Phillip Pearson - web + electronics notes

tech notes and web hackery from a new zealander who was vaguely useful on the web back in 2002 (see: python community server, the blogging ecosystem, the new zealand coffee review, the internet topic exchange).


ASP.NET first impressions

I've been doing some ASP.NET development over the past few days, writing a client library for PeopleAggregator's widgetization feature (whereby you can include bits of PeopleAggregator in an existing website via web services: the front end web site requests widgets from PA by HTTP, and proxies form posts etc).

I was impressed at how smooth the experience was with Visual Web Developer 2005 -- it seemed to nudge me in the right direction whenever I was about to hit a dead end. Somebody's worked very hard to make this usable - congratulations, VS guys! I've been developing in C# for a while now, which must help, but the web side of things seemed pretty intuitive.

The server experience was pretty good too. I signed up for the cheapest GoDaddy Windows hosting account and uploaded everything into a subdirectory. An error message appeared, telling me that something went wrong but security settings prohibited telling me what it was. At this point with most systems you're off into the documentation to figure out how to enable error display, but not with ASP.NET: the error message gave step by step instructions on what to do with Web.Config to get it to work. Trainer wheels, indeed.

I did have to do a bit of Googling and hacking about to figure out how to turn the subdirectory into a proper web root so my Web.Config and App_Code directories would be used, but otherwise it was a pretty straightforward experience. Developers of competing web frameworks should take note; you can go a long way here without reading any documentation, which is how it should be.

Probably the one thing that makes me reluctant to use ASP.NET for my next project is the difficulty in getting rid of the '.aspx' in your URLs. Amusingly, even with the ASP.NET Rails clone, you end up with URLs like by default. It looks like it's possible if you're an admin on the server, but this means I'd have to get a Windows VPS at minimum to host even my test projects. [Hmm... this ScottGu post shows that you can do it without admin access, but only on IIS 7.0, which won't ship until Longhorn Server, so GoDaddy is out of the question as yet.]

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