Free data sets – Northwind alternatives

data-computer-keysAt my day job, I write a lot of demos for videos, webinars and basically to help customers/developers. And the number one source of data used for these demos? Northwind.


  1. Great set of various data to bind to different things like grids, reports, and charts.
  2. It is used by many Microsoft samples.
  3. Available for SQL Server and Microsoft Access.
  4. Easily distributable.

So what’s problem? It’s a bit boring to always use the same set of data. In fact, Scott Hanselman even tried to stir the community with a call to action to come up with sources other than Northwind. That was back in 2008 and unfortunately, not many other sources were offered.

So, I’ve scoured the internet and below are several resources that I’ve found. Warning: You may need to “clean-up” this data. And you may also need to import it to your database of choice.

Fresh Data For Free

Good news, it’s easy these days to find interesting sources of data. And for free. If you’re willing to dig around and clean up some of the data, it’s right there for the taking.

Here’s a few:

freebaselogo Freebase is a large collaborative knowledge base consisting of metadata composed mainly by its community members.

Freebase data is available for free/libre for commercial and non-commercial use under a Creative Commons Attribution License, and an open API, RDF endpoint, and database dump are provided for programmers. –Wikipedia

Download the latest dumps directly from here: the latest dumps

Government Data

The US government has made available lots of government data. Not all of it is interesting or even ‘clean’. However, there is lots of data:

Other sources

For reference – Stackoverflow –

Amazon Web Services offers some public data sets as well. Though you will need an Amazon EC2 account.

Tim Berners-Lee on the next web

Here’s an interesting talk about data and the next web from the father of the internet, Tim Berners-Lee:

Do you have other sources of data? Drop me a note below. Thanks!

Visual Studio 2008 SP1 Beta and Performance

<UPDATE: May 16, 2008> Scott Guthrie and his team picked up on this post. They have since verified and logged the issue mentioned below.</UPDATE>

Last Friday, Microsoft released a beta of the upcoming Visual Studio Service Pack 1. Check out Scott Guthrie’s post for a list of improvements and features included in the service pack. You can also find links to download the service pack in his post. Here is a short overview of what’s included in the VS2008 SP1 beta:

"Visual Studio 2008 SP1 delivers various improvements to Visual Studio 2008 such as support SQL Server 2008 and new ADO.NET features such as the Entity Framework, numerous improvements to the WPF designers, WCF Templates for Silverlight projects, debugger support for the .NET Framework public symbols and source release, control improvements and additions (such as the DataRepeater for Windows Forms and Office 2007 Ribbons for C++), and a number of general debugging and Intellisense updates. This Service Pack also includes fixes to improve the stability, performance and security of many areas of the product."

The last sentence, which I highlighted in bold, is probably what’s most interesting about the SP1 beta. Many of you have been waiting for such a release to address the issues in Visual Studio 2008. And while it does offer improvements, you should be aware that this is a beta release. For example, after installing the beta, you may need to run the ToolBoxCreator.exe to re-register our controls within VS2008. You can run this utility from the Start Menu under the Developer Express/Tools folder.

For a small test I recreated the ASPxGridView’s Detail Tabs demo page. The SP1 beta performed very well on my Sony Vaio laptop. The initial load times still may not be as impressive as running VS2008 on a quad-core cpu desktop machine with fast hard drives but there are noticeable improvements. However, there were some glitches. When switching the ASPX page to the designer view, VS2008 generates several extra entity spaces (nbsp) within the templates section. The extra items then make the project fail to compile. This can fixed by going back to the source view and removing the extra html.

This service pack has some improvements, but it’s definitely a beta release. Don’t use it to compile any mission critical code. If are looking to increase performance for Visual Studio then consider a faster hard drive. Scott Guthrie outlines why hard drive speed matters for visual studio performance. He also lists some other performance recommendations which could improve your experience within Visual Studio 2008.

If you do try the VS2008 SP1 beta then I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment and let me know how it works for you if you try it. I love to hear about life on the cutting edge!

Visual Studio 2008 Hotfix Released! Performance and Editor fixes

Microsoft has just released the hotfix (KB946581) that many of you have been waiting for. It fixes a number items including the issues mentioned in a previous post. I know from emails that they’ve worked hard to get this ready for shipping. You can find more details and download the small (2.6 mb) file here: 

Your Websites, Our Passion! : Downloadable Hotfix: Performance and Editor fixes for Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 and Visual Web Developer Express 2008

I recommend taking a note of Scott’s summary in case you run into any problems with this fix. I’ve been running a version of it for a couple of weeks and it’s been fairly stable. Here is the list of items that have been fixed:

Issues that are fixed: We have fixed several bugs in this hotfix. All bug fixes are listed below.

HTML Source view performance

  • Source editor freezes for a few seconds when typing in a page with a custom control that has more than two levels of sub-properties.
  • “View Code” right-click context menu command takes a long time to appear with web application projects.
  • Visual Studio has very slow behavior when opening large HTML documents.
  • Visual Studio has responsiveness issues when working with big HTML files with certain markup.
  • The Tab/Shift-Tab (Indent/Un-indent) operation is slow with large HTML selections.

Design view performance

  • Slow typing in design view with certain page markup configurations.

HTML editing

  • Quotes are not inserted after Class or CssClass attribute even when the option is enabled.
  • Visual Studio crashes when ServiceReference element points back to the current web page.

JavaScript editing

  • When opening a JavaScript file, colorization of the client script is sometimes delayed several seconds.
  • JavaScript Intellisense does not work if an empty string property is encountered before the current line of editing.

Web Site build performance

  • Build is very slow when Bin folder contains large number of assemblies and .refresh files with web-site projects.


Visual Studio 2008 Slow In Design Mode

[Update: Download the hotfix for Visual Studio 2008 SP1 that fixes this issue here.]

Using the ASPxGridView in the Visual Studio 2008 ASPX markup is slower than it should be due to an issue in the Visual Studio 2008 Intellisense. We’ve reported it to Microsoft and they’ve sent us a preliminary fix for testing. Unfortunately, it’s not released and I don’t have an expected release date yet.

At the heart of the issue is the number of properties that are supported by any control in VS2008. If a control, like the ASPxGridView, is rich in properties then the Visual Studio 2008 Intellisence code slows downs and spikes the CPU. Unfortunately, there isn’t a workaround yet but we hope Microsoft will release the aforementioned update soon.

The good news is that we’ve tested the possible fix and it works very well. We’re still doing some internal testing to verify this fix but we’re confident that it solves the issue.

Thanks and I’ll post the link to the official release as soon as its made available.

Top 7 ASPxGridView Help Links

Looking for help with the ASPxGridView? Here are the top 7 links to a wealth of grid-tastic assistance:

  1. The ASPxGridView Knowledgebase has issues, articles, suggestions and more. Chances are good that your question is covered here. If not, post your query to the support center and a response will be posted within 48 hours (often sooner).
  2. The ASPxGridView Documentation is available online and it contains a ton of information about the ASPxGridView.
  3. The ASPxGridView Online Demos allow you to explore some of the great functionality of the ASPxGridView while also seeing the code.
  4. The ASPxGridView Screencasts walk you through some of the most common tasks of the ASPxGridView.
  5. The ASPxGridView Tutorials site was launched shortly after the ASPxGridView was released. It was launched so that you can see common and uncommon scenarios when using the grid. 100% of the code was requested by you. If there’s a common question then a tutorial is created and added. Check them all out including the code to really learn more about how the ASPxGridView works.
  6. Searching through the ASPxGridView Forums can also be helpful. In the forums, you can engage other users who are using the ASPxGridView and share your experiences with them.
  7. The ASPx Blog!  Of course this blog is also a good resource to keep your eyes on.

What other resources are you interested in seeing?

How to easily convert your project to a new DevExpress release

When new DevExpress components are released or updated you’ll need to convert your Visual Studio project to use the new release. The simplest and easiest way to convert it is to use the DevExpress Project Converter tool.

The Project Converter exe is in "Program Files/Developer Express/", you can find a shortcut to it in the Start Menu under Developer Express.


You’ll find that this little tool is very easy to use. You just set the Project Path and click Upgrade. If you want to convert several projects at once then choose a base directory like your projects or websites folder.

In my case, for Windows Vista, I select: "C:\Users\Mehul\Documents\Visual Studio 2005\WebSites\" since there are usually several different types of projects being worked on.

The Project Converter has a checkbox option that will create backup files for you, so you don’t need to worry about it. In the lower part, you can also see every file that has been modified, skipped and backed up by the tool.


How to Add DevExpress Project Converter to Visual Studio

For faster access, you can easily integrate this tool into Visual Studio. So you can launch it from the Visual Studio 2005 menu or the toolbar. Let me show you how:

  1. Click on the Tools -> External Tools menu option inside Visual Studio.
  2. Click Add and then define the following properties:
    • Title: Name as you would like to see it in the menu, e.g., DevExpress Project Converter
    • Command: Location where the Project Converter is installed. Typically this will be in a directory such as: "C:\Program Files\Developer Express .NET v7.2\Tools\DXperience\ProjectConverter.exe". Please note, that with every major release from us, you’ll want to update the command path to the latest location. 
    • Arguments: These are arguments that will be passed to the Project Converter tool. Visual Studio should generate the "$(SolutionDir)\" for you but if not, enter it. This argument is the location of the project currently open in Visual Studio.
  3. Finally, click OK. You should now see a new menu item under your Tools menu.



Visual Studio 2005 SP 1

Looks like the Visual Studio 2005 SP 1 has been released.

Microsoft Download

As Somasegar’s says in blog post:

"We released Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1 earlier today.  

This Service Pack addresses a range of issues that were found through customer and partner feedback as well as our own internal testing.  Many of these issues were reported by you and I thank you for taking the time to report them to us.  The release also adds a number of customer requested functionality and enhancements to some of the most common development scenarios to Visual Studio that I think you’ll find interesting and valuable.

For developers using Windows Vista we also released a beta of the Visual Studio 2005 SP1 Update for Windows Vista.

You can find out more about both of these releases here."