Friday, October 24, 2008
Here's a brand new blog, written by someone I work with from time to time at Microsoft. Well, that's who's name is in the URL, but the first post has talk of "we" so perhaps it's a team effort. The mission is
...this blog will be a “one stop shop” on the road to get yourself familiar with what Windows 7 has to offer for developers and how you can “Light-Up” using Windows 7 features in your application.
Nice. I'm reading!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Actually I know what it is ... it's a large code base, fully available, very graphical, and with reasonable performance demands. So many years ago, Vertigo ported Quake II to managed C++ to show how performant the app was and how easy it was to integrate something that is quick to do in managed code - a partially transparent bad-guy locator if I remember correctly. That was five years ago, before C++/CLI, so it was a thicket of underscores and general hard-to-read misery.
About a year ago, Greg Dolley did it to C++/CLI. And then in January of this year he did Quake III Arena.
Well, now Julien Frelat has done it in Silverlight! He was apparently inspired by someone who did it in Flash. This is Quake I, but he has plans for II. Adam Kinney has an interview and video.
What else can Quake be ported to?
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Rico, who like me wonders from time to time "am I old?", muses about how things tend to come on around again. Is C++ too old to bother learning now? Rico says no. But he also says:
...the real need facing C++ programmers is somewhat the same as what faced COBOL programmers say 25 years ago. It's not that the language is out of joint -- it isn't. I mean, ok maybe you like or don't like COBOL syntax but that doesn't doom a language and surely C++ syntax is not the zenith of wonderfulness. But that isn't what's holding C++ programmers back. The biggest problem, at least in my opinion, is one of accessing new/modern runtime features that may have a different programming environment from the context of an existing environment.
Now, what does that translate to in terms of action items for you? Good question.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
As you know if you attended the talks at Tech Ed USA and Tech Ed Europe, or listened to me on DotNetRocks, MFC now supports a Ribbon user interface. You can take some MFC application you haven't touched for a decade or more, add a few lines of code, leave all your command handlers and such untouched and -tada!- you can have a user interface from this century.
But it's one thing for me to demo for you what a tiny amount of code it takes to add a ribbon, and another for you to design a sensible ribbon that will lead your users effortlessly through your UI. Some guidance has now been released. For example, they are very clear that this is a bad ribbon:
There are tons of images and annotations to help you devise something your users will enjoy using. Please read it before doing any Ribbon work, whether in MFC or not.
Monday, October 20, 2008
WPF lets you build truly beautiful user interfaces and user experiences. To do a good job, you need to think differently than a typical "grey boxes on a grey background" form based UI. Once you do that some ideas may come to you - wouldn't it be nice if you didn't have to write a lot of code to achieve the things you think up? Using effects is one way to jazz things up without doing it all yourself. Jaime Rodriguez blogged about the release of a library of effects on Codeplex. His blog includes still pictures, but really you need to see these on video. There's also a Channel 9 interview. Take a look and start to think about how users process information from your applications.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Word is starting to spread about the Vista Bridge. Greg Duncan's blog entry on it links to the SDK blog entry and includes a screenshot of the demo. Nice to see awareness growing on this. Interesting link on the side to a buzzword bingo game for Zune. I really need to take a few minutes and get some games onto my Zune to make those plane rides go a little faster...
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Some schedules I have flagged with "must attend" in my calendar:
TL13 Microsoft Visual C++: 10 Is the New 6
Get more done. The next version of Visual C++ is all about improving developer productivity for large-scale applications. Learn about the IntelliSense and browsing experiences, changes to the project and build system, project-less browsing, collaboration through remote symbol indexing, and custom visualization of symbolic information.
Tags: Advanced, Languages
PC26 Microsoft Visual Studio: Building Applications with MFC
The next release of MFC will provide encapsulations around a number of new Windows platform features. With this functionality you can easily build applications that integrate into features such as desktop search, application restart and recovery functionality, leverage the new Windows UI metaphors such as Live Icons and Rich Preview. These features represent one of the most significant updates to MFC in years. Come learn the details on all these new classes so you can rapidly build Windows applications that stand out from the crowd.
Tags: Advanced, Visual Studio
TL25 Parallel Programming for C++ Developers in the Next Version of Microsoft Visual Studio
Build more responsive C++ programs that take full advantage of multicore hardware. We demonstrate how the new Parallel Pattern Library (PPL) enables you to express parallelism in your code and how the asynchronous messaging APIs can be used to separate shared state and increase your application's resilience and robustness. Finally, we take a look at some of the new capabilities of C++0x and Visual Studio to help you efficiently code and debug your multi-threaded applications.
Tags: Advanced, Parallelism, Visual Studio
Friday, October 17, 2008
The concept of "a whole bunch of thingies" is a vital one in just about every programming language. Some languages support it right in the language itself. For example in C++ you can have an array of integers, or Employee objects, or Customer pointers. And when you use an array, you know that it's a continuous block of memory, and it's possible to interact either with just one element of the array or with the entire array. VB has arrays, and so does C#, and while the syntax is different between them, the essential concepts are not.
The thing is, an array is only the simplest and most accessible way to say "a whole bunch of thingies". It's important that you learn other ways to express that concept - typically by using a class of some sort that someone has written to represent it. There are a ton of these depending on whether order matters to you, does insertion speed matter more than traversing/iterating speed, and so on. Some folks, having learned one way to say "a whole bunch of thingies", look at all the other options, roll their eyes up into their heads, and stick with the one way they know.
This is bad. Not just because your code could be faster, neater, and easier to write, but also because arrays are really poorly suited for certain tasks. They especially hamper parallel programming - and you know that the future is concurrent, right?
Eric Lippert has written a cogent and compelling explanation of why arrays are rarely the right choice, and what you should do instead. It's written, naturally, from a C# perspective, but it's applicable to C++ and VB too. It boils down to this: Object Oriented Programming is the norm. Start trusting object writers. Use a class that someone else wrote and provided with your compiler, and you'll be a happier developer. And if you don't have some neurons fire over the phrase "considered harmful", here is a history lesson on that.
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