Kudos for Kodu

Three Students at St. Mary Catholic Elementary School programming with Kodu.Photo by Rick Macwilliam, The Edmonton Journal.

The Kodu game building system got some coverage in today’s Edmonton Journal. In a piece titled Kudos for Kodu, the Language of Kids, they cover the story of how St. Mary Catholic Elementary School is using Kodu to teach not just programming, but parts of the science curriculum as well. The kids are building a Kodu world that simulates a wetland ecosystem, filled with creatures that explain their roles. It sounds more fun than my grade school science classes and echoes my own philosophy of “don’t learn to build, but build to learn”.

Want to learn more about Kodu? You can get a quick introduction by watching me and Junior on Developer Junior:

…after which, you can look at Hello, Kodu!, my article that walks you through the process of programming Kodu the robot to respond to the gamepad controls. It also provides links to more Kodu tutorials.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


EnergizeIT This Week

This week, EnergizeIT heads out to New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Quebec.

This Week in New Brunswick

monctonCreative Commons photo by Stu Pendousmat. Click here for the original.

On Tuesday, Damir and I fly to Moncton for EnergizeIT, where we’ll be doing the EnergizeIT Community Connection presentation. It’s a non-stop no-slides-till-the-very-end demo in which we build the applications and IT infrastructure of a business right in front of you, giving you a grand tour of Visual Studio 2010, SharePoint 2010, and Office 2010 along the way. We’ll be presenting at the Mapleton Rotary Pavilion on 600 Mapleton Road at 6:00 p.m.; if you’d like to catch this free presentation, you can sign up on the registration page.

frederictonCreative Commons photo by Stu Pendousmat. Click here for the original.

On Wednesday, Damir and I will drive from Moncton to Fredericton, where we’ll do the same presentation, this time at University of New Brunswick’s Gillin Hall (540 Windsor Street), once again at 6:00 p.m.. As with Moncton’s event, registration is free; you can sign up here.

This Week in Saskatchewan

These aren’t the only places with EnergizeIT Community Connection presentations. In Saskatchewan, we’ve got John Bristowe and Rodney Buike doing these presentations:

This Week in Quebec

Meanwhile, in Quebec, Christian Beauclair and Rick Claus will be doing the French edition of the presentations in these cities:

Next Week in Mississauga

mississaugaCreative Commons photo by Ian Muttoo. Click here for the original. 

And the final city of the EnergizeIT Community Connection tour is Mississauga, where Damir and I will do the presentation in the MPR room of Microsoft Canada’s headquarters (1950 Meadowvale Boulevard). It takes place at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 27th.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


EnergizeIT Academic Visits

Ah, student life. While waiting to do a presentation at Fanshawe College in London, I had a quick student lunch, pictured below:

Slice of pizza, glass of coke and a flyer for a "Rock/Paper/Scissors tournament"

Damir and I have been touring all over the country over the past couple of weeks for EnergizeIT. Two weeks ago, we were in Kelowna and Victoria, last week we were in London and Kitchener/Waterloo and this week, we’ll be in Fredericton and Moncton. We’re “Team Rover”, one of three teams visiting 20 cities, large and small, across Canada, with John Bristowe and Rodney Buike making up “Team West” and Christian Beauclair and Rick Claus comprising “Team East”.

EnergizeIT’s main presentations are about what’s possible with the Microsoft platform, with a focus on those parts that lots of people use to help them get work done and make their businesses go: Visual Studio 2010, Azure, SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010. In those presentations, we’re demoing these tools and technologies in action with live code and live data, and yes, we’re promoting Microsoft stuff.

In addition to the main presentations, we’ve been doing academic visits, which are quite different. They’re about helping students make the transition from school to the working world. In these presentations, I make very little mention of Microsoft, leaving it just to:

  • Hey, I work for Microsoft!
  • A quick story about how I landed my job at Microsoft
  • At the very end, I point them to a couple of sites:

The academic presentation focuses on the sorts of things that one should do to have a career in technology that’s rewarding in every sense of the word. The core message is that you, the student about to enter the working world, are in charge of your own future, and that in this industry and time, there’s a lot you can do to shape it.

Each of the teams has been working from a presentation created by Qixing Zheng, who used to be with the Microsoft Canada Developer Evangelism team and has since gone on to join the Windows User Experience group, but we’ve been pretty free to add our own twists to it. Our team’s version features a lot of interesting stuff, including:

  • The story of my first client meeting, which was a disaster
  • The importance of an online presence of some sort
  • How to get experience when you’re not yet in the working world
  • The value of “soft skills”
  • Why operating on just your “left brain” isn’t going cut it anymore
  • Ideas from a number of books, including:

So far, Damir and I have done presentations at:

and we’re going to present next week here in Toronto at:

I’d love to do these visits to universities as well as colleges, but the EnergizeIT tour takes place just as universities are going into final exams. I hope that TechDays, which happens from September through December (fall semester in universities) gives us a chance to present at universities across Canada, including my beloved alma mater, Queen’s.

I enjoy doing presentations of all sorts, but I have to admit that there’s a special place in my heart for presenting to students. It’s partly because students are a fun crowd to present to, and partly because there’s the notion of me – of all people, given my checkered academic history – standing at a college or university lectern, presenting ideas to students is rather funny. I love doing the academic visits, and I still have trouble believing that I’m getting paid to do something that’s this much fun.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Superstitious and Mathematically Incorrect

asian elevator buttons

Okay, I get the missing “13” (bad luck in Western cultures) and no numbers with “4” in them (bad luck in Chinese and Japanese cultures), and the –1 is clever, but where’s the zero? C’mon Asian people, we’re supposed to be good at math!

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


Developer Junior: Creating Your Own Games with Kodu

My tech show for kids, Developer Junior, premieres today on! In this episode, Junior (the puppet) and I (the human) take a look at the Kodu game builder system and go through a quick tutorial:

Developer Junior is a show on aimed at the younger set and is all about helping kids make the most out of the technology in their everyday lives. It’s about writing programs, creating media, playing games, and having fun with technology. (It’s also a dream come true for me – I always thought I’d be a great host for a kid’s show.)

There’s another episode coming up, in which Junior and I walk through the process of making a movie using Live Movie Maker. Watch for it!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


This Week on Ignite Your Coding: Scott Hanselman!

Know the Difference! Illusive Man (from Mass Effect 2) and Hanselman (from Microsoft)

This week’s guest on the Ignite Your Coding live webcast needs no introduction: it’s Scott Hanselman, Principal Program Manager at Microsoft, whose job is to talk about software development and how to do it right, primarily using The Empire’s tools and technologies. He’s a household name in the minds of .NET developers worldwide, and even when I was deep in the world of open source software, I’d heard of him, what with his blog, the Hanselminutes podcast, his presentations at various Microsoft conferences and (of course) his membership in the elite group known as “The Gang of Foreheads”. His influence in the Microsoft universe is like that of the Illusive Man in the Mass Effect universe.

John Bristowe and I will chat with Scott about a topic near and dear to us: the state of the .NET developer nation. It’s an exciting time to be a .NET developer: we’re a year into Windows 7, a couple of days after the release of Visual Studio 2010 and .NET 4.0, Windows Phone 7, Silverlight 4 and Internet Explorer 9 looming in the not-too-distant future and Microsoft making a lot of right moves. I can’t think of a better time to pick Scott’s brain and find out, straight from the source, what’s hot and what’s not in the world of .NET development. We’ll also pick his brain for tips on how to stay on top of your game as a developer in today’s ever-morphing industry.

We’ll be chatting with Scott live this Thursday at 2:00 p.m. (11:00 a.m. Pacific) online.

What’s Ignite Your Coding About?

ignite your coding Ignite Your Coding is a webcast series all about helping you, the software developer. We want to help you find ways to stay on top of the technological, economic and social changes that affect you and your work every day. We contacted some of the biggest thinkers and doers in our field and asked them if they’d like to chat about the industry, how they got started, where they see the opportunities are, how they deal with change and how to be generally awesome. We hope it informs and inspires you!

How Do I Catch the Live Webcast?

You’ll need:

How Do I Get the MP3 Recording of the Webcast?

It’ll be posted on this blog in about a week.

Who’s Coming Up on Ignite Your Coding?

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Visiting Victoria

Victoria, Day 1

The day after Damir and I did our EnergizeIT presentation in Kelowna, it was time to go to our next destination, Victoria, by way of Vancouver.


The Vancouver-to-Victoria flight is so short that you spend almost as much time taxiing as you do in the air. The actual flying time is 15 minutes, while the gate-to-gate time is just under half an hour (if you’ve ever done flown from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore, this flight is similar). It’s short enough that it’s done using a Bombardier Dash 8, which is essentially a bus with turboprop engines and wings, right down to the bench-style seat at the back of the plane. If you peek into the seam in the wall behind the last row, you can see the ground crew loading the luggage into the cargo area.


The Dash 8 has tiny overhead bins; they’re so small that my travel accordion won’t fit in them. This required reversing my normal carry-on approach: my laptop bag went overhead, while the accordion went under the seat in front of me:


Victoria’s got a nice airport. I wish more airport waiting areas had trees in them:


The trip from Victoria’s airport to downtown Victoria takes twice as long as the flight in from Vancouver. We were fortunate to get a lift into town from Ron Demedash from the local Microsoft user group. Thanks, Ron!

One of the perks of being a Microsoft employee with a lot of travel in your schedule is that we have a deal with Fairmont hotels. Fairmont buildings are often a nice change from Mies van der Rohe-esque filing-cabinets-in-the-sky, tending to be grand old-school ones like Toronto’s Royal York, Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier, Calgary’s Palliser and Victoria’s Empress, pictured below. Better still, their service is excellent.


We settled into the hotel, and later that evening, Ron picked us up and took us to rabbit-rich University of Victoria. We did our EnergizeIT presentation – two hours and forty-five minutes of pure actual-working-code-and-infrastructure demo with no slides until the very, very end – in the Engineering and Computer Science building. The room was packed; Ron had to bring in extra chairs to seat people at the back.


We handed out the usual raffle prizes at the end of the presentation with a special bonus prize provided by Ron: a budget tablet computer, with four built-in apps. The icons on the tablet are easy to read, and the screen is readable even in bright sunlight. To sweeten the deal, we threw in a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate:


On our way in, we noticed that the elevator featured something that looked like a button labelled “EARTHQUAKE”.


A quick check confirmed that it was not a button that took you to a penthouse club or restaurant named “Earthquake”, nor was it a button that summoned seismic activity:


I assume it lights up in the event of an earthquake, which I also assume is a warning to the elevator’s passengers to get out. Does anyone know if such elevators have other built-in safety features, such as stopping on the nearest floor in the event of a quake?

Victoria, Day 2

Damir flew back to Vancouver to do an academic presentation at Douglas College, while I stayed in Victoria to do an academic presentation at Camosun College’s Interurban campus. I didn’t get a picture of my academic audience, but did get a shot of this ad for Camosun later that night in downtown Victoria:


The academic presentations are part of the EnergizeIT tour – we do them at colleges close to the place where we’re doing the main EnergizeIT sessions. Unlike the main session, where we talk about what’s possible with the Microsoft-based platform, the academic session is all about helping students make the transition to the working world and plan their careers in high-tech. Unlike the main EnergizeIT session, which is a Microsoft-technology-specific “do these things in the right order or the demo doesn’t work” affair for working techies, the academic presentation is conversational, not specific to any tool or technology, and has plenty of room for dialogue with the audience.

The Trip Home

The next day, I went back to Victoria’s airport…


Back on the Dash 8:


Here’s the obligatory “art shot”. Propellers are great photo subjects:


And half an hour later, I was in Vancouver’s airport. (Memo to Toronto’s Pearson airport: would it kill you to offer free wifi?)


…and a few hours later, I landed back at home.


Coming up this week: Damir and I hit the road and drive to our EnergizeIT presentations in London and Kitchener.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.