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Win a System76 Thelio Linux desktop in The Mad Botter’s Fourth of July contest!

Mike Dominick’s Tampa Bay-based consultancy The Mad Botter — which develops automation/integration software — has a Fourth of July contest for high school or university undergrad students where the prize is one of System76’s gorgeous Thelio desktop Linux systems!
Mad Botter Fourth of July content icon (Mad Botter “Bot” dressed as Uncle Sam in front of American flags, fireworks, and balloons)

This is an election year, and The Mad Botter’s contest is an election contest. Contestants are asked to develop an open source project that addresses ballot access or in some other way assists with voting. Perhaps something to help people find the closest polling station? Virtual “I voted” stickers? An aggregator for open information about candidates? A “Yelp” for polling places? (You can find more ideas here.)

Here are the contest details:

  • No purchase is required to enter.
  • Your solution must be posted to a publicly accessible Github repository with the appropriate license included.
  • You must be a US high-school or undergraduate college student.
  • If you are below the age of 18, you must provide written parental consent to have your submission considered; this can be done via email.
  • In the event that you win, The Mad Botter INC is granted the right to post a picture of you in the winning announcement and other applicable venues; if you are below the age of 18 your parent or guardian also provides permission for this by consenting to your entering the contest.
  • The winning entry will be the one that shows the most practical potential and creativity and will be selected by The Mad Botter team.
  • All submissions should be sent to and include a brief bio, explanation of the solution, and a link to the Github repository.
  • Submissions will be accepted until 9/1/2020.

You can find out more at The Mad Botter’s Fourth of July contest page.

Also worth checking out

Mike has a podcast, The Mike Dominick Show, which covers technology and open source.

I was a recent guest on the show (Episode 25), and we talked about how the Toronto tech scene changed from dismal to dynamic,  how I stumbled into developer evangelism, learning iOS programming via and then joining them, SwiftUI, Python and Burning Man, the hidden opportunities that come with having to stay inside during the pandemic, and more!


“Speaker Idol”: Montreal, October 25th

Speaker Idol: photo of microphone

Want to share your .NET knowledge in front of an audience? Got some special pearl of wisdom that you’d like to pass to your grateful, applauding peers? Want to win prizes for your scintillating oratory?

“La Communauté .NET Montréal lance un grand concours appelé Speaker Idol afin de vous donner la chance d’être conférencier,” says the Speaker Idol event site. Luckily, my vast experience in talking my way out of sticky situations in La Belle Province has given me enough skill to translate it:

Logo: Speaker Idol - Communaute .NET MontrealThe Montreal .NET Community is starting a competition called Speaker Idol. It’s your chance to be the speaker, presenting a .NET-related topic, trick or technique in ten minutes in front of a panel of expert judges. Impress them, and you’ll get:

  • An opportunity to do a full presentation in front of the user group at a later date
  • A license for the all-singing, all-dancing, all-coding Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate

The rules for Speaker Idol:

  • When and where? Speaker Idol takes place on Monday, October 25th, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Microsoft’s Montreal Office (2000 Avenue McGill College, 4th floor).
  • Both official languages welcome. No, not C# and VB, but French and English!
  • They’re looking for new speakers. The contest is open only to people who’ve never spoken at a user group or conference.
  • Submission deadline: You need to submit a brief description (200 words max.) of your talk and a speaker bio by midnight, October 1st (Friday!) to
  • Maximum number of participants: They’re looking for 10 participants, and no more. If more than 10 people sign up, the best 10 submissions will get picked. Sign up soon!
  • Who presents first? Speaker Idol contestants will present in alphabetical order, based on surname. If your family name is Aaaaaaabercrombie, you’re probably going on first!
  • Speaker Idol contestants will be announced on October 4th.
  • Contestants will be judged on:
    • Mastery of their subject
    • Quality of their presentation
    • Ability to get the point across
    • Quality of their slides
    • Quality of their code
  • What will be provided: A laptop with Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate and SQL Server Express 2008 installed will be available. If your presentation requires the installation of other software, please bring your own (if your bring your own, set your screen resolution to 1024 * 768).
  • What won’t be provided: There will be no internet connection available.
  • What you should bring: Bring your PowerPoint presentation and demo code on a USB key or drive. Your presentation and code will be featured on the .NET Community’s site.
  • Judging: A panel of 3 judges will comment on your presentation and the audience will vote. They promise a relaxed environment.

Once again, if you want to participate, submit your 200-word-max presentation description and bio to!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Andrew Stellman’s C# “Inner Circle” Discussion, Game Challenge and C# Video Q&A

The Week-Long Discussion

Cover of the book "Head First C#"Andrew Stellman, co-author of O’Reilly’s excellent and easy-to-read C# intro, Head First C#, is holding a week-long “Inner Circle” discussion on C# and .NET 4.0 in the forums for O’Reilly’s “Head First” book series. In this discussion, he plans to cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Why use C# instead of any other language?
  • C# best practices
  • Becoming a better C# developer
  • Dealing with objects
  • Productivity hints
  • The best of C#

If you want to follow the discussion, simply point your browser at the Head First Labs Forums’ “Head First C#” section and look for topics started by Andrew Stellman. You don’t have to log in to just read, but you’ll have to register for the forum if you want to join in the discussion and comment back.

The Challenge

Charlie Chaplin and the original IBM PC

In his first discussion topic, Andrew issues a challenge: build an old-school, text-mode game in C#! In the 1980s, the computing world was seen through the command line in an 80-character by 24-line grid (40 characters if you were on an Apple ][, Commodore 64 or Atari 400/800, even fewer if you were on a VIC-20), and that’s how we played a lot of games, whether they were commercial or typed in from source code in magazine or books like the ones scanned into the Atari Archives.

If you’ve never written a text-mode game before (or in my case, if it’s been a long, long time), he’s written an article to help out — Understanding C#: Use System.Console to Build Text-Mode Games.

Your efforts in building an old-school text-mode game will not go unrewarded. Submit a text-mode game and you can win a prize! He’ll judge them on the following criteria:

  • Game play
  • Fun
  • Technical coolness
  • General awesomeness
  • “Retro nostalgia” for extra point

The winner will receive five O’Reilly eBooks of his or her choice. He’ll also choose runners-up who will get a free O’Reilly eBook.

If you’re looking for ideas for an old-school text-mode game, check out these books at Atari Archives, with source code written in old-school line-numbered BASIC. Some of these take me back to my high school days:

Video Q&A: Stellman on C#

As a prelude to the discussion, Andrew recorded videos of his answers to questions about the C# programming language and the second edition of Head First C#

Why should developers learn C#?

What kind of applications can you build with C#?

How hard is C# to pick up?

What’s the toughest thing to learn in C#?

What’s new in the second edition of Head First C#?

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Bring a Friend to Make Web Not War, Get Great Swag!

Joey deVilla and Amber Mac - Friends - 'Amber's being immature again, isn't she?'

Make Web Not War, the conference on how Microsoft and open source tools and technologies can work together takes place in a week! Because we’re feeling pumped about this event and got an advance shipment of swag, we thought we’d share the wealth. If you’ve already registered for Make Web Not War (which you can do here, for free), here’s how you can win some cool stuff before the event next Thursday.

How Do You Win Swag By Bringing a Friend?

Invite a friend to register to attend Make Web Not War, which takes next Thursday, May 27th, in Montreal at “Reunion – Ambiance A La Carte” (6600 Hutchison).

On the registration form, one of the questions in the optional section is “Where did you hear about this event?” Ask your friend to answer this question by selecting “Friend” from the drop-down menu and specifying your name in the field below it, as shown below:

Close-up view of Make Web Not War registration form, highlighting the "Where did you hear about this event?" question

This offer is available only to those friends who haven’t yet registered.

What Will You Get?

If you get a friend to register and specify that you made the referral before Friday, May 21st, you and your friend will each get this cool 2GB Make Web Not War USB key:

Red key-shaped USB key with "" written on it
If you’re among the first 25 people to bring one friend, you’ll get a Make Web Not War T-shirt:

Front and back views of "Make Web Not War" t-shirt

If you’re among the first 25 people to bring two friends, you’ll get a $25 Jump Card, which is good for discounts at major stores across Canada:

Jump card

The first person to bring five friends gets a special Make Web Not War bundle that includes a token for an MSDN Premium Subscription, which is valued at $2,500:

MSDN logo

What are you waiting for? Go invite a friend to Make Web Not War!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


The FTW! Coding Competition

FTW - For The Web - Coding Competition

“FTW” has been known to stand for many things, but in the case of the FTW! Coding Competition, it means “For The Web” (as well as “For The Win”). The FTW Coding Competition is part of our Make Web Not War event taking place on Thursday, May 27th in Montreal.

What is the FTW! Coding Competition?

The FTW! Coding Competition is your chance to show off your web development skills and compete for some great prizes. We’re looking for people to either:

  • Write a new web application or
  • Port an existing web application

as long as it falls under one of these categories:

  • PHP application running on Internet Information Server (that’s our web server) and Windows Server (that’s our server OS)
  • Windows Azure (that’s our cloud computing environment) application, written in any language that works on it (C#, Visual Basic .NET, PHP, Ruby and Python)
  • Open Government application (using any of the Open Data catalogues on Windows Server or Windows Azure, using any programming language)

What Can I Win?

The prizes for the FTW! Coding Competition are:

First Place: The Dell Office Computer Makeover

I’m tempted to take this off the prize list and keep it for myself. It’s made up of all these goodies:

  • Dell Precision Workstation 15” notebook computer
  • Notebook stand and port replicator
  • 27” widescreen LCD monitor
  • Wireless keyboard and mouse
  • Ferguson Hill FH007 sound system

Second Place: The Home/Office System

A nice package for bouncing between home and the office.

Third Place: The Road Warrior

A very portable and powerful system for the coder on the go. This one’s for all you “cafe coders”!

  • Dell Adamo XPS 13 notebook computer

Bonus Prizes

We’re awarding bonus prizes for submitted apps that we feel worthy of the following superlatives. You can win these on their own or in combination with the first, second and third place prizes!

What’s the Deadline?

In order to be eligible, you have to submit your web application by Monday, May 10th, 2010 at 8:00 a.m. Eastern. So get working!

Where Can I Find Out More about the FTW! Coding Competition?

You can find out more about the FTW! Coding Competition, including all the terms and conditions of the competition, at the FTW! Coding Competition site.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Remember: The Race to Market Challenge is On!

Last month, I posted a video announcing the launch of the Race to Market Challenge, a competition that challenges you to add some Windows Phone applications to our up-and-coming Marketplace and compete for one of four grand prizes: developer editions of a Surface table.

There’s a new video out, and I’m posting it as a little reminder for you would-be mobile developers, Windows Phone is a great way to get in on the ground floor of the world of mobile application development and win prizes at the same time:

I’ll be posting articles about how to access useful data and features on Windows Phone, including the Pocket Outlook Object Model (POOM, which gives you access to things like contact information) and using the GPS to get the user’s location.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


The “FTW!” Ultimate PHP App Throwdown

For the Win! For the Web! FTW: Ultimate App Throwdown -- Professionals vs. Students

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

Wait a Minute…Microsoft and PHP?

You probably wouldn’t be surprised that Microsoft is holding a development contest that pits professional developers against student developers. You might be surprised that Microsoft is holding a development contest where the challenge is to build a PHP application.

You read that right: PHP. Microsoft’s web server, IIS (Internet Information Services) can run PHP as well as ASP.NET; in fact, it can even run both on the same site at the same time, so you can have apps like WordPress along with your ASP.NET-based apps.

Think of ASP.NET and PHP running on the same server as the great jam session with Spock and the space hippie from that old Star Trek “hippies in space” episode.

Spock and a space hippie, jamming on their instrumentsSee? We’re not Herbert!

Even more unexpected is that the beta for the 2.0 version of the Microsoft Web Platform Installer doesn’t do a “couple-of-clicks” installation of the expected stuff like IIS and SQL Server 2008 Express, it also provides a “couple-of-clicks” installation of PHP and WordPress.

The FTW! Throwdown

"Goopymart" comic of a dog holding a trophy: "FTW!"

That’s “FTW!” as in “For the Win” or “For the Web”, by the way.

The contest is pretty simple: the idea is to show the best application written in PHP and deployed on Windows. The app can be either:

  • A new application developed by you in PHP and running on IIS in Windows
  • An existing application or framework written in PHP and ported by you to run on IIS in Windows

That’s right: if you’re pressed for ideas or time to make a new application, it’s all right – you can take a PHP application that already exists, make the necessary changes so that it’ll run on IIS (and hey, for bonus points, make it tie into SQL Server instead of MySQL), and submit that as your contest entry!

Students vs. Professionals

Another twist to the FTW! Throwdown is that we’re getting student developers and professional developers to challenge each other. The pros have experience and resources on their side; students have youthful energy and fewer distractions going for them. Not since “Pirates vs. Ninjas” has there been a challenge like this!

One application developed or ported by students and one application developed or ported by professionals will be chosen from the submissions for the Ultimate Challenge, which will be a final bout at Microsoft’s Make Web, Not War conference. In that last match, it “Two apps enter! One app leaves!”. Simply put, one of the apps – either the student one or the professional one – will be declared the Ultimate Champion.

As they said in Highlander: “There can be…only one!”

The Booty

Stuffed animal prizes at a carnival

We want to reward the best contestants for their efforts in the FTW! Throwdown, and we plan to do so with some pretty nice prizes, which include:

  • The grand prize: $5000 for the winning entrant.
  • The runner-up prize: $3000 for the runner-up.
  • The SQL Server prize: $3000 for the finalist whose app showcases the best use of PHP with a Microsoft SQL Server database.
  • The PHP/.NET Mash-Up prize: $2000 for the finalist whose app showcases the best of PHP with .NET-based code working together in a single application.
  • The student finalist prize: The student developer who makes it to the last match will also get an interview and resume critique from Microsoft and a $200 Petro-Canada gas card.
  • The professional finalist prize: The professional developer who makes it to the last match will also get a chance for a published case study, enrollment in the MAPS or EMPOWER program and a $200 Petro-Canada gas card.

Hosting Options

Naturally, the apps that you submit for the FTW! Throwdown need a place to live. If you don’t already have IIS hosting, our partners at myhosting and RackForce are offering a 60-day free hosting promotion.

Deadlines and Details

The deadline for entering the FTW! Throwdown is Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009. Finalists will be announced on Friday, June 5th, 2009, and the main event where the student finalist faces off against the professional finalist happens on Wednesday June 10th, 2009.

If you’d like to know more about the FTW! Throwdown, visit the FTW! Throwdown site. I’ll be posting regular bulletins about the FTW! Throwdown on this blog, and you can follow the FTW! team on Twitter as the user @PHPOnWindows and the hashtag #FTW09.