Having now completed my instructing and hands-on lab duties, I was free to immerse myself in the breakout sessions for the remainder of the conference.
I took in two Windows Phone sessions. Firstly – WPH305 - Multi-tasking and Application Services in Windows Phone 7.5 with Chris Walsh and Jake Ginnivan.
They delved into the new background agent and search integration features coming in the Windows Phone 7.1 update. I can see myself using the background agents as a way to download new data for my Aussie Toilets app. The search integration is also relevant. It would make sense to offer the nearest public toilets when someone is searching for a particular location.
Next in WPH307 - Analyzing and Improving Windows Phone Application Performance, I got to see Jeff Wilcox go through tips on improving app performance. Again, some ideas on how to improve Aussie Toilets, and Jeff kindly emailed me a code sample that I will make use of.
After morning tea (a muffin and a muffin!), I battled the crowd to get a seat in DEV411 - The Future of C#: Good things come to those who 'await' with Joseph Albahari. One of only a few '400' level talks this year, Joseph delivered an impressive presentation on how easy it is to make your code work asynchronously with the new language features coming in C# 5. This was made even more compelling as he contrasted how difficult it was to achieve the same results without the new features.
After lunch, on a whim I went along to SEC311 - SCVMM 2012 Network & Storage with Alessandro Cardoso. I've used SCVMM 2008 R2 in the context of managing TFS Labs, so it was interesting to have a look at the next version, but a fair bit of this talk went over my head.
Finally the 'locknote' presentation by Norm Judah. I was a little disappointed with this, as I didn't think Norm really spoke about anything particularly new or revelatory. It was ok, but not riveting.
One lovely surprise today was getting an Amazon gift card email from Microsoft! Enclosed was the following text:
Thank you very much for your extraordinary effort and flexibility as a TLG at TechEd 2011. We are honored to have had worked with you.
That so was totally unexpected so I popped back in to the hands-on labs to personally thank Kim and Ronald (the lab organisers).
The second surprise was chatting to a fellow conference delegate on the way back to Brisbane airport. We were talking about Windows Phones, and when I said I'd written an app 'Aussie Toilets' he smiled and pulled out his phone and showed me he had it installed on his phone! A real buzz to meet someone who's using my app and likes it!
So TechEd 2011 ended on a positive note for me. I did enjoy my time doing the instructor and hands-on labs. I do like helping people learn new things work through problems they might be having.
One good thing about my hotel room – the shower is tall enough that I don't have to do the limbo to wash my hair. I've stayed in much fancier places that can't get that right!
First session today was another non-developer one – SEC306 Operations Manager 2012: New Features. This started off looking like it was going to be a "death by PowerPoint", but they finally got into some demos. Looks like a good tool, and they even showed what it can do for your in-house apps, so there was some developer interest after all (see photo showing example diagnostics from an app failure).
I then got to finally see the infamous Chris Walsh present WPH306 What's new for Windows Phone 7.5 Games Developers XNA and Silverlight.
Next up was my second Instructor-led lab – "Build Your First Windows Phone 7 Application". Again we had more interest than we could cater for. Great to get lots of positive feedback, especially on how easy it was to develop the applications using Visual Studio. Also, as this lab had to run on the PC hardware (because we were using the phone emulator), we had no complaints of slowness that have plagued the other labs.
After lunch, I just managed to get a seat to see Anthony Borton kind of present DEV309 Visual Studio vNext Directions. I say "kind of" as because of restrictions imposed by Microsoft, Anthony had to change his content at the last minute and rely on videos from Brian
Back to helping out in the hands-on labs for the rest of the afternoon, except for the last bit, as I was asked to run a repeat of the "Microsoft ASP.NET MVC 3: Fundamentals" Instructor-led lab. A smaller group this time, but very keen and some good discussions on how they might adopt MVC for their web projects.
After this, the convention centre was transformed into the "fun factory", with different areas laid out with X-Box games, go-kart racing, table tennis, basketball and other stuff, plus lots of yummy food for tea.
A thundery wet night last night. Glad I brought my spray jacket, but even then I got pretty wet walking home. Wednesday morning the storm had gone and we were left with a beautiful clear day.
First up, I caught most of Adam Cogan presenting DEV316 - 15 rules to developer heaven. Some interesting thoughts on using addins for TFS to get better visualisation of progress (this will improve in v.next), and using screenshots or screencasts to verify work is "done". Also the idea of user stories including acceptance criteria
Next was my first Instructor-led Lab – "Microsoft ASP.NET MVC 3: Fundamentals". It turns out this was probably one of the most popular labs of the conference, and unfortunately we had to turn a lot of people away.
After the lab, I checked out Rick Claus presenting SRV305 - Diagnosing the Diseases of DNS. Yes, my main focus is development but it can be useful to have some understanding of related areas.
After lunch, I caught Reid Purvis and Sashank Pawar doing DAT309 - Virtualising SQL Server with Hyper-V.
Time for a quick bit of afternoon tea, then I was helping in the hands-on labs for the rest of the day.
Before heading back to the hotel, I enjoyed catching up with Narelle
and the kids, and then my parents in two Skype conversations.
My youngest asked "would you like to come home Daddy?" – now that does tug at your heart strings. I'll be home soon.
It was a very early start for me Tuesday morning, waking up at 4:15am in order to get to the airport for the 6am flight to Coolangatta via Sydney. (A big thanks to my brother-in-law David, who also got up early to give me a lift!)
The flights went smoothly. We were a bit delayed landing in Sydney, so I was in a rush to get to my connecting flight. It was a relief to discover that it was the same plane, so no risk of missing it or losing my luggage
I caught the Gold Coast Tourist Shuttle from the airport to my hotel – probably half the price of a taxi and just as convenient.
I'm staying at Ipanema Holiday Resort. At about 1.2km, it's the furthest I've been from the convention centre, but its a pleasant 10 minute walk so that's fine. Plus, as I'm paying for this trip myself, the price fitted my budget.
After registration, I had a "Technical Learning Guide" briefing meeting. It was good to see quite a few familiar faces from last year.
Something new this year was the addition of two "Kick-off" sessions preceding the keynote. I attended the "Developer Kick-Off", which included some highlights on Windows Phone, Visual Studio v.Next and Azure (specifically GreenButton's Pixar in the cloud service).
The keynote was probably one of the better ones I have seen. It was hosted by Adam Spencer (ABC TV personality and pure math fan), who was great, and I'm only glad he didn't try and show us all the digits of the largest known prime number. He was joined by Jarod Green (creator of the Beached Az cartoons) and Jane Cockburn (Senior Product Manager at Cochlear)
I did think it was ironic that there were so many mentions from the keynote speakers of developing software, when in reality the 'developer' portion of TechEd has seemed to be sidelined in the last few years by the organisers.
Following the keynote was a welcome reception, which provided some nice food for tea and my opportunity to grab a JetBrains Resharper T-Shirt.
About this time, the skies opened and The Gold Coast experienced a nice little tropical downpour, complete with lightning. I'm glad I'd brought my sprayjacket for the brisk, if slightly moist, walk back to the hotel room.
A phone call to the family to talk to Narelle and the kids, then a bit of work before turning in for the night.
Anyone who works with SQL Server (including the database engine, integration services, reporting services and/or analysis services) should be aware of PASS – the Professional Association for SQL Server.
PASS run a number of events throughout the year. The largest of these is the annual summit, held in Seattle. This is widely regarded as the place to hear the world's best speakers on all things SQL Server related. It's no surprise that my old boss Rob is one of them!
If you can't get to Seattle then there's other options, one being the free "24 hours of PASS" online training days*. These are virtual events run through LiveMeeting, but depending on your local time zone if you don't feel like staying up into the wee hours, watching the recordings might be a better option.
First of all, if you haven't done so already, register as a PASS member (it's free). You'll then be able to attend the next 24 Hours of Pass (Sep 7-8), and also watch recordings of previous presentations.
Recordings are available as either a LiveMeeting presentation, or WMV streaming video. Watching these offline on my phone required a few extra steps:
First off, the WMV files are published using MMS:// to support streaming. This does make it difficult to save locally. I discovered that you can also access the same file using HTTP:// so that solved that issue.
Normally you can copy a WMV file onto your Windows Phone by selecting the file in Zune to sync with your phone. There must be something about the PASS videos that Zune didn't like, as it came up with an error C00D11CD (C00D1189). The suggestion for this is to re-encode your video.
So I fired up Windows Live Movie Maker, loaded the original WMV file, then saved the movie using the "Windows Phone" mobile device settings. The new file copied successfully onto my Windows Phone!
So if you see a guy on a bus commuting in Adelaide watching the occasional SQL Server video (to complement his regular collection of podcasts), chances are it could be me
* – another great option is to get involved with your local PASS Chapter (mine being the Adelaide SQL Server User Group)
Update 7th August
The PASS videos I've seen are 940x528, 844x528 or 704x528, 2fps at 276kbps. Audio 16kHz at 16kbps.
If you use one of the default Windows Phone settings in Movie Maker, you'll end up wasting a lot of bandwidth – the videos are pretty much
I created a "Custom Setting" in Movie Maker with identical frame rate (fps) and kbps. I scaled the video down to better fit the Windows Phone screen size (800x480). The 940x528 went to 800x450, 844x528 went to 766x480, and 704x528 to 640x480.