Toronto Coffee and Code: Returning May 29th

This article also appears in the Coffee and Code blog.

Coffee machine embedded in "tower" computer enclosure: "Toronto Coffee and Code Returns Friday May 29th!"

I’m a bit swamped with work and other things, so the Toronto Coffee and Code events are taking a hiatus for a couple of weeks. Worry not, it’s a temporary thing, and in a couple of Fridays – May 29th, to be precise, Coffee and Code will make a triumphant return, all phoenix-like, to the Dark Horse Cafe at 215 Spadina on Friday, May 29th from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m..


Videos from the 2009 RSA Conference

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


The 2009 edition of the RSA Conference, the biggest and best-known cryptography and information security conference, took place last month in San Francisco. Each year, the conference has a theme based on or relevant to crypto or infosec, and this year’s theme was Edgar Allen Poe (previous themes include the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II, the secrets of the Mayans, Mary Queen of Scots and Alan Turing).

Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman at their keynote at the 2009 RSA Conference

The people behind the conference were kind enough to post video of the keynotes, which I found thanks to a pointer from TechNet’s Jeff Jones, author of the Jeff Jones Security Blog. You can click on the links below to watch the videos. Jeff strongly recommends that you do not miss the opening ceremony segment of the “Day 1 Keynotes” video, and I don’t have to tell you that you should catch the closing keynote, featuring Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman of the popular nerd television series Mythbusters:


The Story Behind “Keyboard Cat”

Another internet meme made the big time today – today’s edition of CNN’s “American Morning” ended with anchor Kiran Chetry announcing that they would be “played out” by “Keyboard Cat”. In case you haven’t yet seen them, Keyboard Cat videos all follow the same formula:

  • They all have the name “Play Him/Her Out, Keyboard Cat”
  • They begin with a segment in which someone humiliates or hurts himself or herself
  • They cut to a strange video featuring a cat playing a tune on a cheesy home keyboard

This is my favourite Keyboard Cat video, in which a guy learns an important lesson in nunchuk safety:

This one, featuring a guy whose parents are trying to convince him that it’s bad idea to broadcast his meltdown online, is a close second:

And now, we can find out about the origin of Keyboard Cat and how he turned into an internet meme, thanks to this story in the Los Angeles Times.


PHP on Windows: The Undiscovered Country

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

I’m doing a lot of running around today. First, I’m off to the University of Waterloo to talk to students about PHP on Windows and the PHP FTW! contest. Then, it’s back to Toronto, where I’m headed downtown to catch up with Garrett Serack from Microsoft’s Open Source Software Lab to talk about The Empire, Open Source (which includes PHP, of course) and how they fit together. If this sounds like a conversation you’d be interested in joining, drop me a line!

To give you a taste of what Microsoft is doing with PHP, I present the slides from Garrett’s talk, PHP on Windows: The Undiscovered Country, which he gave last year. Things have advanced since then, but I thought it would give you an idea of what The Empire is thinking and where we’re going with PHP on the Windows platform:


Got Time Tuesday After Work?

PHP logo


  • you’re a PHP developer or curious about what Microsoft is doing in the world of open source
  • you’re in the downtown Toronto area tomorrow (Tuesday, May 12th) after work
  • you like free food and drink

…then drop me a line. I’m helping out at an event that you might be interested in.


“Better Living Through Blogging”: The Slide Deck

Here’s the presentation I did at WordCamp Toronto 2009 this weekend, Better Living Through Blogging, in which I talk about how taking up blogging has paid off in all sorts of ways, from relationships to career to even saving my bacon.

Some Notes About the Deck

You’ve probably suffered through presentations whose slides look something like this:


I’m not a big fan of background templates in slides, but at least this one (from one of the themes provided in PowerPoint 2007) isn’t so bad. There are worse themes I could’ve picked, such as this one:


That’s just downright ugly.

I find that a plain black background with white text works best. The plain black background is simple, doesn’t interfere with or overpower your content, and works well with all sorts of room sizes, lighting conditions, projector types, projection surfaces and so on.

Whenever possible, I avoid putting the company logo at the bottom of every slide. It’s not a fight I’m always going to win, but I do my best to convince the guardians of corporate identity that the audience won’t forget the company name if we don’t beat the audience’s head with it on every slide. I think that it detracts from the presentation by drawing attention away from the content; I think that it also reeks of branding desperation. I think it’s enough to show the logo at the start and end.

Your slides are not cue cards. The purpose of standing in front of an audience is not to read aloud a document written in point form. You’re there not only to communicate an idea, but to engage the people in the room as well; the slides are there as support. That’s why slide presentation software has “presenter mode”, where the slides are displayed on the projector and your notes are displayed on your laptop.

A Little Sample

Here’s what my audience saw instead of the “Who Am I?” slide above. I’ve included a rough paraphrase of what I said along with the slides…


“Some of you already know me, some of you think you know me, and some of you are wondering ‘who is this Microsoft Guy and why is he speaking at a WordPress event?’. So I guess a proper introduction is in order.”


“Yes, I work for Microsoft. The Empire. I’m still new, having been working there for just over six months. I’ve had a blast so far – it’s a fun place to work, and in my particular job, they give you a wide degree of latitude.”


“As for my job, if I could pick the title, it would be…Sith Lord.”


“But the company, being what it is, prefers to give me the slightly less interesting title of Evangelista.”


“Actually, that’s not true. The title is Evangelist. It’s a relatively new kind of job in the big scheme of things, which is a combination of…”


“Super-smart hottie with programming skills and…”


“Dapper, intelligent and quick-witted communicator of ideas. I’m kind of like a marketer. But with a brain. And a soul. [Looking at wincing marketers in the audience] Oh, I kid because I love.”


“The concept of a technology evangelist was pioneered by the The Esteemed Competition over at Apple by Mike Boich, but it was Guy Kawasaki who popularized the position. He’s since gone on to do other tech-related things in Silicon Valley, but a lot of what he does can still be considered to be evangelism.”


“Microsoft also has technology evangelists. The one you probably know is Robert Scoble, who was with the company for three-ish years, and like Guy, although he doesn’t have the title or work for Microsoft anymore, a lot of what he does is still evangelism.”


“And yeah, I know the guy.”

I’d much rather see a presentation done in the style that I used rather than seeing someone simply grind through a deck of items in point form, acting as a narration service.

And Now a Question for the Audience

If I were to post a more detailed version of my presentation online, would you rather have it…

  • in the form shown above, with the slides shown above what I said in text form?
  • as a video, with the slides displayed in the video portion and my voice as the audio?

Let me know.


Okay, I’m Convinced: A Believable Non-Porn Use for “Porn Mode”

I’ve always laughed at how the guys on the Internet Explorer 8 team bent over backwards trying to come up with non-porn-surfing uses for “InPrivate Browsing”, which I often refer to as “Porn Mode”. Somehow the examples they use, however practical and legitimate they are, fail to convince:

  • “I want to buy a present for my wife from an online store and want to keep it a surprise.”
  • “I want to check my account balance from an internet cafe while I’m on holiday.”

But this Post Secret postcard shows a believable use case for “Porn Mode” on browsers: 

"Post Secret" postcard made of the Google home page, showing a search for "signs of teen autism": "The least you could have done is erase the history. Now I know what you really think of me, Dad."