12 March 2004
I’m still here in Iraq serving with the Army Reserve. I’ve been here almost a year, and I go home in a month. Today I spent all afternoon downloading the Longhorn preview from MSDN, and now that I have it, I’m installing it in a Virtual PC on this computer. Virtual PC is a great product. Great job, Microsoft! So Longhorn is projecting a 15 minute installation. That’s way better that all previous versions of Windows although win 3.1 and win95a has floppy disks which slowed the installation down as well.
To be honest, it’s kind of exciting to see the install GUI of the next windows. Now when I install Longhorn for real after it comes out, I’ll have seen it before and know what to expect. The best thing I ever did was buy that extra 512mb of RAM for my Dell Lattitude laptop. With 768MB of RAM, I can run XP Pro as the host as well as a fully functional Virtual install, so I should be able to fully test out this Longhorn preview. To anyone with 256MB of RAM doing any kind of software development, I highly recommend 512MB MINIMUM, but you already know that.
So here is how it is. I download the .iso file from MSDN, and all I do it set it as the Virtual PC CD drive, Virtual PC mounts the file, and it boots straight into the install. How cool is that? Longhorn setup then asks for the CD key and then goes to a settings page where you can set the computer name and where on the hard disk(s) you want Longhorn installed. It also shows some other default settings. After that, it goes to a screen for “Collection information and copying files needed for setup” This page takes most of the setup time. <add more here about how setup progresses>
I’ve read all the hype about Longhorn, Avalon, Indigo, WinFS, etc, and it all sounds pretty cool. From a development standpoint, the thing I am most excited about is XAML. VB6 and even WinForms requires controls to be placed on the form using grid coordinates. for web developers, the hardest thing to do is make a webform with absolute positioning. Now don’t get me wrong. For simple input forms, you probably don’t need to make the UI that flexible in its placement of controls, but for applications that display more dynamic text or content, absolute placement of controls can be a stumbling block. Web programmers have always been able to benefit from the flow layout of HTML. In my Web Forms, even though I have a choice of GridLayout or FlowLayout, I always choose FlowLayout because it’s more flexible. Anyway, back to XAML. This markup language will replace coorinate placement of controls in Longhorn winforms. Now you can more easily have dynamic content in your windows apps. Personally, I prefer web apps to win apps. Every business app is going to be a distributed app. Even if it’s as simple as editing customer data or entering an order. Even if it’s a VB6 front end, it will have to communicate with a server either running some COM components or *gasp* interacting directly with the database. Well I would put that app on a webserver in a heartbeat. You can make an interface that is so much more flexible AND now that society is used to the Internet and web pages, why force your user to learn your UI. . . just make it a web application, and they are already familiar with how a web UI works. You have buttons and links, textboxes and drop down lists. Now XAML will give you the flexibility of a web form with the ability to have complete control as the developer did with winforms (since XAML is the future of winforms).
Now I’ve heard the argument that Windows developers are worried that Microsoft is going to force them to recycle their skills as web developers, but that’s just not true. Honestly, how many of you windows developers actually typed in the coordinates of where to place your controls on the forms? I didn’t think so. You dragged them onto the form, and then you added code to make the parts of the form functional. Well if you don’t want to deal with XAML, then don’t. Just continue to drag and drop your controls and then add your code behind them. I’ll take a step further and adjust the XAML so that parts of my form can grow and shrink with dynamic content. I am very excited about XAML, but remember, it’s still years away. Heck, we can’t even write a .NET Windows app right now unless we have a corporate environment where we can guarantee that all the clients will have the .NET Framework installed. So will be the same with XAML. I’m hoping that Microsoft will build XAML into a service pack for XP or perhaps a Framework upgrade because I don’t see Longhorn proliferating as soon as 2007. I think XP is such a great operating system that a lot of companies won’t be able to justify upgrading so soon. Win98 to XP was a no-brainer, but now that knowledge workers DON’T have to reboot several time a day (perhaps once a week or less), XP is meeting the need of a lot of people. So here’s to Microsoft making an upgrade for XP that will allow XAML apps!
I look forward to Longhorn and XAML.