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Monday
Aug242009

Silverlight 3 Jumpstart Book Released

I’m pleased to announce that our latest book Silverlight 3 Jumpstart has been released and now available for purchase.  Silverlight 3 Jumpstart is perfect for .NET Developers that want to get started learning about Silverlight.  The book is focused on the key parts of Silverlight that are relevant for business application developers. 

The book is an easy read that you can get through quickly without being intimidated.  Reference books are great, but spending too much time on an obscure feature when you’re getting started wastes your time. Silverlight 3 Jumpstart packages up the things I wish I could have had in a book when I started learning Silverlight a few years back.  Silverlight 3 also introduced a number of new business application friendly features that you learn as part of the book. In addition to covering the basics of Silverlight, we also take time to explore application architecture choices you will be making. 

As a thank you for your continued support - we wanted to offer you an opportunity to get a copy of the new book or an e-book copy. Using the following codes on www.silverlightjumpstart.com you can receive your special offer for the book.

By using code DaveCRMBlogPrint on the checkout page you can get a print copy of the book for only $19.99 or use this link http://www.silverlightjumpstart.com/Specials/SearchKeywordOffer.aspx?OfferCode=DaveCRMBlogPrint

By using code DaveCRMBlogEBook on the checkout page you can get an e-book copy of the book for only $14.95 or use this link http://www.silverlightjumpstart.com/Specials/SearchKeywordOffer.aspx?OfferCode=DaveCRMBlogEbook

Why should a CRM/xRM developer learn Silverlight?  Great question! Let me try to explain why I believe it should be on your top 10 list of technologies to learn now.  As a CRM/xRM developer you’re all about integration and building applications by connecting the dots.  You start with the core CRM platform and customize it to solve business problems.  Microsoft CRM does a good job of giving you a lot of customization points that can be done without writing a single line of code.  In fact, as the vNext version of Microsoft CRM is released I’m sure there will be even more things you can do without writing a line of code.  I also believe that as CRM is used more broadly beyond just customer relationship management that the need for even richer user experiences will continue to increase. 

Silverlight represents the great compromise between the smart client and the web application.  It gives developers the ability to interact with the user like a smart client but have deployment ease like expected with a web application.  In fact, I would hope as new version of products like CRM come out they include first class support for Silverlight.  You’re starting to see that trend already in SharePoint 2010.  You can see a glimpse of that in the following preview - click on the developer preview. http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/2010/Sneak_Peek/Pages/default.aspx. In the demo the Silverlight Web Part allows inclusion of Silverlight applications in a SharePoint site.  I think we will see this trend hit all the major integration platforms like CRM that offer easy extensibility.   In fact if you want to this can be done today, it just requires a little more work than might be possible in the future.  Having done both ASP.NET and Silverlight extensions to CRM/xRM solutions I find Silverlight to be much more productive now that I’ve gotten up to speed.

Like any new technology, don’t expect to be an expert overnight.  That’s why I’m suggesting starting now to learn and get comfortable.  You then can use Silverlight for increasingly larger projects as you get more comfortable.  This is a much better approach than all of a sudden trying to use it on some mission critical project with no room for a  learning curve.  Even if you decide you’re not ready to start coding, the Silverlight 3 Jumpstart book is a great way to understand more about how Silverlight fits into your application strategies.

Tuesday
May262009

Entity Framework Model to Dynamics CRM

I’ve been interested in a while to try to see if I could take a model from Entity Framework and push it into CRM using the Metadata API.  If your not familiar with ADO.NET Entity Framework, it was first released with .NET 3.5 SP1 and the second version of it is part of the upcoming VS2010/.NET 4 release.  You can separate out EF into two key parts the Entity Data Mode (EDM) and the Entity Framework API that’s used to work with the data using the EDM.  In working on my upcoming Silverlight book (http://www.slria.com) I’ve been looking at some different techniques for working with data across both traditional databases and CRM.  That seemed like the perfect excuse to spend a few minutes (ok a little longer than that) building a tool that would consume the Entity Framework Model and push it into a CRM Entity Model using the metadata API.

So to get started, I defined an EDM using the Course database that I’m using as part of my examples for the book.  The following is a snippet from the designer view of the EDM inside Visual Studio.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the CRM team provided us some modeling tools like this! 

image

Under the covers this stores in a .edmx file in your project which is really an XML file that contains the Conception Layer (What your application sees), the Storage layer (What it looks like in your database) and finally the Mapping layer which glues the two other layers together.  You could simply work with the XML but the Entity Framework provides a nice metadata API that you can load this up and walk through it in memory. 

Using the EF metadata API, I built a tool below to allow you to select entities from the model and push them to CRM.  The tool is still industrial, and very much a prototype at this point but once you select the entities it allows you to push both the entity and the attributes into CRM

 

image

It handles some basic things like putting in spaces in the names etc.  I still need to look more about descriptions and other useful things you might want to pull over but the basics end up in CRM.  The following is a simple snapshot of CRM after running the tool.

image

I’m thinking this type of capability could be interesting for a number of things.  In my example, I think it took about 10 minutes or so to do what would have taken me probably 5 hours to create all the duplicate definitions in CRM.  It might also be interesting to go the other way from CRM into the EDM to allow visualization of the CRM model inside Visual Studio.  I didn’t tackle that tonight, will save that for another day!

Saturday
Apr182009

New CRM 4 Virtual Machine Available

Microsoft just posted a new demonstration virtual machine to the PartnerSource portal.  This new Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4 Virtual Machine 2009 will replace the current one that is set to expire soon.  This new image has a lot of great improvements – top of my list is that it has Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008 on it!  It also has all the CRM 4 Accelerators, dashboards and other good stuff on it.

Currently, as far as I can tell you can only download the image from PartnerSource and there’s not a replacement in the public Microsoft download section yet.  Let’s hope Microsoft continues to support getting broad access to kick the tires on CRM and updates the public download.

The new VM is time bombed for August 2010.

Did you know about VM Express?  Apparently I didn’t , that is I have heard people talk about it, but just assumed they were using some fancy word for File downloads.  It turns out it’s really a Virtual Machine Demonstration Toolkit.  Anyway, apparently it’s this thing you can “Order” for a few $ (Yeah I don’t get that part) from the partner site that will make managing VM downloads etc easier.  Menno has a good blog post here that try’s to explain the “Magic”.  It also includes the “Magic” instructions needed to navigate the ordering process which without trust me you will NEVER find it on the site!  If your wanting to know if it’s any good – your guess is as good as mine, I placed my order and waiting for my package to arrive!

I did not wait however for it to arrive to download the new VM!

Tuesday
Mar102009

Could not find a Public, Static field with name 'xyz' of type DependencyProperty

When building custom workflow activities for CRM 4.0 pay attention to the names you give the dependency properties or you might just end up with this error.

Let’s look at a quick example of a dependency property

public static readonly DependencyProperty ResultProperty = DependencyProperty.Register
            ("Result", typeof(string), typeof(MyWorkflowType));

        [CrmOutput("Result")]
        public string  result
        {
            get
            {
                return (string)base.GetValue(ResultProperty);
            }
            set
            {
                base.SetValue(ResultProperty, value);
            }
        }

The part to pay attention to above is highlighted in red.  The code will compile fine but when you attempt to register it with CRM using the registration tool you will receive an exception.  The error will say “Could not find a Public, Static field with name “resultProperty” of type DependencyProperty.

Why’s this happen?  It appears that during registration MSCRM does a validation to ensure that you have a dependency property.  It expects the case of the name to be the same.  So in this case it wanted ResultProperty to be resultProperty with a lower case “r”.

Thursday
Mar052009

Workflow triggered by Update in error

Ran across an interesting error this week where a workflow was being triggered during an update even though the fields that were setup to trigger it were not modified.   I thought I was actually needing to have my eye’s checked but sure enough ,  the workflow would run 7 times retriggering itself, then the 8th time fail due to CRM detecting an infinite loop.

The good news is it’s curable, there’s a hot fix for this specific issue you can read about here

Thursday
Mar052009

Outlook and Diags Hang if AccessMode Administration

Was looking at a problem today for someone where Outlook wouldn’t install.  Diagnostics failed miserably or actually just hung part way through.   Turns out this can occur if the user is set to Access Mode = Administration instead of being set to a full user.  Simply changing the access mode for the user will correct this problem.

Thursday
Dec182008

Do you know who your DE is?

Shan McArthur has a good post up about the value of getting to know your Microsoft Developer Evangelists.   I often get asked the question – How do I get into beta’s, how do I get better info on what’s coming out.  The answer can be found on the following link!

Check out his post here.

Friday
Nov282008

Black Friday Book Sale

Not wanting to miss the boat on the American tradition of big sales the day after Thanksgiving I was able to convince the keeper of the magic discount codes to create one good for Friday, Saturday and Sunday!

Use “Black Friday” in the discount code at checkout and you will get the book (print copy) for about 50% off the list price or $50.00 plus shipping. 

Go now and order , because I didn’t ask how many that code will work for! http://www.thecrmbook.com

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