Visual Studio Integration With Entity Spaces 2009

by Jon Davis 12. October 2008 10:52

I've been getting more and more pessimistic lately about the value of generated code. While generated code has the huge advantage of outputting the cleanest and fastest code, I've started to really dislike the developer workflow aspect of opening up an external application that looks and feels completely different from Visual Studio and has absolutely no clue as to where the generated output is being used. For this reason, as much as I admired MyGeneration and CodeSmith (particularly the former since it was free and open source and more powerful, arguably, than the latter), I was never entirely comfortable as I adopted them into my workflow, always scared of the painful isolation of the code generation from my IDE workspace. The same is true of what I thought I saw of Llblgen, which has a very rich ORM toolset but it's still isolated.

Isn't the standalone nature of SQL Server Management Studio enough isolation for us??

I was slow on the uptake of interest in EntitySpaces 2009's promises to perform code generation inline with Visual Studio, but now that it's being discussed, and screenshots are displayed, I don't know, there's something about a screenshot that helps me imagine it in my workflow. And now I'm feeling all excited. Microsoft added the database servers view in Visual Studio for lightweight database management for a reason: they understand that developers often don't like to Alt-Tab out of their workflow, and by integrating it into the IDE they can introduce such things as project awareness and drag-and-drop features, etc. The EntitySpaces team apparently understands this, and they've gone in the same direction (although as far as I know, and as far as I care, drag-and-drop data binding is not an EntitySpaces feature, nor would I expect it to be).

But what I love about this new direction is that the management of data mapping is no longer XSD XML/CS (a la Microsoft ADO.NET integrated tooling), it's no longer nHibernate XML maps, it's no longer an external application, and it's not a tool that forces you to choose between a diagram and XML (LINQ-to-SQL). It's a built-in tool that appears to look and feel like the data servers / schema tree tool but emits user-configured, performance-optimized, easily adaptive POCO business objects that you can build around. Now I think I can comfortably include this in my workflow; my question is, when can I get my hands on this bad boy?

(Neither Entity Spaces nor its owner Mike Griffin paid me nor requested for me to post this.)

jQuery Has Won The 3+ Year Javascript Framework Battle (As Far As I'm Concerned)

by Jon Davis 28. September 2008 15:33

It's official. jQuery has become the new de facto standard for the web development community. By rolling jQuery in with Visual Studio and the ASP.NET core tools pipeline, a whole new precedent has been set in the software industry.

jQuery was already supported in many major IDEs, including Aptana Studio (which is built on Eclipse), but usually only sharing with other frameworks like prototype. But there are two IDEs that have pretty much ruled the software industry for the last several years: Visual Studio and Eclipse. Neither one has chosen any particular "favorite" Javascript open source framework. You usually get a bundle of different frameworks being supported or nothing at all (import something yourself or roll your own).

But Microsoft's decision to adopt a third party software framework, bundle it, and make it a foundational component of its own, is an earth-shaking paradigm shift. This is something that will turn the software industry on its head. There is a whole industry carved out from the trenches that Microsoft dug. Giving a third party framework the honor of being placed into the middle of it all and running half the show, so to speak, is absolutely breathtaking, a moment to be awed. Right now everyone should take a moment and let their mouths gape because this is just short of bizzare.

And I mean that with no pretentions. I'm not saying that "this is unlike Microsoft", although it is, because there really is no precedent for this. The only precedents I can think of have been support for open standards--support for HTML (Internet Explorer), HTTP, FTP (bundled in Explorer), the TCP/IP stack, OpenGL, keyboard/mouse standardization, compact disc file system support, and standard driver support. But all of those things have traditionally always had, with very few exceptions, a proprietary implementation of software of Microsoft's own making or bought out. Most of the exceptions come from third parties such as Intel, who licensed technology, which is not the same as bundling open source code.

jQuery is licensed on the MIT license. Microsoft will be a "normal" participant with the jQuery community just like anyone else; they will introduce ideas, report bugs, and propose bug fixes, but they will go through a QA and approval process just like everyone else.

The closest thing I can think of that even remotely equates to Microsoft getting this involved with and supporting of outsiders in the web community was back in the late 90s, when Microsoft got very involved with the W3C and helped shape the directions of Dynamic HTML and the DOM, not to mention their extensive involvement with the XML and then SOAP initiatives and the insanely detailed UDDI [dis]proving that followed. But once again, those are standards / protocols, not code. So even though Microsoft has done amazing shifts in supporting the open source communities with CodePlex (bravo!), I'm curious if this really is the first time, ever, that Microsoft has done this on behalf of their proprietary development platforms (Visual Studio, ASP.NET).

On a final note, I must say that I absolutely adore jQuery and what it does for web development. jQuery working with Microsoft's ASP.NET MVC and C# 3.0 w/ LINQ are all a match made in heaven. Knowing that Microsoft is going to build on top of jQuery is almost like getting a wonderful new programming language akin to C#, but built for the web. So really, my day just went from being depressed from the last week to being literally overjoyed like I just got engaged to marry someone or something.

Diggin DeskAway

by Jon Davis 24. May 2008 00:40

A while back, I posted a blog entry mentioning a couple project management web sites I had found that were inspired by Base Camp but seemed to have things done up right. I got a comment from the folks at, suggesting that I check that service out. I found some really annoying issues up front, and I was very vocal about how turned off I was by the otherwise fantastic site because of those issues.

Those issues have been dealt with, though, and although the site is not bug-free nor flawless, it is now proving to be by far the best project management web site I have ever touched. I initiated a big project at work on the site and after I added a few co-workers and my boss to the project and dropped $10 for a month of "Personal" service (mainly so I could replace the plain and boring logo), my boss came back and told me he was buying a $100 (year) subscription for our company instance because he liked the site so much.

The company is surprisingly responsive to flaws mentioned on the site. I often get e-mails from the CEO himself, the same fella who posted a comment here on my blog recommending that I check it out. I tend to wonder if he is really just a signature a whole staff is reusing, because the responsiveness to my issues -- even performance issues and my own complaints about down time -- have been responded to and addressed within days. 

Give it a look, you'll be glad you did. 

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Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) + VMWare Fusion + Mono = Bliss

by Jon Davis 17. May 2008 15:13

I have been using my new Mac Mini for less than 24 hours and it already looks like this:

In the screenshot I have VMWare Fusion with Unity enabled so that I have the Windows Vista Start menu (I can toggle off the Start menu's visibility from VMWare itself) and Internet Explorer 7. (I also have Visual Studio 2008 installed in that virtual machine). Next to Internet Explorer on the left is Finder which is showing a bunch of the apps I have installed, including most of the stuff at On the right I have MonoDevelop where I can write C# or VB.NET applications for the Mac, for Linux, or for Windows. And of course, down below I have the Dock popped up because that's where my arrow actually is.

I also, obviously, have an Ubuntu VM I can fire up any time I want if I want to test something in Linux. 

Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) comes with native X11, not out of the box but with the installer CD, and it's the first OS X build to do so (previous versions used or required XFree86).

This point in time is a particularly intriguing milestone date for the alignment of the moons and stars for blissful cross-platform development using the Mac as a central hub of all things wonderful:


  • X11 on Mac OS X 10.5
  • MonoDevelop 1.0 is generally gold (released, it's very nice)
  • System.Windows.Forms in Mono is API-complete
  • VMWare Fusion's Unity feature delivers jaw-dropping, seamless windowing integration between Windows XP / Vista and Mac OS X. And to make things even more wonderful, VMWare Fusion 2, which comes with experimental DirectX 9 support, will be a free upgrade.
  • For game developers, the Unity game engine is a really nice cross-platform game engine and development toolset. I have a couple buddies I'll be joining up with to help them make cross-platform games, something I always wanted to do. This as opposed to XNA, which doesn't seem to know entirely what it's doing and comes with a community framework that's chock full of vaporware. (But then, I still greatly admire XNA and hope to tackle XNA projects soon.)
  • The hackable iPhone (which I also got this week, hacked, and SSH'd into with rediculous ease), which when supplemented with the BSD core, is an amazing piece of geek gadgetry that can enable anyone to write mobile applications using open-source tools (I'd like to see Mono running on it). The amount of quality software written for the hacked iPhone is staggering, about as impressive as the amount of open source software written for the Mac itself. Judging by the quantity of cool installable software, I had no idea how commonplace hacked iPhones were.
  • Meanwhile, for legit game development, the Unity 3D game engine now supports the iPhone and iPod Touch (so that's where XNA got the Zune support idea!) and the iPhone SDK is no longer just a bunch of CSS hacks for Safari but actually binary compile tools.


Embeddable Cross-Platform Silverlight

by Jon Davis 15. May 2008 00:02

I've been wanting to start discovering cross-platform development with Mono, MonoDevelop, Gecko#, C++, XPCOM, XUL, XULRunner, WebKit, et al. I have a couple vaporware apps in mind and I have just purchased a Mac Mini and an iPhone mainly for this purpose. And meanwhile since Silverlight happens to be cross-platform as well, I was curious about its licensing. Theoretically, one can accomplish an Adobe AIR-like cross-platform application implementation using Silverlight and XUL or WebKit. Problem is, I had heard that Silverlight was explicitly written to disallow it from being used on anything but a standard HTML web browser (Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer).

After spending an hour or so poking at the n00b tutorials on XUL and XPCOM, I went to the Silverlight site and spent several minutes looking everywhere for the darn EULA. (Sadly, after finding it, once I hopped on this blog editor I lost it and it took another 15 minutes to find it again.) and

I didn't see any such limitation there, nothing about "thou shalt only use Silverlight in a 'standard web browser', namely Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari".  There are some limitations, of course, such as perhaps redistribution, which theoretically if the app is a XUL app can be deal with using HTML+JS+XUL+XPI, getting Silverlight into thinking it's downloading and installing itself through and onto Firefox. (All theory, of course.)

On a side topic, if anyone out there is reading this, can someone tell me why there are almost no open discussions correlating XUL and XAML/WPF? They seem to attempt to do the same basic function--create apps using XML and components--albeit WPF is far more powerful and versatile in itself as a tool in its niche, whereas XUL is Javascript/HTML friendly and is cross-platform.

UPDATE: After discussing with a buddy who's done cross-platform .NET programming with Mono, apparently Glade + GTK# has an XML markup language that also meets the same objective.

On second thought, maybe I just wasn't searching hard enough. I see a lot of hits here:

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XNA 3.0 CTP Released

by Jon Davis 8. May 2008 14:12

For fun, I watch the XNA community, although I haven't participated as much as I wish because of time constraints (of course).

An XNA 3.0 CTP has just been released, which targets both Windows and -- yay! -- the Zune.

I want to get me a Zune. Now they just need to tie Zune with Windows Mobile for Smart Phones so I can carry only one brick around with me instead of two...

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EntitySpaces on Silverlight 2: Part One

by Jon Davis 4. May 2008 18:25

I managed to get EntitySpaces running on Silverlight over WCF client proxies. I documented the steps as a tutorial and Mike Griffin at EntitySpaces posted it up on the EntitySpaces blog. kick it on 

Demo here:

I retained my Word doc so I can retain my personal preference of formatting, fix typos, and add a few annotations and disclaimers here and there like, "So far these steps don’t lend themselves very well to an offline development workflow. Finding a more appropriate workflow pattern, though, is beyond the scope of this initiative. (Good luck.)" We can thank Microsoft for making WCF on IIS 7 such a pain in the behind for binding service endpoints, without any code generation or GUIfication. But enough whining, client-side business objects in Silverlight is a hawt approach to LOB RIAs. and Silverlight Demo - Part 1.doc

Part two will be short 'n sweet but much more focused on actually working with EntitySpaces. This part didn't give ES justice...

EntitySpaces RIA running in Safari 3.1 (on Windows) with just about 20 lines of hand-written client-server code and XAML markup:

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LINQPad - One Of .NET's Best Kept Secrets

by Jon Davis 18. March 2008 14:36

This thing is awesome. :)

LINQPad supports everything in C# 3.0 and Framework 3.5:

  • LINQ to SQL
  • LINQ to Objects
  • LINQ to XML

LINQPad is also a great way to learn LINQ: it comes preloaded with 200 examples from my book, C# 3.0 in a Nutshell.  There's no better way to experience the coolness of LINQ and functional programming.

And LINQPad is more than just a LINQ query tool: it's a code snippet IDE. Instantly execute any C# 3 or VB 9 expression or statement block!

Best of all, LINQPad is free and needs no installation: just download and run.  The executable is under 2MB and is self-updating.

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Silverlight: DOCX-to-XAML using

by Jon Davis 10. March 2008 02:07

At they've proven that Silverlight 2 and its CLR is flexible enough to be able to take a .docx file (that's a modern Microsoft Word document) and browse it in Silverlight. I am assuming it's converting to XAML under the covers, and even if not I'm sure that a Canvas object and its contents are serializable to XAML (yes?).

What I want to know is, if a Word document can be browsed in Silverlight, why doesn't Microsoft take this another nineteen miles and convert XHTML+CSS to XAML and make Internet Explorer 9 or IE 10 a completely WPF based renderer?

I know that's not nearly as simple as it sounds; there is a vast amount of complexity in Trident.

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Silverlight Gets 1.5 Million Downloads Per Day

by Jon Davis 9. March 2008 13:43

At the MIX 08 keynote ..
.. or if that fails,

.. it was announced that Silverlight is being installed by Internet users at a rate of 1.5 million installations per day.

I think we can now pretty much rule out the question as to whether Silverlight is going to reach critical mass enough for it to not be "weird" if you expect your users to download Silverlight before using some widget on your site. I wouldn't have cared, because I knew better, were it not for having to work with co-workers who beat their chests in pride and remain intentionally oblivious to the sheer significance that Silverlight brings to the web on the whole, even now.

kick it on

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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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