Scott Hanselman

.NET 4.1 Preview - New Base Class Library (BCL) Extension Methods - RFC

April 1, '09 Comments [16] Posted in ASP.NET | DLR | Javascript | Learning .NET | Microsoft | Musings | Open Source | PHP | Programming | Python | Silverlight | Source Code | Tools | VB | Web Services | Windows Client | XML
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As web programmers, we use a lot of strings to move data around the web. Often we’ll use a string to represent a date or an integer or a boolean. Basically "1" in instead of 1, or "April 1, 2009" rather than a proper ISO-8601 formatted culture-invariant date.

While these strings are flying around via HTTP it's not a huge deal, but sometimes this loose, even sloppy, use of strings can leak into our own code. We might find ourselves leaving the data times as strings longer and longer, or not even bothering to convert them to their proper type at all. This problem is made worse by the proliferation of JSON, and schema-less/namespace-less XML (that I've often called "angle-bracket delimited files" as they're no more useful than CSVs in that point.

.NET 4.0 is pretty much locked down, but version 4.1 still has some really cool "Futures" features that are being argued about. If we don't know the type of a string, or we want to leave the string, as a string, longer than usual, what if we had an class that could be both a string and another type, essentially deferring the decision until the variable is observed. For example:

StringOr<int> userInput= GetUserInput("Quantity"); 
string szUserInput=userInput.StringValue; 
int intUserInput=userInput.OtherValue;

Sometimes you just don't know, or can't know.

This reminds me of a similar, but orthogonal physics concept, that of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Sometimes you know that an object is a string, and sometimes you know how long it is, but you can’t know both at the same time.

One of my favorite jokes goes:

Heisenberg gets pulled over by the police. The officer asks, “Do you know how fast you were going?” Heisenberg answers, “No, but I know exactly where I am!”

This library doesn't solve THAT issue, with respect to strings, but we’ve got folks in DevDiv working on this and many other metaphysical - and physical - problems as they apply to computer science.

Big thanks to Eilon, who's working hard to get this pushed into the .NET 4.1 Base Class Library. Visit Eilon's blog for more details on this new library, more code, graphics and details on how Intellisense will handle this new case.

Hopefully, someone is working to make this important new library Open Source.

Your thoughts, Dear Reader?

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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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IronPython and the DLR march on

March 22, '08 Comments [12] Posted in ASP.NET | ASP.NET MVC | DLR | Python | Ruby | Silverlight
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I've got a number of emails complaining that folks haven't heard much from the DLR (Dynamic Language Runtime) and things like IronPython and IronRuby.

I think it's due to mostly one thing, the fact that the ASP.NET Futures Page still says July 2007. That's one of the reasons I personally fought to have the ASP.NET MVC not use a Date in its name. It just makes things look, ahem, dated.

I'm working to get that page updated, but I just wanted to make sure folks know that there's lots going on around the DLR. I talked to Mahesh on a video call just yesterday.

There's lots going on and here's some collected resources for you:

Once you've had fun with all that, you might look at John's Dynamic Silverlight in ASP.NET MVC article.

Here's John and Jimmy's talk on Dynamic Silverlight at Mix08:

All other goodness is at http://dynamicsilverlight.net/. Enjoy.

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.