November 2010

The Windows 7/Windows Live “Palindrome Poem” Ad

by Joey deVilla on November 17, 2010

Over the next little while, you’re going to see us Microsoft types doing a fair bit of talking about cloud computing in various forms. One of the ways we’ll be talking about the cloud is in the form of ads, including this clever ad about Windows 7 and Windows Live based on a palindrome poem (a.k.a. mirror poem) about technology and how it helps or hinders us. The poem takes on different meanings, depending on whether you read it forwards or backwards line by line, and it underscores a great truth about the tools we use: it’s often a matter of perspective.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


I’ll Be at Gamercamp Today

by Joey deVilla on November 13, 2010

gamercamp today at toronto underground cinema

Gamercamp takes place today and tomorrow in Toronto! Billed as “two days of living, breathing and playing video games”, it’s a conference for people who make – or aspire to make – videogames, love to think and talk about them, and of course, play them.

I’ll be there today, catching the keynotes, and tomorrow, demoing XNA, Xboxes with Kinect and Windows Phone (yup, Microsoft’s a sponsor).

Gamercamp spans two days (here’s the agenda), with a different location for each day:

If you’d like to attend, tickets are available at the door and also online. Here’s how much it costs to attend:

  • The Gamercamp Festival Pass goes for $30.00 and gets you into the main sessions for Saturday and Sunday.
  • If you’re attending Gamercamp and want a ticket to the 1UP Party (featuring musical acts Anamanaguchi and Starscream), tickets for 1UP are $12.00.
  • If you just want to attend 1UP and not Gamercamp, tickets are $15.00.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Yellow Peril 2.0

by Joey deVilla on November 12, 2010

nma anchorsIt’s the 21st century, and that means it’s time to get your news the 21st century way: not read by some Western talking head on TV, but in the form of Chinese computer-generated animation!

Ever since my first encounter with the Chinese news organization NMA News’ animated take on the Tiger Woods car crash/infidelity story, I’ve been checking on their YouTube channel regularly to see their takes on various news stories, from less-serious stuff like the clash between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, their hilarious one-minute synopsis of the Facebook movie The Social Network and their coverage of George W. Bush’s new memoir

…to more serious pieces like the Tyler Clementi suicide and the emergency go-around that a China Airlines jet had to do to avoid landing on an EVA Air cargo plane still on the runway. You might not understand the language of the voice-overs, but you will get the gist.

NMA News are aware of their popularity of their YouTube postings and have since expanded to create a “World Edition” version of their channel in English. The latest posting to this channel is an amusing gangsta rap number that does a pretty decent “101 level” introduction to the currency battle between the U.S. and China, as rapped by Hu Jintao and Barack Obama:

macleans asian student

Money is not the only resource over which “Westerners” and “Asians” seem to be doing battle – universities are another one. The Canadian magazine Macleans (for those of you outside Canada, think Newsweek with a more conservative bent) publishes an annual issue in which they rank Canada’s universities and feature stories on university life and other issues surrounding post-secondary education. As they are wont to do, Macleans went straight for the cultural “hot button” with an article titled Too Asian?, which starts off with these paragraphs:

When Alexandra and her friend Rachel, both graduates of Toronto’s Havergal College, an all-girls private school, were deciding which university to go to, they didn’t even bother considering the University of Toronto. “The only people from our school who went to U of T were Asian,” explains Alexandra, a second-year student who looks like a girl from an Aritzia billboard. “All the white kids,” she says, “go to Queen’s, Western and McGill.”

Alexandra eventually chose the University of Western Ontario. Her younger brother, now a high school senior deciding where he’d like to go, will head “either east, west or to McGill”—unusual academic options, but in keeping with what he wants from his university experience. “East would suit him because it’s chill, out west he could be a ski bum,” says Alexandra, who explains her little brother wants to study hard, but is also looking for a good time—which rules out U of T, a school with an academic reputation that can be a bit of a killjoy.

Or, as Alexandra puts it—she asked that her real name not be used in this article, and broached the topic of race at universities hesitantly—a “reputation of being Asian.”

Those of you who know me well know that I went to one of the “white kids” schools – Crazy Go Nuts University, a.k.a. Queen’s. For me, it’ wasn’t that University of Toronto was too Asian, but too close to home; going there felt like flying to Paris and eating at McDonald’s. Queen’s, and for that matter, the other “Canadian Ivies” Western and McGill (where my sister did her undergrad), were popular choices with those Asian students who wanted to work both sides of the cultural divide. I led an experience more akin to Harold and Kumar than Long Duk Dong, but still majored in computer science. Crazy Go Nuts University let me sharpen both my computer programming skills and schmooze-fu, and both have proven to be a handy yin and yang that have kept me quite recession-proof (I even ended up benefiting from the econopocalypse of 2008).

The article hints at the possibility of Canadian universities establishing secret – or perhaps not-so-secret – quotas on Asian enrollment. It’s not the first time that people have talked about the insidious presence of a visible minority with a reputation for academics, and it’s just as creepy this time ‘round.

To anyone who’s a bit freaked out over Asians taking over universities, I have two things to say:

  1. Would it kill you to crack open a math book once in a while and solve for x?
  2. Remember the sage words of “Jack” (the TV exec on 30 Rock played by Alec Baldwin): “This country was built by immigrants. The first generation works their fingers to the bone building it from the ground up. The second generation goes to college, drives innovation, and makes a better life for their families. The third generation…[sigh] snowboards and takes improv classes.”

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

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Scenes from TechDays Ottawa, Part 4

by Joey deVilla on November 11, 2010

Just a few more pictures from TechDays Ottawa, starting with Louis-Philippe Pinsonneault from RunAtServer:


Here’s Wes MacDonald doing the presentation on SharePoint development for ASP.NET developers:


Meanwhile, in the “Local Flavours” track, Colin Melia did a session in which he built a Windows Phone 7 application from “File-> New”, right in front the audience, in a session titled “From Zero to Phone App in 60 Minutes”:


“Release the Kraken!”


Here’s Telerik’s Evan Hutnick dropping some ASP.NET MVC science in the last session on the last day:


And finally, a shot of things to come: the probable venue for TechDays Ottawa next year – the new convention centre, which we expect will be finished in a few months…


This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Scenes from TechDays Ottawa, Part 3

by Joey deVilla on November 11, 2010

And now, more pictures from TechDays Ottawa, the fifth in our series of eight cross-Canada conference for developers and IT pros building on the Microsoft platform.

Here’s an overhead view of the Rogers booth, where they were running a handy phone recharging service, talking about their Catalyst API for mobile developers and showing off the very lovely Samsung Focus running Windows Phone 7. I’m looking forward to getting mine…


One of the popular diversions at TechDays was the Kinect. Here are Stewart Cawthray and Rick Claus getting in a little exercise during the lull that happens when attendees catching presentations:


TechDays wouldn’t run anywhere nearly as smoothly without the help of its track hosts. I’d like to thank the two gentlemen pictured below, Peter Henry and Colin Melia, who were the track hosts for the developer tracks. Colin hosted the “Developing for Three Screens and the Cloud” track, while Peter hosted the “Optimizing the Development Process” track. Thanks, guys!


Also helping ensure that the conference ran smoothly were these two – William Hoang, the Academic Developer Evangelist Associate (a.k.a. “The Intern”) and Jenna Prada from Starshot, our event planning group. Thanks, you two!


Meanwhile, the sessions were in full swing:


There are a select few who deserve some kind of endurance prize for presenting at all eight TechDays cities, and Imaginet’s Aaron Kowall is one of them. He’s been doing a number of presentations on getting the most out of Visual Studio 2010 for building and deployment.


Another eight-city trooper is Redbit Development’s Mark Arteaga, who’s delivering the Windows Phone 7 development sessions:


Here’s a crowd that’s sitting up and attentive, even though they’ve just come from a big lunch:


The reason they’re so attentive? Because it’s a lively presentation by Mario Cardinal on the top 10 unit testing mistakes. Mario’s presentations are always fun to watch:


Conference internet access is a pricey thing, so we’re grateful to our sponsor OnX for providing the internet access stations so people can check their mail and Facebook:


The end of TechDays’ Day 1 is not the end of our day! Day 1 also has a students-only evening event called Go DevMental, where students can learn more about web and mobile development. Here’s the registration booth for the event, where each student gets a free copy of Visual Studio 2010 Professional and the full version of Expression Studio. Where were the goodies like this when I was a student?


Here are the students taking the Kinect for a spin before the start of the sessions:


And here’s Mark Arteaga presenting Windows Phone 7 development in Silverlight to a packed room of students:


This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


The Road Home

by Joey deVilla on November 11, 2010

road trip

Earlier this week, I made my way to TechDays Ottawa by train. With the conference wrapped up, I’ve joined my coworker Damir Bersinic in a rented Ford Escape Limited on the trip back to Toronto. As I write this, we’re in Brockville (a.k.a. “Brock Vegas”), fresh from a classic diner dinner (pictured above), and acquiring some much-needed caffeine at a Starbucks drive-thru.

aneglos diner

windows phone 7Going on the road’s a little different these days thanks to mobile computing and communications technology. Damir’s at the wheel, enjoying stand-up comedy on satellite radio, while I’m riding shotgun, with my laptop linked to the internet via a Rogers HSPA+ “Rocket Stick” and my Windows Phone 7 displaying our current position on Highway 401.

All this time on the road got me thinking: if you’re planning on writing Windows Phone 7 apps but are stuck for app ideas, give some thought to the needs of truckers, fleet drivers and other people whose jobs keep them on the highway for hours at a time. What sort of apps would they need? What can an app do to simplify their lives or remove drudgery? What sort of problems would they encounter in their job that could be solved by having an always-there, sensor-equipped, location-aware networked computing device?

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Want a Free Pass to Gamercamp?

by Joey deVilla on November 11, 2010

gamercamp free passesGamercamp, the gathering for people who love to eat, sleep, breathe and make videogames, takes place in Toronto this weekend:

  • Saturday, November 13th at Toronto Underground Cinema (186 Spadina, a little bit north of Queen)
  • Sunday, November 14th at George Brown College School of Design (230 Richmond Street East)

I wrote about Gamercamp a couple of days ago, and if you’d like the full skinny on it, check out my article and Gamercamp’s official site. I’m going to be there to absorb info, talk games and show off a couple of Microsoft goodies, including Kodu, Kinect and Windows Phone 7 games. If you’re coming to Gamercamp, please say hi!

$30 will get you a ticket good for both days at Gamercamp, but I’ve just gotten my hands on 4 free passes. The first people to email me at and ask will get one.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.