Update

Hello everyone,


I just got back from another great codemash v2.0.1.2 and thought I’d post a quick update. I am pretty active on twitter these days, and I know my profile points to this blog. My last entry was a few years ago so I figured it was time to knock of the dust!


Community wise I am still involved with the Northwest Ohio .NET User Group that I founded (nwnug). We’ve had a couple recent milestones- recently celebrated our 10 year anniversary (September 2011) and also are now an official non-profit org! Big thanks to Jason Follas for helping keep things running for the past several years.  I am looking forward to another great year for our group and hope to see us continue doing awesome things and hosting great speakers. 


I’ve been keeping pretty busy at work for the last few years- a lot of awesome, challenging opportunities! I am a Global Manager for First Solar (FSLR), a company that manufactures and installs solar panels. I manage a team of architects and developers where we utilize a variety of different platforms to deliver solutions: including SAP, SharePoint, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, BizTalk, and a lot of custom built .NET applications.  The team is global and I enjoy working with such a diverse group.  In addition to coming up with great solution architecture, applications, and delivering projects, a big passion mine has been driving the adoption of Agile.  After 3 years of hard work I think we are running pretty well, though there is always room for improvement.


One of my resolutions this year is to increase my community involvement again. Admittedly it has taken a bit of a back seat over the past years- there are a lot of priorities to handle day to day, especially when you are working hard at life- job, family, and church in my case. But being involved in the community is an aspect of my life that has always helped encourage me to be passionate and the best at what I do. The personal relationships that you build and develop are great, and help make you strive to be greater.  The focus of my job these days is less about writing code and more about soft skills.   However, there is also that technical aspect that I never want to lose- it’s a part of me and part of what makes my job so much fun.


In other news, I started another blog last year about making the transition from a standard “PC” to a Macbook Pro and some of my adventures along the way. I write pretty regularly on this blog (ie, several posts a month) and it’s more of a hobby.  Please check it out if you are interested!


 

Tech Ed 2008- in summary

Here are some final thoughts on my experiences at Tech Ed 2008:


Regarding location: 


  • Orlando is one of the better venues for Tech Ed if you have family that wants to come along.
  • A little spread out but with the bus routes, you’re never waiting more than 15 minutes to go from A to B
  • The weather sure is hot in June! But fortunately the conference center was very well air conditioned

Regarding the party:


  • The all-you-can-eat food is always a hit with me
  • It was a perfect evening, the weather cooperated
  • Most of the rides were shut down, and the ones that were open had 30+ minute waits (not good for a 3 hr party)
  • The extra $110 per ticket was disgusting. They know we bring our families, why make us pay through the nose (I didn’t)? I purchased a 7 day pass for my wife and two daughters for a grand total of $140. That’s only $30 more than a 3 hour pass for a one night, one ticket cost.
  • MS, if price is such a concern for the party and you have to cut back like you did, please do something different next time- throw a nice party at the conference center.

Regarding the content:


  • Overall I was happy with the content. Most of the sessions I went to achieved the purpose of getting me motivated to dig deeper.
  • I also felt like I got caught up on many of the latest and greatest trends- Silverlight, Entity framework, MVC pattern (gag), Silverlight, Sharepoint.*, etc. and also some good tips / tricks on existing technology. Overall I thought the balance was pretty good of new vs. current technology. There was something for everyone.
  • Kudos to the “multi-modal” learning opportunities.  Traditional sessions, hands on labs, the new interactive theaters, birds of feather sessions, one-on-one with product managers / mvp’s / experts, etc.  Again, something for everyone.
  • I went to a few good sessions later Thursday and got to talk one-on-one with a product manager (Kathy Kam) on the Silverlight team on Friday morning. She went through her presentation with me (as a dry run) and I got the benefit of hearing her talk and expertise directly. That really made me appreciate why Tech Ed is truly a great conference and that Microsoft truly does care about helping and listening to developers.

Regarding community:


  • It’s always great to get to catch up with others that are passionate about community and have similar interests. I spent a lot of time in the INETA community area and got to talk to other UG leaders, people on the speakers bureau, MVP’s, etc. We had some good times chatting, and there was also something pretty funny that happened the last day (I won’t get into that here)

In summary I definitely encourage anyone who is learning Microsoft technologies or wanting to get ramped up on the new stuff coming out to consider Tech Ed. I heard a lot of people talking about being overloaded with all the info- that is a good thing. For me, It was a nice break from the grind, but I think I am probably about done with Tech Ed unless I get invited to present there in the future. I will probably stick to community events.


 

Tech Ed 2008 Updates

Things are going well at Tech Ed, I’m pretty pleased. This is the 7th Tech Ed that I’ve been to, but the first one in a few years.


Here is a brief summary of the first few days at Tech Ed.


Day 0 – INETA Summit.  I got to meet up with some old friends, and met a few new ones. Lots of good conversations about running user groups and what some of the current challenges are.  We also talked about code camps, Day of .NET, codemash, etc. and shared some of our experience for the events.  I was pretty pleased overall


Day 1 – Keynote & Sessions. Got to sit through Bill Gates last keynote while a full time employee at Microsoft.  The highlight of they keynote was the “ballmer bot” – a two-wheeled robot that said “Developers, Developers, Developers”. It was pretty cool. I also enjoyed the silverlight portion- and the announcement that 2.0 should be released by end of week. 


Day 2 – spent some time at a few sessions. Ramping up on silverlight internals. I also spent a lot of time in some of the community areas, including MVP, INETA, and Zune which were all in the same area. I’m really impresed with the 80 GB Zune model and think I will probably get one.


Day 3- went to a ASP.NET performance session, and hit a scrum session in the AM. Both very good sessions- the scrum session got a little specific on tools (using Visual Studio Team System) but gave me a few ideas on what others are doing on scrum projects. Interesting statistic mentioned- using scrum on average is 6 times more productive than traditional waterfall. 


What I really like about Tech Ed this year:


Birds of a Feather sessions (BOF)- put on by community volunteers (eg. INETA). Great interaction and the content is good.

“Theater” sessions- kind of like a BOF but a little more formal and presentation oriented. I’m really digging them though the seating was too limited for the session I went to. The audio was also weak.  The theater session reminds me a lot of a user group presentation- a more intimate crowd.  One thing to be weary of is the one or two people that want to hijack the presentation based on their specific questions or “expertise”. This can also happen in a BOF but I think its up to the presenters to ensure that this doesn’t happen.  


Community area- always a great way to get one-on-one interaction if you have specific questions. I really enjoyed talking with the developers at the Zune booth. You get some really good info, or provide direct feedback when you can talk to product managers or even developers (SQL booth).


Overall layout of how the convention center is set up is good.  Most of my time spent is in the “big cavern” between the north and south sections. Most of the sessions are on the south side, so I’m not having to walk back and forth all day.


Breakfast / Lunch variety.  The food has been pretty good. No complaints. I haven’t got sick on anything yet either.


What I don’t like as much about Tech Ed this year:


No bottled water.  You have to go up to these jugs of water and use a plastic cup to drink out of. The intent is good- protect the environment- but the reality is, it’s a royal pain to find water and that’s about all I drink.


The grazing stations are non-existant.  I’ve yet to see cookies, popcorn, fruit etc. actually stocked at the white tables near the session rooms. This has “cut backs” written all over it.


Not as many vendors, and most of the give-aways are “must be present to win”. With the split of developer and IT pro this year, the bulk of the vendors are not getting here until next week, or so I’m told. Boo! The vendors that are here for the developer week are not bad but just not what I’m used to in terms of pomp, swag, and fun.


Theme.  There doesn’t really seem to be much of a theme this year, or if there is I’m missing it.  At past Tech Ed’s I can remember themes (windows DNA for example).  It’s probably because there is just soo much technology out there now. Even the key note didn’t seem to themed- it had about 4-5 different areas it covered.


I’ll post more updates later.

Tech Ed 2008

First apologize for the staleness of the blog. I’ve been on facebook recently, so a lot of my blogging has been done there lately.


However, I thought I’d update my community blog, and I plan on updating it while at Tech Ed. I am also twittering- greghuber if you want to follow.


What have I been up to lately?  I’ve been presenting on “Real World Agile Development” lately, most recently in Findlay (May meeting).  Jason Follas and I went down there and had a blast, it was nice seeing some familiar faces that I hadn’t seen in a while.  Going to head out to the INETA summit for a bit- hope to see some old friends there as well.


Ok, so that’s it for now. Got to finish packing.

Rant on HD-DVD losing the format war

As many of you know I am a fan of the Xbox 360, Media Center, etc. and have given presentations combining the two technologies in the past. I am an avid media geek, and the HD-DVD format wars has been near and dear to me. I felt I needed an outlet to express my thoughts and concerns on the matter, so here I go.


By now most of you following the “Format wars” (Blu-Ray vs. HD DVD) have heard that HD DVD has lost.
http://www.engadget.com/2008/02/19/official-HD-DVD-dead-and-buried-format-war-is-over/


I personally was hoping HD DVD would be the “winner”, or at least continue to be relevant as a format.  Unfortunately, many retailers (Best Buy, Wal-mart, etc) have announced that they will no longer sell HD DVD.  In addition, Toshiba just announced they are going to cut their losses on HD DVD and move on to the next thing. 


On the surface, one might think “yay, this is great news! the format war is over!” and they’d be right in a certain sense. I just wish I would not have been an early adopter of the HD DVD- I got the drive for Christmas this year, and not 2 weeks later there was the announcement from Warner Brothers that they were defecting from the HD DVD format and going Blu-Ray exclusive.  I believe that was the turning point for the format wars.


However, being a big fan of Microsoft technology, and particularly the Xbox 360, I am very disappointed by MSFT’s response.  Maybe they are too busy thinking about a forced takeover of Yahoo right now :) But I really don’t think Microsoft yet realizes what it means. They are sticking to the mantra that “games sell consoles, not high definition discs”:


http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/business/news/e3i759fab371cec787336690de1202691ab


http://www.macworld.com/article/132151/2008/02/xbox360.html


Of course there is some truth to that, but how do you explain PS3 sales shooting through the roof? Could the 60% increase in sales at Amazon be related, or is this just coincidence? Maybe PS3 all the sudden was releasing some great games?  A halo 3 equivalent perhaps? I may be off base here, but I am guessing the increase in sales may have at least SOMETHING to do with the recent HD-DVD announcement.


http://news.punchjump.com/article.php?id=5584


When I read the Toshiba press release about canning HD DVD, the first thing that entered my mind was “now I need to buy a Blu-Ray player”. I am an early adopter. I want to enjoy HD content on my HDTV’s.  I will never buy another “standard” DVD knowing that things are coming out on in the HD format. Why should I? There is such a drastic difference.   The only logical thing for me to do is buy a Blu-Ray player.  And if I buy one, what are my choices?


Anyone following Blu-Ray players will know that the PS3 is one of the few (if not only) players that is “future proof”. This is due to the ever changing Blu-Ray standard. People who early-adopted non-PS3 players supported only the earlier “versions” (aka profiles) of Blu-Ray, and are now stuck with paper weights (welcome to the club!).


http://www.about-electronics.eu/2008/01/21/ps3-only-future-proof-blu-ray-player/


So… again what are my choices?  If I am smart, my ONLY current choice is a PS3 if I want to protect my investment. This is where Microsoft is not seeing clearly.  The PS3 is a Trojan horse to get Blu-Ray into the home, and as a result, a way to get game consoles in the home. If I buy a PS3 as a Blu-Ray player, I’m also going to be tempted to buy some PS3 games.  What does this ultimately mean for the console wars?  It means that high definition discs DO sell consoles.


If Microsoft wants to maintain the lead in the console market, I think they are going to have to take some drastic measures, and VERY soon. First of all, it may not be enough just to announce a new add-on device. By the time Microsoft comes to market, PS3’s will have gained significant ground and the argument of “we have the best games” may not hold as much water.  Microsoft is probably going to need to offer incentive.  Personally I’d like to see a free Blu-Ray drive for anyone who can prove they purchased an HD-DVD drive.  That is about the only thing that would prevent me from buying a PS3 at this point. And the drive would need to be rolled out by the time all the HD-DVD discs are liquidated (I’m guessing a 2-3 months time frame).


I hear a lot of talk about Microsoft hoping to make digital distribution the next big thing, and to compete against the physical formats.  I download a lot of videos through Xbox Live, but it doesn’t compare to HD-DVD or Blu-Ray.  There are two big reasons why: the download is compressed video, and I can’t “keep it”. It appeals to a different market. When I download something, it’s because I needed a quick fix and didn’t want to go to the video store.  I never really own a download, and it can’t sit on my shelf. Once I download it, I have a window of which I can watch it.  This really doesn’t work out well for my family- especially my kids. They like to watch the same thing over and over again for months at a time. I’m certainly not going to pay a rental price each time I want to re-download the same video. Ok, so maybe Microsoft could let me “buy” the download. Not a good option either, because now I am going to have to over pay for a hard drive to keep all my videos on, with no way of archiving them off.   In order for downloads to work, they need to be full-fidelity and archiveable without DRM hassles- I don’t see that happening any time soon.


Hopefully someone is listening, or at the very least Microsoft comes up with a better strategy. If not, prepare to watch market share erode. 


One other final comment that makes me feel a little better abut my investment in the HD-DVD add-on- it’s always good to end on a positive note. Toshiba seemed to indicate it is going to review support for HD-DVD drives in notebook PC’s.  It sounds like the format MAY not go entirely the way of the dodo bird, at least for those of us wanting to use it on PC’s.  For those of you not aware, it is entirely possible to burn an HD-DVD today with a traditional (red-laser) DVD burner and watch it on any HD-DVD player. I’ve been doing that with my home video collection. There are software packages out there (such as Ulead Media Studio 11) that will let you burn these DVD’s- giving you about 30-45 minutes of content in high def (playable only in an HD-DVD player).  I’m a little nervous about continuing to burn in this format- what happens when my player is done for? How will I replace it?  However, if Toshiba commits to keeping the PC players alive that may not be a concern and it could still be an area for growth.

Last night’s NWNUG meeting

I was pleased with the format of last night’s user group meeting. We had a smallish crowd, but considering the weather and that we had rescheduled the meeting it wasn’t too shabby. We even had at least one person drive a good distance to make the meeting- glad you made it out Michael!


I spoke on Real World Agile development, and Jason presented on some new features of SQL 2008.  My goal was to make my portion of the presentation interactive.  My temptation is to do “normal presenter mode”, but fortunately about half way through the presentation I realized it was me doing most of the talking.  So I probed the group and we had some pretty good interaction.   The majority of the group had at least heard of agile (though a few had not), but only a few had actually used it.  I found that kind of interesting.  If I end up taking this presentation on the road I plan on conducting a little more market research to determine what other dev teams are using, and why.  Anyway, the agile approach that I reviewed was based on my own personal experiences at several clients and former employers- it is most closely aligned with “Scrum”. I basically walked through the agile process, how I came to use it, and the benefits of it. 


I’ve learned that there are a lot of nay-sayers to agile projects, especially if you use the term “agile” in front of someone used to waterfall, and especially people who are PMP certified. In past places I’ve worked, I hear things like “agile = chaos” … “cowboy coding” … “no planning”.  In some cases they are right- if agile is not implemented properly, or you have too junior of people on the team, etc. you can get into some sticky situations.  I’ve learned to avoid some of the negative connotation by speaking about agile using other descriptions, like “Sprint Cycles” or “Quick Hits”.  These terms seem a little more business friendly, and PMP’s eventually understand that the process is still structured and planned, it’s just set up to do more frequent releases.


If you think your user group or event might be interested in a real world agile talk, please let me know!


Jason’s talk was also really great- he showcased some awesome new features of SQL 2008. I was particularly interested in the intellisense available in the query window- that will certainly save when typing queries, functions, etc.  Another cool feature that stuck out was user defined table types. You will now be able to pass a table as a parameter into stored procedure. This will save you from having to do multiple inserts / updates / etc.  I can remember in the past trying to pass in delimited strings with a limit of 4000, which was a real pain. Or, inserting a bunch of stuff into a temp table and running a proc against that table.  Jason also showed us some the new UPSERT functionality- which is also really slick.  You can very easily synchronize your table up with a data feed.  Last but not least was the new spatial functionality of SQL Server.  Since I am geocacher, I thought this one was also interesting, though I zoned out a little toward the end when he started talking about trig. :)


 

Come on out… NWNUG meeting tonight

If you can make it, please come out to the Northwest Ohio .NET User Group meeting-

http://www.nwnug.com

Jason Follas and I will be tag-teaming it up and presenting. Jason is talking about new things in SQL Server 2008 that he found interesting from the developer perspective. I am going to be presenting on Real World Agile development.  I’m sure it will be fun! We’re playing around with the user group session format and going for something a little more interactive- this will be a good chance to test it out.

 

 

Codemash continued

Day 1 of codemash was stellar and here are a few more highlights. 

- Dustin Campbell’s F# talk.  It was at the end of the day, and probably my favorite session so far. F# is not a brand new topic, but it has been getting a lot of attention lately because it is a functional programming language, and things are just going that way (see my previous entry).  Dustin presented what could have been a very esoteric, academic talk and boiled it down to something very understandable and pragmatic.  I heard many other positive comments on the presentation- even Scott Hanselmen was in attendance, and rumor has it there may be a podcast coming soon :)

- Meeting with others in the community and getting pumped up.  It was great to see so many familiar faces, and meet several new ones. It seems like there is some great momentum being generated here at codemash to keep the community going and growing.  I’m also glad to “fresh blood” in the user group community.  Looking forward to growing NWNUG this year with Jason Follas. Got a few speakers lined up for the UG as well. 

- Quick Solutions set up Rockband for Xbox.  Kudos to them for having the best booth by far! I got to play the game a few times and even got to jam with Scott Hanselmen and some other .NET legends (not even realizing who I was playing with). I think we played the “Wheezer” song at least 5 times (apparently the only one he knew?). It was a ton of fun. I think I’m going to have to get that game :)

- Brian Prince’s Agile talk.  I really enjoyed sitting through this and he gave me a few good ideas for fine tuning some of the agile processes tha twe are implementing with clients.  I like his suggestion of trying to implement one new process element a time, getting in the habit of doing that process, and rinse /repeat until you are satisfied.

 – Kalahari water park.  I skipped out on the morning key note and was the first one in the water park. It was a TON of fun. I was here last year, and they have basically doubled in size.  I went down this new water slide that is very similar in concept to a toilet bowl.  You go down the slide and spin around in a big bowl area for a bit, and then drop about 4 feet into a pool.  It was fantastic and very refreshing.  Afterwards I spent a little time in the hot tub and went to a few sessions.

At this point there are a few sessions left in the day. I am going to hit up a few, and then its off to the raffle. I’m hoping to win something again this year (won the Xbox 360 last time!). 

CodeMash 2008… in full force

I arrived at Kalahari, in Sandusky, OH Weds night (Jan 9th) for CodeMash 2008.  I was pretty amazed to see all the attendees for the pre-conference that went from 7-9.  We’ve got quite a crowd this year- close to 350 from what I’ve heard. 


This morning kicked off with Neal Ford- entitled “Software Engineering & Polyglot Programming”.  Neal did a great job and there seemed to be a lot of energy in the crowd.  My interest was piqued when mentioned multi-processor programming, and how functional languages (such as F#) will really help developers avoid some of the difficulties of traditional OO languages.  The majority of the time he spent talking about Java, but there were a lot of parallels for the C# crowd.


Another highlight in the talk was the push for moving to new functional languages.  Something that has always bothered me about functional languages (ruby, groovy, etc) is that there isn’t just a whole lot of enterprise rollout right now.  Nealspecifically addressed this and compared it to building bridges at the turn of the century.  Many nay-sayers genereated a lot of FUD about reinforced concrete bridges- but today that is how bridges are built.  The best way to introduce new technology and combat the nay-sayers, similar to bridge building, is to test and show.  The math may not prove it out, but the testing will- and testing is a key component to building any kind of software. Kudos to Neal for presenting this thought process. I think it was a great way to kick of CodeMash- there are a variety of “new” dynamic and functional programming languages that will be presented. I’m looking forward to digging in to a few of them after the conference. 


 

Heartland Area User Group Summit Event

I had the opportunity this past Friday of attending the Heartland Area User Group Summit.  It was great to get to see some fellow UG leaders, MVP’s, and friends- a few of whom I haven’t seen since Codemash this past January! <tangent>Speaking of Codemash, don’t forget to register. It is going to be an AWESOME event and you can’t beat the price.  Though I didn’t submit an abstract this year, we may try and do some informal things in the vendor area (my new Employer, Perficient, will have a booth).  Please stop by and say hello if you are planning on attending! </tangent> So back to the UG summit.. It was great- Jason Follas and I drove up together, and I got to catch up with Brian Prince, Darrel Hawley, John Hopkins, Josh Holmes, Bill Wagner, Martin Shoemaker, Jay Wren and others (sorry if I forgot to mention you).  Also got to meet some new faces- and it’s good to see the caliber of people stepping up to the plate to help make community a success. I think this year will be very exciting- we as a community have some cool stuff planned.  I think events like Day of .NET, CodeMash, etc. are really helping the community and buzz around what we are so passionate about- developing with Microsoft technology.