Check the MSDN Virtual Labs for regular, compelling new content

Everyone with an appendage in the Microsoft Development community knows about the Microsoft Developer Network, aka MSDN. Most of us have had an occasional reason to turn to MSDN for information, examples, downloads, and other essential ingredients in building code atop a Microsoft foundation. The MSDN Virtual Labs remain active -- averaging two to three new items per month since January 2008 and often include interesting content on all kind of topics -- among current offerings, you will find numerous Office Performance Point Server items, XAML templates for Silverlight, LINQ and Visual Basic 9, building Windows PowerShell Script "cmdlets," and more. MSDN Virtual Labs are also available as an RSS feed so that interested developers can tune into new virtual labs as and when they pop up.

Several recent items are likely to be particularly interesting, especially for those developers already active in or investigating related development projects. These include the following:

  • Building a Compelling Mobile UI: applying MS Visual Studio and .NET Framework skills to develop custom user interfaces for Windows Mobile.

  • Visual Studio 2008 Windows Communication Foundation and REST: An introduction to creating and using Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) services, illustrated by explaining how to adapt services to use REST, the XML standard for representational state transfer used to obtain information content from a Web site by reading an XML document that contains its REST description. Other related virtual labs address how WCF permits you to consume or expose RSS and Atom syndication feeds, and how to use WCF to build AJAX/JSON (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML/JavaScript Object Notation) services.

  • Visual Basic 9 and LINQ: LINQ offers a powerful query interface into databases and other data sources, including XML document collections. This lab exposes attendees to its standard query operators, explains how LINQ works with in-memory data collections, how LINQ may be used to access database contents, and how it works with XML documents.

  • All in all, the Virtual Labs offer brief (they ae usually 90 minutes or so in length) and focused exposure to development topics and tools of interest. All you need to do to sign up is to provide a Microsoft ID and a password, then meet the various system check requirements for running the labs (for example, I had to install the Virtual Server VRMC Advanced Control, an MS ActiveX Control, to run the Visual Basic 9 and LINQ lab; other controls or items may be required for other labs as well). If you have not tried one already, please check them out; if you have not signed up for the Virtual Labs feed, you may want to revisit the site to see what is new, and consider signing up to keep abreast of new labs as they become available.

    Ed Tittel is a writer and trainer whose interests include XML and development topics, along with IT Certification and information security. E-mail etittel@techtarget.com with comments, questions, or suggested topics or tools to review. Cool tools rule!

    This was first published in June 2008

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