Tag Archive: Microsoft DPE + Umbraco project

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Getting a development machine set up is a fine art of patience and a good memory. I personally recommend Ninite which is frankly awesome, followed by Visual Studio in its various flavours, followed by the Web Platform Installer.

However, with so many tools, frameworks, patches and add-ons to install it can be easy to miss something.

Even more frustrating, sometimes it can even be easy to install things in the wrong order.

Silverlight debugging: Get the right Tools

Specifically for Silverlight, it can appear as if you have all the necessary pre-requisites to create and debug Silverlight applications in Visual Studio 2008 SP1, but in fact your breakpoints are never hit.

You have the Silverlight project templates installed, you’re happily mixing and matching Visual Studio and Expression access to your project tree, but when compiling and running your project, Visual Studio either flatly ignores your breakpoints or reports that the symbols haven’t been loaded and that the breakpoints won’t be hit.

Some standard solutions

A lot of Googling takes you to answers around the following, none of which have actually applied to me recently:

  • Ensure you are running from a http:// address rather than a file:// address
    • In summary, do this by creating a separate Web application in your solution and then adding a link from it to your Silverlight project to ensure VS launches your browser pointing at a web server rather than the filesystem.
    • Debugging is disabled by default when going to local filesystem-based URLs.
  • Ensure “Silverlight” debugging option in your website project Properties > Web tab is checked
    • Some solutions even point to unchecking, then rechecking the option in order to kick VS into recognising the breakpoints.
  • Manually attach to the browser process, since VS may have attached to the wrong instance.
    • This especially seems to hit IE8 users where Silverlight apps are reputedly launched in a separate process to the main HTML.
  • Ensure you have “Silverlight” attachment type listed in the “Attach to process…” dialog box and that it is selected.
    • For example, attaching to iexplore.exe but selecting “T-SQL” as your attachment type will obviously not let you hit any Silverlight breakpoints.

One other solution: install Silverlight Tools for Visual Studio 2008 SP1 (again)

For me, the biggest single problem is flatly ensuring you have installed the Silverlight Tools installed after everything else.

With all the various installers, it’s actually possible to end-up with a fully functional Silverlight development environment, including all the GUI clues, but with debugging being an impossibility. How to diagnose it? Check if you have the Silverlight option in the debugging types:

Without this type listed in the “Attach to process…” dialog, Visual Studio will give you no other clue that it won’t be able to hit breakpoints – even if you have “Silverlight” listed as a debugging option in the website properties.

Installing the Silverlight Tools for Visual Studio SP1 ensures this is in place. Then you can go back through the other items in the checklist ;)

Some useful related links:

  • Silverlight Tools for Visual Studio SP1 mentioned above (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=143571)
    • Alternatively you can download the standalone Silverlight SDK from http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=157102.
  • Silverlight Toolkit (http://silverlight.codeplex.com)
    • Not to be confused with the required developer tools, this is an awesome open-source set of examples to get your started with Silverlight.
  • Silverlight + WCF RIA Services (http://www.silverlight.net/riaservices/)
  • The “Getting Started” page from Microsoft (http://www.silverlight.net/getstarted/)
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Doesn’t sound like the normal kind of Microsoft connection, does it? “Free and open-source”. But that’s exactly what I’ve been working on recently with them on a project to which I alluded already.

It’s about time I blogged about it.

I’m helping out in my spare time (which is thinning out amongst moving house and offices) on a collaboration between Microsoft and some great guys who are big in the Umbraco UK community. The project has come about quite by chance, for me anyway. I simply got a Skype IM from Warren Buckley asking if I could make a meeting at Microsoft about Umbraco ideas, and that was about it.

So, invite accepted and time having passed, I turned up at the MS offices in London with some concepts I’d thought up on the tube. Warren explains in his blogpost how the meeting came about, through various fortuitous connections, but I had come late to the party and didn’t really know much – other than Microsoft wanted to fund some new Umbraco packages.

I had been expecting this to be a secretive affair, keeping my ideas amongst myself and the Umbraco guys before sharing properly with the Big Corporate Giant – I mean, this was Microsoft, right? The Redmond behemoth that’ll sell your gran without asking and then charge you a fee?

Well, as it turned out I was a bit presumptive. Myself, Warren, Darren Ferguson, Tim Saunders, and Adam Shallcross all piled into a very funky meeting room and sat wondering where this would go. Will Coleman, Platform Strategy Advisor, and Mark Quirk (UK Head of Technology, Developer & Platform Group), proceeded to win us over in about 5 minutes flat.

As Will described, Microsoft wants to shake off some of its shackles and get lightfooted, and make genuinely friendly connections with the open-source communities. Starting with Wordpress, Drupal and most importantly Umbraco, they want to help by doing some seed funding of plugins and packages. The results and code can be released back into the community and, in a somewhat fair exchange, more people get a chance to see a new side to what the MS toolset can do.

So what has happened since?

Well, at that and subsequent meetings we agreed on a core set of ideas and packages on which to focus. Darren has done some great work using Silverlight to make Umbraco’s media library more accessible, and I’ve worked on its architecture. I also invited Pete Miller into the fray too so we can both help bring some of the experience from Condé Nast and our MimeCloud project where media is concerned. Tim and Ismail are working on an interesting combination of a key-value table datatype in Umbraco, together with a Silverlight UI for data manipulation. And there are a few other ideas up our sleeves to finish this month.

One aspect of building up awareness around this project is that we’ll all be blogging regularly and Microsoft will be spreading some link love far and wide. We’ll also be doing some screencast / video posts in the coming weeks around how we’ve used the tools.

I think it’s a nice project for Umbraco. A few new packages will appear on the Our repository, and Umbraco gets another pat on the back from a huge brand.


One other thing: Will is also likely to come along to CodeGarden10, as part of a Microsoft attendance there, which will be cool. He’s a nice bloke and I’m sure will really look forward to everyone at the conference doing what we did incessantly: jibe him about Google Docs and ask him for free copies of Windows…