Monthly Archives: February 2012

A path from C/C++ to C# and back to C++

About ten years ago I started my first full time programming job. I was working on some business software written in C/C++. I say C/C++ instead of just C++ because it was written mostly in C with classes – with perhaps a few cases of inheritance or actually even only few classes – it used structs in many places to group some methods together the same way you would use classes today. The code was fairly complicated and it was just aging. The standard C libraries it used were not very rich, so if you wanted to code up something fairly straightforward – you had to dig through a lot of documentation looking for something basic only to end up implementing that list class yourself. We were using a Watcom compiler at that time and trying out Borland C++ Builder for some side projects showed it was a great improvement in that VCL provided a lot of great wrapper classes for Windows APIs making things easier. Two years later we were looking into rewriting our application or at least starting a new version and considering which tools to use – basically trying to choose between Borland C++ and C#. I was on the C++ side – it was a fairly known language, more predictable and providing intuitively higher performance, while C# was at version 1.1 and had lots of great libraries, but a bit foreign and why would anyone want to go away from the fun of using pointers, managing object lifetimes and relying on some garbage (collector)? Well, I lost – Microsoft seemed to be focusing on supporting C# and in the end it turned out to be a lot more productive than C++.

Fast forward 8 years and Microsoft says – in Windows 8 you can code using C#/VB, JavaScript or C++. Well, the word on the street is that it is so that programmers fluent in any of these languages will be able to code applications for Windows, so I guess I will stick with C#. Maybe I will look at HTML5, JS and CSS, since these seem to be getting most traction, I thought. Now, having found some limitations in the .NET/WinRT stack I have a feeling like the C++/DirectX route is the most attractive. The .NET stack might make you more productive than the JS or C++ – especially if you have been coding in C# for the last eight years and perhaps HTML5 has better graphics performance or some other interesting features, but it feels like learning C++/DirectX on top of C#/WinRT is what would allow me to cover most scenarios for writing Metro Style Apps™, so especially with some experience working on the test team for the DirectX wrappers in the Windows API Code Pack – I am hoping to have an easier start in diversifying my skills.

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BindableApplicationBar for Windows Phone – Now On NuGet

With some help from Shawn Oster – I had the BindableApplicationBar published on NuGet. Now there is no need to search for sources or assemblies on CodePlex if you need to quickly create an MVVM-friendly ApplicationBar. Just right-click on your project and select “Manage NuGet Packages…”

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Then search for appbar, install it and voila! You can now use the BindableApplicationBar.

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Asynchronous UI development in WinRT, Silverlight, Windows Phone & WPF with async/await keywords of C# 5.0

This is a reblog of my article from http://labs.vectorform.com

C# 5.0 comes with the new async/await keywords that make asynchronous code easier to write, read and maintain. This is very nice if you have properly declared methods that support this pattern and Windows Runtime (or WinRT – the API for Windows 8 Metro Style Apps) comes with a lot of these methods for long running tasks or ones of nondeterministic duration – especially in I/O or web calls. It is however completely lacking in support for asynchronous UI development, even though one of the main goals of these new keywords was support for responsive UI.

Interactive coding often introduces the need to start an operation, like an animation or a dialog box and then wait for an event before switching the state of the UI, for example: running another animation or removing a dialog. Reading this article you will learn how to do it better using the upcoming features of C# 5.0, regardless of whether you develop in WinRT, Silverlight, WPF, Windows Forms or even Web Forms. The source code that comes with this article contains a library you can use to cut the amount of code you need to write by half!

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