Mar 10

One of the amazing things about Steve Ballmer is even in a room of 1500 MVPs covering like 80 different product groups and disciplines is how easily he answers questions and by that I mean how much he knows about all of Microsoft's groups and products.  Now when you think of how much he likely needs to know about things outside of Microsoft such as the general business environment, governments, regulatory, HR, stockholder, partnerships, etc, all I can say is its freaking amazing that when a MVP gets up and asks a fairly technical question that he can answer it intelligently and explain why Microsoft did something in some way.  Steve's ability to absorb, organize and retain information is nothing short of incredible.

Now there is no doubt that Steve is passionate about Microsoft and what they do and he does get the value of MVPs and isn't afraid to demonstrate it to those in attendance.  This year he wore a WHS sticker (Windows Home Server) on his forehead and he also challenged the MVP who asked him to as well.  I mean frankly who wouldn't want a CEO who 'gets' it and is willing to do whatever to help is company and its teams succeed.  There was a long time MVP who passed away just shortly before the Summit Meeting and Steve wrote a more then just a brief note of condolences to his family.  In the news every day we repeatedly see examples of morally and ethically corrupt leadership which makes CEO's like Steve Ballmer a truly refreshing individual who really care about his employees, their work, and his company and is willing to be just another guy on the team who enjoys a good laugh (he has quite the wit).

So this year Summit was a little different then in years past as my group 'Developer Security' really wasn't doing anything at the Summit so there were no formal meetings for our group, so I just sniped other meanings mostly around C# and developers.  We did manage to put together one meeting sort of on a whim as Adam Shoeswack who is the Threat Modeling guy at Microsoft rounded up some of the Windows 7 guys to do an overview of some of the Threat Models they put together and offer their comments around the process and tools they used.  This was immensely interesting as something I've struggled with, is just how much time/detail do you try to capture in the Threat Model and so I discovered I've been over doing it a bit.  The more I learn about Threat Modeling the more I believe that it is an absolutely essential process in software design.

One of the interesting things is Jesper Johansson is a Developer Security MVP.  Now for those who those who don't know Jesper he used to be one of the security heavy weights at Microsoft, so in years past he was standing at the front of the room teaching us about security, now he sits beside you in the audience and is still teaching us about security.  Despite the fact he has more formal education then everyone else in the room, likely has done more then anyone else in the room, he has always been very approachable and willing to share what he knows with anyone.  If anyone was entitled to be a snotty expert its him, but its just not how he is and you can't do anything else but admire him for that.

This year's MVP Summit was a bit of a lower budget affair then in past year's but despite Microsoft's Billions of dollars of cash in the bank, they were actually been an example of fiscal responsibility in terms of cutting back on swag, hotel expenses (I know some MVPs who have lost their jobs or are very concerned about future employment and such).  The core reason why we were there was actually increased as there were more sessions offered, and more opportunities to connect with Microsoft staff and other MVPs.  I come away from this Summit feeling like I know where Microsoft is going, what they are working on and it fits rather well with some of the plans that I have concerning software development and schedules.  Of course everyone wants everything right now, but what we have works for my immediate plans, what we will be getting and when fits my schedule to the point that when they release final versions of their products to clients, I will be ready to take full advantage of what is coming when its released.

Now we are under NDA when we attend these sessions as Microsoft tends to pull back the covers and there are no marketing guys anywhere as these guys are all product managers, coders etc who are involved in at the actual produce development level (ie these guys cut code).  So I can't share the details of what was shown to us or otherwise discussed, but I'm happy with what I saw in products like Visual Studio 10 and Windows 7.  There is the usual cool new features and enhancements, but I also did see evidence that some of the older features or previously released half baked features were going to be tightened up, which was great and frankly needed and in some areas very much needed.

One of the things that I saw which was somewhat concerning is a number of product streams are getting similar features which will likely drive some confusion as to what technology to use when, but it might be more a matter of who is available and they can use the technology they know to do the same job as someone else.  Now some developers might not like that, but certainly their employers do.

In short an excellent conference and I hope I get the opportunity to attend next year.

Mar 02

OK so a couple of sessions today, one because I just wanted to learn a little about a product which I don’t know much about as I am always interested in new products and to see if there is something I can use, or perhaps recommend to clients, or perhaps develop applications for, so that product today was EBS (Essential Business Server), which was certainly interesting.  The idea is that Microsoft has SBS (Small Business Server up to 75 clients) and lots of Enterprise product for the huge corporations, but there is a gap in the 25 – 300 user size company, hence the market space that EBS targets.  There are a number of compelling reasons to use this, and one of which is it typically represents a 30% cost savings in licensing and offers a central operations point for a company’s most important applications and user management.  It look rather worthy and perhaps could be an excellent vehicle for some apps that I’ve been thinking out.  You can learn more about EBS here

The second presentation I went to was a deep dive into Azure, which can be thought of as your platform in the cloud, or think of it as a global datacenter which can scale out as needed automatically for your app and do it on a global basis which is cool.  Now while I don’t have an immediate need for something Azure, I can see where it might come in rather handy.  More about Azure here

After these presentations was a sort of keynote/welcome talk by Toby Richards (General Manager. Community Support Services) and Rich Kaplan (Corporate Vice President of Customer & Partner Advocacy).  Now the funny thing that had everyone laughing was during Toby’s talk they were displaying video of him talking with text of what he was saying below.  It was a speech to text recognition app and it must have had a problem as it started out rather well to the point that I thought it could have been someone typing or whatever, but then it started getting the recognition wrong to the point that everyone was reading the text on the video and laughing as it was hilarious and eventually they killed it.  Must be a bit unnerving to be doing a presentation and everyone is breaking out laughing when you are not trying to be funny.   The presentations themselves were about how well the MVP community does in terms of feedback into Microsoft and such, so it was a good but yes somewhat standard presentations.

After that we had a big mingle session with snacks/drinks etc.  So I always make a point of trying to meet new people and such from around the world as truly there are MVP’s from a whack of countries here (my hour and a half flight from Calgary is nothing compared to how far some of these guys have come).  Always interesting talking to someone from the other side of the planet and find out what their opinion is of X or to hear that they are similar or diffent problems/concerns/solutions/etc then yourself.

So that concludes today’s adventure as now my trick is two fold.  First how to get to bed so early, as for me it is like 11pm and while I got up at 4am to make my flight, I’m not really tired and two how to get up in the morning.  Now I think Rick (my hotel roomie) is a light sleeper and likes to sleep with the drapes open so at the very first light of day he wakes up, now I don’t think that will work for me (provided I can get to sleep), so my alarm clock will be set as tomorrow all the meetings will be at the Microsoft Campus and the last bus leaves the hotel at 8:15am, so miss that and it is a cab ride out to Redmond, so I don’t really want to miss the bus.  So given an hour to try to wake up and get ready for the day, and perhaps a half hour to forge for food at the hotel, and perhaps a half hour safety buffer for the bus and wow it is like a 6:15am wake up time, killer.  So concludes day one at MVP Summit 2009, please let me get to sleep tonight.

Mar 01

Since I have my first meeting at noon on Sunday, I had to catch the 6:30am flight from Calgary to Seattle.  Now I was thinking at 6:30am on a Sunday morning the airport should be pretty much deserted, could I have been anymore wrong!  I sure that every plane in the western hemisphere was at Calgary this morning and heading for the US as customs and security were an exercise in massive lines and took about an hour to get though.  Oh how I long for the days of my record of 11 minutes from walking in the door at the airport, to heading down the runway, pre 9/11 days for sure and might I say I made OJ Simpson look like a flat footed has been with the speed and moves display I put on getting to that plane (if your old enough to remember that commercial) and the jump from the retracting ramp to the open door on the plane might have been a gold medal performance in long jump and if I didn't make it a possible utube moment from hell as they scraped me up from the tarmac below.

Now I tend to fly Horizon Air when I fly from Calgary to Seattle and I do very much enjoy flying with them.  The crew/staff are all rather nice, and any airline that hands you a Jones Soda Cane Sugar Cola when you ask for a Coke (and they give you the whole can, not just a small glass) is OK in my books.

The flight itself was great and I must have slept better then I thought as it seemed like an awfully short flight (I tend to sleep whenever I fly).  One thing that was rather funny is there was this young lady behind me who apparently had never flown before and was more then just a little uneasy about the whole experience and some of her comments were pretty funny, but she did great and by the time she gets back from her holiday should be an old pro at flying.

My hotel roomie is likely to get in some time after me so I hooked up a wireless router and such in the hotel so everything should be good to go for him.

I like to try different hotels and so this time I'm staying at the Westin Seattle, but thus far it seems pretty basic and I liked the Grand Hyatt that I stayed at last year despite the little Secret Service incident.  Now in keeping with my weird tradition, photos of the hotel room:

Yes I forgot to bring my camera so its cell phone photo time.  Now surprise it was raining when I got to Seattle but also in keeping with my tradition I seem to bring good or at least better weather to Seattle whenever I come so its not raining now and the sun is even trying to peek through the clouds.

Well off to my meetings and such.  Hopefully this Summit will be as good as all the others and I'll try to keep up on blogging on what I can as a lot of it is NDA, and I will try to keep it somewhat interesting.