Friday, March 11, 2005

The Beginning, A Very Good Place To Start

Everything must start at the beginning. (I think I read this pearl of wisdom somewhere.) Our beginning involved a lot of speculation about what we could and couldn't do. The Filipinos have a term for it: pauli uli, or as we say it in English, running around like a chicken with your head cut off. Jack Ganssle says it better: furious activity is no substitute for understanding.

Unfortunately, understanding was at a premium, so we made the requisite substitution with a big helping of furious activity. I filled out the online form for a Windows Embedded Introductory Kit. (In hindsight, I strongly recommend ordering the kit on CD or DVD. The downloads can take literally hours, even with a high-speed Internet connection. And what if you have to reinstall... I did. Twice.)

The kit comes with Platform Builder 5.0 and Embedded Visual C++ 4.0 (eVC). (Visual Studio 2003 will only compile apps for WinCE if you want to use the .Net Framework.) Whidbey, the upcoming Visual Studio 2005, will have integrated support for compiling native apps for CE, and eVC will say good-bye. (eVC is really just a tempermental, stripped-down Visual Studio with Platform Manager support, anyway.)

We bought a book by Doug Boling, Programming Microsoft Windows CE .Net. It's a good book, but it was ironic that we had decided to write the UI app in CE with MFC. The book proudly states in the introduction: "Since the goal of this book is to teach you how to write programs for Windows CE, the examples avoid using a class library such as MFC [...]" (!) It's a good book, and I recommend it despite the pages and pages of cut-and-paste source listings.

Eventually it was decided that I would attend a CE training session. There are a few companies that do such training, and only two were offering a session in November: VenturCom (now Ardence) in Boston and BSQUARE in Seattle. We chose the one on the right coast and off I went for a week of training. (George didn't go, which was a shame, but he works part time.)

On the flight to Boston I happened to sit next to a Director of Engineering for General Dynamics. We talked and I showed her the software spec and our timeline. A former engineer herself, she was quick to tell me how nuts we were. In return, I scoffed at their policy that a productive programmer wrote just 300 lines of code per week, but I started to have my doubts whether our timeline was doable.

The training was excellent, thanks to the instructor. The MS docs were out of date (and sometimes plain wrong) and the computers we were working on were less than stellar, but the quality of the teacher more than made up for it. Remember that favorite teacher of yours back in high school? The one who really loved what he did, was good at it too, and showed a geniune interest in you? They say that the instructor can make or break the course, and this guy made it.

Windows CE training comes in three courses: MSDN 2530, 2535 and 2540. The meat of the course is in 2540 but the other two are good as well. I'll post the TOC for all three courses in some upcoming posts.

Update: Embedded Fusion now offers MSDN 2540N on DVD. It gives you the option of spending $500 for a dry course on DVD rather than $3,000 + expenses for a dry course in person. I don't know if you can place a value on having a good instructor help you through the labs, but $500 is pretty cheap in comparison.

With my week-long CE training firmly under my belt I was ready to tackle the world. I wrote a summary of my trip in an email to family and friends and flew home.

PDFbostonTrip.pdf

10 Comments:

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2540, 2530 and 2535 are the Windows CE .NET V4.x versions of the MS taining. for windows CE. MSDDN 2540N is the V5.0 content that was completely re-written for V5.0

 
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