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Technical content of this issue - 2 out of 5


Another PDC comes to a close. At this point it would be great to put together a nice little montage video of scenes from the week, but long time readers will realize that is way outside the production budget of this newsletter. But, in our efforts to try to constant increase our production value, click here before reading the following synopsis of scenes from the conference-

  • You were supposed to click before reading this - c'mon, do it now!
  • Don Box continuously plays to rave reviews, filling every venue he plays. Those of you that have seen him speak in the past will notice that he is on his third major hairstyle, having migrated from a Dana Carvey Garth look to a crewcut to this. (BTW - I did not take this or any of the pictures, I "borrowed" them from the web)
  • Some boss somewhere in America spent thousands of dollars to send the guy that sat in front of me in Don Box's Sunday session and the guy spent the session on his laptop voting at via the conference wireless network.
  • LA was totally overrun for the conference, with the hotel room keys advertising Microsoft, banners in the street, this banner on the Convention Center and the hotel Internet company completely collapsing under the weight of 5000 geeks logging on from their hotel rooms.
  • Some web site called had giant boxes of full color promotional materials for a group of author/lecturers such as Jeffrey Richter, David Platt, Chris Sells, Alex Homer, etc., each one brandishing the logo - "Legends of Code." One day they were giving out small CD's, each one highlighting a different author with a bio and small writing samples and a full color picture on the CD. The next day they had full color, glossy bookmarks with photos. I have no idea what this was trying to accomplish, there was no noticeable common sponsor linking these guys and it must of cost a fortune.
  • Jim Allchin - "The best line of code you write is the one you don't have to write"
  • A monster general session hall that sat empty while breakout sessions filled up and turned people away.
  • Meeting up with old friends and catching up
  • The hundreds, if not thousands of computers put up to support this conference. Here's the Hands On Lab, with Longhorn, Indigo, etc. loaded for you to try the new technology right away. This is in addition to Internet alley, where hundreds more machines allowed general access to the internet.

This was the last day of the conference, so you'd think the crowds would start to thin out. You'd be wrong! I arrived at the 8:30 Architecture Symposium session right around 8:30. As I rounded the corner I found a huge crowd gathered around the outside monitor - yes, yet another session had filled up and locked people out. I met Dell employee Russ Williams and former Pluralite Lamont Harrington standing in the corridor. Both of them had been locked out as well, so we spent some time talking about the conference, what was important, what was fluff, etc. It was good to catch up with old friends.

From there I grabbed a shuttle the The Standard hotel (yeah, the Art-Deco place with the desk clerk that had heard of Microsoft) for a meeting on the future of C#. On the bus I started feeling under the weather, so instead of heading into the C# meeting I went on back to my hotel. Turned out that was the end of the day and the conference for me, I was down and out and missed the final 12:45 session.


Now that the week is over, let's take a look at each of the major technologies covered and my take on how and when they will affect us based on session attendance, talks with other conference attendees and my own baseless bias (must I remind you once again that this newsletter is free?)

  1. Longhorn - From Microsoft's perspective, I think this is their choice as the most important technology of the conference. From the WinFS file system to Avalon, there is alot of new stuff here and they want to start preparing the industry now. Besides the flashy video demos, the thing that intrigued/amused me the most became gradually apparent as the week went on. When I was (chronologically) a child, my family would take frequent trips to the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. One of our favorite exhibits was the two story tall pendulum in the lobby, and we would gather with the crowds around the bottom watching it swing. Sometimes we would be lucky enough to see it knock over one of the little pins every hour, but usually we just watched it relentlessly swing back and forth. Our industry has its own pendulum, the constant shift from client side processing to server side processing. Big news around here was the new rich user interface provided by Avalon - which was truly striking. Demos of fat client applications hitting web services directly were prevalent, and several sessions focused on ClickOnce installations that simplified getting software on the machine. The less loudly proclaimed aspect of all this is that Microsoft is swinging back to fat UI clients and is trying to lure the industry with it. .NET already takes us down this path slightly, with updating WinForms apps on the client becoming easier and more popular than the old ActiveX technologies. Perhaps Microsoft can make a go of this for intranets, but I just can't see it happening over the Internet and demos like the Amazon fat client, while exciting and attractive, are really just toys. Any way you slice it, if Microsoft is swinging back to client side processing we should at least make ourselves aware of issues like code security and other topics that many of us have ignored so far - but it looks like we have a little time. (Longhorn has no projected release date beyond Beta 1 in 2004)
  2. Indigo - From the attendees perspective, this appeared to be the most important technology of the conference. Huge crowds filled every Indigo presentation - apparently surprising Microsoft in the process. Part of this might be the more imminent release makes it more relevant than Longhorn in the short term, part of it might be that service oriented architecture is getting lots of play in the press and part of it may be that attendees, although having firm Microsoft loyalty, have to live in a world where other technologies demand interoperability and we want to play nicely and securely with others. Anyone who has struggled with the complexities and performance of Enterprise Services is also eager for the long awaited managed code version of COM+. Whatever the reason, this appears to be a huge story going into 2004. (Indigo is slated to be released in the second half of 2004 - after whidbey but no later than Longhorn).
  3. Whidbey - Whidbey is not a life altering technology, just a number of excellent improvements over the state of ASP.NET today. The concept of master pages is very, very cool and will save us alot of time. The web parts technology is also nice, and will make it easier to roll out at least simple portal applications without relying on outside libraries. Database caching is another technology that will solve a vexing problem. Additional controls, personalization, etc. All of this is great and we will wait with anticipation, but it is incremental rather than monumental - there is no need to plan an elaborate migration plan for when it is released. (Whidbey is scheduled to be released in the second half of 2004)
  4. Yukon - Crystal Reports may be a little nervous about Yukon's new reporting features, but I'm more excited by the XML datatype. I've been exchanging email with a friend back home about the value of this type. While it is true that searching the XML document rather than parsing it first threatens to be slow and CPU heavy, but the reduction in complexity achieved by leaving the XML in its native state is a valuable trade off. If an XML document is making a short stop somewhere for a workflow step, leaving it in its native state makes lots of sense. If it has reached its final destination, parsing it out may be the best option. The technology the Microsoft is providing around the XML datatype may not be the best, but to me it seems like a good start, perhaps only because of my own ignorance (I would be interested in learning more about Oracle's efforts in this area if there are any Oracle guru's out there reading). I can't think of a pithy sentence to conclude this section, so I think I will just stop typing now. (I didn't get a release date for Yukon, but it can't be any later than Whidbey)
Letters - We Get Letters

Congratulations to SJ from CO, who identified yesterday's song lyric as Mexican Radio by Wall of Voodoo.

There were no entrants in the pop culture reference search, so here's the answers-

  • "Your humble correspondent" - frequent quote of Bill O'Reilly of FoxNews' O'Reilly Factor
  • "I do not think that word means what they think it means" - from The Princess Bride
  • Sleeps with the fishes - Godfather
  • So We've been told and some choose to believe it - Muppet Movie - from the song Rainbow Connection
  • Plethora - Three Amigos

That's it for this year - hope you enjoyed the newsletter and learned alot about what Microsoft plans to release over the next few years. Watch for our newsletter at next year's PDC, when Microsoft's conference theme will be "What we meant to say was..."

Director of Telemarketing, Biff's PDC Newsletter