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Markus Egger's Blog

Friday, October 31, 2008
PDC 08 Recap - Day 3/4 and General: MS Research, Languages,...

Day 1 and 2 at PDC are traditionally the days when most of the announcements are made, so the remaining 2 days can be spent presenting sessions about those topics and also to give attendees time to discuss what they have learned and saw. So most of the news I already discussed in my recap of Day 1 and Day 2. However, the remaining 2 days (or 1 3/4 days, more accurately, as the last day ends early) had lots of interesting stuff going on too.

Microsoft Research

MS Research had the keynote on day 3. This is always one of my favorites and I had been looking forward to this keynote. It did start out a bit slow though, with lots of information about how much research MS does and why research is important... yadayadayada... I already knew all that and it was mostly dry numbers. However, it did pick up from there.

The first real interesting presentation had to do with heat sensing hardware and software. MS Research had the entire keynote area wired with heat sensors so they could show how heat patterns developed throughout the facility over time. Not that this is real futuristic technology, but it was cool, and I was personally very interested as I am looking to get something like that into my own home. The presentation then also proceeded to show how the same type of technology was deployed in large outdoor areas for environmental monitoring. Quite interesting.

The next presentation showed the WorldWide Telescope and enhancements in that software. Not sure what to tell you about this, other than that it is kick-butt software for people interested in astronomy. It is very very cool, and I recommend you check it out. It is better seen than explained.

One of the coolest thing at the entire conference was SecondLight. This is the logical next step from Microsoft Surface. SecondLight is a table device just like Microsoft Surface with the table top having an image projected on just like Surface. However, the cool thing about SecondLight is that one can hold something above the primary Surface (such as a piece of paper) and have a secondary projection on that surface projected through the main display. It is a bit hard to imagine. Check out this video on YouTube to see what this is all about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfzplPIrzjY 

Other Sessions

Other than that, the remaining 2 days I spent socializing and attending sessions (as well as recording content for CodeCast). Anders Heijlsber's C# 4.0 session certainly was very interesting. Especially the ability to (optionally) use dynamic language concepts in C# is awesome. Not that C# will itself by a dynamic language, but it will be very easy and natural to talk to dynamic languages and the dynamic objects they serve up. For instance, it will be possible to talk to a JavaScript object and simply attempt to call a method on it. If it has the method, voila! Otherwise, you get a runtime error. Also, the addition of optional parameters will be nice, especially for scenarios such as COM interop.

I attended Live (Mesh) sessions. I attended a good F# session. Oslo featured pretty big (next generation modeling and DSL tool). I also went to a good Open XML session. And the list goes on and on. There were way too many sessions to recap all. However, you can check out the sessions at www.MicrosoftPDC.com.

General PDC Recap

PDC is always a bit of a special event to me personally. It just tends to be a conference that has more interesting stuff than others. This is due to there being tons of announcements that are important long term.

This year, this may have been a little less true though. At the last PDC, Microsoft announced "Windows Longhorn" (Vista) and its "WinFX SDK" (.NET 3.x). It was the big thing and everyone could go to the hotel room and start playing with it. This time around, things were a little less tangible. Windows Azure is there and one can play with it, but it isn't like installing something locally. Windows 7 wasn't really big news. The Surface SDK one didn't get at the conference. There was Live. There were quite a few things, but not a single huge thing everyone wanted to do. So that changed things a tad, but it was still a great conference with great content.

As far as the overall setup of the event goes, I felt that this was really a new type of event. In my opinion, Microsoft did a great job at getting the community involved. Not just did they have the Open Space area, but they also got the online community involved. All sessions are available online (including live casts of the keynotes), and I feel at this point, all large conferences will have to do that to be competitive. But what really changed the feel of the conference was how Twitter was used by a lot of people. More than half of the information provided by sessions and especially keynotes came from the Twitterverse where a huge amount of chatter happened about everything going on. Even Microsoft embraced that by making Twitter feed available online as well as displaying the feeds on screens during breaks. That really made the whole conference feel very different and got everyone very involved.

BTW: My Twitter address is http://twitter.com/MarkusEgger

 

Posted @ 6:49 PM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments


Wednesday, October 29, 2008
PDC 08 Recap - Day 2: Windows 7, Office 14, Visual Studio 10, ...

Another long and exciting day at PDC 2008 has come to an end. I would call it a good day. I didn't get to go to as many sessions as yesterday, but I got a fair share and I was quite busy at the CoDe Magazine booth. But the booth didn’t open until noon, so I got to go to the 2 keynotes in the morning.

Windows 7

The first keynote started out with an introduction of Windows 7. As I mentioned in my blog yesterday, I had some pretty height expectations for this. Partially because I simply want Windows to do some things it doesn’t and there seems to be market pressure around that. Also, I really haven’t been looking into Windows 7 ahead of time, so I expected some announcement to be new to me.

To make a long story short: I was somewhat underwhelmed with the presentation. We saw some new UI features which I liked. It was also announced that Windows 7 will support real multi monitor setups for  remote access, which is cool. I like the ability to directly mount virtual hard drives. (And there were other details they showed, like Window docking and an Paint now has a Ribbon control and such…). All these things I like and am ready to install today, but I really felt that this was Vista 1.1 or Vista SP2, and not a major new version of the OS that will ship at an undetermined point in the future, likely 3 years after Vista’s original release date. Besides, people will have to pay for an upgrade rather than getting a free service pack.

Multi-touch support is very cool. This isn’t Surface but it is similar in concept. I already knew about this feature ahead of time and think it will be important.

Of course, this was only a first demonstration. There was talk about performance improvements and apparently the demo ran on a machine with only 1GB of memory and a dual core processor (or something like that). But it was hard to tell from the keynote how much of a performance improvement there is. I really had hoped they would make a bigger deal about this. I was very interested in seeing advances in virtualization and had hoped there would be a lightweight version of Windows 7. Alas, no such luck at this keynote. I suppose there is still hope for the future.

Bottom line: I liked the things I saw but there wasn’t much that’s revolutionary. I will install Windows 7 when I get home. Apparently it is already very stable, which wouldn’t be too surprising considering that the updates seem to be more optimizations than anything else. So I may have expected more, but all this should be cool to have.

Office 14

Office 14 (the next version of Office) made a brief appearance at the keynote as well. Most of it focused around a web version of Office. The main Office package is still the same Windows application as before, but there will be a second(ary) version that runs as a web application, similar to Outlook Web Access today. The presentation showed OneNote and Excel. I was quite impressed by this. Not only can documents now be opened inside of web browser versions of these applications (and the apps look great!) but all the editing can be done collaboratively, with multiple people editing the same document and seeing the other person’s changes.

This presentation was quite cool I have to say. How they pulled off a web version of Excel that looks practically the same as the Windows version is beyond me.

Many people have wondered whether Microsoft would ever move their Office package to the web, and now the answer is clearly “yes”. But not only that. It looks like the effort is coming along very nicely. A comparison to Google’s web offerings may also be in order here: Microsoft kick’s Google’s butt several times over!

Visual Studio News

In a further part of the keynote, Scott Guthrie showed a little bit of Visual Studio 10. One of the things I have been dying to talk about (and now I can) is that VS itself will have major parts implemented in WPF! This is nice for various reasons. For one, it is nice to see Microsoft betting on WPF with their own products. More importantly, the WPF implementations provide major advantages for users. The entire text editor is now written in WPF for instance, which allows for very advanced rendering and easy extensions. Scott showed a simple add-in that renders XML comments in a very rich and friendly (read “useful”) way. Awesome!

In other Visual Studio news: Future versions of ASP.NET will ship with jQuery support built in directly. This is great news as jQuery is a great library. We have been using it at EPS, and in fact, our Milos Solution Platform product has directly supported jQuery for a while now. It will be nice to have this support built in for all .NET apps. The news related to this that concern Visual Studio (the tool) is that you can now download the jQuery IntelliSense definition file, so you have direct IntelliSense support for jQuery now. Check out ScottGu’s blog post for more details.

WPF and Silverlight

These two topics are big at PDC08. So what is new in WPF and Silverlight?

Silverlight 2.0 was just released 2 weeks ago, so that is still a big topic at PDC. Scott Guthrie also talked about Silverlight futures. There will be more controls and better designer support and… yadayadayada… basically things we are all hoping for and seem to be getting. There was one tiny announcement in there that Scott just kinda threw in, but it seems to be pretty big news in my opinion: Scott mentioned that Silverlight will support applications that run outside the browser. Think about that for a moment! So you can build Silverlight applications that do not require a browser. Sounds very much like a connected desktop app that can run on any platform that can run Silverlight. So this means you could do desktop development for the Mac using .NET. Hmmm…

Not announced at the keynote, but shown in another session was a CTP of the new Silverlight 2.0 mobile SDK. I am surprised this was not mentioned at the keynote! Sounds like pretty big news to me!

WPF also got its share of love today. For one, Scott Guthrie went over 3.5SP2 again. There is cool stuff in there, in case you haven’t checked it out yet. Shader support is awesome if you ask me. True news around WPF come in the form of a new controls package. This package includes a WPF Ribbon control, date and calendar controls, and a grid. Awesome! Many of these were really missing. Click here for more details and the download.

CodeCast News

Quite a bit of my day was consumed by doing CodeCast stuff. Ken and I recorded quite a few interviews (Gary was pretty busy at the DevExpress booth today). Ken interviewed the Internet Explorer team about news in IE8, including (previously unannounced news-alert!) the IE8 plug-in model, which will rival Firefox’s plug-in model. (We also just released a special CoDe Focus magazine on IE8. If you are quick, you can still get your free copy secured here!) I also did an interview with the Microsoft Surface team.

Make sure you subscribe to CodeCast to get the next episodes, which will feature a lot of this content!

What Else?

Well, quite a bit, actually. But it is just about impossible to sum up all of a PDC day in a single blog post. Windows Live Services are important and cool and were mentioned at the keynote. There also are dedicated sessions for it. There were talks about things like Home Server that were interesting. There were many talks on roadmaps for things like WPF or ASP.NET and .NET 4.0 in general. Don Box and Chris Anderson did a full keynote on developing service for the Cloud. Those two are always entertaining in a “check out how easy this weird sh… is” kind of way.

So I can’t write about it all myself, but luckily, the blogosphere is busily at work and the twitterverse is going ballistic over PDC.



Posted @ 2:05 AM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments


Tuesday, October 28, 2008
PDC 08 Recap - Day 1: CodeCast, Windows Azure, Cloud Services, Surface, and more...

Day 1 of PDC 2008 is in the books. It has been a pretty exciting day and there is lots to write about in the near future in terms of full articles. But here is the short recap to provide some quick impressions.

Windows Azure

The day started out with the Ray Ozzie keynote. This was highly anticipated as the introduction of "Windows Cloud" was expected. As it turns out, this new OS is actually called "Windows Azure". Personally, I think this is about the worst name they had in a long time. I see the whole "the azure [blue] skies behind the clouds" idea, but the word "Azure" is much too hard to pronounce for a worldwide product. Even English speakers can't seem to agree on the pronunciation, and even at the keynote, speakers seemed to have problems with it in miss-pronounced it badly.

Anyway: Bad name or not, the idea behind Azure is interesting. Even more so I think than the somewhat boring keynote let on. Windows Azure isn't an operating system in the sense Windows Vista is an operating system. After all, Vista's main purpose is to first of all, act as the fundamental layer between the hardware and software running on it. Without Vista, no files can be saved and no processes can be started. Ultimately, Vista is what allows you to run apps on your local workstation or server.

Azure is different in that it isn’t an OS you install locally. It also doesn’t deal with things such as file systems or processes and threads. However it is an operating system in the sense that it is something you can run your apps on. Azure is a system that exists on the Internet (“in the cloud”) that you can deploy your applications to and run them. (Web apps, for instance). And there is always enough of it so no matter how much traffic you get, it will scale to your needs. And presumably this will be affordable, especially compared to buying a lot of servers yourself, just to get through peak times. Right now, Microsoft just said “it will be competitively priced”, although competitive with what, I am not sure. Services such as Amazon’s service cloud, I guess. Although I am not sure how closely the two compare. (Google is another player here…)

So here is an example: We just launched CodeCast, the CoDe Magazine podcast. As we are doing this, we are really not sure how much processing power or bandwidth we need for this. Especially around PDC or other conferences and the day we post a new episodes, requirements may go up, but during other times, we may not need nearly as much. It may not be feasible for us to buy enough servers and bandwidth and licenses to handle peak times. But running this on Microsoft’s infrastructure “in the cloud” (or the azure skies behind the clouds, as the case may be) might be a great alternative.

CoDe Magazine and CodeCast

So that brings me to the news at CoDe. We have launched the CodeCast of course. We are a gold sponsor at PDC and we have a nice sized booth with a “lounge” area. Stop by and have a seat at our bean bags. The booth has already turned into quite the geek-hangout today. Lots of authors can be met at our booth, and we will do some CodeCast recording at the booth and other places tomorrow.

Microsoft Surface

Today was also the “coming out party” for the Microsoft Surface team (at least that is what they called it). For people at the Surface session, the Surface SDK is now available. It will be sent to people who had their badge scanned at the session, but not the other PDC attendees. In general, I would say that Surface is now a bit more accessible, but still a pretty prestigious and certainly very cool technology to deal with.

You can now buy Surface dev kits, which include an actual Surface table computer as well as 5 developer licenses with training at Microsoft (you pay your own trip to Redmond though). The price for that is $15,000, although if you buy at PDC (or before November 15th), a 10% discount is available.

Personally, I think Surface is very cool. We have it in our service lineup now. Our actual Surface device has not arrived yet, but we should get one soon. If you are ever in the Houston area, you can stop by our office if you want to see it. Just give us a call first so we can arrange for a date and time. Also, we are potentially looking for more developers and designers to add to our staff who might then be working on Surface projects.

Other Stuff… and on to Tomorrow…

Of course there also is a lot of talk about more “conventional” development topics. Personally, I went to a Windows Live session (Live Advertisement platform) but I missed part of it, so I can’t really tell you how good the session was. I went to Phil Haack’s MVC session, which was pretty good. (I thought I’d check it out since I am doing an MVC session at DevConnections). There were several Cloud Services talks, which were more informative than the keynote. I also went to a Ruby talk since Ruby is something I am always interested in, but never have enough time to really check it out. I enjoyed the session. Anders Hejlsberg gave a C# 4.0 session which was good. No surprise here. Anders’ talks are always great. If you ever have a chance to see him, take advantage of it.

Tomorrow is another day. The keynotes (there are 2 keynotes filling the entire morning from 8:30 to 12:30) and several subsequent sessions will focus on “Windows 7” (the successor to Windows Vista). That should be interesting. I have some very specific expectations (for various reasons) so we will see what is presented to us. In general, I expect beefier developer content at tomorrow’s keynotes as people such as Scott Guthrie and Don Box are doing them, amongst others.

I’ll keep you posted…



Posted @ 2:10 AM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments (1)


Monday, October 27, 2008
Announced at PDC: CoDe Magazine launches CodeCast podcast

The first episode of the new CodeCast podcast has been released, at http://codemag.com/codecast/. This is a weekly podcast for CoDe Magazine. The RSS feed to subscribe is: http://feeds.feedburner.com/codemag/codecast

CodeCastLogo1

I’m one of the CodeCast co-host, together with Ken Levy and Gary Short.

Each CodeCast show episode should be about 30 minutes even though this first one is about 44 minutes. The file download will typically be just under 100MB since it is recorded and in MP3 format at 320K bit rate for maximum voice and music quality, so it could be called CodeCast HD. (We will also make a lower bit rate available soon for those with less bandwidth).

This episode introduces the podcast, the hosts, CoDe Magazine, as well as previews the PDC 2008 (Microsoft Professional Developer Conference) this week and several of the technologies expected to make an appearance at the event.

You can also follow the CodeCast on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CodeCast

BTW: There is a special CoDe Magazine subscription offer for CodeCast listeners. Click here to get it.

 

Posted @ 1:39 PM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments (4)


Sunday, October 19, 2008
Terminal Server Black Screen Problem with Vista

I have been having this odd problem with Terminal Server between to Windows Vista machines. While it works great otherwise (I love the quality and performance it now provides, as I am using TS a LOT to connect to my machine at work when I am at home both in the US and Europe), it has exhibited this odd behavior of the screen going black for about 15 seconds about a minute after I first connect.

I think I have figured out what the problem was. I had my properties for the connection set to share local printers (which I think is the default). Once I turned local printer access off, the problem went away. I think it may have to do with the fact that TS tried to share information about local printer drivers, and I am under the impression that it has to do with me not having any printers on my local machine (although that is just a hunch).

Whatever the exact reasons are, the problem has gone away since I am not sharing my local printers which I do not have anyway :-)



Posted @ 12:45 PM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments


Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Silverlight 2.0 released!

Silverlight 2.0 has been released! Get it at www.Silverlight.net. Developers get all the required components at www.Silverlight.net/GetSarted



Posted @ 9:15 AM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments


Friday, October 10, 2008
My 15 Year MVP Anniversary

I have just been notified that I received the Microsoft MVP Award for 2009. (Microsoft actually sent this to me earlier but I never received the notification due to hurricane Ike and our infrastructure being unavailable).

So this will be my 15th year as an MVP (I originally became an MVP in 1995). Wow, cool!

I am not even sure how many other MVPs have been MVPs that long. Microsoft doesn't have good records that far back for MVPs (I guess there wasn't "a computer at every desk" at Microsoft back then :-)). I'd be interested to hear from other MVPs from back then that are still around...



Posted @ 9:31 PM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments (3)


Sunday, October 05, 2008
Houston, our Problem is solved!

We are back up and operational! :-)

After several long weeks without power and with several servers down and others semi-operational, we have finally recovered from hurricane Ike and will have the Houston office open as of tomorrow (Monday, Oct. 6th, 2008). Business as usual, I guess :-).

Luckily, we didn't suffer any major damages other than the power outage. If you have been trying to contact us, your emails may have never reached us, since our email server has been down for several days. Please don't hesitate to re-contact us if you are still waiting for an answer.

I'd also like to take the opportunity to thank Network Partners (www.NetworkPartners.com) for their help and letting us use their data center while ours had no power.



Posted @ 9:50 PM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments


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