Introduction to Visual Studio for SCS students

How do I write ASP.NET web apps? What is Visual Studio, and how can I get it? What do I need to know about IIS?

The recommended way to write ASP.NET web apps is to use the Visual Studio integrated development environment.

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Visual Studio

Visual Studio 2010 is an integrated development environment (IDE) for building (primarily) software based on the .NET Framework. Its roots can be traced back to the late 1980′s, when Alan Cooper created an environment (initially called Tripod, then Ruby) which evolved into Visual Basic version 1.0 for Windows in 1991.

It is the market-leading IDE. The “Professional Edition” is available at no cost to Computer Studies students, and to the wider market through license or subscription purchase. It enables the developer to create ASP.NET software, as well as software to run on Windows desktops and servers as GUI, console, and service software. Visual Studio is also used to create software for different types of devices (e.g. mobile telephones, server clusters/farms), and different types of execution environments (Windows operating system, the .NET Framework, Office System applications, and so on).

A free IDE, called Visual Web Developer 2010 Express, is also available. It is targeted specifically at ASP.NET developers (and doesn’t include in itself the ability to create, for example, desktop GUI applications).

It is notable that Visual Studio 2010 and Visual Web Developer 2010 Express include the no-cost Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Express Edition, so that you can create and deploy database stores that work with the software you are creating.

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IIS – Internet Information Services

Internet Information Services (IIS) is a high-quality and widely deployed Internet services (e.g. web server) platform. It is available in Windows XP Professional (version 5.1), premium versions of Windows 7 (version 7.0), and in most Windows Server packaging configurations (version 6.0 for Windows Server 2003, and version 7.0 for Windows Server 2008). If you know about the Apache project for *nix, then you can figure out what IIS does for the Windows platform. In addition to web server duties, IIS also provides FTP server and SMTP server functionality.

As a web server, IIS can serve the following type of content:

  • Static content, typically XHTML pages
  • ASP.NET web applications
  • PHP web applications (yes, PHP)
  • Legacy environments, including “classic” ASP

IIS began as an add-on to Windows NT Server v3.51 in 1996. I actually still vividly recall (for some unknown reason!) getting, installing, and using this “version 1.0” software in early 1996. It took until version 5.0, released with Windows 2000, for IIS to be considered at the same level as Apache (and Sun or Netscape at the time). Now, in 2009, IIS and Apache are neck-and-neck in market share and features/functionality, with each platform bettering the other in certain areas. The IIS 7 development team works for Scott Guthrie, and includes program managers Mike VolodarskyBill Staples, Brett Hill, David Wang, and about fifty others.

A few words about Microsoft’s IIS platform: In the worldwide market today (January 2011), there are essentially two web server choices for developers – IIS and Apache. Each has roughly half of the installed base.

This last fact may be surprising to you: Conventional wisdom states that Apache has about 60% share, and IIS about 25%, mostly based on monthly data provided by Netcraft. Well, anyone who knows how to remove religious zealotry from the analysis of a situation, and then is able to apply critical thinking skills, knows that these figures aren’t right. Digging deeper on Netcraft’s site reveals some truths, and data from other surveyors, show the real picture.

The bottom line here is that you may want a paying job after graduation. Therefore, you should know something about, and have worked with, BOTH market-leading web server platforms.

In this course, in the College environment, we will not have very much opportunity to manage and configure IIS. The College is acting as an application hoster, and offers a bare minimum of management and configuration services to account holders. During BTI420, we will have a brief introduction to IIS (mostly to remind you what you learned in BTO130), and in an optional session, your professor will cover topics which will help you use IIS in your own personal computing environment or at a non-College hosting company.

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