April 2009

Upcoming Toronto Area Developer Events

by Joey deVilla on April 22, 2009

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

Chaps. Don't ask.

There’s a lot of geek activity going on in Toronto and the surrounding area over the next couple of days, so I thought I’d point some of it out to you. And yes, there’s a reason there’s a picture of chaps in this article…

Toronto Coffee and Code, Friday

I’ll be holding another Coffee and Code event at the Dark Horse Cafe (215 Spadina Avenue, between Dundas and Queen) this Friday, April 24th from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.. As usual, it’s a chance for you to come and talk to me, find out more about Microsoft, our tools and tech, ask questions and get hooked up with a copy of the Windows 7 beta. Drop by for a quick coffee break, or bring your laptop, plug in and do some work in what’s already becoming the most popular geek cafe in Toronto!

Toronto Code Camp, Saturday

I’m up bright and early on Saturday morning to catch the Toronto Code Camp (at Manulife Financial, 200 Bloor Street East), the .NET coding workshop/conference/jamboree that’s happening on Saturday, April 25th from from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.. Toronto Code Camp will feature five tracks of topics – ASP.NET, Data/Architecture, Future/Other, .NET Framework and Silverlight/WPF. It’s a great way to sharpen your .NET skillset as well as meet .NET developers from around the area. Admission is free, but space is limited, so register as soon as you can.

I told presenter Bruce Johnson that if he changed the title of his Toronto Code Camp presentation from Data BINDING with WPF to Data BONDAGE with WPF, I’d show up in Microsoft-branded assless chaps. He got the name changed, and now I’m sourcing chaps in my size. Can anyone loan me a pair in size 38, and would you mind if I slapped a few “I’m a PC” stickers on them temporarily?

Toronto Developer Lunch, Tuesday

Kristan “Krispy” Uccelo is holding another Developer Lunch (here’s the Facebook page for the event) at the Sky Dragon dim sum restaurant (top floor of Dragon City Mall at the southwest corner of Dundas and Spadina) on Tuesday, April 28th from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.. There’s no agenda or set topic of discussion for these lunches; it’s just an opportunity for local developers to get together over some tasty dim sum. They’re pretty popular, with about 30 people showing up for the last one.

Since it’s a big group, you might find us in the restaurant’s private room instead of the main dining room. If you don’t see an obvious bunch of geeks at a table, ask one of the staff; they’ll point you to where we are. We split the bill evenly; we’ve typically paid $12 each (which includes tip) for a lot of food.

Guelph Coffee and Code, Tuesday

Cory Fowler is holding his regular Guelph Coffee and Code event at the Albion Hotel on Tuesday, April 28th from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.. It’s a chance for Guelph-area developers and techies to get together, exchange ideas and even partake in a little karaoke afterwards! I do plan on attending a Guelph Coffee and Code soon.


Why the Office Oddball is Good for Business

by Joey deVilla on April 22, 2009

Joey devIlla reads a book titled "Flying Saucers - Serious Business" Photo by David Crow. Click to see the source.

A number of people who know me were concerned that I’d be a poor fit at Microsoft, but I’ve always used the “square peg in a round hole” thing as my “secret sauce”. The research cited in the Time magazine article Why the Office Oddball is Good for Business would suggest it’s a good play.


Sneak Peek at the Next “Upwardly Mobile”

by Joey deVilla on April 22, 2009

Yes, I’m working on another tutorial on Windows Mobile 6 development. It’s on some of the standard user interface controls – here’s a preview:


I do try to make my example apps entertaining…


It's Alive!

This afternoon, I’m going to be at what I consider to be one of Accordion City’s best toy stores: Function 13 (156 Augusta Avenue), a place in Kensington Market that is part tech store, part art shop and part gallery.

I’ll be there for It’s Alive!, an open house featuring the work of Sheridan College’s Interactive Multimedia program. The event is open to all, and judging from some of the stuff I’ve seen on display at Function 13 and from Sheridan, it should be pretty interesting.


“What the Heck is Electronic Mail?”

by Joey deVilla on April 22, 2009

Here’s an old magazine ad by Honeywell for what was a newfangled thing for most people in the 1980s — electronic mail:

homeywell_electronic_mail_adMissing from the desk: a computer. Present on the desk: an ashtray.
Click the ad to see it at full size.

Here’s the text of the ad:

Electronic mail is a term that’s been bandied about data processing circles for years.

Simply put, it means high-speed information transportation.

One of the most advanced methods is terminals talking to one another.

Your mailbox is the terminal on the desk. Punch a key and today’s correspondence and messages are displayed instantly.

Need to notify people immediately of a fast-breaking development? Have your message delivered to their terminal mailboxes electronically, across the hall or around the world.

Electronic Mail is document distribution that’s more timely, accurate and flexible than traditional methods.

There’s no mountain of paperwork.

Administrative personnel are more effective.

Managers have access to more up-to-date information. Decision-making is easier.

Tomorrow’s automated office will clearly include Electronic Mail. But like the rest of the Office of the Future, it’s available at Honeywell today.


Tech Books I’m Reading Right Now

by Joey deVilla on April 21, 2009

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

I’m reading a couple of tech books right now, and I plan to publish more in-depth reviews of them in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, I thought I’d give you some quick reviews to give you a taste.

Pro ASP.NET MVC Framework by Steve Sanderson (Apress)

pro_asp.net_mvc_frameworkThe first book is Pro ASP.NET MVC Framework, published by Apress and written by Steven Sanderson. It’s been available in “beta” form as a PDF for the past couple of months, and as of this afternoon, the final PDF version has been released. I expect that the dead-tree edition should be hitting the shelves of your favourite bookstore, real or virtual, in a week or so.

This book covers the new  way of developing ASP.NET applications, the MVC way. If you’ve read the “Gang of Four” book or any other book on design patterns (or any of Rocky Lhotka’s books on business objects), you know that MVC is short for “Model-View-Controller” and a pattern for separating an application into its business logic, presentation and interface. Perhaps you’ve looked longingly as the “cool kids” have used frameworks like Ruby on Rails and Django to build applications with greater speed and fun, and fewer errors and less futzing around with tedious development minutiae. You might have heard Scott Hanselman and Phil Haack talk about their work on ASP.NET MVC, or maybe you’d heard that Jeff Atwood’s Stack Overflow is implemented in ASP.NET MVC.

I myself come from the world of Rails and have noodled with Django. As such, find that I’d rather use an MVC-style framework in most cases. That’s why I’m happy that ASP.NET MVC has hit the official “1.0” stage – it’s available for download right now and will be included in Visual Studio 2010 as an official alternative to old-school ASP.NET.

The book is a great introduction to the concepts of MVC web frameworks in the context of ASP.NET. It starts by showing you how to get the ASP.NET MVC tools and templates onto your system and then walks you through the development of a sports store ecommerce site. The middle part goes into the features of ASP.NET MVC in greater detail, covering REST and routing, controllers and views, testing and adding Ajax to your MVC applications. The last section covers the goodies that ASP.NET gives you – authentication, members/roles/profiles, caching/compression and WebForms – and how to use them in the context of ASP.NET MVC.

It looks like a pretty promising read on a topic that I’m very interested in. Watch this blog for a review, and eventually, some code examples based on what I learn from the book.

The Passionate Programmer by Chad Fowler (Pragmatic Bookshelf)

the_passionate_programmerRegular readers of this blog will know that my favourite developer book of 2008 was Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware. They also know that there really wasn’t much about software development in particular, but developing the most important tool for software development: your mind.

The publishers of Pragmatic Thinking and Learning have just put out a “new-ish” book, The Passionate Programmer, written by Chad Fowler. I say it’s “new-ish” because it could be considered a second edition of his book My Job Went to India (and All I Got was this Lousy Book).

The problem with My Job Went to India was that the title implied that it was largely about saving your job from outsourcing. In a recent podcast about the book, Chad said that the book’s title influenced the way he wrote it, and it ended up not being quite the book he wanted to write.

The Passionate Programmer is different; you could consider it a “refactoring” of My Job Went to India, and a good one, too. Rather than focusing on saving your job, it’s more about two very important things:

  • Finding fulfillment and happiness in your career
  • Cultivating the desire to live a remarkable life

Those are two pretty tall orders for a book, but I’ve met Chad at a couple of conferences, and I know he likes to think big. I’ve just started into The Passionate Programmer and so far, I’ve thought “damn right!” at every bit of advice he’s given. As with Pro ASP.NET MVC Framework, watch this blog for the full review of this book.


My Half-a-versary

by Joey deVilla on April 20, 2009

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.

Half a cake

That’s half-a-versary as in the celebration of something that took place half a year ago. It’s been half a year since I joined this organization:

Microsoft logo with the evil monkey from "Family Guy"

…and I have to tell you, it’s been quite good.

The two things I value most about my job as Developer Evangelist for The Empire are the freedom and the ability to make a splash. The only working situation where I’ve had even more freedom and control of my destiny was back in the late 1990s at a consultancy that was just me and one other guy, and I’ve never had the reach nor the opportunities that I now enjoy as a Sith Lord.

Darth Vader hot air balloon As a mobile worker, they cover my transportation costs too.

They’ve been pretty cool with my wacky ideas, from my re-appropriation of their image as “The Empire” to the stunt at Richard Stallman’s GNU auction at CUSEC to starting Coffee and Code, a weekly happening that most companies might dismiss as an attempt to loaf on company time.

I’ve been free to inject my offbeat, earthy sense of humour into my work, from celebrating InPrivate Browsing in Internet Explorer 8 to the time I made Bob Muglia – then a Senior VP, now President of the Server and Tools division — run away from me at a Los Angeles rooftop party when I serenaded him on accordion with a song about InPrivate Browsing, sung to the tune of Tina Turner’s Private Dancer:

I’m your private browser
A browser for po-orn
One-handed surfing for you…

And maybe, just maybe, I’ve either helped a software developer get some piece of information or consider using some Microsoft tool or technology. Maybe.

I’ve enjoyed my return to using Microsoft tools and tech, and there sure is plenty of that! It may take me another six months just to be able to say I’ve done a reasonable review of the stuff that I’m supposed to specialize in – the web and mobile spheres — and that’s just a piece of a much larger pie.

I relish the challenges of being an evangelist for The Empire. It’s easy to fling poop at Microsoft, and there are cases where the poop-flinging is warranted. It’s often harder to see that Microsoft is also behind some solid tech that drives our industry and is undergoing an interesting “sea change” in both its tech and its approach.

And most importantly, I enjoy the opportunities to make connections with people, both inside and outside Microsoft, from the students I met at CUSEC to developers I’ve met a various conferences and gatherings to my manager John Oxley and VP Mark Relph and especially with the Developer Evangelism team to which I belong, from:

  • Christian Beauclair (who, if we were the A-Team, would make an excellent Hannibal) to
  • Qixing Zheng (Face) to
  • John Bristowe (oh yeah, dude, you are soooo B.A. Baracus)

…I’m very honoured to be “Howling Mad Murdock” for this A-Team.

The A-Team