Phil Wright : Component Factory

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

microISV, Slow Slow ...

Slow Slow, Quick Quick Slow

Things have been moving very slowing recently.

At the moment I am still in the middle of transferring my hosting package from a Windows machine to a Unix machine. As a result my domain names are not working and so the images on the blog are still not showing. The images are in a directory on the server and referenced from the blog. Fortunately my email is not effected.

Website Design Progress

I have an initial cut of the website design. It looks great and once the hosting is sorted out I will put it online so you can see how it looks. Might be a few days before that is possible.

This might sound odd but sometimes it is really hard to pay people. The designer that came up with the design has done a good job. So on receiving the design I immediately requested how to pay him in order to reward his hard work. Three days later and another email and still no response. Sometimes it is hard to give money away!

Visual Studio Problems

Another problem I am having is with my development machine. Because it has XP Home Edition installed it means I cannot install the latest CTP builds of Visual Studio .NET 2005.

This is a pain as it means I am developing against a version that might have since changed. I don't expect many changes to have occurred but I would feel more comfortable making sure I am not writing code now that will definitely have to be replaced.

Another issue is the inability to see my controls at design time. No matter how I try to install Visual Studio .NET 2005 it seems to be screwed up, and refuses to work at design time. So I can only work on the features I can use at run time.

14 Days and counting

Luckily the end of all my problems is in sight. Two weeks from now I expect to have my new PC with XP Professional installed. I will also be able to use Virtual PC in order to install and develop against each new Visual Studio .NET 2005 release in an isolated way. With the domain hosting sorted out by then I will be back on the development fast track.

Still, in the meantime I am beavering away as best I can on the basics of the Navigator control and also a SplitContainer for the free Toolkit package.

Please bear with me as I get these issues sorted out and back to full coding and blogging speed.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

microISV, Turbo Charged Coder

Go faster strips

I've decided that my 3.5year old PC no long cuts it when it comes to professional software development. It's like trying to use a mule when you need a thorough breed race horse. So I've ordered a new machine that will in itself motivate me for weeks to come. Two 19' flat panel screens, a 512MB graphics card (so I will be Vista ready and a couple of large RAID 0 hard drives. Nice!

Webhosting Disruption

As part of the plan for the website I have decided to switch from a Windows hosted site to a Unix box. It might sound like treachery when I am Windows developer but to be honest, it just makes sense.

The designer I am now working with on the site wants to use PHP scripts and a MySQL backend in order to have the blog integrated into the website. On Unix this is a doddle. Trying to do this on a Windows machine is a major headache. No, I believe in using the best tool for the job and in this case it is quicker and therefore cheaper to use Unix. Plus I can easily pick up knowledge of PHP in order to modify and maintain the site myself in the future.

As part of the this process of changing over hosting packages the people at Network Solutions screwed things up. So it will be a few days or even a week before my domain names are working again. So images on this blog will be unavailable for a while.

Oh well, back to the 1.5GHz AMD processor for a few more days...

Friday, August 19, 2005

microISV, They think its all over...

Another Contender Enters the Ring

Just when I thought the concept work for the website was done and dusted another contender throws their hat in the ring. Normally I would not want the extra distraction in looking at another design but as the initial concept looks so good I have to follow it through.

Have a look for yourself by using this link...

Another Concept

It needs a little work but has real potential. I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

microISV, Web site live!

The Eagle has landed!

I've taken the template as provided by the winning web design and used it to generate the five main pages of the website. These have been uploaded to the server so now I actually have a website. Try it out...

Live Website!

Half an Eagle has landed

Actually you will have quickly noticed there is no content on the site. But Rome was not built in a day and my website certainly will not be either. The next step over the coming week or so is to actually fill in some of the pages with details.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

microISV, Web Design #3

Another Contender

Just when I thought I was only going to get a single designer submit an idea another has entered the contest with a design. This is quite different but also a good effort and certainly worth considering with some changes.

You can see the design using this list.

Second Contender

I instructed the designer to remove the extra design elements like the stop button on the top of the page. It does look a little like a WinAmp design at the moment but by removing those it does have potential.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

microISV, Web Design #2

Removing the arty bits

Feedback from readers indicating that the first design had a couple of arty farty style elements that could be removed to improve the look. I requested this from the designer along with a need to improve the header area. Here are the two designs that resulted.

Variation 1
Variation 2

Although an improvement I think both designs are not quite right and so I asked for the header to be worked on again in order to make the logo feel more integrated with the header area.

The Finale

The end result of the cycle is the following final design that I want to run with.

Variation 2

I think this creates a professional feel with a little design flair mixed in. Remember that our controls are going to be at the premium end of the market and so a good professional site is essential. But not just a standard plain site because the components biggest selling point is how great they make your applications look. So we need to show some flair and creativity in the website itself.

Next Step

At this point the design is just a high resolution picture. The next step is to turn the picture into an actual HTML template that can be used to generate pages as needed.

If you're a web programmer and feel up to the task then let me know, I am willing to pay a sensible amount for a professional to do that work.

Friday, August 05, 2005

microISV, Web Design #1

First Up

After almost a week we only have one design concept submitted so far on the Design Outpost website. But I did have a few others say they were interested in putting together an idea so I hope there will be others to look at soon.

Here is a reduced size version of the design...

Ok, so you cannot see much from there. Use the following link to see the full sized image.

Click Here!


Personally I really like the design and with a couple of tweaks think it would be perfectly fine as the actual site template. But do you have other ideas? Does it look too arty and not commercial enough?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

microISV, Let the contest begin

Time for a Website

I think the time is right to get an initial website up and working. Although I do not have anything in the way of interesting content as yet, once I have a beta version of the free controls ready then I need the website ready to go.

Initially I can place a few screenshots of the work in progress and provide subscription to a notification email list. I intend to give away the basic toolkit of controls for free and so the email list can be used to notify people each time a new release is available.

At the moment I am only building the free controls so all the stuff you are seeing get created will be available for free at some point in the future. Once it reaches a point where there is enough to make a small library, I will package it up and add some documentation.

Design Outpost

When I had the company logo created I used the website. This worked out well and I had some feedback from readers that another good design site is Design Outpost. So this time around I will give them a chance and see how it works out.

I posted the project on the templates forum last night so you can see and follow the design contest directly if you like. Alternatively you can wait and read the results on this blog as events transpire.

Looking at the design process on the site it does seem quite a slow process so it might be a week before we have any initial designs to start evaluating. Another potential weakness of the site is that you might only get a single designer offer an initial sketch. Really I would prefer to have a handful of different ideas and then I can pull the best bits from them all in order to create something appropriate.

Only time will tell.

Monday, August 01, 2005

microISV, Header Group


I have been a bit delayed in my development efforts over the last week. Last week was very busy in the day job and so by the time I got home I was too tired out to get much done. Luckily I managed to pull myself together at the weekend and spent most of Sunday getting back into the flow of things.

HeaderGroup Control

At the end of my last coding update I mentioned the next chunk of work was creating a HeaderGroup control. This is a combination of the existing Group and Header controls that having already been bagged.

I managed to get this 90% complete and so here is a look at the control with the usual Office Professional appearance.

As you can see the control consists of two Header instances that default to showing at the top and bottom of the control. You can of course alter the position of these headers to be on the left or right or even have both on the same edge if required.

If you imagine placing your own content in the center then you can quickly make use of this to organize the sections of your application. You might place a tree control or list box inside to achieve a similar arrangement to that of Microsoft Office.


In order to make the control more flexible in the different appearances that can be achieved, I have added the ability to specify if the headers appear under or over the border area.

The controls below have been setup in exactly the same way except the left control has the Overlay property set at false and the right control set to true.

Personally I prefer the one of the left but you can imagine making use of both options to achieve nice looking group setups.


Another useful capability is being able to alter the padding space around each of the header instances. Instead of having the headers always flush against the edges of the control area you can indent them.

Here is an example I quickly created by using gradient color effects combined with pushing the headers inside a little. This creates a little whitespace between the header and the main control border. Altering the font as well gives quite a different feel to the examples above but all achieved by changing just a few simple properties.

Next Step

The only work left to do on this control is correctly providing the rectangle of the client area in the middle of the control. This is needed so that when the user drops a child control onto the group it will position itself neatly in the appropriate location.

Fingers crossed I will find a little more time in the evenings to get this sorted out soon.