When Written: June 2009
My musings about the future improvements in search engines were caused by me having a day trip away from the office to NXTGEN’s excellent Fest09 event in Cambridge. Regular readers will probably remember me mentioning NXTGEN user group, a rapidly expanding group of like minded people interested in Microsoft technologies and pizza. They meet all over the country, usually once a month, but once a year they migrate to a central venue for their Fest event. (That last sentence sounded like something from a Discovery channel documentary). There were speakers from Microsoft as well as independent companies and developers. The atmosphere at these gathering is always one of a friendly, relaxed one, although this year’s Fest was different in one particular and rather disturbing way; there was no Pizza! Instead a splendid spread of much more exotic food was laid on, but I still missed the Pizza.
Mike Taulty of Microsoft at NxtGenUg Fest 09 with the awards – he is good but perhaps not THAT good !
After the various Awards for the year’s presenters the presentations started, and one which caught my attention was by Mike Taulty from Microsoft. Mike’s style is relaxed, whilst his coding knowledge is beyond question, he was demonstrating what will be new in Silverlight3 with real code in his easy to follow fashion, much better than some speakers who try and amaze us with their knowledge but leave the audience completely cold and confused about the ‘cool’ stuff they were trying to show. Silverlight 3 has a lot of new features but three that really interested me were the ability to move your Silverlight web application from your browser to install on your desktop, in which mode the application will update if a new version appears. This should make rolling out applications even easier. Silverlight 3 also supports not only the browser’s back and forward buttons but you can also allow access to your application via a URL query string which means that you can expose ‘normal’ links that will work in your Silverlight Application.
For example http://www.myapp.com/sl3.xap?hotel=ritz could make your app display the details of the Ritz hotel ( if that is what it was designed to do of course ). Silverlight 3 will also allow access to the user’s file system, so reading and writing files to the desktop will be possible, but only with the user’s permission through the file open dialog box. This certainly has gave an idea for re-writing one of my major apps in Silverlight 3 and no doubt I will regale you with my efforts in future issues. When asked for a show of hands of those developing with Silverlight2 only a few hands went up, so perhaps the message is not getting across from Microsoft about how cool Silverlight is or perhaps Adobe’s Flash is still the way to go?
Whilst at NXTGEN Fest 09 I got talking to a number of developers all of whom seemed to be in this business because they enjoyed the creative process of writing applications even with all the problems that can arise. However one concern that was raised was that in the past many developers have relied on faster and faster processors to handle the increased capabilities of the new versions of their application. It looks like we may have now started to reach a limit to the maximum speed of a CPU, look around at the current crop of machines you can buy, and most will be sub 3GHz but multi processors. The reason for this is the amount of heat being generated increases as the CPU increases in speed.
According to Chris Bishop, the Chief Research Scientist at Microsoft Research and also a speaker at Fest 09, currently the heat produced by a modern CPU is the equivalent of a hot plate on a cooker. However, if we carry on doubling the speed every two years as Moore’s law has reliably predicted in the past, then in ten years time the surface of a CPU will be the same temperature as the surface of the sun which would be somewhat of a problem. The current answer to this is to stay under the 3 Ghz barrier and add more processors, though the gotcha here is that an application designed to run on a single CPU could in fact run slower on a modern pc than it did in the past as each CPU will often be running at a slower clock speed and even though there may be four or more CPUs in the box, the application in question will only utilise one of them. Developers are having to get to terms with multi-threading (explained excellently by our own equally excellent David Fearon in issue 178) and such delights as race hazards to be sure that their future applications perform.
As is often said at the moment we certainly are “living in interesting times”.
Article by: Mark Newton
Published in: Mark Newton