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    Thursday, December 13, 2007


    Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Launch Party

    Our adoption transition has made it a while since I did anything truly geeky, but I've made up for lost time in the last two weeks.

    First, a recap. After five+ years of gardening our AS400, JD Edwards EnterpriseOne, and Microsoft SQL Server systems, in March 2007 I inherited no small thing: developing enhancements for our company's business-to-business ordering web site. The project was originally implemented by a third party in ASP.NET and Visual Basic.NET using Visual Studio 2003. Besides cleaning up some database and HTML problems and posting a few new images and links on the public side, since March I have climbed a massive learning curve to add a search feature to the catalog pages, a purchase order number entry field, and the ability for our customers to submit retail price changes through the browser.

    My executive sponsor decided mid-November that upgrading to the .NET Framework 2.0 and Visual Studio 2005 was a key priority, opening the promise of a more attractive user experience with technologies like AJAX. Within minutes of researching the cost, I discovered that the bleeding edge release of Visual Studio 2008 and Framework 3.5 was scheduled for the end of November, literally one week away. While hunting for upgrade information, I also re-discovered the Indianapolis .NET Developers Association user group and found they had scheduled an Install Fest for December 13 where Microsoft would give away a free copy of VS2008 Professional to each registered attendee! Thirteen years in I.T. has made me paranoid, so I'm not the early-adopter type, but who can turn down an $800 Christmas present? I watched the downloads page and grabbed the 90-day trial as soon as it hit, spent a few days converting and testing the solution from Framework 1.1 to 3.5, and can successfully compile and view the site just like before. (Note: Using the upgrade wizard to go directly from 1.1 to 3.5 was a mess; when I went from 1.1 to 2.0 then to 3.5, everything worked as expected.)

    DotNETRocks podcastSince VS2008 is so new, I found zero books -- though as of today Visual Studio 2008 Unleashed is listed on and Stephen Walther's ASP.NET 3.5 Unleashed is imminent. The hunt for online VS2008/3.5-specific resources so far has been futile, though I did find a lot of good videos, tutorials, and books on .NET Framework 2.0. The most accessible resource I've found is Carl Franklin's DotNETRocks podcast; I liked the recent episodes so much that I've started listening from episode one.

    Tonight, I attended the IndyNDA user group meeting, primarily to get the free copy of Visual Studio Pro, but with growing confidence that it is exactly the kind of environment I need to build personal momentum. The parking lot was completely full--as was the hallway and the Stahl Conference Room in the beautiful Gene B. Glick Junior Achievement Center. People really came through to contribute a pile of unopened toys toward Toys for Tots. Microsoft footed the bill for a delicious fully-catered dinner of lasagna, and we were never in want. Folks of all shapes and sizes installed their Visual Studio 2008 while I caught up with two friends. A ton of door prizes were given away: books, software, shirts, mugs, X Boxes, and other goodies. (Having won a $50 CircuitCity gift card at my JD Edwards user group meeting earlier the same day, I was content with the Visual Studio tee I got as a reward for successfully installing VS 2008.) Individuals were also invited up to demonstrate their favorite tip, so we were treated to demos of syndication services, unit testing, code metrics, javascript debugging, the HashSet class plus the CTRL+} and CTRL+B shortcuts, the System.AddIn class, and AJAX debugging. The most hilarious aspect of the night was watching grown men play Guitar Hero in the back room, which I explored because of the vast array of chocolate-chip cookies. It was a fun time, but educational and a perfect ice-breaker for my next visit. I have already decided to start attending the monthly ASP.NET special interest group meetings the first Thursday of each month. I extend the warmest thanks to all the sponsors and volunteers who make events like this possible; it's great to be a part of such a generous support system.

    Visual Studio 2008There are some key features in Visual Studio 2008 that will be a great help in the next phase of our web ordering system:
    So there ya go. If you want to geek out with me, download and install the free Express version of Microsoft Visual Studio, play around with it, and we can talk shop in our spare time. And remember that no matter what you do for work or pleasure, you can probably find a local user group who can help--or who can use your help.