Archive for May, 2006

Legacy computer systems

Paul Vick writes about an early experience with a legacy computer. He never owned a CoCo, but it inspired him to learn about them. Our family’s first computer was a 16K Coco. If Paul had gotten that computer, it came with a great book on learning Color Basic and Extended Color Basic. I spent hours and hours typing in code listings from those books and the Rainbow magazine.

Now, you can experience a CoCo through a web page (Java required).

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Hotfix for annoying Forms Designer bug

A fellow team member has been working on the UI portion of a new project. This project involves several custom user controls and interop with a VB6 project. Frequently, the designer won’t display the form. A hot fix is now available…
FIX: You may receive an error message when you rebuild a solution and try to view a Windows Form in Design view in Visual Studio 2005

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Kid’s Programming Language

As a teenager, I learned to program on a TRS-80 Color Computer I. It came with a great guide to learning basic programming skills. We used the Extended Color Basic programming language, which was just a re-labeled version of Microsoft Basic.

When I was in high school in the 80s, the programming classroom had mostly Apple II+ computers and a few Apple IIe computers. The Apples at school had floppy drives, but I only had a cassette drive on the CoCo. I still tried out every program from school at home, though. I used a lot of paper and re-typed all my code. It was especially interesting to translate the graphical programs between the two systems.

Today, we have the Kid’s Programming Language. It purports to provide a language that is more fun for kids to learn to program. I can see the appeal of being able to quickly create some graphical games. What is wrong with Logo, though? Back in the day, Logo was the language for kids that was supposed to be fun for kids to learn because it let us make graphics really easily. We had the Logo language on a cartridge for the CoCo. I guess Logo is too primitive for today’s kids.

Now I feel old.

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Data Binding with a Custom UserControl’s Text Property

Update: Found a better solution than originally posted

We ran across this vexing problem at work today. It took a while to find the ultimate solution.

We are using VB.NET 2005 to develop a new module for our business application. A prototype had been used to test some of the built-in features, including data binding. Data binding seemed to work just fine when bound to our CSLA.NET-based objects.
For production, of course, we wanted some custom composite controls. For example, we need a date text box that consists of a label, a textbox, and a button that launches a calendar dialog. When we made this fairly simple composite control, the data binding didn’t work when the control was validated.

Google searches only pointed out that other people have had the same problem and resolved it by changing the property name from Text to something else, like TextData. We tried that, and data binding worked again without having to do anything special within the control.

This workaround was not satisfactory. Why should programmers who have become used to consistently using the Text property on controls have to remember to use a different property name?

Some further research led us to the MSDN article How to: Apply the PropertyNameChanged Pattern. The problem with this article is that it deals with a user control that handles complex data binding. We only needed simple binding.

More searching got us to the Walkthrough: Creating a User Control that Supports Simple Data Binding article. This article didn’t work for us for two reasons. First, the property used was not Text. We already knew that a different property name would work. We wanted the Text property to work. The other problem was that this walkthrough is designed to work with drag-and-droppable data sources. CSLA.NET objects are not bound with drag-and-drop operations.

During some more research, we ran across a newsgroup thread that mentioned the UserControl object does some special overriding of the Text property. Not only does it disable data binding, the property is not browsable in the designer. Sure enough, the UserControl.Text property defines <BindableAttribute(False)>, which disables data binding. We tried adding the <Bindable(True)> attribute to our property, but it didn’t help.

Finally, while reading the Change Notification in Windows Forms Data Binding topic for the umpteenth time, we ran across the statement, “Finally, from the control side you must expose a PropertyNameChanged event for each property designed to be bound to data.” We hadn’t needed that before, but we thought, let’s give it a try.

We tried adding the following line to the control class:

Public Event TextChanged As EventHandler

This gave us the ubiquitous squiggly indicating a problem. It turns out that the Control class already defines this event. The problem is that data binding needs to get this event to know that it is appropriate to pull the value from the control into the data source. The Control.TextChanged documentation suggests viewing the OnTextChanged method.

So, OnTextChanged will raise the event, but where should we put it? In our case, we don’t want the text going to the datasource until the control has been validated. Databinding happens during the Validating event, so we added the following line the Validating event of the user control (within the user control):

OnTextChanged(New System.EventArgs)

This took care of the problem, and we were able to move on to the next hurdle.

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