Silverlight 3 Tour Overview: Part 4

Bruce_In_ActionOver the past four days I’ve been getting up early, driving to Milton and hoping on the GO train and heading into Toronto. Today was the last day of the Object Sharp Silverlight 3 Tour.

If you haven’t read my experience over the past three days, feel free to check out my past blog posts: Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3.

To the Right, meet our instructor Bruce Johnson, Bruce is the resident WPF Expert at Object Sharp. Bruce was very knowledgeable, he invited the class to ask questions as we went through the content, which was very helpful, and kept the class focused on learning. He was also very punctual, delivering all the content that was required and also giving us course time to complete our labs.

ComputersThe classroom equipment was incredible, a brand new laptop and a second monitor.  To the right, you’ll see the set-up, the picture includes my laptop as I was getting ready to publish the Part 3 blog post.

The classroom located at the Toronto Star Building [1 Yonge St. Toronto, Ontario at Queens Quay] provided a nice quiet learning environment with sufficient space for our 11 person class. The classroom was open starting at 8:15am so you were able to come in early to work on your labs if you didn’t finish them during class hours, and it closed after the last person left. Here’s a contrast of morning to mid-class.

Morning Classroom Afternoon Classroom

On Day 4, We covered how to get data into our Silverlight applications. We covered how to use SOAP based ASMX Services, and Restful WCF Services. Not having the opportunity to use WCF Services before, Bruce was very helpful to help me along the learning curve of the newer technology.

Here’s our Graduating class. The photo on the left has Training Manager Julie James, the photo on the right has Training Coordinator Sofia Intounas.

Class_Picture_Julie Class_Picture_Sofia

I had a lot of fun meeting people from different business sectors that share a similar passion with development that I have.  Some cam for Silverlight, others came for training and are leaving excited about integrating Silverlight into their projects.  Of course any training session wouldn’t be complete without recognition for the time spent learning. Our Reward!

Certificate

Silverlight 3 Tour Overview: Part 3

Hopefully with any luck, if you’re reading this post you’ve already read Part 1, and Part 2.  If you haven’t, the posts don’t follow a story, though there are a few references to previous post, so you won’t get lost, but You might find some benefit to reading them.

Day 3 of the Silverlight 3 Tour much like day 2, was packed full of content. I would say that Day three would be the most important session to hit so far in the Course.  Today we covered the bread and butter of Silverlight 3, Data Binding and Styling.  As you could probably get away with not learning the full potential of the Styling in Silverlight 3, getting an overview of how you can nest your styles would be a essential asset to a Designer, or if you’re like me where you are normally the one responsible for styling your own User Experiences.

When it comes to data binding in Silverlight, if  you haven’t had the chance to try WPF data binding, you’re in for a HUGE treat. This is something that in quite handy, if you remember from Part 2, your designer is able to make “Mock Data”, and this data can be bound to the controls as they are designing.  If you have your developer and designer collaborate during this process, your designer can create all the binding references your developer needs.  If the “Mock Data” is made in such a way that the properties reflect your actually business objects, the introduction of your production data will integrate seamlessly.

The most unique thing about yesterdays session, would have to be the lunch break.  During lunch other Object Sharp consultants were invited in as a open forum so you have the ability to meet their team and ask questions, not only about Silverlight, but if you had something that has been lingering in the back of your head they had an Expert for any Technology in .NET.  It was really nice to be able to get to know some of the other consultants that I haven’t been able to meet at previous lectures.

It is disappointing that the 4 days are nearly over, but I already feel confident that I could make some great applications in Silverlight 3. I’m looking forward to Day 4, which I haven’t had the chance to read over what we’re doing, so it will be a nice surprise to see what the future has in store.

Silverlight 3 Tour Overview: Part 2

Before I start, If you haven’t already, please spare a few minutes to read Part 1. Ok, without further Ado…

Enter Alarm Clock, 5:15am. It’s day two of the Silverlight 3 Tour!

Taking the train into the big City definitely has it’s benefits, normally my drive consists of me , well obviously, driving. Since the recent change of “scenery” I work a little bit closer to home, so I don’t quite have enough time to fit in a podcast on my morning drive so I’ve switched back to listening to the radio.  During the course of my morning commute this week I have taken up reading, Wow, what a concept, but it’s something i rarely get to do casually.  My commute home has been dedicated to working on these fabulous blog posts that you have the pleasure of reading.  WAIT! Don’t hit that red ‘X’ yet, there is much to tell you.

Now that we’ve had the opportunity to get a handle on this crazy formatting language XAML, Day 2 has picked up the pace of content, and with it introduced us into a tool that will change your life dramatically, FOREVER!  Sketch Flow which is part of Expression Blend 3 has enabled Silverlight and WPF designers to offer better prototypes (Design Concepts) for their clients. Working for small companies for, well lets face it, my entire career thus far, typically I have both roles of User Experience (UX) Designer and Application Developer.  Typically my design concepts I have roughed up a quick “Cocktail Napkin Design” which then got scanned to a PDF and Emailed off to our client. When you get into the Office tomorrow, throw out your pens, put the lined paper back into the supply closet and download Expression Blend 3, no matter what you plan to develop, create your prototypes with Sketch Flow.

With Sketch Flow you can create pseudo functioning prototypes, that looks literally like you drew it out by hand. Complete with some randomly generated “Mock Data” (not Programmatic Mock Objects, but Mock XML based data). To take this one step further you are then able to “Launch”” your Prototype to a Server and have your customer remotely Rough up your Prototype.  They have the ability to add notes, highlight, and draw on your UX, not to mention the ability to fully step through the system as it is to be intended to be used by a users, or quickly click through an index of “Screens”. Once their done marking up your prototype they are able to export their notes, highlights, and mark-up to a simple format that they email to you.  You then take that file, and import it into your Prototype file and are able to overlay their notes on your design surface so you can quickly make the necessary changes to get your clients approval QUICKER!  If you didn’t notice earlier, I told you that you can “Launch” the prototype, this allows you to have multiple people to review the prototype, and get back to you with separate comments, which you can review one-by-one on your design surface.

Even if you don’t plan on creating Silverlight or WPF apps, there is nothing wrong with being exposed to the XAML and Expression Blend 3 to increase your productivity Prototyping with Sketch Flow. If you find yourself in the same position as a lot of companies do with out of control Feature Creep, you should consider checking out the Silverlight 3 Tour.

Silverlight 3 Tour Overview: Part 1

As Promised, this will be the first of four blog posts on the Silverlight 3 Tour. I would like to overview the course a bit so you will be able to determine if you should head out to an Object Sharp Event near you to take in the training on Silverlight. With that said, I would have to say that any personal development towards your career is exceptionally important to future proof your job. It may also spark new interest in other areas of development if what you’re currently doing has lost it’s spark.

Being the first day of the Course everyone got a quick tour of the Object Sharp office on the 19th floor of 1 Yonge St, Toronto, Ontario. Due to the fact that the majority of their Staff are consultants, and therefore work on site at client locations, there weren’t too many offices to visit, but it was nice to see the view of both the lakefront and city scape from the offices. Everyone that I met was very welcoming and introduced themselves and what their role is at Object Sharp.

Bruce Johnson, our instructor, started into his introduction explaining how he likes to present his training sessions. I have had the pleasure to watch Bruce Johnson at a number of events, most recently his sessions on RESTful Services at Tech Days 2009 in Toronto. Bruce enjoys keeping the crowd attentive with some mild humor, fun demos, and if possible, lots of audience interaction. Bruce’s Philosophy is if the audience has the ability to participate, they are more likely to pay attention to the content as they can get focused on the spot answers from their instructor.

The Silverlight 3 Tour is a lab based training session, with a stated 60% content, 40% lab breakdown. So you get an outline of all of the Features of not only Silverlight 3, but also the content that you may have missed by not following Silverlight up until this point. If you have been lucky enough to work in an environment where you have created Silverlight 2 applications, it’s definitely a good overview of Silverlight, just in case you forgot about some elements or needed a bit of a refresher course. I unfortunately haven’t been able to develop Silverlight Professionally as of yet, but I have been following the progress of Silverlight since Energize IT 2007.

Our Lab today was to get us comfortable with writing XAML in Visual Studio. We discovered how the different properties could be set, either inline, with attributes or nested elements, or by setting the properties in the code behind file. This was a great exercise for people that haven’t had any exposure to XAML, or Silverlight. I finished up my demo and began pimping it out, adding in some animation and projection techniques I learnt while preparing my Presentation for Tech Days, which one of the other attendees saw and asked me about over the lunch break. Little did I know, the projection and animation abilities were being outlined later in the slides that we covered today.

Overall, Today was an excellent start to the training, and with a few bumps out of the road, we’re ready to start learning about Expression Blend in tomorrows session.

The Tables have Turned, Trainer to Trainee

I really enjoyed the ability to be a speaker at Tech Days 2009 in Toronto [Read about my Experience], Silverlight has been one of the topics that i’ve always been interested in, but haven’t had the ability to use it in a professional setting.  I just finished up my first week at RKD Web Studios a Website design and development company in Guelph, Ontario.  RKD is looking to start providing Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) with Silverlight, which will add to an already stellar line up of Services including Standard Website Design/Development, Mobile Website Design/Development, Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Hosting, and Multimedia Services (Podcasting, blogs, audio, video, and flash integration).

I have been following Object Sharp, Barry Gervin, Bruce Johnson, Rob Windsor and Colin Bowern on twitter for some time now.  I’ve had the privilege to sit in on presentations put on by these consultants at various User Group Meetings and Technical Conferences over the past 3 years. On Friday, I received a message from Object Sharp letting me know that there was still a seat available at their ‘Silverlight 3 Tour‘.  After their session “Silverlight on the Silverscreen” back in July 2009, I have wanted to take a training course on Silverlight 3. After careful consideration, and an amazing boss, I have next week (my second week on the job) off, so I can participate in the Silverlight 3 Tour.

Look forward to a day by day wrap up of my experience in the training session at Object Sharp’s Head Quarters at 1 Yonge Street, Suite 1801, Toronto, Ontario.

Tech Days 2009: A Speaking Debut

 

Playing with exposure time on my camera

Tech Days Toronto has come and gone, opening what I hope to be one of many speaking engagements to come.  It was an honor to be able to Headline the conference with a presentation on “What’s new in Silverlight 3”.

After taking the time to rest over the weekend, I thought I would take the opportunity to write about it at Guelph Coffee and Code while I wait for some more attendees to show up. For more information on Coffee and Code in general check out the official website

Being my first technical conference, and more importantly the first time speaking in front of a large crowd (approx. 400 people were in attendance for my session), I was extremely nervous. To start my presentation and to try to get comfortable with the audience, I started up getting the entire room to chant “Silver” – “Light”, dividing the room in half.

Feeling energized by the ability to stir the crowd, I began my presentation at a blazing speed. I started into demoing my first topic, “Perspective 3D”. I walked through the 2 forms explaining the idea behind each of the forms, how you have the ability to flip elements on the X, Y, and Z Planes.  After showing these 2 demos, I remembered at tweet of advice from Barry Gervin of Object Sharp, the general idea “Speaker quieter, and slower than you think you have to”.  After the words slower passed my mind, I flinched, I haven’t shown any code yet. In a bit of a panic I explain myself and decide to jump into the code of my first two demos.

Opening SlideAfter reviewing the code from the first two demos, things went as you would expect a live demo to go. One of my demos didn’t cooperate but I was able to recover and show an example of Data Validation in a subsequent demo.

Overall, I had a great time being able to present at Tech Days and hope to be able to speak at future Microsoft Events.  I’ll be sure to keep my head in Silverlight code, and make tours at local .Net User Groups (like CTTDNUG & FCDNUG)