My Lack of Responsive Web Design

My Lack of Responsive Web Design by rasx
My Lack of Responsive Web Design, a photo by rasx on Flickr.

I took this last week at the Apple Store in Century City. This is my homie’s site I’m designing, megafunk.com, running on the latest Apple iPad. You can see that I’m not yet using CSS media queries and other Responsive Web Design techniques.

My Three WCF Paths to Silverlight Data Access

Flippantly, here they are:

  • One: Silverlight-enabled WCF Service (backing View Model collections with ObservableCollection<T> by default)
  • Two: WCF Data Service (OData, backing View Model collections with DataServiceCollection<T>)
  • Three: Domain Service Class (RIA Services, backing View Model collections with LoadOperation<T>)

ServiceReferences.ClientConfig Is Useless in a XAP That Is Loaded by Another XAP.

My Songhay.Silverlight.ApplicationLoader compiles into an 8KB XAP file and is designed to load a bigger XAP file—which in turn uses MEF to load even bigger XAP files. One of these MEF-composed XAP files may contain a Service Reference, which, by default, generates ServiceReferences.ClientConfig. This file is designed to be used by the initial XAP declared in the HTML markup used to call Silverlight. My initial XAP is only 8KB and has no room for one or more Service Reference entries.

My way around this issue is to replicate the ServiceReferences.ClientConfig declarations imperatively. I have written an extension method to System.Windows.Application that accomplishes this:

public static BasicHttpBinaryBinding GetServiceClientBinding(this Application app)
{
    var mode = app.Host.Source.Scheme.Equals("https",
        StringComparison.InvariantCultureIgnoreCase) ?
        BasicHttpSecurityMode.Transport : BasicHttpSecurityMode.None;
    var binding = new BasicHttpBinaryBinding(mode);
    binding.MaxReceivedMessageSize = int.MaxValue;
    binding.MaxBufferSize = int.MaxValue;
    return binding;
}

For more details, see “Silverlight ServiceReferences.ClientConfig Alternatives” by Manish Dalal. Notice the my extension method returns a binary HTTP binding—Silverlight requires this more payload-efficient binding, which is the chief characteristic of a Silverlight-enabled WCF service.

IEditableObject Moves CRUD Eventing into the View Model

Controls like the DataForm use IEditableObject by convention, defining three methods BeginEdit, CancelEdit and EndEdit. The “begin” method is an opportunity to cache the instance implementing IEditableObject such that the “cancel” method can be used to restore data from this cache. The “end” method passes the instance implementing IEditableObject to the data layer.

Based on my current level of experience with this IEditableObject pattern, I am recklessly confident that my “end” method will not need to distinguish between Insert and Update. This suggests that I am rather foolish and/or I am setting a default value for the primary key associated with my instance implementing IEditableObject—like this:

[Display(Name = "Primary Key", Order = 0)]
[Key, Editable(false)]
public int? PrimaryKey
{
    get { return this.GetPrimaryKey(ref this._key); }
    set
    {
        this._key = value;
        base.RaisePropertyChanged("PrimaryKey");
    }
}

My private method GetPrimaryKey() passes the key field by reference and should be able to derive a valid key for the real-world underlying database. In fact, it can actually perform an Insert operation and have an “empty” record persisted before the user begins an edit session. This technique strongly suggests that the “cancel” method in the IEditableObject contract needs a cleanup procedure to ensure that the underlying database is not littered with “empty” records. I may need to study how more experienced developers address these issues.

What I do notice is that there appears to be no way to use IEditableObject with Delete operations. I assume that one would have to fall back on control eventing to handle any ceremony around deletes. The DataForm, for example, has a DeletingItem event, described by Tim Heuer in “Silverlight DataForm and confirming deleting an item.” Another DataForm event to consider is the EditEnded event, covered by Dino Esposito in “The DataForm Control in Silverlight 3—Revisited.”

My Scroll-into-View Strategy for the DataGrid

As of this writing this is my scroll-into-view strategy for the DataGrid:

this.DataGridOne.SelectionChanged += (s, args) =>
{
    if(this.DataGridOne.SelectedIndex == this._previousSelectedIndex) return;
    this._previousSelectedIndex = this.DataGridOne.SelectedIndex;
    this.DataGridOne.ScrollIntoView(this.DataGridOne.SelectedItem,
        this.DataGridOne.Columns[0]);
};

This approach requires declaring an x:Name on the DataGrid.

PagedCollectionView Swallows Collections Whole!

As of this writing, I know of only ways to implement the classic Master-Detail relationship between, say, the DataGrid and DataForm: with a PagedCollectionView and with the simpler CollectionViewSource. Both of these types implement ICollectionView (for details, see the 2008 article “ICollectionView explained”).

Because the PagedCollectionView supports client-side paging (and the DataPager), I prefer the CollectionViewSource (however, when server-side paging is in effect the CollectionViewSource might be useful when a more lightweight design is required). With the PagedCollectionView, the initial problem for me was getting synchronization to work between the Master control and the Detail control—the ObservableCollection<T> was not working out of the box. However, passing an instance of ObservableCollection<T> into the constructor of PagedCollectionView did the trick!

DataServiceCollection<T> is not “Blendable”

Because DataServiceCollection<T> has a dependency on some data-service “context,” DataServiceCollection<T> is not “Blendable” because mocking up design-time data is non-trivial (it may require a live, local OData service always running). However, because DataServiceCollection<T> is a subclass of ObservableCollection<T>, the recommendation here is to use ObservableCollection<T> in View Models.

My First XAML Data-Driven UI Recipe

Before XAML in particular and .NET in general, my typical data-driven UI “recipe” was to build on a Tab Control—usually just a bunch of forms in Tabs. The Tab aesthetic is directly connected to the “classic” desktop metaphor—directly coming from Xerox PARC. Next to the desktop there are filing cabinets—and in a drawer of the file cabinets are folders—folders with Tabs.

With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft reinforces what Apple has already started: a move away from the 1920s “modern” office space to the ancient world of the laminar tablet. In the same way the human eye jumps from one space on the surface of stone bas relief to another, our eye can see the flat panel display change in response to our touch. This flat panel aesthetic expressed in XAML leads me to these controls:

  • The DockPanel will allow the ‘root’ panel display to be subdivided into smaller panels and provide dynamic flow resizing (via LastChildFill="True").
  • The Frame will usually be the “last child” of the DockPanel and provide the means to let the eye “jump” from one interactive display to another.
  • The ItemsControl with a WrapPanel template loaded in the Frame takes advantage of the flow resizing literally making the layout of items flexible.

XAML

This four-control approach is not meant to be a Microsoft-only solution. This approach actually comes from Web design (with display: inline-block) and should be replicated in, say, Adobe Flex. The Web influence on this approach can also be seen through the use of the Frame element because it leads to the Page Navigation controls clearly mimicking the loading of HTML pages.

@elijahmanor, @jongalloway and others…

@elijahmanor Elijah Manor

“Modernizr.js : Feature Detection” by @OdeToCode #webdev z-t.go.ly

@elijahmanor Elijah Manor

“KnockoutJS Custom Binding for Invoking an Action with Enter Key” by @smichelotti #javascript sd3.go.ly

@jongalloway Jon Galloway

JSON Formatter & Validator—can take a URL and return validated / formatted JSON – jsonformatter.curiousconcept.com

@elijahmanor Elijah Manor

“Setting up ASP.NET MVC 3 to work with jQuery UI 1.9” #jquery http://v8h.go.ly

@elijahmanor Elijah Manor

“Replacing Text Nodes With jQuery” by @bennadel #jquery http://t5v.go.ly

@mtaulty Mike Taulty

I missed this “Was .NET all a mistake” bit.ly/peV466—the background is well written and it’s a good (provocative) discussion

@elijahmanor Elijah Manor

“SassAndCoffee 1.1 Released for ASP.NET (MVC & WebForms)” by @xpaulbettsx #aspnetmvc http://j.mp/owcJ6A

@pluralsight Pluralsight

Free Webcast—Improving Web Performance with Robert Boedigheimer—starts in 30 minutes! http://ow.ly/66uND RT

@codinghorror Jeff Atwood

“HTML5 standardizes every terrible practice inflicted on us by browser authors, making them part of the web forever.” stackoverflow.com/questions/3434…

@pluralsight Pluralsight

Steve Michelotti @smichelotti has just published a new course: ASP.NET MVC Scaffolding bit.ly/qQf8zy

@kazuhito Kazuhito Kidachi

Don’t use IDs in CSS selectors? ❧ Oli.jp (@boblet) – http://icio.us/kLHLoH

@jongalloway Jon Galloway

Strange to see IE Conditional Comments go http://bit.ly/qka6HV—handy for IE6 specific stylesheets, hopefully no longer as necessary.

@LeaVerou Lea Verou

Microsoft removes conditional comments, behaviors and XML Data Islands from IE10, due to incompatibilities with HTML5 blogs.msdn.com/b/ie/archive/2…

@JohnBristowe John Bristowe

Awesome scrolling experience is awesome: http://www.newzealand.com/

@KyleMcClellan Kyle McClellan

Survey: Tell me what you think of the RIA DomainService Wizard http://bit.ly/ljXCEq #RIAServices

@martinfowler Martin Fowler

I’ve published an article on eradicating non-determinism in tests: http://martinfowler.com/articles/nonDeterminism.html

@mattpodwysocki Matthew Podwysocki

Erik Meijer’s CoSQL paper on the duality of SQL and NoSQL got Slashdotted: http://bit.ly/feNxRE #cosql

@maryjofoley Mary Jo Foley

Microsoft readies three new Office service packs: http://zd.net/eW2kPK

@JesseLiberty Jesse Liberty

Posted: Linq: SelectMany http://ow.ly/1bT14x

@mtaulty Mike Taulty

Building with WCF RIA Services? http://goo.gl/fb/B3ysB

@davewiner Dave Winer ☮

I’ve never understood what the browsers guys do with RSS. http://r2.ly/6zem

@amyhoy Amy Hoy

i hate watching smart, capable people defend crap—or refuse to express strong opinions—in the name of “professionalism”

ASP.NET Web Forms Interview Questions

иконопис
MVP Chalermvong and his session - ASP.NET Performance Up!

Learning how to work with ASP.NET Web Forms is the other thing of “New Things Learned in the Labor Camp”… I’ve avoided confronting ASP.NET “classic” directly for years. Instead, I made the right decision to learn things about Web programming and Web design that Microsoft notoriously undervalued in its professional communication for years until the rise of Scott Guthrie from ASP.NET “classic” to ASP.NET MVC.

Sadly, there is a job market full of IT shops that are deeply invested (often emotionally invested) in ASP.NET “1.9”—the way of seeing the Web through the Microsoft looking glass just before ASP.NET 2.0 was released in 2005.

For years I’ve “run away” from confronting ASP.NET Web Forms directly. The following interview questions I’ve slapped together “finally” engage—directly. By the way to show that I’m super serious about this matter, I’ve literally spent hours over about two weeks building samples for ASP.NET for Web Forms in my studio.

What are ASP.NET Web Forms?

ASP.NET Web Forms is a technology that breaks down a plain-old HTTP Request into a series of clearly defined events (classified broadly under initialization, load and render)—these events describe the “life cycle” of a familiar model, the data-entry form in a Web page. ASP.NET is based on the event-driven programming paradigm made popular and traditional by Microsoft in the 1990s.

What is a ‘Post Back’?

The ‘Post Back’ is the concept developed by Microsoft that stands between the post HTTP verb and the first event recognized by an ASP.NET Page. Typically, the Page.IsPostBack Boolean is checked in the Page.OnLoad event handler. When Page.IsPostBack == false then the get HTTP verb is the request. Microsoft has defined a conventional Jscript function, __doPostBack(), that invokes the ‘Post Back.’ ASP.NET Web Forms seem crude and extravagant in the 21st century when a page-level post action is regarded as expensive and disruptive (ASP.NET AJAX was supposed to remedy this).

Why do ASP.NET controls require a parent form?

Without a parent form element, the ‘Post Back’ concept is not implemented. Conventional hidden fields in the form store event metadata (__EVENTTARGET, __EVENTARGUMENT, __VIEWSTATE).

See also:TRULY Understanding ViewState

What is the AutoPostBack property?

The AutoPostBack property is a Boolean that is apparently defined independently and conventionally in the System.Web.UI.WebControls.ListControl, System.Web.UI.WebControls.CheckBox and System.Web.UI.WebControls.TextBox. When AutoPostBack == true an event associated with these controls (select, check, blur) will cause a Post Back.

See also:
System.Web.UI.PostBackOptions and System.Web.UI.Page.AutoPostBackControl.


super smart msft peeps

What is a Cross-Page Post Back?

By default, an ASP.NET page “posts back” to itself (frequently). A Cross-Page Post Back declares that one Web Form should post to another Web Form—not back to itself. Input captured in the posting page can be captured in the receiving page via the Page.PreviousPage property.

Tip: The Page.IsCrossPagePostBack property is always null. During a cross page Post Back Page.PreviousPage.IsCrossPagePostBack will be true.

See also:
Button.PostBackUrl.

What is a Server Transfer?

An ASP.NET Server Transfer allows a Page executing on the Server to Transfer execution to another Page. It can be thought of as a call to another procedure from the currently executing procedure. In terms of a POCO class, a Server Transfer is a method call in a procedure of one class with a member from another class—the catch is that no arguments can be passed in the method call. After a Server Transfer, the new page running has access to all of the Request, Session and Application-scope data in the old page. Importantly, there is a Page.PreviousPage property which can be used with FindControl() to locate controls on the old page.

According to Microsoft MVP Karl Moore, “So, in brief: Response.Redirect simply tells the browser to visit another page. Server.Transfer helps reduce server requests, keeps the URL the same and, with a little bug-bashing, allows you to transfer the query string and form variables. …Don’t confuse Server.Transfer with Server.Execute, which executes the page and returns the results. It was useful in the past, but, with ASP.NET, it’s been replaced with fresher methods of development. Ignore it.”

See also:ASP.NET Server.Transfer Method

What is a Master Page?

The ASP.NET Master helps keep Web Forms DRY. They share visual elements among several ASP.NET pages providing the “consistent look and feel” Web designers expect. ASP.NET Master pages also centralize HTML page “meta” information, much of the angle-bracketed ceremony that make Web page markup noisy.

How does a Master Page affect the Control.FindControl function?

The ASP.NET Master adds one or more ContentPlaceHolder controls to the visual tree. These in turn demand Content controls, which implement INamingContainer—a “naming container” affects the ID attributes of child controls “inside” the container. So: a control named foo inside a naming container, bar, can be located by Control.FindControl("bar$foo") where Control would be an instance of the Master page in our example.


The ASP.NET Dream Team

How do Web Forms handle Validation?

ASP.NET handles Validation with PostBack-dependent server controls. These server controls share a ControlToValidate property, pointing to the input-related server control to Validate. There are validation controls for marking input as required, checking input for a data type, testing input with a Regular Expression and testing input with custom code.

One little annoyance: custom validators don’t work with blank input—so they must be paired with the validation control for marking input as required (RequiredFieldValidator).

What are Validation groups?

Validation groups allow more than one “validation context” to exist in a Web Form. For example, a layout with a GridView might have an EditItemTemplate with one Validation Group for editing while another form used for inserting new rows into the grid will have another Validation Group. Validation groups are declared with the ValidationGroup property.

What is a “Partial Page Update”?

The “Partial Page Update” is made possible with the UpdatePanel and the ScriptManager, which is the heart of ASP.NET AJAX. This extension to ASP.NET introduced in version 2.0 dramatically reduces the need to do the “classic” PostBack by implementing the “asynchronous PostBack” a.k.a. the “Partial Page Update.”