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Charles Young

Day two of the MVP summit is over.   We were at the Washington State Convention & Trade Centre all day, but will be decamping to the Redmond campus tomorrow.   The day started with an unscheduled bout of ‘pre-match’ chanting from the Canadian MVPs.   They are an excitable crowd, and have spent much of the day ensuring that we all know which country they come from (Canada, I believe).    It appears that all Canadian MVPs (with the exception, I am glad to report, of Brian Loesgen) wear identical clothing.   Very strange.

VP Richard Kaplan got things underway informing us that the conference is being attended by 1,700 MVPs from 90 countries.   The MVP community is certainly a very diverse group which helps give the conference a rather different feel than, say, the PDC.   Bill Gates was up next, and provided us with a typical Gatesian keynote tour de force.   He talked about the implications of moving to 64 bit computing and painted lots of cameo pictures of possible technology futures, emphasising some of his favourite topics along the way such as ink, recognition, etc.   It’s interesting to note his acceptance of the ongoing transition of the programming ‘backbone’ to the Internet.   He also discussed what was to become something of a recurrent theme during the day; namely the move to multi-core parallel processing, and the implications on software.

Wisely, Bill kept the speech fairly short, and then moved on to a Q&A session.   There were too many questions to record here, but they included topics such as the problems faced by the IT in western countries due to the lack of graduate entrants into the industry, philanthropy, ‘Software as a Service’, the role of blogging, how to improve IT support for dealing with natural disasters, his all-time favourite Microsoft product, low-cost computing in the third world, the future of Live Search and a fascinating, but all too brief discussion on the evolution of technologies from tools to social insignia (yes, I’m serious).

One rather sour note was the reaction of a handful of attendees to some of the questioners whose first language was not English.   I would like to see them attempt to ask a question publically in, say, Japanese, and cope with the same level of sniggering and rude comments.   Not good, guys.   Where I come from, we consider this attitude to be a form of racism and regard its practitioners as social pariahs.   The MVP community is a global community, and should be respected as such.

Sean O’Driscoll then finished off the session by announcing the dates for the 2008 MVP summit – 14th-17th April.

After the break, I attended the Developer Division roadmap session led by S Somasegar (Soma) who is the Developer Division corporate VP.   He introduced us to the highlights of the Orcas release of Visual Studio.  Eric Carter demonstrated the Tools for Office and the way in which Outlook can be easily extended using Form Regions.    Soma talked about friction-free deployment and the introduction of cross-platform WPF/e.   Brian Goldfarb then demonstrated the use of ink overlaid on graphics and videos in WPF.   WPF is certainly impressive.

Soma finished the session by discussing some of the future directions for Team Foundation Server.   There will be an emphasis on testing tools and the capture and tracking of business requirements.   He also briefly discussed the challenges of multi-core programming and talked about the investment Microsoft is making in this area.

After lunch, I attended a session with Anders Hejlsberg.   Anders, despite suffering the wrath of the software demo gods, provided us with an intensive introduction to LINQ.   I’ve played a bit with this technology, but there is surely nothing better than to sit in on an introduction from Anders himself.   LINQ is fabulous.   I realise the functional programming crowd probably find it little amusing that the rest of the development world is just now discovering monadic coding, but after years of using datasets, XML DOM and the like, the advent of LINQ in its various forms is truly exciting.

Anders graciously demonstrated the Literal XML features of VB.NET 9.0, leaving the C# developers feeling distinctly uncomfortable for a minute or so as we realised that perhaps there is a point to VB.NET after all!   He then salvaged our faith in C# by demonstrating a Visual Studio add-in that auto-generates C# XLINQ code directly from XML.   We sat through a huge number of demonstrations, but the overall themes were the declarative nature of the technology, the reduction in coding this brings, the clarity of the code in focussing on the ‘what’ rather than the ‘how’ and the clear and logical factored structure of the LINQ stack.   All very good stuff indeed.

The third, and final, session of the day was with Don Box and Chris Anderson.   Don did the talking and Chris provided a kind of silent running commentary by typing a stream of consciousness in Notepad.     Chris also wrote the code for the demos.   The session was the subject of some discussion over dinner this evening, and everyone seemed to have a different view and interpretation.   My perspective is that Don was inviting us to think a certain way about XAML.  Specifically, he described how XAML and the .NET 3.0 framework can be perceived as a platform for building DSLs (Domain Specific Languages).   Don took us through an example where he defined a domain-specific schema as a set of C# classes, and created XAML to act as a model within that domain.   He ‘interleaved interpretations’ of the domain with the schema definition (in plain English, he implemented additional functionality within the classes), and created transformational code in order to transform from the ‘newer to the older’ – i.e., from the domain model to actual run-time code.   As part of this, Don showed how C# 3.0 lambda expressions and expression trees could be used effectively to represent and transform abstract syntax trees (ASTs).   Don also showed us a simple graphical tool that represents any XAML in a generic fashion and provides a simple graphical DSL interface.

I am not well acquainted with the world of XAML, so the session provided some food for thought in the lead up to the forthcoming release of Orcas.   I’ve played with Microsoft’s DSL toolkit which is a core component if their software factory initiative, but Don’s approach is quite separate to that, and is really a kind to general pattern for thinking about, designing and implementing code in .NET 3.0.

In the evening, we were taken to the Seattle Museum of Flight for the evening meal.   I spent the evening chatting to various MVPs including Jeffrey Juday whom I met for the first time today.   I also met Joao Martins from Portugal this morning, and, very briefly, Abhilash Shanmugan.

Well, time again to sleep.   Tomorrow is an early start up at the campus.   Goodnight.

Previously posted at Posted on Wednesday, March 14, 2007 8:18 AM | Back to top

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