MSDN Online's Webcast series for .NET developers is a cross between daytime talk show and technical seminar. Find out if it's worth the hour-or-so it takes to watch it.
Although I’m of the opinion that self-education is best accomplished with books, there’s something to be said for the audio-visual format of a television show for delivering information. That’s essentially what you get with MSDN Online’s The .NET Show, a Webcast series hosted by Robert Hess that features the people responsible for the .NET Framework talking about various aspects of the platform.
I went into the latest episode of this infrequently released series, “The .NET Show: The .NET Compact Framework,” expecting to be deluged with Microsoft-friendly marketing and, to be honest, I got a fair dose of it. However, in between the hokey “MSDN News Update” faux newscast, the pointlessly long sequence of still photographs of the construction of Microsoft’s Redmond campus, and the final interview with Microsoft Distinguished Engineer David Weiss (during which he talks about cooking), there was some pretty good material on Microsoft’s latest entry into embedded development, the .NET Compact Framework.
Say hello to the Compact Framework
The first half of the show features David Rasmussen and Oshoma Momoh, the technical managers of the .NET Compact Framework, discussing the architecture of the portable API. If you’re looking for a hard, technical discussion, you’ll be disappointed here, as the two guests only briefly wax technical. However, the discussion is still interesting. Rasmussen and Momoh begin by jointly explaining some of the compromises made to achieve the goal of getting the relatively massive .NET runtime platform onto relatively puny handheld and pocket devices and then give a general overview of the Compact Framework.
This first segment wraps up with a discussion of application architecture for several application scenarios, ranging from relatively simple games to complex connected applications. All in all, the first 30 minutes or so of the show amount to the sort of broad technology discussion you’d find in the early chapters of a technical book. Worthwhile, if you’re new to the subject matter, but rather boring otherwise.
After a break for the aforementioned “making of the Redmond campus” piece, which I’d recommend you skip if possible, things finally get technical. Ed Kaim, yet another .NET product manager, gives a few short Compact Framework application demos. Starting with the obligatory Hello World! sample app, he proceeds to demonstrate deployment and debugging of so-called “smart device applications” by rebuilding a working MapPoint Web services client for a mobile device and creating a point of sale app.
Unfortunately, the act of building applications in Visual Studio .NET doesn’t lend itself well to viewing as streamed multimedia, and I haven't found a place to download the code for Kaim’s sample applications. Further, a lot of his talk seemed to center around reusing code between desktop applications and mobile ones, which rather contradicts one of the main points made by the first segment’s guests—that the Compact Framework allows developers to port skills, not code.
Could be just a bad example
Maybe I simply picked a bad example of The .NET Show on which to base my review. Judging from discussion posts on MSDN.com, the show as a whole is popular and has a regular audience, so I think this is likely. Looking over the topics for a few previous episodes, I can see that one of my complaints, the lack of downloadable source for the sample apps covered in the second half of the show, might be an exception. At least, the archive page for the Sept. 10 episode, “Code Optimization,” appears to include a downloadable archive of the sample code discussed during the show.
Overall, I like the idea of a technical talk show for developers, and the production values of the Webcast make it easy to watch for the full 76 or so minutes. I didn’t leave the experience thinking anything along the lines of, “That’s an hour I’ll never have back,” which was my initial fear when that fake newscast began. Although not nearly as entertaining in terms of unabashed geek humor as its cousin, VBTV, I think The .NET Show will be interesting viewing for many of you, provided the show’s topic suits your taste.
You can check out the current episode of The .NET Show, as well as all the previous ones, at the MSDN Online archive page. For notice of future show topics, you can subscribe to the MSDN Flash e-mail newsletter.