Learning Silverlight: Day One


‘Twas not a propitious day.  Installing the Beta 1 of Silverlight 2 was trying.  Finding the correct place to download the correct version of Silverlight 2 was a bit tricky, but I finally did get to it: http://silverlight.net/getstarted/.

I downloaded and installed the SDK without trouble.  On reading a bit more around the net, it turned out I also needed the correct version of the Silverlight Tools for Visual Studio 2008 in order to get the project templates I would require to do anything worthwhile, so I did.  This installation didn’t go so well, and I received a message stating vaguely that I had previous software that needed to be removed.

I removed the Silverlight browser plug-in, but I got the same message.  Since the only other Silverlight component I had installed was the SDK, I decided to remove that also.  This did the trick.  It turns out that what is now being called the Silverlight Tools is actually a comprehensive install that includes the SDK, though at some previous point it wasn’t.  Checking at the Microsoft Silverlight site, it also appears that the site has been updated with a clarification to make this change more obvious.

After getting everything installed, I fired up the Visual Studio IDE and started working through the examples in Chris Wenz’s Essential Silverlight 2 — Up to Date.  It is the only book on Silverlight 2 I could find, and the "Up to Date" postscript is meant to indicate that it will be updated on a regular basis as different versions of Silverlight are released.  The one I’m reading through is meant to be for the Silverlight 2 Beta 1, though the version being sold appears to have been written before the official release.  I was also told that this was the book which was distributed at MIX ’08.

I tried downloading the sample code that is intended to go with the book, but it turned out to be a dead link.   Oh well, I thought, I can just build each project myself according to Chris’s instructions.

At the end of the first chapter, however, I was instructed to create "a new Silverlight Control project within the current solution," and after 20 minutes or so trying to puzzle out what I was supposed to do, I finally realized that no such project template existed.  The version of the Silverlight 2 Beta 1 that was released turns out to be a different beast than the one he was writing about.  So I’ll just skip this example and move on to the rest of the book, hoping that this is the exception that proves the rule, rather than the rule that proves the rule.

In this first chapter, I also learned a new acronym to add to my bestiary of strange and exotic technical terms.  An RIA is a Rich Internet Application, not to be confused with an AJAX client, or a thin client, or a one-click client, or a rich client application.  Silverlight is an RIA, as is Adobe Flash, Adobe AIR, JavaFX and Google Gears.

Despite the frustrations of this first day, I am still excited about Silverlight.  The contradictory and confusing nature of the various Silverlight resources can be chalked up to the entry cost for learning bleeding edge technology.  And perhaps it is even intended to discourage those not willing to bear some burden as the price for acquiring new knowledge. 

On another front, I’ve decided that the best place to renew a study of Husserlian Phenomenology is with Franz Brentano.  I have a translation (which you can read here) by Benito Müller of a series of lectures given by Brentano on descriptive psychology from 1890 entitled Psychognosie, which include Brentano’s influential analysis of the concept of intentionality — the sine qua non of phenomenology. 

In his introduction, Müller is good enough to provide the most succinct explanation of intentionality I have ever come across. "Every psychical act is intentional in that it is directed upon an object."  Would that tech book authors could achieve a similar standard of clarity.

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