Monday, July 31, 2006

Discover a New Frontier for .NET Development: Program an LCD Display

Personal computers aren't the only place where applications can run. As we look toward the future, the possibilities are limitless for creating applications that manipulate other types of displays. Get started with this sample .NET application that controls an LCD display.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Belkin Wi-Fi Phone for Skype is now taking pre-orders for the new Belkin Wi-Fi Phone for Skype. At $179.99, it seems to be a good buy. If you are a frequent traveller, this is one good gadget you should carry around, especially use it at airports where you can get free wireless Internet access.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Screencast - Data Binding to Forms Made Simple in .NET 2.0

This is my first attempt at creating a screen cast for The topic is Data binding. Hope you like my voice (still a bit awkward to hear my own voice ;-) )
Anyway, here is the synopsis:

"Data binding is one of the common tasks that developers working with data have to perform. In Windows Forms 2.0, the new BindingNavigator and BindingSource objects can save you a lot of effort in data binding.

This video shows you how to perform data-binding by dragging and dropping data sources onto your Windows Forms. In particular, you will see how you can easily bind your data source to a DataGridView control as well display detailed information of each individual record. "

Keep It Simple - Create a Web-based RSS Reader Using ASP.NET 2.0

My latest article: Keep It Simple - Create a Web-based RSS Reader Using ASP.NET 2.0, was published in the Aug 06 issue of ASP.NET Pro magazine. Using the many new features in ASP.NET 2.0, I demonstrated how to create a Web-based RSS reader.

Note: The online version is only available to subscribers.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

NOVA : Battle of the X-Planes (2002) DVD

If there is a DVD that I watched many times over and over, it must be the NOVA : Battle of the X-Planes (2002) DVD. I have always been facinated with fighter aircrafts, and this DVD detailed the making of the X-Planes (known as the JSF - Joint Strike Fighter, under development) - from Boeing and Lockheed Martin. From conception to test flights, this DVD has never failed to get me excited, and it always inspired me to write better articles and applications, just like the engineers from Boeing and Lockheed who worked tirelessly to perfect the next generation multirole fighter.

Though this DVD is a bit dated (2002), it still provides great insight into the design philosphopy of the JSF, now formally know as F35 Lightning II.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

ASP.NET 2.0. Zapiski programisty (in Polish)

I just received a copy of my Polish edition of ASP.NET 2.0: A Developer's Notebook. This is quite a surprise to me, and even though I don't understand a single Polish word, I am quite happy to see my work translated into different languages. ;-)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Get Your Code Flowing Faster with Windows WorkFlow Foundation

Activities, decisions, and rules often feel like constraints for human beings, but for applications they are the lifeblood of making things work. Windows Workflow Foundation presents a new programming paradigm that lets these declarative principles guide your coding.

Embedded Computer Running Windows CE 5.0

If you are looking for a small embedded computer to control all your cool external electronic gadgets, be sure to check out the XScale-Mini by RLC. It contains an Intel XScale PXA270 RISC processor and comes with a variety of IO ports - USB, RS-232, analog inputs, stereo audio output, etc. More importantly, it runs the Windows CE 5.0 Operating System and comes with .NET Compact Framework 2.0 preinstalled, which means that you can write your applications using the familar VB or C# languages (using Visual Studio 2005). You can connect the XScale-Mini to an external touch-screen LCD and I can think of housing this in my car. Well, there are so many possibilities and I think you will have a lot more ideas. Check out the many boards on RLC's website and find one that suits your purpose. Did I mention that the XScale-Mni cost $749 (without the screen)?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Adapter board for Parallel LCD displays - the X-board!

As I was looking at the product listing of Matrix Orbital, I stumbled across the X-board S-Series, a serial board that connects to parallel LCD displays! This is a simple but very useful board that allows you to connect your parallel LCD displays to a serial port on your computer. I have a few spare parallel LCD displays lying on my desk right now, and I will definitely going to get the X-board to try out. Finally, I can kiss my soldering iron good bye and focus on programming the LCD (well, not yet...I still have to solder the LCD pins to the X-board...). Sweet! For those concerned about the price, the X-board costs $24.95, which I think is a cool deal.

Parallel LCD Displays

In my previous post I mentioned about the Matrix Orbital Serial LCD display sold by Parallax. In actual fact, most LCD displays that you will encounter are actually parallel devices, not serials. The serial devices are those modified by manufacturers to make them easier to interface with PCs and microcontrollers. The advantage of parallel LCD displays is that they are cheap, with prices ranging from $14 onwards. In fact, I could find parallel LCD displays (without backlight) in my local (Singapore) hardware shop for as low as S$7 (~US$4.30). But the devil is in the details - parallel LCD are more difficult to wire and program. This is especially true in .NET, where there is still no managed classes to do parallel port programming. Nevertheless, if you are willing to pick up a soldering iron, you should be able to wire up a display to the parallel port. Programming it takes a bit of effort, provided you have the necessary APIs to write to parallel port. One good news, though, it that almost all of these displays uses the HD44780 chipset from Hitachi. Hence your application that talks to one LCD should likely work without problem with another LCD from another manufacturer.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Phidget RFID Reader (USB)

Nowadays not all computers have a serial port, and hence if you have a serial device you need to purchase a USB-to-Serial adapter. As I mentioned in my previous post, the Parallax RFID Reader Module uses a serial connection and hence you are out of luck if you do not have a serial port (or do not want to spend the extra money to buy an adapter). Fortunately, you have other choices - the Phidget RFID Reader is one of them. It is a read-only RFID reader that supports USB connections. Instead of reading the tag IDs through the serial port, it comes with an SDK that supports .NET. You just need to use the SDK in your .NET application and service the necessary events to retrieve the scanned tag ID. It comes with a slightly higher price tag, though, a complete kit (contains tags of various sizes) costs $79.25. Check out the kit here.

Special thanks to Matt Trossen and Jennie Jetter from Phidget for assisting me with the RFID reader!

Parallax RFID Reader Module (serial)

If you are interested in RFID and want to experiment with it, I strongly suggest you take a look at Parallax's RFID Reader Module. At $39, it is an affordable way for you to have fun with RFID. It is a read-only RFID Reader that reads tags up to 3 inches proximity. Connection-wise you need a serial cable (you need to convert the TTL interface to RS232 though) and when a tag is detected, it continuously sends the tag ID to your application.

I want to express my gratitude to Ryan Clarke (from Parallax) for his help in getting me started with the RFID reader module. He has been very patient in guiding an hardware-idiot (that's me) and for this I am very grateful to him! Thank you, Ryan!

4x20 Serial LCD with Keypad Interface

If you want to add some spice to your plain looking computer, you can add an external LCD display. The Parallax's 4x20 Serial LCD with Keypad Interface (manufactured by Matrix Orbital) is one such option. It supports a serial interface which can be connected to your computer serial port and programming it is pretty simple - use serial port programming in .NET and send the necessary commands (as byte arrays) to display strings and special characters. You can also programmatically switch off the backlight as well as adjust the contrast. This is one cool device that you need to have! It comes at a slightly high price, though, at $99.95.

Leverage the Power of the Smart Tag in Your Custom Controls

Learn how to increase your users' productivity by adding Smart Tag support to your custom control.

Creating Windows Starter Kits for Visual Studio 2005

Microsoft has put renewed energy into its Starter Kits for Visual Studio 2005, but did you know you can create your own Starter Kit and export it to .vsi to share with others? Find out how to build a book search Starter Kit using the Amazon Web service.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Intro to Atlas: The Road to Effortless AJAX Begins Here

There's no reason to get lost with Atlas, Microsoft's framework for building fast, responsive AJAX-enabled Web apps. Get your bearings by following along as we build two introductory applications: a calendar and a content portal.