Scott Hanselman

A year with an Amazon Kindle (and new Kindle Cases)

January 25, '09 Comments [17] Posted in Reviews
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image It's been almost a year (well, 11 months) with my Amazon Kindle. I still use it every day, so that's a pretty good litmus test. I'm also looking for a good Kindle replacement case, so that's also good.

I use the Kindle to read the NYTimes, and a few blogs. I've read about two dozen books on it this last year, about 15 purchased from Amazon and the rest were free e-Books. I take it on every business trip, I read books while brushing my teeth, it goes everywhere with me. It's light, convenient and wonderful.

The Good:

  • Coverage. Anyway I've gone in the states, I've had good coverage and no trouble getting new books. There isn't complete coverage, but if you make sure to download whatever books you want for your trip before you head into the boonies, you'll cool. I loaded up before a trip to South Africa, turned off the radio, and used it happily disconnected for weeks.
  • Battery Life. The battery really lasts for thousands of page-turns. Remember that it doesn't use really any power at all if the pages aren't turning. It'll stay on standby (with the radio switch off) for days and days.
  • Flexibility. I read lots of books, some purchased from Amazon (the rule of thumb is that they are 25%-50% less because there's no molecules) and some free books formatted for the Kindle. It also like that your kindle gets an email address so you can email @kindle.com and whatever you send it (PDF, DOC, etc) will just show up on your Kindle.
  • The Screen: It's been said before, but truly, eInk is awesome. It's nearly as clear as paper, but more importantly, it's just easy to read. No more eye strain than a regular newspaper.
  • Convenience: The best example of the Kindle being awesome is being at an airport bookstore, browsing the books, reading the backs, then buying the book for 50% off and having it appear on the Kindle in literally seconds, then walking on a plane. It's positively evil.

The Bad:

  • Build Quality. It's still ugly and feels just a smidge cheap. It's no iPhone or Blackjack 2 or Dell Mini 9. It kind of flexes like a plastic ice tray from the freezer. It doesn't feel solid. I wish it was aluminum or something. They REALLY need to pull it together and get some Apple-level hardware build quality for the Kindle 2.
  • Screen Margins: There's a little wasted space (maybe 1/4") on the screen, acting as a margin for the text. I think the small size of the screen wouldn't bother me as much if they let me control that margin. There's probably 15-20% more screen I could get if I ran the text up closer.
  • Programming Books: The screen and reformatting doesn't serve itself well for technical books and there's no monospaced font, so just don't plan on reading coding books on this device.
  • Jeff Bezos and my Wallet: In case you haven't realized, the Kindle is THE ultimate One-Click Purchasing Device. It is literally a dotted line directly from Jeff Bezo's bank account to mine. Don't forget that. To be clear, I'm cool with it, but it's important to be aware.
  • Case. The standard Kindle case really sucks. There's an indentation in the back of the Kindle and a small plastic tab on the Kindle case and they are supposed to work together to hold the Kindle in the case, apparently by will power. It's mediocre at best and I immediately looked to replace it...which leads me to...

Replacement Kindle Cases

I've looked all over at replacement Kindle cases. I've tested some, tried out all the ones at Borders and other specialty bookstores, read all the reviews on Amazon, and based on a recommendation from Steven "Doc" List, decided to try three cases from WaterField. They are a little boutique in San Francisco and I've heard good things. I also like small companies that make one thing.

They've got three Kindle cases (as well as laptop bags, etc, etc). They've got a SlipCase in a number of colors, which is just that - a slip-in case. The sleeve is nice and includes screen protection via a sheet of plastic sewn in on one side, so I wouldn't feel bad about throwing it in my backpack at all. It's also a nice textured nylon and has a place for a pen. None of their cases are the kind that attach directly to the Kindle, so you won't be reading AND holding the case at the same time.

I went back and forth on this issue in my mind. I thought I wanted a book-style case that would somehow attach itself to the Kindle. However, since there isn't really a good secure way to attach something to the Kindle and I wasn't interested in the whole "sticky velcro" way of thinking, I decided WaterField had done the right thing. Anything that attached directly to the Kindle would have been cheesy. The Kindle is easier to read when its weight hasn't doubled by the weight of an attached case.

There's a "SleeveCase" (the names are a little confusing) that is a little bigger, but provides more protection. It's pictured above. This is interesting because it's actually big enough to hold the Kindle AND the original Kindle book-style Case. I wouldn't feel comfortable throwing my Kindle and it's regular case in a bag - it'd be destroyed. However, this larger replacement case could hold it as well as my headphones and maybe a small Moleskine notebook.

Then there's the full-on Travel Case. This thing is European. It's a man-bag. A murse. It's too big for the Kindle (although their website says it's big so it'll hold all the accessories) but it's the perfect dimensions for my Dell Mini 9. Well, near perfect. Like 99% the right size. The zippers graze the plastic as you put the Mini 9 in and out, but what's nice is that the Mini 9 can go on the inside, and the Kindle fits nicely on the outside pocket. Perfect for one day business trips with no baggage. Just make sure you wear nice shoes or folks will talk! ;)

I've been using the SleeveCase and the TravelCase (the SlipCase got returned) for the last week and I'm digging it. I'll be taking these on all my one day trips as well as using them for those days when I work from Starbucks. Way smaller than a backpack and I'm thrilled at the extra bonus that the Mini 9 and Kindle fit in the same bag.

Thanks to Doc List (on twitter) for his suggested to look hard at WaterField Bags. He likes his.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Hanselminutes Podcast 147 - The new WPF-based Text Editor in Visual Studio 2010 - Interview with a Dev

January 23, '09 Comments [4] Posted in Podcast | WPF
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image Scott is on campus this week and bumps into Noah Richards, a "lowly" (his word) dev on the new editor in Visual Studio 2010. They sit down and Scott gets an education on how it's put together, built, componentized and shared using C#, WPF and MEF.

Subscribe: Subscribe to Hanselminutes Subscribe to my Podcast in iTunes

Do also remember the complete archives are always up and they have PDF Transcripts, a little known feature that show up a few weeks after each show.

Telerik is our sponsor for this show!

Building quality software is never easy. It requires skills and imagination. We cannot promise to improve your skills, but when it comes to User Interface, we can provide the building blocks to take your application a step closer to your imagination. Explore the leading UI suites for ASP.NET and Windows Forms. Enjoy the versatility of our new-generation Reporting Tool. Dive into our online community. Visit www.telerik.com.

As I've said before this show comes to you with the audio expertise and stewardship of Carl Franklin. The name comes from Travis Illig, but the goal of the show is simple. Avoid wasting the listener's time. (and make the commute less boring)

Enjoy. Who knows what'll happen in the next show?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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ASP Dynamic Data Preview - More ways to exploit ADO.NET Data Services for fun and profit

January 19, '09 Comments [11] Posted in ASP.NET | ASP.NET Dynamic Data | ASP.NET MVC
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There's lots of interesting stuff going on in the ASP.NET team, and you can usually learn/glean/figure out most of it (if you're interested) by poking around the Codeplex ASP.NET site. They update it all the time, and you can watch their thinking. They put all sorts of stuff up there, ideas they are floating, directions they are considering and (really early) previews of those ideas and directions in the form of code. It's not production ready, more brainstorming - that's why it's on CodePlex, and why they don't exactly advertise the heck out of it.

There's a release of ASP.NET Dynamic Data 4.0 Preview 2 that was quietly put up just a month ago with this scary disclaimer:

NOTE: These previews contains features that may not be in the next version of the framework. These previews are not production quality and should be used at your own risk.

Dynamic Data 4.0 Preview 2

imageLet's poke around the SampleProject Solution that's included with this preview download. There's five projects showing off a number of new feature possibilities.

  • BusinessLogicDataSource – A showcase for a new BusinessLogicDataSource that combines customizability of ObjectDataSource with the flexibility of LINQ and the IQueryable interface. Also, a new QueryExtender feature allowing high-level query composition in markup is demonstrated.
    I don't really like the name for this (at all) but it's brainstorming at this point.
  • DataServicesServer and DataServicesClient - illustrates the use of ADO.NET Data Services with Dynamic Data. This is the stuff I think is really interesting and what I'll focus on in this post.
  • DynamicDataFuturesSample - contains the existing Dynamic Data Futures sample that has been available. This sample does not add any new functionality in comparison to the old Futures project except for running on new Dynamic Data assemblies.
  • SampleProject – Shows the next generation of Dynamic Data features including support for Entity Framework and Linq to SQL inheritance, many to many support for Entity Framework, Entity templates and the new templated filters that are based on the QueryExtender.

The two I'm interested in are the DataServicesServer and Client.

Quick Review

Before I talk about them, let's review some of the things we can, as developers, choose from in .NET 3.5 on the Data side. You've got lots of choices:

  • Linq to SQL (Server): If you don't mind your objects being nearly 1:1 with data model, it's fast and easy to use. Stackoverflow.com uses it. Some folks are freaking out thinking it's "dead." But I think that's silly. More on that later. I use it all the time. Know what it can do, know what it's not good for.
  • Entity Framework: If you want more control over what your Data Access Layer (DAL) objects look like, and there's not a 1:1 relationship between your objects and the database. If you are using not just SQL Server, but other databases like Oracle, etc.
  • Your own thing: Lots of folks write their own DALs with DataReaders loading objects, etc. I used to do this with CodeSmith generating all the boring stuff.
  • NHibernate (OSS): Define your Domain, define a mapping (from a number of possible ways) and configure.
  • Subsonic: Can be used two ways, as an regular ORM (Object Relational Mapper) or as a no-code DAL provider.

On the Web side, you can make your "angle-brackets" and HTML UIs ;) a number of ways:

  • ASP.NET Web Forms - Programming the web with a controls and event model.
    • Classic Demo: Drag a grid, drag a data source, setup some binding markup. Boom, page.
  • ASP.NET MVC - Testable, extensible. Control over your markup and your programming model.
    • Classic Demo: Write a test, fail, fix, pass. Create a model, create a view, hook up the controller. Boom, page.
  • ASP.NET Dynamic Data - Dynamically generating sites using templates over a meta-model.
    • Classic Demo: File | New ASP.NET Dynamic Data site. Let it know about your Data Context. Edit the templates to test. Boom, site.

If you aren't generating UI angle-brackets, but rather data-specific angle-brackets, like XML, or even JSON, you can use:

  • ADO.NET Data Services (codename: Astoria): You can take any IQueryable objects and get a nice AtomPub/REST Web Service interface based on WCF (Windows Communication Foundation). This isn't a database-specific technology; you can make data services just with List<MyObject>. Anything with a LINQ provider can be a service. Astoria is a great way to take a client application that may have needed direct database access and turn it into an app that talks HTTP over Port 80. It's also a great way to get JSON back for your jQuery ajax() calls or by using ADO.NET Data Services direct Javascript support.

image

Mix and Match

For the most part, you can happily mix and match these different technologies as much as you like. That means you can use ASP.NET MVC with NHibernate, or Web Forms with Subsonic.

Some have some requirements, usually an interface to implement or a provider to provide. For example, if you have an IQueryable (LINQ) implementation, you can use ADO.NET Data Services. If you've got LINQ for Subsonic, you get ADO.NET Data Services for free. If you want Updates, you implement IUpdateable. (Here's a LINQ to SQL IUpdateable implementation, and why you should care.)

However, ASP.NET Dynamic Data does a LOT of stuff for you. It needs a complete "meta-model" populated that describes the data and needs to understand how to update that data. It's pretty specific to the underlying database (or ORM, or whatever) technology, so you need a provider that is specific. That DataModelProvider (and a few others) get the metadata from your source and pass it to ASP.NET Dynamic Data. ASP.NET 3.5 SP1 ships with providers for Entity Framework and Linq to SQL.

You could implement your own, if you have an existing database/access technology. Someone could write some NHibernate or Subsonic providers, then get all the Dynamic Data stuff to sit on top.

I really like keeping my websites from having direct access to the database, at least when I'm doing big Enterprise work. One of the rules the security guys always drilled into us was to assume that the web server has already been compromised. Basically, assume they (the baddies) OWN (or PWN) it, and code appropriately. There's a number of ways to do this, but one way to limit access to your database is to create a very limited Web Services/REST interface to be called from the Web Server.

Back to ASP.NET Dynamic Data. There's no provider that lets you point ASP.NET Dynamic Data to a ADO.NET Data Service...except there is in this preview.

The Preview Projects - DataServicesClient and DataServicesServer

If you check out the web.config of the DataServicesClient project, you can see he's added client-side assembly redirects to force the loading of his private builds of two assemblies:

<runtime>
<assemblyBinding xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v1">
<dependentAssembly>
<assemblyIdentity name="System.ComponentModel.DataAnnotations" publicKeyToken="31bf3856ad364e35"/>
<bindingRedirect oldVersion="3.5.0.0" newVersion="99.0.0.0"/>
</dependentAssembly>
<dependentAssembly>
<assemblyIdentity name="System.Web.DynamicData" publicKeyToken="31bf3856ad364e35"/>
<bindingRedirect oldVersion="3.5.0.0" newVersion="99.0.0.0"/>
</dependentAssembly>
</assemblyBinding>
</runtime>

There's two changed files with the goofy build number of 99.0.0.0. Those are preview DLLs. After this, it  looks pretty much like a standard Dynamic Data ASP.NET site.  There's a client-side DataContext generated from a standard, unchanged, ADO.NET Data Service and it gets registered in the Global.asax:

MetaModel model = new MetaModel()
model.RegisterContext(
new DataServiceDataModelProvider(
typeof(NORTHWNDModel.NorthwindClientEntities)),
new ContextConfiguration() { ScaffoldAllTables = true });

The Dynamic Data system gets all its meta-model information from the DataServiceDataModelProvider pass in there. It's currently in Microsoft.Web.Misc.dll along with some other very telling (at least at the time, but surprising no one noticed) stuff like "RedDogDataServiceContext" and "SDSDataServiceContext." (The last one is a silly name, expanding to SQL Data Service Data Service Context. ;) )

But not just Dynamic Data, WebForms, too

In the DynamicData Templates, there's a reference to a new DataSource control called DataServiceLinqDataSource. That's included in this preview. This is cool because it not only hooks up nicely to the templates, but it can be used outside Dynamic Data. You can use it in Web Forms just like this using a ListView or GridView or whatever.

<asp:GridView ID="GridView1" runat="server" DataSourceID="GridDataSource"
AutoGenerateEditButton="true" AutoGenerateDeleteButton="true"
AllowPaging="True" AllowSorting="True">
</asp:GridView>

<asp:DataServiceLinqDataSource ID="GridDataSource"
ContextTypeName="NORTHWNDModel.NorthwindClientEntities" TableName="Products"
runat="server" EnableDelete="true" EnableUpdate="true">
</asp:DataServiceLinqDataSource>

This way you can use ADO.NET Data Services wherever. In markup, in code-behind, in Dynamic Data sites, or some combination of them all - staying off the database directly and talking REST (AtomPub) Web Services instead from you Web Services, so you go from this:

image

To this:

image

Again, bask in the wonderful Paint-y ness of my lovingly created high-quality diagrams.

I personally think that this is an important addition and fills a hole. If you agree and think it should be a part of something in the future, tell Scott Hunter (crush him with email!) the Program Manager for ASP.NET Dynamic Data. He put this release up for feedback, so contact him if you've got ideas, comments or feel strongly about something. Or leave a comment here and I'll tell him.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Hanselminutes Podcast 146 - Test Driven Development is Design - The Last Word on TDD

January 17, '09 Comments [6] Posted in Podcast
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imageThe one-hundred-and-forty-sixth podcast is up. Scott Hanselman talks to Scott Bellware about TDD. ScottB says that Test Driven Development is less about Testing and more about Design. Is TDD poorly named? Did Test Smell beget Design Smell beget Code Smell? ScottB has the Last Word.

Subscribe: Subscribe to Hanselminutes Subscribe to my Podcast in iTunes

Do also remember the complete archives are always up and they have PDF Transcripts, a little known feature that show up a few weeks after each show.

Telerik is our sponsor for this show!

Building quality software is never easy. It requires skills and imagination. We cannot promise to improve your skills, but when it comes to User Interface, we can provide the building blocks to take your application a step closer to your imagination. Explore the leading UI suites for ASP.NET and Windows Forms. Enjoy the versatility of our new-generation Reporting Tool. Dive into our online community. Visit www.telerik.com.

As I've said before this show comes to you with the audio expertise and stewardship of Carl Franklin. The name comes from Travis Illig, but the goal of the show is simple. Avoid wasting the listener's time. (and make the commute less boring)

Enjoy. Who knows what'll happen in the next show?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Real World Apps in Days not Weeks

January 16, '09 Comments [26] Posted in ASP.NET | Windows Client | WPF
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imageI've given a number of presentations on ADO.NET Data Services (formerly codenamed: "Astoria") and I'm still convinced that if what it does fits your scenario, you can get a metric ass-load of work done in a short period of time.

Here's a real world example. A buddy of mine gives me a call and says he's been asked to do an application for a large clothing manufacturer. It'll run on the client machine and need to retrieve Apparel details over the web. He tells me he was thinking of using Web Services, maybe ASMX Web Services.

I asked him if it was primarily going to be CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) type operations, nothing too fancy. He said yes, there'd be some sorting and filtering, but that'd be it. Should I write an HttpHandler and just return an Xml document? Some format I'll make up? he says. (Sound familiar? Kind of 2004, eh?)

Does it need an administrative console?, I ask. He says that'd be nice, but it wasn't spec'ed out. He figured this would be pretty low rent. The client even suggested (gasp) that they could just maintain a local XML file. After I threw up in my mouth a little, I made a few suggestions. ;)

Remembering that the goal here is for the solution to be simple, clean, and robust. It's also to under-promise to the client, but over-deliver. It's also worth noting my friend did a fixed bid for the work, so he just wanted to get it done.

We busted out the napkins and pens over lunch and scribbled some ideas, lovingly reproduced above in Paint.NET.

In about an hour, he described the Domain Model and we created a database using LINQ to SQL. We filled it with temp data and created a new Visual Studio Solution. We added a WPF app and an ASP.NET Website.

To the website we put in our LINQ to SQL .dbml so we had our Data Context. We added a new ADO.NET Data Service and hooked it up to the Data Context. I then showed him how he could query the entity model with HTTP calls. Then we moved based the browser-based examples and added a Service Reference to our WPF app and I showed him "LINQ to REST."

Next, we created a ASP.NET Dynamic Data website, but ended up combining it with our previous site, so we had a single ASP.NET website that was both a Dynamic Data site that also included an ADO.NET Data Service. The out of the box ASP.NET DD experience gave him a complete admin site that he'll wrap in either Windows Auth or ASP.NET Forms Auth - both things he already knows how to do as an ASP.NET developer.

We were able to get a nice working skeleton for his application in an hour. He used the ObjectDataProvider in WPF to bind the entities returned from ADO.NET Data Service to lists and combos in his client app. He got a free admin site that he can skin with CSS or change the markup to taste.

He's spent the last few weeks, on and off, going back and forth with the designer who wants the WPF app to look this way or that way, and he's changed the data model a few times, but the work in that first hour over lunch set the tone for his whole project.

Hopefully I'll get his client to agree to let me use the app as a case study or something and I'll be able to give you, Dear Reader, a LOT more detail about that first hour.

A reminder, also. All this stuff, everything we used ships today in .NET 3.5 SP1. We didn't use anything beta.

For now, though, here's some links:

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.