December 2009

Scenes from TechDays Ottawa

by Joey deVilla on December 13, 2009

Annoyances Beyond Our Control

No matter how much planning you put into a conference, there will always be things that you just have to roll with. For starters, when you’ve got an event in December in Canada, there’s always a chance that the first major snowstorm of the year will happen on the very same day.

Here’s what the parking lot of the Hampton Inn Conference Centre looked like at 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday, Day 1 of TechDays Ottawa:

01 snowy parking lot

Here’s a look at Coventry Road, on which the Conference Centre is located. Even at 7:00 a.m., it’s already pretty busy, thanks to the combination of snow and “In too early, out too early” working style of government towns. The building in the background is the RCMP headquarters:

02 snow traffic

In addition to the snowstorm, there was another little problem that fell outside of our contingency planning. I’ll let the video below explain:

Someone in the crew of workers in the garage accidentally knocked out a sprinkler valve, setting off the fire alarms. The staff did the right thing by leading an orderly evacuation of the centre…and into the snowstorm. Luckily, we found out that there was no fire very quickly and the evacuees didn’t have to stand outside for longer than a couple of minutes.

With the annoyances out of the way, it was time for Day 1 to start in earnest.

Day 1

The first speaker in the track for which I am lead, Developing for the Microsoft-Based Platform, was Colin Melia, who did the What’s New in Silverlight 3 session:

03 colin melia

He spoke to a packed room and an attentive crowd:

05 audience

With the first sessions safely under way, Damir and I made a quick run to get some cables, a replacement keyboard and some much-needed Starbucks. I decided to shoot some video during our run:

Next up was Peter Henry, whose session was Expression Blend for Developers:

06 peter henry

The lunch session featured Rick Claus (in the hat, on the right) acting as referee between Pierre Roman (representing IT pros in the Montreal Canadiens jersey) and Christian Beauclair (representing developers in the Ottawa Senators jersey) having a showdown to see who can do the better Windows 7 demos. Christian, as the representative of developers, won handily:

08 pierre christian rick

According to the feedback forms, the lunchtime demo showdown was a popular event:

09 lunchroom

The afternoon sessions featured Daniel Crenna (shown in the photo below) on Building Composite Applications with WPF and Silverlight, followed by Colin Melia talking about Optimizing Your Applications for the Windows 7 User Experience:

10 daniel crenna

The day closed with a set of bonus sessions. Rodney Buike and I did one on IIS/PHP interoperability. Rodney’s been promising revenge on me since I farted during our session in Calgary, nearly messing up his concentration and forcing him to stifle his laughter.

I’m still getting static about that incident. I swear, you “cut the cheese” once on stage, and you’re branded for life…

Day 2

I’m pleased to see that ASP.NET MVC has turned out to be a very popular topic at this conference. The demand for the MVC sessions is such that we’ve been switching to a larger room for them:

12 audience

The first session, Introducing ASP.NET MVC, was given by Maxime Rouiller, who once again wowed everyone with his snazzy Alienware laptop (which I featured in an earlier blog entry):

11 maxime rouiller

Daniel Crenna’s session covered the SOLID principles as applied to ASP.NET MVC:

13 daniel crenna

“Dependency injection”: you’d better get used to that phrase:

14 daniel crenna

Here are Christian and Rick, preparing to do some announcements over lunch:

15 christian rick

I really enjoyed Mario Cardinal’s rendition of the Building RESTful Applications with WCF:

16 mario cardinal

My original plan was to just catch the first ten minutes of his presentation, but I got drawn into it. Just another ten minutes, I thought to myself, and in that ten minutes, he and I did a little back-and-forth about open source and Microsoft approaches to protocols, after which I thought Okay, maybe another ten minutes. Christian, with whom I was supposed to catch up and take care of some stuff, ended up phoning me to remind me that I couldn’t stay for all of Mario’s session.

17 mario cardinal

The final session was Francis Beaudet’s, which was on Developing and Consuming Services for SharePoint. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any good shots from that session.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Setting Up TechDays Ottawa

by Joey deVilla on December 11, 2009

Ottawa was the sixth of the seven cities in the TechDays cross-Canada tour. We’ve settled into a pretty good groove and the setup process for the conference has become second nature; I’m sure that we can all do it in our sleep now.

The Hampton Inn Conference Centre is a pretty nice venue, with lots of balconies for overhead shots like this one:

01 overhead

Here’s one of the larger rooms, which met with Christian Beauclair’s approval:

02 118A

This is one of the smaller lecture halls, featuring a more classroom-like setting, as seen from the lectern. You can see:

  • The presentation machine, a laptop with a large screen on which the PowerPoint presentations are run. The large screen makes it easy to read any speaker notes.
  • The “confidence monitor”, which shows the speaker what’s being displayed on the big screen. That way, you know what the audience sees without having to break eye contact with them.
  • The countdown timer, which displays the time remaining for the presentation, along with three lights: “Go on”, “Wrap up” and “Enough already”.

03 110

Here’s the dining hall, where breakfast and lunch are served. In the far corner, you can see the Windows 7 lounge:

04 dining hall

Here are IT Pro Evangelists Rick Claus and Rodney Buike, along with speaker Steve Syfuhs, getting ready to set up the internet access stations:

05 rick steve rodney

…and here are the fruits of their labour. It’s our dream to be able to provide wifi access to attendees, but with conference venues typically asking for hundreds of dollars per wifi user per day, it’s prohibitively expensive. We’d rather keep the cost of admission to TechDays low – a mere $299 for early-bird registrants – which is why we decided to provide internet access at the conference this way:

06 internet stations

Here are Christian and Rick setting up the Windows 7 Lounge. In case it was unclear, they’ve taken steps to let you know that they indeed are geeks:

07 geeks

Every TechDays attendee gets a “lunchbox” full of swag, literature and promo material. Here’s the stack of lunchboxes behind the registration desk:

08 lunchboxes

One of the ways we show our appreciation for the TechDays speakers is by taking them out to a nice dinner. In Ottawa, the speaker dinner was at In Fusion Bistro in Glebe, where the food and service were fantastic. I had the squash and maple soup to start, the rack of lamb for dinner and the chocolate-and-berry empanada for dessert – it was one of my favourite meals of the tour. Thanks to Rick for choosing this restaurant!

09 speaker dinner

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Ottawa Road Trip Diary, Part 2: The Flying J Truck Stop

by Joey deVilla on December 7, 2009

When we got to Napanee, it was time to fuel up both the car and ourselves, and we did both at the Flying J Truck Stop. We thought that it would be a nice change from the usual fast food joints: a real-life honest-to-goodness place that catered to truckers, without whom our stores, from the most indie retailer in Kensington Market to the biggest of the “big boxes”, would go unstocked.

Here’s a photo of our booth:

01 flying j table

The folks who the the Flying J know a marketing opportunity when they see one. That’s why the placemat doubles as advertising for their store specials, which naturally are for accoutrements that one would need on the road: jumper cables, Bluetooth headsets, ratchet wrench sets and energy drinks…

02 flying j matClick the photo to see it at full size.

I remember old restaurants having jukeboxes in the booths. If you’re living on the road, being able to get in touch with your loved ones trumps having music, which is why these booths sport phones instead. I haven’t used a pay phone in a very long time, so I was surprised to find out that local calls are now 50 cents.

03 flying j booth phone

Damir went for the chopped steak and mashed potatoes, but I went for the real down-home option: the buffet. I picked out what I thought might be an authentic road meal, based on all those episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives I’ve seen:

  • Shepherd’s pie (featuring cut-up beef, not ground meat)
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • “Oven-baked chicken”
  • Sausage and peppers

04 flying j buffet lunch

They’re not going to win any Michelin stars soon, but it was filling.

After lunch, I decided to check out the store. I spotted the audiobook aisle:

05 flying j audiobooksClick the photo to see it at full size.

The “Mark Dalton: Trucker/Detective” series caught my eye. Should I buy this on the way back? Let me know in the comments!

06 mark dalton trucker detective

There’s no escaping this guy! That smug know-nothing face really needs a solid pimp-slapping:

07 glenn beck

Of L. Ron Hubbard’s books, I’ve read only two: Battlefield Earth (I considered it so-so at age 14) and Dianetics (ridiculous). My guess is that his pulp titles shown below – Spy Killer, The Great Secret and Under the Black Ensign – aren’t anything to write home about:

08 l ron hubbard

Nothing spruces up the cab of an 18-wheeler like a plush white tiger:

09 tiger

And if you’re pressed for space and your truck can’t accommodate the body of a giant cat, you can always opt for the head:

10 lion tigers heads

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Ottawa Road Trip Diary, Part 1: Slow Going

by Joey deVilla on December 7, 2009

Once again, Damir and I are road-tripping to a TechDays conference. This week, the destination city is our nation’s capital, Ottawa. With the wet snow and being boxed in by trucks (see the photo below), the going’s a little slow:

02 boxed in

Here’s a trucker who’s a big fan of just-in-time compilers. Or is it just-in-time manufacturing?

01 go jit

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Demo Night in Canada: Wednesday Night!

by Joey deVilla on December 7, 2009

demo night in canadaIf you’re a techie in the Ottawa area and want to meet fellow techies and see what projects they’re working on and what tech they’re using, you’ll want to check out Demo Night in Canada, which takes place this Wednesday night at 7:00 at the Hampton Inn Conference Centre (200 Coventry Road). It’ll be an evening of demos and presentations by Ottawa-area developers, organized by Ottawa IT Community and Startup Ottawa.

It’s also a chance to get your geek party on! After the demos, we’re heading down to the Market to have a little celebration.

Come to Demo Night in Canada! It’s free to attend – all you have to do is register.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Microsoft’s Open Source Party in Montreal

by Joey deVilla on December 7, 2009

Here’s a little hint: if you ever get an invitation to a Microsoft party from High Road Communications – they’re Microsoft Canada’s PR firm – accept it. They’re always in great places, have great tapas and drinks and they always invite interesting people. You’re guaranteed to have fun, and that guarantee is doubled if I’m there.

The W’s “Extreme Wow” Suite

On Thursday, right after the end of Day 2 of TechDays Montreal, my fellow developer evangelist Christian Beauclair and I made our way from Centre Mont-Royal (the TechDays Montreal venue) to the W Hotel. That’s where we were holding a little party to which we invited a number of local open source developers, some of who were at the previous night’s Career Demo Camp Montreal.

w hotel montreal

Montreal’s W hotel is a building that has undergone a radical personality change. It used to be the Banque du Canada building, the home of one of our federal government’s most stuffy, buttoned-down organizations. W hotels tend to be the exact opposite: everything about them suggests that they were designed by people who usually design nightclubs, what with DJ booths in their lobbies, electronica and funk music piped into every nook and cranny, dimly-lit hallways with lighting straight out of Blade Runner and other little touches that make it seem as if you’ve somehow managed to get into one of those secret clubs in New York City’s Meat Packing District. Simply put, it’s a pretty good place to hold a swanky cocktail party,

Christian and I followed the directions to the “Extreme Wow” suite that High Road had booked for the party. Here’s what we saw when we entered the room:

01 empty suite 1

The suite was located on the top floor of the W. It was one large room with a 20 foot-high ceiling and an equally high set of windows revealing a balcony looking out onto Square Victoria and a good chunk of Montreal’s skyline. I had a sense of deja vu and soon realized that the place reminded me a little bit of Tony Prince’s swanky condo in the videogame The Ballad of Gay Tony, minus the mobsters to whom Tony owed money and wanted him dead.

02 empty suite 2

Near the back of the suite was the bathroom, which in the spirit of open source, was itself open concept and had nothing to hide. Rather than being tucked into a separate room, the shower, tub and sinks were poised on a split level four or five steps above the rest of the room, with the shower stall being a glass-and-brick enclosure in the middle of it all, looking like the monolith from 2001. The tub was recessed into the floor beside it and covered with a sheet of plywood for the party, either in order to prevent people from falling into it or to prevent me from attempting to start a party hot tub:

03 shower

(Thankfully, the toilet had its own separate “water closet” room, just off to the side.)

The room had been rearranged to better suite a party than overnight guests. The bed had been removed and replaced with a hybrid couch/chaise lounge:

04 shower and chaise

Just about everything in the room could be commanded via the master remote control, which Christian found. It controlled lights, the TV, sound system and even the curtains and skylight blinds (which could be opened and closed via remote-controlled servos):

05 christian and remote

Here’s a view of Square Victoria from the balcony:

06 view from balcony

Christian also found a table centrepiece that reminded him of an M.C. Escher image that I had used in my slide presentation at Career Demo Camp Montreal:

07a christian

For reference, here’s that M.C. Escher piece:

07b escher

Having checked out the place and taken my first set of photos, I did what I always do in such a setting: I got got a drink from the bar and made myself comfortable.

The Presentations

It wasn’t just cocktails and conversations at the party. We had some presentations as well, starting with Nik Garkusha, part of Microsoft Canada’s Open Source Strategy team. He talked about how Microsoft views open source, as well as the work we’re doing in order to make Microsoft and open source work better together.

I split his presentation into two videos. Here’s the first…

…and here’s the second:

Brendan “Digibomb” Sera-Shriar, developer with Optimal Payments, WordPress evangelist, founder of PHP Toronto and WordCamp Toronto and organizer of WordCamp Montreal, talked about his experience working with The Empire: “They’re actually doing open source!”, his use of Windows and the Windows Platform Installer and how open source and Windows can work together:

Yann Larrivee, developer, founder of PHP Quebec, FooLab and the upcoming ConFoo conference, spoke next. He talked about how he enjoyed Make Web Not War 2009, the importance of “playing well with others” both inside and outside the world of open source and how Microsoft is participating in ConFoo:

Marc Laporte, developer of TikiWiki, and among other things, talked about PHP running under IIS. It’s in French, and if anyone would like to give me a hand translating, I would appreciate it greatly!

The Party

As nice as the photos of the suite above are, the place looks far better when it’s filled with guests:

08 full suite 1

09 full suite 2

10 full suite 3

11 full suite 4

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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This Week: Ottawa!

by Joey deVilla on December 7, 2009


Last week, I was in Montreal, this week I’m in Ottawa. Once again, I’ll be road-tripping with my coworker, Damir Bersinic, IT Pro Evangelist and supreme field commander for the TechDays Canada cross-country conference. Watch this space for reports from both Ottawa and the road!

If you’re on the Toronto-Ottawa route and would like to join us for a coffee, let us know, either via email or in the comments!