Is it time to open source Silverlight?

Call to action: Vote on User Voice for Silverlight to be open sourced http://visualstudio.uservoice.com/forums/121579-visual-studio/suggestions/5042512-open-source-silverlight 

For all intents and purposes Microsoft now views Silverlight as “Done”. While it is no longer in active development it is still being “supported” through to 2021 (source).
In today’s age of the “modern public web” with a variety of devices, Silverlight’s purpose no longer stands.

However there is still a section of the .Net community that would like to see further development done on the Silverlight framework. It has a nice collection of portable technologies allows it a small niche in the desktop environment. A quick look at some common request lists brings up the following stats:

Rather than letting Silverlight decay in a locked up source control in the Microsoft vaults, I call on them to instead release it into the hands of the community to see what they can build with it. Microsoft may no longer have a long term vision for it, but the community itself may find ways to extend it in ways Microsoft didn’t envision.
Earlier this year Microsoft open sourced RIA Services on Outer Curve http://www.outercurve.org/Galleries/ASPNETOpenSourceGallery/OpenRIAServices, it would be great to see this extended to the entire Silverlight framework.

We’ve seen what can happen with amazing technologies when they are released into the wild. e.g ID software released the Quake 1 source code to the community, it has since been extended greatly and ported to a variety of platforms. A version was even created for Silverlight http://www.innoveware.com/ql3/QuakeLight.html. Which makes sense as XNA running on Silverlight was a popular technology for students.

I’ve used games as examples of ways to extend it as that is what hobbyists usually latch onto first. But there are equal reasons why people still using it on internal LoB applications would want to continue to extend the core framework, e.g:

Silverlight still has a nice portable core of useful technologies, now is the time to start asking the question if it is time to Open Source it rather than let it mothball. There may be uses in the community for it now, in another 2-3 years its usefulness in the community would be lost. This also may be a great point to release Silverlight to the community.
Microsoft, let the community know if there is a way we can assist in making this happen.

By David Burela

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XDDN around Australia

To try and streamline the XDDN groups around Australia, I have been working with the organisers of the other cities to create a few central locations for everything.
For those unfamiliar with XDDN, it is a usergroup I run that focuses on UX, Design and Development on Microsoft UI platforms. Such as Win8, WinPhone7, HTML5, etc.

The main reason for moving everything to Meetup is that it allows everyone to easily see upcoming events and get automatically notified when new events are created.
Having XDDN on Meetup.com also supports my other goals of getting more people involved with their local development communities. Joining the groups will allow you to easily find other local groups that you may want to attend, such as Agile or Alt.Net groups.
Please join the group for your city, as the old event sites (such as EventBrite) will be slowly decommissioned over the next few weeks.

My first book has been published Azure & Silverlight integration

It is with GREAT pride and pleasure that I am able to finally announce that my first book has been published and is available to be purchased right now!

Microsoft Silverlight 5 and Windows Azure Enterprise Integration details how enterprise Silverlight applications can be written to take advantage of the key features of Windows Azure to create scalable applications.

It is available as as eBook,  in print format and is available on the Kindle, Nook, etc.  It can be purchased from the following websites:

By David Burela

XDDN Melbourne – April meeting

This month I have organised for Ian Randall (@Kiwipom) to talk at the April XDDN meeting.

I have also created a new twitter account @XDDN_AU from which I will be tweeting all of the sessions for Melbourne, Sydney & Perth. Be sure to follow it.

Register here: http://xddn-melbourne-april2012.eventbrite.com/

Learn about creating great MVVM applications with LESS CODE. Ian Randall will be demonstrating how to use Caliburn.Micro to create cleaner XAML based applications. These techniques will work with WinRT (Windows 8), Silverlight, Windows Phone 7 and WPF.
Caliburn.Micro can be downloaded at http://caliburnmicro.codeplex.com/

Time: 5:30 pm networking & pizza.
6:00 pm presentations start.

Caliburn.Micro – Ian Randall

Caliburn.Micro (http://caliburnmicro.codeplex.com/) is more than just an MVVM library, it’s a client application framework that works every bit as hard for your app that a web framework does: Logging, composition, binding, and much, much more.
This session will cover getting started with Caliburn.Micro and give practical demonstrations of Convention Over Configuration, Actions, Screens & Conductors and will go a bit deeper under the covers (if we get time).

Ian Randall is a software developer for Datacom in Auckland and a XAML geek on the internets. He helps to run the Metro Meetup in Auckland and just spent the last 6 months putting on ‘codemania’ (http://codemania.co.nz). He is currently trying to catch a breath…
He loves Melbourne, partly for the friendly Victorian people, but mostly for @aeoth’s legendary chocolate brownies.

By David Burela

I’m speaking at the Melbourne March XDDN

I’m speaking at Melbourne XDDN this month. With the Windows 8 Consumer Preview released, now is the perfect time to reexamine Windows 8. Below are the meeting details:

Register here: http://xddn-melbourne-march2012.eventbrite.com/
Date: Wed 21st March
Time: 5:30 networking & pizza. 6pm presentations start

A tour around Windows 8 – David Burela
Windows 8 has been announced to the public and is being branded as “Windows reimagined”. This introductory session will show some of the new features coming with Windows 8.
A touch first interface, user account syncing via the cloud, “charms”, app to app data sharing, and the ability to use a picture password to log into windows will all be demonstrated.

Getting started with Windows 8 development – David Burela
So you’ve heard that Windows 8 has a new way of applications known as “Metro styled immersive apps”, but what does this actually mean? What is WinRT? Is Microsoft really making developers use HTML5 to create desktop apps? What about your previous investments in Silverlight?
Join David Burela as he helps clarify what the new programming model is and what impact it will have on you. Explanations of WinRT and how to create basic applications will be shown.

By David Burela

BUILD keynote day 1–Metro experience with Jupiter, XAML and HTML5/JS

Highlights

  • You can download the developer preview of Windows 8
    http://dev.windows.com/
    http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2011/09/13/welcome-to-windows-8-the-developer-preview.aspx
  • The confusion around HTML5, xaml and Jupiter is finally cleared up.
    The new immersive apps (full screen, metro style apps which are launched from the tile based interface) can be built in either C#/XAML or HTML5/JS. Under the covers it reflects into the WinRT APIs. Apps built like this will run on ANY Win8 machine (x86, ARM, etc)
    clip_image001[4]
  • Silverlight & WPF are “legacy”. They put it onto the slide for show. The Win8 xaml looks to be 90% compatible with Silverlight. Demos are shown where they take a Silverlight app, copy/paste the code into a new Win8 XAML app, and only a few namespaces need to be changed. A silverlight grid is then changed to use the native WinRT grid to make it touch enabled and “Metro-y”
  • The Win8 XAML app is ported to Windows Phone 7 with only 1 line changed.
  • New version of Visual Studio available to help build apps for Win 8 “Microsoft Visual Studio 11 Express for Windows Developer Preview” (got to love Microsoft product names)
  • Expression blend works for editing the HTML5/JS apps
  • The native WinRT controls work in XAML and HTML5
  • New windows 8 app store. Store & submission process VERY similar to Windows Phone 7. Can submit via Visual Studio
    Paul Thurrott: “Biggest point of Windows Store: Microsoft is NOT taking a 30 percent cut. It will take a ZERO percent cut.”
  • Win8 machines can be easily restored back to a “clean base image” that developer can specify. Keeps all files, just reverts apps. (Reset/Refresh)
  • Windows Live application integration. Nice support for photos, calendar, mail, people. Very similar to Windows Phone 7 built in features.
    Windows user account settings Synced across PCs via the cloud (profile photo, etc)
  • Win8 specs are the same as Win 7. Consumes less memory after startup.
    Boot times have been massively reduced. Cold boot demo shows the PC almost starting faster than the monitor can turn on.

Useful articles

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Premature cries of Silverlight / WPF skill loss. Windows 8 supports all programming models

UPDATE: The BUILD keynote cleared up a LOT of these concerns https://davidburela.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/build-keynote-day-1metro-experience-with-jupiter-xaml-and-html5js/

Summary

  • Windows 8 supports applications being built in C# / XAML / VB.Net / C++ / HTML+JS.
  • The new UI framework ‘Jupiter’ allows applications to be written in your language of choice. This is similar to how the .Net framework allowed people to code against the framework in their language of choice.
  • Jupiter seems to be a ‘Next generation’ XAML based framework
  • I’m more excited about the new possibilities coming in the new Jupiter XAML programming model than the misconception that HTML+JS is the only way to create apps.

History

In the last few weeks, the internet has been in frenzy over the newly released demo video of Windows 8. In the video there is only mention of the new “Immersive applications” being created in a mixture of HTML + Javascript. People took this as more evidence that WPF & Silverlight are dead. Which hasn’t helped after the lack of attention which caused events like Silverlight Firestarter to be needed, or the http://FixWPF.org movement. It also doesn’t help when Microsoft have remained tight lipped even after an outcry from developers. The famous thread on the Silverlight forums has seen over 13,000,000 views. Which is more than the forums usually see in a single month.

The windows 8 UI demo video

Digging into the Windows 8 leak

A few people have been digging into the Windows 8 Milestone 3 leak and peeking into the UI framework and .dlls that exist. The most vocal of these have been @JoseFajardo and people in this forum thread http://forums.mydigitallife.info/threads/26404-Windows-8-(7955)-Findings-in-M3-Leak

What people have found so far is that while yes it is possible to create applications using HTML + Javascript, there is a whole new framework laying underneath that can be programmed against by almost any language / framework.

The first piece of the puzzle comes from the new application model for creating applications. There are a number of codenames here that need to be sorted out

  • DirectUI: The underlying framework that creates, draws the visual elements on the screen.
  • Jupiter: The new packaging format of applications on Windows 8. Allows apps to be written in language of choice.
  • Immersive applications: Current theory is that these are apps that execute within the ‘new shell’ in windows 8. And are aware of being split paned and resized. Like was shown with the RSS feed reader.

Direct UI

Direct UI has been around since Windows Vista days. Previous is seemed to be focused around UI basics for the OS such as theming app windows in the ‘new vista style’ vs. classic theming in WinXP. http://blog.vistastylebuilder.com/?tag=directui

Now it seems that Direct UI is being overhauled to have additional functionality to load XAML applications, new animations, etc.

Xaml loader

330fv43[1]
http://i54.tinypic.com/330fv43.png
http://forums.mydigitallife.info/threads/26357-Findings-in-M3-Leak-discussion-and-questions?p=421391&highlight=silverlight#post421391

Evidence of new animation properties

http://pastebin.com/S1XtkQid

Jupiter

interesting rumor fact : WP8 rumored to be codenamed Apollo, and Apollo is the son of Jupiter 🙂 Jupiter being the new UI framework of Win8
http://twitter.com/#!/josefajardo/status/78826337250451457

…Jupiter is shaping up to be a very very lean SL/WPF implementation
http://twitter.com/#!/josefajardo/status/79423110755008512

…your SL/WPF skills will be invaluable for DirectUI apps, and you get a new framework that is seriously lean!!!
http://twitter.com/#!/josefajardo/status/79425349938712577

DirectUI.dll is basically Silverlight (agcore.dll) ported to Windows/WinRT
http://forums.mydigitallife.info/threads/26404-Windows-8-(7955)-Findings-in-M3-Leak?p=441627#post441627

Jose Fajardo has been a great source of information on Windows 8 leaks. From information he has dug up, as well as information on the forums, it seems that the new Jupiter programming API is a mashup between WPF & Silverlight.

As far as I can see, Jupiter is not Silverlight nor WPF, its another kind of framework that kinda similar or compatible to Silverlight/WPF code.
So Sinofsky is right, that ‘Silverlight’, as we know it, is still a Browser/Desktop thing.
What he didn’t say is, the ‘Jupiter’ framework will enable you to leverage your Silverlight/.NET skills to write Immersive (or desktop) applications in XAML/C#/VB/C++, its very very similar, but not exactly the same thing.
The situation is similar to the relationship of Silverlight and WPF and Silverlight for Phone, you need to create different project in VS, then you can write very similar UI/code, even sharing most of your portable code in a common library, but the underlying technology are still very different.

https://channel9.msdn.com/Forums/Coffeehouse/Jupiter/e7960a6237024c1598639efc00d8e394

While the new Jupiter programming model may not be a direct continuation of WPF or Silverlight it does seem to have a lot of code from both technologies. Jupiter instead seems to be a ‘Next generation’ XAML based framework. A framework that can be targeted against by all main current languages used by the typical .Net developer (C#, HTML, etc)

*speculation* This could be because of the calls from the development community to make WPF & Silverlight more aligned. Perhaps we’ll see an updated ‘Silverlight’ framework when Windows Phone 8 is released that is compatible with Jupiter.

Creating applications with Jupiter

As further evidence that Jupiter applications can be created with your language of choice, and that it has roots in Silverlight, here are some examples of how to create applications.

C# & XAML

Here is an example of using C# to invoke a new Jupiter based application. The really interesting thing to notice here is that the loading screen has the iconic Silverlight loading animation!
4437[1]
http://xs.to/photo/4437
http://forums.mydigitallife.info/threads/26404-Windows-8-(7955)-Findings-in-M3-Leak?p=444628&viewfull=1#post444628

Here is a second example where they were able to get XAML content to load within a Jupiter application
5196[1]
http://c592786.r86.cf2.rackcdn.com/anonym/2011/06/11/5196.png
http://forums.mydigitallife.info/threads/26404-Windows-8-(7955)-Findings-in-M3-Leak?p=445016&viewfull=1#post445016

*update* Naive User was able to get simple databinding working
9126[1]
http://c592786.r86.cf2.rackcdn.com/anonym/2011/06/14/9126.png
http://forums.mydigitallife.info/threads/26404-Windows-8-(7955)-Findings-in-M3-Leak?p=446590&viewfull=1#post446590

C++

Example of an application being created in C++ with a single call to CreateImmersiveWindowFunc
3852[1]
http://xs.to/photo/3852
http://forums.mydigitallife.info/threads/26404-Windows-8-(7955)-Findings-in-M3-Leak?p=444200&viewfull=1#post444200

HTML + Javascript

There are some initial attempts at getting HTML working with the new frameworks. The apps and manifests have been created, but a few more hooks may be required to get a fully working version
http://forums.mydigitallife.info/threads/26404-Windows-8-(7955)-Findings-in-M3-Leak?p=446552&viewfull=1#post446552

There are mentions that you can hooks into Direct UI through the COM hooks from Javascript. And also that you may be able to use Direct UI XAML + Javascript. Similar to how Silverlight was done in the original Silverlight version 1.

Immersive applications

There is some confusion over the distinction between a “Jupiter app” and an “Immersive app”. Immersive apps require a call to CreateImmersiveWindow and can make calls to the new immersive namespace

6941[1]
http://c592786.r86.cf2.rackcdn.com/anonym/2011/06/13/6941.PNG

Immersive applications are ones that were shown to live inside of the new Windows 8 shell. Examples of functions that an immersive app can do can be seen with the RSS reader app. When it was docked and resized, it knew to display its data in a different format.

  • Classic / Jupiter applications will run in the ‘classic windows’ desktop view that was seen when they fired up excel
  • Immersive applications will be embedded within the new shell

Will this work for existing applications?

There is evidence that existing applications can be wrapped up in the new packaging format.

WindowsStore is basically written in C++ and leverages Windows Runtime. HTML5/JavaScript is just a (very very) thin layer for the interface
http://forums.mydigitallife.info/threads/26404-Windows-8-(7955)-Findings-in-M3-Leak?p=442463&viewfull=1#post442463

So while existing applications may not run with the new Direct UI framework, it seems they will still be able to be packaged and distributed through the Windows 8 App store. This was discovered by Long Zheng a few months ago.

The AppX format is universal enough so it appears to work for everything from native Win32 applications to framework-based applications (WPF, Silverlight) and even *gasp* web applications. Games are also supported.
http://www.istartedsomething.com/20110405/first-look-at-the-future-of-application-deployment-on-windows-8-appx/

Conclusion

While Microsoft only showed off the HTML hooks into Jupiter, I am a LOT more excited about the upcoming XAML based framework.

If you are an existing WPF, Silverlight or Windows Phone 7 developer, it seems that your XAML based skills will carry across fine to the new development framework on Windows 8.

My thoughts are that Microsoft announced that applications can be created in HTML in the same way that they announced it in WindowsXP with active desktop, and then again in Vista with “HTML based sidebar gadgets”. It was a way of saying “hey you can use your existing web skills to create applications on Windows 8.
And that Microsoft plans on unveiling the new Jupiter SL/WPF hybrid framework for all of the “Real developers” at BUILD in 3 months.

By David Burela