What is .Net

.NetFramework

I have some .Net related content that I plan to post and thought that I would revisit this question.

It’s a question I find interesting in that the answer has changed slightly over the year. In the earliest years it was a branding for technologies that were not necessarily related to each other; Windows .NET Server and Windows .NET Messenger are two products that had the branding at one point. But let’s not walk down memory lane and jump straight into the answer.

.NET is still a branding but the technologies with the branding are related to each other. Microsoft uses the branding on their Common Language Runtime (CLR) products. That answer only has kicked the can down the road. What is the CLR?

The CLR is a virtual machine component. Executables targeting the CLR don’t necessarily contain any code that is native to the processor on which they are running (though it may contain native code, but let’s ignore that for a moment). CLR binaries can be distributed with no processor dependent executable code within them. At runtime when the code is being executed it is converted to machine code as needed. Because of this the same program can be run on machines that have different processor architectures. The computer on which a program is running needs to have the runtime that is specific to it’s architecture and operating system.

This system might sound familiar as modern Java does something similar. There was a time when Microsoft was invested in Java virtual machines and made the first Java runtime that compiled the Java binary to machine language. The entity that owned Java at the time (Sun) wasn’t happy about this and they took Microsoft to court for deviating from the standard of how Java virtual machines worked and for using the Internet as a method of distribution among other reasons. This disagreement might sound petty, and in part it was. But there were good reasons for their position that I’ll present in another post. But this interaction added weight to the argument that Microsoft should have their own virtual machine. They also made their own programming languages (C# and Visual Basic .NET) and a few CLRs for x86, x64, and for their mobile devices.

The CLR, also known as the .Net Framework has seen several updates over the years. Microsoft eventually decided to make the CLR open source. This contributed to another CLR implementation being created named Mono which allowed .Net Framework applications to run on Linux and Mac.

If you look up .Net now you’ll find a few .NET systems listed.

  • .Net Standard
  • .Net Core (2016)
  • .Net Framework (2002)
  • ASP.Net / ASP.Net Core

What are these?

.Net Standard is a specification of the set of APIs that are expected to be in all implementations of the .Net Framework. Think of this as analogous to an interface; .NET standard itself isn’t an implementation. If you make an application that sticks with these APIs then it will have a wide range of compatible targets.

For the .Net Framework only one version of the framework can be installed at a time. Microsoft generally kept backwards compatibility, but it wasn’t perfect. Since a system could only have one version of the Framework installed in corporations updating the Framework had to be a company level decision.

.Net Core was made to contain the most common features of the .Net Framework, but has a few new features installed. It was made with multiple operating systems in mind and multiple versions in mind.  A system can have multiple versions of .Net core installed and they can run side-by-side.  From hereon Microsoft will be putting efforts on improving .Net Core. The .Net Framework will continue to support the .Net Framework but don’t expect to see new features in it; the new features will be coming to .Net core. There are a lot of legacy functionality from the .Net Framework that did not get ported over to .Net core in the interest of performance and compatibility.

ASP (Active Server Pages) is the name for Microsoft’s Web development system. Some of the earlier versions used a language that was similar to Visual Basic (yuck). The first version of ASP that supported .NET was called ASP.NET. ASP.NET used the .Net runtime and the more recent version supports the .NET Core runtime.  Traditionally ASP pages were hosted within IIS (Internet Information Services), a Windows component for hosting web pages. Wit the modern versions while this is still an option ASP.NET pages can be hosted outside of IIS too.

If you are starting a new desktop .Net project and don’t know what version to use the safe choice will generally be .Net Core. In my opinion the best feature is its ability to run on multiple systems (Mac, Linux, Windows, and varios IoT devices including the Raspberry Pi).

 

Trying to learn C# and .Net Core? This is a book I would recomend.

 

Credit Cards and Magnetic Strips in the USA

Yes, in the USA we still use magnetic strip on credit cards.

I’ve had some interactions with some people online more than once when I found myself explaining this. One of the more recent incidents was about a phone that used magnets to keep something in place. I had commented that with such a phone I want to make sure that it didn’t get near my bank cards because of the magnets. I received responses of confusion from this. I’ll address some of the frequent responses.

  • Why does it matter if it gets near a magnet?
    – If a credit card is in contact with a magnet that is strong enough or for long enough then the data on the strip can be damaged making it unusable in magnetic strip readers.
  • Why not use contactless payment?
    Banks in the USA for the most part don’t issue contacless cards. I’ve checked for them and have found they do exists if you get a very “product” from that bank. For example if you have a card from Main Street Bank Visa (a bank name I’ve just made up) then it might not be contactless, but if you got the Main Street Bank Visa Barbie Edition (also a made up card) then it may have the contactless feature.
  • Why not use the Chip and Pin
    The chip isn’t accepted at some POS terminals. For credit cards in the USA we almost never use pins. For bank cards associated with a checking account though a PIN must be entered if the card is processed as a bank card instead of a credit card. High volume stores including fast food also prefer not to use the pin. The amount of money they can make is heavily dependent on how quickly they can complete the purchase process and they risk loosing money on missed sales than fraud at heavy times.

Typically, people in the USA that do have experience with contactless payment have it through Apple Pay or Samsung Pay. While Android Pay had been present years before it was hamstrung by three of the four nationwide phone carriers here. They decided to block Android pay and created their own payment system. Their system was called ISIS and based on the American Express SERVE cards. But things happened in the news and the ISIS name was no longer a name that was marketing friendly.  They changed the name to Softcard but the effort ultimately failed.

I myself was able to use Android Pay for some time since I had a Google phone that wasn’t distributed through the carriers. It worked fine until Apple Pay was released. When Apple Pay was released many major retailers decided to deactivate their contactless receivers. They wanted to have in on mobile app payments and they blocked such payments all together. Now, if I entered a store even if I could visually identify that a contactless payment terminal was present I didn’t know that it worked. At one point it failed more times than not and it was easier to just not bother with it.

Why not use the app that the retailer made instead of the phone payment app? There are two reasons. The first, is the retailers didn’t have such an app. They were starting development of their systems and blocked other contactless payments while they prepared their own. When such apps were available my personal motivation was that data breaches happen regularly and it is safer to minimize the number of accounts in which personal information appears. Even when an account is closed in the USA retailers may often retain records of the information; it is still vulnerable to a breach after an account with the retailer has been closed.

With that said, I’m hoping to see a shift in how credit cards are handled in the USA. There’s a high rate of credit card fraud in the USA and several times within a year my associates and I find that we must get a card replaced because of data breaches.

 

 

Enabling Development Mode on Samsung Tizen TVs

The modern Samsung TVs run the Tizen operating system. You can develop for these just as you might develop for the Tizen based watches. The Tizen TVs are locked down more than the watch is.  To deploy to a Tizen TV you’ll need to both enable developer mode and will have to let the TV know from what address it will be receiving code. If it receives request from other addresses it won’t respond to them.

On the consumer displays there is no obvious way to enable developer mode. The option is hidden. If you open the apps browser (for seeing what other apps there are to install) you can open the developer mode menu by entering “12345” on the remote. A popup window will show from which you can select to turn developer mode “On.” If you are using one of the commercial displays (SSSP, or Samsung Smart Signage Platform) the method to enable developer mode is more obvious. If you open the TV’s menu there is an option called URL Launcher Settings. The developer mode option is within these settings.

On the consumer devices you’ll also be asked to enter the IP address of the machine from which the development will occur. This prevents other rouge devices on your network from doing anything to the TV.  Here you should enter the IP address of your development machine.

After these options are set the TV needs to be rebooted before the changes are fully applied. you can do this by holding the power button on the consumer TVs for two seconds, holding the power off button on a SSSP display for 2 seconds, or removing the power source from the TV and reapplying it.

After the TV boots developer mode is now enabled. However the mode being enabled doesn’t mean that all of the conditions for deploying code have been met. You will need to generate a distributor certificate also. Samsung has this page with instructions for generating a certificate. In following these directions you will need the the Device Unique ID (DUID). To get this you first need to connect to the TV. I prefer to use the sdb utility that comes with the Tizen SDK. It is located in tizen-studio/tools (adjust this path according to the location at which you installed Tizen Studio). The syntax for connecting is:

sdb connect

Sometimes I have to type the command twice before it takes effect. After the connection is successful open the Tizen Device Manager. You should see the TV connection within the UI. If you right-click on the connection you will have the option of selecting the TV’s DUID. Select this option and copy the DUID to the system clipboard. Keep the DUID on the system clipboard and when it is needed during the certificate generation it will automatically be pasted where it is needed.

If you at some point find that you need the TV extensions, don’t have them installed, and don’t see them in the the package manager you can install them using these instructions. https://developer.samsung.com/tv/develop/tools/tv-extension/download/

Creating a certificate based on the Device Uniuque ID (DUID) is slightly different for the two classes of displays. For the consumer displays a Samsung certificate should be created. For the commercial displays a Tizen certificate should be created. It can be a little confusing with Tizen being a Samsung creation. But you may be able to make better sense of it from another perspective. The Samsung certificate is associated with the Samsung App store. The consumer displays access the app store and the certificate rules for that are different than for apps that have no access to the App Store.

samsungremote

samsungtv

Bixby Studio Available for all Bixby Compatible Devices @SDC19

bixby

Samsung announced today at the annual Developer Conference that Bixby Studio, their developer tool for building natural language interactions, is available on all devices that support Bixby. Previously this functionality was only available on the mobile devices. With today’s announcement it is available on other devices such as the TV, Tizen powered refrigerators, and the watch.

To encourage developers to get started with Bixby development they’ve also opened a contest offering thousands of dollars in prizes. For more information on the contest visit BixbyDevJam.com.

Consumer v Commercial Displays

There are two mistakes that one might make about the difference in consumer and commercial displays.

Mistake 1: Commercial Display are just Consumer Displays that cost More

This is an easy mistake to make because at first glance the displays may look alike. But commercial displays are made to withstand a wider range of conditions than their consumer counterparts. An illustration of this that comes to my mine is a display I worked on that was installed in an airport. When the display opened to the public we saw some abuses that we didn’t quite imagine. The installation included touch screens. We expected people to touch the screens. We didn’t expect people to set their children on top of the displays. Yes, this really happened. The displays survived the years that they were at the installation without problems, but I still consider some of what they endured to be borderline abusive. If a small child were set on a consumer display (do not do this) I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t last long.

That is just one of the tolerances that a commercial display may have that it’s consumer counter part does not. The commercial displays may also have higher tolerance for moisture (perhaps even outdoor use), temperature, potentially higher potentially a brighter screen (as might be needed for outdoor use).

Commercial displays may have a number of features that the consumer counter parts do not.  These may be additional connections (such as RS232), the ability to control several displays at once (as one might want to do in a video array configuration) and even internal media players or security features.

Mistake 2: A Commercial Display would make a good Home Display

This misconception comes from the idea that a commercial display is a consumer display with features added. The reality is that while the commercial displays may have additional features they might also be missing features that the consumer displays have. If you buy a typical consumer display above a certain size it will have the ability to run several consumer oriented applications such as a Netflix and Hulu player and a few others. The commercial displays don’t have this; and that is understandable since they are not for engaging in these consumer activities. A person that pays the extra money to get a commercial display may leave one feeling quite disappointed after realizing the features that are not available.

Samsung Consumer Displays v Samsung Commercial Displays

I’m looking at to displays that were made at about the same time. Both are made by Samsung; one is a consumer display and the other is a commercial display. Getting the differences between them has required my own exploration and experimentation. Samsung has a site at https://samsungDforum.com that contains information about the consumer displays. Unfortunately this information is only available to those that sign up for the Samsung Partner program. From what I’ve read about this program an NDA is required to enroll within it. I have not signed up for this program; if I did then I wouldn’t be able to talk about the information gained within it. As part of my interest in the displays is to talk about them (on this blog) I’m instead am gathering information both from experimenting with the display and through scraps of information available on the Internet.

The process of experimentation has had it’s moments of frustration, and I’ve already written some material on my experiences that are to be posted in the future.  In my next post on this topic I’ll talk about the differences in the Samsung Consumer and Commercial displays.

 

End of Linux on DeX Beta

Unfortunately, Samsung has recently announced the end of Linux on Dex support. The last time I mentioned LoD was when Samsung mentioned it was coming to more devices. A close associate recently acquired one of those devices to which support was coming. When I tried to get her sign up for the Beta I had found that there was no way to get her signed up. That was about two weeks before the Samsung announcement.

To summarize, Samsung stated what as one upgrades to Android 10 they would loose the Linux on DeX functionality; if someone wants to run a full Linux setup on their computer they will have to avoid upgrading. There was no statement on whether or not there will be anything to replace this functionality.

Personally I will miss this functionality. When I was finally able to access it I was able to leave my computer behind when I went on trips. While it wasn’t as fully ccapable as my laptop it supported enough functionality to be a secondary developerment solution; I could do enough things to respond to some unanticipated requests. I had access to GIT, Node, and various other development and command line tools include Visual Studio Code. Unless Google or Samsung plan to release a replacement this will be functionality lost with the next OS update.

In the mean time I’ll be looking back to the Chromebook. The Chromebook has some limited linux support that may be helpful. Though the last time I used it there was no where near as much functionality as LoD.

It will be missed. 😦