September 2007 - Posts Turned Nine Years Old this Month
29 September 07 11:23 AM | Scott Mitchell

Hard to imagine, but turned nine years old this month. The first article I authored was titled, Using ActiveX Controls on Your Web Page and looked at creating an ActiveX using Visual Basic 5.0 and deploying it on a web page via the <object> HTML element. It was published on September 16th, 1998. To put it another way, I've been writing articles and FAQs and tutorials on Microsoft web technologies on, at minimum, a weekly basis, for nearly one-third of my entire life. Scary.

The site was originally started with three college buddies who covered non-web development topics, but by 2000 they had all moved on to other projects. 4Guys was sold to (now JupiterMedia) back at the height of the dot com bubble, but I have remained the main contributor and editor for the site. Back in August of 2001 I wrote a short piece on the history of the site, which is still pertinent today seeing as not much has changed about the site since then. I keep pumping out articles every week, just like I did back in 2001.

I wonder if I'll still be doing this when 4Guys turns 10, or 15, or 25. Who knows. If you would have asked me in 1998 if I thought I'd still be writing web technology articles nine years later I would have thought the idea highly unlikely, perhaps a bit absurd. But the younger you are, the harder it is to have an understanding or appreciation of the scale of time.

In any event, it's been a great nine years and I look forward to the next nine. I hope you have found and continue to find the articles on 4Guys to be instrutive, useful, interesting, timely, and helpful.

Happy Programming!

My Karamasoft UISuite Whitepaper
28 September 07 10:13 AM | Scott Mitchell

ASP.NET ships with a variety of essential Web controls - the TextBox, the DropDownList, the GridView, and the like. While these controls are fine and dandy for simple scenarios, they quickly become obsolete for more complex ones. Consider collecting date values. The ASP.NET toolbox includes a TextBox and a Calendar control, either of which can be used independently to capture date values, but a better user interface involves a textbox integrated with a pop-up calendar. Similarly, ASP.NET's TextBox control is great for collecting plain text input, but falls short if you need users to be able to enter formatted text.

Microsoft has made it clear that they plan on including only the basic controls in the ASP.NET toolbox and have left more advanced controls to the third-party market. There are a variety of third-party ASP.NET control vendors, from small one-man operations providing a single product, to larger companies that include a suite of controls. One such vendor that I've written about before on this blog and in my Toolbox column in MSDN Magazine is Karamasoft. I recently wrote a whitepaper for Karamasoft that provides an overview of UISuite, a control suite that encompasses ten UI-related controls. The whitepaper, Let UISuite Do Your Dirty Work [PDF], showcases how quick and easy UISuite's components make building and implementing powerful user interfaces.

UISuite contains the gamut of canonical ASP.NET controls - there's a rich text editor, a menu, a date picker, and so on - but what most impressed me was the UltimateSearch component. Searching the contents of a website involves crawling and indexing content and displaying a search user interface. Microsoft provides Index Server to assist with searching a website's file system, but setting up and configuring Index Server can be challenging, especially when serving your website from a hosted environment. UltimateSearch makes adding search a breeze. Just drop the UltimateSearch assembly in the /bin directory and specify the indexing and crawling settings in a .config file and you're off and running. You don't need to register any component on the server; there's no configuration required (outside of that one .config file); you don't need to setup a Windows Service or schedule any tasks through Windows Scheduler; you don't need to have access to a database as the search index is stored in a file within your web application. In short, if you can FTP files to your website, you can use UltimateSearch.

What's more, UltimateSearch includes a Web control that you can drop onto a page to display a search user interface. With a few property settings you can enable advanced search UI features, such as auto-suggest and spell checking. No code necessary. It really is amazing how easy it is to add search to your site with UltimateSearch. Ok, ok, enough gushing about UltimateSearch.

In closing, if you are interested in learning more about UISuite or are in the process of evaluating third-party controls for your ASP.NET application, check out my whitepaper.

Happy Programming!

October's Toolbox Column Online
22 September 07 01:34 PM | Scott Mitchell

My Toolbox column in the October 2007 issue of MSDN Magazine is avaiable online. The October issue examines three products:

  • DatabaseSpy - a rich database and query management tool that works with a wide variety of databases.
  • FileZilla - a feature-rich, open-source FTP client. Developers often need to FTP files to or from servers, and FileZilla is a free and powerful tool. The FileZilla project also includes an open-source FTP server implementation.
  • NCache - a framework for creating and managing a cache store distributed over multiple computers.

This month's issue did not include a book review.

As always, if you have any suggestions for products or books to review for the Toolbox column, please send them into

September's Toolbox Column Online
11 September 07 12:35 PM | Scott Mitchell

My Toolbox column in the September 2007 issue of MSDN Magazine is avaiable online. The September issue examines three products:

  • ASPxperience Suite - a suite of 18 ASP.NET server controls designed to enhance your web application's aesthetics and usability by presenting information in interesting and attractive ways.
  • FTP for .NET 2.0 - a comprehensive API for connecting, uploading, and downloading files to and from an FTP server.
  • DotImage Photo Pro - a powerful and easy-to-use imaging API with a number of imaging controls for WinForms and Web Forms.

This month's issue reviewed Pro SQL Server 2005 Database Design and Optimization, by Louis Davidson, Kevin Kline, and Kurt Windisch. Here is an excerpt from the review:

The scalability, extensibility, and maintainability of a database are directly related to the quality of its design. As such, it is important that the developers creating the data model for a data-driven application have a solid understanding of the principles of good design. Pro SQL Server 2005 Database Design and Optimization, by Louis Davidson, Kevin Kline, and Kurt Windisch (Apress, 2006), introduces readers to these principles and illustrates how to implement them in SQL Serverâ„¢ 2005.

As always, if you have any suggestions for products or books to review for the Toolbox column, please send them into

Comments Back On
11 September 07 12:25 PM | Scott Mitchell

As I blogged about earlier, I turned off comments this summer because I was going 'off the grid' for much of the summer and didn't want comment spam to accumulate. We're back from our summer of travel, so comments have been re-enabled. The quantity of blog posts here will also pick up as I get back into the swing of things.

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  • Teach Yourself ASP.NET 2.0 in 24 Hours
  • ASP.NET Data Web Controls Kick Start
  • ASP.NET: Tips, Tutorials, and Code
  • Designing Active Server Pages
  • Teach Yourself Active Server Pages 3.0 in 21 Days

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