Today was the Microsoft Heroes Happen Here 2008 Launch event in Perth. It kinda snuck up on me, I was meant to blog about it a bit before. Ah well, c'est la vie.
Microsoft has been particularly ambitious with this event as it marks the launch of 3 major products at once (even if two of them already launched and the third isn't yet ready). The keynote was presented by Dan Neault (General Manager, Microsoft SQL Server Marketing, Server and Tools Division, Microsoft Corporation [*whew* I get tired reading it, this guy must be busy]) and was fairly inspiring. Dan seemed to focus on the I.T. side of things a bit more heavily than the Dev side but that's okay considering his background. The keynote was ended with an annoyingly rehearsed "chat" with some high-end Microsoft Customers. To be honest I preferred the marketing videos to this as it felt a little overdone.
Dan's keynote was broken up (and supported) by some great demos of the new virtualization and server management technologies by Roger Lawrence. Roger, if you had weird creepy feeling that a chunky bearded dude with a shaved head was stalking you, I'm sorry. I saw you three or four times today but never did catch you to shake your hand.
Dave's session on WCF was great. He got to show off RESTful web services running straight out of the VS2008 box using WebGetAttribute and WebInvokeAttribute, which I hadn't seen before, and then he added an alternative (JSON) output format just by modifying the contract (Interface) with minimal effort. After that he got to show WCF doing syndication which I hadn't seen before either.
Dave's WCF session was followed up with Andrew Coates talking about Windows development. To tell the truth, I wasn't all that enamoured with this session. Andrew showed the developer/designer integrations tools with VS2008 and Microsoft Blend (which is still awesome but it seems that I've been seeing the same thing for the last year). After that the session moved into the ability for Visual C++ application (legacy or new if you're into that) to be able to easily leverage the Vista platform and the new control-suites. The example given was to update the File-Dialog and add in a SplitButton. Lastly Andrew showed the sync-framework which allows you to quickly build an application which is available in disconnected and partially-connected (see Andrew I was paying attention) environments. This is very cool but not something I'm likely to use in the near future and that may have a lot to do with my disappointment in the session. Maybe as a Data-Driven Web Application Guy who tends to stay away from the desktop I just plain had no business being there. Or maybe the content was a little too fragmented. An hour is a really short time to try and demo anything useful.
Then we stopped for lunch. The food was nice but whoever decided on rice but no tables needs a slap in the head. Lunch gave me an opportunity to head into the Partner Pavilion, chat to some folks about stuff, swipe some cool swag, and just generally sign up to a bunch of sales-related BACN (it's not spam if you solicited it).
I did find out that the MCTS qualifications had been expanded upon since I last looked and now covered Windows Forms, WPF, WCF, WF, ASP.NET and ADO.NET all up to version 3.5 of the Framework. At the time of writing, some of these exams haven't been released yet (follow the links for more info) and all of them have a pre-requisite on the Microsoft .NET Framework - Application Development Foundation Exam.
After this, back to Andrew again for a session on Office Development Platform programming. This is an area that Andrew is definitely passionate about and that passion definitely shone through into his presentation. Within the space of a short hour we got to extend Outlook in a number of significant ways including adding to the ribbon and dropping WPF controls (all bound to the results of a WCF service call of course) under an email message. Even though Office is (and will likely always be we were told today) a COM application, everything is handled for you under the covers of VSTO3 and you can leverage your current .NET skills. For some reason Office Development always excites me but I never seem to find the time to try any. Hmm, perhaps I need a license of Office first.
By far the shock of the day for me came from the last session presented by Anthony Borton. It was labelled as being about Application Lifecycle Management and I had no idea where Anthony was going to focus his effort. What I did know was that I'd been in the same room all day and it was 4:30 and I wasn't going anywhere.
After a quick vendor pitch Anthony jumped in showing us some code-metrics gathering and some profiling comparisons reports. We jumped into Team Plain which is great web-based front end for Team Foundation Server and a free download since it's acquisition by Microsoft. Then Anthony showed us just how easy it is to get Continuous Integration up and running with TFS. It seriously took about 2 minutes and consisted of about 5 mouse-clicks.
The reason this session shocked me is best summed up by the words of a co-worker as we were on our way home, "He managed to make what was potentially a dry and boring subject really interesting and fun." Anthony has a great presentation style and I'd love to see him present again.
By this time I'd been awake for approximately 12 hours (all my peers reckon I'm soft) so it was off home for me. On the train home I got to have a look through my bag-o-swag. Included was:
- a 1-year Vista Ultimate SP1
- a Full version of Server 2008 Enterprise x64 and x86 edition (Mr Coates pointed out that these numbers are really rather silly)
- a 90-day Evaluation version of VS2008 Team System
- CTP5 (I think) of SQL Server 2008 x64 and x86
- and more
Thanks to everyone who made this event happen. It was the first major Microsoft Event I'd ever been to and I had a ball. I was struck, several times throughout the day, by just how much time, effort and planning goes into such an event and with the theme of recognising everyday heroes being prevalent these guys deserve applause.
Thanks also to Fujitsu Australia for buying my ticket (cheers Wayne). It wasn't expensive but I still wouldn't have been likely to go without that. Okay, well I've waffled enough for now, I'm going to bed to dream about server virtualization and integrated user-experiences. We could be heroes, but not just for one day.
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