Nightly news, 5 May 2010

We’ve frequently been asked to publish change logs for our nightly builds, and although it’s not very convenient for us to make that information available on a nightly basis, we thought it would be a good idea to publish the occasional round-up of recent changes. We are planning to make this a weekly thing… for some value of “weekly” that will depend on how much JD gets distracted into making Photoshops of Batman.

Here, then, is a round-up of the last week or so’s fixes and enhancements across the Mindscape product range.


  • Visual Studio 2010 designer support! We’ll be officially launching this soon, but it’s already in the nightlies.
  • Support for using SQL Server spatial data type methods in a query. Instructions here.
  • Consistent read support for Amazon SimpleDB. Instructions here and here.
  • Support for localising field names in validation messages. Instructions here.
  • You can now add (but not remove) unique constraints via the designer and via migrations.
  • The designer now remembers the zoom level when you save the model. Handy for big models where you usually want to work zoomed out.
  • Fixes for a spurious error in the designer, for Oracle SYS_GUID support in the designer and for entity range variables in LINQ joins.
  • Fixed a British spelling in the help file. Hey, you may think this isn’t worth mentioning, but JD brooded about it for six straight days…

Silverlight Elements

  • New OutlookBar control.
  • New Expander control.
  • New menuing and command controls: Menu, ContextMenu and SplitButton.
  • New numeric controls: Slider, DualSlider, DualProgressBar and NumericUpDown.
  • New layout controls: DockPanel and a pair of truncating StackPanels.
  • TimePicker and TimeSpanPicker now have up-down functionality.
  • Several fixes to design-time functionality and to the UniformGrid.

WPF Property Grid

  • Fix for TypeEditors mapped to built-in editors not respecting BuiltInEditorStyles.

SimpleDB Management Tools

  • Visual Studio 2010 support.
  • Now uses consistent reads for all queries.
  • Old-style query syntax (Amazon’s Crazy-Ass Query Language (TM)) is no longer supported.

You can download the latest nightly builds from the store, or from the Downloads page for free and trial editions.

SimpleDB: pulling the plug on the deprecated Query API

When Amazon introduced the SimpleDB Select API and deprecated the earlier Query API, we switched LightSpeed over to generate queries using the Select API, but left in a compatibility option to force LightSpeed to generate Query API calls instead. This was a transitional option so that users had an “escape hatch” in case there were any bugs in the Select implementation.

The Select-based engine has now been in production for something over 6 months, so we believe that it is no longer necessary to provide the option to force LightSpeed to revert to the Query API. And maintaining a Query-based engine alongside the Select-based engine is now preventing us from implementing new features such as consistent reads.

Therefore, beginning with the 29 April 2010 nightly build, LightSpeed will always generate Select calls; the “force back to Query” option will be ignored. This shouldn’t cause any compatibility issues because it’s an internal change to the way LightSpeed invokes SimpleDB, not to the way you form your LightSpeed queries. However, if you are still using the “force back to Query” option and you do notice any differences after we turn it off, please let us know in the forums.

In addition, nightly builds of SimpleDB Management Tools will no longer support the Query syntax. If you’re writing queries in SimpleDB Management Tools, you will need to use the Select syntax. We’re pretty confident that most people have already switched over, but if you’re a deprecated API diehard, consider yourself warned!

SimpleDB Management Tools for Visual Studio 2010 released

We’re pleased to announce that SimpleDB Management Tools is now available for Visual Studio 2010. VS2010 versions of our other products will follow over the coming days and weeks.

SimpleDB Management tools makes it easy to work with your Amazon SimpleDB domains, attributes and data right from within Visual Studio. You can quickly connect to SimpleDB instances from the Visual Studio Server Explorer, query data, and add edit and delete domains and attributes. With the new version you can do all this from within VS2010 as well.

Please note that the 2008 and 2010 releases are separate downloads — if you want to use SimpleDB Managemement Tools in both environments, you’ll need to install both components.

The 2010 release is free to existing users, and available now for download from the store. There’s also a free trial edition (limited to viewing or editing 20 records per domain). If you’re using VS2010 and Amazon SimpleDB, take it for a spin today!

Improved support options for customers

Hand in hand with our recent volume discounts and LightSpeed 3.0 release we have started to put in place an improved support capability for customers who need priority support options or may occasionally want to escalate support beyond what we normally offer.

Tooting our own horn a little, we have had very positive feedback from many customers who have said our support is fantastic. We hope this addition helps us maintain end user happiness as we continue to grow and our support load scales up.

What is priority support?

Priority support is the option to ensure that your request is dealt with promptly, and is reviewed before and prioritised over normal forum posts. It is also useful for folks who wish to not use the forum which is quite open and may not be viable for talking about sensitive parts of a software system.

Can I use it for feature requests?

No, we still urge that feature requests be posted in the forums so that others may discuss them (and because we don’t think it’s fair to charge you for suggesting cool features!). Features are still only added to products at our discretion.

How much does priority support cost?

We have priced support at $199 USD per priority support issue OR at $499 for a 5 pack of support issues, a 50% saving. You will be able to see if you have support tickets in your store account page. We have been issuing 1 priority support ticket per customer to LightSpeed 3.0 customers and upgrading Enterprise Edition customers. For other products, we’re in the process of migrating Enterprise customers to have a priority ticket added to their account.

The pricing is designed to be very cost effective and is inexpensive compared to the support options offered for other software (for example, one commercial NHibernate support vendor quotes 600 Euro, approximately $870 USD, per incident for ad hoc support).

You can purchase Priority support tickets in our online store.

Do I need it? Should I put all my requests through priority support?

If you need a guaranteed response, or a quick response is crucial to you, or you don’t want to discuss your issue on the public forum, then you should put a request through priority support. The forum will still get monitored actively by Mindscape staff and questions will be answered, but there are no guarantees around response times (our response times have usually been pretty good, but never guaranteed!).

Priority support is for those times when you need additional help and you don’t want to rely on the forums. You are welcome to simply buy a support ticket as you need them for $199 USD however it may be wiser to simply purchase a 5 pack in order to save 50%.

If I’ve missed any questions you have then please post a comment – I’m happy to answer them :-)

Multi-value attributes in SimpleDB Management Tools

SimpleDB, unlike a relational database, allows you to store multiple values against a single attribute. For example, in a Books domain, the Author attribute might contain multiple values to represent a book with several authors.

We’ve now added support for this feature to SimpleDB Management Tools. The latest version sports a new Edit Values button which pops up a dialog where you can add and delete values as well as editing them. In the grid, multi-valued attributes are shown with their number of values, and you can click the cell to edit the values without needing to go to the Edit Values toolbar button.

SimpleDB Management Tools - multivalued attributes

Of course, if you only want a single value against an attribute, you can still edit it normally in the SimpleDB Management Tools grid. You only need the dialog if you’re managing multiple values.

Want to give it a try? Download the free trial edition, or if you already own SimpleDB Management Tools then get the upgrade from the store.


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