Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Spending some time with the stars at PDC10 and TEE10

At the Professional Developers Conference 2010 and at TechEd Europe 2010 Jeroen, Kurt and I have been interviewing some technology rock-stars.

Update (28 jan): at PDC we were planning to interview Scott Hanselman too, but time didn't allow. But no worries! One of our new MSPs, Dirk, interviewed Scott this week while he was in Belgium for Web Camp 2011. I have added the video to this list.

This is the complete list, in alphabetical order.

Anders Hejlsberg is a technical fellow (what’s in a name) at Microsoft working on new C# features (such as async). During the interview we finally found out why C# is COOL, how they design a programming language and what’s the next big thing in programming languages.

Bart De Smet is a fellow Belgian working at Microsoft on the Cloud Programmability Team where he’s all into shaping the future of data access in the cloud. We first talked with him about how he ended up working at Microsoft. Next we got an overview of Reactive Extensions and how it relates to the new Async CTP.

Part 1

Part 2

As Senior Technical Evangelist for Visual Studio Application Lifecycle Management, Brian Keller is all passionate about testing. We sat down with him and tested his knowledge of test-driven development, code contracts and how development is done within Microsoft.

For the past two years we’ve known Caroline Phillips as the Western Europe academic lead. Since she had recently switched roles, it was the perfect timing to get to know more about her new job, how she ended up working at Microsoft and her vision towards students.

Don Syme (working on F# at Microsoft Research) and Talbott Crowell (a cofounder of one of the F# usergroups) tell us what F# exactly is and some real life applications. Furthermore we asked him about the future and heading of F#.

With Gill Cleeren we find out what is means to be a ‘Regional Director’. His vision on the HTML5 vs Silverlight debate and we end with a rather tricky question!

Giorgio Sardo is a Senior Developer Evangelist working Microsoft Corporation with a strong focus on Internet Explorer 9 and HTML5. In this interview we’ll find out what exactly HTML5 is, how Internet Explorer 9 is positioned competitors and their work on HTML5 support.

Jacqueline Russell is the new Western Europe academic lead since one month. We learn more about her professional history and whether she manages to keep up with the technical aspects in her new role. What are her plans for students? Is it easy to work with an international team?

We’ve already seen Jonathan Carter on stage at the PDC keynote and after his session at TechEd Europe, we thought it was time for an interview. We learn more about his OData and how it relates to other buzzwords like SOAP, REST. Lastly we’ll find out how Microsoft is using OData in their own products.

We have talked to Katrien De Graeve about her job as an evangelist and TechEd track owner, about what students should learn and about what it is like to be a woman at Microsoft.

With Mark Russinovich, also a technical fellow at Microsoft, we explored the possibility of cloudinternals or phoneinternals, the difference between his previous job and his new job. We also ask him about the new Windows Internals book.

Michelle Fleming is the worldwide Microsoft Student Partner program lead. We actually learn what being an MSP is all about and learn more about the new MSP platform.

So now we all know that Rob Miles is ‘me’. As a lecturer at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom he made the switch from teaching Java to C#, resulting in ‘the yellow book’. We learn more about his vision on teaching programming, the use of XNA and what he’s passionate about.

At Web Camp Belgium 2011 one of our new MSPs, Dirk Schuermans, interviewed Scott Hanselman. Topics: Razor, WebMatrix. Blog:

Thanks to Jennifer Perret for providing us the Flip cameras and to everyone who took place in front of our camera!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shrek and Donkey on another worldwide adventure

Some heroic tales about TechEd Europe 2010…

Last week I have been at TechEd Europe in Berlin. I was there together with Jan Potemans and four other Belgian student partners: Jeroen, Kurt, Julien and Raphaƫl. It was my third time at TechEd Europe, but once again I had the time of my life.


I have to admit that the past three weeks have been crazy, I've traveled about 19000 km, met dozens of interesting people including some of the brightest minds in the industry, learned a ton about new technologies, got some great new ideas and just had an awesome time in general. Now I have a massive todo-list to tackle and I need get up to speed for the exams, but boy I am happy!

We flew to Berlin in a cozy Avro RJ100 airplane with Brussels Airlines. After the short flight from Brussels to Berlin we hurried to our hotel, dropped off our bags and then hurried to the Messe conference center. Despites our efforts we arrived fashionably late at the MSP Summit. Over there, we had some interesting discussions, followed by some presentations, including a presentation about the cloud -because of course that’s obligatory these days- and the usual Microsoft recruitment talk by Holly Peterson.

At TechEd we also met “the new Caroline” and “the new Leandro”. Jacqueline Russell is the new Academic Lead for Western Europe and Michelle Fleming is now worldwide in charge of the MSP program.

This year we didn’t see that much of Berlin. We went to a nice restaurant on Tuesday night, where I had Blutwurst and after that we went for a walk in the city.


In between sessions we also continued our series of interviews. Jeroen, Kurt and I have interviewed (listed in alphabetical order): Brian Keller, Caroline Phillips, Gill Cleeren, Giorgio Sardo, Jacqueline Russell, Jonathan Carter, Katrien De Graeve, Mark Russinovich, Michelle Fleming and Rob Miles. Combined with the interviews we did at PDC, that makes for quite a nice collection! We will publish ‘em all in a jiffy. Update: watch our interviews over here. Special thanks to Jennifer Perret for equipping us with Flip cameras for these interviews.


At the Belgian county drink on Wednesday we had a good time too, we had some interesting conversations and met some great people. Good thing Luc Van de Velde introduced his team, I already knew most of them, but the new MSPs didn’t.

On Thursday, after another day full of sessions and interviews, we headed to the MSP party. After some burgers and beers we went to drop off our bags at the hotel and then took the U-Bahn to a club on the 15th floor of a building on Alexanderplatz. When we arrived there we weren’t allowed to enter; the bouncers said we needed girls. You know, with a group of student partners, that is kind of a problem! After Jan called, the lovely Jacqueline came down, but amazingly even her smile wasn’t enough to get us in! Eventually we got in and had a good time! And oh, in our opinion there was nothing wrong with the boy/girl ratio inside, but I guess one girl for every Berlin boy isn’t enough…

Friday was a sad day. In the morning we went to a last session, said goodbye to the nice folks at U2U and left the conference center. It was time to fly back home. The end of another great adventure!

PS: Donkey is Jeroen

Disclosure: I attended TechEd as a guest of Microsoft. Special thanks to Caroline Phillips, Jan Potemans, Jacqueline Russell and Michelle Fleming.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Notes about flying halfway around the world for a two day conference

You should try that too. Seriously.

Last week, Jeroen Verhulst and I flew to Seattle to attend the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference. We arrived in Seattle on Tuesday afternoon, after spending several hours on trains and busses and about ten hours up in the clouds (pun intended). We stayed in Bellevue, in the quite confortable Sheraton hotel. Bellevue is a good place to stay when visiting Microsoft; it is more vibrant than Redmond -where the Microsoft campus is located- but also closer to campus than Seattle.

On Wednesday, the day before the conference, Bart De Smet showed us around in Seattle. Bart is a young Belgian who currently lives in Bellevue and works for Microsoft. We visited the classic tourist spots: the first Starbucks, the Space Needle, the monorail… Click here for some more pictures.

After this quick visit we headed to campus. After a quick tour we headed to building one, where we had a meeting with Jennifer Perret. Jennifer gave us both a flip camera and a mission: we had to go interview some speakers. Later that week we have interviewed Anders Hejlsberg, Don Syme and Bart De Smet and we plan to interview some more speakers at TechEd Europe next week. I am still busy processing and uploading the videos, but I will make sure to post the links on this blog when they are available. Update: watch our interviews over here.

Thursday was day one of the conference. The keynote was delivered by Steve Ballmer and Bob Muglia. The main topics of the keynote were IE9, HTML5, WP7 and a lot about Windows Azure.

You can find some more info about the announcements here and on the SQL Azure Team Blog.

We expected Microsoft to demonstrate a real world application running on Azure to demonstrate its potential. However, we didn’t expect Steve Jobs’ Pixar to bring us that application. Apparently Pixar doesn’t only make animation movies; they sell the leading animation movie rendering software RenderMan as well. According to Chris Ford from Pixar, who appeared in the keynote in a Wall-E shirt, animation studios usually need large render farms with hundreds of processing units to render a movie in an acceptable time (think weeks or months). By running RenderMan on Azure, Pixar hopes to enable smaller companies to use their software as well. The interesting part of their implementation is that they allow their user to select how many instances to start. The more instances a user starts, the faster the job is done, but this of course comes at a higher price. Long Zheng and Nick Eaton also blogged about this.

The recordings of the keynote and all sessions are available here.

We also expected Microsoft to announce the next version of Silverlight. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who were expecting this. Microsoft however barely mentioned Silverlight in the keynote. Then, Mary Jo Foley published a blog post, based on an interview with Bob Muglia who said that Microsoft’s strategy with Silverlight has shifted. Bob did not announce the end of Silverlight, however, on the internet a storm broke loose.

I regret Microsoft is didn’t make any Silverlight announcements at the PDC, but here is why I think the rumors of Silverlight’s death are greatly exaggerated:
  • Releases are slowing down, that’s true, but isn’t that normal as a product matures? Furthermore, the Silverlight team must have spent a lot of time on Windows Phone 7.
  • Microsoft is hosting a Silverlight Firestarter event, keynoted by Scott Guthrie, December 2.
  • This interview with Scott Guthrie.
  • This blogpost by Bob Muglia and this one by Tim Heuer. Update: this one by Scott Guthrie.

Lunch was in a tent outside, where you had to choose a table by discussion topic. I don’t know who came up with that idea, but it was rather annoying to have to talk to people working on product X about their product while having lunch.

After lunch we headed back to building 33 -the conference center- to pick up our phones. During the keynote Ballmer had said that all attendees would get a free Windows Phone 7 device. The way he said that was actually rather funny. As it turned out, everyone who (or who’s company) paid the full conference fee got an LG device and people with a discount (e.g. academics like us) got a Samsung preproduction device (SGH-i707, a.k.a. Taylor).

I am not going to write a full review of this device, just some thoughts. Let me be clear, I love WP7 and I’m going to use one as my primary phone. However, the battery life of this device is the worst I have ever seen (but then again, it is a prototype), I really miss copy/paste (but that’s coming early 2011), it should have app notifications (e.g. the Facebook app notifying you about a new comment) and it’s a pity developers can’t make dynamic tiles (yet?). There aren’t quite as many apps in the Marketplace so far as on competing platforms, but I honestly don’t care about that. It is a matter of quality, not quantity!

After lunch we had to choose between Bart’s session and Ander Hejlsberg’s session about new language features. Not an easy choice! Bart assured us that he would summarize Anders’ session on one slide, so we both went to see his session. Bart’s session was a mess, but in the best possible way. And oh, he said the word “brainfuck”! Learn more about the new keywords (await and async) that Anders and Bart have introduced over here. I won’t discuss the other sessions I have attended this first day and the second day.

On Saturday we attended a workshop about Windows Phone 7 at the Microsoft Platform Adoption Center (building 20). It was okay, but way too crowded. On Sunday we flew home.

Disclosure: Microsoft Belgium sponsored this trip by paying for our flights. Special thanks to Jan Potemans for making this possible.