </Label>
        <Label x:Name="lblPercentCompleted" Content="" Width="500" Height="30" Margin="0 20 0 0">
        </Label>
        <Button x:Name="btnCancelBackgroundProcess" Width="300" Height="30" Margin="0 20 0 0"
            Content="Cancel Background Process" IsEnabled="False">
        </Button>

    </StackPanel>
</Page>

The following steps will be required in the code behind:

1.  Define a new BackgroundWorker, create an instance and do some setup.

2. Define the LongRunningProcess – must not reference the User Interface (UI).

3. Define a subroutine to handle the BackgroundWorker DoWork event.

4. Define a subroutine to handle the BackgroundWorker ProgressChanged event.

5. Define a subroutine to handle the BackgroundWorker RunWorkerCompleted event.

6. Define a subroutine to handle the event caused by the Start button being clicked.

7. Define a subroutine to handle the event caused by the Cancel button being clicked.


Imports System.ComponentModel

Partial Public Class BackGroundWorkerExample

    '
    '   Define a new backgroung worker.
    '
    Private WithEvents bw As New BackgroundWorker()
    '
    ' Create new instance of BackGroundWorker and do some setup
    '
    Public Sub New()

        InitializeComponent()

        bw.WorkerSupportsCancellation = True
        bw.WorkerReportsProgress = True

    End Sub

    Private Function LongRunningProcess() As String
        '
        '   The LongRunngProcess should NOT refer to any UI objects.
        '
        Dim iteration As Integer = CInt(100000000 / 100)
        Dim cnt As Long = 0

        For i As Long = 0 To 100000000
            '
            '   Bring the LongRunningProcess to an orderly termination if the Cancel button is clicked.
            '   - see further comments in routine that handles the btnCancelBackgroundProcess_Click event.
            '
            If bw.CancellationPending Then
                Return ""
            End If

            cnt = cnt + 1

            '
            '   Report Progress:
            '   When you need the background operation to report on its progress,
            '   you can call the ReportProgress method to raise the ProgressChanged event.
            '   The ReportProgress Method permits up to 2 parameters (ProgressChangedEventArgs):
            '       Paramater 1. Is of type Integer and is defined as "percentProgress"
            '       Paremeter 2. Is of type Object and is defined as "userState"
            '       I see no reason why you can't return any information you want as long as you conform to the
            '       parameter types integer and object.
            '
            '   In a simple example like this, if the ReportProgress method was called for every iteration of i
            '   then the system would probably hang the user interface and run out of memory. Therefore, in this instance, we
            '   only report back on every 10,000 iterations.
            '
            If (i Mod 10000 = 0) _
                And (bw IsNot Nothing) _
                AndAlso bw.WorkerReportsProgress Then
                '
                '   Call ReportProgress
                '
                bw.ReportProgress(i \ iteration, cnt)
            End If

        Next

        Return cnt.ToString()

    End Function

    Private Sub backgroundWorker_DoWork(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As DoWorkEventArgs) Handles bw.DoWork
        '
        ' call long running process and get result
        '
        e.Result = Me.LongRunningProcess()
        '
        ' Cancel if cancel button was clicked.
        '
        If bw.CancellationPending Then
            e.Cancel = True ' This sets the Cancelled property of the RunWorkerCompletedEventArgs
            Return
        End If

    End Sub

    Private Sub backgroundWorker_ProgressChanged(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As System.ComponentModel.ProgressChangedEventArgs) Handles bw.ProgressChanged
        '
        '   Use the ProgressChanged Sub to give user feedback via the UI.
        '
        ' Update UI with values contained in ProgressChangedEventArgs e.ProgressPercentage and e.UserState.
        '
        Me.lblPercentCompleted.Content = CStr(e.ProgressPercentage) & "% Completed."
        lblCounter.Content = CStr(e.UserState)
        ''
    End Sub

    Private Sub backgroundWorker_RunWorkerCompleted(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As RunWorkerCompletedEventArgs) Handles bw.RunWorkerCompleted
        '
        ' Back on primary thread, can access ui controls
        '
        If e.Cancelled Then
            Me.lblStartedCompleted.Content = "Process Cancelled."
        Else
            Me.lblStartedCompleted.Content = "Background Process Completed. "
        End If
        '
        Me.btnStartBackgroundProcess.IsEnabled = True
        Me.btnCancelBackgroundProcess.IsEnabled = False
        ''
    End Sub

    Private Sub btnStartBackgroundProcess_Click(ByVal sender As System.Object, ByVal e As System.Windows.RoutedEventArgs) Handles btnStartBackgroundProcess.Click
        '
        lblStartedCompleted.Content = "Background Process Started..."
        Me.btnStartBackgroundProcess.IsEnabled = False
        Me.btnCancelBackgroundProcess.IsEnabled = True
        '
        ' Calls DoWork on secondary thread
        '
        bw.RunWorkerAsync()
        '
        ' RunWorkerAsync returns immediately.
        ''
    End Sub

    Private Sub btnCancelBackgroundProcess_Click(ByVal sender As System.Object, ByVal e As System.Windows.RoutedEventArgs) Handles btnCancelBackgroundProcess.Click
        '
        '   There are several points to note when cancelling a process:
        '
        '   1. The WorkerSupportsCancellation property must have been initialised to true.
        '
        '   2. The CancelAsync method does not immediately cancel the process, but instead sets the
        '      CancellationPending property to True.  It is the therefore important that the LongRunningProcess
        '      periodically checks the CancellationPending property and if True the process should be
        '      terminated in an orderly manner.
        '
        '   3. The CancellationPending property of the background worker process should also be checked by the
        '      routine handling the DoWork method after the LongRunningProcess has completed.
        '      If the CancellationPending Property is true then the DoWork routine should set Cancel
        '      property of the DoWorkEventArgs to True.
        '      CancelAsync() method.  This should be checked by the routine which is handling the RunWorkerCompleted
        '      event.
        '
        '   4. It is good practice to ensure theat the Cancel button is only enabled when the LongRunningProcess
        '      is actually running.  Therefore the button should be disabled by default, only enabled when the
        '      process is started, and disable again when the process is completed or cancelled.
        '
        bw.CancelAsync()
        '
        btnCancelBackgroundProcess.IsEnabled = False
        '
    End Sub

End Class

Hope this helps.

Expression 3 Upgrade Offer for Visual Studio Silverlight and WPF Developers

Expression 3 Upgrade Offer for Visual Studio Developers

Expression 3 Upgrade Offer for Visual Studio Developers

Like many small development shops and one man/woman software entrepreneurs, I have a limited budget for development tools.  Currently the best value option for me is the  Visual Studio Professional with MSDN Professional subscription. However, this does not give me access to any of the expression products, which would be very useful for Silverlight and WPF projects.

I am particularly interested in using Expression Blend for design work; Sketchflow for customer demo’s and specs; and Expression Encoder for encoding videos for my Silverlight web pages.

The great news is that you can take advantage of the Expression 3 Upgrade Offer if you own a licensed copy of Visual Studio 2005 or later.  The upgrade price offers developers a considerable saving on the full price alternative.

Silverlight Security – Part One – Code Obfuscation

dotfuscator

dotfuscator

smartassembly

smartassembly

DeepSea Obfuscator

DeepSea Obfuscator

Silverlight is a client side technology which uses the Siverlight framework on the users machine.  This helps give the user the rich user interface experience normally associated with desktop application.

However, unlike ASP.NET , where application code behind is executed on the server (code behind), silverlight code must be downloaded to the client machine.  The xap file which is downloaded is basically just a zip file containing code assemblies (dll’s) and manifest files.  You can simply change the extension of an xap file to .zip and extract the files.

Your assemblies can now be read using utilities like .Net Reflector .  This enable programmers to view your code, variable names, string values, connection strings, and username/password combinations.

Never store connection strings or username/password combinations in your silverlight code.

Never directly connect to your domain database from your silverlight code, always use a web service (or ria services), more about this in part two.

Obfuscation is NOT enough on its own to deter a sufficiently motivated competitor.  You do not want modified versions of your application wreaking havoc on the world wide web.

Consider keeping commercially valuable code on your server and allowing your silverlight application to call a web service to perform the necessary routines and provide the results.

If you are accessing sensative, confidential, or commercially valuable data in your web service then use SSL encryption.

You can decide for yourself what level of obfuscation you want and can afford.  For single developers and small software companies the cost of these obfuscators may be  significant. Although some offer basic versions free of charge, if you are serious about protecting your code, your applications and your data, then you are going to require one of the paid versions and an SSL certificate.

Visual Studio already includes the free community edition of Dotfuscator from preemtive solutions.  Although this really only does basic renaming of variables, and you will probably want either the Pro version or the single developer version.

Other solutions include DeapSea Obfuscator from TallApplications and SmartAssembly from Cachupa.

Some of the obfuscation suppliers have websites that have more in common with obfuscation rather than informing the user about product features, pricing and comparisons between their different versions, so you will need to dig through their websites diligently to get all the information you want.