Microsoft has been busy this past month. Here's a brief look at some Microsoft news that will likely be of interest to you:

ASP.NET AJAX Is Released

Developing rich Web applications has long been a challenge, to the point where many users simply expect a lot less from a Web application than a desktop application. Although Web applications offer many advantages, Web developers have to deal with getting nonvisible data into Web pages, client-side scripting across different browsers, and even nuances between different versions of the same browser. In an effort to minimize the testing and development effort required to achieve a great cross-browser experience, many developers simply limit the amount of client-side, browser-specific coding that they do.

In January, Microsoft released ASP.NET AJAX, which is designed to simplify the process of adding rich client-side scripting to Web pages. Broadly, ASP.NET AJAX makes it easier to do the following:

  • Update only specific regions of a page with changes.
  • Communicate with Web services from a client-side script, which lets you download auto-complete lists or submit data back to processing services.
  • Process control events client-side to eliminate many postbacks.
  • Display progress client-side.

In addition, ASP.NET AJAX is designed to work with Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), Mozilla's Firefox, Apple's Safari, and Opera Software's Opera, relieving developers from browser-specific coding nuances.

If you're going to use ASP.NET AJAX, it's strongly recommended that you download the ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit. This shared-source add-on provides more than 30 Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (Ajax) controls. These controls provide functionality such as auto-complete, client-side calendars, modal pop-ups, tabs, and floating menus.

The Devil Is in the Drivers

Windows Vista has launched. It's pretty and pretty cool, but some of your peripherals might not function. I discovered that my HP Photosmart 3300 printer doesn't work. And I'm not the only one who has encountered problems with peripherals. For example, Derek Hatchard discovered that his TASCAM microphone doesn't work. My guess is that a lot of hardware vendors simply aren't going to port "old" drivers over to Vista--ever \[weeping noises\]. This is just another nail in the coffin of the Vista upgrade scenario, if you ask me.

Speaking of drivers, you might be interested in knowing that 64-bit computing is no longer a hardware problem. You can easily buy 64-bit computers from Dell, HP, or just about any other computer vendor. The problem with 64-bit computing lies with drivers and the chicken/egg phenomenon. Many 64-bit machines have a 32-bit version of Windows loaded on them, negating the 64-bit advantage. Since many shops run 32-bit OSs on their 64-bit hardware, they aren't screaming at vendors for 64-bit drivers. Since vendors aren't stepping up and shipping 64-bit drivers, loading a 64-bit OS is nonstandard. The bottom line is that driver producers need to start developing 64-bit versions of their drivers with the same zeal they typically use to develop new products and features.

Windows Home Server: And You Thought a Computer For Each Family Member Was Enough

At the January International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Microsoft announced the production of a Windows server product targeted at the home user. With Windows Home Server, you can automatically back up all the computers in your house, access your data from anywhere (even outside your home), and easily expand your system by simply dropping in new drives. To get more information about Windows Home Server, go to the Microsoft at CES Web page.

Professional Developers Conference 2007: Great Presentations on Technologies that May or May Not Ship

Microsoft has announced that it will be holding a Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in October at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. If you're an early adopter of developer technologies, then this is the one conference that you must attend. If you're a pragmatic developer who takes technologies seriously only when they ship, then forget about it. A decent percentage of the technology shown will either never ship or be so vastly different when it does ship that most of the details you pick up at the PDC will be useless. Detroit rolls out concept cars; Microsoft has the PDC.