RunAs Radio #12: Richard Turner Checks Our Identity!#

Shortly after Richard Turner participated in the Identity Panel for .NET Rocks at Tech Ed US 2007 in Orlando, Greg and I grabbed him for a one-on-one interview to focus on how CardSpace affects the IT Pro. Richard changed gears smoothly and we dove right in.

Next week will be the last of the Tech Ed shows. Greg and I are back into the routine of recording new shows, lots more to come! Feel free to fire us an email at if there's something specific you'd like to hear!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007 10:30:14 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [1]  | 


SQL Querying at the Calgary .NET User Group!#

I dropped into the Calgary .NET User Group to do my famous SQL Query Tips & Techniques session. John Bristowe was nice enough to put me up for the night, but not before he got an interview out of me.

I've done the querying talk for a number of years now, and I update it regularly. I promised the folks there that I'd make the code available, so I've attached it with all the latest stuff, including my exploration of running totals.

Had a great time, a fun crowd to talk to... I'll have to bring the Strangeloop gear out there once we're ready for a road show and let 'em see what we've been up to.

Here's the sample code, including the script to build the database: (8.12 KB)
Wednesday, June 27, 2007 6:07:14 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 


RunAs Radio #11: Bill Varga Makes Us IP Intelligent!#

Greg and I talk to Bill Varga about Quova's technology around figuring out where in the world an IP address is from. We also dig into some of the ideas around why locating your customers from the Internet is important - including regulatory compliance and fraud detection.

This is not one of the Tech Ed shows... there are two more of those coming in the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007 7:02:52 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 


Stephen Forte Calls From Pakistan#

So I get home from a busy day of reviewing patents for Strangeloop to discover a voice mail message.

When I play back the message, it sounds like 800 people shouting into a cell phone "Where's Richard?!?"

Stephen Forte cracks me up.

Sorry I'm not there, folks.

By the way, my passport did show up on Monday. Turns out the consul did what he said he would do and issued the visa on June 12.

But it looks like it wasn't picked up until June 15, and even then, it was a drop off at the UPS Store, rather than a pick up. So it must have sat in an outbox for three days.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007 1:57:51 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [1]  | 


Passport Disaster! No Pakistan Conference For Me...#

Right now I'm supposed to be on an airplane, flying to New York, on my way to Lahore and Karachi, in Pakistan, for the Pakistan Developers Conference.

But I'm not. I'm still at home. The reason? No passport.

To travel to Pakistan, especially to speak at a conference, you need a visa. And the only way for me to get a visa is to send my passport to the Pakistan Consulate in Ottawa. Its supposed to take three business days to get a visa.

With overnight courier, that's an entire week without my passport. Which may not sound like much to you, but to me, its very challenging to schedule... I use my passport a lot, especially during spring conference season.

So I called the consulate in advance and let them know the situation: That I was going to be in the United States (for TechEd), but as soon as I got back, I'd overnight the paperwork to them. They said if I included a letter of explanation about my urgency, they would expedite the visa.

Well, something has gone wrong - because I don't have my passport back. And I'm supposed to be on a plane now.

I've let the conference organizers know, and I talked to Steve about it, he's going to cover some of my material, so hopefully the attendees will get all the content.

But I'm pretty disappointed. This is my second trip to Pakistan, first time to Lahore, and I was really looking forward to it. The attendees are always so enthusiastic, its really a pleasure to be there.

I expect my passport will arrive on Monday now, too late to do anything about the conference.


Friday, June 15, 2007 4:12:33 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [3]  | 


Strangeloop is going to Interop and DevConnections!#

Just got the word from Virginia (VP of Marketing), we're going to two shows in the fall!

The first is Interop New York, which will be held October 22-26 at the Javits Center.

Second is DevConnections in Las Vegas, at the Mandalay Bay November 5-8.

In both cases, we're going for the big booth, a 20'x20' island where we can do some serious demos of AppScaler.

If you're coming to either show (or both!), drop by and say hi... I'll show you something really, really cool.

Thursday, June 14, 2007 1:42:31 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 


RunAs Radio #10: Isaac Roybal Shows Us IIS7!#

Show #10 is the first of three shows Greg and I recorded at Tech Ed US 2007 in Orlando, Florida. In this show we talked to Isaac Roybal about the new management features of IIS7. We got a chance to look at IIS7 from the point of view of the one-man show, the enterprise IT guy and the ISP... each one has different requirements, and Microsoft has done an admirable job of making sure they all get some help. Isaac also told us about the new IIS.Net community web site. Currently you can get IIS7 either in Vista, or as part of Windows Server 2008 Beta 3.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007 4:12:47 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 


Home from Tech Ed US 2007#

Slept in today, first time the whole week. I deliberately took the afternoon flight home, so I didn't have to hurry Saturday morning to get home.

Caught up email, packed everything up... which is tough, somehow I ended up with more stuff than I came down with. All expandable panels OPEN.

Carl and I rode together to the airport. We got there early enough to get through the lines fairly quickly and sat down at the Macaroni Grill for lunch. Last chance to chat before going our respective ways.

All in all, an incredibly successful week. Strangeloop wins a Tech Ed Best in Show award. Carl wins RD of the Year. And we have a really great time podcasting and performing for the Tech Ed attendees. Couldn't ask for more.

I decided to upgrade myself on the flights home, I deserved it. Made the trip much more pleasant. Arrived home on time, no bags lost. The girls are away camping, so just me 'n the wife. The dog is happy to see me.

The insurance on my car expired while I was gone. Guess I have stuff to do on Monday.

Home good!

Saturday, June 9, 2007 9:44:45 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [2]  | 


Tech Ed US 2007 Day 5: The End of Everything#

Another early start. The video folks at Virtual Tech Ed wanted to interview Strangeloop about winning Best in Show for Web Development and Infrastructure. The only way we could fit it into the schedule was to come in at 8am. Josh Bixby and I did the interview with Bryan Von Alexson where we talked about what AppScaler was all about and what it meant to win Best of Tech Ed.

The last day of Tech Ed is kind of sad, really. A lot of people are already gone. The vendor space shut down on Thursday, so its all gone. Its a quieter day, a few anxious folks trying to score whatever swag is left, and trying to locate people they hadn't been able to find earlier in the week.

We'd only gotten three interviews for RunAs Radio, and now Greg Hughes was gone. Carl and I had the three panels for .NET Rocks, but we also wanted four shows as well. We decided on a vignette show for the last slot, a set of interviews that go together to make a complete show. The anchor interview for that show was with the Acropolis team. We got about a half hour interview with them in the lunch area, just before lunch started. Then we ate lunch.

After lunch I had time to prep for my chalk talk on ASP.NET scaling. Chalk talks are interesting things - they're not really sessions, but they're not really Birds of a Feather either. And with the talk being on Friday afternoon, you never know what sort of crowd you're going to get.

I decided against slides, I was just going to draw diagrams on the whiteboard as we went. The conversation tied pretty closely to my blog post on the Scaling as well. I drew an overflow crowd, and I saw Doug Seven peek his head into the back just before I was done. The folks seemed to enjoy the chalk talk, I had a good number of questions at the end, including "so where does Strangeloop fit into this?"

So, 2:30pm on the last day of Tech Ed. The show ends at 5pm. Everything that you could do is pretty much done. I wandered back to the Fish Bowl for one last shirt change... today had been a Strangeloop-to-DNR-to-Tech Ed Speaker day, I switched back to DNR for the end of the show. Jon and Josh were still in Orlando, so we agreed to go to a quiet dinner to talk about how the show had gone for Strangeloop. Carl found Mark Dunn and a few others to go to dinner with.

After dinner I found Carl, he showed me some great video he shot of the space shuttle taking off. He was a good 50 miles away from the launch, recording video in the Rosen Plaza parking lot. No sound, but a clear 45 seconds or so of something going up in a big hurry. Very cool. We adjourned to the hotel bar around 9pm for a few bourbons. Tomorrow we would both fly home.

While we were sitting there contemplating a pretty incredible week, who should show up but a whole group of the Microsoft folks that run Tech Ed! We talked for more than an hour about how Tech Ed went, what we would do differently, what we'd like to do next year. Lots of great ideas, sounds like we'll have even more fun next year!

Friday, June 8, 2007 10:04:30 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 


Tech Ed US 2007 Day 4: The End of the Booth#

Started extra early this morning, probably too early. We scheduled the Identity Panel for 9:15am, in sync with the first break of the morning to draw a crowd. It worked, but I think people were a bit too tired from the Under-the-Influencers party the night before. Four days into Tech Ed, you need to think about these things.

And while I'm thinking about Tech Ed, let everyone be warned: Wear comfortable shoes! The Orlando Conference Center is insanely huge. Even if you never set foot outside, if you take a cab everywhere, you are going to be walking for miles. You need good shoes. Tech Ed is a marathon, not a sprint, be careful with your time and energy.

So meantime, there was the Identity Panel. Great line up of panels, including Ani Babaian, Richard Turner, Michele Leroux Bustamante and Scott Golightly. Pat Hynds handled the mike for me out on the floor, and threw in a number of important questions as we explored the topic of Identity pretty thoroughly. Lots of interaction from the audience, even though it was early in the morning.

After the panel I did not race over to the Strangeloop booth, it wasn't going to open 'til 11:30am, and the Speaker Idol Finals started at noon. So I had time to sneak another RunAs Radio interview in, this time with Richard Turner, fresh off the Identity panel. Only this time we focused heavily into the IT side of Identity, including discussions around Active Directory, server management, and so on.

Next up, the Speaker Idol finals. We had five contestants (instead of the planned for four), and decided to have them present in the order they won in: Bob Roudebush, Alain Tadros, Sarbjit Gill, Rob Windsor and Steve Smith. Joel Semeniuk had to leave Tech Ed early, so our judges were: Kate Gregory, Stephen Forte, Michele Leroux Bustamante and Chris Kinsman.

All five contestants presented the same five minute presentation they did during their heats. All five had adopted at least some of the recommendations that the judges had offered. All five were excellent - as far as I am concerned, they should all have speaking slots at Tech Ed next year.

But only one could win, I only had one guaranteed speaking slot to give away. The judges deliberated for a long time, Carl and I talked for quite awhile with each other and the audience. In the end, the winner was Steve Smith.

There was lots of handshakes and congratulations all around. Then I raced over to the Strangeloop booth, which was closing at 3pm. Only Jon and Josh were left to man the booth. Birgit headed home on Wednesday (and missed out on being here for the Best of Tech Ed win), Kent, Lee and Virginia all left Thursday morning. The last hour of the booth was pretty peaceful, but we met with a few interesting folks catching the last moments of the vendor space. At 3pm on the nose, a huge cheer went up, the air walls were deployed to start blocking the vendor space away from the rest of the conference. Jon and Josh started packing up the booth equipment, I headed back to the Fish Bowl to do another RunAs Radio interview.

This time the interview was with Jeff Sigman, talking about Network Access Protection. While there's lots of different aspects to NAP (and you'll have to listen to the show to hear them all), I went crazy for the concept of having different IP addresses assigned to a computer based on an assessment of risk. For me, this meant that finally, when I'm at a Microsoft office, I'll be able to get bandwidth.

We wanted to get four RunAs shows recorded, and we had three in the can, and just enough time to get one more, so we went out searching for someone to interview, but to no avail... so we ended up with three.

Thursday night at Tech Ed is Attendee Party night. This year the attendee party was in Universal City Walk, at the Islands of Adventure. I raced back to the Rosen Plaza to get changed, then over to the Rosen Center to meet up with everyone. Just as I was arriving, a large contingent of RDs (led by Stephen Forte, of course) were heading to the bus. I really wanted a drink, so Carl and I skipped the first bus and sat with Kim Tripp, Paul Randal and Brian Randall.

They made an interesting proposal: Lets go to dinner at Emeril's Tchoup Chop, which is at the Royal Pacific Resort, right beside the Islands of Adventure. I was ready for good meal that wasn't steak, so I was instantly onboard. We took separate cars, and our driver dropped us at the wrong end of City Walk, close to the OTHER Emeril restaurant there. As I walked in I said to the maitre de "This is not Emeril's Tchoup Chop" and he said "You are correct sir, take the ferry over there to the Royal Pacific Resort."

So Carl and I walked down to the ferry to discover it was closed due to lightning. So then we walk past the Islands of Adventure and all the way 'round to the Royal Pacific Resort. Its jungle steamy out, threatening to rain, and lightning dancing everywhere. We can hear announcements from Island Adventure that the rides are closed due to lightning. Suddenly we don't feel all that interested to go the attendee party.

It was a long walk, but it was worth it: Emeril's Tchoup Chop house is an excellent restaurant, we had a multi-course meal that gave us a number of lovely tastes, almost exclusively seafood, although there were other choices, I'd had enough meat for the week. And the conversation... well, the conversation turned to Strangeloop.

I told the tale of how we got started, and the evolution of AppScaler. Brian Randall was especially excited about it, its totally his area of focus, scaling out web applications. And it was right around then that Carl's favorite moment of the entire Tech Ed took place: When I finished explaining exactly how AppScaler's output cache learns what to cache, when to expire it and how to cope with expiry under load efficiently, Brian leaped up, grabbed my head and gave me a big kiss. I guess he liked it.

Thursday, June 7, 2007 10:04:30 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 


Tech Ed US 2007 Day 3: Hump Day!#

Back at it bright and early Wednesday morning. Another day, another Speaker Idol heat, Heat 3, at 9:45am. But today is heavily, heavily scheduled. As soon as Heat 3 is over, we're into the ASP.NET Scalability panel. Then about a 90 minute break before the VSTS panel. And right after that, Heat 4 of Speaker Idol. And somewhere in there, I have to visit the Strangeloop booth for awhile.

Speaker Idol Heat 3 kicks off, our contestants are James Kovacs, Mauro Cardarelli, Sarbjit Gill and the wildcard, Rob Windsor. Again, the competition is tough. Michele had a session to speak at, so Scott Golightly stepped in to judge. At the end of the heat, the judges call me over for a ruling. They can't decide - they want a tie. I initially refuse, but then listen through the details.

The tie for them was between Sarbjit Gill and Rob Windsor. Sarbjit had done a demonstration of how to handle internal and external DNS routing properly. Its a topic I know well, but the primarily dev-oriented audience was impressed, they understood it too. And what made Sarbjit's demonstration totally over the top is that he did the whole thing in MS Paint. Drew it all in five minutes, explaining as he went.

Rob Windsor's demo was on WCF, a very clever little application combined with a nice slide deck, using the Tech Ed template, that really clearly explained a very complicated subject... again in five minutes flat.

So the judges couldn't choose - a total seat-of-the-pants IT demo with MS Paint versus a perfectly executed classic slide-and-code demo. I gave in: they were right, it was a tie, both Rob and Sarbjit would go to the finals.

We had some time to re-organize the stage. The judges chairs at the back of the audience space are moved onto the stage to become panelist chairs. The ASP.NET Scalability Panel is comprised of Kent Alstad, Rob Howard, Steve Smith and Stephen Forte. Each one of these guys could easily do a great scalability session, but they don't agree on everything and the debate is lively. We get a few questions from the audience as well.

A two hour minute break between the panels offered a moment to grab some lunch and talk to a few other folks. Lots of people were asking questions about Strangeloop, I never get tired of talking about our product.

At 1:30pm the Visual Studio Team System panel came together. The panelists were Doug Seven, Joel Semeniuk, Mike Azocar and Steve Borg. There were also several Team System advocates in the audience, so it was a very interactive panel discussion, as we navigated through the minefields of Agile vs. Waterfall, CMMI, TFS, and many other acronyms I'm sure I'm forgetting.

We had about an hour between the VSTS panel and the final heat of Speaker Idol. This time our contestants were Corro'll Driskell, Darren Mar-Elia, Jeffrey Palermo and the wildcard, Steve Smith. The judging panel had one substitution, Stephen Forte was doing a session, Barry Gervin sat in for him. Barry fancies himself a Simon Cowell I'm afraid, and tended to be more critical, but the input was effective. The winner for heat 4 was Steve Smith, who did this amazing demo of optimizing ASP.NET while running tests in the Visual Studio Team System Test Edition. He set up the test first, showing a graph of pages per second and database requests per second, then altered the page while the test was running to improve performance. He turned off session and the pages per second went up 10%. Then he turned off viewstate and the pages per second went up 20%. The he configured the page to cache for exactly one second - a mere one second! But the impact on performance was dramatic: The number of pages per second went up 300%, while the database requests for second dropped to 1-2 per second. All in less than five minutes.

The crowd went wild. The judges stared with their mouths hanging open. It was incredibly compelling.

So that set the stage for the finals: Bob Roudebush, Alain Tadros, Sarbjit Gill, Rob Windsor and Steve Smith would compete on Thursday to win a speaking slot at Tech Ed US 2008.

It was about 4pm: Time to race back to the Strangeloop booth before close at 5:30pm. More fans of the show, more influencers, lots of people curious about AppScaler and the company. When the booth closed, back to the Fish Bowl, time to record RunAs Radio. We picked up our first show with Isaac Roybal, talking about IIS7. We primarily focused on the new management features, the folks at Microsoft have really thought about how different IT folks need to manage IIS. The enterprise folks, the small shop folks and the ISPs all have features they'll find incredibly compelling.

When the interview was done, I pounded out more emails, locking down another interview for .NET Rocks, other RunAs interviews and related Tech Ed stuff. Carl was already gone. My goal was to get out the door by 6:30pm. Next door at the Peabody was the Best of Tech Ed award announcements, and the Strangeloop folks were there, hoping for a win.

I didn't make it - there was so much to get done, before I knew it it was 7:15pm, Josh called: Strangeloop had won Best of Tech Ed for Web Development and Infrastructure! I whooped, right there in the Fish Bowl, startling the other folks editing up a storm. There were congratulations all around. I promised to join the Strangeloop folks for dinner. Kent met me at the Fish Bowl and we hopped in a cab to meet up for a celebratory dinner.

Having dinner with everyone meant being late for the Influencers Party. But Virginia & Jill (from Interprose, our PR firm) decided to join me as we headed over that way, catching the tail end of the party with a huge pack of RDs. We managed a couple of drinks and then headed for the Redmond Magazine party down the street at The Groove. A group of RDs traveled with us, must have been a dozen. The Groove was grooving, very loud, lots of dancing, another couple of drinks, and then moved on again, this time for the Peabody. It was almost midnight.

Various people came and went as we went through our hops, ultimately it was about nine that arrived at the Peabody, including me, Virginia, Steve Forte, Kate Gregory, Sasha and a few others. We had another couple of drinks and I talked about Strangeloop and AppScaler at length.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 10:17:30 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 


RunAs Radio #9: Eric Marvets talks TrueCrypt!#

On this week's show Greg and I talked to Eric Marvets, one of the fellows that works with Mark Dunn. Eric took us on a tour of TrueCrypt, a free open-source disk encryption solution. We focused primarily on utilizing TrueCrypt with portable disk storage, like laptops and USB drives. Another security-centric show, Greg was all over it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 2:12:30 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 


Tech Ed US 2007 Day 2: Speaker Idol Begins!#

We weren't too late last night, so getting up the next morning wasn't all that tough. Got to the Fish Bowl early, the first heat of Speaker Idol was at 9:45am. I spent a lot of the morning in email exchanges with folks for the three panels: Identity, VSTS and ASP.NET Scalability. I realized the stage is best set up for four panelists, each with headsets, plus Carl and I sitting off to the side with our own headsets, and then there's one wireless wand microphone on the floor.

In between panel emails there are emails from nervous Speaker Idol contestants, confirming rules, asking for suggestions, and so on.

Ten minutes before Heat 1 begins, we realize not all the judges can make it. I pulled Chris Kinsman in to cover for Joel who had a session.

Good news is, all the contestants show up. And then a big crowd shows up, over a hundred people. The AV guys are awesome, get everyone geared up and things moves right along. The competitors for the first heat were Mike Azocar, Bill Baldasti and Bob Roudebush. Going last was Kent Alstad, our first wild card. All the presentations are excellent, the judges complain about having to pick a winner, but do their job. The first heat winner is selected: its Bob Roudebush, with his great demonstration of the File Server Resource Manager in Windows Server 2003 R2.

At the end of Heat 1, the wildcard slots quickly disappeared. My four wild cards, in order of the heats, are Kent Alstad, Mark Miller, Rob Windsor and Steve Smith.

When the heat is over, I change shirts and head for the Strangeloop booth which has just opened. Lee is there now, arriving late last night. Things are in full swing, lots of people visiting the booth, seeing the demo, taking data sheets and getting excited about what we're up to. During that time the judges for the Best of Tech Ed competition came by to see AppScaler. We were very excited to be a Finalist, and the judge seemed to "get" what AppScaler was all about.

After helping out for a couple of hours I headed back to the Fish Bowl to gear up for Speaker Idol Heat 2 and continue sorting out who and when for the .NET Rocks panels. Change back to the DNR shirt.

Speaker Idol Heat 2 goes even smoother. The contestants are Brad McGehee, Alain Tadros, Dandy Weyn and the wild card, none other than Mark Miller (who knew he'd never presented at Tech Ed?). Again, the presentations are killer effective. Its amazing how much information these guys can pack into five minutes. The judges rule and Alain Tadros wins with a great code-on-the-fly demo of anonymous delegates.

I spent the rest of the afternoon locking down the panels, sending out invites. We'd have two panels on Wednesday, in between the Speaker Idol heats. First would be the ASP.NET Scalability panel, then the VSTS panel. On Thursday morning we'd do the Identity panel and the Speaker Idol finals. With the details locked down, I fired off the scheduling info to the CommNet folks to get it posted out to the Tech Ed attendees.

In the midst of all this, Greg Hughes arrived. Greg has been my co-host on RunAs Radio from the very beginning of the show, but this was the first time we'd actually met face to face. Our goal for RunAs was to get four interviews recorded with interesting folks at Tech Ed. We debated topics for awhile, but the list tightened up to IIS7, Network Access Protection, Forefront/ISA, Server Virtualization, Cardspace/Identity and anything else Longhorn Server we could find.

As the afternoon wound down, Carl and I rip out the Wednesday morning bluecast message. The mission turns to finding a good dinner. Orlando restaurants are plentiful, but mediocre for the most part. I guess its the nature of the place... its a total tourist town, and there really isn't any penalty for having a lousy restaurant, people keep showing up.

But we were told by numerous folks in the know that Vitos Chop House was the place to go. So we went. Greg, Mark Dunn, Carl & Tina and I all headed over there for a big steak dinner. Lo and behold, sitting a couple of tables away was the entire DevExpress gang, including Mark Miller! The dinner was good (when you're in a town of one star restaurants, being a three star makes you a knock out), and ultimately Mark came and sat with us as well. Lots of laughter and silliness. Our noise attracts attention, Chris Kinsman finds us from the other end of the restaurant.

We split up from dinner. Carl head for The Groove to jam. Mark Miller and I adjourn to the hotel bar to talk for awhile (I drank, Mark doesn't need alcohol). In bed shortly after midnight. Tomorrow is the half way mark!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 10:17:30 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 


Tech Ed US 2007 Day 1: Getting Started#

When I got into the Rosen yesterday evening, I discovered that the server box had arrived from Denver. I left it at the bell desk, since there was no reason to drag it up to the room. But since I'd chatted with Birgit and Virginia that evening, we agreed to meet in the morning, get the beastie over to the tradeshow and set up. Jon, Josh and Kent were also arriving today.

I had wisely stocked myself up with bottles of water when I was over at Tech Ed registering, so I could deal with the after affects of significant amounts of scotch consumed the night before. Tech Ed is the Super Bowl of Microsoft Conferences, and you don't want to miss a bit of it. So its up late partying every night, and up early the next morning to get to work.

So we all gathered at the Strangeloop booth, reviewed the demos and went over procedures in general. I also had my box of shirts.

My life for this Tech Ed is a complex one. I have a lot of shirts, and depending on what work I'm doing, I have to change shirts. I have the following shirts:

  • Tech Ed Speaker Shirt (for speaking, duh!)
  • .NET Rocks Shirt (all DNR related events)
  • Strangeloop Shirt (whenever I'm going to be at the booth)

So over the course of the day, I'm going to switch between these shirts several times. I wear a t-shirt underneath to avoid horrifying anyone. And where do I do all this quick change work? Why, in the Fish Bowl!

After checking in at the Strangeloop booth, I headed over to the Virtual Tech Ed stage, where The 64 Bit Question, Speaker Idol and all the .NET Rocks panels were going to take place. In behind the stage is a video recording studio and an editing room, each of which have two walls of plexiglass. They look like people aquariums, and were quickly dubbed The Fish Bowl. And that's when I finally met Zaak and Katrina in person. Zaak runs Virtual Tech Ed, and we'd been on the phone with each other at least once a week for the past two months. The Virtual Tech Ed stage was the fruition of all the work we'd been doing.

Carl and I took over one corner of the Fish Bowl and met a number of the other inhabitants, including Dean Andrews, who was working with a group of folks who do Bluecasting. Bluecasting utilizes Bluetooth technology to push content (in this case, MP3 files) onto Bluetooth devices, like cell phones. Dean wanted to make it easy for people to find out what was available on the Virtual Tech Ed web site. After talking to him for a few minutes I offered up the services of Carl and I. We have lots of practice making short bits (2-3 minutes) with music and news. We planned to create one for every day of the conference.

It was around that time that Steve Forte and Pat Hynds showed up. Pat and Duane Laflotte had a conference session on Identity right after lunch, and they had an idea. Since fundamentally Identity is all about how you know who someone is, they wanted to do a physical demonstration. So Pat and Duane asked Steve and I to impersonate them. We would show up early for the session, walk up on stage and start presenting it. Steve went so far as to grab a piece of paper and scrawl "Patrick Hynds" on it and stuff it in front of his own Tempo Tempo Forte Forte name tag.

When the time came, Steve and I went on stage and dropped into our usual pre-session duet banter, only calling each other Pat and Duane. When it was actually time to start, we introduced ourselves and started the session. I even made a point of fumbling over the pronunciation of Duane's last name. About two minutes into it, Pat and Duane rush in, apologize for being late, and say "what are you guys doing on stage?" We get into an argument about who is really supposed to be presenting the session. Pat had left his badge on the podium, so he picks it up and puts it on. Steve runs into the crowd and asks an attendee, "doesn't my badge say Patrick Hynds" which of course it does, in badly scrawled pen. Then Pat says "But I'm Patrick Hynds, I have the official badge!" and someone else from the audience yells out "He just picked that badge up from the podium!"

So then we held a poll, asking the audience who they thought the real Patrick Hynds was. And most people picked Steve! Then we flipped the slide and showed photos along side the names. The crowd laughed. That was mine and Steve's cue to get out of the way, and Patrick dropped directly into "How DO you know for certain who someone is?"

The gag worked, and it made a point about Identity. Mission accomplished. Back to the floor, visited the Developer Learning Center area and chatted with Erika Maki about putting together some panels for .NET Rocks. She suggested VSTS, which I thought was a fine idea. Next stop, the RD booth where Steve stayed and ultimately I ended up back at the Fish Bowl.

While I was off being silly on stage, Carl was working hard on getting The 64 Bit Question slide deck finalized. We had pulled all the prizes together and sorted out the questions into Developer, IT Pro and .NET Rocks Trivia categories. The swag was wide ranging: from polar fleece sweaters to USB keys to software packages from Telerik, Data Dynamics and DevExpress. While we were comparing notes and organizing that, I had sent out an email to all of the Speaker Idol contestants to meet at the Virtual Tech Ed stage for a briefing. I was also starting to pull together the various panel ideas we had, including a panel on Identity and a panel on ASP.NET Scaling. Lots and lots of emails.

Speaker Idol briefing went well, but on such short notice, only about half the contestants showed up. The judges (Steve, Kate, Michele and Joel) dropped by as well. We talked about the flow of the stage, how all laptops are prepped in advance as well as mike checks. The routine on stage itself: Carl and I introduce you, ask you a bit about yourself, then get off the stage so you can do your five minute presentation. When you're done, we all clap, Carl and I return to the stage, talk to the judges a bit, they offer their critique, and the next contestant comes up. When all the contestants are done, they all return to the stage and the judges pick a winner. We also talked about wildcard participants - there are three contestants per heat, selected in advance. But there's room for four in each heat, so someone watching a heat can come up afterward and we'll put them into the next heat. I had already found a wild card for the first heat, I figured the rest would go quickly.

At 6pm Carl and I started The 64 Bit Question, just as folks were headed down for the opening of the sponsor booths. We drew a big crowd, mostly IT folks (wish we had more IT questions), and the swag went quickly. Some of the questions are quite funny, and the audience has a good time. After an hour or so, all the goodies are given out and we can head over to the Strangeloop booth.

So count the shirt changes: in the morning I arrived in a civilian shirt. By noon I changed to a speaker shirt for the Identity gag. Then I changed to the DNR shirt for the Speaker Idol briefing and 64 Bit Question. Then into the Strangeloop shirt to help out at the booth. Finally I switched back to the civ shirt as the reception ended and we could go to dinner. Somewhere in all that, Kent arrived as well. Before heading out Carl and I ducked into the Fish Bowl for awhile and laid down the Tuesday Bluecast recording. After that we ate at Jacks in the Rosen Plaza hotel. We were underwhelmed with the food, but the company was good - Strangeloopers (Jon, Josh, Kent, Virginia and Birgit) plus Steve and Carl.

Sometime in the afternoon I discovered that Scott Hanselman had blogged about the blogging session he'd contributed so much to (he asked me for my notes so that he could). Its at

Tomorrow would be the first heats of Speaker Idol, and things would really get moving!

Monday, June 4, 2007 10:17:30 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 


Tech Ed US 2007 Day 0: The RD Summit#

Today I discovered I'm in the wrong Rosen. The Rosen Center is the speaker hotel, the Rosen Plaza is just another hotel. The conference center beside the hotel is the wrong conference center, Tech Ed is held across the street from the Rosen Center. Its only a couple of blocks away, which translates into a mile-plus walk in the steaming swamp heat that is Orlando.

Woke up early and headed for the Peabody Hotel, more or less across the street. The Regional Director (RD) Summit meeting was being held there, Tech Eds are the usual place you'll find a concentration of RDs. RD Summits are comprised typically of three things:

  • Insider discussions with Microsoft where they brief us on NDA stuff that will be coming in the future (such as announcements at Tech Ed)
  • Interactive discussions with teams around products in earlier stages of development (stuff that is really, really NDA)
  • RD specific tasks, like direction of the program, awards, stuff like that

The pack of RDs this year wasn't the biggest, with many trickling in over the course of the day. Sunday is also pre-con day for Tech Ed, and RDs are prone to pre-cons... Kim Tripp, Tim Huckaby and Kate Gregory were all doing pre-cons. Steve Forte, Carl Franklin and Scott Golightly showed up noonish.

I was there early, but that's because I was worried - I had foolishly agreed to give a talk to the RDs. A talk on blogging. This is a problem for two reasons.

  1. I am only a marginally effective blogger.
  2. Giving a presentation to Regional Directors is a worse-case scenario for any presenter.

So, how to deal with these two issues.

The RD Manager at the moment, Kim Sanchez (Kevin Schuler is on leave), asked me if I would put together a talk on ideas around being a more effective blogger. One of the anchor points of The Region, the new Regional Director web site, is a feed from the blogs of the RDs. The goal of the talk was to help the RDs to know how to be more effective at blogging - not that they're bad bloggers, but we can always get better. My response was "Why me? Ask Scott Hanselman, he's the master blogger of the RDs." Unfortunately, Scott wasn't coming to Tech Ed.

So I did the next best thing: I asked Scott to talk to me about blogging. I put on my head set, opened up One Note and then typed as fast as I could for about two hours.

Its not that I didn't have my own ideas about blogging. Its just that Scott thinks so much about it and brain dumps so quickly, it seemed silly to start anywhere else. At the end of two hours, my brain and fingers were sore, but I had a heck of a start on a talk. Then I spent some time gathering some other viewpoints, pulling together some links, and presto-change-o, I had a talk. Which brings us to issue #2: presenting it to the RDs.

Many of the best speakers you've ever seen at any conference ever are Regional Directors. And there they are, watching me. And I'm not this great blogger, I've researched the topic, but fundamentally, I'm a hypocrite advocating things like using FeedBurner and URL rewriting when I'm not using them (but I will start soon, I promise!). I wanted to convey the fact that I'm just the messenger and I know I'm full of crap... which gave me an idea. I pitched it to Kim, and she agreed to supply rubber dog poop. So just before I went up to present the blogging talk, a couple of plastic bags containing rubber dog poop were placed on each table. My theory was, if I was full of crap, they could throw them at me.

Richard Hundhausen immediately complied and I caught my first poop. So far so good. The presentation went well, with several RDs that are into blogging engaging in lively debate. I should point out that an RD Summit is really a gathering of friends who don't get to see each other all that often. And like most groups of friends who rarely get together, they love to grind on each other. So the debate was really lively, which was good for me, since that meant they were grinding on each other, rather than me.

My real mistake was not considering that we scheduled the blogging talk over lunch, which is not the most appetizing time to have rubber dog poop on the table. On the other hand, a number of poops immediately went missing and were put to work in harassment missions on the MVP Summit next door.

No, I'm not going to go through my blogging talk in detail: I'll let Scott do that. He asked for my notes, so I sent them over, he planned to blog about it some time soon.

Shortly after that Steve Forte arrived and I decided I needed to get out of the room for awhile... I was more nervous than I thought! So I took the opportunity to take a walk, discover I was at the wrong Rosen hotel, figure out which conference center Tech Ed was in and get registered.

This year I'm registered as Staff, rather than a Speaker. This is really, really useful for me, since it makes it very easy to get in and out of almost anything at Tech Ed when I'm trying to find a guest or record a show for .NET Rocks. Stevie registered at the same time, but for some reason his badge said Stephen Forte Forte. When I saw Forte Forte, I immediately said "Tempo Tempo!" which connects to a long running story about some hot Turkish pop stars . And Stevie's reaction to that when they offered to fix his badge was to get it changed to Tempo Tempo Forte Forte. They agreed, and he was pleased.Strangeloop Setup_sm

From the registration area we wandered over to the sponsors' booths to check out the Strangeloop booth. It looked awesome, even not entirely set up.

After that it was time for speaker check-in with the speaker boss, Lynn Edwards. Stephen and I walked into the Speaker Room and immediately dropped to our knees and went prostrate in our standard response to being before Lynn... "We are NOT WORTHY!" It makes Lynn happy. We got our speaker shirts and headed back for the Peabody in time for the group photo.

The group photo this year was taken out on the pool deck, and took longer than usual because we waited for Tim Huckaby and Kate Gregory to show up... they kept calling as they ran from the conference center back to the Peabody to be in the photo. In total, there were about 35 RDs in the picture.

Then it was time to head back down to the summit room for the awards portion of the day. The RD Program gives out bronze, silver and gold awards based on your reach. I won gold again this year along with about a dozen other RDs. The final award given out is RD of the Year, and this year it went to... none other than Carl Franklin! A fine standing ovation was given. I think Carl was quite surprised.

The awards ended and we all loaded into a bus to head to the RD Party at Tu Tu Tango. Its an interesting place, vaguely resembling the Spanish Tapas Bars of Barcelona. There's occasionally a flamenco performance, and lots of little tasty plates of food. But for the most part, the RDs do what the RDs always want to do when they're together - they talked. Endlessly. And drank.

After three hours or so the party was winding up so it was time to move onto another party, this one the Party with Palermo! Jeff Palermo is a friend of the show, Iraqi vet and one of the nHibernate Mafia out of Austin. And he throws these really great parties at conferences. The last one was at the MVP Summit. This one was at the Glo Lounge, and about 450 people showed up. .NET Rocks! also sponsored the party, so Carl and I were greeted with plenty of cheers when we arrived. More talking and drinking ensued. At the party Carl met an old friend of his named Tina. Tina and Carl met waaaay back when Carl was living in Orlando, going to audio engineering school. Tina is a charmer, she fit in with our unruly mob just fine.

Eventually even the Party with Palermo was winding down, somewhere around midnight. But we weren't done yet, so we gathered up and headed back to the Rosen Plaza for more drinks. Our group ended up being Stephen Forte, Chris Menegay, Carl & Tina and our new friend Arthur (another blue badge pitching in with the RD program) and April (who works with the MVP program). At some point during the Party with Palermo Steve and Arthur had entered into a competition to get the most compromising photograph of themselves with a woman they had just met. This meant that Steve and Arthur were constantly flirting with the wait staff and other female patrons.

Arthur managed to convince all four of the quite beautiful waitresses at the Glo Lounge to pose with him in fairly provocative poses. Steve upped the ante by laying down on a pool table and getting Tina to straddle him and feed him cherries. You see the progression here. So having moved onto the Rosen, they were looking for more opportunities.

In the middle of all this entered Brigit and Virginia, part of the Strangeloop team. They were quick to order drinks and get out of the line of fire to watch the festivities. For me, it was a bit of a Seinfeld-esque "Worlds Colliding" moment. But, that's life in the big city. Eventually around 2am Birgit and Virginia headed up to their room. Steve ended the competition by convincing a pretty lady from another table near by to pose with him for a photo. She pulled down her shirt to maximize cleavage and shoved his nose in there. Arthur surrendered.

It wasn't long before there was no more booze to be had, and we dispersed to our respective hotels. Tomorrow the conference would really begin.

Sunday, June 3, 2007 10:59:30 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [2]  | 


Arriving in Orlando...#

Ah, flying sucks. Its amazing how much suckage there is in flying.

I drew the short straw with the Strangeloop crowd and had to check the Strangeloop AppScaler onto the plane. Everyone else just got boxes of t-shirts. Fortunately, I fly enough that I could exploit my status and they just checked it through. Went on the oversized baggage belt.

Arrived in Denver and a short walk to my Orlando flight. And there I encountered Tim Huckaby, who was on a later flight, but hoped to get on my flight. And then Michele Leroux Bustamante showed up. There was some confusion about whether or not the plane was going to fly with Hurricane Barry passing by. The three of us headed for the Red Carpet Club for awhile (Huckaby has God Status with United).

Eventually, maybe 20 minutes late, we boarded and discovered hordes of speakers and attendees on the plane, including Chris Kinsman and Juval Lowy.

When we all arrived in Orlando, my server box didn't come off the belt. I kept my cool and asked nicely at the baggage desk, they located it in Denver - never got on the plane.

They promised to delivered it to the hotel the next day - I appreciated not having to lug it myself, I think I'm going to request they lose it the next time I check one.

The good news is, I don't have to carry it back, it'll fly air freight home.

I'm at the Rosen Plaza. Its best feature is that its close to the conference center. While I didn't have my server, I did have my box of .NET Rocks! shirts from Connecticut.

Tomorrow is RD Summit Day!

Saturday, June 2, 2007 10:03:30 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 


Heading out for Tech Ed Orlando!#

Well, its that happy time again... off to Orlando!

Carl and I have a ton of things to do at Tech Ed US this year. Most everything we're doing is focused around the Virtual Tech Ed Stage down in the main conference hall across from the sponsor's area.

On Monday evening we'll be doing The 64 Bit Question, where the audience will get to win all kinds of prizes for answering questions about .NET and .NET Rocks!

Then there's Speaker Idol. We've got twelve contestants that are going to give five minute talks before an audience and panel of judges. The winner of Speaker Idol gets a speaking slot at Tech Ed US 2008, including all the perks a speaker gets: airfare, hotel, etc. There are four rounds of three speakers each, two on Tuesday, two on Wednesday. The winner of each round goes on to the finals on Thursday.

And, just to really spice things up, we're offering up a wildcard slot for each round. Think you can handle it? Get a hold of me and I'll get you into the competition. When Carl and I did Speaker Idol in Europe, one of the wildcards made it to the finals!

In between all this craziness we're going to do all sorts of panel discussions on a variety of topics. We've got several worked out already, if you have ideas for more, let me know and perhaps we can put you on the Virtual Tech Ed Stage. Also, we'll be recording .NET Rocks! and RunAs Radio as well. My co-host for RunAs, Greg Hughes, is going to hang with us for a few days.

I'm going to work hard to blog routinely from Tech Ed. Somehow I'll fit it all in.

So if you're at Tech Ed, drop by the Virtual Tech Ed stage and say hi!

Friday, June 1, 2007 10:50:39 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [0]  | 


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