Out with the old
If you do decide to bite the bullet and convert all your old code, there are third-party tools that can help you migrate from VB6 to .NET – but they cost. Visual Studio provides some tools, but according to Microsoft these aren’t as good as the third-party ones! Why not? Who designed the languages in the first place? Microsoft is slowly forcing us to move our apps and websites from a language whose weaknesses and strengths we have painfully learnt, to a newer version with as-yet unknown performance issues. Certainly, the developer community exhibits sufficient inertia that persuasion is required (which I’d be the last to deny since I still have a VB3 app in occasional use), but I’m not talking about a language that’s obsolete yet. Or am I? Perhaps Microsoft should come clean and state that both VB6 and ASP are now dead. Long live .NET, at least until the next version…
Developers are always being tempted by slick demonstrations of cool technologies that will make their coding so much better, but it’s funny how they never seem to live up to the initial promise. I’m sure that the forthcoming Mix 09 will see more of the same. I’m all for embracing new technologies and a great fan of ASP.NET, but I’m finding ever more of my time spent switching between development tools (and sometimes virtual machines) just to get my work done. Gone are the days when Dreamweaver could handle everything, with great rapid-development extensions that enabled you to create websites with the minimum coding in the minimum time, leaving you time to concentrate on the more specialised areas of a site rather than “re-coding the wheel” every time. Being efficient and able to produce 80% of a site as fast as possible has always been important, but more so as economic downturn puts pressure on companies to watch costs and innovate to stay ahead of the pack.
Dreamweaver doesn’t support ASP.NET 2 or later, but once you’ve moved up and experienced debugging in Visual Studio 2008, you really won’t want to revert to the bad old days without breakpoints and printing variable values directly onto your pages. Dreamweaver CS4 remains a powerful design tool that generates better and more secure code than previous versions, but it’s now aimed at the mass of PHP and MySQL developers (as well as integrating with Adobe’s own Spry/Ajax framework). For the developer who writes for Microsoft OSes and servers, there’s slowly becoming only one choice and that’s to use Microsoft’s own tools. I wonder how the rest of this developer community feels about old technologies being forced out as these tools no longer support them?
To upgrade or not to upgrade?
An example of whether or not to upgrade an existing web application’s code came up just last month. My client’s website was written in ASP with only one page in an early form of ASP.NET Ajax. I needed to add a couple of similar pages and convert the whole site to make it multilingual. In theory, doing multilingual sites in ASP.NET is a piece of the proverbial, as you simply need to create a resource file for each page and each language – and this file, which is in XML, is created automatically by Visual Studio in design mode simply by selecting “new resource file”. But there’s a problem with this simple scenario because not everything on your page will appear in this resource file, only the text contained in Label controls. If you have any dynamically generated text – for example, messages in error boxes – then you have to write code to produce their correct language version.