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St. Louis Day of .NET

By Rich Campbell

Last weekend I attended a local .NET Developer conference - the St. Louis Day of .NET. It was a regular work day (9-5) of .NET-centric one-hour sessions. Most of the sessions were based (to varying degrees) on content from the recent Professional Developer's Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles.

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There were two main reasons I couldn't pass it up, aside from the fact that there were going to be a few interesting sessions. The first was that Engage Software was one of the sponsors, so I wanted to represent our company at the conference. The other reason was that it was located in Washington University's CAIT Facilities in Clayton, MO about 1.5 miles from my house. If I was going to get up early and do "work like stuff" on a Saturday - at least it was close!

busyevent_logoI was impressed at how well the conference was put together. The three guys responsible (Kevin, Jeff, and Scott) rounded up BusyEvent to help with the details. I must say it worked out very well. Registration was especially painless, and except for hearing groans about running out of coffee at one point, I didn't really hear anyone talking about logistics of any kind, just the sessions (which is a good thing). Thought I haven't been to too many conferences, I get the sense that people not complaining about the logistics is unusual. So kudos to everyone who helped put this one together.

New ASP.NET Stuff

The session I enjoyed the most was on a subject that I'm already a bit familiar with - ASP.NET 3.5 SP1 New Features. The speaker was knowledgeable, the presentation was straightforward, the demos worked, the content was relevant -- it was everything I could want out of a presentation/session.

The session really consisted of introductions to the ADO.NET Entity Framework, ADO.NET Data Services, and Dynamic Data. I am really excited for these technologies to become more mainstream (and no matter how they stack up compared to non-Microsoft-issue tools doesn't even really matter because it's a ton better than hand coding or using DataSets for everything!)

The Entity Framework (EF) hit home for me, because I've been writing data access layers from scratch for a few years now and I'm really looking for something to do all that busy work for me. Given that EF is supposed to be Microsoft's Way Forward in the ORM Space and that it looks to be pretty quick and painless to use - I'm ready to dig in.

I'm going to be experimenting a bit over the next week and will sum up the results in presentation format for the rest of the Engage crew before we leave for Christmas break. If you're lucky I'll share with you as well. I'm especially interested in figuring out how to make it work well in the DotNetNuke world.

A related side-note - Brandon Haynes has what looks to be a fun little project going on CodePlex.

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Design? Design!

In addition, I attended the Windows 7: Design Principles for Windows 7 session. This was a great session because I got to see that Microsoft is finally catching on.  Things that seem trivial or minor simply aren't. Your product is evaluated not just by functionality but by the experience and how the product makes the user feel.

This is great news because I personally believe that the flexibility complexity of Windows is what your grandma is really scared of - not the fact that it's a computer and all technology is scary - Windows itself can be pretty scary!

The tweaks that they've done to the Windows operating system for Windows 7 are very subtle and each are pretty minor on their own, but when you add things up, we're going to get a much better experience out of the next OS - about time! Check out the video (wmv) from the original PDC talk.

Other Sessions

I also went to the Expression Blend 2 Tips and Tricks session, which was cool because I haven't messed with Expression Blend at all yet. I did get a better feel for the tool through the presentation, and some insight into some of its capabilities. One of my favorite ways to learn is by watching someone who is better than me, and even watching the presenter click around a bit helped me get my head around the features. Now I wish I had an excuse to fire Blend up at work!

Finally, I caught the first 1/3rd of the Future of C# session before I headed out. It was a very promising topic, as it's something I'm very interested in, but because it was packed (standing room only), hot, and the projected image of the presenter's computer wasn't even viewable (by me) from the back of the room, so I ducked out early. I did see the part about how dynamic languages are all the rage, and that (better or worse) C# 4.0 is headed, in-part, in that direction. Cool. I'll keep an eye on my Google reader for updates :)

Until next year STLDODN! Oh yeah -- check out what twitter folks are saying about the conference.

If you went - what sessions did you see? What were your thoughts?

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