Professional Programmer Notes

or just call this my soapbox

Posts Tagged ‘asp.net

Should IronRuby be called NSignificant?

with 2 comments

Update:  You’re more than welcome to read my angry rant below.  However, I felt it would be more responsible if I summed up a few points right here at the very beginning:

  1. Dynamic languages are awesome for things like web development, scripting, and embedded customization engines for bigger applications.
  2. IMO, Ruby is more sought after for its web frameworks, scripting/automation (think Rake), and unit testing frameworks than its potential as an embedded language (unlike Python and Lua).
  3. John Lam’s open source Ruby extension, RubyCLR, enabled CRuby to use .NET types pretty effectively.  In other words, I can have a Rails application using .NET code on the server-side if necessary.  Or, I could use rspec to unit test my .NET libraries.  Both could be done while leveraging the existing Ruby implementation and .NET Framework.
  4. When John Lam started work on IronRuby, RubyCLR was left to a community that let it fall by the wayside.  In the meantime, IronRuby has not been nearly as impressive as IronPython.  There, I said it.

Now, feel free to read the original rant below.

 

Harsh, right?  I think so.  But, it is time I voice my concerns about the Microsoft’s adaption of the Ruby language.  My intent is to put it all out there, and see how the community feels.  At the end of the day, my opinion is my own.  However, the voice of the community could cause change – of my opinion or otherwise.

What’s beef?

Let me start by saying that I am a .NET developer.  I have specialized in Microsoft technologies over my eleven year career thus far.  In addition to being a member of our local .NET user group, TriNUG, I am also a member of the local Ruby user group Raleigh.rb.  I do not speak for these organizations, but I wanted to point out my involvement with both technical communities.

In addition, my background is web-heavy with a few years of desktop development in there as well.  That is to say that Rails was my introduction to the Ruby language.  From the perspective of a web developer that dug Javascript before Prototype, JQuery and MooTools, Rails whet my appetite for more Ruby-like development in my paying job.  I was amongst the early .NET developers that thought, “Wow, it would be great if we could use a language like Ruby with the CLR!”

In my excitement, I went out and learned about great projects like RubyCLR, John Lam’s old Ruby/CLR bridge, and Ruby.NET, the ruby compiler started by Queensland University of Technology. 

Both projects had great merit.  The former allows a developer to call .NET assemblies and use .NET types from Ruby (and vice-versa though painful), while the latter aimed to be a full implementation of the Ruby language atop the CLR.

I think those two projects could have adequately fulfilled my dream.  More on that later.

Back to my beef.  My beef is that Microsoft killed at least one of these projects.

First, they brilliantly (sans sarcasm) hired John Lam, the developer of RubyCLR.  That was an excellent decision on Microsoft’s behalf.  Initially, I hoped John Lam would continue his work on RubyCLR or a RubyCLR-like project with Microsoft’s resources.  Unfortunately, that was not in their plans.  Instead, IronRuby was started and RubyCLR died.

Secondly, the Ruby.NET project went seemingly inactive (though Open Source) after IronRuby started gaining steam.  It now seems to be stuck at version 0.9 which was working with Ruby 1.8.2.

My beef is that these are two projects the .NET community needs.  IronRuby will become more necessary as Microsoft convince us of such.  But, IronRuby is seemingly being developed at the expense of two very good projects.

Why RubyCLR and Ruby.NET over IronRuby?

Let’s talk web.  As a web developer, my opinion is that dynamic languages are better suited for the web than static languages.  In fact, I may be alone in this, I assert Classic ASP with ActiveScripting fits the web development paradigm better than ASP.NET (not including MVC).  My assertion is based on the ability to make a change and instantly review it by refreshing the page.  This rapid feedback cycle is key to making web development most productive.

Fans of ASP.NET and static languages could make a strong argument for performance.  Simply put, dynamic languages do not perform as well as static languages.  However, this point is less poignant when talking about the web.  Dynamic languages are “good enough” for web development.  In fact, bottlenecks in web applications are usually discovered at the point of disk i/o or data access. 

Wouldn’t it be great if we could optimize our disk i/o and data access code with a static language, but use a dynamic language like Ruby for the bulk of our web applications?  Well, RubyCLR enabled that!  If we focus on unidirectional communication be Ruby and .NET – that is Ruby code calling .NET assemblies, we’ll see that RubyCLR is the bees knees!  Imagine doing your web development in Rails while being able to call .NET assemblies for things like disk i/o (I can’t imagine replacing Ruby’s ActiveRecord with a .NET ORM).

On the flipside, Ruby.NET was in the process of enabling developers that know and love Ruby to use the .NET Framework and all its libraries in a statically typed manner.  This means, not only can I call .NET assemblies from Ruby, but I could write .NET assemblies in Ruby.  How awesome is that? (don’t answer)

I believe Microsoft’s most underestimated contribution to developing in Ruby will be easing Rails deployment on IIS.  That is the key piece to the puzzle and the metaphoric “milkshake that would bring all the boys to the yard.”

If you don’t have something nice to say…

I’ll end by saying a few good things about IronRuby and Microsoft.  As a developer that uses Microsoft’s technologies, I continue to believe that Microsoft will (a) make mistakes and adjust to correct them or (b) continue to be an agent of change that brings the rest of us into the light.

With that said, IronRuby, IronPython, and the DLR are bringing capabilities to .NET development that either didn’t exist before or were a pain in the neck to implement.  I haven’t really wrapped my head around doing web development with IronRuby, yet.  I hope the experience will be as pleasant as doing web development with Ruby.  But, the ability to add scripting to a desktop application utilizing IronPython or IronRuby is very nice.

Now, it’s your turn

I can go on and on about this topic.  Those that have had this conversation with me in-person can attest to that.  But, I’m really interested in how the community feels.  What’s up?

Written by curtismitchell

December 9, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Posted in .net, Ruby

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Seven Habits of Highly Effective ASP.NET MVC Developers

with one comment

This weekend I had the privilege of presenting two talks at the CMAP Code Camp in Central Maryland.  I gave a talk on the Spark View Engine and a new talk called “Seven Habits of Highly Effective ASP.NET MVC Developers.” 

Here are the slides for the latter talk:

Written by curtismitchell

November 9, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Posted in .net, CSharp

Tagged with , , , , ,

Richmond Code Camp 2009.2

with 2 comments

Wow! What an event!

This weekend, I joined ~400 others for the Richmond Code Camp and a good time was had. As others have noted, the hardest part of the day was choosing which talks to attend due to a schedule full of excellent topics and speakers.

I started off with Justin Etheredge’s talk on Linq Expressions. This was 75 minutes of great slides and polished demos of basic to advanced Linq concepts. I left that talk more educated and less scared of the power of Linq Expressions. Justin has an unbelievable understanding of how Linq works and an amazing ability to convey that to the layman with nothing more than a stock photo of a cat and a VM with Win 7 and VS 2010.

Second, I attended a talk that was missed from Raleigh’s Code Camp two weeks earlier. I went to John Feminella’s talk on Ruby for C# developers. John gave .NET developers a great introduction to the Ruby language using IronRuby (I thought that was brave at this point). To my surprise, John held up his end with great content and examples, and IronRuby held up its end with stability and support for most of the features of Matz Ruby (the original implementation of Ruby).

Next, I decided to checkout Open Spaces. The evening before, I jokingly suggested that the audience would convince Kevin Hazzard to present something on the DLR at Open Spaces since he was not officially presenting. Well, I guess they did! Kevin led a discussion on IronPython and the DLR that included some very nice demos. He also discussed C# 4.0’s new “Dynamic” type and how it actually works. I gained a lot of insight on when and where the DLR and Dynamic Languages on .NET are useful. And, while I love Ruby, IronPython is making the Python language very attractive to me.

Another talk that I was able to attend was by Chris Love. He talked about building quality ASP.NET applications faster. I know Chris to be a very experienced developer. He just completed an updated version of a book I found to be very practical when I was getting into more advanced ASP.NET concepts, ASP.NET 3.5 Website Programming: Problem – Design – Solution. His talk drew off of his experiences building applications and sites for his clients. He talked about architecture as well as development practices. I recommend his talk to anyone doing ASP.NET development that is looking for practical advice on how to manage it all from start to finish.

In the last time slot of the day, I presented Spark, an ASP.NET MVC View Engine, to a great audience. This was essentially the same talk that I gave a couple of weeks earlier at Raleigh’s Code Camp, but I made some modifications for the Richmond crowd. Here are the slides from that talk:

Enjoy!

Written by curtismitchell

October 5, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Posted in .net, CSharp

Tagged with , , , , ,

Slides from Raleigh Code Camp 2009

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This weekend, I had the pleasure of presenting a talk on Spark View Engine at Raleigh Code Camp (#rducc).  It was a well organized event with a schedule full of great topics and presenters.  The Triangle .NET User Group (TriNUG) did a wonderful job at organizing and running the event.  Thanks, TriNUG!

As promised, I am posting the slides that I used in the Spark talk.  Although the true context of the talk is not present on the slides, I hope these are helpful to someone using the Spark View Engine or considering it.

Stay tuned, or subscribe to the rss. I am planning to post a series of short to-the-point screencasts that demonstrate how to practically use Spark in your ASP.NET MVC application.

In the meantime, checkout http://www.dimecasts.net for some great videos on Spark.

Written by curtismitchell

September 21, 2009 at 10:01 am

Rails-like ASP.NET Development Assets

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Written by curtismitchell

May 31, 2009 at 11:12 am

Improve page load performance in your ASP.NET MVC site

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As ASP.NET MVC become more popular in the enterprise and behind high-traffic commercial web sites (like Dimecasts.net), developers will look for ways to increase performance.

One well known way to increase performance of any website is to combine files to minimize HTTP requests (see Yahoo! Performance Rules). The reason is that most modern browsers use two threads to load a given page and all of its assets (css, js, images, etc.). This post will give a quick walk-through of an ASP.NET MVC implementation of a CSS consolidator.

In typical MVC fashion, I will give a quick breakdown of the model, the view, and the controller.

Let’s start with the controller.

My controller has one need: it provides a pretty url for me to point my tag to retrieve passed-in stylesheets. I implemented a controller called StaticController and gave it an action called CSS. Here is a snapshot of the action:

        public ActionResult CSS(string id)
        {
            if (String.IsNullOrEmpty(id)) return View();

            string[] filenames = id.Split(',');
            string path = HttpContext.Request.ServerVariables["APPL_PHYSICAL_PATH"];
            path = String.Concat(path, @"Content\"); // path to css files

            string cssData = Models.StaticCSS.GetContent(filenames, path);
            ViewData["css"] = cssData;

            return View();
        }

Quick explanation of the above code:
The action uses the default MVC routes (for simplicity). So, the id parameter is used to pass a comma-delimited string of stylesheet names. The path to the Content directory (the default folder for stylesheets) is derived, combined with each file name in the id parameter and passed to the model.

Let’s see how our model works.

The model is named StaticCSS and here are the methods:

        public static string GetContent(string[] filenames, string cssDir)
        {
            StringBuilder sb = new StringBuilder();
            if (filenames.Length == 0 || String.IsNullOrEmpty(cssDir))
return String.Empty;

            foreach (string f in filenames)
            {
                string filepath = (f.EndsWith(".css")) ?
String.Concat(cssDir, f) : String.Concat(cssDir, f, ".css");
                sb.Append(@"/* Start CSS file */");
                sb.Append(Environment.NewLine);
                sb.Append(GetFileContents(filepath));
                sb.Append(@"/* End CSS file */");
                sb.Append(Environment.NewLine);
            }

            return sb.ToString();
        }

        public static string GetFileContents(string file)
        {
            try
            {
                using (TextReader textReader = new StreamReader(file))
                {
                    return textReader.ReadToEnd();
                }
            }
            catch(FileNotFoundException)
            {

            }

            return String.Empty;
        }

Quick explanation:
The public static method, GetContent loops through a list of files, combines their contents into a string, and return the string. The GetFileContents method opens the file and returns the contents.

If we look back at the remaining code in our action:

            ViewData["css"] = cssData;

            return View();

We are adding the css file contents to the ViewData hash and calling the view.

Here are the important parts of the view:

<%
    Response.ContentType = "text/css";
    Response.ContentEncoding = Encoding.UTF8;
    Response.Write( Server.HtmlDecode(ViewData["css"].ToString()) );
%>

We are setting the content-type to “text/css”, which is important in standard-compliant browsers (not IE). We’re setting the encoding dumping the content to the page. These three lines essentially turn the view into a standard css file.

Finally, to use this code I would simply add the following line to any view requiring css files:

<link href="/Static/CSS/cssfile1,cssfile2,cssfile3" rel="stylesheet" />

This would download cssfile1, cssfile2, and cssfile3 in one HTTP request instead of three.

This is a simplistic approach that doesn’t care (yet) about the amount of memory used to load very large css files. But, if you choose to follow this model, I would love to hear how it performs for you.

Written by curtismitchell

March 17, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Posted in .net, CSharp

Tagged with , , ,

Microsoft.WebApplication.targets not found

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While setting up a non-Microsoft CI environment for an ASP.NET MVC project, I came across an interesting problem.  My build agent was unable to compile my project because it could not find the Microsoft.WebApplication.targets file, which, on the development computer is located under the C:\Program Files\MSBuild\Microsoft\VisualStudio\v9.0\WebApplications directory.

I wanted a quick solution, so I Googled it.  The top two sites resolved the issue by creating the path on the build server and copying the file over.  That is A solution to the problem.  I suppose another solution would be to install Visual Studio on the build agent.  But, that (borderline) defeats the purpose.

I decided to make a copy of the Microsoft.WebApplication.targets file in the folder of the solution.  Then, I opened the web project file and edited the line that points to the file.  I changed:

<Import Project="$(MSBuildExtensionsPath)\Microsoft\VisualStudio\v9.0\WebApplications\Microsoft.WebApplication.targets" />

to

<Import Project="$(SolutionDir)\Microsoft.WebApplication.targets" />

The project builds successfully in both environments now!

Written by curtismitchell

February 1, 2009 at 12:35 pm