Techdays 2010: Wrap-up (part 2)

Find part 1 of this post, about the Students to Business day here.

Now something about the actual Techdays. Wednesday and Thursday, while the other students were back at school, we attended the Techdays. This year’s Techdays where really, really good. Look at the list of speakers: Anders Hejlsberg, Scott Hanselman, Sara Ford, Rafal Lukawiecki, Charlie Kindel, our own Bart De Smet, …

Anders Hejlsberg kicked off the developer part of the conference with a keynote about trends in (and the future of) programming languages. He talked about things like dynamic and functional programming. The video is already available on Channel 9 and I’ve embedded it below. Definitely worth an hour of your time!

Get Microsoft Silverlight

After the keynote I’ve seen Katrien De Graeve and Gill Cleeren’s session about Silverlight 4 and WPF 4. First Gill talked about Silverlight. I liked the fact that he talked about some more business oriented functionalities in SL4 (e.g. printing) too. I would have liked to see Katrien talk a bit longer about WPF 4.

During the lunch I had to choose between two sessions I liked to see. Something about XNA by a former Imagine Cup winner, Timothy Vanherberghen and something about the Surface application in Belgian TV show “De Kinderpuzzel”. I chose to see the Surface application, although in the end I didn’t get to see it. The speaker, Boris Rogge, showed some of the code and ran out of time. It was interesting to hear the story behind the application though. Too bad I couldn’t see Timothy’s talk, but I’ll certainly watch the video. They should hang the person who has invented lunch sessions, during the lunch break, just let me, you know … eat!

Then I went to Giorgio Sardo’s session about HTML5 and IE9. He didn’t show anything really shocking, check out the platform preview and you’re back up to date. One thing I really liked was Giorgio’s opinion about the Acid 3 test. I agree that this test is mostly a marketing thing and that its relevance as a tool to test whether a browser is standard-compliant is very low. The number of test-cases in Acid 3 is low and the things that are being tested are very often rather unrealistic scenarios. What I did not like was that he kept on talking about improving the performance of IE by making it render pages faster. I don’t care you make my page render ten milliseconds faster, I only care a little that you can make a bunch of browser logo’s spin at over 60 frames per second (by the way, he demoed that Chrome only runs the animation at 3 FPS, but apparently the current version of Opera can do the trick just as fast as the preview of IE9, take a look at the screenshot or try it yourself).

What I do care about, is how fast a browser feels. When I fire up Chrome or Opera or even good old Firefox, I can immediately start typing and the browser will immediately be responsive, making suggestions about where I might want to go. When I fire up Internet Explorer I often find myself waiting for the browser to load that start page I don’t really need to see and while not being able to type or while not (yet) getting any suggestions. I’m talking about seconds, not milliseconds. I’m talking about a long and deep sigh, not about the blink of an eye.

Next was the session called “A day in the life of a Silverlight/WPF integrator” by Laurant Bugnion. If you don’t have a clue what an integrator is, neither did I. Apparently an integrator is someone who takes a design from a designer (Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks, …) and turns it into XAML using Expression Blend, Expression Design, a calculator and some rulers. Laurant showed some great features in Blend I didn’t know about (did you know there’s a tool to copy a gradient from anywhere on the screen?). Having that said, I’m not entirely sure whether I like the role of “integrator”. They had designers who used to work with Adobe tools, they started to develop things in Silverlight and WPF and because they didn’t want the designers to learn how to use Blend (a tool built for designers…) they created an entirely new role, the role of integrator. These “integrators” then had to learn the basic features of the Adobe tools and how to use the Microsoft tools only to create a scenario where the designer still can’t control the final result of his design and the integrators spend their days measuring and translating bitmaps into XAML. This doesn’t sound very efficient to me. I like to design (I’m not saying I’m good at it), I like to write code, but I’m afraid I would really hate to “integrate”.

Scott Hanselman then tried to teach us some “ASP.NET MVC 2 ninja blank belt tips”. Good tips, great speaker. Loved it. Giorgio Sardo took the last session slot with a talk about Windows Phone 7 Series (why you can drop that last word). This was (correct me if I’m wrong) the first public WP7 demo in Belgium. It’s pretty hard not to like that.

Then I had Chinese food with Jeroen. (many people told me not write about the food, so I really had to write that…)

Part three coming soon … Move on to part 3


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