Community Convergence II

This week I heard a number of people on the C# team talking about the hot new gaming technology for Windows and the Xbox called XNA. The big news is that a beta of the XNA Game Studio Express is available as a free download.


XNA is a game framework tuned for development with C# and the .NET framework. It has a simple migration path from DirectX and will supersede the Managed DirectX layer. The XNA Game Studio Express is designed to make it easy for students and hobbyists to create applications that use the XNA framework. The XNA team blog contains a good deal of useful information for those who are getting started with this technology. Along with more useful bits of information, the XNA FAQ points out the very Zen-like fact that XNA is an acronym that doesn’t stand for anything.


Game Studio Express must be run on top of the free Visual Studio Express. If you have another version of Visual Studio 2005, such as the pro version, you will still need to go ahead and download and install the express version. It should coexist happily with your current version of Visual Studio.


When XNA Studio ships in a “Creator’s Club” or pro version, you will be able to use it to create games that run both on Windows and on XBox 360. With the beta, however, you can only target Windows. This limitation exists because the XBox 360 is not meant to host beta level software. You can read about the very reasonable pricing for the Creator’s Club and pro version in the XNA FAQ.

C# Team News and Articles

I’m becoming familiar enough with life here at Microsoft that I should soon be able to give you some status reports regarding ongoing C# team projects. For now, however, I’ll just state the obvious, and tell you that everyone on my floor, and most of the folks in this building, are heads down over their computers working on Orcas. Luke Hoban even gave us some good demos of fresh LINQ bits.  I hope we can show you some samples from those demos in the coming weeks.


Let’s turn to what the team and our extended Microsoft family has been writing or talking about in the last weeks.


Hot in the C# Blogs:

  • At the top of my list right now is Anson Horton’s post on file navigation in the Visual Studio IDE. I’ve used the IDE a lot, and like to think I know it well, but there are always a few new tips to learn, and I definitely picked some up from this easy to read blog post.

  • Anson also has an interesting recent article on C# Express Item Template Customization.

  • Hartmut Maennel has a great series of blogs on creating LINQ providers. His current blogs on this subject are here, here and here. I’ve been doing some work behind the scenes on setting up channels and tools for helping third parties create LINQ providers, so this is a topic that you are likely to hear more about in this space sometime soon.

  • I’ve written another blog in my series on generics. The first in the series is here. I’ve also started maintaining a list of C# team bloggers. This is definitely a work in progress, and team bloggers who see that their name is not on the list should write me and let me know.

  • Rok Yu, a Dev Lead on the C# team, is not a very prolific blogger, but his first entry is noted on the C# team both for its highly regarded minimalism, and for the erudite comments it engendered. 

Articles and Videos of note:

  • My old Borland compadre Danny Thorpe has a video over on Channel 9.

  • Another figure from my past, Matt Pietrek, has a video on Channel 9 about profiling and diagnostics in Visual Studio.

  • Here’s an interesting article on concurrency in the CLR.             

Hot Downloads:

  • For those who are on the beta, or who wish they were, the Vista RC1 is obviously a download of note.

  • Earlier in this blog, I talked about the next XNA download.

  • If you are downloading XNA, you’ll need to start by getting the free Visual Studio Express.

  • Over on CodePlex, you can download the Managed Stack Explorer, a standalone GUI application which helps you debug crashes and monitor threads in your managed applications running on the .NET 2.0 framework. This is a power toy that ships with full source so you can explore how the tool works. When working with the easy to install binaries, I had fun watching the Stack Explorer track the creation of threads in a demo app that ships with the product.

  • If you want to build many of the projects found on CodePlex you will need to download the invaluable NUnit project. NUnit is another tool that ships with source.

  • An old contact I hadn’t heard from in years wrote me about the .NET persistence framework he has been developing. I downloaded it and played with it for a few minutes, and it looks interesting, so I’ll provide a link to this free download. 

That’s all I want to cover in this post. I will write more next week.

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