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Thursday, August 20, 2015

4 Things Developers Don't know about Microsoft

Over the last five years Microsoft has been trying hard to build a good reputation as an open source supporter. They have also had a number of successes in the open source community that go unnoticed or are deliberately ignored by developers.

Before you have that knee jerk reaction or blurt out open source forever!  Hold your opinion and read to the end this list of things you probably are unaware of about Microsoft and what's changed in the last years.

While there are a number of urban legends and ignorance for them to overcome. The hardest battle is for the opening of minds of new and young developers. They believe that Microsoft does not have their best interests at heart. This mostly comes from those that have not lived through or learned the history of the last 15 years of web development. The result being that there are many things they don't know about Microsoft. Here's a list of four of the most important items with supporting evidence.

They listen  


Back when Microsoft announced the end of ASP Classic as the flagship of  IIS web development in the aftermath developers complained. They were concerned about the structure of the post back system, testing and compiling projects rather than using an interpreting asp.dll  in ASP.NET.  Many said that they could no longer do development in notepad. They wanted Microsoft to make Visual Studio free or at the very least give away a similar editor. What Microsoft did next was to adopt a pet.

ASP.NET Web Matrix grew out of a pet project started by Nikhil Kothari. Originally conceived as a test bed for working with ASP.NET controls in a designer environment, the ASP.NET team saw a number of benefits for a tool of this type, including the creation of an Integrated Development Environment that could act as a lightweight alternative to Visual Studio.

During the transition  from  ASP Classic to ASP.NET  some open source projects got left holding the bag trying to move on to ASP.NET.  Many of them remained loyal to Microsofts  products and some others found themselves replaced by PHP open source competitors.  Microsofts answer to the problem was to upgrade and play nice with the PHP ecosystem.  WebMatrix was released to support the large number of open source content management systems and to provide a lightweight web development application for PHP and the new, simplified ASP.NET Web Pages. When ASP was on top they listened to developers because they were the builders of the internet. When PHP took over they continued to listen to developers regardless of their choice of tools.

Visual Studio Express took up the gauntlet next and was intended for making use of the .NET framework  more popular with both commercial  and  open source software makers. But developers were always disappointed  in  the Visual Studio Express Editions.  Most prominent on the complaint list was they did not have support for extensions.

They Support Community Interests 


In 2014 Microsoft released a new community edition of Visual Studio. A free, fully-featured, and extensible IDE for creating modern applications for Windows, Android, and iOS, as well as web applications and cloud services. One IDE for developing for the web with ASP.NET, Node.js, Python, and JavaScript. Including the web frameworks such as AngularJS, jQuery, Bootstrap, Django and Backbone.js.

The release of the Community Edition of  Visual Studio went mostly unnoticed by the web at large and confused developers who seemed to think that it was just yet another name change. But there are two major differences between Visual Studio Community Edition and the Express Editions.

  1. Visual Studio Express Editions do not allow users to use extensions (aka. plugins).  There are over 5000 great plugins for Visual Studio in Visual Studio Gallery.  Plugins such as Developer Assistant can boost developers’ productivity.  Unfortunately, they are not available to Visual Studio Express users.   With Visual Studio Community Edition, you can access and use All of them!
  2. Visual Studio Express Editions are targeting specific platforms:  Express for Web allows you to develop Web apps;  Express for Windows allows you to develop Windows apps; Express for Windows Desktop allows you to develop desktop apps.  But with Visual Studio Community Edition, you can develop projects targeting cross-platforms.
This  is a short list of other features provided to users absolutly free of cost.
  • Professional-grade editing, code analysis, and debugging support
  • Support for open-source workflows (Git)
  • Compilers for managed languages, C++ and more
  • Cross-platform mobile development for your preferred device and platform, including the web, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone with the free Visual Studio Tools for Apache Cordova extension
  • Take advantage of cloud services with simplified Azure SDK integration, and incorporate modern app analytics and telemetry with Application Insights
  • Access to all the Visual Studio 2013 extensions on the Visual Studio Gallery
  • Visual Studio Community 2013 includes Update 4, which is a cumulative update of all previous Visual Studio 2013 updates.

They watch


Microsoft has been watching the web grow and keeping a careful eye on the reasons for it's growth. Here are some of programming languages they have been watching and helping lift into limelight maybe even at the expense of their own innovations.

 PHP is a server-side scripting language designed for web development but also used as a general-purpose programming language. It is widely believed that PHP is the easiest programming language to learn for a beginner. Being the language behind most  of the free and open source content management systems it is responsible for the rapid growth of the number of websites on the internet.

Microsoft collaborates  with Zend to optimize PHP on IIS.  There is a PHP Tools extension that is not free but this is not Microsofts fault. What is good is that they have leveled the playing field so that anyone can compete by building their own commercial or open source Visual Studio extensions for PHP .

Python  is another language that's easy for beginners to use and learn. You can use it as scripting language or use it as object-oriented programming language.  Like PHP it runs everywhere and supports multiple programming paradigms, including object-oriented, imperative and functional programming or procedural styles.

What many don't realize is that mod_python is alive and well. Though it does need help with Windows support. But I am sure that if asked nicely some  Microsoft developers might take out some free time and lend a hand. But until that happens there are more than enough supported alternatives and features for the language in  the Visual Studio Comminity Edition.

  • CPython, PyPy, IronPython and more
  • Detailed IntelliSense
  • Interactive debugging
  • Integrated with Visual Studio features
  • Free and open-source
  • Select it in Visual Studio custom install

Javascript in it's various forms has taken over the developer mindset.  This was something that Microsoft was acutely aware of  from the days of  ASP Classic and VBScript. They even went so far as to concede that Javascript in ASP was the better and more robust  language to use when doing web development in ASP.

As earlier mentioned the new Visual Studio Community edition  brings with it a whole lot of hospitality for Node.js and  javascript frameworks such as AngularJS, jQuery, Bootstrap, Backbone.js.

It might be that in an effort to include all the IDE is over crowded and may need to be trimmed to suit  on an individual basis.

They invest


The Microsoft BizSpark program was and is one of the most comprehensive tools for helping start-ups .  It was launched as  BizSpark One in 2009 as an enhanced service for newer startups. BizSpark gives startups 3 years of  the stuff they need to be successful like software, service, tech support, and Azure cloud services for free.

  • Get up to $750 per month of FREE Azure cloud services for 3 years; that’s $150 per month each for up to 5 developers
  • Free software and tools such as Visual Studio and Office
  • Available to tech startups less than 5 years old, privately held, and earning less than $1 million annually 

If you overlook some of the mistakes Microsoft made in the past . It's easy to see that they are a front runner in the competition for investing time and interest in the web, developers and start-ups.

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