Hello again, long time no write. I must apologise for my absence, I have been involved in a fairly large personal project which occupied the very little remaining intellectual capability I have left after my day job - not to mention time. What I learned during that time can wait for another time, however.
In my "absence", I see Microsoft have been very busy. They've formally released ASP.NET Ajax (which I still call Atlas), released WCF, WWF, WPF being .NET 3.0 (apologies to any acronyms I have failed to mention), finished .NET 3.5 and launched a whole host of extra bits and pieces for hobbyists - a group I think I can join now I have a little more free time. (No doubt I shall be boring you with some of these shortly, particularly the Robotics Studio)
As I work in the "real world", where training budgets are practically nill (and my inclination to go on training courses even less - they're just an opportunity for willy-waving in my experience, sorry, "networking") and time is tight the ability to use the technologies already mentioned comes rare. When it does come, however, you have to be ready because you need to learn them FAST. The NetFX tools have slowly been infiltrating into our department's consciousness recently, and as part of a project I am working on at the moment, I felt it was time to make the plunge myself and start playing with WCF (Windows Communication Foundation) to communicate across "service boundaries" (I even talk like MS, now).
To put a point of reference on this, it was the 26th Feb 2008, 2 days before the release of Visual Studio 2008 and - therefore in any sensible capacity - .NET 3.5. So, I am still using Visual Studio 2005 (and would be happy to for another couple of years, it is so much better than 2003!). My only option to work quick was to install the WCF Extensions for Visual Studio 2005. My colleague has previously done this, and indeed I had previously done this - but then I did my annual rebuild of my machine. So I tried to run the setup program, and got told a prerequisite is missing. The .NET 3.0 framework must be installed.Well, it is, and in addition to that, it has even been service packed (damn Windows Updates - have asked to be taken out of the auto updates group). So I thought maybe it doesn't like the change the service pack has made? So I try to remove the service pack - but it didn't allow me, telling me that programs depended on it.
So, I'm at a loss. How am I, as a developer in the "real world", able to access these new technologies when the Visual Studio version on which it depends for templates, etc. isn't even released yet? These technologies were released ages ago. Fair enough, they developed a no-support, no-warranty, don't-come-crying-to-me-when-it-goes-wrong extensions kit for VS 2005, but it seems that even that doesn't work now. I'm now in a difficult situation. I am keen to use WCF to solve a particular problem, but face either having to downgrade my expectations back to the lowly web service or begging for a sizable amount of money for the department to be upgraded to 2008 - even though it hasn't even been released yet.
The same problem exists for a number of technologies that are rolled into the VS 2008 release. Visual Studio is specifically designed to make coding faster, so templates and menu options are valuable to us as a busy department. Without which, how are people managing to use .NET 3.0, .NET 3.5 or the related gubbins - certainly work using this stuff (VS 2008 trial or VS 2005 + extensions) can't be in production yet?
The answer will come today, whether my colleagues are happy to move up to the next version so soon and whether the money will be available to validate my trial copy of VS 2008. Maybe I should delay asking for Microsoft Expression ....