DevLink 2012 In Review

This year I had the chance to attend the DevLink conference in Chattanooga, TN.  DevLink is a Codemash like event which brings together developers from all areas for the purpose of knowledge sharing.  I had the chance to attend some amazing sessions, I would like to highlight some of my favorite moments.

XAML vs HTML5

Two of my good friends Michael Eaton and Jason Follas presented a demonstration of creating a blackjack game in both Xaml and HTML5.  This was very interesting, first because I am always amazed at the skill level of my peers and Mike and Jason are no exception.  The way they were able to demonstrate what these two powerful platforms can do in capable hands was exceptional.  Really shows you that Xaml can easily compete with HTML5 in terms of what it can do, the only difference, of course, is HTML is ubiquitous, whereas Xaml is not.

iOS UX Secrets

I am always looking to expand my knowledge in the iOS arena as it is an area that is vital to my future as a mobile programmer.  Regardless of whether or not Windows Phone eventually takes off, iOS will remain a dominant player for many years to come.  Surprisingly though, much of the effects demonstrated here were aimed at helping developers mimic the UI style of Windows Phone on iOS.  I also learned that Apple is continuing to strive to bring Objective-C up to par with existing modern languages, including adding features that other languages have enjoyed for years.

JavaScript Async Patterns

I wont lie, this was my absolute favorite talk on the entire confidence.  Presented by Jim Cowart from @appendTo (the jQuery company) I finally got to see Deferreds and Promises in action with JavaScript and what an absolutely mind-blowing experience.  Along with learning about Event Emitting and Postal.js I finally have tools in my tool-chest to handle the annoying problem of wanting to effectively synchronized threads.  This new approach will totally change the way I write complex Ajax applications.  I was so happy to learn about this.  Combined with Knockout and Node.js I can finally start to dive into real SPAs (Single Page Applications).

RESTful APIs

Another big part of SPAs is the development of REST APIs to serve as the data layer for applications.  The trend seems to be creating small HTML pages and using JavaScript and the myriad of libraries available to bring in content.  This plus the rise of mobile as a competing platform with the traditional desktop is leading to the importance of your content being delivered in ways not tied to your application.  This sessions focused on using ASP .NET Web API to do this.

Entity Framework v5.0

While the prevailing thought of many seems to be that EF is dead, it doesn’t seem that way as Microsoft continues to push forward with developing additional features into the framework and making it better.  I believe that Microsoft will eventually own this domain though, some kinks to work out as the demos for this particular session did not work as expected.

What I learned

As a developer we know that JavaScript and REST are likely the two biggest topics out right now.  No surprise as, along with HTML5 and Node.js, these are important tools for creating the next generation of web applications.  Cloud computing is also becoming huge as a way to quickly deploy simple and moderately complicated applications.

It was nice to see a ton of love for Windows 8 at the conference, but this remains a rather divisive topic even among Microsoft developers.  There are many who believe it will fail and many who believe it can succeed.  Some who view 8 as a stepping stone for 9 which will ultimately lead to the win for Microsoft.  It really is an interesting dynamic and I am constantly amazed at how visceral things have gotten in the mobile computing space between the fans of the three companies (Google, Microsoft, and Apple).  Some great conversations were had, I think the distribution of thought is pretty even among the succeed fail line.  It will be interesting to see what happens.  As for me, I intend to install Windows 8 as soon as possible.

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