Tech-ed Berlin 2009: Day 5

Check-out was a painless experience. I’d already packed my stuff yesterday so I was at the reception early enough to avoid the rush. The cloakroom in the Messe was organized properly so luggage drop-off was painless as well.


Time for a coffee and a quick e-mail check, and it was time for the first session of the day.


DEV307: Parallel computing for managed developers


This talk is hosted by Steve Teixeira.


It is a repeat of the talk that was held earlier this week. Despite that, the room is filling up nicely. When the session starts, the room is not completely packed, but just well attended.


From interviews with customers in large ISVs and game companies, there is still only a minority of programmers who program in parallel. Usually, the parallellimization (my spell checker claims this is not a real word J) is done by one or 2 programmers at most who do the infrastructure, and the rest of the team just makes their code so that it can hook into that. The number mentioned was that only a handful of percent of programmers program in parallel. This really surprised me, since I have been doing that for over 10 years, as I thought many people did.


One of the big reasons for this disconnect with the parallel world is that up until recently, thinking about parallelism meant that you had to think in term of actual execution flow instead of task based. Threads, locks, and the various patterns made it hard to focus on solving the actual problem at hand, because the concurrency plumbing around a parallel problem was so complex.


To ease the transition to parallel programming, Microsoft is working on a parallel programming toolkit that has all the basic plumbing in place so that programmers can start thinking about task based programming and letting the runtime take care of the gory guts underneath. This way, you, the programmer, are not forced to hammer your solution in a threading paradigm, and implement the guts to support cancellation, exception handling, and other things that can otherwise turn a seemingly simple threaded solution from simple to stupendously convoluted.


Steve is a natural born speaker, and again his presentation was a handful of powerpoint slides, interspersed with lots of demos and code explanations. This presentation was based mainly on the necessity to change the way we think about parallel execution.


CLI309: Sysinternals tutorials


This talk is hosted by Aaron Margosis.


Now that I see him, I recognize him as ‘the other guy’ whose name I forgot during the virtualization – > app compat talk.


His presentation included 3 powerpoint slides, and these were shown during the first 2 minutes. The rest of the presentation was a non-stop demo of some of the sysinternals tools and how they can be used.


I have been using these tools for over 10 years now, and they are THE tools you need during trouble shooting, debugging, or simply if you want to know what goes on under the hood. Despite the fact that I have been using them for so long, I still saw a couple of interesting features that I hadn’t seen before.


This talk went very smoothly, and Aaron is a great speaker. As with Mark Russinovich’s talk, the room was packed full. They had already changed the room assignment so that it was now in one of the biggest rooms of the convention center, but still it was packed.


There is little point in me trying to cover the contents of this presentation here. Just download the latest release of the sysinternals suite and start playing with it.


Lunch


The food aspect of the lunch was as basic as it gets: packed lunch. The turkey sandwich wasn’t bad though.


The company was great though. Steve and I finally managed to meet up and we spent an hour and a half catching up. That was really great, and one of the nice things about going to tech-ed. Not only is the learning experience extremely valuable, but you also get to meet people from all over the world.


Because of this, I missed the last session of the week. As usual, this wasn’t a real drama. The afternoon session(s) on the last day of tech-ed is/are usually less interesting because they factor in that many people are already leaving because of their flight times.


I had thought to attend Mark Russinovich’s talk about ‘The case of the unexplained…’ windows troubleshooting talk, which is would cover the various troubleshooting scenarios he was involved in, and solved with the sysinternals tools. I followed the blog series in which he wrote about those things so I didn’t miss a whole lot.


Day 5 wrap-up


Today was less intense, due to the fact that everybody is leaving today, and the schedule is set to that expectation. The talks were interesting though.


I am writing this from the starbucks at Tegel airport, and I have to admit that I misjudged the size of the mugs here. I chose the middle size because I thought that it was the size I am used to. The only reason I thought that, was the relation between the different sizes that were shown.


Now that I am actually holding it, I can conclude that they don’t use ‘small’, ‘medium’ and ‘large’, but ‘large’, ‘oversized’ and ‘humongous’.


I still have some time to fill before I can check-in for my home flight, so I can get something to eat and finish my reports. I’ve already checked with my colleague and there were no dramas at work so that is good.


I have to say that Tegel airport is a much nicer place to wait than Barcelona airport. There’s a lot of stores here, a starbucks, places to sit… and so far noone is looking me out of the premises because I am not actually buying additional coffee so that is nice.


My flight doesn’t leave for another couple of hours so I can do some development or begin on my tech-ed wrap-up report. It won’t be as extensive as the day posts, but I always like making a summary of the week.


I am already looking forward to home, and being able to hug my kids. Unfortunately, my wife is in the US at the moment, and it will be another week before I see her back.


I had an interesting experience at the security challenge though. I always carry a swiss pocketknife with me. You know the ones: with a file, screwdriver, can openener, a dozen other things, and of course, a blade. A couple of times I thought ‘I must not forget to put it in my checked luggage’. And of course I arrived at the security gate with that knife in my pockets.


I quickly put it in my carry on bag and put everything in those plastic X ray boxes. I was told not to take off my rings, and I triggered the metal detector. I was wanded down by a friendly security guard. For some reason, their detectors were set so sensitive that the wand beeped because of the individual rivets in my jeans, the zipper of my jeans, my rings, and even the roll of peppermints in my pockets.


No kidding, the wand beeped at the foil wrapper of my peppermints. Still, I was allowed to go through but there was no fooling the X ray machine. The lady kindly asked if I had a knife in my bag after which I dutifully handed it over. She looked at it for a minute, tried to open it (she failed), said ‘Hm, ok no problem’ and then gave it back to me with a smile.


She must have decided that I was unlikely to attempt a hijack with a little swiss army knife. It probably helped that it was clearly recognizable as a swiss knife, and that I used it as a keychain with keys attached. I don’t think I’d have gotten the same treatment had it been my spyderco. Interestingly, she made more of a fuss about the fact that my drinking bottle was still half filled with water. So I opened it and started drinking, and after a couple of gulps she told me it was ok.


It was nice to see that the German security guards were both paying attention AND showing common sense.

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