Category Archives: Visual Studio

Happy Birthday Visual Studio

According to this article in Platinum Bay, today March 19th 2008 is Visual Studio’s 11th birthday. I have used many IDE’s over the years for development, but I would argue all day long that Visual Studio is the best, period. Everyone who contributed to that original1997 product and put their sweat into it since deserves a round of applause and a hearty thank you from the development community.

Happy Birthday Visual Studio!

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SQL Server 2005 Full Text Searching at the Huntsville Alabama Code Camp

My third and final presentation for the Alabama Code Camp 6 is “Introduction to SQL Server Full Text Searching”. Here are the materials I’ll be using during the demo.

First, here is a PDF of the PowerPoint slides:

Full Text Search Power Points

Next, most of the demos used SQL statements. This PDF file has all of the SQL plus some associated notes.

Full Text Search Demo Scripts

Finally, I did a WPF project that demonstrated how to call a full text search query from a WPF Windows application. Annoyingly enough WordPress (who hosts my blog) won’t let me upload ZIP files, so I renamed the extension to pdf. After you download the file to your drive, remove the .pdf and put the zip extension back on, then it should expand all the source for you correctly. (Yes, I know, I really need to get a host server for binaries, one of these days I’ll get around to it, but for today…)

Source for WPF Demo

Don’t Uninstall Visual Studio 2005 Yet!

One of the great benefits of Visual Studio 2008 is the ability for it to target multiple .Net Frameworks. This means, in theory you could go ahead and begin using Visual Studio 2008 even though you still need to write apps that are 2005 / .Net 2.0 compliant. You might be tempted to go ahead and uninstall 2005. And that would be fine if you are only doing .Net development. But wait…

If you are still doing SQL Server BIDS (Business Intelligence Developer Studio) then don’t uninstall Visual Studio 2005! Currently there’s no support in VS2008 for doing SQL Server 2005 BIDS Development. If you uninstall VS2005 you won’t be able to do any more BIDS work. Trust me, I found out the hard way.

After uninstalling VS2005, I went to do a BIDS project and that’s when I got hit with the nasty surprise. The uninstall had also removed the Dev Environment that was shared with BIDS. I tried to rerun the install of my SQL Server Developer Edition, but for some reason it thought I wanted to upgrade. It kept giving me the message “You cannot upgrade a version of SQL Server from the GUI, you must use the command line.”

I finally had to reinstall VS2005, along with all it’s service packs. After that I was able to work on my BIDS projects again. So take it from me, if you are still doing SQL Server 2005 Business Intelligence projects, Visual Studio 2005 still has some life in it yet.

Does MacGyver Dream of Mark Miller?

For Christmas this year my family gave me a copy of MacGyver, Season 1 and 2 on DVD. My wife’s side of the family gave me a gift card which I used to get seasons 3 & 4. I’m a long time MacGyver fan, but my wife had only seen one or two episodes and my kids had never seen it at all, so we’ve been having a lot of fun watching. My favorite part of the series was the voice-overs, where you’d hear MacGyver’s voice as he explained what he was doing. It always started with some odd thought or story that led you through the thought process of how he came to the conclusion to build whatever wacky life saving device he was constructing.

I’ve come to realize in some ways these blog entries are sort of like the MacGyver voice-overs, my inner thoughts being created for you on the web. So I hope you’ll bear with me a few minutes while I relate a rather bizarre dream I had last night.

In my dream I’m standing on stage, in front of a fully loaded computer. It has all the bells and whistles, VS2008, SQL Server, and so on. On the other side of the stage, Mark Miller is there, in front of a similar computer. For those unfamiliar with Miller, he’s the genius behind CodeRush and RefactorPro, tools to help you write code faster. Some time back, when the product was first released Miller used to challenge the audience to beat him in a code writing contest. His machine had CodeRush, and he would use chopsticks to write code, his competitor could use their fingers but did not have CodeRush on their machine. Of course Mark always won.

So sure enough, in my dream there’s Miller, chopsticks in hand ready to go, and I’m the guy going up against him. Our task is to take data from table A1, create a mirror table and name it table A2, and then move all million rows from A1 into A2. As you might guess, in my dream, I win. How?

Well I didn’t write a program. Instead I first jumped into SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) and used its script generating capability to produce a create table script. Make a quick search and replace and boom I’ve got table A2 created. I then jump over to the Business Intelligence Developer Studio (BIDS) to create a SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) package to do the data move. (Yes, I probably could have used the script generation of SSMS again to generate an Insert script, but I was showing off.) In about three to four minutes I had accomplished the task and moved all the data while Miller was pecking away at computer with his chopsticks.

I didn’t win because I’m a hot shot coder who is smarter than my competitor. Miller is a (some say mad) genius who can run circles around me in the coding world. As I told the folks in my dream, and I’m telling you now sometimes the best solution to a programming challenge isn’t to program at all! If you read yesterday’s post, Straining at Gnats, you may recall I said “…take some time. Push back from your computer and think for a moment. Think what the true outcome of your application is supposed to be. Not “what will the program do” but “what will the program do for the user???” Think about how best to achieve the user’s goals.

When you are thinking about solutions, take a minute to look outside of your favorite programming language. Is it possible to achieve the goal without writing any code at all? What tool or tools do you have in your tool box that you can combine to get the job done? Here’s a great example that happened to me just before I took off on my holiday vacation.

As I’ve mentioned before at work we have a Business Intelligence (BI) app I work as the lead on, it imports data to a SQL Server 2005 warehouse via SSIS then uses SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) to generate reports. The data is imported from a work order management system we bought many years ago. We also have some engineers who have a tiny little Microsoft Access database. This database has a primary key column; we’ll call it a part number for purposes of this example. There are three more columns, some data they need to know for each part but are not found in our big system. They’d like to add this data to the reports our BI app generates. Two last pieces of information, they only update this data once per quarter. Maybe. The last few years they have only done 3 updates a year. Second, the big system I mentioned is due to be replaced sometime in the next two years with a new system that will have their three fields.

A lot of solutions presented themselves to me. Write an ASP.Net app, with a SQL Server back end then use SSIS to move the data. Elegant, but a lot of work, very time consuming for a developer, especially for something that can go away in the near future. Write an SSIS package to pull data from Access? Risky, since we had no control over the Access database. A user could rename columns or move the database all together, in either case trashing the SSIS. Several other automation solutions were considered and rejected, before the final solution presented itself: not to automate at all.

Once per quarter I’ll simply have the engineers send me their Access database. Microsoft Access has a nice upsizing wizard that will move the table to SQL Server, I’ll use that to push the data onto the SQL Server Express that runs on my workstation. I’ll then use the script generating capability of SSMS to make an Insert script for the data. Add a truncate statement to the top to remove the old data and send it to the DBA to run. When I ran through it the first time my total time invested was less than ten minutes. In a worst case scenario I spend 40 minutes a year updating the data so it’s available for reporting. That’s far, far less time that I would have spent on any other solution.

The next time you have a coding challenge, take a moment to “think like MacGyver”. Look at all the tools you have lying around your PC and see what sort of solutions you can come up with. Once you are willing to step outside the comfort zone of your favorite coding language, you may be able to come up with some creative, MacGyver like solutions to your user’s problems.

 

PS – If you missed the announcement while on vacation, DevExpress just released CodeRush / RefactorPro 3.0. More than 150 refactorings and lots of new CodeRush features! Update yours today.

SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services ReportViewer Control and IE7

I’ve spent the last few days pulling my hair out over an issue with my reports rendering correctly inside and ASP.Net page and IE7. Like many companies we are preparing to roll out Internet Explorer 7 to all of the desktops. As part of that we’re doing regression testing on our applications, and in doing my tests uncovered an issue with IE7 and our BI (Business Intelligence) solution. It is an ASP.Net 2.0 page that uses the Report Viewer control to display SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services reports.

In IE6, everything has been running fine, reports rendering correctly and users happy. In testing for IE7, we found the reports only drew enough to fill up the available space inside the browser, and then stopped. No scroll bars, and if you resized the browser it did not paint the interior correctly.

The solution, as it turns out was pretty obscure. A co-worker found a thread at http://www.eggheadcafe.com/software/aspnet/27965101/re-problems-setting-webf.aspx that put me on the correct track. The solution needed three minor tweaks to our code.

First, you need to remove the DOCTYPE line from your aspx page. Yes, that’s correct, the line that is automatically inserted when you create a new page. It should look like:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “~//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN” "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd">

Find it and delete it.

Next, on the ReportViewer control, make sure the AsyncRendering property is set to False. When you set it to true (the default) the report did render correctly, but instead of using the entire webpage to scroll it put another scroll bar onto the report viewer itself, and you had to use it to move through your report. Our testing found having two scroll bars (one for the page and one for the report) to be a bit confusing to the users. Try it both ways though and see what works best for you, as your mileage may vary. For us, we went with False as the setting.

In examining the AsyncRendering property, I found this article on MSDN which further confirmed the need to remove the DocType: http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms252090(VS.80).aspx

In the final tweak, I made sure to set the width of the ReportViewer control to 100% and removed any setting of height. This allowed the page to scale automatically to the size it needed to be.

Since this was not an intuitive fix, I’m hoping getting the word out will help others and save them the two weeks of frustration I went through.

Little Bobby Tables

I love this cartoon from xkcd, it really emphasizes why you need to screen your data inputs to protect against SQL Injection Attacks.

http://www.xkcd.com/327/

By the way, there’s a WebLog Awards going on right now, if you also enjoy xkcd give them a vote. http://2007.weblogawards.org/polls/best-comic-strip-1.php Hurry though, voting ends November 8th.

Go Sara Go

I think I may have just discovered the most useful blog on the internet for Visual Studio developers. Sara Ford, who just took over as Program Manager for Code Plex (http://www.codeplex.com) posts a “Visual Studio Tip of the Day”. They are short but wow are they useful. I can’t believe I haven’t discovered this gem before today, but hey better late than never.

Go read her blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/saraford/default.aspx and tell her “Go Sara Go!”