So as those who have been following me on Twitter may have known I’ve spent the last 2 weeks schooling myself in the world of Silverlight and Microsoft Rich Internet Application (RIA) services. Now I’m no stranger to the idea of n-tier application development but Microsoft’s implementation appears woefully complicated when you first get into it (thanks to the lack of clear tutorials and documentation on it) but becomes quite simple once you get past that first hurdle. Many things you think you’ll have to code up substantial amounts of logic for, say saving changed objects to the database, are handled for you by some black magic hidden in the background. I’m not complaining though as whilst I believe that an understanding of what is happening behind the scenes is vital for writing good code actually implementing that every time you want to do something could be quite a chore.
It actually reminds me of another project I started a long time ago called Yurai (it’s a desktop application so you probably won’t ever get to see it in The Lab). Back when I was working as a help desk monkey and finishing off my last year of my degree the whole n-tier design pattern was firmly lodged in my head and I got the idea that the software we were using (called Infra, now owned by VMware of all companies) was far too bloated and I could make a substitute myself. Coincidentally a friend of mine had just started his own business in home IT service and was using a paper pad to track their jobs. I took it upon myself to code him up an application and my first foray into the world of being a real developer began.
The application itself never got past the initial design phase. Whilst I did manage to (manually) create all 3 tiers with their associated logic and what not the system itself only allowed a small subsection of the functionality they would require. With my university commitments ramping up I never got time to finish the project and it now sits in a backup folder on one of my many hard drives. Still thinking back to those days I can see how far Microsoft have come in making it so easy for an average-skilled developer like myself to develop these applications in a rather timely fashion. The same amount of time invested back then yielded about 10% of the results meaning less time is spent coding the rudimentary parts of the system and more time focusing on what’s critical to your application.
So the last 2 weeks of work have culminated in this: a working user authentication system for Geon. Not only that if you click the link (might be a bit obscured on monitors less than 1680 pixels wide, I’ll fix that this afternoon) at the top you can sign up for an account to use with Geon. What that account will let you do is save your feeds so that next time you login you don’t have to go clicking around again to set it all up, just make sure to hit the Logout button to do so (need to implement the logout function on window close, haven’t done so yet!). An account is not required to use Geon but in the future I’ll be adding a lot more things to it that will require an user account, and who knows I might give you something special for beta testing my stuff out Your account will need to be approved by me before you’ll be able to use it however, and that’s just to make sure I don’t get a flood of people signing up before I’m ready to let the user auth system go live.
But don’t let that stop you from signing up. Go on you know you want to.
Hopefully with that part out of the way the core functionality of Geon will come along soon. What I’m referring to is the idea that I originally had was to be able to ask anyone in a certain area a question and have them respond back with text/image/video/whatever. This of course relies on people actually running my application and with it currently restrained to the browser that makes the potential audience somewhat limited but it can still work as a test bed for the handset applications. There’s going to be a lot of messing about to get that all harangued in (I’ll have to undo some of the black magic that Microsoft has done for me thus far to make sure its secure) but that’s all part of the fun, well that’s what I’m telling myself anyway.
Additionally I’ll have a tutorial up somewhere on this blog (I’ll update this post with a link) on how to get started using Geon as I’ve had a few people tell me that it doesn’t work only to find out that they’ve been clicking in ways I didn’t expect. That’s partly my fault for changing the UI on them and not making it clear that it didn’t work the way it used to, but if I take a leaf out of Google’s book that’s what users are for, trying out your beta code so you don’t have to do as much testing yourself
So as always hit up Geon and let me know what you think by posting a comment below, tweeting me or sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDIT: As promised I’ve created a new page with a quick rundown (with pictures!) of how to get going with Geon.