Tech-ed Barcelona 2007: Afterthougths

I learned a lot of new things, and all in all it was worth it to be here. I have to say that the added value was less than last year.

Last year was my first tech-ed, and I had not yet heard about WxF, LINQ or any of the new stuff in C#3.0. So basically everything was new at that time.

This time I focused on Vista, and performance and native development.

I admit that I have changed my mind about Vista. Before I tech-ed I was convinced that Vista sucked. I have tried it at home, but I had the usual problem of missing drivers, failing applications and a gazillion UAC prompts.

Note: I knew that the Vista kernel had a number of significant changes, all for the better, and I admire the new driver frameworks that ship in Vista. The suckiness I refer to is about the shell / user experience.

What also contributed to the problem was the fact that I chose to run the 64 bit version of Vista, causing me some compatibility problems on recent hardware purchases. Something as stupid as the Logitech webcam which had Vista64 drivers would not work no matter what I tried.

I still think Microsoft dropped the ball on making sure that vendors provided drivers for Vista64. It is not up to them to write drivers. Perhaps they should have spent more time on 64 bit evangelism, or made 64 bit mandatory to get the windows logo earlier than they did, or maybe used an incentive.

But security wise, I see the point now. It is a simple fact (and I admit I am guilty as well) that a lot of software was written without following the Microsoft best practices like not writing to files in ‘program files’ and not writing to global registry settings.

With XP they said ‘you shouldn’t…’, but with Vista the message is ‘You shall not…’

They took the advantage of the switch to 64 bit to throw a lot of crap out of the system, which is perfectly fine since you had to change / rebuild your code anyway for native 64 bit. A lot of stuff in the win32 API was designed in a time when security was a lot easier and the TCP/IP stack was optional. A major overhaul was warranted.

I applaud Microsoft – even though I cursed at the breaking changes – for following through and also banning practices that were not tied to the technology itself. It breaks a lot of stuff, and it has definitely hurt the uptake of Vista but I think in time, Vista will be able to put a serious damper on the proliferation of both malware and badly written applications.

It is also becoming more obvious that there is a renewed focus on C++.

There were 8,5 sessions on C++ and native code development, which is more than double of last year. The sessions were all packed with several hundreds of people in most sessions, and the knowledge level of the audience was pretty high.

As I said before: I think that the .NET hype has died and people are getting a more realistic message again. .NET and C#, F# and VB are playing an important role, and are the best solution for a lot of scenarios. But there is still an important role to play for C++ and native development.

And now something completely different.

I went to the MVP booth to pick up my keychain, and while I was standing there I started talking with a university student from an Eastern European country. She was here on a Microsoft invite, along with a group of other people from the same country.

She would not have been able to attend otherwise, since the entrance fee is shockingly high compared to the average income of the people in that country. Given that I found it very expensive as well, I can see her point.

She told me that it was hard to get a Visa to leave the country because she was a girl. Apparently, the thinking in her country is that girls try to get married to the first guy they meet in the airport so that they can stay there. When she goes back she has to go to the embassy in her country to prove that she has really returned from Barcelona.

In this day and age it is easy to think that people are free to do what they want and all borders are open, but situations like this still exist even more than 15 years after the fall of the Wall in Berlin and the Iron curtain.

But she also impressed me with her hope and enthusiasm. She and her fellow students are working very hard to modernize their schools and country, and if there are more people like her, there is no doubt in my mind that it will happen. Those people have a dream, and the determination to work for it.

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