Microsoft Tech Days 2010

This year, I had the opportunity to attend an event in Toronto known as Tech Days 2010. I think it’s a yearly event and I don’t know which year they’re into now but all I know is that there was one last year and there’s probably another one next year. Tech Days is a learning conference where they tell you about technologies like Windows 7, Office 2010, and Windows Azure and so on. The presenters demo software like Windows Phone 7 (WP7) and showed us how easy it has become to develop for the new phone. Out off everything that was shown, I look forward to the WP7 the most.

Microsoft Tech Day 2010 was a two day event that covered things like the Windows 7 OS, to SQL to Microsoft Azure. The things that I was interested in were the development sessions. I attend a few sessions that were very interesting. I think a lot of them were interesting because I haven’t been doing much on the software development side in the longest time. The .NET tools have come a long way since I last played around with it. Microsoft has developed a lot of tools that were meant to help developers create software a lot quicker. One presenter, Colin Melia demoed Microsoft Express Blend and showed how he did little or no coding at all to achieve the same functionality. He used Visual Studio to write the code and Express Blend to create the user interface. Once he was done with that, he did it all in Express Blend and literally dragged and dropped things. I was very impress with how easy and quick it was to create something from scratch. And during the session after that, Mark Arteaga present some things on developing application for WP7 using Silverlight, Microsoft’s platform for developing interactive user experiences the web. He had a two part session which I attended. He gave some pointers on how to make sure your application passes certification when submitting it to Windows Phone 7 Marketplace. The things that were being shown by Colin and Mark made me really want to get back into developing.

In another session, Steve Syfuhs from Object Sharp gave a nice presentation on Windows Identity Foundation, which allows developers to externalize identity logic from their application. This made things a lot easier because it takes the workload of your application from having to authenticate a user’s identity. I’ve heard of OpenID but I wasn’t aware that Microsoft had a product that did something similar. When I developed a small application for my Internet Applications class, I had to do all the authentication part myself. And every page that required the user’s information, I had to call the same class and passed in the same parameters time after time. At least with WIF, you probably just authenticate and call a function to see if the user’s is who they say they are. Sounds pretty simple.

There were six different flavours with six sessions per day but I couldn’t attend them all. I tried to attend the ones that were relevant to me. The last session that I attend was regarding Internet Explorer 9 by Pete LePage. And from what he presented, it looks like IE 9 has come a long way towards being web standard, which is nice since you don’t have to worry about changing your code so much so that it looks the same on all browsers. I remember way back when I first started web developing, I gave up on trying to make my site look “OK” in IE6. So long as it looked right in Firefox, I didn’t care what it looked like in IE6.

It wasn’t all learning at the conference. I had a chance to test out the new Xbox Kinect. Playing the games without any controllers took a bit to get use to. You stand there in front of the TV screen and you start flailing your arms around. To the people nearby, you seem perfectly fine but to those who don’t see the TV screen, you look a little like an idiot. It was a bit weird not having any feedback from the game. When you have a controller, at least you can feel what’s in your hand. Most controllers these days have vibration built into them so that the controller rumbles when some sort of action is performed. With Kinect, you have nothing.

I played a game of volleyball with the demo guy (I won, of course). When he bumps the ball to me and I set it, I didn’t feel anything. So it’s like you’re standing there miming your actions. Kinect picks up that motion and your avatar hits the ball. It felt a little awkward having to perform the action but not hitting anything. I’ve played volleyball before and this was a whole new feeling. There wasn’t any feedback so it took a little getting used to. I’m not sure about you but I prefer to play the actual sport rather than staying indoors, standing in from of the telly and pretending to be a mime.

As the day wrapped up, I found myself exhausted from all the running around I did, as well as from all the information that was given during the session. Before the start of the last session, I sat around and watched the tweets on the projector. I wasn’t sure if it was live so I did a test and wrote my own tweet. Surprisingly, it showed up!