Tuesday, June 19, 2007

TechEd 7 (Summary)

Well, it's been a little over a week since I got back from TechEd. I was planning to post a summary of my experience several days ago, but I actually caught something resembling the stomach flu on the flight home. That put me out of commission for 4 days, and I've been scrambling to catch up on things ever since. Anyways...

All things considered, TechEd was great this year. I had never attended a pre-conference session in the past, and I'm glad I did this time around. Jeff Prosise is the best, most consistent technical speaker I've experienced. His pre-conference session on ASP.NET AJAX was excellent, as were the 3 other sessions of his I attended during the week. I have to say that Marcus Murray's presentation on security was probably more entertaining and had the audience laughing, applauding, etc. However, the content wasn't nearly as useful and applicable to most IT folks. Several other presenters were also quite good. Others, not so much, but that's the thing about TechEd. There are always a ton of options for what to do during any given time slot. Worst case, you can leave the session and head down to gather swag and talk with representatives from Microsoft and assorted vendors.

Having the attendee party at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure was definitely better than the standard Universal Studios. I like the roller coasters, but I can't hack the simulator rides any more. If the visuals don't 100% match the motion, I get nauseous. Just getting old, I suppose.

Sounds like the conference will return to Orlando in 2008. Then, I heard talk about it possibly being in Houston or Chicago in 2009. Having it local to me in Chicago would be interesting, but not quite as exciting as flying off to another part of the country. So far, I've been to one large Microsoft conference every other year for the last 4 years (PDC 03, TechEd 05, and TechEd 07). Typically, that's long enough in between each for me to forgot just how exhausted you get at them and how uncomfortable the chairs are. :) So, I'll have to see if I feel like going back to Orlando next June. Alternatively, PDC will hopefully be re-scheduled for 2008, and I can head out to L.A. next October. Something to look forward to.

Alright, that's it for TechEd 2007. Thanks for reading.

Friday, June 8, 2007

TechEd 6.5 (Thursday, 6/7)

I wrote in the last post about the various prizes being given away here at TechEd. Shortly after I submitted the post, a company called Brocade gave away $10,000 to a single winner. I think that was the biggest "cash" prize this year. An ironic thing to note about Brocade is that their website is actually written in Java (.jsp). Kind of amusing since they're here at TechEd advertising their services.

The sessions I attended yesterday covered network hacking, features in Windows Mobile 6, data caching, data mining, and top web blunders. By far, the best session was "Why I Can Hack Your Network in a Day" with Marcus Murray from TrueSec Security.

He was very entertaining and explained how he can hack wireless networks like 128-bit WEP in 5 minutes and even WPA if your key is not strong enough. Plus, he showed how easy it is to build and deploy a Trojan that gives him 100% access to everything on the infected PC (even Remote Desktop) and potentially many other PCs around the company. The most interesting thing, though, was that he showed that you can log in to a windows PC or server using only a password hash without even needing to decrypt it, and he had any number of ways to obtain password hashes. Very interesting stuff. I think the webcast of his presentation should be required viewing for the Microsoft IT folks where I work. And at other places, for that matter. The speaker at the session on data mining sounded like the German Kermit the Frog. It was a little disconcerting at first, but the guy really knew his stuff. Overall, the session was very good. I also took advantage of the massages available in the Seagate Crystal Reports booth. It actually worked out very well because I got in 15 minutes before they closed, and the massages were supposed to be 5 minutes. People stopped showing up, so I got the full 15 minutes. It managed to fix my back for about 30 minutes until I sat in the very uncomfortable seats of the next session.

On to the attendee party at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. You can see the rain clouds moving in.

Todd and I arrived maybe 30 minutes early, so we were at the front of the line at the gate. When it opened at 7:00, we actually ran to The Hulk coaster just for fun. Oddly enough, the average IT person isn't very fast :). So, we were in the first 20 people on the ride. Then, we ran next door to the Spider Man attraction. How often do you get the chance to ride both The Hulk and Spider Man rides in less than 20 minutes!?

After that, the rain started to come down and all the coasters stopped operating for a while due to lightning warnings.

So, we took the opportunity to grab some free food and drinks. Let's see. I think we had subs, beef kabobs, popcorn, pizza, black beans and rice, potato salad, and various sweets. Neither of us drink, so we didn't take advantage of the free booze, but others most definitely did. The park was covered in beer bottles by the end of the night. Not the healthiest of evenings, but at least we had that little run at the beginning...

What else happened... The old professor from Jurassic park called us sissies for wearing ponchos on the water ride. At least we were dry. I "greyed-out" twice on The Hulk and Dueling Dragons coasters. Not sure what's up with that, but it was an interesting feeling. Finally, I took Todd's picture with a few of the performers around the park. Here are three photos. Can you pick the one that's not like the others?

All in all, the party was fun. You have to put up with thousands of drunk IT folks, but they were mostly harmless. I'll finish up my final thoughts on the Friday sessions and the conference as a whole over the weekend.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

TechEd 6 (Thursday 6/7)

Since we have a longer lunch break, I decided to sit and post something early today.

The rain eventually ended last night around 11:00 PM. Amazingly, it rained steadily (very hard at times) for 8 hours starting at 3:00 PM. That's a lot of rain. I actually headed over to MGM around 9:30 to hit a few rides. My shoes are just now getting to be completely dry. I went on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror twice, the Aerosmith rollercoaster twice, and the Great Movie Ride once. All in all, it was a nice evening even with the rain. What's the deal with Aerosmith and roller coasters by the way? I don't understand the tie-in, but it was a good ride none-the-less. Unfortunately, I didn't bring the camera due to the rain. So, I don't have any photos to share.

If any of you are thinking that TechEd might be fun next year (in Orlando again, by the way), let me add a little fuel to the fire. EMC has been giving away $6000 ($1000 x 6) to six different developers each day. All you had to do for a chance to win was register at their booth and show up at the designated times when names were selected. One company is raffling off 42" LCD TVs. Others have Zunes, PSPs, Wiis, XBox 360s, PS3s, Windows Mobile 6 phones, Sling Boxes, etc. Quest Software is giving away $15,000 today ($2500, $5000, and $7500 to three winners).

Finally, another company whos name I cannot recall at the moment is raffling-off a Ducati motorcycle, and the tickets are free (one per person). Even if you're not excited by t-shirts, hats, and other swag, those larger prizes have probably caught your attention.

Just a note... I don't mean to play down the educational aspects of this conference. If you put in some time and pay attention, you can definitely learn a ton of useful stuff. I'm bringing back hundreds of pages of slides and my personal notes. For this blog, I've just opted to stay light-hearted and focus primarily on some of the more "fun" aspects.

I'll try to post again tonight with pictures from the attendee party at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. If not, then I'll put them up tomorrow or over the weekend. Time for another session...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

TechEd 5 (Wenesday, 6/6)

As I sit here and type this evening, I'm a little disappointed. We were supposed to be at MGM Studios, but the rain has just been pouring down in buckets for the last almost 5 hours. The park is open until 1:00 AM, so we're still planning to give it a try later. Here's a shot I took of the weather earlier today when the rain first started. We even had some good thunder and lightning.

On to TechEd.... My guess of french toast for breakfast this morning actually turned out to be correct. The TechEd meals (breakfast and lunch) have been excellent thus far. It's amazing that they can achieve the level of quality they do for so many people, but I guess that's how the catering company makes its money. I also managed to pick up 1 more hat and a few more shirts bringing my total to 3 hats and 14 shirts. Not quite as much as the guy I noted in a previous post, but respectable. A couple of the vendors I spoke with today actually had some good ideas when it came to Sharepoint and UI controls. I've got quite a bit of stuff to give away as quiz prizes at work including a copy of Crackdown for the XBox 360, pens, random blinky things, and some of the shirts and hats.

Microsoft has finally made the slides available in advance of the sessions. They must be reading my blog! :) Probably not, but I can pretend. It's just such a better way to take notes as I previously mentioned. On a side note, I was getting 2.5MB per second downloading the slides over the wireless g network at the convention hall. That's pretty impressive for wireless and the MS server hosting the files.

The sessions I attended today covered hidden gems in ASP.NET 2.0, unit testing and test-driven development, combining Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) with standard Windows forms applications, and JavaScript performance. The most enjoyable session was given, again, by Jeff Prosise and covered hidden gems in ASP.NET 2.0. I had already heard most of the subject matter covered from Fritz Onion, but Jeff did a great presentation. It's nice when the speaker can actually get the audience laughing and interacting a little. However, the presentation with the most interesting content was given by Cyra Richardson of Microsoft and covered JavaScript performance. I can honestly say that I've never given the subject that much thought, but she pointed out a bunch of easy things that can be done to optimize your JavaScript. You just need to be careful because many were geared towards IE. I also find it funny that her site doesn't work at all in Firefox.:)

Well, I think we're going to head over for a couple of wet hours at MGM. Gotta give Todd a call. More tomorrow. I didn't get many pictures today, but I'll try to get a bunch from the attendee party at Universal Studios tomorrow night if it's not raining too much.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

TechEd 4.5 (Tuesday, 6/5)

I just had to add a special post to complain about the fact that Microsoft isn't making the slides available BEFORE the presentations. For those of us running OneNote 2007, it works really well to print the slides into OneNote, follow along, and type or pen (with a tablet pc) notes right on the slides. Maybe they'll learn some day. OneNote is their software, after all. I've requested this maybe 6 times over the last couple months. They actually had links to all the slides on Sunday at the TechEd site, but they didn't work. Then, the links were gone until this morning. Now that they've showed-up again, there are only a few. It seems like maybe they are only posting them after the session, but I can't understand why they would take that approach.

TechEd 4 (Tuesday, 6/5)

I have to start off tonight's post by apologizing for the low quality of many of my pictures. I'm not much of a photographer, and I've been using a Canon SD900 which apparently doesn't do very well in low light. Although, Todd pointed out that I should put it in manual mode and mess with the settings. I just haven't had the time. Anyway...

I take back any degree of cockiness about getting swag that came through in my post from last night. Todd and I bumped into a guy today who had just picked up his 7th hat and 37th t-shirt. That's just ridiculous!

The sessions I attended today covered custom Windows Presentation Foundation controls, service-oriented architecture, coding standards, VB.NET tips and tricks for Visual Studio 2008, and using XML in SQL Server 2005. On the whole, they were much better than those from yesterday. The coding standards meeting was fun because it was what Microsoft calls a Birds of a Feather session. Basically, it just means that it's an interactive discussion instead of a monologue. I think I ended up talking almost as much as the moderator. Oddly enough, though, the best session of the day also contained the least technical content. Juval Lowy from IDesign talked about service oriented architecture, and he is a very good presenter.

The session should be available soon as an on-demand webcast from Microsoft. Everything he suggested about the way projects should be architected, staffed, and managed made sense, but I'm not sure how achievable it all is in the real world. Definitely worth working towards, though.

After the sessions, Todd and I made our way over to Epcot.

It's not the most exciting park, but it was the only one with late hours tonight. At this point, the rides go something like, "Now, we'll take a look into the future - all the way to the year 1995...". We just went on Test Track and then headed over to Morroco for a decent but overpriced dinner. Turns out there was entertainment as well (see below). The next two nights should be much improved. Tomorrow is MGM studios and Thursday is the Microsoft party at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure with free food, drinks, and rides only for TechEd attendees!

Monday, June 4, 2007

TechEd 3 (Monday, 6/4)

All I can say is that it's a good thing the TechEd bags this year are big. Mine started off at 4-5 pounds today and weighed more like 20 by lunch. Gotta love TechEd swag. Today's take included 7 t-shirts, 1 baseball hat, 2 squeezy balls, 4 pens, 1 tape measure, multiple light-up thingys, 1 Sharepoint book, 1 multi-tool thing with a level, screwdriver bits, and LED light, and an USB SD card reader. Not bad for one day. Actually, it only took an hour or so. The vendors are so tightly-packed there...

You can see just a small portion of the vendor area in this shot.

At any rate, today started at 5:45 AM and we got to the convention center shortly after 7:00 for breakfast.

You can see how nice the weather has been and what the Orange Counter Convention Center looks like in this shot.

The keynote address started at 8:30. They had a pretty funny spoof video featuring Doc (Christopher Lloyd) from Back To The Future and Bob Muglia, Senior VP, Server and Tools Business from Microsoft. The gist was that Bob had just finished his presentation (90 minutes in the future) and was booed off stage. Doc explained that the reason was because people are sick of Microsoft's "visions" for the future and just want practical applications that actually work. They went on a humorous adventure in the past featuring people trying to use previously failed software that resulted from Microsoft's grand visions. At one point, they ended up in an alternate future run by giant Bob and Clippy characters (previous, annoying interactive MS icons). Clippy said something like "You look like you're about to scream. Would you like me to help you scream?" with a text bubble just like in Office. It was pretty entertaining. The rest of the presentation was pretty average, but still interesting. If you are interested, the keynote should be available on the Virtual TechEd site soon. If you watch it, you can test Silverlight at the same time! Try it with Safari on a Mac.

You can see the size of the room where the keynote was held. Roughly 14,000 seats (all full shortly after this photo), and 12 25-30 foot diagonal screens.

Doc and Bob came out on stage in the Delorian.

Here, they discuss the goals of the presentation. The red ball you see in Doc's pocket is attached to a horn that he referred to as his MS-BS detector that he threatened to use if Bob started talking about "visions".

After the keynote, I attended several sessions on Visual Studio Tools for Office, Visual Studio extensibility, and IIS 7 for Visual Studio developers. By far, the best session of the day was a trip around Silverlight presented by Scott Guthrie from Microsoft. That product just keeps looking better and better. Man, it would be nice to do browser independent web development without need to write HTML or JavaScript...

Scott in action.

After the sessions ended, Todd and I headed over to Disney's Animal Kingdom to hit the Everest roller coaster since neither of us had been on it. We rode it three times and had a pretty good dinner at The Rainforest Cafe. For the second time this trip, I was surprised by the quality of the food. Having never eaten there before, I assumed it would taste a little more "mass-produced" or something.

Here's a pretty poor shot of the inside of the restaurant.

This is the dessert we really wanted to get but managed to restrain ourselves. Doesn't it look good?! I think the family in the shot was wondering why I was taking a picture of their son blowing out his birthday candle.

I couldn't figure out how to fit these last two photos into the rest of my write-up, so I'm just sticking them here. :)

This is roughly half of the dining area where we get breakfast and lunch. I don't know how many tables there are in all, but it's a lot. The food is actually pretty good, too.

This is the band that provided entertainment over lunch today. They were pretty good.

That's it for today. Goodnight, all.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

TechEd 2 (Sunday, 6/3)

OK, so maybe I'm cheating by posting my first and second entries back-to-back, but I was just too tired last night. Today started with a wake-up call at 6:30 AM. After getting ready, I met up with Todd in the Rotunda of the hotel and we headed over to the Orange County Convention Center around 7:30. The pre-conference session didn't actually start until 10:00, but we wanted to get there early to register, have breakfast, and walk around. I've attended this conference in the past, but it still surprises me to see just how big it is. You can't really tell from the pictures, but I'll take more once all the vendor booths are set up and everything is opened-up.

We got a nice convertible bag/backpack this year plus some beta software, a black TechEd t-shirt and hat, and an Office 2007 t-shirt at registration. It's always fun to go through all the stuff they stick in the bags even if much of it is just advertising junk. You can see my bag in the photo below under the banana. For some reason, I've gotten hooked on bananas this year. Since they didn't have the official dining area set up, everybody just had a picnic on the floor for breakfast.

At 10:00, we headed to our pre-conference session on ASP.NET AJAX with Jeff Prosise from Wintellect. I had actually spoken with Jeff on the phone several months ago and was looking forward to meeting him in person. The presentation was quite interesting and contained a bunch of good information and tips that you can't just find on the internet. All in all, Todd and I were both impressed with his knowledge and presentation skills. It's also nice to have a presenter who is actually excited about his topics. That enthusiasm is often infectious and leads to a more enjoyable experience for the audience. He actually finished 30 minutes early and announced that because Microsoft's other big conference this year, PDC, was cancelled, he wanted to talk about Silverlight for the last half hour. I guess he's been working on Silverlight presentations for PDC and was disappointed that he wouldn't be able to give them. That was fine by me because the Silverlight technology looks very interesting. Here's a shot of Jeff in action. Sorry it's so blurry. I didn't want to distract him with the flash, so the shutter speed was pretty slow.

The demos Jeff presented are available here if you're interested.

Today's session ended at 5:00, and we stopped by the TechEd store so I could pick up a Microsoft golf shirt. I'm such a geek. This is actually a shot from earlier in the day before the store opened. Doesn't the security woman look like she's having fun? :)

After that, we headed out to Downtown Disney to walk around an have some dinner. We ended up at Wolfgang Puck's Cafe. I'm always a little suspicious about his food because he's become so commercialized and seems to put his name on anything, but the food was actually excellent. It was mainly the smell that drew us to the restaurant. They cook most everything over wood. We were happy when everything actually tasted as good as it smelled.

Good night, all. More tomorrow. Or is it today at this point? I need some sleep...

TechEd 1

Hey, all. Well, I'm down here in Orlando for TechEd. Actually, my friend, Todd, and I flew in late last night. So, if I'm doing daily postings, then I guess I owe two tonight. :) The trip down here was a little bit of an adventure. Since there has been a tropical storm passing through here, we departed an hour or so late and the flight got pretty bumpy as we approached Florida. Not really a big deal, though. Apparently, there must only be one guy working the late night shift at Orlando International because it took over an hour for our luggage to get from the plane to the carousel. I suppose we can just be happy that nothing got lost or broken. All in all, we were just happy to get here. We made it to the Dolphin hotel around 1:00 AM and ended up splitting a pizza in the all-night cafeteria before heading to our respective rooms for a couple hours of sleep. It's really not as bad as I make it sound. I'm mainly just trying to make an excuse for not posting last night. :) Here are a couple of really "exciting" photos from our travels.

Todd waits for the monorail to get from our terminal at the Orlando airport to the main terminal. In Orlando, the rides start right after you get off the plane! :)

That's me waiting "patiently" for my luggage. Interestingly, Todd's bag was the very first one out from our flight. I'm not sure what the odds are on that.