AJAX.Net Conference compliments of DeCare Systems, Microsoft and IT Cork

Jeff Prosise said he’s been searching for a phrase to describe ASP.NET development, and I think I may have found it: “The wrong end of the stick”. Dumb clients and heavy Servers were a way of life before Ajax.NET. Mundane tasks that have could have been done by the client were often left to the Server, and indeed the only way to deal with these transactions on the client was with Javascript. Now I don’t know about you, but my experience with Javascript has been slightly less pleasant than getting teeth pulled. It’s difficult to write, difficult to debug, and as my colleague Alan Crowley always says: “Javascript and data are NOT friends”.
While Ajax.NET is not the single solution to the current limitations of ASP.NET, it definitely seems to be a step forward. It allows us to build richer clients, and depending on the Ajax involvement on your site, can enrich the users experience dramatically. So what does Ajax.NET do for you? Well Ajax (Asynchronous Javascript And XML) in a nut shell allows for partial post back. When an event is performed on a page, instead of the whole page being posted back, now you can call back and only get the information you require. What I believed to be the flagship of the Ajax control toolkit was the update panel, by placing your controls in an update panel, you could just update the part of the page contained in the panel. However, Jeff opened my eyes on Friday as to the cons of the update panel. While the partial rendering given to us by the update panel removes the flicker when the page is being updated, there is no partial call back, if you want to update as little as a textbox or label, instead of just the control going back the whole page is returned to the server. Making the Update panel very heavy on the wire for what it wants to do. The Update panel is still very useful, but definitely not as efficient as it could be.
For those of you who’ve actually managed to read this far without falling asleep, I encourage you to check out Ajax.Net in more detail. Arguably the greatest thing about Ajax.Net is the community that surrounds it. New controls are being added almost weekly, and there is a whole list of videos to take you from Ajax zero to Ajax hero in relatively little time. http://www.asp.net/learn/videos/#ajax.

In the last quarter of the conference Rob Bourke presented us with Microsoft’s new WPFe(Windows Presentation Foundation everywhere). Both Rob and Jeff were very quick to point out that WPFe is not to be confused with WPF. WPFe is a subset of the WPF functionality that runs via a browser plug-in. It does nearly everything the WPF does with the exception of 3D and advance page layout and pagination. While we were shown some very impressive demo’s, WPFe is basically Flash. What’s the difference? That’s a good question, there isn’t really any difference. While they did point out that the future holds many changes, they were not at liberty to specify. So while it might be worth keeping an eye on, and certainly is an interesting new technology, as of yet it doesn’t seem to be breaking any new ground.

All in all IT@Cork put on an excellent show. I encourage you to check it out next time.

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