What I’m Up To This Week

It’s going to be a busy week for Yours Truly…

Monday: Windows Phone Deployment Clinic

monday - windows phone deployment clinic

On Monday, I’ll be helping out at the Windows Phone Deployment Clinic at Microsoft Canada HQ in Mississauga (1950 Meadowvale Boulevard, off Mississauga Road, north of Highway 401), where you can book some time to test your apps on a real Windows Phone 7 device. If you’ve got an app and you’re going to be in the area, drop me a line and book an appointment!

(By the bye, that thing I’m standing beside in the photo above is a promo device known colloquially as the “Big-Ass Phone”.)

Tuesday: AndroidTO and TechDays Setup

tuesday - androidto techdays

On Tuesday, I’ll be spending some time at the AndroidTO conference, a gathering of Android developers, where I’ll be minding the Windows Phone 7 booth. Yes, that’s right, Microsoft is a gold sponsor at an Android conference. Why? Because:

  • We feel that if you’re an Android developer, go ahead an build Android apps, but expand your market reach by developing for Windows Phone 7 too! The programming languages and layout markup are similar.
  • If you’re an Android developer, what’s the best OS for doing development? We think it’s Windows 7, which is a great environment for Java. Loads of great Java dev tools run on Windows, and we don’t consider Java to be deprecated.

AndroidTO takes place at the Polish Combatants Hall (206 Beverley Street, just south of College), is free-as-in-beer, and is alas, completely booked solid.

I’ll also be doing some setup for TechDays Toronto, which takes place on Wednesday and Thursday.

Wednesday: TechDays Toronto and Go DEVMental

wednesday - techdays godevmental

Wednesday brings with it TechDays, Microsoft Canada’s cross-country tech conference: two days of great sessions for developers and IT pros who are building stuff with the Microsoft stack. I’m the guy who picked the content for both developer tracks, “Developing for Three Screens and the Cloud” and “Optimizing the Development Process”. I strove for the best mix of both technology-specific stuff like Mark Arteaga’s Windows Phone 7 sessions and Kate Gregory’s Windows API Code Pack presentation as well as practice-of-programming sessions such as “Top 10 Mistakes in Unit Testing” and “Branching and Merging Strategies”. TechDays will occupy me from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m..

From 7 p.m. on, it’ll be Go DEVMental, the student event where we’ll show university and college students what’s possible with Microsoft’s web and mobile platforms. I’ll be doing a presentation on getting starting with game development for Windows Phone with an amusing little live-coded game called “BieberSmash”, starring the bubblegum pop idol of the moment. Go DEVMental is free and open to post-secondary students – just bring your student ID! You’ll get all sorts of goodies, including a DreamSpark token and Visual Studio 2010 Pro.

Both TechDays and GoDEVMental take place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre’s South Building (222 Bremner Boulevard, right beside the CN Tower).

Thursday: TechDays, Day 2

thursday - techdays day 2

Thursday means another full day of the TechDays conference, to be followed by some very strong whiskey-based drinks.

Friday: Coffee and Code

friday - coffee and code

I’ll be running a Windows Phone 7 Coffee and Code this Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Timothy’s at 225 Front Street West (in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre building). I’ll be hanging out at the cafe, working on Windows Phone 7 code on both the emulator and real Windows Phone devices. Want to learn more about Windows Phone 7, see a real-live phone, play some games or test your code? Come on down!

Saturday: ACSE Conference

saturday - acse conference

University of Toronto computer science prof Steve Engels invited me to speak in front of a group of high school teachers at the ACSE (Association for Computer Studies Educators) Conference taking place on Saturday. I’m going to be showing them programming for high school students on Windows Phone as well as with the Kodu game development environment.

…and Sunday?

sunday - zzzzz

Well, it won’t be all sleep. I’ll have to pack for my Monday flight to TechDays Halifax!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

Geek It Happened to Me Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City) Work

Scenes from TechDays Winnipeg

It’s hard to believe, but the seven-city cross-Canada tour known as TechDays 2009 is over. We had the last one – TechDays Winnipeg – on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. Here are some photos I shot during the event.

The Day Before TechDays Winnipeg

Of all the TechDays venues, I would have to hand the “swankiest speaker prep room” award to the Winnipeg Convention Centre, with its wood panelling, private washrooms, loads of closet space, plentiful tables, very comfortable leatherette couches and all-round 1980s styling. I can imagine a young Flock of Seagulls or Duran Duran hanging out here after a show, entertaining groupies:

00 speaker room

During the holidays, many people like to decorate their storefront and home windows with fake spray-on frost. In Winnipeg, where the temperatures were hovering around –35 degrees C (-31 degrees F), you don’t need that stuff – they’ve got the real thing! Here are the side doors on the ground floor of the Winnipeg Convention Centre:

01 frost

Here’s a closer look:

02 frost

And just for kicks, an even closer one.

03 frost

I must tip my hat to the people of Winnipeg for toughing out those kinds of temperatures, year after year.

The Convention Centre had a secret stash of Christmas trees, ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice:

04 decorations

One of the perks of being a TechDays Track Lead is that nobody asks questions when you rearrange the signs for an art shot:

05 art shot

Day 1

John Bristowe, track lead for the green-shirted Developer Fundamentals and Best Practices track, just had another baby, so he was tied up with Dad duties (congrats, John and Fiona!). I donned a green shirt took over as acting track lead for his track and recruited D’Arcy Lussier to host my track, the orange-shirted Developing for the Microsoft-Based Platform track.

The first speaker for Developer Fundamentals and Best Practices was Jeremy Wiebe, who presented the very popular Tips and Tricks for Visual Studio session:

06 jeremy wiebe

How popular was it? Popular enough that people were overflowing out of the rows:

07 green track audience 1

…and we even had to drag in some extra chairs to create a new row at the back:

08 green track audience 2

This was an attentive crowd. There were a lot of “I didn’t know you could do that in Visual Studio!”-type reactions.

09 green track audience 3

The second session of the day was given by Dylan Smith: Test-Driven Development Techniques:

10 dylan smith

Once again, a good crowd.

11 green track audience

During lunch, my coworker, IT pro evangelist Rick Claus and I did a presentation on some of the new features in Office 2010, with me showing off some of the new graphics goodness in PowerPoint 2010:

12 lunch day 1

The sessions resumed in the afternoon with Uwe Schmitz talking about Patterns for the Rest of Us. I was a bit surprised at how few hands went up when I asked how many people had read or even attempted to read Design Patterns by the “Gang of Four”.

13 uwe schmitz

Most of Uwe’s audience was in the same room as he was:

14 inside audience

But one guy, whose back was made sore by the conference room chairs, took a clever approach. We broadcast all sessions’ projections and audio on a monitor outside every room, so he took one of the comfy chairs in the hallway outside and set himself up for some living room-style viewing:

15 outside audience

I told him that with his sunglasses and the way he was seated, he reminded me of the old ads for Maxell tapes from the 1980s:

old maxell ad

After Uwe was Dave Harris, who presented A Strategic Comparison of Data Access Technologies from Microsoft:

16 dave harris

Day 2

The outside temperature improved for the second day: it became a relatively balmy –20 degrees C (-4 degrees F). What a difference 15 degrees makes!

The first session was Practical Web Testing and was delivered by the team of Tyler Doerksen and Robert Regnier:

17 tyler doerksen robert regnier

I stepped out to drop in on the track which I had put together, my orange-shirted Developing for the Microsoft-Based Platform track. While the Developer Fundamentals and Best Practices track typically had big draws on Day 1, Day 2 is when the Platform track brought in the crowds:

18 orange track audience

The session was the popular Introducing ASP.NET MVC, and in Winnipeg, it was delivered by Kelly Cassidy:

19 kelly cassidy

An unfortunate set of circumstances speaker shortages and cancellations means that Rick had to deliver all the presentations for day 2 of his track, Servers, Security and Management. That’s 300 minutes in total behind the lectern. It’s quite fortunate that he knows his stuff and that his theatre training makes him an excellent presenter:

20 rick claus

Meanwhile, back at the green track, Aaron Kowall presented Better Software Change and Configuration Management Using TFS:

21 aaron kowall

During his session, he presented a very important truth: Build automation is not just merely pressing “F5”:

22 aaron kowall

At lunch, Rick hosted a demo showdown between me (representing developers) and my coworker, IT Pro Evangelist Rodney Buike, trying to determine who could do the better Windows 7 demos. I won, thanks in part to my demo of the most obscure Windows features: the Private Character Editor.

23 lunch day 2

Joel Semeniuk needs no introduction. I simply told the audience that “Joel has forgotten more about Team System than I will ever learn. Besides, what I know about Team System can be summarized in the two words ‘jack’ and ‘poop’.” Here’s Joel in action, presenting Metrics That Matter: Using Team System for Process Improvement:

24 joel semeniuk

I love this shot of Joel – he looks like a general addressing his own private banana republic:

25 joel semeniuk

A closer look:

26 joel semeniuk

The most popular afternoon snack was served between the third and fourth sessions of Day 2: Canada’s favourite snack – donuts!

27 donuts

My SD card corrupted the photos of the last speaker of the day, Steve Porter, who did a fine job presenting his session, Database Change Management with Team System. My apologies, Steve!

And finally, to make up for the fact that I did not properly capture D’Arcy Lussier’s hair — an asset in which he takes great pride — in yesterday’s video interview, I now present a close-up shot of his coiff:

28 darcy lussier suave

My thanks to everyone at TechDays Winnipeg – attendees, speakers, staff and organizers – for making it an great way to close out the tour!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

Geek It Happened to Me Work

Next Stop: Winnipeg!

winnipeg skyline

At long last, we come to the last city in TechDays’ seven-city conference tour: Winnipeg! The combination of venue availability and perhaps a little masochism puts me and my coworkers in a city notorious for brutal winters in mid-December. Take a look at the weather forecast for the days I will be there:

winnipeg forecast

(If you’re American, the high for Monday translates to –9 degrees F; the low is –26 degrees F. There’s a reason the city has the nickname “Winterpeg”.)

Fortunately, we were given our official TechDays-branded winter jackets at the Ottawa conference last week, and when they’re worn with the fleece lining, they’re incredibly warm. In fact, I found myself boiling in my jacket in Ottawa’s just-below-freezing temperatures when I wore it with the lining, which means that it should keep me toasty in Winnipeg’s deep freeze. Still, I’m glad that the walking route from the hotel to the conference venue can be done mostly indoors, with the notable exception of one street crossing.

In spite of the temperatures, I’m looking forward to the trip to Winnipeg later today. See you there!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Demo Night in Canada

01 demo night in canada

The TechDays conferences that we’ve been holding across Canada span two days and have no evening events. This means that the venues are “lying fallow”, with plenty of A/V, presentation and demo equipment doing nothing on the evening of the first day. That seemed like a waste.

“Why not,” we thought, “open up our venues to community events on the evenings of Day 1?”

We were able to do this in four out of the seven TechDays cities this year:

We put together each event with local people in order to make sure that each one had its own “local flavour” and fit the needs of the local audience. For Ottawa, we decided to approach two very different groups: the Ottawa IT Community, which comprises a number of .NET user groups, and Startup Ottawa, who are the Ottawa analogue of DemoCamp Toronto.

The event had two hosts: Glenn Schmelzle, from Startup Ottawa:

02 glenn schmelzle

and Colin Melia, representing Ottawa IT Community:

03 colin melia

The first presentation of the evening was This is My Language by Charles Wiebe and John Hansen, who showed us their programming language, Jetfire, which is built on top of the .NET Dynamic Language Runtime:

04 jetfire

Next up were Scott Lake:

05 scott lake

…and Craig Fitzpatrick:

06 swix

…who presented Swix, their social media marketing metrics system. It looks both useful and beautiful (its UI shows the sort of rich interfaces you can build with jQuery), and Christian Beauclair and I both agreed that we could make us of it in our developer evangelism work.

09 swix

After the Swix presentation came Islam Gomaa, who took us into the land of enterprise IT by talking about implementing ISO 27001 security:

10 islam

The event went smoothly thanks to Christian, who once again provided invaluable assistance by helping the presenters get their machines hooked up to our A/V setup quickly:

11 techdrifters

Scott Annan talked about Techdrifters, a system for road warriors, cafe coders and people who work in coworking spaces to find an interact with each other. I must admit that it’s a topic close to my heart:

13 techdrifters

Jean-Rene Roy did the final presentation, a look at Microsoft’s Sync Framework – nope, not the car audio system, but the file synchronization system that bears the same name:

14 jean-rene

With the presentations wrapped up, we made our way to the Clock Tower brew pub on Clarence Street, where we enjoyed good conversation and a few drinks, including a round bought on my corporate card.

I’d like to thank Colin Melia, Scott Lake and Glenn Schmelzle for providing all the local help in getting Demo Night in Canada together, the presenters and the attendees who made it out to the event, in spite of all the snow. Let’s do this again soon!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Scenes from TechDays Ottawa

Annoyances Beyond Our Control

No matter how much planning you put into a conference, there will always be things that you just have to roll with. For starters, when you’ve got an event in December in Canada, there’s always a chance that the first major snowstorm of the year will happen on the very same day.

Here’s what the parking lot of the Hampton Inn Conference Centre looked like at 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday, Day 1 of TechDays Ottawa:

01 snowy parking lot

Here’s a look at Coventry Road, on which the Conference Centre is located. Even at 7:00 a.m., it’s already pretty busy, thanks to the combination of snow and “In too early, out too early” working style of government towns. The building in the background is the RCMP headquarters:

02 snow traffic

In addition to the snowstorm, there was another little problem that fell outside of our contingency planning. I’ll let the video below explain:

Someone in the crew of workers in the garage accidentally knocked out a sprinkler valve, setting off the fire alarms. The staff did the right thing by leading an orderly evacuation of the centre…and into the snowstorm. Luckily, we found out that there was no fire very quickly and the evacuees didn’t have to stand outside for longer than a couple of minutes.

With the annoyances out of the way, it was time for Day 1 to start in earnest.

Day 1

The first speaker in the track for which I am lead, Developing for the Microsoft-Based Platform, was Colin Melia, who did the What’s New in Silverlight 3 session:

03 colin melia

He spoke to a packed room and an attentive crowd:

05 audience

With the first sessions safely under way, Damir and I made a quick run to get some cables, a replacement keyboard and some much-needed Starbucks. I decided to shoot some video during our run:

Next up was Peter Henry, whose session was Expression Blend for Developers:

06 peter henry

The lunch session featured Rick Claus (in the hat, on the right) acting as referee between Pierre Roman (representing IT pros in the Montreal Canadiens jersey) and Christian Beauclair (representing developers in the Ottawa Senators jersey) having a showdown to see who can do the better Windows 7 demos. Christian, as the representative of developers, won handily:

08 pierre christian rick

According to the feedback forms, the lunchtime demo showdown was a popular event:

09 lunchroom

The afternoon sessions featured Daniel Crenna (shown in the photo below) on Building Composite Applications with WPF and Silverlight, followed by Colin Melia talking about Optimizing Your Applications for the Windows 7 User Experience:

10 daniel crenna

The day closed with a set of bonus sessions. Rodney Buike and I did one on IIS/PHP interoperability. Rodney’s been promising revenge on me since I farted during our session in Calgary, nearly messing up his concentration and forcing him to stifle his laughter.

I’m still getting static about that incident. I swear, you “cut the cheese” once on stage, and you’re branded for life…

Day 2

I’m pleased to see that ASP.NET MVC has turned out to be a very popular topic at this conference. The demand for the MVC sessions is such that we’ve been switching to a larger room for them:

12 audience

The first session, Introducing ASP.NET MVC, was given by Maxime Rouiller, who once again wowed everyone with his snazzy Alienware laptop (which I featured in an earlier blog entry):

11 maxime rouiller

Daniel Crenna’s session covered the SOLID principles as applied to ASP.NET MVC:

13 daniel crenna

“Dependency injection”: you’d better get used to that phrase:

14 daniel crenna

Here are Christian and Rick, preparing to do some announcements over lunch:

15 christian rick

I really enjoyed Mario Cardinal’s rendition of the Building RESTful Applications with WCF:

16 mario cardinal

My original plan was to just catch the first ten minutes of his presentation, but I got drawn into it. Just another ten minutes, I thought to myself, and in that ten minutes, he and I did a little back-and-forth about open source and Microsoft approaches to protocols, after which I thought Okay, maybe another ten minutes. Christian, with whom I was supposed to catch up and take care of some stuff, ended up phoning me to remind me that I couldn’t stay for all of Mario’s session.

17 mario cardinal

The final session was Francis Beaudet’s, which was on Developing and Consuming Services for SharePoint. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any good shots from that session.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

Geek It Happened to Me Work

Setting Up TechDays Ottawa

Ottawa was the sixth of the seven cities in the TechDays cross-Canada tour. We’ve settled into a pretty good groove and the setup process for the conference has become second nature; I’m sure that we can all do it in our sleep now.

The Hampton Inn Conference Centre is a pretty nice venue, with lots of balconies for overhead shots like this one:

01 overhead

Here’s one of the larger rooms, which met with Christian Beauclair’s approval:

02 118A

This is one of the smaller lecture halls, featuring a more classroom-like setting, as seen from the lectern. You can see:

  • The presentation machine, a laptop with a large screen on which the PowerPoint presentations are run. The large screen makes it easy to read any speaker notes.
  • The “confidence monitor”, which shows the speaker what’s being displayed on the big screen. That way, you know what the audience sees without having to break eye contact with them.
  • The countdown timer, which displays the time remaining for the presentation, along with three lights: “Go on”, “Wrap up” and “Enough already”.

03 110

Here’s the dining hall, where breakfast and lunch are served. In the far corner, you can see the Windows 7 lounge:

04 dining hall

Here are IT Pro Evangelists Rick Claus and Rodney Buike, along with speaker Steve Syfuhs, getting ready to set up the internet access stations:

05 rick steve rodney

…and here are the fruits of their labour. It’s our dream to be able to provide wifi access to attendees, but with conference venues typically asking for hundreds of dollars per wifi user per day, it’s prohibitively expensive. We’d rather keep the cost of admission to TechDays low – a mere $299 for early-bird registrants – which is why we decided to provide internet access at the conference this way:

06 internet stations

Here are Christian and Rick setting up the Windows 7 Lounge. In case it was unclear, they’ve taken steps to let you know that they indeed are geeks:

07 geeks

Every TechDays attendee gets a “lunchbox” full of swag, literature and promo material. Here’s the stack of lunchboxes behind the registration desk:

08 lunchboxes

One of the ways we show our appreciation for the TechDays speakers is by taking them out to a nice dinner. In Ottawa, the speaker dinner was at In Fusion Bistro in Glebe, where the food and service were fantastic. I had the squash and maple soup to start, the rack of lamb for dinner and the chocolate-and-berry empanada for dessert – it was one of my favourite meals of the tour. Thanks to Rick for choosing this restaurant!

09 speaker dinner

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

Geek It Happened to Me Work

This Week: Ottawa!


Last week, I was in Montreal, this week I’m in Ottawa. Once again, I’ll be road-tripping with my coworker, Damir Bersinic, IT Pro Evangelist and supreme field commander for the TechDays Canada cross-country conference. Watch this space for reports from both Ottawa and the road!

If you’re on the Toronto-Ottawa route and would like to join us for a coffee, let us know, either via email or in the comments!