Tag Archives: Recommended

Mike Strobel’s WPF Blog

I’ve been working with Mike Strobel for several weeks now at my current client.  He is an amazingly able WPF developer who has been plugging away at the technology since the days when we were still calling it Avalon (I must say, I really prefer the Microsoft code-names for their technologies to the utilitarian acronyms they eventually morph into – for instance, isn’t the “Atlas” moniker much superior to “ASP.NET AJAX”).

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t look at his code and have a small mental epiphany usually accompanied by the mumbled statement “I didn’t know you could do that with WPF.…”

After a bit of encouragement Mike has finally started blogging.  The first post is an explication of his history with WPF and the various ways he is currently using it.  One of the interesting things he reveals is that he not only is doing both game development and enterprise development using WPF, but that he is able to apply techniques he discovers (invents?) in one domain to the other.

You can find Mike’s blog here: http://codedreams.blogspot.com .

I hope that over the next few weeks you will be as blown away as I have been with the remarkable things he has been able to do on the WPF platform.

UI Design Pattern Resources

knitting

I had a great time at Codestock this year.  It wasn’t the pot-smoking, free-loving, mind-altering tribal experience I was afraid of and I didn’t see a single guitar the entire time – though I did talk with one guitar player.

The organizers – Michael Neel, Alan Stevens and Wally McClure — did a fantastic job and the Knoxville community is quite amazing and enthusiastic.  I also got to meet many people I had previously only known by reputation.

I presented on “The Uses and Abuses of UI Design Patterns” on Saturday afternoon.  I wanted to build out some examples of using a modified MV-VM pattern in WinForms and ASP.NET before publishing the code samples, but wanted to make sure I published out the references from the slide deck.

The point of the references is that while UI design patterns are all plagued by a tendency to have fuzzy boundaries – that is, it can be difficult to compare patterns between different technologies and sometimes can even be difficult to distinguish patterns used in one technology – there is still a paper trail on the Internet that give us clues as to where the design patterns (MVC, MVC Model 2, MVP, SVC, PV, PM, MVVM) came from and how they were originally intended to be used.

In general, the Supervising Controller and Passive View patterns are the best defined, while MVC is perhaps the least well defined.  MV-VM, on the other hand, has some of the best examples on usage – not least because it is so tightly associated with WPF.

1988 – MVC: Journal of Object Oriented Programming Vol 1 Issue 3 http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=50759&dl=GUIDE&coll=GUIDE&CFID=41635617&CFTOKEN=20661505

1997-99 – MVC Model 2: Java Sun JSP Architecture http://java.sun.com/blueprints/guidelines/…/application_scenarios/index.html

2004 – MVP: Martin Fowler  http://martinfowler.com/eaaDev/uiArchs.html

2004 – Presenter Model  http://martinfowler.com/eaaDev/PresentationModel.html

2006 – Passive View and Supervising Controller: Martin Fowler http://martinfowler.com/eaaDev/ModelViewPresenter.html

2005-09 – MVVM: John Gossman http://blogs.msdn.com/johngossman/archive/2005/10/08/478683.aspx

MVVM: Josh Smith  http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/dd419663.aspx

An additional resource is this site http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?ModelViewControllerHistory from which we learn that the first MVC pattern can be attributed to Trygve Reenskaug sometime in the 70’s.

Perhaps the most authoritative source for the origins of the MVMV pattern, in turn, comes from the WPF MVVM toolkit (available on Codeplex) where we are told:

Model-View-ViewModel (MVVM) is a derivative of MVC that takes advantage of particular strengths of the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) architecture to separate the Model and the View by introducing an abstract layer between them: a “Model of the View,” or ViewModel. The origins of this pattern are obscure, but it probably derives from the Smalltalk ApplicationModel pattern, as does the PresentationModel pattern described by Martin Fowler. It was adapted for WPF use by the Expression team as they developed version 1 of Blend. Without the WPF-specific aspects, the Model-View-ViewModel pattern is identical with PresentationModel.

Atlanta .NET User Group

I will be presenting on “Working with new ASP.NET features in .NET Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1” at the Atlanta .NET User Group on Monday, October 27th.  Magenic will be providing refreshments, as usual.   The meeting will begin at 6:00 PM at Microsoft’s Offices in Alpharetta.  It’s a lot of material to pack into an hour long presentation, but I think I have a few good strategies for working with that.  The presentation will cover Dynamic Data, Entity Framework, Data Services, the Silverlight Media Control, the Ajax browser history feature built into the Script Manager, and Script Combining.  That gives me about 10 minutes per technology.  Whew.

Microsoft Corporation
1125 Sanctuary Pkwy.
Suite 300
Atlanta, GA 30004

Directions to Microsoft

Piratical Reads

pirate_freedom  strangertides

Apparently it is that time of year again.  It’s talk like a pirate day. 

Apropos of that, I’d like to recommend two good pirate books.  Pirate books, as a genre, have never seemed to quite catch on.  With Treasure Island they seem to have plateaued out, and pretty much just went underground after that.  Nevertheless, pirate books have caught the attention of some good writers willing to take the genre out for a spin.

Two of my favorites are Gene Wolfe’s Pirate Freedom and Tim Powers’ On Stranger Tides.  The first is a time travelling pirate story with Wolfe’s typically unreliable narrator, while the second revolves around Blackbeard, voodoo rituals, and Powers’ common concerns with Catholic teaching and the occult.  In the spirit of the day, I’m going to rip off some passages from these two fine novels.  From Pirate Freedom:

“What really happened was that they hollered for a parlay.  They swore they would not hurt anybody we sent to talk to them, but they would not send anybody out to talk to us.  there was a lot of jawing back and forth about that because nobody on their side could speak much French and Melind could not speak much Spanish.

“That was when I did one of the dumbest things I have ever done in my life.  I told him I spoke Spanish better than he did, and I would translate for him.  So before long Melind and I left our muskets and knives behind and went up the beach and into the edge of the rain forest to talk to them.

“There were two, a Spanish officer and a Spanish farmer. From what I saw, the officer had about ten soldiers and the farmer maybe a hundred other farmers.  Once they got us into the trees they grabbed us and searched us for weapons, and of course they found my money belt and kept the money.  Melind protested and I yelled my head off, but it did no good.  Before long they told us they would kill us both if we did not shut up about it.

“That was when I tried to jump them.  A farmer standing pretty near me had a big knife in his belt, with the handle sticking out.  I grabbed it and went for the Spanish officer.  I would have killed them all then and there if I could, and I have never hated anybody in my life the way I hated that guy.  That was my money, I had earned it with worry, hard work, and tough decisions, and they had sworn we would be okay if we left our weapons behind and came over.

“I got that officer in the side, before somebody hit me.  When I was conscious again (and feeling like something scraped off a shoe), my hands were tied behind me, and so were Melind’s.”

And from On Stranger Tides:

“‘Come on, devil,’ Blackbeard raged, a fearsome sight with his teeth and the whites of his mad eyes glittering in the glow of the smoldering match-cords woven into his man, ‘wave some more bushes in my face!‘  Not even waiting for the foreign loa’s response he waded straight into the primeval rain forest, shouting and whirling his cutlass.  ‘Coo yah, you quashie pattu-owl!‘ he bellowed, reverting almost entirely to what Shandy could now recognize as Jamaican mountain tribe patois.  ‘It takes more than one deggeh bungo duppy to scare off a tallowah hunsi kanzo!‘”

Shandy could hardly see Blackbeard now, though he saw the vines jumping and heard the chopping of the cutlass and the clatter and splash of wrecked verdure flying in all directions.  Crouched back and gripping his knife, Shandy had a moment to wonder if this maniacal raging was the only way Blackbeard allowed himself to vent fear — and then the giant pirate had burst back out of the jungle, some of his beard-trimming match-cords extinguished but his fury as awesome as before. 

Eco in Atlanta

umberto-eco

In my basement, lying next to a moldy unused Italian grammar, I have an dusty Italian copy of Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose, an accusatory symbol of my unfulfilled ambitions.  In October, I’ll have an opportunity to do something with this volume — get it signed by the author.

Umberto Eco will be coming to Emory University at the beginning of October (the 5th through the 7th) to deliver three lectures.   Eco is a fascinating philosopher, literary theorist and author.  I expect the lectures and readings he is planning at Emory to be as entertaining as his writings.  I might even get a chance to ask some questions about authorial intent.  If you are in Atlanta, be sure to save the date.

Mad Men

madmen

The second season of Mad Men begins tonight on AMC.  If you haven’t seen it, then I highly recommend that you do and that you also rent the first season on DVD or through your favorite peer-to-peer network and catch up on this beautiful piece of television.

Mad Men is about Madison Avenue advertising executives in the early 1960’s, when the 60’s looked like the 50’s in the same way that what we think of as the 60’s is really the 70’s.  It is a world in which men smoke and drink, swagger and get things done.  They were veterans of either Korea or WWII, and knew how to accomplish great things.  In the process they created a wonderland that was America at its height, which had within it the seeds of America’s decline.  In Mad Men, we are afforded the opportunity to see it all.

There is something peculiar about enjoying Mad Men.  The sleezy misogyny and petty racism of the period is laid out for us to see.  Yet despite this, there is a sense that men were really men back then — and certainly not Robert Bly-reading tree hugging faux-woodsmen trying to recapture something we didn’t realized we had lost.  They are the real deal — a generation that gave us James Bond as well as a militant communist-hating wing of the Democratic party.  Damn those were the days.

It is, in a sense, an antidote to The Office, the satirical show about office work that makes us feel like we all suck and it’s alright — a show about spin going out of control to the point that the criteria for success and failure are utterly open to interpretation.

In Mad Men, there is no ambiguity about what success and failure entail.  Success means a well-padded expense account, an attractive secretary and a corner office with a bar built into the wall.  Failure means being denied these things.

And yet the world of the mad men have led us to the place where we are now.  They may have been men of character in their own way, but they created a world in which spin matters more than character, and one manages not by example but by personality tests and manipulation.  Perhaps the world of the mad men was no less corrupt, but they attempted to hide it and build something more beautiful, while we tend to cover it up with self-effacing humor ala John Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Conan O’Brien, our contemporary zeitgeist-setters whose humor shares the common conceit that they know they are privileged and have no intention of giving it up, but they are more than willing to feel bad about it.

In Mad Men, no one seems to have regrets, and a bold face is the essence of a moral stance.  The warts are all there to see, and they are ugly indeed.  But at the same time there is a sense of style and elegance that we no longer find in the modern office, and it draws the viewer like a slow seduction into something we know is not good for us.

Geek Chic

huey

Tom Wolfe’s 1970 essay Radical Chic captured a peculiar phenomenon in American culture — the courting by wealthy New York socialites of political radicals and revolutionaries like the Black Panthers — people who, in turn, should have despised the socialites trying to cultivate them.  You can read an excerpt here.  Perhaps it was an example of opposites attracting, or perhaps it was merely an extreme exercise in mauvais fois.

I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, however.  I mean only to point out that when socialite courtesans like Paris Hilton date the likes of Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, we know that the trend continues, but instead of the Huey Newtons of the world, it is nerds who are now being pursued.

It has been a long time since Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards (Louis and Gilbert) showed the world back in 1984 that nerds could sleep with cheerleaders.  This was followed up by Val Kilmer’s more testosterone fueled portrayal of the nerd archetype in Real Genius.  All the while, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were busy demonstrating to the world and Wall Street the power of Geek culture, and now we find ourselves where we are today, with nerds making inroads into every area of society, and kids wanting to grow up and be like them.  As Eryn Loeb wrote for Salon:

"The information age has been good to nerds. No longer are they relegated to getting sand kicked in their faces by that other familiar archetype, the jock. We’ve gotten used to watching Steve Jobs grin awkwardly as he announces the latest hot techie toy, and when it comes to pop culture, nerds like Superbad writer/star Seth Rogen are increasingly in control of their own image."

We’ve come a long way, baby.  But perhaps not as far as we think.

revenge

The only way to truly measure the influence of a sub-culture is to compare it with another one.  This month’s Ebony has a feature article on the 25 Coolest Brothers of All Time.  When one peruses the list, one realizes how much the accomplishments of nerds fall short, and how fragile their claim to  chic really is.  The mere fact that Ebony can talk about the brothers is insta-cool.  Many a nerd would give up his pocket protector to be called brother by an actual black man.

Billy Dee Williams is on the list.  Like Barack Obama, who is also on the list, he has cross-cultural appeal and stands out as an icon of both Geek culture and Black culture, though for vastly different reasons.  Ebony mentions Billy Dee’s swagger, his confidence and his effortless style.  On the other hand, Wikipedia (in case you ever doubted its firm position as a cornerstone of Geek culture) begins its entry on Billy Dee with this:

"Billy Dee Williams (born April 6, 1937) is an African American actor and writer, best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars film series."

The entry for Harrison Ford, interestingly, begins like this:

"Harrison Ford (born July 13, 1942) is an Academy Award- and BAFTA-nominated, as well as Golden Globe-winning, American actor." 

Ford’s association with the Star Wars franchise isn’t mentioned until the second sentence.

 

miles

The full list of 25 Coolest Brothers follows, in no particular order.  I find little to quibble about here except for the presence on the list of Obama, with whom I don’t naturally associate coolness — although, like many others, I admire his Dickensian life story.

Barack Obama
Don Cheadle
Billy Dee Williams
Sidney Poitier
Quincy Jones
Lenny Kravitz
Jimi Hendrix
Richard Roundtree
Denzel Washington
Sammy Davis, Jr.
Bob Marley
Ed Bradley
Tupac Shakur
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
Gordon Parks
Muhammad Ali
Miles Davis
Walt Frazier
Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter
Samuel L. Jackson
Malcolm X
Snoop Dogg
Prince
Michael Jordan
Marvin Gaye

 

billy bill

Hellboy 2: When Elves Go Bad

hellboy

Hellboy is, at its heart, a conceit that allows Mike Mignola, the comic book author,  to riff on various horror and fantasy motifs by inserting a gun-toting, cigar-smoking modern action hero (albeit one with a tail) into genres where he does not belong.  The payoff in the comic books, sometimes successful and sometimes not, is simply in seeing how events unwrap.

There is a naturalness to adapting Hellboy for the big screen, since this is where this type of action hero was originally born.  In Guillermo del Toro’s hands, what occurs is a reversal of the transposition Mike Mignola accomplishes in his graphic novels.  We import into the action movie genre elements that do not natively belong to it and see what happens.  As with the comic books, this is sometimes successful and sometimes not.

The original movie played with themes from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu stories.  The monsters were beautifully realized using CGI effects, but the incomprehensible horror that typically drove Lovecraft’s stories were displaced.  They simply cannot exist in a world that revolves around an indefatigable hero.

The Hellboy sequel in turn plays, more than anything else, with Tolkien’s elves.  The elves in The Golden Army are tall and filled with martial virtue.  They are also masters of magic, and preservers of nature.  Part of the high concept behind Peter Jackson’s production of Lord of the Rings was to bring out the nature loving motifs in every elven design, while highlight the industrial aspects of orc culture.  As National Geographic (among others) points out:

Tolkien’s concern for nature echoes throughout The Lord of the Rings. Evil beings of Middle-earth dominate nature and abuse it to bolster their own power. For example, Saruman, the corrupt wizard, devastates an ancient forest as he builds his army.

The Elves, in contrast, live in harmony with nature, appreciating its beauty and power, and reflecting a sense of enchantment and wonder in their artful songs.

Orcs, however, always exist in some sense as placeholders for modern men.  In The Golden Army, del Toro asks what would happen if Tolkien’s elves ever saw what we have now become.  Del Toro’s answer is that they would go to war with us in order to preserve what remained of their world.

Visually, we once again see the Hieronomous Bosch inspired monsters we first glimpsed in Pan’s Labyrinth.  They are beautiful and horrible at the same time — horrible enough to justify Hellboy as a hero as he battles them, but so beautiful at times that it seems a shame.  It is this second aspect of the film, and Del Toro’s constant affection for outsiders, that undercuts the film as a participant in the action genre.  Instead, the battles become exhausting over time, and we wish they would go away so we can enjoy the gentle details of Del Toro’s exotic world which have always been his specialty.

Hayao Miyazaki’s films can be identified as another influence on the visuals and mood of this film.  One of the monsters from Hellboy II seems to be pulled right out of Princess Mononoke.  The bestiary we encounter in the Goblin Market, likewise, recalls the parade of grotesques from Spirited Away.  More than anything else, however, what is borrowed from Miyazaki is the device of placing a child in the middle of the battle between good and evil.  We are forced to see the world through the eyes of a child who finds both good and evil to be ambiguous, which is the emotional location of all fairy tales.  In Del Toro’s film, Anna Walton performs this role as Princess Nuala, the sister to the elf protagonist of the story who, with her big yellow eyes and zombie-like complexion, is strangely affecting and sympathetic.

All in all, the film is not successful — not because it does not know what it wants to be, whether action movie or heroic fantasy, but because there is nothing for it to be.  These genres do not combine easily, and what we are left with instead is a plotline and a set of overlapping genres that provide Del Toro with a canvas upon which he paints detailed images that could not make an appearance in any other way.  Those details were, for me, well worth the price of admission.

The big question is what Del Toro will do when he gets his hands on a real fantasy property.  He is slated to direct the highly anticipated Hobbit movie, with Peter Jackson producing.  There is, of course, what the movie ought to be — a continuation of the epic fantasy genre, done with the same accomplishment that Jackson achieved with The Lord of the Rings.  If The Golden Army is any indication, however, this is unlikely to be what we will get.  Del Toro’s recent interviews point to the same conclusion:

I was never into heroic fantasy. At all. I don’t like little guys and dragons, hairy feet, hobbits — I’ve never been into that at all. I don’t like sword and sorcery, I hate all that stuff.

This is fine with me.  I’ve always been a fan of the Rankin/ Bass cartoon (with music by Glen Yarborough), and don’t see any reason to try to improve upon it.  Seeing Del Toro take another stab at twisting the genre to his own ends is well worth waiting for.

My Co-Worker is Certified

borat

Joe DeCarlo, a colleague from my Turner Broadcasting days, was recently awarded the MCA.  That is, he is now a Microsoft Certified Architect.  Kirk Evans posted an interview with him about the program here.  It is a difficult program to get into, and requires a recommendation from at least one MCA, as well as vetting by other MCA’s.  They are a rather elite circle of professionals with a strong interest in maintaining the high standards of excellence of their self-selecting club.   Hats off to Joe for making it.

While articulating what an architect’s specific role in a company actually is can be difficult — which is one of the reasons Microsoft began this program — the outlines are fairly simple.  The architect is there to make sure that the contractors don’t screw you when you need some work done on your house, or when you need a new enterprise application built for your company.  Anything beyond that, like making sure the roof doesn’t fall in once you start running a million transactions a day through your new edifice, is gravy.