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August 2003

The future of .NET's context architecture

The one or the other of you might already know it. But it is so important that I want to explicilty point it out here.
I just listened to Don Box's heavily discussed MSDNTV show and it was full of interesting information - of course ... but what I want to repeat here is a small sidenote in his section on "Extensibility makes abstraction expensive". He talked about the extensibilty mechanisms and hooks in MTS/COM+ and why they are not meant to be for the public and they are actually bad ... then he shifted over to .NET:

" .. in .NET we have the so called the .NET context architecture, which is undoc'ed [...] we're gonna kill it. [...] We will keep it working forever, but it's a dead end ..."

He further explained that interop with MTS/COM+ was the primary goal of this implementation (which I guess they wanted to completely hide by marking it internal, but eventually it got public somehow ...) - I suppose we should live with it and avoid things like this or that - or at least try to avoid building 'rock-solid' architectures on top of it. So we all hope to see and hear more about future plans and how all of this is related to the magic Indigo at PDC in LA.

Outstanding Windows Forms controls

For my current project, I have been on the search for some great looking, fully functional and really cheap (read: free) Windows Forms controls. I searched a bit via Google and found the wonderful and outstanding controls page by Tim Dawson. Whenever you need such controls for docking windows, enhancing menues and a fantastic toolbar - well, here you get it!
And if you are in love with Outlook do not hesitate...


Side note: I do not like (in terms of cost) what I found so far in the 'official' Windows Forms control gallery.

Access Microsoft download sites in your code: Web Services SDK

Microsoft released an SDK to access several download sites via an XML Web services-based API.
Use the Web Service SDK to start developing applications that integrate download information into your applications, business processes, and Web sites.

The Web Service is an XML Web service that will enable you to integrate information and services from MSDN, Technet, other sites, and Microsoft Support. In order to serve as a test for our new architecture, Version 1.0 of the Web Service is limited to providing information about top downloads from Future releases will build on this architecture to provide access to a broader variety of Microsoft content and services.

It seems, unfortunately, that we cannot access to the Microsoft Knowledge Base through the Web services API ... :-( It is actually just about downloads.

Look Ma what I want - WS-Policy

WS-Policy et. al. This is one of the most appreciated features in the WS-* cornucopia released over the last months ... it is all about defining policies for your Web services.

The current implementation in WSE 2.0 (TP) heavily focuses on WS-SecurityPolicy to describe which security policies are required for communicating with Web services nodes. Aaron Skonnard provides in his article an overview of WS-Policy and other related specifications and defines a general framework that can be used and extended by Web services specifications to describe a broad range of Web services policies. Check it out on MSDN's XML Web Services Developer Center.

WS-Policy defines a general framework that can be used and extended by other Web services specifications to describe a broad range of Web services policies. WS-Policy defines a policy to be a collection of one or more policy assertions (see Figure 1).

A policy assertion represents an individual preference, requirement, capability, or other general characteristic. There are two additional specifications that define standard sets of policy assertions that can be used within a policy expression. The Web Services Policy Assertions Language (WS-PolicyAssertions) specification defines a set of general message assertions and the Web Services Security Policy Language (WS-SecurityPolicy) specification defines a set of common security-related assertions.

WS-Policy provides a flexible and extensible grammar for expressing policies in a machine-readable XML format. The XML representation of a policy is referred to as a policy expression. A policy expression is bound to a policy subject, or in other words, the resource it describes (e.g., a Web service endpoint). The mechanism for associating a policy expression with one or more policy subjects is referred to as a policy attachment.

The WS-Policy specification defines the general model and syntax for policy expressions and policy assertions but stops short of specifying how policies are located or attached to a Web service. The WS-Policy authors expected other specifications to address this issue in a variety of ways. The Web Services Policy Attachment (WS-PolicyAttachment) specification is one such specification that defines how to attach policy expressions to XML elements, WSDL definitions, and UDDI entries.

Two new tools for building WS-I BP 1.0 compliant Web services

Microsoft released on GotDotNet two new tools which help to get along with the requirements of WS-I for building interoperable Web services applications:

With the release of WS-I Basic Profile, use these two new tools to build and consume compliant Web services using the .NET Framework.
The r2d tool converts RPC/Literal WSDLs to Document/Literal WSDLs. Use r2d.exe to build and consume RPC/Literal services using .NET 1.0 or 1.1.
The DeDoc tool removes WSDL elements that contain children (e.g. WS-I conformance claims) allowing Add Web Reference and wsdl.exe to consume these WSDLs.

Developing Web services with IBM's ETTK

Doug Davis, ETTK Technical Lead, has an articles series on developerWorks that talks about how to develop XML Web services with the IBM ETTK:

Just for those of you who are fond of all these abbreviations: ETTK stands for Emerging Technologies Toolkit and includes the toolkit formerly known as Web Services Toolkit (WSTK).

Blaster Worm - please consider this information from Microsoft!

Purpose:      Help Protect Your Computer Today (Immediately)

Action:         Read about the Blaster worm and update your software immediately. Check the Security site for
                     more information and steps you should take to help protect your systems.


Web Service Validation Tools for Eclipse

BeaconIT, Parasoft, and IBM have started to seed a project called WSVT - the Web Service Validation Tools. The contributed code includes WS-I Test Tools, a WSDL 1.1 Validator, and integration of these tools into the Eclipse IDE. WS-I members will continue work on this code at Eclipse. The tools can be run from the command line or the IDE. There are also plans to develop Ant tasks.

The Web Service Validation Tools Project contains a set of Eclipse plugins that provide Web service validation functions. This includes plugins to assist in determining if a Web service conforms to the guidelines defined in a WS-I Profile.