Tech Ed 2007 Day 2

Tuesday started with a good conversation with a member of the SQL Server Replication Services team over breakfast.  I love sitting down at a table with someone in a blue Microsoft shirt and asking what they work on. 

I was too late to bother with the first session of the day, so I headed over to the Hands on Labs.  I started a session on the new Acropolis application framework.  This was a totally new technology to me, so I spent most my time reading the manual.  I saved my partial session for later resumption.

There were lots of great sessions to choose from, but I settled on Joel Semeniuk’s “Best Practices for Team-Based Software Development.”  Joel is an excellent speaker with lots of great insight to share on this topic.  The room was packed, and I sat on the floor, but it was worth it.  I’ll be sharing the slides from this session as soon as I return to the office.

I grabbed my lunch in a take-out box, and headed to a Birds of a Feather sessions called “Exiting the Zone of Pain: Static Analysis with NDepend.”  This was an interesting discussion on a topic I was familiar with, code profiling metrics, and a tool I was not familiar with. 

It was during this lunch session that I bumped into Cam Soper for, at least, the fourth time.  It’s obvious that Cam has excellent taste in parties and sessions. 🙂  This time, we finally exchanged business cards.

I tried to attend Joel’s interactive discussion after lunch, but it was packed again.  My Acropolis session from the morning took too long to resume, so I took the opportunity to work on a Hands On Lab on WPF.  I completed a couple of exercises, and enjoyed getting more familiar with the new GUI coding model.  I’ll do more later.

For my last session, I attended “Developing Data Driven Applications Using the New Dynamic Data Controls in ASP.NET”, but I left just as it got started to deal with a weird technical difficulty.  I’ll find out more about these new controls later.  They look very interesting.

Shortly after lunch, I ran into Ken Levy, who has changed teams once again.  He is now doing community development for Visual Studio extensibility.  I promised to stop by later in the week to show him some extensibility I’ve been doing to bring VS features into VFP, and get his feedback.

In thinking about doing this demo, I realized that I didn’t have the Team Foundation Server client installed on my laptop.  While I was sitting in afternoon sessions, I downloaded the client from Codeplex, and grabbed an ISO extractor from a Google search.  I extracted the image and tried to install, but I kept running into missing files.  I downloaded the 180 trial of TFS and performed the same routine with similar results. 

After fighting the issue for half an hour, I realized that the people who wrote the installer were standing 50 feet away.  I went over and asked for help, and received lots of it.  In the end, it was Chris Menegay who determined that the ISO extractor I used, WinISO, was chocking on path lengths over a certain point, and couldn’t even read the files to extract them. 

I felt humbled, but grateful to get back on track.  When I got back to my room, later that night, I downloaded WinRar, extracted and installed without problems.  Moral:  don’t download unknown software you find on Google. 

Once Chris identified my problem, he and I headed off to meet up with the rest of the Central Region group for our party.  Drew Robbins put together a cool event at the Skyventure Orlando indoor skydiving attraction.  I had never done anything like this before, and it was a blast.  I couldn’t stop grinning.

 

What will tomorrow bring?

++Alan

Tech Ed 2007 Day 1

Day 1 started well.  I realized I could drive to a nearby hotel to park, and then ride the bus to the Convention Center.  Once onsite, I ran into a fellow Knoxvillian and ETNUG member at breakfast.  I did my best to recruit him for the “Best of Tech Ed” session at our June meeting.

After checking email and blogging a bit, I attended a session called “A Lap Around Visual Studio Orcas.”  Unfortunately, the presenter’s VPC was locked when he tried to do his first demo.   I’ve seen the presenter before, and he is awesome, but I’m tired of watching people fight VPC on stage, so I left. 

I went down to the cabanas, or whatever they’re calling them this year, to talk to some Microsoft people.  I stopped at the dynamic languages kiosk to find out about the future of tool support in VS for dynamic languages.  I explained to the two members of the team present, about the development style in VFP.  During the conversation, Mahesh Prakriya, the PM for dynamic languages, joined us. 

I asked Mahesh if he knew any members of the VFP team, and he happily reported that he was friends with Alan Griver from his time on the SQL Server team.  We went on to discuss the role that iterative execution plays in development with dynamic languages.  Mahesh used the example of Query Analyzer as a tool that supports dynamic execution.  While he couldn’t make any promises, he said his confidence was high that Visual Studio would support a dynamic execution model in the VBx time frame.

I went on to chat with Chris Menegay about the challenges of convincing managers to adopt best practices when using Team Foundation Server.  While we were talking, I was introduce to Juan Perez.  Juan is a very friendly guy, and I thanked him for producing TeamLook, which allows users to access TFS from within Outlook.

Once the vendor area was open, I stopped by to see Eric Sink.  I just wanted to say “Hi”, but I ended up discussing the DiffMerge tool that SourceGear produces.  I am very dissatisfied with the diff tool that ships with Team Explorer, so I asked how much SourceGear’s tool costs.  It turns out that this tool is fee, and they’ve just released a new version.  Eric asked me to try it out and email him with my impressions.  Turns out, he blogged about it in detail yesterday.

I lingered too long at lunch, so I missed Don’s session on extending VS.  Instead I wandered over to the Hands On Labs, to see what I’ve been missing the past two years.  I found the labs easy to use, but there were some technical difficulties.  I chose a lab on using LINQ.  I completed the first exercise successfully, but the second exercise required connecting to the Northwind database, and I couldn’t find it.  The instructor verified that it was not installed, and sought assistance.  Apparently, that is a flaw in their VPC image, and I won’t be able to perform that exercise.  While this was disappointing, I enjoyed the first exercise, so I’ll probably try some other labs this week.

Next I attended a session titled “A Lap Around Windows Presentation Foundation.”  I’ve seen a few WPF overviews, but it is still a foreign technology to me.  I was fairly bored until the presenter demonstrated this.  I work on logistics applications, and this animation was the first example I’ve seen where WPF could add dramatically to our applications.  I left the session early to IM my coworkers about this cool discovery.  I’ll try some of the WPF Hands On Labs before I leave, so I can understand better how to produce such exciting data visualizations.

My final session of Day 1 was on the Entity Data Model.  I’ve read some about this, but I never understood where it fit with LINQ.  My understanding today, is that EDM is an ORM technology that will ship as part of ADO.NET.  This means that I can use stock ADO, and still manage my data without using datasets.  This is good news indeed!  Once the objects are in memory, LINQ can be used to query against the model.  This is good stuff, and I’ll be exploring it further during the week.

During the EDM session I heard a quote that was new to me, but the message was familiar.  “Normalize ’til it hurts. Denormalize ’til it works.”  Perhaps this could be restated that in practice, theory is only theoretical. 🙂

The evening ended with a reception in the vendor area with free food and “beverages.”  Here’s Geff getting his fair share.

 

I filled my bag with swag, ate and drank my fill, then headed home to collapse and rest up for Day 2.

Cheers,

++Alan

Tech Ed 2007 – Day 0

Day 0 began at 4:30 am!  You have to get up early to defeat terrorism, you know. 😉  For the first time, I have traveling companions to Tech Ed.  This made the whole experience of dealing with airports much more pleasant.

After a short flight, I made it to my “hotel.”  In truth, I have a small apartment for the week, overlooking a golf course, no less!

After unpacking we went looking for a prime lunch spot.  We hit the jackpot with Nile Ethiopian Cuisine.  None of us had eaten Ethiopian before, so it was an adventure.  If you are in Orlando this week (or any time), you should check out this gem. 

I met with Shawn in the afternoon to get our ideas together for the BOF on Friday.  After this discussion, I’m very excited.

In the evening we made our way to the Party With Palermo.  Jeffrey put on a great shindig.  I got to catch up with DonXML and Paul Ballard.  I also enjoyed meeting Josh Holmes and Chris Coneybeer.

After packing our copious swag in the car, Geff, Randy and I retired to my “crib” for pizza and cigars.  Whew, the conference hasn’t even started and I’m exhausted. 🙂

More to come,

++Alan

PS Check out Randy’s blog for more pictures and info.  Here’s a pic of Randy on the plane, since he saw fit to grab one of Geff and I.

I’m Off To Tech Ed

I’m on an early flight to Orlando tomorrow.  This will be the first time I’ve stayed at “unofficial” lodging for Tech Ed.  This means I won’t be able to take advantage of the free bus transport, which, in turn, means I will have to watch how many beers I consume at the evening events. 🙁

On a brighter note, I will be co-moderating a Birds of a Feather session with Shawn Weisfeld from the Orlando .NET Users Group on Friday morning.  I love the BOF format because it allows many points of view to be shared.  Join us if you can.  Here are the details:

BOF26 – Binding GridView, DropDownList, etc. with CRUD

Friday, June 8 10:45 AM – 12:00 PM, S331 A 

Join in a discussion of binding with ASP.NET controls such as GridView, DropDownList and DetailView and others. Share in the discussion of techniques using automatic code generation, using the List<> generic to bind data in a form to data in a database, and using other techniques that have worked well and not so well. We Birds of a Feather can help each other by promoting discussions of how to bind into templates for highly customized views of the data with nearly zero code, providing for GUIs.

See you in sunny Florida,

++Alan

Follow My Web Browsing

I’ve been using Google Reader as my feed reader for six months.  Scoble uses his reader to create a link blog.  I’ve been using this feature for a while, and find it very useful.

If I see something interesting in my feeds, but I don’t want to read it immediately, I can add it to my shared items, and read it at my leisure.  This is less formal than a bookmark.  Later, if I think the article is interesting enough, I can bookmark it.

Because these shared items are public, you can follow along with me.  There is also a feed, so you can track my feed reading in your feed reader.  Think of it as a recursive feed.  I’ve added the links to the navigation section at the right.

Enjoy,

++Alan

Blog Redecorating

If you read this humble blog in the browser, rather than a feed reader, you will notice some updates.  I have replaced the three-years-out-of-date photo with one from May 2007, and provided a link to the source image.  If you’ve ever wondered why this humble author is smiling, you can now click the pic to see the answer.

I’ve added some flair.  I’ll try to include any events I am attending whether I am speaking or not.  Please explore the links in the flair section, they are all valuable, to me anyway.

I have updated my blogroll, and it was a lot of work.  It now consists of all the  developer blogs I follow, ordered by the author’s name.  Some are .NET, some VFP, and some are none of the above.  This list represents the single most valuable resource in my developer toolkit.  I am constantly caught up in an ongoing conversation with the great minds represented there.  The conversation has been largely one sided for quite a while, but I’m beginning to interact again. 

2005 and 2006 were filled with upheaval as I changed jobs, and watched my marriage and my children’s home fall apart.  This year began with my marriage to the most amazing partner I could ever imagine.  We set up a new household with four (sometimes five) children, and began the task of finding a new groove.  I’m happy to report that we have achieved that groove, and I am now able to direct more energy outside my home life.

This is why I’m updating the blog, I’ve got a lot to share, and I have the energy to do so, once again.  I’ll be at Tech Ed in Orlando, next week, so look for lots of updates on the goings on there.

Cheers,

++Alan

Windows Live Writer Beta 2

Michael alerted me to the new version of Windows Live Writer this evening.  I just downloaded and installed Windows Live Writer Beta 2, and I’m happy to report that the installation file was not named setup.exe

The installation routine was unusual, however.  The setup wizard dialogs appeared in the bottom, right of my desktop.  I initially thought they were large windows running off the screen, but the were actually dialog sized windows, like you would expect to find centered on the screen.

I moved the first two windows in an attempt to see the whole thing, only to discover that I could already see the whole thing.  I’m pretty fed up with Microsoft usability guidance lately.  They appear to make up a new look and feel for every product setup and UI.  This attempt at innovation was probably intended to be less intrusive, but it was disconcerting in my experience.

In addition, why must MS attempt to reset my home page and search engine in Internet Explorer?  I like my home page and search engine, and they have nothing to do with the tool I’m trying to install.  At the very least, these options should be unchecked by default.

Anyway, if you’re reading this, it works for me.

++Alan

Your Code is Suboptimal (Even at Graceland)

I’m dusting off the blog, and making a fresh start.  I have plenty to say about technology, but first I need to thank Eric Sink for the excellent t-shirts.

 

If you want one of these cool t-shirts, you can pick one up at Tech Ed, or just ask.

Cheers,

++Alan

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