Monday, 31 May 2004
Friday morning at Tech Ed I was talking to some folks on the C++ team about the language changes that are coming for C++ and what they really mean. I don't mean that “ref class” means a class whose memory is managed by the runtime. I mean “what is the importance to a language of its syntax, and of changes to that syntax?“ How does changing a language affect the community of people who are using that language?
Managed Extensions for C++ was an attempt to bring the CLR to C++ without changing the syntax of C++. It had the side effect, in my opinion, of changing the spirit of C++, of preventing you from writing “real“ C++ for the CLR. The new language, to be known as C++/CLI, changes the syntax, but oddly enough that makes writing C++ for the CLR more C++-like than ever. The idioms, the ways of thinking, the patterns of development, transcend the syntax. We get destructors, we get templates, we get type-agnostic code. I want this new syntax to be widely accepted, and for people to move to .NET without leaving C++ for C#. I want this partly for selfish reasons, of course: there's value in being a C++ expert only as long as there are other C++ programmers doing my kind of work. Otherwise I'm just the last person to see the light and move to C#. But I also truly believe that if you've gone to the trouble of learning C++ (and really learning it, so you like templates and destructors and operator overloading and the like) then you are foolish to wander away from that and learn a different, less powerful language. You can't beat C++ for interop, and it's a first-class CLR language for libraries, services, and other back end work. Front end work is tough because certain product teams haven't built C++ wizards and designers, but it's not impossible. I for one am agitating for wizards and designers that support C++ and I'll report back as I make progress there.
To me, this is a turning point for C++, a chance for people who rejected the framework to stick with C++ or rejected C++ to go to the framework to get the best of both worlds. But I know that there's a limit to how many times you can change a language, and if this version is as poorly-liked as Managed Extensions, times will not be happy. The good news is I like C++/CLI a lot, and believe it will succeed as a language to bring .NET to C++ and C++ to .NET.
Who else feels the way I do? Stan Lippman, for one. He says “I personally guarantee that anyone that feels passionate about C++ will be both delighted by and engaged with the C++/CLI language that will be shipped with Visual Studio 2005.“ You might feel that “delighted“ is a bit strong, but wait till you see for yourself. And if you hate Managed Extensions, you'll chuckle to read how he feels about them.
How can you learn more? I have an upcoming codeguru article on the syntax. Herb Sutter had a horrible timeslot at TechEd to talk about this, but you can find the slides at http://126.96.36.199/docserver/slides/DEV333_Sutte%20v3.ppt (I think you need to be a TechEd attendee to log in.) There are links all over http://msdn.microsoft.com/visualc/ as well. I am indeed delighted with the new syntax (am I hopeless or what, but I actually laughed with happiness when I saw how properties are done now,) and I hope you will be too -- for my sake and yours.
If you're working in C++ now but you're not working on the CLR, should you learn Managed Extensions -- the __gc stuff -- or wait for Whidbey? I guess I'll say get a copy of the Community Technical Preview (it's still pre-beta) and start learning Whidbey/2005 syntax now. If you are using __gc now, get ready for things to be a whole lot nicer really soon.
Friday, 28 May 2004
One of the hidden advantages of being a woman in any group that has mostly men is that you don't have to line up for the bathroom. Obviously some time this week the folks running the convention centre noticed this line-up imbalance, because they've changed several women's rooms to men's:
Wednesday, 26 May 2004
Today I did my webcast, sat on the panel for the Women In Technology Luncheon, and have been hanging in the Cabana ever since. The Cabanas are so cool! There are so many smart people here, and attendees come by with a problem and a tremendous concentration of smart people gather and solve the problem. And because of the location, everyone seems to come by. I am seeing old friends and listening to wonderful conversations. It's full of RDs, too.
If you're at TechEd and you haven't spent time in a Cabana yet, you really really have to. Trust me. The breakout sessions will be on the DVD. Come to the Cabana and even if you don't have a question, just listen in! There are presentations too, but sit close if you want to hear them.
(If you're here this afternoon, and wondering whose cell phone is playing O Canada, that would be me. It attracts Canadians remarkably well.)
I can't believe it's only Day 2. My feet are sore enough to have been here a week! Today I stayed in the hotel for a while catching up on work, then went over to the convention centre for a book signing. Unfortunately you were all more interested in eating lunch than coming by the bookstore :-(. Found a quiet place to do a bit more work, then to the RD booth for more insanity. Some very smart fellow got 6 3/4 out of 22 on the quiz -- almost beat the record which is 7. This is a seriously hard quiz. If you think you can do better, come on by.
What do you think has this crew so interested?
It's CodeRush and it is seriously cool. Scott Hanselman is making animated gifs, flash demos, you name it of this tool because you have to see it to know what it does. I saw it and I loved it. This is a high-power piece of floor: Clemens Vasters, Mark Miller (it's his product I believe), Scott Hanselman, Goksin Bakir (just the top of his head), and Mitch Roebush (his back anyway.) That's four RDs in one place and a whole lot of brain power. The feet in the background include Guy Barrette and Malek. And let me just say, my feet love the extra thick carpet in the Microsoft Pavilion.
Tuesday, 25 May 2004
This year there are two flavours of speaker shirts at TechEd: the darker (more attractive, I think) blue belong to Microsoft people and the lighter ones to third parties -- that would be me. I wore one of mine today and since I have booth duty tomorrow (RD booth -- 49 and 50 in the Microsoft Pavilion in the Exhibit Hall, come on by) I'll be wearing the other one. I'm hoping to get a third shirt tomorrow. I don't know why I packed any of my own clothes, really, folks have been handing me shirts every time I turn around. No-one gives you pants as swag though. Too bad!
As well as the shirt, I have a slightly decorated badge:
I figure I might as well make myself easy to spot. So if you can't recognize me from the picture (upper left corner) on the bingo card, you can recognize my badge Most of the RDs are wearing the Regional Director Program button also, and we tend to know where each other are. So if you still need a Forte or Huckaby signature, if you missed Clemens and Scott in the RD booth tonight, or left before Goksin arrived (oh yes, he did come by later!) then flag down any RD you see and ask us if we've seen the one you're missing.
I think I just about have one piece of badge bling for every category on my blog. I got an INETA card after I took the picture. I forgot to bring my MVP lapel pin, sorry MVP program.
And of course, I can relax and think about badges and shirts and such because I did my talk and it went well. I will try to get my code (and my slides for that matter) on CommNet.
Monday, 24 May 2004
The talks must be seriously good this year. No-one is in the halls! The show is sold out, the red-jacketed aides are keeping people out of talks that are full, and yet I am not seeing many people at all. They must all be sitting in talks, or in the exhibit hall collecting swag. I have seen a few folks laden down with big bags of stuff.
I am also seeing a lot of women. I am walking by sessions and hearing women speak. I am seeing women with speaker badges and I don't know them! This is really cool. Being a woman should never be something that fast-tracks you to speaking but nor should it exclude you, and when the percentages are lower for speakers, even attendees, than in the industry as a whole it feels wrong. This year it feels more balanced. Fun!
Several people have come up to me and asked me to initial over my picture on the RD Bingo card. When I'm feeling extroverted I have even handed out extra bingo cards to those who don't have them. I've seen the fabulous prize now and let me just say that even the most swag-jaded of those I showed mine to said “ooh, cool, I want one of those.”
C++ talks are few and far between this year. Kang Su had one already, mine is in 45 minutes, there's a 64-bit one tomorrow and the super vital important “language changes for Whidbey” talk is Friday afternoon at 2:45. Aaargh. I will be on a plane. If you don't already know the language changes that are coming then you need to be at that talk. Change your plane tickets if you must. Come do the HOL that lets you play with the new features, or at least some of them, as well, it's DEV11 and it's in Room 6F.
Sunday, 23 May 2004
After an awful pair of flights (weather delays, and far too much time in the Chicago airport) I reached San Diego about midnight local time. Even as tired as I was, I appreciated the small airport, and the pretty drive to the hotel along the water. It's warm but not hot, and the palm trees are neat.
Registration was as I expected - lines were huge, the process was quick once you got to the front. The wireless is spotty but working now. RDs are a ton of fun and the convention centre is both huge and full of food. I haven't seen my room yet but will in a few hours.
I now have a handful of cards for RD Bingo and the Apprentice.NET so if you see me before you get one, ask me for one. And since I'm on the card, if you see me and you already have one, get me to initial it. Booth 49 and 50 is where the RD program can be found.
Saturday, 22 May 2004
I do believe I'm ready for TechEd.
The suitcase is packed -- but not too packed, have to leave room for swag. I have my passport for the border and my driver's licence for registration (I had a huge delay at PDC because I arrived at the conference centre without photo ID). I have my eyeshades and earplugs for the plane. I have my Regional Director program button and my little Canadian flag to put on my badge holder. I have some US cash so I can get overpriced coffee in the Chicago airport. My demos work. The webcast software is on the new laptop. The VPC and my session are on my little 20 gig USB drive as well as the laptop. I even found my MSDN card. I have sunscreen in my carryon, I have the MP3 player and the digital camera, chargers for everything (it's going to be another long trip through security) and all the bits and pieces of paper that make me feel warm and fuzzy -- hotel reservation, plane ticket, my schedule, ... yep, I'm ready!
Yesterday I wore my Tech Ed 99 Tshirt. That conference really changed the way we make software and changed us as a company. I hope Tech Ed 2004 does the same for you, if you're going.
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