Several people have asked me what we rough Northern folk up here in Derbyshire do during the cold damp evenings of late October. Well, as you can (kind of) see from the photos below, we nail fairy lights to old rowing boats and sail them up and down the river at Matlock Bath.
OK, so this might seem a strange way to recognize the onset of Winter, but in fact it is based on an historical event. It seems that Queen Victoria was an occasional visitor, and the illuminated parade of boats celebrates the event of her birthday during a visit in 1832, when they sailed a huge model of her birthday cake lit with candles up and down the river. Must have been quite a party. We got lots more boats than that, and a spectacular firework display, and it has the useful by-product of raising a great deal of money for local charities.
Matlock Bath is one of those Peak District towns that boast a thermal spring (reportedly at a constant temperature of 68 deg.F and discovered back in 1698). However, what always strikes me as being a bit weird is that it's just about as far from the coast as you can get in England, yet is a fully-fledged seaside town. There's amusement arcades, fun fairs, fish 'n' chip shops, an aquarium, ice cream parlours, candy floss, rude postcards, a mining museum (?), silly hats, and a promenade.
Of course, the lack of an actual sea could make it a bit difficult, but the fact that the river Derwent runs alongside the promenade does give a real feeling of being at the coast - except, that is, for the 400 foot high vertical cliff the other side of the river. But they hide that behind a heap of trees during the day, and you can't see it at night anyway. And, just in case visitors do happen to notice it, they built a cable-car that goes up to the top. If you want to know more about the event, or Matlock Bath, take a look at Matlock Bath Illuminations and Derbyshire UK
So, I discovered some useful stuff during our visit. Some history about the glorious countryside where I live, and that fact that mobile phone cameras are useless for taking pictures at night.
Anyway, on a completely different topic, I've been doing some work this month that touches on the new Atlas/AJAX framework that the ASP.NET team has been putting together. There are hundreds of people writing about this already, and tons of stuff on the Web, so I've kind of avoided shouting about it so far. That, and the fact that all of my recent projects have been on Windows Forms and application architecture, means I haven't really kept as up to date with AJAX as I'd have liked to. But the combination of the pending release of the rejigged and "final" version, together with having to try and write something about it that might be useful to architects, means I need to become a lot more familiar with it.
So it was interesting that my early experiences exploring the sites that showcase it was somewhat less than fully rewarding. The screenshot below shows one of those really useful error dialogs. Mind you, as it's still a CTP release, you can't expect everything to be perfect yet. Still, why not pop along to http://atlas.asp.net and have a play with it yourself?
And, of course, I've now realized what's going on in the bowels of Microsoft's secret and underworld product naming department. There's obviously a conspiracy to get programmers to improve their household cleanliness habits. I mean, within a few weeks of discovering that the new version of their application monitoring environment is called SCUM (OK, so it's actually SCOM - System Center Operations Manager - but, as I noted a while ago, Word changes this to SCUM for you), I discover that the next world-shattering product is named AJAX after the famous bathroom cleaner! I'm confidently looking forward to the release of a range of bathroom cleaning products under the Microsoft VISTA brand - Very Intelligent System for Treating Anaerobes.
One minor warning with AJAX, however. Something I wasn't expecting was to have everything break because my network policy prevents ActiveX controls running in a Web page (yes, I'm paranoid as well as a technical Luddite). I guess that without the MSXML parser, it all just falls over. Seems a bit of a limitation to me when we're going back to using interpreted client-side script to do clever stuff in a Web page to avoid using ActiveX controls that might present security risks. Maybe IE7 is a bit more intelligent (no, I haven't tried it yet either), or MS will release some fix that allows MSXML to run but blocks everything else.
And don't even get me started on Flash in Web pages...