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Build RESTful Web APIs at the DevPartner Conference

By Steve Ives, Posted on February 23, 2017 at 10:23 pm

Today we published the agenda for the 2017 DevPartner Conference which will take place in Atlanta, GA the week of Monday May 8th; we hope you can join us. The main conference will be a three-day event from Tuesday May 9th through Thursday May 11th. And similar to other recent conferences we will be offering both pre- and post-conference workshops on Monday 8th and Friday 12th respectively. I will be hosting the pre-conference workshop entitled “Building RESTful Web Services with Synergy .NET and ASP.NET Web API”. My colleague Richard Morris will be presenting the post-conference seminar entitled “Building Platform-Independent Mobile Apps with Xamarin Forms”. Of course we hope you can join us for both workshops, but for the remainder of this article I will be focusing on providing information about the pre-conference RESTful web services workshop.

Building and implementing web service APIs isn’t exactly new, but there are definitely some new and exciting technologies in play that can make building, deploying and interacting with web services faster, easier and more powerful than ever. With the relentless increase in demand for mobile applications and solutions the requirement to expose web service APIs is greater than ever. Not that web service API’s are only used to support mobile applications, that is certainly is not the case. In fact almost any new application developed today is likely to either require the use of a web service API, or it will just make sense to architect the application that way for increased flexibility and future-proofing.

I’m developing the content for my workshop right now and I wanted to give you some information about the audience that I am targeting, which is very broad. To be honest, unless you are already implementing RESTful web service APIs then this workshop is for you! And even if you ARE already implementing RESTful web services APIs, but with some technology other than ASP.NET Web API, then this workshop is also for you! In my opinion it is really important that every developer have at least a good understanding of what a RESTful web service APIs are and how they can be used, and it sure doesn’t hurt to know how to build them either! This workshop will teach you all of those things, and more.

We will start with the basics and will not assume any previous knowledge of web services. After an introductory presentation there will be lots of code, so you will need to be comfortable with that. I don’t want to just show you how to build a RESTful web service API, I want you to really understand what it is and how it works. So as well as covering ASP.NET Web API we will also be talking about the basic principles of REST, as well as various underlying technologies like HTTP, JSON and XML. If it all works out as planned it should be an action packed and interesting day.

This year both of the full-day workshops will be lecture and demonstration based; there won’t be any hands-on component. Unfortunately the hardware and software requirements of the underlying technologies that we will be using, particularly in the post-conference workshop, make it virtually impossible for us to offer a hands-on experience this time around. But rest assured that you will have access to all of the code that is developed and demonstrated, and we’ll make sure that you know exactly what hardware and software you will need if you want to work with that code, or perform your own similar development projects.

Time is ticking away and DevPartner 2017 is only about 10 weeks away. We’re all looking forward to seeing you again, or meeting you for the first time, and if you haven’t done so already then it’s time to register. See you there!


PDF API Enhancements

By Steve Ives, Posted on March 28, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Last year I announced that we had created a new PDF API and made it available via the CodeExchange in the Synergy/DE Resource Center. Now I am pleased to announce that we have made some enhancements to the original API, namely by adding the ability to:

  • View existing PDF documents (Windows only).
  • Print existing PDF documents (Windows only).
  • Draw circles.
  • Draw pie charts.
  • Draw bar charts (with a single or multiple data series).

Here’s an example of a pie chart that was drawn with the new API:

PieChart

Here’s an example of a bar chart:

BarChart

And here’s an example of a multi-series bar chart:

MultiBarChart

It’s early days for the support of charts, and I plan to make several additional enhancements as time permits, but I wanted to make the work that has been done so far out into the wild, and hopefully get some feedback to help me decide what else needs to be done.

If you’re interested in learning how to use the PDF API then I’ll be presenting a session that will teach you all about it at our up-coming DevPartner conference in May. So if you haven’t already done so, head on over to http://conference.synergex.com to reserve your spot at the conference now.


UX Design; Elevator Controls

By Steve Ives, Posted on June 1, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Those of you who attended the recent DevPartner conference in Philadelphia will no doubt remember the excellent presentation on UX Design that was given by guest speaker, Billy Hollis. During his presentation Billy cited photographs of a couple of elevator control panels. He used one as an example of bad design, the other an example of good.

I won’t show the actual photos that Billy used (sorry, you had to be there for that!) but in a nutshell the layout of the buttons and other information (floor numbers, etc.) on the first panel was at best confusing. There was clear physical evidence that users had been confused by the panel and frequently had not understood how to operate the elevator!

The second example was much a much better panel design. The designer had successfully used techniques such as visually grouping related things together in a way that made the correct operation of the elevator a much more obvious task … intuitive even.

Well, upon arriving at a customers office building in Toronto, Canada earlier today I encountered an elevator control panel that, for me at least, took the confusion to a whole new level.

I should make it clear that the elevator in question was one of a cluster if four in the lobby of a shared office building, and that I was arriving at the customer site at about the same time that everyone was arriving at work. The point is that the lobby was pretty busy at the time, it wasn’t as simple as just walking up and pressing an “I want to go up” button.

No problem I thought, it may be two or three elevator cars before I get to make the final step of my journey up to the 4th floor. I’m a few minutes early and all is good.

image1Finally my turn came, I waited while a few other people stepped on, then I took my place in the elevator car. Intuitively I spun around to determine whether one of my elevator buddies had already pressed the 4th floor button, and I was ready to press it myself if not. The panel opposite is what I encountered.

Now I like to think of myself as a reasonably bright guy, so I instantly figured it out; the buttons would be on the OTHER SIDE of the door. And I was correct … well … kind of. I glanced to the opposite side of the elevator door … and saw an identical panel on that side too!

Not wanting to appear totally inept I just waited quietly until the other people got off at their (somehow) chosen floors … and no, unfortunately nobody else was going to 4.

The doors swished closed and I was finally alone in the elevator. I don’t remember exactly what my out loud remark to myself was, but I believe it started something along the lines of “WHAT THE ….”. So, patiently I waited and sure enough after a little while the doors once again swished open and I was back where I started from in the lobby!

I’ll be honest with you, I was getting a little “pissed” at this point (excuse my language, but its true). But not wanting to appear like a total fool I stepped away as if I had intentionally returned to the lobby, and waited for the crowd to clear … all the time subtly (I thought) observing to see HOW THE HECK THESE FREAKING ELEVATORS WORKED!!! And then … I saw it … everything instantly became clear. The floor selector buttons were indeed on the other side of the elevator door … they were on the OUTSIDE!!!!

IMG_0957Yep … believe it or not in this building you need to indicate which floor you want to go to BEFORE you step on to the elevator. After you have stepped on it’s too late; way too late!

And further, having selected your intended destination on the small tough-screen display in the lobby you are then instructed WHICH of the four elevators (conveniently labeled A, B, C and D) you should step onto in order to reach your desired floor!

Actually this is a pretty clever system, but other than the fancy 6” touch screen display there was absolutely nothing to indicate that anything was different here. Brilliant system but totally unintuitive … and so very frustrating for first-time users. Which I guess was one of the points that Billy was making in the first place.


We’re Ready for for the 2013 DevPartner Conference … Are You?

By Steve Ives, Posted on June 5, 2013 at 9:36 pm

photo

What you’re looking at is fifty terabytes of external USB 3.0 hard drives (for the oldies amongst us that’s the equivalent of 10,000 RL01’s), and we’ll be giving them away during the DevPartner conferences in Bristol (UK) and Providence (RI) in the next three weeks.

Of course it’s not really about the hardware, anyone can get that! It’s really about what’s ON the hardware. Each of these disks contains a Windows 8 virtual machine that includes the latest version of Synergy/DE (10.1.1a, just released today) and Microsoft Visual Studio 2012 (Update 2).

But it’s not really about the products that are installed on the virtual machines either. It’s really about what you can learn from these “freebies”, and how you can use what you have learned to the benefit of your employer.

During this years DevPartner conferences the Synergex Professional Services Group will introduce seventeen all-new hands-on tutorials that will provide you with a quick-start to all of the latest features of Synergy/DE. And in addition we’ll be including updated versions of three of the most popular tutorials from previous conferences.

It’s not too late! If you haven’t already signed up for the 2013 DevPartner Conference then all you have to do is visit this link:

http://conference.synergex.com/registration.aspx

But talk to your boss before you visit the link, because if your company is already a member of the DevPartner program you might find that your conference registration is free!

We are all looking forward to seeing you again for another great conference.


Unit Testing with Synergy .NET

By Steve Ives, Posted on January 14, 2013 at 11:02 pm

One of the “sexy” buzz words, or more accurately “buzz phrases” that is being bandied around with increased frequency is “unit testing”. Put simply unit testing is the ability to implement specific tests of small “units” of an application (often down at the individual method level) and then automate those tests in a predictably repeatable way. The theory goes that if you are able to automate the testing of all of the individual building blocks of your application, ensuring that each of those components behaves as expected under various circumstances, testing what happens when you use those components as expected, and also when you use them in ways that they are not supposed to be used, then you stand a much better change of the application as a whole behaving as expected.

There are several popular unit testing frameworks available and in common use today, many of which integrate directly with common development tools such as Microsoft Visual Studio. In fact some versions of Visual Studio have an excellent unit testing framework build in; it’s called the Microsoft Unit Test Framework for Managed Code and it is included in the Visual Studio Premium and Ultimate editions. I am delighted to be able to tell you that in Synergy .NET version 10.1 we have added support for unit testing Synergy applications with that framework.

I’ve always been of the opinion that unit testing is a good idea, but it was never really something that I had ever set out to actually do. But that all changed in December, when I found that I had a few spare days on my hands. I decided to give it a try.

As many of you know I develop the CodeGen tool that is used by my team, as well as by an increasing number of customers. I decided to set about writing some unit tests for some areas of the code generator.

I was surprised by how easy it was to do, and by how quickly I was able to start to see some tangible results from the relatively minimal effort; I probably spent around two days developing around 700 individual unit tests for various parts of the CodeGen environment.

Now bear in mind that when I started this effort I wasn’t aware of any bugs. I wasn’t naive enough to think that my “baby” was bug free, but I was pretty sure there weren’t many bugs in the code, I pretty much thought that everything was “hunky dory”. Boy was I in for a surprise!

By developing these SIMPLE tests … call this routine, pass these parameters, expect to get this result type of stuff … I was able to identify (and fix) over 20 bugs! Now to be fair most of these bugs were in pretty remote areas of the code, in places that perhaps rarely get executed. After all there are lots of people using CodeGen every day … but a bug is a bug … the app would have fallen over for someone, somewhere, sometime, eventually. We all have those kind of bugs … right?

Anyway, suffice it to say that I’m now a unit testing convert. So much so in fact that I think that the next time I get to develop a new application I’m pretty sure that the first code that I’ll write after the specs are agreed will be the unit tests … BEFORE the actual application code is written!

Unit testing is a pretty big subject, and I’m really just scratching the surface at this point, so I’m not going to go into more detail just yet. So for now I’m just throwing this information out there as a little “teaser” … I’ll be talking more about unit testing with Synergy .NET at the DevPartner conferences a little later in the year, and I’ll certainly write some more in-depth articles on the subject for the BLOG also.


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