Click here to close now.

Welcome!

.NET Authors: Greg O'Connor, Aria Blog, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Hovhannes Avoyan

Related Topics: .NET

.NET: Article

.NET Development with Visual Build Pro

Work smarter, not harder

I have used Microsoft Visual Studio at various companies over the years, starting with Visual Basic 3 to create simple, stand-alone Windows applications, then later using Visual Basic 5 and 6 for multitiered development. More recently, I've used Visual C++ to create a commercial application, and have recently been doing extensive .NET development using C# for both WinForms and ASP.NET development.

In all of these development environments, I've used the Visual Studio IDE as the primary tool for editing source code, testing, debugging, etc. Back with VB3, it was fairly simple to build the application as well with the IDE, because I was only building single executables (without even the need for an installer). As I progressed into more complex projects using components, then different layers of components, source code control, installers, and databases, my build experience became increasingly tedious, error-prone and frustrating.

About that time I discovered Visual Build, and quickly began automating my build process, starting with checking my code in and out of SourceSafe and compiling my Visual Basic project groups. I saw an immediate increase in consistency and repeatability and a significant decrease in my frustrations (and stress) when building, testing, and releasing updates to the applications I was writing.

The Visual C++ gig was part of larger team that required more coding discipline (and a lot of studying to learn C++), working across a relatively slow VPN link, as I was working remotely. Fortunately, this work environment was already using Visual Build Professional to automate many of their processes, which enabled me to join the development team quickly, as I could use existing build scripts and read them to quickly understand how they operated without constantly bothering fellow coders.

Over the years, the Visual Studio IDE has steadily added new features and (for me) maintained its position as my primary development tool. Visual Studio has consistently provided the ability to build and deploy applications; however, there have always been significant reasons why it wasn't an optimal build solution in my real world. These reasons include the use of third-party tools, source code control, the manual nature of builds using a nonautomated process, and the need to extend a build to do things that weren't necessarily build-related.

Details
The Visual Studio .NET IDE provides a good framework for developing .NET applications and managing the relationships between projects and components as part of a .NET solution. Extensive debugging capabilities are provided, along with Intellisense and other coding assistance, which greatly boosts developer productivity. And it does provide a limited means of automating builds via the devenv.com console application. Visual Build Pro hides the complexity of building Visual Studio projects and solutions by providing a graphical front end for configuring the appropriate command-line flags and adding additional functionality, such as easily building a single, multiple, or all configurations, more control over setting or incrementing versions and assembly properties, etc.

Another advantage of utilizing Visual Build Pro for Visual Studio .NET builds is that you are isolated from changes made between the different versions of Visual Studio. When migrating from Visual Studio 2002 to 2003 to 2005, once the projects have been opened in the IDE and converted to the new format, the build process remains unchanged, since VBP's Make VS.NET action detects and handles each version appropriately, and even takes advantage of MSBuild for Visual Studio 2005 projects and solutions (thereby preventing the need to install Visual Studio itself on the build box).

Employing Visual Build Professional for .NET builds also provides the ability to continue building legacy applications or projects (without a rewrite) as you move forward with the latest technology. The builds you have defined for older languages and tools continue to work and can simply be extended for any new applications you develop (regardless of the manufacturer). In my example, I have continued building some legacy VB 6.0 and VC++ 6.0 applications in addition to the latest .NET projects in development. And Visual Build Pro provides built-in support for all of the major source control systems (SourceSafe, Perforce, Vault, Surround SCM, Subversion, etc.), thus making it easy to incorporate these products into the build process as well.

As much as we like to keep things standard and follow conventions, every shop I've worked at had many exceptional situations that required customization to their build process. This is another major reason to maintain the process using the flexible and powerful build framework provided with Visual Build Professional. Some examples I have encountered are the need to deploy ASP Web sites (first shutting down the IIS server, compiling Delphi components, a legacy method of deploying components to central server, updating metadata in a SQL Server database, etc). I have been very impressed with VBP because I rarely find a build problem that can't be solved using common-sense programming techniques.

Building software is challenging and demanding business, and often requires highly skilled expertise and extensive knowledge. As applications and the tools used to create them have evolved, they have become highly complex and specialized. As mentioned earlier, using Visual Build Professional can greatly reduce the amount of perishable information and research used within the build process. The files used by Visual Build Professional are XML files, which typically are checked in to your source control system just like your application source code, thus preserving the history of your build process. When your core developers leave the company, they don't leave you stranded. Instead the necessary information remains with the company, so the build process isn't compromised.

While the .NET development system is extensive and powerful, it is a very complex tool that spans a wide range of technologies and capabilities. Unless you work for a large company, you probably won't get personal support from Microsoft. It is comforting to have access to the knowledgeable Kinook Software support staff and the Visual Build Professional user base through their support forum. Their level of support is outstanding, the depth of the samples and documentation is second to none, and they have repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to provide assistance when I have been stumped by a particular issue.

Conclusion
I have been a long-time user of Visual Build Professional, and I can honestly say that it has paid for itself many times over. It is the primary tool in my build toolbox that allows me to focus on what I enjoy best: developing and producing software. It is a powerful yet flexible application that achieves what it was designed for: automating any Windows-based software build process. If you either haven't automated your build process or are struggling with your current system, you owe it to yourself and your company to give Visual Build Professional a try!

References

More Stories By Kevin Alons

Kevin Alons currently serves as the president of Alons Software, Inc., primarily doing contract Visual C++ development. In the past, he has worked as a network administrator, SQL Server DBA, and has done various types of software development, including corporate VB, Delphi, C/C++, and ASP.NET. Kevin previously served as a fighter pilot in the Air National Guard (where he also functioned as "Computer Officer"). He is happily married with three children, and enjoys recreational flying, racquetball, reading, and playing trumpet at his church.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Vitria Technology, Inc. will exhibit at SYS-CON’s @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Vitria will showcase the company’s new IoT Analytics Platform through live demonstrations at booth #330. Vitria’s IoT Analytics Platform, fully integrated and powered by an operational intelligence engine, enables customers to rapidly build and operationalize advanced analytics to deliver timely business outcomes for use cases across the industrial, enterprise, and consumer segments.
Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 16th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York June 9-11 will find fresh new content in a new track called PaaS | Containers & Microservices Containers are not being considered for the first time by the cloud community, but a current era of re-consideration has pushed them to the top of the cloud agenda. With the launch of Docker's initial release in March of 2013, interest was revved up several notches. Then late last...
HP and Aruba Networks on Monday announced a definitive agreement for HP to acquire Aruba, a provider of next-generation network access solutions for the mobile enterprise, for $24.67 per share in cash. The equity value of the transaction is approximately $3.0 billion, and net of cash and debt approximately $2.7 billion. Both companies' boards of directors have approved the deal. "Enterprises are facing a mobile-first world and are looking for solutions that help them transition legacy investments to the new style of IT," said Meg Whitman, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of HP...
The explosion of connected devices / sensors is creating an ever-expanding set of new and valuable data. In parallel the emerging capability of Big Data technologies to store, access, analyze, and react to this data is producing changes in business models under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular within the Insurance industry, IoT appears positioned to enable deep changes by altering relationships between insurers, distributors, and the insured. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Sick, a Senior Manager and Big Data Architect within Ernst and Young's Financial Servi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Open Data Centers (ODC), a carrier-neutral colocation provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Open Data Centers is a carrier-neutral data center operator in New Jersey and New York City offering alternative connectivity options for carriers, service providers and enterprise customers.
The explosion of connected devices / sensors is creating an ever-expanding set of new and valuable data. In parallel the emerging capability of Big Data technologies to store, access, analyze, and react to this data is producing changes in business models under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular within the Insurance industry, IoT appears positioned to enable deep changes by altering relationships between insurers, distributors, and the insured. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Sick, a Senior Manager and Big Data Architect within Ernst and Young's Financial Servi...
PubNub on Monday has announced that it is partnering with IBM to bring its sophisticated real-time data streaming and messaging capabilities to Bluemix, IBM’s cloud development platform. “Today’s app and connected devices require an always-on connection, but building a secure, scalable solution from the ground up is time consuming, resource intensive, and error-prone,” said Todd Greene, CEO of PubNub. “PubNub enables web, mobile and IoT developers building apps on IBM Bluemix to quickly add scalable realtime functionality with minimal effort and cost.”
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
In the consumer IoT, everything is new, and the IT world of bits and bytes holds sway. But industrial and commercial realms encompass operational technology (OT) that has been around for 25 or 50 years. This grittier, pre-IP, more hands-on world has much to gain from Industrial IoT (IIoT) applications and principles. But adding sensors and wireless connectivity won’t work in environments that demand unwavering reliability and performance. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ron Sege, CEO of Echelon, will discuss how as enterprise IT embraces other IoT-related technology trends, enterprises with i...
When it comes to the Internet of Things, hooking up will get you only so far. If you want customers to commit, you need to go beyond simply connecting products. You need to use the devices themselves to transform how you engage with every customer and how you manage the entire product lifecycle. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, will show how “product relationship management” can help you leverage your connected devices and the data they generate about customer usage and product performance to deliver extremely compelling and reliabl...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is causing data centers to become radically decentralized and atomized within a new paradigm known as “fog computing.” To support IoT applications, such as connected cars and smart grids, data centers' core functions will be decentralized out to the network's edges and endpoints (aka “fogs”). As this trend takes hold, Big Data analytics platforms will focus on high-volume log analysis (aka “logs”) and rely heavily on cognitive-computing algorithms (aka “cogs”) to make sense of it all.
With several hundred implementations of IoT-enabled solutions in the past 12 months alone, this session will focus on experience over the art of the possible. Many can only imagine the most advanced telematics platform ever deployed, supporting millions of customers, producing tens of thousands events or GBs per trip, and hundreds of TBs per month. With the ability to support a billion sensor events per second, over 30PB of warm data for analytics, and hundreds of PBs for an data analytics archive, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Kaskade, Vice President and General Manager, Big Data & Ana...
One of the biggest impacts of the Internet of Things is and will continue to be on data; specifically data volume, management and usage. Companies are scrambling to adapt to this new and unpredictable data reality with legacy infrastructure that cannot handle the speed and volume of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and president of Infobright, will discuss how companies need to rethink their data infrastructure to participate in the IoT, including: Data storage: Understanding the kinds of data: structured, unstructured, big/small? Analytics: What kinds and how responsiv...
Since 2008 and for the first time in history, more than half of humans live in urban areas, urging cities to become “smart.” Today, cities can leverage the wide availability of smartphones combined with new technologies such as Beacons or NFC to connect their urban furniture and environment to create citizen-first services that improve transportation, way-finding and information delivery. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Laetitia Gazel-Anthoine, CEO of Connecthings, will focus on successful use cases.
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
Wearable devices have come of age. The primary applications of wearables so far have been "the Quantified Self" or the tracking of one's fitness and health status. We propose the evolution of wearables into social and emotional communication devices. Our BE(tm) sensor uses light to visualize the skin conductance response. Our sensors are very inexpensive and can be massively distributed to audiences or groups of any size, in order to gauge reactions to performances, video, or any kind of presentation. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Jocelyn Scheirer, CEO & Founder of Bionolux, will discuss ho...
Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, had reached 30,000 page views on his home page - http://RobertoMedrano.SYS-CON.com/ - on the SYS-CON family of online magazines, which includes Cloud Computing Journal, Internet of Things Journal, Big Data Journal, and SOA World Magazine. He is a recognized executive in the information technology fields of SOA, internet security, governance, and compliance. He has extensive experience with both start-ups and large companies, having been involved at the beginning of four IT industries: EDA, Open Systems, Computer Security and now SOA.
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...
Operational Hadoop and the Lambda Architecture for Streaming Data Apache Hadoop is emerging as a distributed platform for handling large and fast incoming streams of data. Predictive maintenance, supply chain optimization, and Internet-of-Things analysis are examples where Hadoop provides the scalable storage, processing, and analytics platform to gain meaningful insights from granular data that is typically only valuable from a large-scale, aggregate view. One architecture useful for capturing and analyzing streaming data is the Lambda Architecture, representing a model of how to analyze rea...