It’s Ada Lovelace Day!


It’s a special day in the blogosphere today: it’s Ada Lovelace Day, an international day of blogging to bring attention to women excelling in technology.

Whether you’re venturing into a career, a scene or even a room full of people, it’s always nice to find people like you. This is especially true if you’re in the minority; you wouldn’t believe the number of people who’ve walked up to me and said “You’re an accordion player too? I was beginning to think that I was the last one left!” It’s a reassuring feeling.

Recent research by psychologist Penelope Lockwood suggests that women need to see female role models more than men need to see male ones. This leads to a chicken-and-egg-style problem in the tech world: it’s perceived as a “sausage party” (that is, a gathering of mostly men), which in turn turns women away, which in turn keeps it a sausage party.

The solution is make sure that we’re recognizing the women in technology, which is why we have Ada Lovelace Day. Ada Lovelace was the daughter of Lord Byron and is widely considered to be the first programmer, having written a system of symbol-manipulating rules for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. She is also crediting as having foreseen that computing devices would do far more than crunching numbers – while Babbage thought of his machine as a mechanical calculator, Lovelace suggested that “the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent”.

To celebrate Ada Lovelace Day, I thought I’d give a shout out to some Accordion City (that is, Toronto) area women in technology whom I know and have seen in the past couple of months. Take a bow and be recognized!

  • Sandy Kemsley: A regular on the Toronto tech scene with a career spanning over 20 years, she has forgotten more about BPM than I will ever learn.
  • Leigh Honeywell: She might just have the most-booked calendar in Toronto, what with her co-founding HacklabTO, working at the local Symantec office and finishing her degree at U of T.
  • Sacha Chua: Toronto’s most energetic and enthusiastic technology evangelist.
  • Qixing Zheng: My coworker! She’s the User Experierience Developer Advisor (Microsoft Canada’s first, in fact) and one of the hardest-working people on the Developer and Platform Evangelism team. She blogs at the Canadian UX Blog.
  • Kate Gregory: Microsoft Regional Director for Toronto, has forgotten more programming languages than I will ever learn, and the first non-Microsoftie to welcome me to The Empire at the Professional Developers Conference back in October.
  • Amber Macarthur: Tech news videoblogger extraordinaire!
  • Leila Boujnane: Founder and CEO of Idee, who make the coolest visual search.
  • Estelle Havva: The reality check at DemoCamp (she was the one who always asked presenters the question: “What’s your business model?”, promoter of Canadian tech at the National Reasearch Council and can do more pushups than almost anyone at DemoCamp.
  • Kaitlyn McLachlan: Creator of AskItOnline, the best survey web application I’ve seen.
  • Juan Musleh: I met her at the excellent CUSEC conference, where she was the Sponsorship Director.
  • Linda Wang: I also met her at CUSEC, where she was the co-chair and did some great work.
  • Jaclyn Konzelmann: I met her recently in a meeting with the organizers of the CUTC conference (and I owe her a couple of email replies).

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!


Ignite Your Career #4: “How to Become a Great Leader”

Inspirational poster: "Captain James T. Kirk: I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome I am."

This Week’s Webcast

How to Become a Great Leader is the topic of this week’s Ignite Your Career, Microsoft Canada’s and CIPS’ webcast series aimed at helping you further develop your career with opinions and advice from experts in Canada’s tech industry. Here’s the abstract for the webcast:

Being a great manager does not by default also mean you are a great leader. For some people, being a leader comes intuitively, for others it is something that requires both self awareness and leading by example. This session will focus on what a panel of Managers/Leaders has done in order to further their development of leader qualities. Topics in this area are wide ranging and based on webcast participation will include such as goal setting, importance of goal alignment, motivation techniques, nurturing trust, developing listening skills and coaching team members. Be sure to listen in and join the conversation with this panel of experts for what should be a very interesting wrap up to the Manager series.

The panelists for this webcast are:

stuart_crawford Stuart Crawford shares his experiences and serves the Calgary Small Business community in his role as the Vice President of Business Development for Bulletproof InfoTech, a leading Microsoft Small Business Partner with offices in Red Deer and Calgary.

barry_gervin Barry Gervin is a founding Partner of ObjectSharp. As a Principal Consultant, Barry provides technical leadership to his valued clients, staff, and the development community. Barry currently serves as a Microsoft Regional Director in Southern Ontario and has received the Microsoft MVP Award for Solutions Architecture for the past 3 years.

dana_epp Dana Epp researches software security and focuses on strong authentication and identity assurance solutions at Scorpion Software Corp. As a computer security software architect, Dana has spent the last 15 years focusing on software development with a particular emphasis on security engineering.

greg_lane Greg Lane is the current Chair of the Canadian Council of Information Technology Professionals (CCITP) of the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS). Greg is currently employed with Avanade as the Director Business Development Public Service for Canada.

The webcast will take place this Tuesday, March 24th, from 12:00 noon (Eastern) to 1:00 p.m.. Ignite Your Career webcasts are free of charge – all you have to do is register to listen using your Windows Live ID (which is also free).

Ignite Your Career isn’t about any specific technology or vendor; it’s about maximizing your potential at work and helping you come up with a career plan. No matter what platform or tools you work with, we’re sure that you’ll find this webcast series informative and helpful.

Previous Webcasts

All Ignite Your Career webcasts are recorded and archived so you can listen to them on demand. As with the live webcasts, there’s no charge to listen to them; you just have to register with a Windows Live ID.

The webcasts we’ve had so far in this series are:

  • Industry Insights and Trends
    The nature of technology is one of continual change; a fact of life for professionals in the ICT industry. As a result, you need to be on top of what is happening in the industry in order to position yourself and your organization to benefit from these trends. This panel discussion will arm you with the information you need from experts in the ICT industry in order to stay on top of your game.
    Speakers: Joel Semeniuk, Jeff Kempiners, Jay Payette and Paul Swinwood.
  • Discovering Your Trusted Resources
    Building a set of information sources and connecting with the community at-large are critical to your success in the ICT industry. This session brings successful community, technology, and information leaders together to share their experiences in discovering these resources. Our experts will help you learn how to identify credible sources and find the right tools, links and techniques to keep you up to date in a world of constant change.
    Speakers: Michael J. Sikorsky, Richard Campbell, and John Bristowe.
  • How to Establish and Maintain a Healthy Work/Life Balance
    With mobile technologies and our always-on culture, it’s imperative to establish and maintain a balance between work and life. If your only time to manage change in your environment is after hours, how can you maintain a healthy balance without burning out? How do you manage change so that you can develop your career and spend time with loved ones? This panel discussion will connect you to individuals who strive to establish and maintain this balance.
    Speakers: Mack Male, Cameron McKay, Paul Gossen, Mark Blevis

New Nerd Merit Badge: Homonyms


The folks behind the patches that clearly mark your nerdy prowess – Nerd Merit Badges – have released their latest merit badge, Homonyms (pictured on the right).

In case your grade school English classes are a distant memory, the most common use of the term homonym is for words that are pronounced the same way but are different in meaning and spelling. This is symbolized in the merit badge by the combination of three images: rain, the horse’s rein, and the crown, which symbolizes the reign of a monarch.

To earn this merit badge, you have to be able to correctly spell homonyms. As with the other merit badges, they’re relying on the honour system; that is, the fine Nerd Merit Badges people expect that you will order this badge if and only if you  know in your heart of hearts that you have truly earned it.

Some of you may complain that the badge should actually be called Homophones (from the Latin words for “same” and “sound”) because the term homonym (from the Latin words for “same” and “name”), when strictly used refers to words with the same pronunciation and spelling but different meaning. Examples include bear, which could refer to the animal or mean “to carry”, or stalk, which could refer to a plant part or refer to hunting. If you are one of these people, I will notify you when they make a Pedant Nerd Merit Badge.

This Nerd Merit Badge, like the previous two, is available at the Nerd Merit Badges site for USD$3.99; you can also buy a five-pack for USD$19.95.

I covered the previous two Nerd Merit Badges in earlier articles, which I’ve linked below:


Help LinuxCaffe Sort Through Their Tech Stuff!

Jawas carrying R2-D2 in "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope"

Tim Hildred of LinuxCaffe writes:

We have in our storage space a veritable heap of donated pre-loved electronics, some of which we hope to recycle and repurpose, some of which is probably junk. What we need as a small team of people who, in exchange for coffee and snacks, will help us sort it out.  There will probably be some spoils as well, as those who help should be able to help themselves to some things. So, bring your friends, help us make our heap into something workable, help the community to thrive, and help your blood-caffiene levels to remain stable. We’ll love you for ever.

The sorting will take place in two shifts:

  • Tomorrow, Saturday March 21st, from 12:00 noon-ish until 4:00 p.m.-ish
  • Wednesday, March 25th, from 5 p.m.-ish until 9:00 p.m.-ish.

If you’ve got a technical bent, some free time and community spirit, come on down to LinuxCaffe and give them a hand sorting through their donated electronics!


The Battlestar Galactica “Frakmap”

One of the best sci-fi series on television, the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, comes to an end this Friday night at 9 p.m. on Space here in Canada and the Sci-Fi channel in the States. With only one episode left, it would seem an appropriate time to point you to the Battlestar Galactica Frakmap, a little chart that tells you which characters have been intimate with each other and quick summary of their story.

The screenshot below shows only a part of the Frakmap, but it’s the part with the most promiscuous of the bunch: Kara “Starbuck” Thrace and Gaius “Horndog” Baltar. Click on the image to see the whole Frakmap:

Portion of the Battlestar Galactica "Frakmap"


Silverlight 3 and Expression Blend 3 Betas Now Available!

This article originally appeared in Canadian Developer Connection.

Microsoft Silverlight logo

Silverlight 3 Beta

Today at the MIX ‘09 conference, we rolled out the beta for Silverlight 3, the next iteration of our rich internet application platform. Version 3 adds a lot of new features including:

  • Out of Browser Capabilities. Silverlight 3 applications aren’t just confined to the browser. Users can install and run them from their desktops – either Windows or Mac OS – and without having to download any additional runtimes or plugins. Better still, these desktop Sliverlight apps can detect whether the machine is connected to the internet and can also auto-update.
  • Richer Graphics. There’s support for perspective 3-D graphics, pixel shader effects, a bitmap API, bitmap caching of vectors, text and controls, support for themed applications, new animation effects, enhanced control skinning and improved text rendering and font support.
  • HD Video and Audio. Support for H.264/AAC, 720p+ live and on-demand streaming, true HD playback in fullscreen mode and support for third-party codecs.
  • Better application features, including:
    • New GUI controls, including their source code
    • Support for “deep linking”: it’s now possible to bookmark a page contained within a Silverlight app
    • SEO tools: The content of your Silverlight apps can be mirrored into HTML so your app can be indexed by search engines
    • Enhanced data support
    • Improved performance

Expression Blend 3 Preview

Microsoft Expression Blend Also available is the preview version of Expression Blend 3, the “designer/developer workflow tool” for building interfaces for Silverlight and WPF projects. As with Silverlight 3, Expression Blend 3 adds a lot of new features including:

  • Sketchflow: a tool that lets you tool for quickly creating application prototypes, complete with interactivity.
  • Behaviors, which let you add interactivity to an application without having to write code
  • Photoshop and Illustrator file import
  • Improved design and development experience

An Important Note for People Currently Building Silverlight 2 Apps

Do not install Silverlight 3 development tools on a machine that you’re using to build Silverlight 2 apps! Visual Studio doesn’t support targeting multiple versions of Silverlight; if you install Silverlight 3 tools, you won’t be able to build Silverlight 2 apps anymore!

My recommendation is:

  • If you’re going to be working on Silverlight 2 projects, install Silverlight 3 tools on a machine that you’re not using for Silverlight 2 production.
  • If you’re like me and not doing any work on Silverlight apps at the moment and want to get started, go ahead and grab the beta.

Finding Out More About Silverlight 3 Beta and Expression Blend 3

You can find out more about both on the Silverlight 3 Beta page.

Getting Silverlight 3 Beta and Expression Blend 3 Preview

Both are available at the Silverlight 3 Beta download page. You can also follow the links below:


Toronto Coffee and Code: Friday March 20th at Linuxcaffe

This article originally appeared in the Coffee and Code blog.

Tigh and Adam from "Battlestar Galactica" drinking a toast: "Here's to Another Frakkin' Coffee and Code!"

I hereby declare a Toronto Coffee and Code for this Friday, March 20th from 11:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. at LinuxCaffe (326 Harbord Street, at the corner of Harbord and Grace, near Bickford Park; nearest subway station is Christie).

Map picture

For those of you not familiar with LinuxCaffe, it’s an independently-owned cafe that also acts as a gathering place for Toronto’s Free Software/Open Source Software communities. It might not be a place you’d expect for an event hosted by a Microsoft Evangelist, which is one of the reasons I picked it. Another reason is that it’s a great cafe with good coffee and food, and I’m more than happy to support a local cafe with techie appeal.

LinuxCaffe deserves a longer post, which I’ll write later – I just want to get the word out about this week’s Coffee and Code. Hope to see you there!