Wednesday, January 27, 2010

FredNUG User Group – Silverlight 4 Presentation Materials

On January 19th, I presented an introduction to Silverlight 4 and its new user interface enhancements. Here is the source code and PowerPoint from the talk.

Some takeaways we discussed:

Out-of-browser support

Silverlight 4 now offers more capabilities when applications are installed out-of-browser. To enable this feature, look at the Silverlight project’s Properties. You’ll then see an option for enabling out-of-browser, follow


After selecting this option, view the out-of-browser settings:


Here, you can customize the shortcut name and window title, as well as a description that pops up when you float the mouse over your desktop shortcut. In our demo app, I also set the window size, based on our MainPage user control.

We saw elevated trust in action with Tim Heuer’s Twitter Example, where a WebClient call was made to the Twitter service without the need for a cross-domain policy, and where network credentials were specified.

To demonstrate out-of-browser within our demo app,  I added another feature, “Notification Window,” to the demo code. This new feature allows you to pop up a notification box in the lower-right region of the screen,  similar to what you see with Microsoft Outlook. In the demo, drop a picture onto the drop target, and you’ll see a window pop up.  If you look at the code-behind, you’ll see two samples for setting up the notification window’s content. Note: I intentionally omitted any code forcing you to install the demo as an out-of-browser app. This way, you can try out the notification window in the browser and observe the exception thrown.

Media support

You now have access to all of your audio and video devices. When I demo’d this, we had two webcams to choose from. . The first time you select a video device, you’ll see the Silverlight warning box. After you agree to allow the app to use the webcam, you won’t see the warning box again (until you restart the application). I added a Stop button, which returns the video rectangle to a green background.

Improved mouse support

Silverlight 4 now has events for right-click actions, as well as mouse scroll wheel support. I demo’d right-click support by adding a popup window when right-clicking the drop-target button.

Drag-n-drop support

You can now drag files from your desktop or file folders to a user interface element. I showed this by setting up a button as a drop-target. This button accepts image files such as png and jpg.

Visual Studio improvements

While this isn’t specifically related to Silverlight 4, Visual Studio 2010 now has a built-in XAML Visualizer. This means you no longer need to open Expression Blend simply to layout your user controls. Blend still has a considerable feature set beyond that of Visual Studio, but for general layout, the built-in visualizer should be fine.

Lots more!

There are many more features in Silverlight 4, such as the new printing capability and COM support. For a more complete list, check out Tim Heuer’s post, where he provides descriptions or samples for each of the new features.

To get started, visit the Silverlight 4 developer page to grab the latest SDK and Silverlight developer runtime. You’ll also need Visual Studio 2010, which is currently in beta (Beta 2 Ultimate is available here).

MSDN Premium Azure accounts

If you have an Azure account that you set up during the CTP (basically any time over the past year), you've no doubt received an email about upgrading it to a real account, or having your account disabled. You might have even wandered over to Azure Pricing site and saw the Introductory Special rates. And if you're an MSDN Premium subscriber, you probably jumped for joy when seeing the special MSDN plan set up with no monthly charges at all, including Azure storage, SQL Azure, and AppFabric usage.

So of course, I jumped at the opportunity to sign up. And the process was relatively painless. It was easy to select the MSDN Premium plan. And then... there was billing.

To complete the registration process, a credit card is required. My first thought is that I selected the wrong option. Or that I misread the MSDN Premium plan information. As it turns out, the credit card info is needed in case your account usage exceeds what's granted in the promotion (thanks to Lynn Langit  for the clarification). If you stay below the thresholds, no costs are incurred.

So: Don't fear the credit card! Just keep an eye on your usage, and don't try hosting a commercial app on your free account...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Google Voice and the Secret Sawbuck

 As of about two weeks ago, I joined the growing number of people with a Google Voice account. As I'm sure others know, there are some great features to this product, such as a unified phone number, online access to text messages/voicemail/call log, call redirection, etc.

For those awaiting their invite, you'll be happy to know that you have the privilege of selecting your own Google Voice phone number. You can specify an area code (and GVoice presents you with a bunch of phone numbers within the one you chose). You can even enter any subset of numbers (maybe you just really want "90210" embedded in your number). But GVoice takes it up a notch: it lets you spell out a number with any alphanumeric mix (here's your chance to make your phone number U-CALL-ME or maybe DOTNET4 or whatever).

There's one thing I wasn't aware of, though, that I stumbled into by accident today. Let's say you chose that super-snazzy number of yours. Like I did. Then, you had second thoughts. A quick trip to Settings presents you with a link to change your number. WSHEW!

But WAIT! Here's the surprise. The "secret sawbuck," to be more precise: Upon clicking this seemingly-innocuous hyperlink, I was treated to this little gem:

Not exactly what I was expecting. I guess I understand why the $10 upcharge is in place. Without it, I'm guessing Google would see people changing their numbers on a whim, and this could be a great opportunity for telephone spammers.

Still, I thought I'd point it out, so that new GVoice invitees are "in the know" before committing to their new number.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jan. 19 - Silverlight 4 Talk at FredNUG

On Tuesday, Jan. 19, I'll be giving a Silverlight 4 talk at the Frederick .NET User Group. The Silverlight 4 beta was introduced at PDC in November and has some really cool new enhancements.

The fun starts at 6:30. See you there!