Friday, 09 April 2004
I've been working for a while on setting up a .NET user group for people who live east of Toronto. I'm not sure what it will be called: Eastern GTA, Oshawa/Whitby, Durham, I really don't know. The first meeting will be in Oshawa at the EDS offices on April 20th from 6-9pm. I'll present “What is .NET?“ and introduce the people who are helping to organize the group. We plan to meet the third Tuesday of every month and to run very much like the Toronto .NET UG, which I helped to found.
For more details including a map and directions, please visit http://gtaeast.torontoug.net and register. (We have to order the right amount of pizza.) Attendance is free, membership is free, even the food and drinks are free. Meet other people who live east of Toronto and are working on .NET. See semi-famous people like DataGridGirl and me. Learn more about a specific .NET topic. How can you go wrong?
See you there!
This is the "big deal" day for me, a day spent with the C++ team immersed in "what's new in Whidbey" and beyond. I've just about completed my mapping of faces to email addresses and delivered some copies of my book to a few people who really helped me while I was writing it. I am taking notes like a maniac, on new IDE features for C++ specifically, on new ways of managing property settings for C++ projects, on converting from old Managed C++ syntax to the new syntax, and so on.
The Developer Tools Roadmap has been updated. It shows some of what's new in Whidbey and looking forward into Orcas. Embedded C++ moving into Visual Studio, the new C++ syntax, templates and generics together, the true return of deterministic destruction with reference types allocated on the managed heap or the stack as you prefer, major optimization improvements for both native and managed code (especially PGO), and more. Of course whatever you see listed under other languages may well apply to C++ too, things like improvments in the Base Class Libraries, ADO.NET, and the rest.
On a "no laptop" day at the conference centre, the executives came to talk to us. It's always nice to be told "we like you, we really really like you" and that's what we (the MVPs) heard. I was also pleased with the questions that came from the audience. There's a lot of awareness about deeply technical matters but also business matters such as licensing.
Lunch was with the product groups and I had a fun time listening to other people's questions and asking a few of my own. Our table was supposedly about the new C++ syntax, but I also learned about interop performance improvements (significant) in Whidbey and some nice IDE changes that I hadn't noticed yet.
Tuesday, 06 April 2004
I missed quite a bit of the sessions Monday because I had some urgent fires to put out and some other Microsoft-related business to take care of. I did enjoy hearing Don Box again, and seeing some things I just hadn't found time to notice yet. It was a beautiful day here, sunny and bright, and I actually saw the mountains for a few minutes. I was sure that was just something locals tell visitors, the whole seeing the mountains thing. Then we had a C++-specific dinner. What other group would gleefully accept a 64 page paper as they get on the bus to go to dinner, and then immediately start to read it? I know I read mine too.
I arrived in Seattle Sunday afternoon and went to two receptions that evening. I met people, took pictures (not enough) and picked up some to-do items. I had a huge fight with my own power supply and then the hotel high speed. I think I hate technology. I love what it gets me though, so I'll put up with it. There are a number of RDs here, and my badge reads MVP/RD which is a really nice touch.
I flew to Minnesota and back, and then after 36 hours home I flew to Seattle, changing planes in Chicago. That's 4 legs in 3 days and 2 of those legs were significantly delayed by mechanical problems. Yikes! I hope I've used them up for a while. The delay leaving Chicago was caused because the guy driving the baggage ramp bumped into the plane and dented it. They had to get a structural engineer to pronounce judgement on whether the size of the dent meant the plane was out of service.
And the lining up and identifying yourself is reaching epic proportions. Here's how it went for Minnesota: drive to Park N Fly. Walk in, put down suitcase and carry-on, tell someone who I am, get piece of paper, pick everything up. Walk 20 feet to Air Canada desk, put everything down. Tell someone who I am and prove it with passport, also show air miles card in case the travel agent didn't pass it along. Receive piece of paper. Walk outside and wait for bus. Put everything down. Bus comes. Pick everything up, go on bus, tell driver which terminal I want, put everything down.
Reach my terminal, pick everything up, go inside, wait in line to recieve baggage tag. Prove who I am by showing passport and boarding pass. Answer questions about my packing and my luggage. Pick everything up (including bag which will be with me through several more lines yet.) Show boarding pass to prove I am allowed into immigration area. Line up for US Immigration. This line is about 45 minutes long so I am pulled out after ten minutes into much shorter line. Reach immigration guy. Show passport, boarding pass, customs form which I had filled out while waiting in some line or another. Answer questions. Admitted. Pick everything up, walk 20 feet, hand customs form to some other guy. Walk 50 feet, join lineup to have checked baggage x-rayed. Wait while bag comes out. Wait. In there a long time. Eventually it's rejected so I have to carry it over to some other table and wait patiently and non-threateningly while someone hand-searches it. Then she escorts me (I feel so trusted) to the conveyor belt. At least that's gone. Now me and my carry on are headed for the next security checkpoint. Take out laptop and cell phone. Take off coat. Show boarding pass again. Take off shoes because they always set off the metal detectors. Get told off by security people for putting shoes in tray, they must go directly on belt. Whatever. Wait for my stuff. Wait some more while they swab the laptop and hand search my bag to find a suspicious looking pen. Once it was out in the open air it was pronounced safe and returned to me. Put everything back in the bag. Head for gate.
Oh dear. Gate is downstairs. That means, yes indeed, join line up to wait for shuttle bus. Get on bus. Ride to other side of airport. Find subgate. Wait. We are moved to another subgate; pick everything up to walk 100 feet to new subgate. Wait some more. Ah, finally, we're boarding. Show boarding pass and passport. Onto plane. Don't forget to turn off cellphone! Put everything away and out of reach. I'm a nervous wreck!
Coming to Seattle I had an extra step in all of that -- though I didn't get my luggage hand searched this time -- because I was flying business class (using up my points in case Air Canada really goes bust this time) so I had to prove my identity at two business-class lounges, though I can't really complain about that. I was traveling on one hour sleep (I would have had two if not for the time change) so I kind of zoned through the whole thing and don't really remember much of it.
And airlines wonder why plane travel hasn't picked back up?
I really enjoyed speaking at the Twin Cities .NET User Group April 1st (no fooling!) and just haven't had a minute since then to stop and write about it. I repeated the Remoting talk I did in Montreal and it went nicely. I got to meet another RD (Farhan Muhammad) and an MVP from South Africa on his way to Seattle, Simon Stewart. He did another full talk after mine, on GDI+. Some interesting material on speeding drawing -- I liked it.
Tuesday, 30 March 2004
I read this morning that XP is gaining a free language pack for Inuktitut, one of the official languages in Nunavut. If you've never seen Windows and Office with the menus and toolbars in another language, you'd be surprised how much you notice all that text when it's not in a language you know. (My brother uses Windows in Japanese as often as he does in English.) Inuktitut is the first Canadian aboriginal language to gain a language pack and Nunavut officials say it will help them run their offices and also encourage young people to retain their language skills in both English and Inuktitut rather than drifting to English only as they enter working life. No dates announced, but expect the language pack in about a year.
Monday, 29 March 2004
The first instance of the MSDN column for Regional Directors, .NET in the Real World, is up! Billy Hollis writes persuasively about smart clients. He also reminds us all that everything old is new again. Like Billy, I have some grey in my hair, and I enjoy those times when having a long memory gives you an advantage over those who only remember one or two waves of technology.
The RD column is to be an ongoing experience. We'll be writing about why certain technologies matter, and what they mean to developers and to businesses. It's a great opportunity to hear some wisdom from some very experienced people. Check it out!
Saturday, 27 March 2004
We're a small consulting firm and we take on a variety of projects. Some are just a few days, others last months and months. We live with a spectrum of decision-making styles from our clients as well. Sometimes a prospect (or returning customer) will go from “can you do this? how much will it be? when can it be done?” to “ok, make it so” in a matter of days or even hours. Other times we wait through weeks of “getting things approved” in order to do a week of work. This means that when we agree to do something, we're not always sure when we're actually going to be doing it.
This month the stars have aligned to push me up against a fence of hard deadlines all coming at once. I have a lab to complete for TechEd (you're coming to TechEd, aren't you?) and the first draft of my slides are due. I'm writing some samples and documentation (more on that later,) that are due March 31st. My slides are due for VSLive (you're coming to VSLive, aren't you? Early bird ends the 31st and you can get 10% off by dropping my name -- literally, the discount code is KATE.) The conferences aren't until May but prep time is now. My website accessibility project is being reviewed by the committee this week. And our major intranet project keeps growing and growing as the end users like what we've done so far and keep asking for more. The client where I delivered 49 days of .NET training over the winter is kicking off ASP.NET and Sharepoint projects like there's no tomorrow, and they need days of mentoring.
In this business, you're either insanely busy trying to meet the deadlines others impose, or you have nothing to do and you're scrambling for work. I think I prefer it this way, though I am looking forward to some time off. Last night in a Messenger conversation one of my deadline owners told me “enjoy your weekend” -- my reply? “Luckily I enjoy working!” And I do.
Thursday, 25 March 2004
My trip to Montreal was tremendous fun. The venue was beautiful - Microsoft is moving offices so we were in a museum - and the people were interested and asked great questions. Remoting may be replaced with Indigo some day but it's a real technique and people are using it now. I enjoyed explaining it.
I took the train to Montreal because it's quicker than flying. It's about a four hour train ride, and a one hour flight, but there's so much other lining up and waiting involved with flying. For the train, I drive into the parking lot, park for free within sight of the tracks, walk a hundred yards or so to the platform, and get on the train. Not a single instance of lining up, ticket showing, name saying, bag unpacking and repacking, form filling or question answering. Then I go sit in first class with laptop power, free food and drink, and now free wireless internet access the whole way. (After a few minutes a person comes by to give me a menu, and later when he collects it back and asks what I want, he asks for my ticket.) I arrived downtown and walked to my hotel without going outside, and was only ten minutes from the venue. And to top it off, first class train travel is cheaper than economy flying. Cheaper, faster, and nicer. Can't go wrong, really.
Monday, 22 March 2004
My favourite sysadmin downloaded dasBlog for me (thanks to Clemens for writing it) and installed it, leaving me with only the task of filling it up with stuff. I can't write much today because I'm getting ready to go to Montreal tomorrow for the Montreal Microsoft .NET Architecture User Group where I'm going to talk about Remoting. Looking forward to the train ride already.
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