Silverlight 4 Sounds Very Promising

by Jon Davis 18. November 2009 23:05

News from PDC 2009 is trickling in, and this is an amazing year for PDC goers. Office 2010 beta was released to MSDN subscribers. SharePoint 2010 beta was released to MSDN subscribers. The attendees even got a tablet PC notebook computer with Windows 7—all of the attendees got one, this was not a raffle—all except Microsoft employees.

Silverlight 4 beta was also released. Judging from its feature list, I have high hopes for this version. Microsoft is clearly listening to us, and that makes me very, very glad—I mean, the only reason why we bother to blog, tweet, and elsewhere whine about missing features is because we want our dependence upon Microsoft to succeed.

The big highlights (“big” cause I threw in my own feedback for these) include print support, right mouse button support, webcam/microphone support, mouse wheel support, and COM frickin interop. Some interesting highlights I didn’t give feedback for but really appreciate include RichText, network authentication, Silverlight as a drop target, and keyboard access in full-screen mode. I’m kind of sitting here pale-faced right now, it’s like Microsoft picked up a sledgehammer and pounded out the big gaping holes that we all felt about Silverlight all in one shot. Kinda makes Silverlight 3 seem almost meaningless because of both the timeframe between Silverlight 3’s beta and Silverlight 4’s beta, and the depth of the featureset revealed in v4 versus v3. I look forward to seeing Silverlight 4 in action, and I now feel almost motivated and nearly excuseless to dig in and really develop some Silverlight chops.

I do think there are two missing features that are still painfully missing. Both of them are related to the offline app support.

The first missing feature is windowing. I’ve already complained about this. Confining Silverlight to a single OS window is painfully limiting. I understand that the lack of windowing support enforces a sort of UI sandbox that retains both security and UIX consistency which is important for a web site. But my interest is more in the offline app support. I really want to use Silverlight to do stuff developers would normally use Adobe AIR for. Using Silverlight instead of AIR would keep me using the Microsoft toolset I’ve already invested in and would make it much easier to harness the power of IIS 7 & ASP.NET XML services from a Mac client. I can already do that using what’s there, but absent OS windowing it’s just a lot more confining than AIR.

The other missing feature, again this being also related to offline app support, is either system notification tray support for Windows clients. I bring this up because it’s my understanding that Seesmic for Windows, developed on Silverlight, is the new replacement for twhirl (twhirl is an Adobe AIR app and I’m a heavy twhirl user) but the reasons why I liked twhirl is because it doesn’t make a mess on my taskbar, I can forget about it until I get an alert at which point if I want to I can track it down my system notification tray and click on it. This in fact was why I didn’t care for TweetDeck (another Adobe AIR app) because, at least at the time I was using it, I didn’t see this option there to keep it tucked away as a small 16x16 icon in the bottom right of my screen, it has to fill a big taskbar slot and I hate that crap because at the end of every day I already have about 100 taskbar-consuming windows open.

But I’m otherwise very impressed with the progress that’s been made for Silverlight, and I’m very, very excited for Microsoft and look forward to what this will mean to the future of software development.

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Dell: Wow. Just Wow. I Really Liked You. This Is Saddening.

by Jon Davis 9. November 2009 03:42

I'm trying to figure out if I should be extremely mad. But I'm really very sad, and amazed. And annoyed.

I always admired Dell, especially for some of their higher-end laptops and some of the innovations they’ve made. And I always figured that made-to-order meant made-upon-order, moderately efficiently, considering how long they’ve been in business and how successful they’ve been as the #1 PC vendor in the world. McDonald’s wouldn’t survive, after all, if their food took an hour to prepare.

I placed an initial order way back in early September, taking advantage of my Dell Financing available credit, but splitting my payment between Dell Financial and a credit card. The order was submitted online and received, and all was well, but that night/morning I received an e-mail saying that the order had been "rejected". Excuse me? I wasn't sure what to think. I called them up to find out what was going on. Half an hour later, after getting forwarded over and over again, I was finally told that I placed my order with one cent ($0.01) more than my available credit with Dell Financial. Huh?!! The order form figured that bit out. If that's what happened, it wasn't my doing, it was the order form. Anyway, I cancelled that order, after repeating my order number and security information at least five more times.

A week or two later, in the latter half of September, I placed another order, for the same computer (the Studio XPS 16 with the Intel i7), and this time while splitting payments I made very sure I was very careful to round down the Dell Financing part by $10 (for example $1259 would become $1250), so that there would be no "one penny" too much being overcharged like last time, with the rest on my credit card. I submitted that order, it was received and accepted. That night I got another rejection e-mail, and a day or two after that I received a phone call from a Dell customer service rep saying that my order had been declined because too much was charged on my Dell Financing account again. I asked how much had been charged on it. He quoted a number that was waaay over what I had manually entered on the order form, and I knew it couldn't have been a mistake on my part because it wasn't rounded down, and I triple checked while producing that order that it was rounded down.

I stayed on the phone with that customer service rep to be sure that this order was fixed. But they had to produce another order (cancelling the original order) and make another charge to another credit card because they couldn't make an instant release on the card they already charged. I registered a complaint with him and by the time the call was finished I'd been talking with him for a good 45 minutes or so. Then I went online and saw that the new order was not accessible to my profile's order history. I sent an e-mail to that same CS rep and he assisted me on how to merge that order with my online profile. Kudos to that fella,

So now that my order was associated with my online profile--it was now the end of September--I could not get a delivery date, as it was listed as N/A. I e-mailed Rajesh R again about that, and received no reply, but then the next time I checked the delivery estimate was showing up as end of October, a FULL FRIGGIN MONTH out, which I thought was absolutely ridiculous, but survivable. I am, fortunately, getting by with my existing non-Dell gear, I was just looking forward to using the newer hardware which I had already "paid" for.

Well, that estimated delivery date came and went. When I looked online shortly before that date, I was shocked to see that it had been bumped out to around November 7--another week and a half out!! What gives?!

So I waited on that. If you look at the calendar, it's November 9. And what does my order status say?

Oh, apparently I'm only just getting started!! My order was CANCELLED AND REMADE ("Changed"), without my permission or involvement, with a new order date (not mine!) of 10/29/2009 and a new estimated delivery date of December 2, 2009. The order status is also no longer "In Production", it has been rolled back to "Order Processing" which means it's waiting for payment, and it's been there for a week. (Guess who's not placing any bets I'll get my September order by Christmas?!) No explanation. I think I could maintain some sanity if Dell would just say that critical parts were backordered. But they don't show me anything like that. No e-mails, either. Just *shrug* "Changed". As if they'll ship it when they feel like it.

Had this been an oddball personal experience, I would have a bit of hope that this will "just work itself out", but after scouring these forums both here and elsewhere for similar testimonies, I'm realizing that this seems to be standard practice with Dell.

The problem is, not only is this bad customer service, it's very close to illegal. It is certainly unlawful to collect money and not deliver on goods purchased, but it might be unlawful, if perhaps in civil court, to collect money without producing any clear expectations as to a deliverable timeline and a reasonable effort to meet that timeline or provide a reasonable explanation. When I purchase from Amazon I receive delivery within a week. When I purchase from strangers on eBay, I normally receive delivery within a couple weeks. In all cases, a rough estimate with reasonable accuracy is provided. However, in Dell's case, it seems clear that they are intentionally stalling, I suspect perhaps their Dell Financing is under-funded, I don't know, and I don't care, but for Dell to make copping out on an order this frequently is clearly unacceptable and should not be tolerated by its customer base, nor for that matter by Dell management.

It's for this reason that I feel that it may be responsible for fellow customers to see about instigating change--starting with online pressuring with the likes of and perhaps going so far as a class action suit. I really don't know what to think. I just think that all of this is startlingly evil and wrong.

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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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