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An Overview of ASP.NET

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An Overview of ASP.NET - Easier Manageability

An Overview of ASP.NET

by John Peterson

Easier Manageability

Text File Configuration

Have you ever tried to find something in the Metabase? What about change a setting? Well unless you were on the team that wrote IIS it's no picnic. ASP.NET and the new NGWS framework address this problem by placing configuration information in an xml file that is easily human readable and writeable. At the same time this system is still hierarchical (as it should be) and allows for easy tool integration so you can still have a nice user interface when you want it. The fact that the files are in a relatively standard format also allows you to relatively simply build your own administration tool or even a limited version of one for your users.

The best part of this new system however is that since these settings are stored as plain text with the application, new setting can be applied without having to pcAnywhere or Terminal Server into the box. This "zero local administration" strategy allows you to deploy applications by simply copying the appropriate files to the server, which is what I call...

XCopy or FTP deployment - Even of components!

This is something I've been waiting to come back since the good old days of DOS. No more registering stuff in different locations so the system knows it exists. No server restart is needed, even to deploy or replace running compiled code. The framework simply starts a copy of the new version and directs all new requests to it. At the same time it keeps the older version running until the processes using it have finished. No down time and no deployment headaches of having to restart the web server just to change one little line of code.

And it's not just ASP code. This goes for components too! If you don't get excited about that then you've either got a much more exciting life then I do or you're still in shock from the caching discussion! ;) I promise I'll stop soon!

Tracing

As if I haven't said it enough... this is really cool. Tracing is an option that allows you to do things like Trace.Write or Trace.Warn and have this information output to a tracing display. It's only displayed if you turn tracing on so it makes a perfect debugging tool for checking the value of a variable or asserting that a value should be in a certain range.

There are two types of tracing: page-level tracing and application-level tracing. Page level tracing appends a report to the bottom of the page you just ran while application logs the same data to a separate area so you can look at it via a separate interface. This is nice for debugging live code, but make sure you don't leave this on... it's really meant as an occasional thing and from what I've been told adds a lot of overhead to the server.

Here's an example of the output from a very simple page, which has page-level tracing turned on. Only the drop-down part at the top is the actual ASP.NET page. All the rest was gathered during execution and added to the page for your use when there's a problem.

Debugging

Did you ever try to get Visual Interdev to debug your ASP code? Did it work?

Real cross language debugging in one unified debugger. That's all I'm gonna say! Well that and thank goodness we're not stuck using Response.Write statements for debugging anymore!

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