Mindscape

We did it! LightSpeed 3.0 is done!
15 December 2009 in .Net & Code & Mindscape & Tools | Comments (2)

Mindscape LightSpeed Logo

I am stoked – we finally got LightSpeed 3.0 out the door! For a company the size of Mindscape, we took on a mamoth amount of work and took almost all of 2009 to deliver what we think is an extremely solid 3.0 product.

If you’re interested in the features, you can read the official blog post with highlights or check out the more detailed change log (which incidentally is the same size as all our previous change logs combined).

What I’m really excited about is the integration of migrations into LightSpeed 3.0. Personally I have always hated the pain of having to script out my database changes as I was working away. Even in Rails I’ve not overly enjoyed creating migrations even though they have a nice simple abstraction for them. LightSpeed 3.0 allows you to have the designer track changes and automatically generate the migrations for you. This means you do not have to write a single line of code to have migrations created for you as you tool around updating your model. To me, this is a huge win – we are taking even more work away from the developer so they can focus on solving the actual business problems. I can’t wait to see what feedback we get around this feature :-)

The other exciting aspect of the migrations tracking is that it moves LightSpeed up the value chain – we’re no longer “just an ORM”. With LightSpeed 2.0 we delivered a cool designer will full schema round tripping for heaps of different databases. That was an awesome performance boost for developers and really helped folks working with their models. The migrations capability moves us even further up that value chain by helping manage the life-cycle of the database for developers.

There is of course far more to LightSpeed 3.0, but I wanted to share my thoughts on one feature that I think will really boost my productivity going forward :-)

Download the free express edition and let me know what you think!

New blog – a seperation of concerns
22 March 2009 in Blogging & Business & Mindscape | Comments (0)

Right-o! One thing I’ve juggled a bit on this blog over the years has been a separation between technical and business. I’ve sorted that out by deciding to push any business related posts onto my new blog over here: http://www.mindscape.co.nz/staff/johndaniel/.

This blog will still exist and be used but I’m going to be covering more general technology stuff here. If you like tech, stick with this one. If you like business grab the other one. Ideally grab both – all the cool kids are doing it!

My first post on the other blog covers the initial start of Mindscape – what I was thinking prior and how we kicked things off. I appreciate any feedback you have for ongoing topics on either blog.

Ah, blogging on a Sunday night – it’s actually a great way to wind down the weekend.

Cheers,

– JD

We shipped WPF Flow Diagrams
25 February 2009 in .Net & Mindscape | Comments (1)

WPF Flow Diagram

Yesterday we shipped our WPF Flow Diagrams product – a really nice component for creating beautiful flow diagrams in your applications. They can be interactive, read-only, exporting to PNG/JPEG/BMP, serialized, deserialized, customised with new node types, and a whole heap more.

WPF Flow Diagram in use screenshot

When we release a product I always like to put up screenshots (something that was hard with LightSpeed 1.0 since it was just an assembly at the time!). We also try to show some corporate personality is put up one or two fairly absurd but fun screenshots. Ivan has taken the cake this time with his flow diagram highlighting the mating rituals and life cycle of Penguins. Not to mention his awesome over the top use of WPF 3D to show a diagram tilted and with spotlights flashing (unfortunately the flashing isn’t visible in a static image, but it looks great when you do see it – especially since you can edit and work with the flow diagram while all that’s going on!).

If you’re developing a modern application and need a sexy WPF Flow Diagram, check it out :-) I appreciate any feedback.

– JD

Give the gift of giving – Givealittle.co.nz
4 December 2008 in Business & Mindscape | Comments (1)

Last night we finally pushed the big red button – the release button – on Givealittle.co.nz. It’s been a huge effort with many players involved in the creation of a website dedicated to making it easier for people to donate to causes they feel passionately about.

Givealittle.co.nz

One of the nice things about Givealittle is that it really helps raise the transparency about where your donations are going. You can elect, for example, to only donate to projects where they have to meet their goal (for example – “we want to build a shed” might need 10,000 – what happens if they never reach their target? In this case your donation can be returned to you and you can be comfortable in the knowledge your donation wasn’t squandered). There are heaps of features and capabilities like this to help make giving more central and accountable to you. If you’re a company by the way, you can get Givealittle gift vochers – good timing for end of year Christmas gifts :-)

I’d love to hear any feedback – either on my blog here or on the site.

You can check out my Givealittle profile here: John-Daniel Trask’s Givealittle Profile.

We still have plenty more things to add and will continue to do so going forward – join today so you can be kept in the loop. Better yet, try it out and help a worthy cause :-)

On the technical front

As this is primarily a technical blog, it’s worth sharing how we created the site.

The site is built from the ground up using the ASP.NET MVC Framework – we’ve been evolving it from about drop 2 of the framework and it’s been great to see the new bits and pieces getting added the framework throughout development.

The entire code base uses .NET 3.5 so that we could access all the great stuff there (including, but not limited to, the fact that ASP.NET MVC requires .NET 3.5). The Views use Andrew’s excellent NHaml View Engine.

Data access and domain modeling was handled by Mindscape LightSpeed – you can be sure that we’re dog fooding our own products here. This made things like entity validation, site search and data binding work very easily and saved a heap of development time.

The site runs on Windows 2008 + SQL Server 2008. The JavaScript library of choice was of course jQuery.

A call to action

There are plenty of great causes already listed on Givealittle – and many more to come. This is an opportunity for all of us to help improve the lives of others by giving to causes you feel passionately about.

Join today: http://www.givealittle.co.nz

Thanks.

FREE: November unplugged events
3 November 2008 in Events & Microsoft & Mindscape | Comments (6)

That’s right – free! Not only that – but prizes too!

Kicking off next week, myself and Kirk Jackson will be Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland for the Microsoft UNPLUGGED event. This is a great opportunity to get your development team out to hear about developing next generation user experiences using WPF as well as finding out how to be more productive with Visual Studio 2008.

The speaking time is around one and a half hours so we will be able to cover a reasonable amount of content. Because of this I would like to hear what things you would like to learn about Windows Presentation Foundation – leave a comment. I’m explicitly trying to ensure that the talk is as real-world as I can make it so that after the event you will better equipped to critically evaluate building your next project with WPF.

Numbers are limited so you’ll need to register as soon as possible at the site: http://www.microsoft.com/nz/events/unplugged/msdn-nov08.mspx

Oh, and the prizes I mentioned are:

  • 3 x XBOX 360
  • 3 x Samsung 22ÔÇ? LCD Monitors
  • 3 x Office Professional 2007
  • 3 x Windows Vista Ultimate NFR
  • 6 x Microsoft Explorer Mice

So – leave a comment of what you would like to learn, register for the event and hopefully I’ll see you soon :-)

Tech Ed NZ 08 is a wrap
11 September 2008 in .Net & Events & Microsoft & Mindscape | Comments (2)

Thanks to every one who came to my Tech Ed sessions this year – it was a real blast to sync up with folks I hadn’t seen in a wee while as well as get that surge of adrenaline that comes with public speaking.

I was prompted to post this today as the evaluation data was fed back to the speakers and I spied a couple of amusing comments. The first two were in relation to the session that Jeremy and I did on C# 3.0 tips and tricks.

“JB and JD best for buck, in a coding respect (not dodgy)”

This just made me chuckle, that’s my sort of humor right there.

“Nice use of examples and Commander Keen”

In one of my demo’s where I generated ASCII Art using an extension method that I borrowed from Jeremy, I generated a Dopefish image (from Commander Keen 4, in the water level). When I asked the audience who recognised it as the Dopefish from Commander Keen only a handful of hands went up. To those people who’s hands went up – you rock, long live the Dopefish! To those who didn’t, you can read up on some gaming history about the Dopefish here.

The last one was feedback on my ASP.NET MVC Architectural Concerns session:

No “GOOD TIMES” this year – very disappointed!

This is in relation to my saying “Good Times” about 200 times in a presentation last year when I was extremely nervous with my first audience size in the several hundreds. “Good Times” became my catch phrase for the better part of a year and has sadly started dying out (I liked that it was a positive statement).

Overall I was pleased with the ratings that were provided but there is always room for improvement. I picked up some good hints and tips from Scott Hanselman which were handy – thanks Scott.

Hopefully I’ll see you all at various user group meetings or at the very least, next years Tech Ed.

– JD

LightSpeed 2.0 – Now shipping!
5 June 2008 in Code & Mindscape | Comments (5)

I’m super pleased that we’ve just shipped LightSpeed 2.0! This release has been a huge amount of work and I think that shows in how polished and feature full the final release is.

Key new features:

LINQ Provider – Developers can now query using LINQ but still leverage the fantastic performance of the LightSpeed querying framework. This means that with LightSpeed you effectively get LINQ to MySQL, LINQ to PostgreSQL, LINQ to Oracle, LINQ to SQLite and LINQ to SQL Server. We of course included extensions to ensure you could still use our great querying functionality not directly made available through the standard LINQ interface (named aggregates, eager loading etc).

Model Designer – If you’re using Visual Studio 2008 you can install the LightSpeed Designer. This fantastic addition means you can now design your models – everything from entities and relationships down to specific caching and validation concerns on your properties. This is a huge step forward in enabling end users to get up and running quickly with a LightSpeed powered domain model.

LightSpeed domain model designer in Visual Studio 2008

What is particularly kick-ass about this designer is that it supports basic database round tripping. What does that mean? When you drag on a table from the server explorer (if you’re a data centric type of person) and then you later update the database, you can see those changes made to your model without needing to delete them and drag the tables back on. This is fantastic for those people with larger models.

We decided we could take this one step further and introduced some initial rapid database prototyping functionality which means you can make changes in the designer and push those changes down to the database. This is great for rapidly getting up and running.

There is plenty more to come in this space and I look forward to seeing it evolve.

Multi-context support – Earlier versions of LightSpeed were great when you needed to work with one database but things got a wee bit hairy if you needed to access different databases from one application instance. This problem is now solved as we allow multiple contexts within a single application so you can be talking to, for example, Oracle for your store data, SQLite for your configuration data.

These are, in my view, the top three cool new features in LightSpeed 2. There are, of course, heaps of other features that we’ve packed in to help developers work faster and more effectively.

For more information please visit:

The Mindscape Blog
The LightSpeed page
Download the free Express edition of LightSpeed

Happy coding!

John-Daniel

Valuecruncher – free business valuations
2 June 2008 in Business & General & Mindscape & Tools | Comments (0)

I’m pleased to announce that Valuecruncher is now live!

Valuecruncher - explore, create and share valuations

What is Valuecruncher?
Aside from clicking the link and finding out directly, Valuecruncher is an online tool to facilitate creating, sharing and finding company valuations. The valuations are created using a Discount Cash flow Model which is a tried and true mechanism for creating business valuations. We’ve worked hard to try and make the site as easy to work with as possible by pre-populating many values required to compute it and providing a nice user interface for creating a valuation. You start with an existing valuation, modify as you see fit and then save. Try it for yourself – click here to go and create a valuation of Apple Computers.

What companies can be valued?
Currently we’ve included many public companies from the NZX50, S&P 500, FTSE 350, ASX 200, TSX Composite. If you don’t know what these mean that’s ok – just browse around and you’ll spot companies you know like Microsoft, Apple, Dell and more.

Currently creating valuations is limited to a selection of public companies that are suitable for a discount cash flow valuation.

What’s the technology behind Valuecruncher?
This is a geek blog primarily so it makes sense to answer this. Valuecruncher is built using Ruby on Rails and the blog is powered by WordPress. The simple interface of the site hides the fact there is some seriously grunty code running behind the scenes.

Who’s behind Valuecruncher?
Valuecruncher is a new business venture that was built by Mark Clare, Sam Stewart, Rowan Simpson, Andrew Peters, Jeremy Boyd and myself. Simply put – Investment bankers, Ex-Trade Me guy and Mindscape.

I’m very happy with what the current site offers but believe me, we have a long list of new exciting features that we’ll be adding to the site in the future. I’ll be blogging about the new features as we release them but I’d urge you to subscribe to the Valuecruncher blog and join the site so that we can keep you in the loop more directly :)

Even if you’re not a finance person, I would really appreciate any feedback you can provide!

John-Daniel