Category Archives: Fun

I went to the Inbetween TechEd Conference and All I Got Was This Lousy XBox 360 Elite!

As you know from my previous entries, I am in Orlando attending TechEd, at the IT Pro week. In the weekend between the Dev and Pro conferences Microsoft turned over the Orange County Convention Center to the Florida User Groups. Spearheaded by the ONETUG group, this event was made possible through the cooperation of many user groups. I attended the SQL Saturday sessions that were held on both Saturday and Sunday, and they even let me hog the stage for an hour on Saturday and give my presentation on Full Text Searching in SQL Server 2005 and 2008.

I had a blast, and met a lot of great people. I have to admit I was surprised at how many folks were there just for the Inbetween conference and not TechEd. Out of the 45 folks who were in my session, all but 2 said they were local folks there for just the Inbetween conference.

As you can tell from the title of this post, I did indeed win something. Bear with me, as it’s a great story. At the Saturday night party they were giving away 3 XBoxes, two of which were randomly drawn for. Well the young lady who won one of them did not wish to keep it for whatever reason, and asked if she could draw another name, which she did.

Well the guy who won that night had his name drawn during Sunday’s giveaway of 7 XBoxes. He came up and told the story, and said he wanted to do the same thing, even though no one would have said a word had he decided to keep it. Well he drew and it was my name he pulled out of the box! I wish I could remember his name so I could say thanks again.

I’ve always wanted an XBox, but could never quite justify the expenditure. Now I have a new toy, and my kids are very excited over the prospect of playing some games with daddy. I think this will be a great gizmo for some daddy/kids together time.

Let me get serious for one moment, and give a big thanks to all the groups who came together at the last minute, and to Joe Healy, Florida Developer Evangelist, for giving the user groups the chance to show what they can do. It seems almost fashionable to bash Microsoft these days, but how many other companies would bear the expense of something as costly as the convention center and give it away to the user community?

Thanks to all for a great time, I hope the Inbetween conference becomes a regular feature at all future TechEd.

Boy Howdy Those Deep Fried Bytes Are Yummy

Long time readers of my blog or Twitter posts will know I am a big fan of podcasts. There’s a new one worth taking a listen to:

Deep Fried Bytes

Deep Fried Bytes is a new podcast hosted by Mississippi MVP Keith Elder and Chris “Woody” Woodruff. I listened to their inaugural episode on the way to the office this morning and quite enjoyed it. While they will cover all aspects of technology, they will have a heavy focus on .Net development.

The audio quality was superb, it may have been a first episode but their production quality and format made it sound like they’d been podcasting for years. I’ve already added the show to my Zune as a subscription, and recommended it to the Zune Marketplace. I’m eagerly looking forward to the next episode!

I’m Speaking At the TechEd ]InBetwen[ SQL Saturday Conference

TechEd is Microsoft’s annual developer conference, the really big one. This year it returns to the Orlando Convention Center, only this year they have decided to split it into two weeks. The first week is for developers, the second week is for the IT Professionals. My manager is generously sending two of us this year, my co-worker will be there the first week, I’ll be attending the second week to focus on the SQL Server information.

The two week split left Microsoft in an odd position, what to do with the convention center over the weekend? In their long standing tradition of working closely with the developer community, Microsoft turned the place over to the Florida user groups. They are hosting the first “]InBetween[“ conference. There is an incredible amount of content being offered, for free: .Net Code Camps, Day of Agile, Day of Silverlight, .Net University, DotNetNuke University, Exam Crams, IT Pro Camps, Office Communication Server, The ToolShed, Train the Trainer, VSTS University, and SQL Saturday and SQL University (on Sunday).

You can find out more, including links and a complete schedule at:

http://www.devfish.net/articles/inbetween/

Of special interest to me though, and the reason for this post is SQL Saturday. Either through divine intervention or a cosmic prank, I will be presenting at the SQL Saturday doing a session on Full Text Searching. You can register and get more info here:

http://www.sqlsaturday.com/eventhome.aspx?eventid=5

And see the full schedule here:

http://www.sqlsaturday.com/schedule.aspx

It’s quite an honor, there are some big names speaking there such as Andy Warren and Brian Knight. I also see that another Birminghamian, Barry Ralston will be speaking.

So if you will be in Orlando for TechEd, plan on staying late or arriving early and attend one of the many InBetween conferences. This promises to be a great event, and best of all it’s FREE. That’s right, you don’t even have to be a TechEd attendee to come, just show up and pick your event. (Of course, the event organizers would appreciate it if you would register!)

Happy Towel Day!

Wanted to wish everyone a Happy Towel Day!

If you are not familiar with the concept, it’s a tribute to the late Douglas Adams, who passed away May 11th, 2001. In addition to being a prolific author and creator of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Adams was a big technology enthusiast. He helped create several video games, and was a big promoter of hypertext.

To Quote the Hitchhiker’s Guide…

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value – you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a bush, but very, very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

I’ve got my towel, how about you?

Twitter, Arcane Style

Twitter. You’ve probably heard it described a million ways. A micro blogging tool. Group instant messaging. Social networking. Keith Elder even described like “being in the speaker’s lounge at a code camp”. There are as many ways to use Twitter as there are reasons to use it. Of course, you can go right to http://twitter.com and use the web interface. There are many desktop clients available too, my personal favorite is Witty. There are even ways to update your Twitter account from your cell phone or smart client mobile device.

There are two keys to making Twitter work for you. First, is to decide what sort of content you are looking for on Twitter, the second is to then follow people who will deliver that kind of content to you. Many people use Twitter to keep others updated on what’s going on in their lives. Where they are hanging out, who they saw that day, what their day was like, etc. Mostly (IMHO) stuff your Mom wants to know.

The next reason to Twitter is to receive information from companies. Places like http://woot.com keep you informed of their deal of the day, which means the info is pushed to me instead of me having to go hunt it down. One of our local TV stations also Twitters to let us know of bad weather events that may be coming.

The final reason I’ll mention is the reason I Twitter, for good technical content. I’ve chosen a mixture of people who Tweet a steady stream of links and tips that I can learn from. I also try to provide relevant posts with useful info.

So, you’ve decided you want to get on Twitter. You’ve gone to Twitter.com and signed up for an account. Now what? Well, you need to decide who you want to follow. There are several ways to do this. First, you can find someone you already know about. I’m assuming you’ve logged into Twitter, and are staring at your home page. Up in the text box next to the Twitter logo where it says “Name or location” type in my Twitter name, arcanecode (all one word) and press enter. You will get a result with me in it, just click on the “Follow” link and you’ll begin to see my Tweets when you refresh the page.

Now you can look at my profile, and look at the list of folks that either I’m following or are following me. (I’d suggest the following page, since it’s more discriminating). You can then choose to follow those folks.

Another way is to search for people in or near the town where you live. Back on your Twitter home page, in the Name or Location box type in the City, ST where you want to look for and press enter. This will produce a list of people who have identified themselves as being in your town. Look over the list, click on their profiles. See how frequently they post, when their last post was, and most important are their posts of interest to you.

I’ll mention one other thing, a common convention when you see someone’s twitter name is to use an @ sign in front, for example @arcanecode. When using an @ sign, Twitter will automatically route that message to the person so they can see it.

To get you started, here is a short list of technical folks I follow for one reason or another. If you want to see my full list, just look at my Twitter profile and click on Following.

Birmingham Twitterers

@arcanecode – That’s me!

@jeff_barnes – MVP for Connected Systems (WCF)

@tmiranda – MVP for UI (WPF guru)

@KV4S – Fellow ham and software developer

Southeast Twitterers

@keithelder – MVP from Mississippi and the person who got me hooked on Twitter

@dougt – Microsoft Developer Evangelist for the Southeast and all around swell guy, no matter what Glen says.

@glengordon – Host of “GeekSpeak” on Channel 9

@TheADOGuy – Co-author of many of the .Net training books and magazine articles, recently into Silverlight

@vinull – Speaker out of Knoxville TN and .Net Developer

@dougal – One of the authors of WordPress, one time room mate of @glengordon, and my brother in law.

Nationally Known Twitterers

@shanselman – Host of Hanselminutes and nationally known speaker

@carlfranklin – Host of DotNetRocks

@codinghorror – If you don’t know who this guy is, you should

@twitlive – Leo Laporte’s information stream for his new http://twitlive.tv website.

@leolaporte – Host of the Twit.TV network, former TechTV star

@patricknorton – Host of Tekzilla, former TechTV star

@saraford – Famous for her Visual Studio tip of the day blog

I’ll wrap this up to an apology with all the folks I couldn’t mention, there were just too many. I follow a lot of really great folks and you’ve all provided me with some great information. Thanks!

Now, to the rest of you go out and start Twittering!

Birmingham Tech News and Events

There are some big doings going on in the event community over the next few weeks.

First off, this Thursday May 8th at 6:30 pm the Birmingham Software Developers Association (BSDA) will be having “The Variety Show”. Join us for a variety of 15 minute presentations by various club members on what they’ve been working on lately–there should be something for everyone and the floor is open for anyone who’d like to do a short presentation.

On Friday, May 9th the IPSA group will meet during lunch at the McWane center, the topic will be The Social Media Toolbox.

Next week, the Birmingham .Net User Group (Bug.Net) will be having it’s regular meeting on May 13th at 6:30 pm. Stay tuned to their website for speaker and details.

Then, on Wednesday, May 14th at 6:30 pm the BSDA and Bug.Net are pleased to co-present a special event. Regional speaker Michael Neel will be here to talk on DataSets:

DataSets are Evil. They will hog your CPU, steal your RAM, and rob your home. This is the story surrounding DataSets, but what is fact and what is myth? In this session we will look at DataSets and the tools that go with them to see how they can save you development time while not crashing the server. We’ll also dive into DataSets in 2008 with LINQ to DataSets and Unit Testing with DataSets.

Learn more about Michael at vinull.com/profile

Finally, beginning at 5:30 pm on May 20th the Steel City SQL Group will meet. MVP Kevin Bowles will be here to talk about SQL Server 2008 Development. Kevin is a great speaker, his sessions are always loaded with useful information.

With the exception of the IPSA meeting, all of the other events will be held at the New Horizons training center in Homewood. A special thanks to the folks at New Horizons for making their facilities open to the Birmingham user group community!

BarCampBirmingham2

Just thought I’d pass along information about BarCampBirmingham2 – April 11 & 12. The unconference conference.

What is BarCampBirmingham?

BarCampBirmingham is a user generated conference created around an open, participatory workshop-event, with content provided by participants. Those participating choose the session topics for the day and then present to each other. It’s free. It’s fun. It’s a great way to meet the local technology community.

What topics are being presented?

That is up to you. You can visit the BarCampBirmingham2 website (which is a wiki) and add any idea you have to the list of topics. If you have one in mind that you would like to speak on, put your name by it.

Where do I sign up?

Visit the BarCampBirmingham2 website and add your name as a Camper. You can also subscribe to the BarCampBirmingham Google Group to stay in the loop on the planning efforts.

How Can I Help?

Participate. Publicize. Present. This is an event by the people, for the people. An un-conference that takes direction from those who participate, not the other way around.

You can also:

Happy Birthday Visual Studio

According to this article in Platinum Bay, today March 19th 2008 is Visual Studio’s 11th birthday. I have used many IDE’s over the years for development, but I would argue all day long that Visual Studio is the best, period. Everyone who contributed to that original1997 product and put their sweat into it since deserves a round of applause and a hearty thank you from the development community.

Happy Birthday Visual Studio!

The Arcane Internet

I know, I promised to get you up to speed with SQL Server 2008 after my Virtual PC post yesterday. Sadly a nasty thing called work got in the way, and I’ve had  couple of late nighters. It’s coming, I promise. Meanwhile, a few tidbits from around the web.

If you’re a developer, you’re probably aware that MIX 08 has kicked off in Vegas. Sadly, I ain’t there, and am insanely jealous of everyone who is, but that’s life. That doesn’t mean we can’t join in virtually though. The keynote was broadcast live, it was really cool to be able to watch it as it happened (or as much as I could, as I did have to work and wound up listening more than watching). If you did miss it, you can still catch the recording at http://visitmix.com/blogs/Joshua/Day-1-Keynote/ . There were a lot of big announcements, including the release of Silverlight 2.0 Beta 1 and talk about Silverlight for Mobile apps. In addition all the sessions will be available as videos 24 hours after they are presented, so tomorrow (Thursday) we should start seeing some content.

But Microsoft isn’t the only ones producing Mix video on the web. The folks at CodeBetter.com are using Qik to stream live video to the web. I watched a good interview with Miguel de Icaza earlier, I see another one since I left work. Check them out on their Qik site at http://qik.com/codebetter .

The Mix conference isn’t the only place producing video. Earlier tonight the North Dallas .Net Users Group streamed their meeting over the web. I got to watch a few minutes of it but needed to get back to my late night work. But wow, what a concept, a local user group streaming their sessions live over the net. Kudos to them for doing something cool. If I can get all the bugs worked out, and of course get the presenters consent I may very well stream our next Birmingham Software Developers Association meeting live on the web. No promises yet though, lots to work out.

Finally, you may ask how did I learn of all this wonderful content? Twitter! Boy I have to thank Keith Elder, I’ve picked up a lot of good tips since I started. From now on I’m going to be like Jeff Barnes and do everything The Elder says!

Hey, I guess they’re wrong. With all this great Mix content flowing out on the web, what happens in Vegas DOESN’T stay in Vegas!

The Best Intentions

Well, I set out tonight to do some more studying of PowerShell, my new love in life. Then I intended to create a blog entry, but a Twitter post reminded me of something I’d seen on the Hanselman Forums, and next thing I know I’d sucked up my alloted time over there.

So if you want to see what I’ve been up to tonight, check out the Hanselman Forums at
http://www.hanselman.com/forum/default.aspx

Most of what I posted was in these threads: Productivity Tools, Hanselminute Shows, Off Topic and Philosophy of Software.

I can’t leave without passing along at least one PowerShell related tip: I’ve been listening to the PowerScripting Podcast all week. They’ve had 19 shows so far, I started at 0 and am up to number 8. Very good stuff, lots of links to PowerShell tools and tips. One reason it’s taking me so long is I keep stopping to make notes or check out some link they give.

Avoiding Burnout OR How I learned to stop worrying and love the PowerShell

Most geeks I know tend to be workaholics. We go and go and go on a subject, spending long hours in front of our PC’s until we’ve conquered whatever we’ve been working on. It’s important though to avoid getting burned out. When we’ve exceeded our capacities, we’re depressed, dread looking at things, our productivity goes to near zero and stress wreaks havoc on our health.

For the last two months I’ve been hammering away at SQL Server, getting ready for my presentations at the recent code camp. While I’m not quite at the burn out stage, I recognize it’s just around the corner and decided I needed a break. At the same time I came away from code camp energized and wanting to learn something “techy”. The answer then was obvious, to find some technology that was new to me, and that I could use in conjunction with my SQL Server work, but was not directly SQL Server.

I twittered about going to the bookstore on Sunday, what I was actually looking for was a book on F#. (Yes, I’m an old fogey and still like books as a good platform for learning.) F# seems to fit well with processing sets of data. Sadly the stores lacked any tomes on the subject.

powershellstepbystep I did find, however, a book called “Windows PowerShell Step By Step”. This looked like a great fit for my needs. It’s small, around 220 pages so it’s something I can easily read in a short amount of time. It’s on a subject I was interested in, PowerShell. I believe PowerShell will soon become an integral part of all Server based technologies, and we’ll be able to perform remarkable amounts of maintenance and more with PowerShell.

Over the next few days I’ll give some more resources for PowerShell that I’ve already found, but I can tell you I love PowerShell already. My post for today is not so much about PowerShell but about burnout. When you’ve spent a lot of time hammering away, don’t forget to come up for air every so often. Look around, see what other tools are available for you to learn. You’ll find yourself refreshed, and have new skills to boot!

I’m all a Twitter

I love code camps. They are nerd nirvana combined with the glorification of geekdom in one fabulous fun filled day. I always come away energized and ready to dive into the tech world. The recent Alabama Code Camp in Huntsville was no exception. Big public congrats to the Huntsville User Group for putting on a great camp!

My favorite part of code camp is the speakers dinner, traditionally held the night before. It’s a chance for the organizers to go over any last minute details with the folks who will be speaking the next day, and a chance for us to catch up or meet new people and generally geek out. After the speaker dinner a group of us went over to… well let’s just say the place is known as being “delightfully tacky yet unrefined”. We wanted to grab a few adult beverages and continue some of the discussion.

You know, I never thought that particular chain of all places would be “closed down” by a bunch of geeks, but sure enough by 1:30 am the girls in the orange shorts and white tank tops were gently pushing us toward the exit. At some point, I think it was around 12:45, I sort of realized we were the only group left in the place but there was a rather spirited debate going about SOAP vs REST as well as some discussion of LINQ so I wasn’t paying too close attention to the surroundings.

It was an interesting crowd, Doug Turnure (who to his credit had enough brains to leave about 11 and get some sleep), Jim Wooley, Michael Neal, Alan Stevens, Keith Elder and myself. Keith and Alan were giving Doug and I grief about not being on Twitter. I had taken a look at it some point back and guess I didn’t invest enough time with it to see the benefit. That night I believe it was Keith who described it as “being in the speaker’s lounge, all the time”. After that and a bit more verbal “nudging” Doug and I both dusted off our accounts. I spent a few minutes when I got back to the hotel actually reading the on-line instructions (what a concept, reading the fine manual) on how to use Twitter. Now after following it for a day or so I’m getting an inkling of how this could be useful. I’m going to give it a shot during the week and see what happens.

As you can see, I’ve added my Twitter feed to the blog (see to the left), or you can go to my Twitter page and see the same conversational threads I’m following. I promise to keep my Tweets technical in nature (for the most part). I’ve always worked to make sure I add value when I do something, whether it’s a blog post, comment to someone else’s post, or another form of social web interaction. (I wonder how many billions of bits of storage are being sucked up by “Me too” posts?)

If you don’t know anything about Twitter, head over to http://twitter.com and take a look. Be sure to read the FAQ so you get an idea of how to use it, then jump on in. I’ll pretty much follow anyone who is following me, so feel free to add me or leave a comment below with your twitter info.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to Twitter the fact I just updated my blog!

The Developer Experience

In case you’re wondering why the slowdown in the blog this week, I’ve been spending all my free time getting ready for Alabama Code Camp 6. My first presentation of the day is “The Developer Experience”. It’s chock full of practical, low cost (or even free!) ways to make your life as a programmer more productive.

As promised in the session, here’s the complete PDF of my slides:  The Developer Experience

Alabama Code Camp

The sixth Alabama Code Camp is coming up February 23rd, 2008. Registration is now open, as is the call for speakers. Many, including myself have submitted, you can see them by going to the Alabama Code Camp site and clicking on the speakers link. The list of speakers is very impressive, no less than eight MVPs, and at least two authors. I’m humbled to be amongst such distinguished company!

Here’s the synopsis for my two sessions, in case you are curious:

Introduction to SQL Server Integration Services

Whether you are creating a full blown data warehouse, doing a data conversion from an old system to a new one, or integrating applications together SQL Server Integration Services can help. Get an overview of this powerful tool built into SQL Server.

The Developer Experience

Learn about tips and tricks to enhance your experience as a developer both in the physical world and the virtual world. See hardware that can make your life easier, software additions for Windows and Visual Studio, even how just a few tweaks in the Visual Studio options can make your experience as a developer more pleasant and productive.

This is shaping up to be an impressive code camp, so don’t hesitate and get registered today!