Scenes from Seattle, Part 1

Sorry about the recent silence on this blog! I’ve been bogged down with all sorts of things, including travel.

Seattle night skyline

As I write this, I’m in a Starbucks near Union Square in Seattle and many of my teammates – Damir Bersinic, Rick Claus, John Bristowe, Frederic Harper, Paul Laberge, Ruth Morton and John Oxley – are arriving here later tonight. We’ll be here for the remainder of this week and all next week to attend TechReady, a regular Microsoft-employees-only conference where we get briefed on the latest tools and technologies. Microsofties from all over the world fly in for TechReady, and it’s a chance for us to connect with our counterparts from the US as well as places farther afield. Some of us from the Canadian team will be doing presentations at TechReady: Paul and I are jointly doing one, as is Rick. Not to be outdone – and he will write lines of code – John Bristowe’s doing two.

Since TechReady’s an internal conference, there’s a sort of Fight Club rule when it comes to session content: the first rule of TechReady content is that you don’t talk about TechReady content. However, since TechReady is also a chance for us to meet with various teams from both Redmond and around the world, I’ll be able to share what I consider to be some of the most valuable info you get at conferences – those “hallways conversations” with other geeks that take place between sessions and at apres-conference gatherings.

I spent a good chunk of yesterday literally above the clouds rather than “in the cloud”, but I kept running into our cloud message everywhere. Here’s a photo I snapped yesterday afternoon in Pearson Airport’s Terminal 1:

Ad for Microsoft cloud solutions along walkway in Pearson Airport: "When demand says jump, you're at the perfect height. That's cloud power."

It’s very rare when I get to check into an airport around noon on a Wednesday, but it’s a great time to do so. There’s almost no line either at the ticket counter or at the Tim Hortons.

Here’s a photo I took from my seat, getting as much geek mileage as I can: that’s The Social Network playing on the in-flight entertainment system (until yesterday, I still hadn’t seen it), and below that is me getting screenshots for an upcoming Windows Phone 7 development article on my Dell Latitude XT2, my phone- and touch-development demo machine. If you caught Kate Gregory’s webcast on developing touch apps for Windows 7, you’ve seen this machine: I loaned it to her for her demo.

"The Social Network" playing on in-flight entertainment system while I work on my laptop, with Visual Studio Express for Phone onscreen

I couldn’t get a decent rate on a direct Toronto-Seattle flight (but somehow got one for a direct flight back), so I debarked in Vancouver. Here’s another Microsoft cloud ad, located on the long schlep from YVR’s domestic terminal to the international/US one:

Ad in Vancouver Airport: "The most comprehensive solutions for cloud. On earth."

In fact, there were many of these ads in YVR:

Billboard in Vancouver Airport: "When demand says jump, I'm at the perfect height. That's cloud power."

The Azure ads weren’t just static billboards; they were also running TV ads between news segments on the TVs in the departure lounges. It’s good to see that we’re working on getting the message out there, talking about the cloud and spelling it out as more than Azure, but Windows Live, Office Live, Office 365 and a whole other host of applications and services that are accessible anytime, anywhere, as long as you can get online. I hope that this promotional push isn’t just good for us, but also good for you and helps your customers “get” what our vision of the cloud is all about, and call on you to build cloud-based stuff for them. After all, we don’t succeed if you don’t succeed.

While going through security to board the “puddle-jumper” that would take me from Vancouver to Sea-Tac, the security people asked me to prove that my accordion was indeed a musical instrument. I played the refrain from Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling as proof and got a “standing O” at the end.

Joey deVilla's accordion, with an "I [heart] Windows Phone" sticker on it.

Here’s a photo I took from my hotel room early this morning. It’s actually sunny in Seattle! Better still, it’s balmy in comparison: 6 degrees C here, versus –10 back home. I’m going to enjoy the next ten days here!

The sun rising over the Seattle skyline

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Procrastination Flowcharts

What better way to start the working week than by showing you ways to throw a wrench in your productivity? Here’s The Procrastination Flowchart (provenance unknown; a reader sent it my way), showing you how it’s done. Click it to see it at full size:

Complex procrastination flowchartClick the flowchart to see it at full size.

As you can see, you can put a lot of work into avoiding work. Being a practitioner of what I like to call “enlightened laziness”, I much prefer this much simpler version:

Greatly simplified procrastination flowchart: "Do something right now -> No"

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


Mark Arteaga on Canadian Developers, Windows Phone 7 and the IRS

mark arteaga

You vs. the IRS

If you’re a Canadian Developer writing Windows Phone 7 apps, you want to fill out the IRS paperwork – otherwise, Microsoft is required by US law to hold 30% of the money you’re due for US Federal taxes. Of course, as a non-US citizen, you shouldn’t have to pay US taxes, so it’s important that you fill in that paperwork!

Paperwork isn’t fun and government paperwork is often byzantine and confusing, but worry not: Mark Arteaga, one of my go-to guys for Windows Phone knowledge, programming experience and code, has written a blog entry explaining how to do that paperwork in a straightforward, step-by-step fashion. Check it out, follow his steps, do the paperwork and get all the money that you’ve earned!

superman vs. tax man(Yes, Superman had to take on a tax man. Read more about it here.)

Don’t get taken like Superman did: read Mark’s blog entry!

Mark Arteaga and RedBit Development

redbit developmentIf you’re a regular reader of this blog, the name Mark Arteaga should sound familiar. He’s a Windows Mobile MVP from the pre-Phone 7 days and he’s now a Windows Phone MVP. You’ve probably seen him speak at Techdays – in 2008 and 2009, when we had to beg and bribe people to attend his Windows Mobile sessions, and then in 2010 when he was presenting Windows Phone 7 to standing room only crowds, with more people watching his sessions outside the lecture hall on the external monitors. He also does presentations on Windows Phone at user groups and many of our Windows Phone workshops.

He’s got his own mobile development firm, RedBit Development, where he works with developer Barranger Ridler.

RedBit Development are behind some of the highest-profile Canadian Windows Phone 7 apps out there:

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Foursquare for Sex? (NSFW)

As this College Humor video shows, some things are best not shared on the internet.

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


PragPub Celebrates Agile’s 10th Anniversary

Cover of the Feb 2011 issue of PragPub

No matter what technology stack you build on, no matter whether you build for web, desktop or mobile., no matter what programming languages or developer tools you use, you should be reading PragPub. Put together by the publishing company behind such gems as The Pragmatic Programmer, Programming Ruby (a.k.a. “The Pickaxe Book”), The Passionate Programmer and Pragmatic Thinking and Learning, it’s a monthly e-magazine covering a wide range of programming topics, all with the intent of making your better developer and helping you make the most of your career.

The February 2011 issue of PragPub is a celebration of Agile’s tenth birthday. Ten years ago this month, 17 software developers of note – including Andy Hunt, one of the founders of The Pragmatic Programmer – got together at a ski resort in Utah, supposedly to discuss lightweight development methods. I am impressed that the end result of their get-together was the Agile Manifesto and the kick-starting of what we now know as Agile Software Development; I would’ve opted for hitting the slopes, turning apres-ski at the chalet into my own private beer commercial and generally turning the entire event into Hot Tub Time Machine. (I suppose that such a smart group of developers could’ve done both, but in a webcast last year, Andy told me and John Bristowe that the gathering was all business.)

To celebrate this occasion, ten of the authors of the Agile Manifesto, Andy Hunt, Kent Beck, Ron Jeffries, Jon Kern, Ken Schwaber, James Grenning, Arie van Bennekum, Stephen J. Mellor, Ward Cunningham, and Dave Thomas have each written a reflection on the programming movement they started, There’s also an article in which they look back at two years of articles on Agile in PragPub and there’s also a new installment of their regular Way of the Agile Warrior column.

This issue has other articles covering other topics. One I found noteworthy and which you might useful is Refactoring Your Job, an article on not just surviving, but thriving, in these economically precarious times.

Download PragPub! It’s a good, quick read, and it’s free!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Groundhog Day Book Deal on “Silverlight 4 in Action” and “C# in Depth”

Covers of the books "Silverlight 4 in Action" and "C# in Depth"

If you’re looking to target the widest array of platforms on the Microsoft stack – desktop, web, phone and the upcoming slate – you’ll want to be versed in Silverlight and C#. For Groundhog Day only (February 2nd), Manning have a deal to help you: you can get two paper books, which come with the ebook versions for USD$50.00:

Want both books in paper and ebook form for $50? Buy both from and use the code dotd0202 in the Promotional Code box when you check out.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Introducing the Great Canadian Apportunity

The Great Canadian Apportunity: photo of a Windows Phone displaying a Canadian flag, leaning against a windows laptop

There are lots of reasons to give Windows Phone development a try:

  • The all-new UI. It’s beautiful, different, it’s useable and useful and people love it after taking it for a psin
  • The great phones. I really love my Samsung Focus.
  • The development tools. You’ve got Visual Studio (or Visual Studio Express for Phone, which is simply amazing for an IDE that’s being given away for free), and you’ve got not one, but two development frameworks: Silverlight for more “app”-flavoured apps and XNA for games, all built on top of the .NET framework.
  • The opportunities. It’s still early in the days of Windows Phone, and it’s still early in the era of smartphones (most North American mobile customers have yet to get their first smartphone) – this is your chance to make a big splash in both the worlds of Windows Phone and smartphones in general.

The Great Canadian Apportunity logoNow Canadian developers have one more reason to take up Windows Phone 7 development: The Great Canadian Apportunity. It’s your chance to write an app, show it off to developers across Canada and compete for a chance to win prizes including:

I’ll be writing regularly about The Great Canadian Apportunity and Windows Phone development over the next few months, but if you want to get started right now, take a look at the site for The Great Canadian Apportunity to get all the details. Time’s a-wasting: get started writing the Great Canadian App!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.