Scenes from TechDays Vancouver, Part 3: The Surroundings

Exterior of the Vancouver Convention Centre's West Building, as seen from halfway the East and West Buildings

For the past couple of years, we’ve held TechDays Vancouver at Vancouver Convention Centre’s East Building, but this year, we got to hold it at the brand new West Building. If you followed the Olympics, you might have caught a glimpse of it in the coverage; it served as the media centre during the event.

Entrance to the Vancouver Convention Centre's West Building

The place is huge, covering 111,000 square metres (about 1.2 million square feet). The building and surrounding walkways cover a total project area of 57,000 square metres (14 acres) over land and 32,000 square metres (8 acres) over water. The indoor carpeting is colour-coded brown in those parts that are over land and blue over those parts that are over water.

Sign: "Vancouver Convention Centre / West | Burrard Street Entrance"

The building is one of the greenest convention centres in the world. Among its certifications and designations are:

Burrard Street doors to Vancouver Convention Centre's West Building, with the giant globe hanging from the ceiling visible through the glass walls

The building is topped with a 24,000 square metre (6 acres) “green roof – the largest one in Canada and the largest non-industrial one in North America – housing 400,000 native plants and 60,000 bees. Irrigation for the roof is provided by treating the “blackwater” from the building.

Detail of a wall inside the Vancouver Convention Centre's West Building, made up of the ends of planks of wood

There’s a great “log cabin” smell to the place as soon as you walk in. It comes from the walls, which are made of wood from trees that have fallen on their own rather than ones that were felled. Photos don’t do it justice:

TechDays registration area -- the large hall on the west side of the building -- as seen from the staircase

The place is huge. There were city block-esque distances to cover between the farthest rooms. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – programming is a sedentary job, and a little moving around is probably just what the doctor ordered.

TechDays registration area, with the giant "eggs" made of hockey-stick-length pieces of wood hanging from the ceiling

Being by the water, there are some great views that most cities’ convention centres simply can’t offer:

A silhouetted TechDays attendee takes a phone call against the north windows of the Vancouver Convention Centre's West Building, with the oceans and mountains in the background

And hey, mountains and ocean make a great backdrop against which to play Kinect games on the Xbox 360!

A group of TechDays attendees playing Kinect games on the Xbox 360

While we nerds are famous for enjoying the great indoors, it would be a waste not to enjoy the promenades surrounding the centre, with their views of the scenery and a piece of outdoor art named Digital Orca, the pixelated killer whale statue just outside the Centre:

Promenade of the west side of the Vancouver Convention Centre's West Building, with "Digital Orca" in the foreground

Believe it or not, you might be familiar with some of the other work done by the artist behind Digital Orca – it’s Douglas Coupland, who in addition to doing industrial design, fashion design and sculpting, is also a writer. You might have heard or even read his stuff: Generation X, Microserfs, JPod, and many other books.

People posing by "Digital Orca", a pixelated killer whale statue

Looking past Digital Orca to the northwest, you get this view:

View of a promenade facing the water and mountains

And looking south towards the city, you see this:

Downtown Vancouver buildings, with Digital Orca in the foreground

Here’s a view from the second floor windows facing north – a lovely thing to see during a between-session break:

View of the ocean and mountains

Turn your gaze slightly to the left and you’ll see this:

View of the ocean and mountains, with an island with a large sign on the left

Take a closer look at that island on the left: it’s a Chevron station. I was half-tempted to swim up to it and ask to use their bathroom:

A floating chevron gas station, with a couple of boats moored to it

The sessions were programmers were in rooms on the second floor, opposite windows that faced east and provided a view of the Vancouver Convention Centre’s East Building. It’s where the Pan Pacific Hotel is and where the cruise ships are moored. On Day 1, we were treated to a view of a Princess Cruises ship – yes, that’s “Princess” as in Love Boat:

Princess Cruises liner, moored to Vancouver Convention Centre's East Building

On Day 2, we saw a Holland America ship set sail:

Holland America liner, moored to Vancouver Convention Centre's East Building

Holland America liner, setting out for sea

All in all, I enjoyed working in and looking out of our first TechDays venue of the year.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Quick Updates

heading home

I’m sitting in the airport lounge in Vancouver, waiting to board my flight back to Toronto. Some quick updates:

  • TechDays Vancouver went very well. Over 800 attendees catching over 60 technical sessions on Microsoft’s platforms, tools and technologies, all taking place in the beautiful West Building of the Vancouver Convention Centre. Thanks to the presenters, staff, and especially the attendees!
  • Successful community events. Rather than have the TechDays venue lie fallow in the evenings, we put it to good use by opening it up for free community events. On Monday, we hosted CloudCamp, a gathering for people interested in cloud computing, and on Tuesday, we held a mini-conference called GoDevMental, which was aimed at students. We’re holding these events in all TechDays cities, so if you live close by, come and see us!
  • Internet Explorer 9 goes beta! Standards-compliant. Hardware accelerated. Clean, minimalist UI. Nifty Windows 7 integration. We’re back in the browser game, people, and we’re playing for keeps. Download the IE9 beta now!
  • Windows Phone 7 Developer Tools go RTM! What happens when you pair a phone with bold new UI and the awesomesauce of Visual Studio? Windows Phone 7, and the developer tools – which include Visual Studio Express for Phone and Expression Blend – have been finalized and are ready for download for free. Download the WP7 Developer tools now!
  • I’ll be at FITC Mobile in Toronto on Friday and Saturday. I’ll be minding the booth at the FITC Mobile conference in Toronto this Friday and Saturday. Come say hi, see the dev tools in action, play with a real Windows Phone and find out what we have in store!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Scenes from TechDays Vancouver, Part 2


One of the hot topics at this year’s TechDays conference is Windows Phone 7. With a new user interface featuring a design that isn’t all “me too”, a “glance and go” approach that doesn’t have you riffling through pages of apps and not one but two programming models that meet specific (and very different) needs, it’s a very promising mobile platform. No wonder a lot of developers want to get in on the ground floor with WP7.


The buzz about Windows Phone 7 translated into a packed room for Mark Arteaga’s session, the first of a two-part series on WP7 development with Silverlight.


Here’s the room about a minute or so into his session, with all seats taken and the people still filtering in and starting to take “standing room only” spots in the back. The packed room got an intro to WP7 development with Silverlight, input goodies like the virtual keyboard, accelerometer and microphone and APIs to take advantage of internal features like email, phone dialer, contacts and more.


Later this morning (Pacific time), Mark will continue with Part 2 of his session, where he’ll cover the life cycle of apps on Windows Phone, control templates, themes and web services available to Windows Phone.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Scenes from TechDays Vancouver, Part 1


Hello from Vancouver! I’m here at the first stop of TechDays, Microsoft’ Canada’s 8-city cross-country conference series for developers and IT pros. It’s a gorgeous, sunny and almost cloudless day, a nice change from the gloomy weather we had this weekend.


The sunshine is perfect for our new TechDays Vancouver venue, the Vancouver Convention Centre’s new west building, whose glass walls provide a spectacular view of the harbour, as seen below:


We’ve been here since 7 a.m., and the conference centre crew were here even earlier. The crowd started arriving around 8, with much of them arriving about 8:30. A little hint, folks: an early arrival means you get registered quickly, and you get enough time to enjoy a free breakfast to boot!


With the clock approaching nine came the scramble for the session rooms. Vancouver Convention Centre’s West Building is a huge place, and out attendees are going to get a fair bit of exercise getting from session to session. C’mon, people, it’s good for your cardiovascular systems!


Here’s Miguel Carrasco from Imaginet delivering the opening talk for the “Developing for Three Screens and the Cloud” track:


And in the “Optimizing the Development Process” track, here’s Bruce Johnston talking about real-world patterns for cloud computing:


This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


This Week: TechDays Vancouver and Mobile Innovation Week Toronto

"What's Up This Week": Map of Canada showing TechDays Vancouver and Mobile Innovation Week Toronto

There’s some interesting stuff going on in the Canadian tech world this week, on nearly opposite ends of the country. I’ll be at both, starting in Vancouver from Monday to Thursday, and ending the back back home in Toronto.

TechDays 2010, Vancouver (Tuesday and Wednesday)

Vancouver Convention Centre (West Building) at night

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Microsoft Canada will be hosting the TechDays conference in the new West Building of the Vancouver Convention Centre. TechDays features content from Microsoft’s biggest (and most expensive) conferences, updated and delivered by local developers and IT pros, all at an incredibly reasonable price – a few hundred dollars, as opposed to a few thousand.

TechDays is your best chance to learn how to make the most of Microsoft’s platforms tools and technologies. It’s also a great way to get to meet your Canadian Microsoft team as well as your fellow techies.

If you’re attending TechDays, come say hi! I’m the guy with the accordion, and I’ll be demoing and working on Windows Phone 7 applications in the Collaboration Lounge.

We’ll be devoting a lot of bandwidth to TechDays this week, and I thought I’d point out something else happing at the same time, a continent away…

Mobile Innovation Week, Toronto (All Week)

Logos of Mobile Innovation Week events

If only I could be in two places at the same time! Alas, the complicated business of booking large conferences like TechDays requires us to find venues a year in advance, and certainly well before the dates of this year’s Mobile Innovation Week in Toronto, which takes place all week.

As you’re going to hear me say quite often for the next little while: Canada has always punched above its weight class in tech, and especially when it comes to the phone. After all, this is the home of Alexander Graham Bell, and he has a strong claim to state, as the Windows 7 commercials put it, that the phone was his idea. Since his time, Canada’s been making significant contributions to the telephone, and it’s getting highlighted in Mobile Innovation Week.

Mobile Innovation Week brings together and showcases the leaders in mobile tech, from idea people to developers to designers to institutions, all coming together exchange ideas about the future of mobile. It’s made up of many events, including:

Windows Phone 7 at FITC on Friday and Saturday

FITC logoI’m cutting my Vancouver trip short to be at FITC on Friday and Saturday, where I, along with some other Microsoft developers and evangelists, will be minding the Windows Phone 7 booth. We’ll have Windows Phone 7 devices and developer tools for you to try out, and we’d be more than happy to answer your questions!

We’ll also have a presenter there: Mark Arteaga will be doing two presentations on Windows Phone 7 development. If you wanted to learn how to code for this exciting new platform and you’ll be at FITC, don’t miss his sessions.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


David Crow Answers 5 Questions and Visits Vancouver

Who is David Crow?

David Crow

David Crow is probably the most recognizable face in the Toronto startup tech scene, and rightfully so. Without the effort he’s put into events like DemoCamp and other gatherings where techies, entrepreneurs, social media types and anyone else who wants to build “World 2.0”, we wouldn’t have anywhere near as active or as interesting a tech scene as we do (and not just in Toronto, but across Canada as well).

Collage of DemoCamp photos: "Without David, none of this would've happened."

My current job at Microsoft, as well as the previous two, grew out of opportunities created by David’s hard work, either directly or indirectly. I suppose I owe him a couple of drinks!

5 Questions

TechVibes logoDavid is my coworker at Microsoft Canada’s Developer and Platform Evangelism team and also one of the Windows Phone 7 Champs. Karim Kanji caught up with him and did a quick “5 Questions” interview, featuring these questions:

  1. What motivates you to do what you do on a daily basis?
  2. Do you have any success start-up tips for people wanting to create a name for themselves in your industry?
  3. In your opinion why is Toronto a hotbed for cool tech start-ups?
  4. What’s your favourite tech toy and social media site and why?
  5. Who would you say are Toronto’s social media/tech stars and why?

Check out the article at TechVibes!

David’s in Vancouver This Coming Week

Vancouver: Downtown Vancouver as seen from the Granville Street Bridge

grow2010-logoDavid’s going to be in Vancouver from Monday, August 16th, through Friday, August 20th to attend the Grow Conference on Thursday and Friday, which is aimed at startup techies, entrepreneurs, idea people and investors. “If you’re a startup, an investor or a service provider in Canada,” wrote David, “you should be at this event.”

bootup labsHe’s going to be in the downtown area and available to meet up in the earlier part of the week. If you want to find out more about BizSpark, pick his brain about startups and product/market fit, you can catch up with him at Bootup Labs (where he’ll be working from). To find out more his trip to Vancouver and how to catch up with him, check out this blog entry.

Vancouver photo taken by JamesZ_Flickr and licenced under Creative Commons.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Last Day to Register for TechDays Vancouver at the Early Bird Price!

register nowToday, Tuesday August 3rd, is your last chance to register for TechDays Vancouver at the early bird price of CAD$349.99 (plus taxes). The deadline is tonight at 12:00 midnight Eastern (that’s 9:00 p.m. Pacific); once this passes, the registration fee for TechDays jumps up to its regular price, which is almost twice the early bird price.

If I were a gangsta rapper (and it in fantasies, it’s one of a dozen of interesting things I do on the side), I’d say “Don’t procrastinate, registrate!”

But seriously: this year’s TechDays is a big all-out production that brings together content from the big conferences like TechEd, MIX and PDC, hooks up local heroes to present and augment it, and serves it all up close to home at a very affordable price (especially affordable at the early bird rate). It’s also a chance to get to know both us and your peers in the tech community.

Once again, “Don’t procrastinate, registrate!”. Register for TechDays Vancouver now!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.