What’s New In The Microsoft C# Community?

Charlie Calvert’s Community Convergence posts are a great way to catch up with the Microsoft C# team.  Be sure to check out the latest edition!

My personal Highlights:

Microsoft Gets Transparent on Wikipedia

Or at least one employee does.  Peter Torr, a program manager at Microsoft, admits to editing Wikipedia articles on HD-DVD in order to “[keep] the pages interesting, up-to-date, and accurate“.  He also comes clean about doing a bit of anonymous editing in the past and states he created a Wikipedia account so noone can “stumble” on his edits and accuse Microsoft of astroturfing or such.  Which of course people will.  I personally applaud Peter for being upfront with his editing, it will be up to the users of Wikipedia to decide if his comments are biased or not.  I would encourage Microsoft to make a standard corporate Wikipedia account that their employees should use if they want to edit Wikipedia.  Or establish a policy that they must create a MSFT* user or some-such.  Though most companies are becoming transparent wither they want to or not, thanks to WikiScanner.   Regardless,  another sign that Microsoft is more open then people give them credit for.

Microsofties Aren’t Robots? Perish The Thought…

Glenn Bock over at Microsoft recently blogged that he was not a robot because he uses the following non-Microsoft technologies: A Mac Mini (which really doesn’t count, Microsoft doesn’t make computers and as far as I am aware they still write software for the Mac),  an iPod, Yahoo, Google, NUnit (MS tech related), Firefox, OpenSource, Resharper (MS tech related), Ruby on Rails, and Linux.  That’s all well and good, but would he still follow the Programming Promises? I bet he at least tries, though I’d also guess he’s a tad biased. :)  Regardless he’s also right in he wouldn’t be doing a good job if he wasn’t examining and using alternatives, especially when they were better then the items he could dogfood.  It’s a reminder that we all need to continually be exploring and expanding our exposure to technology from all fronts.

Microsoft: Cool or Stuffy?

Janelle at Microsoft had an interesting post asking if Microsoft was cool or not.  She argues that since Microsoft launched Halo 3 and is rumored to be talking to Facebook that there should be some coolness points awarded.  My personal take?  Microsoft has cool people, that do cool things.  But the two examples she gives are both things that Microsoft did not internally develop.  Halo 3 is a Bungie product, and they’re specifically talking about buying Facebook, not creating it.  This tells me that Microsoft knows cool when they see it, but are they able to produce coolness themselves?  Sure somethings they have are cool, Tafiti, CodeToLive is cool, alot of the stuff out of Microsoft Research is too.  But is SharePoint cool?  Is BizTalk?  Do they need to be?  Should they be?  Coolness doesn’t sell to CIOs, cool does play well with the people actually having to work with the products though.  These are the people that will ask for or recommend things to the CIO.  So by necessity I think Microsoft has to be Cool on the one side and Suit on the other.  What do you think?  Does Microsoft need to be cooler?  Or is it hip to be square?

ArcReady, CodeToLive, and Sidewalks 2.0

Attended the Microsoft ArcReady event yesterday. Got a chance to see Brian H. Prince and Josh Holmes again. I always look forward to try to absorb what I can from these two, very very bright guys.

Josh made a point to show me his new 2007 Road King, hinting that it was somehow relevant to his job. It seems that Josh is doing what looks like is going to be an awesome show, called CodeToLive. He is taking the bike across America with Steve Loethen and interviewing developers. Based on the trailer (which he showed during the presentation) and the first episode, it looks like this is going to be a blast to follow. CodeToLive is definitely a mantra I live by, developing isn’t what I do, it is who I am. I’m hoping to see many more episodes from those two.

Due to an administrative error (specifically an admin confusing Kansas City and Cleveland), there was a surprisingly small turnout. That did not prevent a few spirited exchanges though, it was interesting to hear how some could not fathom how Twitter and Twittervision applied to the concept of Platforms being better products then Applications. One of the real benefits of these events is getting a chance to interact with fellow professionals in different areas with different background. Getting those unique perspectives and having a chance to articulate your own positions really helps put things into focus. So regardless of the turn out it was a worth while and lively crowd in my opinion.

Josh’s presentation was enjoyable as always, interspersed with personal stories and anecdotes that help illustrate situations we may find in our day to day jobs. The first story he relayed was his treacherous experiencing trusting a single data provider, namely NavTeq. The second related to utilizing your users to drive design. His alum Franciscan University of Stubenville, had installed some new sidewalks and were dismayed to see none of the students using them. They had elected, rather, to cut through the grass along a shorter and more direct route. When the university expanded and added new buildings, the initially did not put any sidewalks in. Instead the planted grass. They then waited until the students had worn trails in the grass along their preferred routes and paved those. It’s really quite a good story about the importance of user-centric and user-driven design.

Brian talked next and demonstrated how some of the concepts are used at QuickSolutions. You’d think it’d be incredibly boring, but Brian’s skill as a presenter is such that you really don’t notice. He demoed a bit with the BizTalk Labs site, specifically the Connectivity Service and went over some of the procedures QS uses. A joy to listen to as always.

Josh also gave us a brief overview of Tafiti (which I had seen before, but it’s always good when the MS guys start doing new demos ;) ). And things wrapped up then with the usual giveaways. A few books, a copy of Expression and Office 2007. Though my chances were good I walked away empty handed, yet not empty headed :) I am definitely looking forward to the next ArcReady!

Don’t forget to checkout CodeToLive, and a reminder that CodeMash registration will be opening soon!

Flies in the Pipes.

Microsoft has announced the private alpha of PopFly (love the .ms domain BTW!), their Yahoo Pipes! competitor. Looks like there’s a bit of social networking involved as well with the ability to vote on user’s projects and track their progress. One of the big things going in Microsoft’s favor is the Visual Studio integration. See some details here. I asked for an invite so we’ll see….

WTH is a GWHHM?

The latest issue of Redmond Developer News has a column by William F. Zachmann (got to have the middle initial), BTW he doesn’t appear to have a blog…I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. Somehow blogless commentators feel less “authorative” to me…or something. Anyway, he talks about a phenomenon that he terms GWHHMs or Gwhyms, otherwise known as “Geeks WHo Hate Microsoft”. His main point is a good one: “Remain open to alternatives that make sense when they do in fact make sense.” However, I think he comes down a bit to harshly on the “alternatives” in my opinion.

He does a good job of condemning some of the zealotry that’s out there, but unfortunately he really only talks about half the problem. There is another side. GWOLMs (pronounced Qualms) or Geeks Who Only Like Microsoft. Much like Gwhyms, Gwolms are found in every IT department across the Industry. They will turn a blind eye to any and all solutions that are not stamped with the Redmond Seal of Approval. They can cost your company thousands of dollars in licensing fees for potentially inferior products. They are the ones who dismiss AJAX until Microsoft releases their AJAX Library or dismiss Ruby until Microsoft releases IronRuby and then fawn over how wonderful it all is.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Microsoft in a number of ways, I make a living coding in C# using the .NET framework. However I also run Firefox as my main browser and use a GTK based IM Client (Pidgin). I use these not because they are open source or because they are not Microsoft. I use them because they are (in my opinion) the best solutions out there. I recently utilized PDFBox in a solution for the same reasons.

Also, I can not agree with his recommendation to make Microsoft solutions your “default choice”, my advice is to look at all possibilities in a problem area and choose the best one that fits in with your style, budget, and resources. One shouldn’t have a “default choice” in my opinion.

Personally, that’s why I can’t wait for the next CodeMash, a conference like that epitomizes how software development should work (incidentally Microsoft was a sponsor of CodeMash, so even they realize the importance of learning from one another).

Day of Dot Net: Ann Arbor, MI.

Ah the first real blog post in a while, and even this is late, hoping to get back in the groove here with this one!

After leaving Cleveland at 6am I ended up arriving at Day Of DotNet a little late. Not too bad for a three hundred mile drive, I ended up walking into Josh Holmes’ talk on “Architecting the User Experience” (part of the ArcReady series, this was like a sneak-peek) about 10 minutes late. What I saw was awesome though , definitely some things to think about. Jason Follas, who I met at CodeMash and an organizer for DoDN, was kind enough to grab my name tag for me in exchange for me doing a head count of the session (76 people if you’re curious).

After having a few minutes to mull over what I had heard, it was time for the next session. “Hardcore Reflection” by Dustin Campbell. This was by far the most valuable session of the the day, for me. Dustin was a great speaker and really knew his stuff. I learned alot there that I’m looking forward to using in my day to day work.

I then had a chance to attend red-gate Software’s vendor session, mostly a bore-fest infomercial. Then Lunch, Domino’s pizza (if you could get it), I had a couple pizza’s and called the wife.

Off to “Next Generation UI” session by Mark Miller. Poor guy, his speaking skills are awesome, but the technology did not want to cooperate! I heard his second session went well, but I had opted to go to “Multithreading in Windows Forms Applications”. Patrick Steele gave a good talk on the basics of multi-threading a form application, I was hoping for something more in depth, but all in all a good refresher.

Then we had the Microsoft Vendor Session, which was also hosted by Josh Holmes, he didn’t have anything prepared so I threw out the DLR and IronRuby. Well, he didn’t have IronRuby, but we got to see some of the DLR in Silverlight 1.1 with IronPython, cool stuff! Someone asked about Silverlight on Linux (which Mono is working on). Josh said that if it made business sense Microsoft would do it (being that they’re a business and all), but he didn’t think that the Linux made much business sense right now. He’s probably right (though I did rib him a bit about Dell putting Ubuntu on consumer systems now), but sometimes developer and community good will pays more then a strict bean counter could see. Could you imagine if Microsoft announced Linux support for Silverlight? I think it would be a brilliant PR move myself. You keep saying your open and look at these cool standards and we’re cross platform, and blah blah blah. Just do it already! :)

Anyway, wrapped up the day with Brian Prince’s talk on “Agile Processes”, I didn’t get a chance to hear Brian speak at CodeMash, and I must say I came away impressed. He’s quite an awesome presenter! I hope to incorporate some of his company’s ideas into my own practices, and at least I’ll be more prepared if I ever get a job at an agile shop.

I was glad I went, I learned alot and had a great amount of fun and will be attending the next one! We need more events like this in the Northeast Ohio area!

Microsoft: Stop Making Fun Of Us

This is probably old, but I found it funny:armedpc.jpg

via AmberMac

But Does He Have An Eye Patch?

Looks like someone was trying to make a buck off of Microsoft and Adobe. Microsoft is heaping praise on the Sheriff department for making the arrest. I especially like the name of the task force: “Computer And Technology Crime High-Tech Response”. “High-Tech Response” sounds like they should have friggen laser beams on their heads.

Apparently the guy made three quarters of a million dollars selling SQL Server and Creative Suite 2 on eBay (excuse me “online auction sites”). Of course Microsoft makes $750, 000 every 37 minutes. So that’s a major criminal off the streets.

They’re calling this a “mid-level” piracy operation. It was one guy selling two products online….I think they may be overstating it just a bit. I’d expect a “mid-level” operation to having three or more people and be making a couple million a year. But then I’m not in copyright enforcement.

The thing that really surprised me is the guy was 64 years old. I could see if it was some punk kid, but the guy should have known better. One thing I do know is that he’s praying he doesn’t end up in Federal Pound-Me-In-The-Ass Prison.