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Not Quite as Simple as 1-2-3

Should you take the leap to Monad now, or wait until Exchange 12 inches closer to RTM? Alternatively, if you’ve started down the Monad road already, is beta 3 really all that much better than its predecessor?

Beta 3 does add major new features, including some that are expressly suited to use with Exchange. Yet, meanwhile, now that beta 3 is out there, Microsoft has pulled beta 2 from its main download site.

Limits to Monad’s Compatibility

And unlike beta 2—which ultimately came to support both the 2.0.50215 and 2.0.50727 versions of the .NET Framework—beta 3 can be used only with the current edition of the framework.

Moreover, developers who anticipate adopting beta 3 might need to upgrade their Visual Studio tools. Why? The latest edition of the framework, which has already entered commercial availability, works only with VS 2005 RC1, as opposed to the previously released beta toolsets.

Using IA64 hardware? Monad simply isn’t ready for you yet. Monad requires the .NET 2.0 Framework runtime. But although this framework is now available for Itanium, guess what? The same can’t be said for beta 3 of Monad, according to Dr. Thomas Lee, a Microsoft MVP.

Microsoft has also started recommending a new download, the .NET 2.0 Framework SDK, for more streamlined support of new capabilities in beta 3.

Trying to Smooth the Learning Curve

To help familiarize users with the new scripting concepts, Monad comes with copious documentation, including a large Getting Started guide and three hands-on labs.

Monad’s new plug-in architecture, also debuting in beta 3, is designed to simplify cmdlet development and distribution, says Arul Kumaravel, Microsoft development lead for the Windows Command Shell.

The latest beta includes changes that allow Monad to accept Exchange plug-ins. In addition, for cmdlets that don’t need access to the Monad hosting environment, the beta 3 release notes explain how to access the cmdlets from other languages. Microsoft has also revised Getting Started for the new beta.

Input from Monad Users

In Internet postings to the Monad team, some users have called for a new pick-properties cmdlet. Monad includes a cmdlet dubbed get-member, but, as some see it, a pick-properties script would offer a more intuitive approach to determining the properties of .NET objects.

Other early users have drawn Microsoft’s attention to missing help files in beta 3, including about_switch and about_strings, for example.

In fact, Microsoft turned to its beta testers for last-minute advice about future framework support in Monad beta 3. Initially, beta 3 supported only the first build of the .NET Framework, but some of the early adopters complained.

"I [installed] beta 2 of VS 2005 and then removed it to install [the] RC1 given out at the PDC. Now Monad does not work. [It] crashes when [it] starts," writes one worried developer.

In response to this problem, another Microsoft MVP said that he kept a machine running the 2.0.50215 framework until he knew when (or if) Monad would move to a newer framework.

"In principle, you could uninstall 2.0.50727 and associated apps, return to beta 2 of Monad, and also run beta 2 of Studio. I guess it all depends whether [VS] RC1 has features you need," added Andrew Watt, an MVP from InfoPath.

But by the time beta 2 was yanked from Microsoft’s download site, Monad supported both builds of the framework. Then, at the start of January, members of Microsoft’s Monad team threw a last-minute decision about future framework support directly into the early users’ discussion ring.

’Pull It. This Is Beta Code.’

"We still see a lot of downloads of the Monad bits for .NET beta 2," wrote Adam Barr of Microsoft’s Monad Program Management, entering this blog item on January 5. "In January so far, the x86 version for v2.0.50215 [has] 430 downloads and the x86 version for v2.0.50727 (RTM) [has] 560 downloads. The RTM of .NET has been out for a couple of months, so I’m wondering if there are a lot of people still using v2.0, or is it just people downloading the wrong version of Monad?"

Barr continued, "We are about to put out beta 3 and we were planning to pull the beta 2 drops since beta 3 is an update. But we won’t have a version of beta 3 for v2.0.50215—is it going to be a problem if there is no v2.0.50215 version of Monad available for download? The argument for pulling the old ones is just to avoid confusion about which version to download. There’s no technical or licensing reason not to leave them up for a while longer."

Several beta testers replied, largely concurring that continuing availability of the old code would spur confusion.

"Pull it. This is beta code. Make folks who want Monad upgrade to the RTM version [of the framework]. In the longer term, this is the right answer and it’s probably a good one in the shorter one, too," chimed in MVP Thomas Lee.

But another developer pointed out that, as of this year, some beta MOC courses still demand the earlier v2.0.50215 edition of the .NET Framework.

Where Did Beta 2 Go?

Even though Microsoft pulled beta 2 from its download site in January 2006, with the help of a good search engine you might be able to find the older edition kicking around on the Web somewhere. As of early February, beta 2 was still available in at least a couple of different locations on the Web, including Microsoft’s own TechNet (TN) site.

Links to both beta 1 and beta 2 are embedded inside the transcript of an interview between TN and Microsoft’s Snover, which has long been running on the TN site. As of early February, the embedded link to beta 2 remained live, although the beta 1 link no longer worked.

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