Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Heroes Happen Here- Microsoft Launch Event

Today I attended the Microsoft “Heroes Happen Here” Launch event for Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008, and SQL Server 2008. In general, it’s what I expected- the usual hour-long continental buffet breakfast, with a partner pavilion. So you grab a glass of juice or coffee, a few baguettes, and circulate the partner pavilion, which you can see here. It literally looks like it’s an aircraft hanger- it’s huge.

Circulating around the partner pavilion is always fun. You generally have a couple of major partners with big booths (In this case, it was Technet, Xbox Arcade, and the Microsoft User Group) and then a handful of smaller booths; Dell is a classic, followed by CDW, MDG, CGI, and so on and so on. And of course, you circulate the booths, they scan your badge so as to send you stuff and that automatically enters you in a draw. I entered for a 250GB external HDD, a Nintendo Wii, two or three Xbox360s, and $500 in giftcards, more or less. You can also pick up stuff if they’re handing out swag. I got a scarf, a shot glass, four pens, and a yo-yo. I’ve had better days, but I’ve also really had worse.

Then there was the keynote- an hour long presentation by the head of Microsoft Canada (and in fact they had the chief-operating officer of Microsoft as a speaker). The usual marketing, mostly.

Unfortunately, I missed the first session (or fortunately, depending on your tolerance for relevant but entirely too shallow goings-over of material) but I did grab lunch. Of course, they give you a lunch ticket, which you trade in for a drink and box with a sandwich, banana, and cookie. Microsoft, however, always provides way too much lunch. As a result, after about half the time is gone, you can go get another lunch or drink if you’re still hungry. I stood around and watched a gentleman from Microsoft play Guitar Hero at the Xbox360 pavilion. I’m not sure if he was on the Xbox platform team or whether he just really loved Guitar Hero, but his freakishly high 86% accuracy on Expert difficulty on an expert song did garner a round of applause.

In two ways, this “Heroes Happen Here” event did things I had never before seen at a Microsoft conference. Firstly, there was the jousting. Yes, I said jousting. An inflatable ring was set up at one side of the hanger, and there were helmets and pillow-ish things. And people got into the ring and whacked at each other with them. Also, the Xbox Arcade was odd. They often have Xboxes at this sort of thing- it is, however, rare that they set them up with 56” LCD TVs, couches, guitars, drum sets, racing wheels and pedals, and it’s rare that they have more than one or two.

The third thing provided was free ice cream at lunch. As much as you wanted while supplies lasted (and they lasted almost the entire hour). That alone would probably have been worth going for. Free, unlimited ice cream!

One of the other things I found interesting was this sign- a sign that’s saying Microsoft is buying green power for this event. Good corporate governance or another sign of the evil menace? You decide.

There are two more sessions in each track today- this one is Security in the Architecture track, and they’re talking about Network Access Protection. Admittedly, I appreciate some of the things Microsoft has done. The latest version of Terminal Services supports remote usage of just a single application as opposed to an entire desktop, for example. Vista has a rebuilt audio stack which I am pleased with. The problem with this sort of seminar is not that; and often, the demos are well done. The problem is that the great majority of Microsoft configuration is done via GUIs. We can all read the options perfectly well. It’s no great architecture mystery as to how to enable NAP, for example. Instead, there is, I feel, more relevance in talking about how to update architecture designs to cope with some of the new technology. Of course, that’s very system dependant, and further, does not make for flashy demos.

They are at this time building the goody-bags; we are supposed to receive a copy of Windows Server 2008 Standard, Windows Visual Studio 2008 Professional, and Windows SQL Server 2008. Perhaps interestingly, when they were demoing Visual Studio 2008, they were using it to write HTML webpages; the last version of Visual Studio I’ve used was six, (So three generations behind: Visual Studio 6, Visual Studio .NET, Visual Studio 2005, Visual Studio 2008) but I was not aware at the time that it could be used as an HTML editor.

The presenter talked about how the ‘split-screen’ (combination WYSIWYG/Code) interface was a new and upcoming thing- I found this ironic, because Dreamweaver MX had an identical interface for maybe five years. However, admittedly, Dreamweaver MX is not a programming IDE; I’m not sure how the programming component works against split-screening. I found it very interesting, however, that the VS2008 IDE integrated its own web-server for doing on-the-spot testing of pages you’re designing. I do plan on slapping VS2008 onto my laptop and testing it extensively; the WS2008 I may keep. I’ve heard exceptionally good things about using WS2003 as a gaming machine, when very tweaked, and I am wondering about using WS2008 in the same manner.

It is interesting that during the demonstration of Windows Server 2008 Core, there is a mouse and in fact a GUI. This may not surprise the wide variety of people who are used to all Windows OSes released in the past ten years. However, one of the things touted about WS2008Core is that it does not have a GUI. Technically, that’s not really true, though. WS2008Core doesn’t have explorer.exe, and the associated garbage that goes with it (Outlook Express, etc, etc, etc). Instead, when you start the system, you get a blinking white command-line-interface over top of the standard blue Windows background. You have a mouse, and using it you can do things like right-click, copy and right-click, paste; if you type ‘notepad blah.txt’, a notepad window will pop up over top of the console that can be used classically.

Even if logging into WS2008 via Terminal Services, you won’t get a desktop, and the OS should be managed through the command line (although you can manage it with a variety of GUI tools loaded onto other systems.) One of the most awkward parts of it is that WS2008 Core doesn’t support the local powershell, which is designed to be an advanced version of the command line that supports things like object-oriented functionality. Rather, you appear to be stuck with the standard Windows Vista/WS2008 command prompt. Admittedly, I have not actually set hands on Windows Server 2008 as of this writing.

The software included was a bit of a let-down, though; Windows Server 2008 Enterprise, 365 day trial and Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Standard.

However, I'm glad I went anyway.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You state Microsoft is buying green power for this event?

I wonder how they did that considering they were connected to the electricity grid like most every other building?