Over the last 10 days or so Microsoft has released beta versions of two of our forth coming products: Visual Studio “Orcas” is now Beta 1 and Windows Server “Longhorn” is now Beta 3. This is probably old news to anyone reading this blog, but I thought I would post a little blurb about each one and share a story with you.

Visual Studio “Orcas” will support the next major version of the .NET Framework (which looks to be called 3.5), but I think the more significant story with it is that it will be the first upgrade to Visual Studio since .NET Framework 3.0 was released. This means that we will be getting a native designer for WPF (it is code named “Cider”) and more native integration with the other 3 components of .NET 3.0. It is also the first version of Visual Studio since the AJAX libraries were released and we will see a lot of love for web developers in this release, including my favorite feature JavaScript Intellesense. You can get it at http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/vstudio/aa700831.aspx

Windows Server “Longhorn” is the server edition of the Vista operating system. It comes with a ton of new features that are too long to list, but you can read about the high points here. I am most excited about some of the cool features for developers that are included with this release. IIS7 is a total re-write of the web server and helps deliver on the original vision of ASP.NET (ASP.NET worked in IIS 5 and IIS 6, but it always felt like an add-on and often required you to make setting changes in 2 places). Now we get true XCOPY deployment of our web sites, including the configuration information. You can get it at http://www.microsoft.com/getbeta3.

Note: This month’s Devcares program is about IIS7 and I will be attending the one in Brookfield, WI today (as an audience member, not a presenter). Say hello if you are there.

My Story

The last time that Microsoft released an operating system Beta and a development environment Beta about the same time was the summer of 2001. Windows Whistler (now known as XP) was the operating system and Visual Studio .NET 2002 was the development environment (I can’t remember which beta numbers it was). I installed both of them on my laptop. Not my “test” laptop, not my “second” laptop and not my “spare” laptop. And no it was not on a second hard drive. I took my primary machine that I used day in and day out and slammed beta software on it. Oh, did I mention that I was a consultant working at a client site on a major project?

I got away with it. I am not quite sure how, but I never had a problem running the Beta / Beta combination. I also never got caught by the IT guys at the consulting company that I worked for or the IT guys at my client site (there would have been hell to pay from either group had they found out). To be fair we were doing “to be” proof of concept work at the time and we were looking at .NET as the strategic platform for the client. The client was trying to make a major leap forward and we wanted to have a clear path into .NET as part of that leap. That was going to be my excuse if I ever got caught.

I am the only person that I have ever met to have gotten away with running Beta software so cleanly. I have met plenty of people with horror stories about what Beta software did to them when they put it on production (or everyday) machines. I still feel sorry for the presenter that I saw years ago running the Beta of Windows 2003 on his Dell laptop. Evidently the “FUNCTION - F7” combination that would allow his laptop to send video to the projector was not implemented yet. He wound up giving his demo in notepad.

Don’t do what I did. When I pulled my stunt we did not really have Virtual Machines yet (VMWare had released a version, but few people had heard of it and it was expensive as all get out). Extra hard drives were also expensive. I think I can buy a whole machine now with what a second hard drive for an IBM Thinkpad cost then. Orcas is available was a downloadable VHD image - you don’t even have to set it up! I recommend running it on a VPC or a second machines / hard drive.