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Final TechEd thoughts

Well, it's Father's Day, and I have finally recovered from TechEd. I think I slept most of Saturday just trying to regain from the exhaustion.

Out session on designing BizTalk solutions on Thursday morning went much better than I had hoped. I expected ten people to show up because it as was at 8:00am, which is a hard time to get up on the Thursday of TechEd. About 100 people showed up, and our score was 8.5 on a scale of 1-9! We were in the top ten of all 1,006 sessions until later that day. We got bumped to #11. Still a great showing. Personally, I think I have done better before, but the crowd seemed to have liked it.

I ended up going to several IIS7 sessions, a session on DSL's and frameworks, and went to some other great sessions/chalk talks.

The new architecture for IIS7 is really awesome. I can see how it will really help in the future. The first major step they did was to take the core functionality that supplied authentication, caching, dir browsing, static file serving (and plenty of other things), and broke each into it's own component. You can now configure the server to only load the components into the IIS7 pipeline that you need. This helps with performance, as well as completely customize the threat surface your server has. Don't want any file browsing to happen? Just don't load the module. This is awesome. Then they took the ASP.NET component and broke it up as well. The current module contains all ASP.NET functionality in one box. IIS6 receives a request, goes through any IIS authentication and authorization, caching, etc, and then passes it to the ASP.NET module. ASP.NET then does it's own authorization, and then goes through it's lifecycle, and then back to IIS for the second half of the pipeline, and eventually sending back the response.

In IIS7 you can run ASP.NET in the classic mode, loading the consolidated component, or you can load each component seperately, and natively in the IIS7 pipeline. This will increase your performance, and improve your security.

MS has been quick to point out that this also improves the usability of your server. How? If you load the Forms Auth component in the IIS7 pipeline, and then load the PHP or ColdFusion ISAPI extensions, you could suddenly use asp.net forms auth on your PHP applications. Or leverage any other piece as well!

The other great thing about IIS7 (that I can think of right now) is the distributed config files. The metabase is gone forever! Yeah! That thing was a pain in the rump. Your server settings are now stored like all other .NET configurations. There is a server and site .config file. You can load the config of your site into the web.config of the site itself! That will make it so much easier to deploy an application to a remote system. No more calling up the admin to make a simple change, like the default doc. Of course the sys admin has to give these permissions. They can make the system config file un-overridable.

This config can be managed in three ways. Directly through the config file, through WMI, and through the new management UI. If you write a custome IIS7 pipeline component, then you can implement your own admin UI, and have that integrate into the management toolset. Very awesome!

There are other nice parts, like FREB and tracing, etc. I might go into those later in other posts.

We also went to the Fenway Party with Train. It was a great time. I didn't expect to like the music, but it was really nice.

Going to TechEd is like going to Disneyland for the first time. We call it "Death by Disney". You are surrounded by your "type" (geeks or families), and have only a week to partake in as much stuff as you can. The laws of physics prohibit that, but you do your best. In the process you end up rushing and exhausting yourself. I have learned (in both occasions) to go slower, and take your time. You will get to experience more stuff on the next trip. By doing this, you may not DO everything, but you will definitely get a lot more value out of it.

I already can't wait for next year.


TechEd Tuesday Treatise

Wow! What a day. I needed some time off from going to sessions so I hung out in the architectre TLC area. I got to watch an arcCast be recorded. The topic was about the new service library GAT tools for patterns and practices. It was really intersting to see them talk about these new features. You should check out the kit. They have a CTP now, and will release at the end of July.

The best talk so far, at all of TechEd was the SOA architecture talk by Beat Schwegler. He was a great speaker, very calm but very engaging. His slide deck was definitely outside what the content owners have been forcing us speakers to follow. I think that is cool. I have been toying with swapping to a serperate deck at the last minute. We shall see. I do want good scores, but I also want to be asked to come back next year.

One of his points was that services should be designed around the What of business, not the how. Developers tend to immediately think of how, when an architect should always focus on the why, what is the business needs, not the features needed. Great concept, and something that I have always thought was important for an architect.

I did get to have breakfast with someone from teh IIS7 team. I need to go back to their kiosk to get her name. You could see the passion for IIS7 just seeping out of her pores. She really believed in the power of the product. I had said that I wasn't going to any of the sessions because I saw them all at PDC. She said that everything from teh PDC was 'old news', and that I should check them out. I decided to take her up on the offer, and sat in on that talk about tracing at the http module level from iis with the new FREB toolset. Neat stuff. You can have it trace in a very restrictive level. Instead of killing performance by tracing every site and every action. They have allowed you to really nail it down tightly, to perhaps only 404.2 errors on a specific page or site. Each failure report is in it's own xml file, so they are easy to break up and use.

The big news of the day, and I am glad that I can finally blog about this, is the annoucement of Visual Team Studio for Database Professionals. This is like team dev, but for db developers. They seperate the data from teh schema, and track the schema just like source code. This isn't just scripts, and so on, this is the true schema. You can refactor, write tests, and construct automated builds. The great part is that you can it populate sample data into the schema, which helps you test all permuations of a possible field based on it's requirements and restrictions. I grabbed several dvd's of the CTP. It should be RTM by the end of the year I believe.

I think this is great innovation from Microsoft. Our DBAs have been stuck with crappy tools, with no improvements for ten years. The tools have bceome nicer, but have never really offered a true enhancement to the deature set.

And now for the daily slog (swag log).

1. Awesome Vista backpack
2. Oreily tshirt for buying books
3. more copies of vista and a application compatibility toollkit
4. several pens
5. more source force 'action figures'
6. a nice metal keychain flashlight
7. awesome patterns and practices dvd
8. dvd for VSTO
9. 4 dvd's for VSTS Database Developer



The 'blogosphere' (always hated that term) is a glow once more with a daily flood of TechEd updates. So, Yet Another Tech Ed Conference Update.

I had a depressing start to the day. My first session was terrible, and the speaker was bad. The last ten minutes were what I thought the whole session was going to be about. I need to learn more about the new Office Scorecard Manager so that I can use it on a few upcoming projects (both internal and external). The speaker spent most of the time demoing and talking about BizTalk BAM. BAM is awesome, don't get me wrong, but the topic was supposed to be about scorecards. I learned my lesson, and should of bailed as soon as it was proving to be sucky.

My second session was to be on building Finanical system with BizTalk and human components. Brian L and I thought maybe they were going Borg on us. But then decided that a human heart was likely NOT at the center of any financial system. James pointed out this was possible, if that heart was black, small, and lifeless. Anyway....

This second session turned out to be a waste of time as well. It was mostly a commercial for K2 (which is a fine product), but I felt a bit of bait and switch going on here. Come talk about BTS and big finance systems, and it turned out to be car insurance and K2. No thanks. Being the quick learner that I am (do more of what works, and less of what doesn't) I bailed big time. Moved on to the VS Team Architect session. Loved it. See James' post on this as well. It was great. I love the toolset, and just need to cut over from doing the same stuff in Visio.

I happen to be wearing a blue Microsoft BizTalk shirt today. It was amazing what I was getting away with. In the back of each room there is a table against the wall. These are mysterious tables. Almost like stonehenge. No one REALLY knows why they are there. I would just walk in, move the table, rip some chairs of their twisted DNA chain like assembly, and sit in the back, with plenty of room, laptop setup, etc. Even the door minders (that ask "Can I scan you?" when they really mean "Can I scan your badge?", which are RFID by the way.) would approach me like I had some authority in the situation. One asked if the lighting was fine, etc. Sure, lights are nice. In principal, I guess.

After a terrible meal for lunch (usually the food is quite good. This time the rice was crunchy like chewing on resisters (don't ask why I know that)), I headed on up to yet another scorecard session. I thought I would give it another try. This session was GREAT. It was presented by people from the MS team, so they knew what they were talking about. They have taken the accelerator kit, and turned it into a easily usable platform with a great extension system. They boiled the sharepoint web parts from 9 down to 2! Thats great simplification.

After that session I was asked to pitch in on Brian L's BizTalk Architecture chalk talk in the TLC (technical learning center. the area of the conference floor for lounges with MS product people and hands on labs. This area is renamed more often than Indigo, no, WCF, no WinFX, no .NET Framework 3.0/NETfx.) We were in one of the little theatres with about 12 chairs. Most were filled up. Since we didn't have any content planned, we played 'stump the chump.' We had some great questions. The area was outfitted with a singleton whiteboard. You can use it once, and then it must be thrown out. Not very useful if you ask me. Reminds me of buying dogfood on the Internet for some reason. We tried an eraser, our hands, and even that deathly alchohol spray stuff. The only thing that worked was turning it over to use the second side. Built in archiving I guess.

The GREATEST thing about the talk was that Lee Graber (BizTalk Message Box God) kind of slinked in the back of the space. I didn't want to 'out' him as a product team member, but he eventually piped up and took part in the conversation. It was a great time. He winced when I told him I have an outlook rule that flags ANY email written by him on the MS internal distribution lists. (of which I have access to because of the CSD VTS program.) We had a great time talking about some extreme performance situations, and about a specific need a customer had about BAM and instrumenting when something DOESN'T happen within an SLA. It showed I really need to dig deeper into BAM. Which isn't hard to say. BTS is such a broad platform that it is hard to know alot about alot of it.

Got my picture taken with the Webcast guy. I did that just for Arnulfo, I think he will enjoy the pic.

The last session of the day was on IronPython (.NET native dynamically typed language that is a full and true implementation of Python) and Ruby.NET, which is a bridge between Ruby and .NET. The bridge was cool. You could call Ruby from .NET, and implement .NET interfaces in Ruby, or call .NET classes as well. Great session even though I am not really interested too much in this fad.

There are plenty of other things that happened today (like the reception and the 19 mile walk to a tube station to get on it for 3 stops to get to a restaurant. Note to self, never let Ian navigate.)

But I know everyone is desperate for the swag log of the day.
Here is the pic:

1. Codezone tshirt (just like from the PDC, but smells nicer.)
2. Two Windows Mobile hats. I thought they were handing out mobile devices. Turned out they were mobile hats. I don't know of any immobile hats. Don't know how useful those would be anyways.
3. A small compact screwdriver toolkit thing I stole from the TechNet community booth after being told I had to answer a quiz to get it. I told them I knew all the answers anyway. Greg F gets this, as he is the resident tool gadget guy.
4. Really cool giant foam lego blocks that are branded with the now defunct WinFX naming.
5. Hat for visual studio and central region developers. This one I am keeping.
6. Free sharepoint magazine
7. Three little MSDN hero foam action figure thingys. Got these for kids and Arnulfo (who collects them.) As a side note, I got a Channel 9 guy at PDC, and he lasted about a week until my son ripped his head off. Oh well.

Thats all for now.


Tech Ed 2006 : day 0

So, day zero is nearly complete. Today is Sunday. I arrived yesterday after completely missing my plane. I thought my flight was on Sunday, and when I went to print out my itinerary Sat afternoon I made the connection that 6/10 was indeed not Sunday, but that someone had rudely moved it to Saturday. This would have been ok had I noticed this incovenient change before my flight. But I noticed this at 1:30, and my flight left at 11:00. I called up the travel people, and they re-booked me for a flight later that day. Got to the Hilton just fine thanks to them.

While on the shuttle from the hotel I hooked up with Brian Loesgen, a fellow MVP and VTS'er.

I spent the day registering for the event, and doing my initial check in at the speaker lounge. Registering was quick and painless, and instead of a normal laptop bag this year, we get Man-Purses. They are actually quite nice bags, your laptop goes in vertically however.

The speaker lounge was less 'lounge-y' than I expected and more 'airport cattle coral'. Unfortable chairs, and basic snacks (which are the same outside the room.) There is rumor that the speaker area has it's own private network, so maybe I will check that out, since the hotel has less bandwidth than a remote farmer in Australia. Right after that I sat down and pawed through the marketing crap in the bag. Most went immediately into the trash can as worthless, meaningless crap. I had to work with marketing back in my .com days to put together inserts like this, and we always put more thought into than these people have. One had the title "Bring this card to our booth for a demo of our product." Ok, so you aren't going to give me a demo if I don't have this piece of dead tree? Ok, enough ranting about the marketing chaff.

I spent most of the day at the MVP summit. Got to meet with some great people, some old friends, and some brand new. I got to know my MVP handler, Kim, who is a blast to talk to, and met some of the other MVP architects.

After that we decided to walk to a restaurent called the "No Name" restaurent. A little seafood place down on the docks. After some 'agile' navigation we arrived to a nice feast. Reminds me of the places I was used to growing up in Maine (Ayuh!). Boston is really bringing back some of those memories.

After dinner we hoofed it back up to the center to see the key note. It wasn't bad. There was some corny 24 (the show) rip off stuff, and they had one of the actors from the show helping out.

They finally announced Visual Studio Team Data. This is going to be a great tool for data architects and data developers. It has a bunch of tools around unit testing and refactoring which are going to kill in my shop. They showed Windows Compute Cluster, which they showed at the PDC, and a few other things.

Now, for the important part. I am not normally a swag-whore. I have known people in the past that will go out of their way to get as much free stuff as possible, regardless of it's value. Brian L has a great notion to use the swag as geocaching presents. I thought that was a great idea.

So the swag count for day 0. I intend to log what I get. I do not intend to go out of my way to get stuff, so it will be interesting to see what I walk out with.

Here is a picture of my swag, and the contents.
1. Man Purse with random stuff inside. Nice to get DVDs of the stuff I spent days downloading just recently (Vista, etc.)
2. The hotel room key is office branded. (not really swag, but the marketing machine is set to 11). Same goes for the Windows HPC do not disturb sign.
3. DVD of random goodies I was given. No idea what is on it.
4. MP3 player from the MVP team.
5. Vista branded magentic stick and ball thing, from the MVP team. I guess they raided the Vista swag closet before coming here.
6. Bottle of wine for being a speaker. Nice presentation.
7. Two little compass keychain things from the keynote.
8. A shirt (thrown at me from someone) that says "Is your network up today? You're welcome.".

Can't wait for some of the sessions tomorrow. Time to go find something more to do.