No Business Intelligence Development Studio in Visual Studio 2010 (yet?)

As a developer I am pleased with the new Visual Studio 2010 release.
Lots of features were added and the editor looks more tight and solid than its predecessors.

BI people still have to wait to taste the Visual Studio 2010 candy.
SQL Server 2008 only ships the Business Intelligence Development Studio (BIDS) for Visual Studio 2008, which is understandable because Visual Studio 2010 didn’t exist when SQL Server 2008 was released.

Enthusiastuc BI users who wanted to convert there existing reporting project to a Visual Studio 2010 project already reported (here and here) that the conversion failed.
The official statement from Microsoft:

Business Intelligence Development Studio for Visual Studio 2010 is currently under consideration for future releases of SQL Server.

So we can only hope that SQL Server 2008 R2, which was released on May 3 on MSDN will (probably?) be released at May 21, will ship BIDS 2010, although I just can’t find an official statement from Micrsosoft on that, so we have to wait until May.

UPDATE: Just downloaded and installed the SQL Server 2008 R2 Business Intelligence Development Studio. Unfortunately it only works in Visual Studio 2008.

Visual Studio tip #3: hide splash screen

Splash screens are beautiful, at least that’s wat Microsoft thinks about it.
I must say, splash screens are just annoying and they slow down the startup of Visual Studio and other programs.
But, there is a way to skip the splash screen part in Visual Studio.

Most of  the Visual Studio developers launch their favorite development platform using a shortcut.
Depending on the version of Visual Studio, the shortcut refers to a directory like this:
“%Program Files%\Microsoft Visual Studio 10.0\Common7\IDE\devenv.exe”

Now,  just add /nosplash after the closing quotation mark of the shortcut reference.

When you now start Visual Studio from your beloved shortcut, the splash screen is gone,
saving you some time to write some excellent piece of code 🙂

Still no official date for HTC Hero Android 2.1 update in Benelux

Despite the rumors, HTC doesn’t provide us with the official release date of the Android 2.1 update for the HTC Hero in Benelux.
We are waiting for months now for this update, but I think HTC is just postponing the release until the new HTC Desire will show up in Benelux, which should be there soon.

Official statement that I’ve got from the HTC customer service:

“We understand that now that a phone running Android OS 2.1 is available that you are excited to get an update for your Hero. We are still hard at work building Sense for this new version but we expect to have the upgrade finished and ready to go soon. Please understand that it takes time to customize any Android version to ensure you have the intuitive experience Sense provides, and we hope you can be patient for just a little while longer.”

This reply I’ve received when asking for a specific date (in Dutch):

Geachte Sven Schelfaut

Hartelijk dank voor Uw email. Mocht U in de toekomst nog vragen of opmerkingen hebben dan kan U bellen met 020 7157310 of ons een email sturen. Helaas hebben we tot op heden nog geen data doorgekregen voor de Benelux. Hetb beste wat u kan doen is onze website in de gaten te houden daar de update hier te vinden zal zijn.

Vriendelijke groet,

Dimphy v I

Geachte Sven Schelfaut

Hartelijk dank voor Uw email. Mocht U in de toekomst nog vragen of opmerkingen hebben dan kan U bellen met 020 7157310 of ons een email sturen. Helaas hebben we tot op heden nog geen data doorgekregen voor de Benelux. Hetb beste wat u kan doen is onze website in de gaten te houden daar de update hier te vinden zal zijn.

Vriendelijke groet,

Dimphy v I

Need a .NET Excel library?

As a developer, you definitely need to read or manipulate Excel files at some point.
There are a lot of ways to do this:

  • The best known method is to make use of the Excel Interop library.
    This method has some big disadvantages if you want to use it in a web development environment:
    Excel needs to be installed on your web server and the Excel process needs to run.
    Each user who needs Excel interaction on your website needs his own Excel process
    and sometimes these processes just don’t close.
    Using the Interop library is a good solution for single user Windows applications.
  • If you only need data from your Excel file, you can use OLEDB or just download a LINQ to Excel library.
    The last one uses OLEDB too, but using LINQ is so much more fun. Off course this system only works for well structured and simple tabular data.
    Another problem that pops out is the lack of a 64 bit OLEDB provider for Excel, so you must compile your code for 32 bit machines.
    Too bad, you can’t use the full power of that 64 bit processor…

Bringing in count all the disadvantages of the methods above, I started looking for a .NET library which does the job for me.
The library needed to have the following requirements: read values and cell properties (background color,..) of both Excel 2007 and the old Excel format.
There are some paid one’s that will do the job quite well, but I have found 2 open source (and free) libraries that fitted my needs:

  • For the old Excel format: NPOI. This CodePlex project is the .NET version of the POI Java project. This is a very mature product which offers a lot of possibilites.
    Support for the Open XML format would be a nice feature!
  • For the Open XML Excel format I’ve chosen ExcelPackage, which can be found on CodePlex too.
    As we know the Open XML format is in fact a ZIP-package which includes separate XML definition files for styles and data.
    The standard version of the library only parses the data in the file, but if you look a little bit further, you will find an extended version which parses the styles.xml file too. Pay attention with this because the package includes some XML parsing bugs!

Now you can combine these two libraries, using a common interface, plugging in the right implementation according to the Excel format you have to process.

This is another fine example of the importance of CodePlex.
The Microsoft open source project has a big added value for developers these days!

Visual studio tip #2: Go to line

Another useful shortcut for the Visual Studio editor is CTRL + G.
This key combination enables you to quickly navigate to a specific line in your code file.
So there is no need to keep on scrolling until you reach the correct line!

Visual studio tip #1: format document

It has been a while since my last post on this blog, but now I’m back.
I will try to share some small Visual Studio tips on a regular basis, starting from now on.

A useful feature in Visual Studio is the format document option,
which you will find in the menu Edit -> Advanced -> Format document.

Off course it is quicker to use the shortcut keys (Ctrl+E,  D).
Allthough Visual Studio does a lot of formatting by its own,
there are some cases it doesn’t help you with that (i.e. in markup files)
This feature works for all the supported file formats in Visual Studio 2010.
So if you messed up your XAML or ASP.NET indentation, Ctrl+E, D is your magic shortcut!

Top 5: best Android applications

I’ve been using my HTC Hero Android phone for about 2 months now,
so it is time to make a round-up of my best Android applications so far.
Android Market contains about 18000 applications now.

Barcode Scanner

This application is just a simple barcode scanner, it scans a lot of barcode types, including QR-codes (which appear in this post).
These codes can contain a lot of info, mostly URL’s. You find them more and more in advertising campaigns.
This application can also be integrated in other applications, to pass barcode values to them.
The interface is simple and user friendly, enabling you to quickly scan your barcodes.


This application enables you to identify the music that is played in your environment.
The iPhone version of this application was already a success, now there is an Android version of this amazing app.
On the iPhone, you have to pay for it, but the Android version is still free.
You can store the recognized songs as “tags” for later use.


This application offers a lot of features:
Play movies and music files on your pc.
Play movies and music from your pc on your phone
Control the desktop’s mouse with your Android phone’s touchscreen.
Control keyboard input with your phone’s touch keyboard.
All you have to do is install the Gmote Server on your pc and add your favourite music or movie folders.
In the settings of the server application, you specify a password, which has to be used on the phone application.
The good thing about the application is that it uses Wifi to connect to Gmote server, so you can control your pc from a very long distance.


There are already a lot of Twitter applications in Android market, but the big killer app is not there yet, if you asked me.
For the moment, I am using Swift om my HTC Hero. The UI could be better, but the application offers the functionality I expect from a Twitter client and above all: it works very smoothly.
You can scroll endlessly through your Twitter timeline, but also the “Jump to now” feature is interesting.
Notifications of tweets, mentions and direct messages can be configured easily.
You can also look up profiles and search on Twitter. The application enables you to save your Twitter searches.
It is possible to add images and videos to your post, choosing the upload service fits best.
The application contains its own built-in browser, so you can navigate fast from links in tweets and back.

EStrongs File Explorer

A File Explorer can’t be missed on an Android phone.
ES File Explorer enables you to explore all folders on your phone’s sd card and you can open, copy and delete files.
The big difference with the most other applications is that you can also explore Windows shares with this one.
It is also possible to copy files between Windows shares and the sd card.

Teched 09: my report

After being for the first time at a Micrsoft TechEd event, I’m home again and it is time for some kind of report.

Brandenburger Tor

“Ich bin ein Berliner”

It must be one of the biggest cities in Europe and I must say I was impressed.
I have tried to visit a lot of things during my week in Berlin, but I didn’t manage to view them all.
Being there at the festival of the fall of the Berlin wall was really exciting, although my expectations for the celebrations were bigger.
Although it was raining a lot I was happy to be there. Apart from this celebrations, Berlin just looks like an American city:
big avenues with large buildings and trees on both sides. Saying that you can only find some bratwurst there is definitely wrong,
because I saw more sushi and other exotic food then the typical German food. Berlin is a world city!

The 5 most important technologies for developers if you asked me

Some topics appear more in sessions than others, indicating the importance for Microsoft:

  1. Silverlight:This is definitely the most important TechEd topic, covering a lot of sessions,
    it is clear that Microsoft invests a lot in Silverlight and we haven’t seen the end of the possibilities in this technology.
    (Unfortunately no announcements on Silverlight 4)
  2. Visual Studio Team System 2010: When Team Foundation Server 2008 was to expensive for a lot of companies,
    Microsoft will now deliver their Team Foundation Server 2010 directly in Team System 2010 for only $500.
    Team System 2010 will be a lot more than just a source control tool, also project management and agile development will be integrated well in the new environment.
  3. Sharepoint 2010: Although I didn’t attend sessions on Sharepoint, this technology just seems to be integrated into a whole bunch of systems.
    I think Sharepoint will definitely increase its popularity.
  4. Agile development:  VS Team System 2010 now better supports agile development, a lot of companies may finally put a step into this development technique.
  5. ASP.NET (MVC): Not only Silverlight, but also ASP.NET stays important for Microsoft. The line between “regular” ASP.NET and ASP.NET MVC seems thinner.

My speaker top 5

  1. Jeff Prosise: Nobody can show Silverlight features like he does 🙂
  2. Donald Farmer: The BI-guy from Microsoft is just too funny.
  3. Stephen Walther: His ASP.NET talks were really clear and interesting.
  4. Tim Heuer: Another Silverlight guy, really interesting talks!
  5. Shawn Wildermuth: It must be said, I’ve seen a lot of Silverlight talks, but the sessions from Shawn were fun.

My session top 5

  1. The New Dynamics of Business Intelligence: bringing boring BI stuff like this, I think not a lot of people can do it.
  2. Tips and Tricks for Building High Performance Web Applications and Sites: really interesting session on general performance of websites.
  3. Can You Keep a Secret? The Biggest Little-Known Features in Microsoft Silverlight: a lot of interesting features I’ve never heard of.
  4. What’s New in Microsoft ASP.NET Model-View-Controller: clear explanation of the new features in MVC.
  5. The Windows Azure Platform: When and Why to use it? :  just a general approach to Windows Azure.

Session recaps (not all session recaps are complete)


  • The organization of the event was pretty good, I have never had the feeling that more than 7000 people  were gathered there.
  • Some really great sessions and ditto speakers.
  • Nice exhibition rooms for never getting bored in between the sessions (grabbed some gadgets and t-shirts)
  • Networking possibilities were great, with special thanks to Microsoft Belgium for their community drink.
  • Berlin rules!


  • I missed some candy for developers: no big new technologies were released (they seem to have PDC for that)
  • To much focus on IT pros: the keynote, a lot of the exhibition booths and more than half of the sessions were for IT pros.
    Maybe Microsoft should consider separate events again next year?


Teched 09 : Day #5

The last day on Teched Europe was a Silverlight day!

Can You Keep a Secret? The Biggest Little-Known Features in Microsoft Silverlight (Jeff Prosise)

  • In Silverlight the browser stack is used for networking by default, although it is also possible to use the client stack and bypass the browser.
    If something goes wrong in a SOAP-service: a 404 not found error will appear when using the HTTP stack.
    When using the client stack the error you sent from your SOAP-service is sent directly to your Silverlight client.
  • A FrameRateCounter is included to see the memory consumption of your GPU.
  • Use BitmapCache.RenderAtScale to make your GPU render a vector image.
  • Analytics class to know your CPU usage.
  • VisualTreeHelper class
  • Child Windows
  • Virtual Stack panel
  • NetworkInterface: is my network interface available

Not all the features from this sessions are mentioned, but you can also download the examples from his site.

Architecting Microsoft Silverlight Applications with MVVM (Shawn Wildermuth)

This was also a sessions with lot of demos, so not much to summarize.
The Model View ViewModel pattern is already known by a lot of people.
Shawn explained how to use it in Silverlight applications.

Panel Discussion: Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Microsoft Silverlight, But Were Afraid to Ask (Tim Heuer, Jeff Prosise, Oliver Scheer, Damir Tomicic, Shawn Wildermuth)

The very last session for me on Teched 09, presented by Katrien De Graeve!
The big Silverlight guys gathered to give answers.

Most important issues that came out:

  • The biggest problem seemed that not all people are able to install the Silverlight browser plug-in and Flash has a big head start for this.
    Microsoft is trying to ship the plug-in in many configurations by adding it to Windows Update, OEM-deals with HP,…
  • Silverlight will come to Windows Mobile and to Symbian (no iPhone)
  • Why not use Ajax instead of Silverlight? Ajax is very hard to manage.
  • Flash gives more power to the designers, Silverlight gives more power to the developers.

A round-up of my TechEd adventure will appear soon.

Teched 09: Day #4

Sessions for the 4th day of Teched:

Doing It Right: Planning and Tracking Projects with Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 (Stephanie Cuthbertson)

In this session some new features from VS Team Foundataion Server 2010 for managing projects are described:


  • Planning holidays is now included.
  • For project managers, integration between different clients was added (Excel, projects,…)
    So it is easy for PM’s to reorganize items.
  • The interface to organize projects is more flexible.
  • Better support for agile projects.
  • Dependencies between tasks can be imported from MS Project (new version seems to look a lot better)
  • A dashboard in sharepoint can be created.
  • Relational reporting.
  • A process template editor is included.


Microsoft ASP.NET AJAX: Taking AJAX to the Next Level (Stephen Walther)

Again a session from Stephen Walther, so I switched to this one.
ASP.NET Ajax is now called Microsoft Ajax because Microsoft want to point out that it is not only coupled to ASP.NET.

Features in Micrsosoft Ajax:

  • Ajax CDN (Content Delivery Network): by hosting javascript-files on Micrososft Servers, performance of websites can be improved.
    Microsoft has a lot of servers all over the world, so the one that is closest to the customer can be picked then.
    Companies don’t have to host thes files (jquery, MS Ajax, ASP.NET emebedded javascript,…) themselves.
  • Microsoft Ajax minifier: for minifying your big javascript files.
    It is possible to include a build task for this that automatically calls the minifier and saves the minified javascript-file into your project structure when compiling.
  • Microsoft Ajax Library:
    • Now supports all modern browsers (even IE 6)
    • It includes a rich set of server side controls.
    • Uses MVC.
    • Features:
      • Client side Data Access: 2-way data binding!
      • Client Script Loader: auto loads all required scripts and combine them, even on demand loading is supported.
      • JQuery

Practical Web Sites: How to Build a Fast, Robust and Maintainable Web Site (Christophe Schuster)

This must be the most bad session I’ve seen on TechEd.
Christophe Schuster wants to show how they make websites in his company.
They drop a lot of tools and I don’t know if it is fun to create websites in that company.
The only positive thing I remember from this, is that they involve their customers every week.

Enhancing the Design-Time Experience for Microsoft Silverlight (Oliver Scheer)

In this session Oliver Scheer explains how developers can improve the experience for their designers
when developing Silverlight applications.

  • As a developer you should create custom controls that also render at design time.
  • You can add attributes to improve the look and feel in Blend.
  • The desgn assembly can be put in a separate dll, which can be excluded when the application is deployed.
  • He also explains behaviors in Silverlight.

Interesting project from Oliver Scheer: #20jmf

Cool Graphics, Hot Code: Ten Visual Effects to Make You the Envy of Your Peers  (Jeff Prosise)

Jeff Prosise has given a lot of cool Silverlight demos, all examples from this and other TechEd sessions can be downloaded from this site.

  • He developed a Page turn framework, which is really looking great!
  • The WritableBitmap class is a very usefull class to transform XAML into bitmaps.
  • The maginifier app he showed was also very cool!

Flexible Design (Magnus Mårtensson)

This session really made me feel stupid.
The speaker just throws a lot of code at his public, without some time to think about it.
No wonder, that there were no questions at the end of this 400 session!