Should I upgrade to Visual Studio 2008 SP1? Does it work with Silverlight?

As you may have heard, we released Visual Studio 2008 SP1 RTM earlier this week.  Even though I wear a Microsoft badge - I always like to wait a bit before I install any RTM release on my "production" machine.  This isn't to say I don't have all the latest beta bits on two of my other "demo" machines - but the laptop I usually use for my speaking engagements I keep pretty clean.  Close to what an enterprise developer today would be allowed to have on their box.

Maybe it is the fact that I've been working professionally as a developer for close to 15 years and have still have the scars from being burned a bit.  Anyone remember upgrading to VS2005 and finding out that there was an entirely new ASP.NET web project format?  We eventually fixed that with templates you could download, which was rolled into SP1.  How about when Vista came out and VS2005 wouldn't run on it?  Or having just the Cider extensions preview to do WPF work in 2005 before Expression Studio came out?  Hey - I feel your pain.  I've been there in my cubical till 8pm at night because I'm uninstalling releases to get my machine back. I think Microsoft as a whole is making great strides in this space (faster release cycles, more open betas, better transparency, and a connection to you guys out there through blogs like this).  Part of my job is making those changes and also giving feedback to the teams of your pain points.

So here is an honest account of when you should install this service pack on your machine and when you should not.

First - if you are planning on using any of the updated Business Intelligence features inside of Sql Server 2008 you will need this release.  If you have used BIDS - Business Intelligence Development Studio, which you most likely have if you have done any integration services or work with cubes, you probably have seen it uses the Visual Studio shell.  The version in 2008 takes advantage of some of the features in SP1 so it will require it to be installed on your machine to use the new tools.  If this is the case for you, go grab the service pack right now here.

Second - if you are planning to use the Data Services Library in Silverlight 2 beta 2 then hold off on installing this service pack for now.  The results can be a bit "flaky".  My buddy Shawn Wildermuth has detailed information about the issue you can read here.  Otherwise go grab the service pack right now here.  After you install it, make sure you install the updated Silverlight 2 templates that understand the SP1 changes.  You can grab those here.

Lastly - if you are working with WPF at all you WILL WANT this release.  I detailed some of the exciting features in this space in my previous post here.  If you are like me you probably have seen some of those cool BitMap effects you can add to your interfaces inside Expression Blend or Design.  Heck, one of the first things I did was add drop shadows to everything.  But what a lot of people didn't realize was that these effects prior to SP1 were not hardware accelerated!  Take into account the increased speed you can get from using the GPU for these effects and the performance improvements in SP1 around databinding - you may find your application performing 2-3x better just by recompiling under SP1.  It is like an early Christmas present. =)  So grab it here.

Besides all that great WPF goodness - this release is packed full of numerous other stuff.  ASP.NET MVC, ASP.NET Dynamic Data, ASP.NET AJAX History, ASP.NET Routing, ADO.NET Data Services, ADO.NET Entity Framework, WCF 3.5 SP1, and the .NET Framework Client Profile.  Scott Hanselman is running a great post that goes into more details.  And even though it is from the beta release, Scott Guthrie has tons of details on what is inside as well.

We also released a training kit centered around the changes.  Demos, PPTS, walkthroughs - you can get it all in one place and have it on your machine to decide yourself if you need to upgrade.  Download it here.

One gets the feeling this isn't just a service it is almost like an entirely new version, eh?.

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