Geek Book Deals from Manning and Apress

Price tag reading "Sale"I wanted to post this earlier, but a number of things, shopping included, conspired to keep me from blogging until just now.

If you’re reading this and it’s still December 21st, Manning Publications, publishers of fine books such as C# in Depth, Real-World Functional Programming, ASP.NET MVC in Action and The Art of Unit Testing and even a whole book on Dependency Injection (and yes, they have a lot of non-Microsoft books as well) is having a half-price off all ebooks sale – but only on Monday, December 21st, Use the discount code dotd1221 when you place your order and the books will be half price.

If it’s after December 21st but before the new year, Apress has a deal for you! If you order off their site and use the discount code APRESSHOLIDAYML, they’ll take 25% off your entire purchase.

If you’ve been holding off buying new geeks books and waiting for some deals, those deals are here!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Scenes from TechDays Winnipeg

It’s hard to believe, but the seven-city cross-Canada tour known as TechDays 2009 is over. We had the last one – TechDays Winnipeg – on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. Here are some photos I shot during the event.

The Day Before TechDays Winnipeg

Of all the TechDays venues, I would have to hand the “swankiest speaker prep room” award to the Winnipeg Convention Centre, with its wood panelling, private washrooms, loads of closet space, plentiful tables, very comfortable leatherette couches and all-round 1980s styling. I can imagine a young Flock of Seagulls or Duran Duran hanging out here after a show, entertaining groupies:

00 speaker room

During the holidays, many people like to decorate their storefront and home windows with fake spray-on frost. In Winnipeg, where the temperatures were hovering around –35 degrees C (-31 degrees F), you don’t need that stuff – they’ve got the real thing! Here are the side doors on the ground floor of the Winnipeg Convention Centre:

01 frost

Here’s a closer look:

02 frost

And just for kicks, an even closer one.

03 frost

I must tip my hat to the people of Winnipeg for toughing out those kinds of temperatures, year after year.

The Convention Centre had a secret stash of Christmas trees, ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice:

04 decorations

One of the perks of being a TechDays Track Lead is that nobody asks questions when you rearrange the signs for an art shot:

05 art shot

Day 1

John Bristowe, track lead for the green-shirted Developer Fundamentals and Best Practices track, just had another baby, so he was tied up with Dad duties (congrats, John and Fiona!). I donned a green shirt took over as acting track lead for his track and recruited D’Arcy Lussier to host my track, the orange-shirted Developing for the Microsoft-Based Platform track.

The first speaker for Developer Fundamentals and Best Practices was Jeremy Wiebe, who presented the very popular Tips and Tricks for Visual Studio session:

06 jeremy wiebe

How popular was it? Popular enough that people were overflowing out of the rows:

07 green track audience 1

…and we even had to drag in some extra chairs to create a new row at the back:

08 green track audience 2

This was an attentive crowd. There were a lot of “I didn’t know you could do that in Visual Studio!”-type reactions.

09 green track audience 3

The second session of the day was given by Dylan Smith: Test-Driven Development Techniques:

10 dylan smith

Once again, a good crowd.

11 green track audience

During lunch, my coworker, IT pro evangelist Rick Claus and I did a presentation on some of the new features in Office 2010, with me showing off some of the new graphics goodness in PowerPoint 2010:

12 lunch day 1

The sessions resumed in the afternoon with Uwe Schmitz talking about Patterns for the Rest of Us. I was a bit surprised at how few hands went up when I asked how many people had read or even attempted to read Design Patterns by the “Gang of Four”.

13 uwe schmitz

Most of Uwe’s audience was in the same room as he was:

14 inside audience

But one guy, whose back was made sore by the conference room chairs, took a clever approach. We broadcast all sessions’ projections and audio on a monitor outside every room, so he took one of the comfy chairs in the hallway outside and set himself up for some living room-style viewing:

15 outside audience

I told him that with his sunglasses and the way he was seated, he reminded me of the old ads for Maxell tapes from the 1980s:

old maxell ad

After Uwe was Dave Harris, who presented A Strategic Comparison of Data Access Technologies from Microsoft:

16 dave harris

Day 2

The outside temperature improved for the second day: it became a relatively balmy –20 degrees C (-4 degrees F). What a difference 15 degrees makes!

The first session was Practical Web Testing and was delivered by the team of Tyler Doerksen and Robert Regnier:

17 tyler doerksen robert regnier

I stepped out to drop in on the track which I had put together, my orange-shirted Developing for the Microsoft-Based Platform track. While the Developer Fundamentals and Best Practices track typically had big draws on Day 1, Day 2 is when the Platform track brought in the crowds:

18 orange track audience

The session was the popular Introducing ASP.NET MVC, and in Winnipeg, it was delivered by Kelly Cassidy:

19 kelly cassidy

An unfortunate set of circumstances speaker shortages and cancellations means that Rick had to deliver all the presentations for day 2 of his track, Servers, Security and Management. That’s 300 minutes in total behind the lectern. It’s quite fortunate that he knows his stuff and that his theatre training makes him an excellent presenter:

20 rick claus

Meanwhile, back at the green track, Aaron Kowall presented Better Software Change and Configuration Management Using TFS:

21 aaron kowall

During his session, he presented a very important truth: Build automation is not just merely pressing “F5”:

22 aaron kowall

At lunch, Rick hosted a demo showdown between me (representing developers) and my coworker, IT Pro Evangelist Rodney Buike, trying to determine who could do the better Windows 7 demos. I won, thanks in part to my demo of the most obscure Windows features: the Private Character Editor.

23 lunch day 2

Joel Semeniuk needs no introduction. I simply told the audience that “Joel has forgotten more about Team System than I will ever learn. Besides, what I know about Team System can be summarized in the two words ‘jack’ and ‘poop’.” Here’s Joel in action, presenting Metrics That Matter: Using Team System for Process Improvement:

24 joel semeniuk

I love this shot of Joel – he looks like a general addressing his own private banana republic:

25 joel semeniuk

A closer look:

26 joel semeniuk

The most popular afternoon snack was served between the third and fourth sessions of Day 2: Canada’s favourite snack – donuts!

27 donuts

My SD card corrupted the photos of the last speaker of the day, Steve Porter, who did a fine job presenting his session, Database Change Management with Team System. My apologies, Steve!

And finally, to make up for the fact that I did not properly capture D’Arcy Lussier’s hair — an asset in which he takes great pride — in yesterday’s video interview, I now present a close-up shot of his coiff:

28 darcy lussier suave

My thanks to everyone at TechDays Winnipeg – attendees, speakers, staff and organizers – for making it an great way to close out the tour!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


D’Arcy Lussier on Luchador Hijinks and Dot-Netrosexuals

All work and no play makes Joey a dull developer, which is why even though we make sure that TechDays is chock-full of content that developers and IT pros can use in their day-to-day work and stay on top of their tech, we also like to have a little fun. For example, in the video above, I interview local developer and well-coiffed gentleman D’Arcy Lussier about the possibility that he might don the Mexican wrestling outfit (he’s our answer to Strong Bad) and whether you can still be stylin’ whilst wearing Microsoft logowear, contrary to what Vancouver’s most notorious cage-fighting-and-coding arbiter of style says.

By the way, I’d like to thank D’Arcy for taking over my track TechDays, Developing for the Microsoft-Based Platform, track at the last minute while I took over the Developer Fundamentals and Best Practices track. D’Arcy, you are truly worthy commanding the Orange Shirts – I salute you with the finest hair-care products on a flaming sword!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


How Fanboys See Operating Systems

how fanboys see operating systems

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


Working in the Kitchen

01 ms ottawa officeMicrosoft Ottawa’s Kitchen. It has a decent view.

Every Microsoft office has a “touchdown area”, a place filled with cubicles where visiting or mobile workers can work. I avoid these like the plague.

Thanks to all the work I’ve done in cafes or coworking spaces, I prefer to set up in Microsoft’s “kitchen” spaces. The wifi is just as accessible there, but the lighting is natural, the tables are larger. the fridge with all the free Diet Coke is nearby by and it doesn’t feel so boxed in. Unlike cafes, you can leave your stuff at the table when you go for a bathroom break.

So, when I hung out in Microsoft’s Ottawa offices on Friday while waiting for my coworker and travelling buddy Damir to finish his meeting, I eschewed the touchdown cubicle and set up shop in the kitchen. These photos show what my “office” looked like, and believe me, it’s a lot nicer than a veal-fattening pen-like cube.

02 ms ottawa office

A lot of office workers might balk at the idea of working in a kitchen space, but consider this: people have been working in kitchens for millennia. Its centralized  placement in homes and workplaces as well as its layout and design are the product of countless generations doing work that sustains life.

On the other hand, the modern office has its roots in the Industrial Revolution. Its design is based on the concept of employee as interchangeable production unit and the hypothesis that people are naturally lazy and must be coerced into being productive.

Hence in the absence of a workshop-like environment (such as the Hacklab, where I often work), I opt for the kitchen.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Next Stop: Winnipeg!

winnipeg skyline

At long last, we come to the last city in TechDays’ seven-city conference tour: Winnipeg! The combination of venue availability and perhaps a little masochism puts me and my coworkers in a city notorious for brutal winters in mid-December. Take a look at the weather forecast for the days I will be there:

winnipeg forecast

(If you’re American, the high for Monday translates to –9 degrees F; the low is –26 degrees F. There’s a reason the city has the nickname “Winterpeg”.)

Fortunately, we were given our official TechDays-branded winter jackets at the Ottawa conference last week, and when they’re worn with the fleece lining, they’re incredibly warm. In fact, I found myself boiling in my jacket in Ottawa’s just-below-freezing temperatures when I wore it with the lining, which means that it should keep me toasty in Winnipeg’s deep freeze. Still, I’m glad that the walking route from the hotel to the conference venue can be done mostly indoors, with the notable exception of one street crossing.

In spite of the temperatures, I’m looking forward to the trip to Winnipeg later today. See you there!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Demo Night in Canada

01 demo night in canada

The TechDays conferences that we’ve been holding across Canada span two days and have no evening events. This means that the venues are “lying fallow”, with plenty of A/V, presentation and demo equipment doing nothing on the evening of the first day. That seemed like a waste.

“Why not,” we thought, “open up our venues to community events on the evenings of Day 1?”

We were able to do this in four out of the seven TechDays cities this year:

We put together each event with local people in order to make sure that each one had its own “local flavour” and fit the needs of the local audience. For Ottawa, we decided to approach two very different groups: the Ottawa IT Community, which comprises a number of .NET user groups, and Startup Ottawa, who are the Ottawa analogue of DemoCamp Toronto.

The event had two hosts: Glenn Schmelzle, from Startup Ottawa:

02 glenn schmelzle

and Colin Melia, representing Ottawa IT Community:

03 colin melia

The first presentation of the evening was This is My Language by Charles Wiebe and John Hansen, who showed us their programming language, Jetfire, which is built on top of the .NET Dynamic Language Runtime:

04 jetfire

Next up were Scott Lake:

05 scott lake

…and Craig Fitzpatrick:

06 swix

…who presented Swix, their social media marketing metrics system. It looks both useful and beautiful (its UI shows the sort of rich interfaces you can build with jQuery), and Christian Beauclair and I both agreed that we could make us of it in our developer evangelism work.

09 swix

After the Swix presentation came Islam Gomaa, who took us into the land of enterprise IT by talking about implementing ISO 27001 security:

10 islam

The event went smoothly thanks to Christian, who once again provided invaluable assistance by helping the presenters get their machines hooked up to our A/V setup quickly:

11 techdrifters

Scott Annan talked about Techdrifters, a system for road warriors, cafe coders and people who work in coworking spaces to find an interact with each other. I must admit that it’s a topic close to my heart:

13 techdrifters

Jean-Rene Roy did the final presentation, a look at Microsoft’s Sync Framework – nope, not the car audio system, but the file synchronization system that bears the same name:

14 jean-rene

With the presentations wrapped up, we made our way to the Clock Tower brew pub on Clarence Street, where we enjoyed good conversation and a few drinks, including a round bought on my corporate card.

I’d like to thank Colin Melia, Scott Lake and Glenn Schmelzle for providing all the local help in getting Demo Night in Canada together, the presenters and the attendees who made it out to the event, in spite of all the snow. Let’s do this again soon!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.