Code Trip - First full day

By James at March 31, 2008 15:59
Filed Under: Life in General, The CodeTrip

Well after an evening of coding and Bushmill's with Woody, going to bed (the rack) at 3:00 AM, and sleeping in a coffin, it's time for the first full day of my Code Trip adventure. The Code Trip riders always get a hotel room wherever they stop, so there are shower and ahem, toilet facilities. I need my coffee, so while Woody is making use of the shower, off I go to find a cup and call mi bella esposa.

All cleaned up and ready to go. But wait. Cal State Fullerton isn't that far away, and Woody has called ahead about parking - there is none - so, we cram into Erin's rental Hyundai to head up the freeway. Arriving at CSUF, we do see that parking is a problem. We find an empty spot, but no parking pass machine. Oh well, we're on a time crunch and an expense account, so what the heck. CSUF is a huge freaking campus. We walk. And walk. And walk. Then walk some more. It's ASB election time, with plenty of booths. Lots of the campaign signs look like they're running for president of the United States, a far cry from when I tried running for Treasurer of my junior high school with construction paper and crayons.

What's that delicious smell? Someone's serving hot dogs! And not Oscar Mayer's but big, juicy kosher dogs! Oh My! Jason starts drooling and buys a round for everyone.

Here is where I meet my next best friend David Robinson. David is the Senior Program Manager for SQL Server Data Services. He's a really neat guy who, quite liberally intermingles "f-this" and "f-that" into his vernacular. But the guy is smart as a whip, absolutely loves his job, and is one of those people, where 30 seconds after you meet them, you feel a strong and lasting bond.

I also get to meet Sam Stokes, Woody and Jason's counterpart in the academic field. Sam is the Academic Evangelist for Southern California and has setup XNA Day here at CSUF. The meeting starts off with a student Jason (sorry man, but I don't know your last name) who shows off several of the games the students have developed with XNA Studio. This is amazing what can be done with XNA and I can't wait to get Willie (my son) involved.

Jason takes over, and goes into much deeper detail about the history of game development, all the hard work involved, and how XNA makes it so much easier now. With that, he starts showing off some of the physics code he developed for XNA called "Imagination". Amazing, amazing stuff.

David starts his presentation on what SQL Server Data Services is all about. This is going to be so cool, access to SQL Data via "the cloud", with no interruptions and an extremely affordable cost of entry. Just think, pay for the bandwidth on pennies on the dollar, without the headaches of running a server room. Bitchen.

Presentations are done and it's time to head to USC for the afternoon session. I get to ride with Sam, who turns out to be an ok guy and starts asking me if I would be interested in working with/for Microsoft.

Time to pack up and head over to USC for another presentation, this time to a group of CS students, set up again by Sam. This is a much larger crowd, but they sure are different in attitude from the user groups I'm used to. Could it be the sign that said "free pizza and win an XBox"? Jason starts in with his presentation from last night, but quickly decides to switch tracks based on the groups reactions. Nice save Jason. Woody shows of the web camera app he built to take images of the bus from a variety of "strategically placed" web cameras located on the bus. Guess I'll need to keep that in mind for the next few days.

Sam keeps the group enthused by raffling off a few items during the breaks, interesting how he keeps mentioning the XBox. David starts off with his SSDS presentation, but since we're running out of time, he's gotta go fast. I mean really fast, like f-bomb fast. I think the group likes his style. As he's finishing up, he puts in a plug that his team is hiring, and afterwards I see he's getting mobbed by potential applicants and several students who want more information on the SSDS technology.

Time for the XBox raffle. And it couldn't have gone to a more perfect winner. A short, dumpy, pimple faced geek. The look on his face when he won....I love it!

Next stop, .NET geek dinner, run by a really great guy, Geoff Emery. We meet up at Havana Mania a great little Cuban Restaurant. A few Mojitos, and some Cuban Roast Pork, and it's the end of a great first day.

Tomorrow is coding, geeking, then Red Bull Party.

I'm so effing happy. I'm having the time of my life.


Code Trip - First Evening

By James at March 27, 2008 05:54
Filed Under: Life in General, Microsoft, The CodeTrip

Damn train. We're stopped for a while, 'cause they can't get the doors closed. Woody picks me up in Tustin and away we go.

The MSFT Offices in Irvine are cool, I always love hanging around at that place. Woody introduces me to Erin Jacobs, and get reintroduced to Jason Mauer.  Spend some time helping to setup. 6:00 PM and people start to arrive, grab their food and mingle.

First presentation is on iZoofari, the Silverlight 2 based mapping application which Interknowolgy did for the San Diego Zoo. This is a an awesome demonstration of the power of Silverlight 2 and Blend.

It's getting a bit hot in the room, and the 100+ people, with the food warmers is making it worse. Time for a break to let the room cool down. I'm having a blast! lots of my friends are here; Jennifer Louie, Alvin Xu, Art Villa, James Lin, Mike Vincent, Daniel Egan, Stephen Rose, Rick Korbeck....

Next up is Jason Mauer's presentation on how TheCodeTrip web site works. There are a ton of moving parts behind the site, and Jason has some great code and techniques for mashing up all the GPS, Twitter, Silverlight, etc. It all runs on Windows Workflow, and his presentation is the one which finally cements in my head on how it works. Jason is an *outstanding* presenter.

Last is Woody's presentation on IE8 beta 1. As usual, Woody takes an awkward topic (IE, beta software, etc.) and makes it fun and entertaining. Great job Woody!

Clean up the meeting room then head out to a  local restaurant to meet up with some people and have a few drinks. It's a great time, but the karaoke by the drunk ones, make my ears bleed. It must be the waitresses first night as well.... oh well. Drinks with friends and new acquaintances, what could be better?

Woody and I head back to the bus. It's so effing cool. After chatting, checking email, etc., it's 2:30 am...crikey. Time for sleep.

Tomorrow is XNA Day at Cal State Fullerton, then SQL Data Services at USC. Yahoo.


Oh my, is that me?

By James at March 14, 2008 10:04
Filed Under: Microsoft, MIX 08, The CodeTrip

What is this? I knew Woody was video taping when the CodeTrip bus was getting ready to leave. You have to check it out: Scrub to about 1:20 in and see the geek. The guy in the red shirt is my best friend, Rich Manley.



Inland Empire .NET User's Group 2008 Microsoft Launch

By James at March 12, 2008 09:02
Filed Under: Inland Empire .NET UG

We had our 2008 Microsoft Launch event last Tuesday. When word came down from Microsoft that they were going to have Community Launch Events, I immediately asked for the details. I was told we could have at most, three presenters. In the last year, several members of the user group have really stepped forward to help me with things, and I thought it would be nice to reward them by giving them access to this great experience. So, I wrote a letter back, describing what these people have done, and could they be involved. The answer was "yes". I also mentioned our meeting schedules and our Launch would be a week before Community Launches were supposed to start. Again, they said it wouldn't be a problem. So it was game on. I invited the members I had thought of and away they went.

Well, the "official" training started to trickle out, and there wasn't much there, so these six people, went ahead and created their own content. Launch day came and was I impressed! Here is what the lineup was:

  • George Ande – ASP.NET Ajax with .NET 3.5
  • Sean Dorsett – Visual Studio 2008 Tips and Tricks
  • Volkan Uzun – New features of C# 3.0
  • Steve O’Brien – LINQ
  • Matt Penner – GIS and Spatial Analysis in SQL 2008
  • Cigdem Uzun – Silverlight 2.0

What totally amazed me was how with minimal official training content there was, they each came up with six dead on, concise, to the point, and top notch presentations. Each presentation went about 25-30 minutes, and the amount of questions which were generated, just blew me away. The amount of energy in the room was great. Two recruiters, Armando Lopez from Robert Half Technology, and Brant Jones from San Bernardino County talked about local jobs.

Attendance was great, with standing room only and I'm grateful to Robert Dottl at Riverside Medical Clinic for giving us the bigger room.

Here are the stats:

  • RSVPs: 36 
  • Attendance: 34 - a new IEDOTNETUG Record
  • Non RSVP Attendees: 8
  • First Time Attendees: 11
  • Total Raffle Ticket Sales: 364
  • Number of software licenses (VSTS 2008, SQL 2008, WS 2008, telerik, CodeSmith, ReSharper, Infragistics) won: 38
  • Number of books (O’Reilly, Wrox, Pearson) won: 22
  • Number of job offers mentioned after break: 4
  • Pizza slices left over: 1

Oh, and that's not a typo. This was not Visual Studio Standard Edition given away at the public launches, this is Visual Studio Team Suite!

Pictures of the launch are on Flickr,

Wow, I'm still on a high

MIX 08 - Postscript

By James at March 09, 2008 06:14
Filed Under: MIX 08

I'm home. And, it feels good. A day of decompression, no technology, and clean air (I hate walking through Vegas casinos).

After thinking about and digesting what technologies I saw, the web is going to be a much different place by this time next year. With services in the cloud, especially data storage, and the ease of building stunning client and browser apps with Silverlight, I am glad I am along for the ride. I can't wait to get started.

Will I go to Mix 09? I honestly don't know. It was an experience and I'm glad I went this time. However now that all the sessions are available online, is there really a need? We'll see.

On to Silverlight!

MIX 08 - Day 3

By James at March 07, 2008 05:54
Filed Under: MIX 08

It sure is hard to get up this morning, maybe all you can eat ribs at midnight isn't the best thing to do.

The first presentation "Using an Internet Service Bus to Build Next Generation Applications and Services" is interesting. Microsoft is releasing a lot of their APIs from their live platform to allow developers to create first rate applications. Head over to to check it out. After break is what I was hoping to be an interesting topic, "Microsoft Silverlight and Dynamic Languages". It's given by a team of devs, two guys, and obviously one wears the pants in the relationship. The dude's presentation style is brusk and condesending, especially to his partner. I try to let that go, but when they start talking about how easy it is to code Ruby with VIM, and he's barking to his partner, "no up, up, down, no search for this", I just gotta go.

I chose poorly.

Time to grab my box lunch and head to the last conference of the day, "Effective User Interfaces in Windows Presentation Foundation and Microsoft Silverlight". Glad I got there early. As I'm eating my lunch, the room fills up and soon the pitbulls close the door. Ten minutes in and I realize this isn't what I was hoping for. The presenters are from some design firm, talking about how great they are. Ok, let's find something else.

I wander around and end up in a half filled room. This presentation seems interesting, "Applications = Designers + Developers". It's two guys, one a designer, the other a developer, showing how they built the Deep Zoom Composer with WPF, Blend, and C#. This is so cool. Blend and Visual Studio talk with each other so one persons changes don't affect the others. The designer can just completley change the entire interface, and all of the interactions, events, code behind stay put. This is going to be a great way to work now.

Mix is over. I head back to the Sandbox to see what's what, and the pitbull guards won't let anyone in. Time to head home to see Carmina. YAHOO! 

MIX 08 - Day 2

By James at March 06, 2008 05:04
Filed Under: Life in General, MIX 08

Ugh.... I guess I enjoyed the party at Tao a little bit too much. Ok, get ready and head down to eat. I am so glad that I'm staying here in the Venetian. Geoff is staying at "Hooters" of all places and it takes him forever to get here. I meet up with him, just as we head into the dining room. We grab our food, then sit at a table occupied by a single woman. As we're talking about the previous day, she interrupts and asks, because of our conversation, if we're Developer Evangelists. She is the Microsoft DE for Belgium. I find it interesting how much tunnel vision we get in our lives, thinking that Microsoft is only here. And, now proof slapping me on the head, is sitting right there. The three of us start talking about what she does, the format of her presentations, if she is on the same track of technology as over here. A great discussion, until Geoff asks if she's "Belgish". sigh.....

The first presentation is "Real World AJAX with ASP.NET" by Nikhil Kothari. I'm not too interested in the topic, Silverlight 2 is out after all, but Nikhil is a freaking genius, writing Script#, and I want to see what he has to say. Most of what he says is interesting, and is focused on using the ASP.NET AJAX stuff, something I need to get back into, but then his last piece is on using Silverlight 2 as a means of local storage. "Aha" I say. This can solve some issues with my work. 

15 minute break then onto ""Creating Rich, Dynamic User Interfaces with Silverlight 2". This is a cool presentation, given by Karen Corby a dev on the Silverlight team. She talks about how to extend and create your own SL controls. Next comes lunch, then the second keynote with Guy Kawasaki and Steve Ballmer.

This was interesting. Ballmer invited Kawasaki to interview him, asking him any questions he wanted. The two were on a raised platform sitting in comfy chairs. Ballmer was more animated than he was at the 2008 launch, which was nice to see. With about 20 minutes left, audience members were allowed to come up and ask Ballmer questions. Most of the questions were good. One reporter asked what he was planning for the Seattle Supersonics, and he responded it was not an appropriate question and wouldn't answer.

Ok, so now, here is your chance to ask the CEO of Microsoft any question you want to. Think hard. Come up with a good one. Instead some dork wastes his chance by asking "Now that the DVD wars are over and BlueRay won, what is Microsoft going to do?" It's not like Microsoft is going to fold up and go out of business. Ballmer responds with, "We'll switch to supporting BlueRay".

All the sessions I want to see next are full, and pitbull security guards don't let anyone in if there are no chairs. Great. At least they'll be online later. So I head over to the "Sandbox" to see what's happening. I grab some more swag for the kids, and find Woody Pewitt (Microsoft DE for So Cal). We get some logistics figured out for the Code Trip and chat about the User Group and such. I play around with the Hands On Labs that are setup, then start heading over to the next presentation, "Developing ASP.NET Applications Using the Model View Controller Pattern" with Scott Hanselman.

This presentation just ROCKED! I'm an active reader of Scott’s blog, listener of his podcasts, viewer of his webcasts, and thought I knew what to expect. But seeing Scott live is absolutely great. How Scott takes a difficult subject and turns it around into a casual conversation, is a feat which is difficult to do. He makes it seamless and natural. Scott’s interaction with the audience as he’s presenting is priceless. As a speaker, and facilitator myself, I got a kick out of Scott’s handling of the various interruptions during the presentation, and his referencing of crazy eval comments.

Do yourself a favor and go to Search for "The ASP.NET MVC Framework" and watch the show.

That's it for the business of the day, it's time for some fun. The CodeTrip bus is down in the loading dock and the team is giving tours. They'll be leaving in a little bit, so I want to see where I'll be sleeping. It's a great time with a lot of excitement. Lynn just keeps on introducing me to all the Microsoft people, including, Greg Visscher (her boss), as a great influencer telling them how much I love building communities.

I meet up with Geoff. Rich shows up, so we head out to eat and drink.


MIX 08 – Day one

By James at March 05, 2008 16:25
Filed Under: MIX 08

Alarm goes off at 6 am…ugh, but I asked the guards last night when people start lining up for the keynote, and they tell me 7:30. Ok, shower, dress, make sure I have my badge, room key and note book. I’m sorry, I am excited as hell to be here, but I will not be seen in public with the effing metro sexual tote back they handed out last night. Sigh…

The dining hall has seats for the 14 bazillion attendees here, and I’m the fourth in the room. At least the eggs and bacon will be warm. Feeling like a dork, I finish eating and think perhaps I’ll head back up to my room for a bit, when another attendee asks if he can sit with me. “Sure”,  I say, wondering to myself “hmm….” We start chatting, he notices my badge and asks what I do for UCR. After a brief explanation of My UCR, I notice his badge shows he works for Microsoft. “So”, I ask, “What do you do at Microsoft?” He replies, “I’m on the team that builds SQL Server. Have you heard anything about the Entity Framework? I designed that.” Holy crap! I’m having breakfast with Britt Johnston and we’re talking about SQL Server design, entities, and stuff. I tell him about the User Group and ask if he’d would be interested in coming down to present. We then talk a bit more about My UCR and I ask if he’d be interested in going over the architecture with me. He said he’d be glad to. How effing cool is this?

A new friend of mine Geoffrey Emery walks by and I flag him down. Lynn Langit introduced us last week at the 2008 launch and he’s a cool guy. He works as hard as I do at promoting community among developers and runs a series of Bar Camps. The three of us eat, keep chatting, and just hang out.

Time for the keynote.  Geoff and I head off to get in line and meet up with some friends of his. The .NET gods must be smiling at us as we get seats just behind the press row. It’s freaking crowded, and my claustrophobia is bubbling just under the surface. There’s a young kid, impersonating Johnny Cash on stage. I can’t figure out the connection, but this kid just rocks.

Ray Ozzie comes on stage and starts talking about his dream of inter-connectivity and services in the cloud. Ok, I think, this is interesting, but we’ve heard this time and time again. Interestingly enough though, I look around, and every other person has a laptop. Those I can see all have Live Writer open and people are actually transcribing what Ray is saying. Weird.

Scott Guthrie comes on stage and Geoff and my first impression is, “this dude makes over a million a year, and he comes on stage in jeans and an *old* polo shirt.

Scott starts talking about stuff then introduces Dean Hachamovitch, the lead of IE 8. He goes through some demos of the product, some of which is cool. Standards support, support for CSS2.1, nice developer tools including Javascript debugging, and web slices; a way to select a portion of a page as a bookmark. Nice. Then he announces that IE8 beta 1 is available now. Ok, I’ll give it a try.

The rest of the keynote is made up of demos of what Silverlight 2 can do. I’m glad I waited and didn’t do a lot with Silverlight 1. Sl2 has so many more features; controls, layout, data binding; CLR with C# and VB support. Beta 1 with a non-commercial go-live license is released today, and Scott emphasizes that all the demos were built with Beta 1 bits.

Lunch time, then on to the presentations.

With all the good stuff Microsoft does, you’d think they could schedule better. Um, the keynote focuses on Silverlight, so why are the topics on Silverlight in the smallest rooms? I go into the room for Silverlight data binding to web services. I’m one of the lucky ones and get a seat. There have to be at least 20 people sitting on the floor.

Next is “Developing Rich Internet Applications with Silverlight”. At least this is in a bigger room, but there’s a traffic jam outside waiting to get in. I start to think I’ll just bail, but then find a side door, and a chair on the isle. Bitchen. This is a two part session and it just totally rocks.  

Silverlight is the next best thing and will make our lives as web developers so much easier. In the keynote, Scott Guthrie stated that there are 1.5 million downloads of the Silverlight plugin a day!

Meetings are over for the day, so I head over to the Sandbox to see if I can find Woody or Lynn. No such luck, so I start looking around for Geoff. Found Geoff and a friend of mine who I had lost contact with Perry Birch. We catch up and make plans for meeting up at the after party.

After party at Tao. Nice. Good food, open bar. I can’t find Perry, but meet up with Lynn. She introduces me to Bruno Terkaly, the new Northern California Developer Evangelist. Lynn bubbles about what an asset I am to the Inland Empire Developer Community and enlists his help in getting me MVP status.

I finally meet up with Perry,  and we spend time catching up. Perry is a sharp guy with a lot of great ideas and we make plans to talk more, when we don’t have to shout at each other above the noise. Perry and I keep chatting when, none other than my friend Don Kiely walks by. I flag Don down and we sit and catch up.

Wow, what a day.


Mix 08 – preamble

By James at March 04, 2008 15:36
Filed Under: Life in General, MIX 08

I’m on my way to MIX08! Man, I am excited to go! I have been waiting so long for this and I am so happy that my former boss approved the funds…just before he resigned. (Note to self: send him a thank you note).

Driving through the desert in a new UC owned Grand Am is ok, but I wish I had the Civic Hybrid I was promised. Oh well, it’s comfy and has a lot a power, and my iPod jacks into the stereo so I can catch up on my dotnetrocks podcasts. I get into Vegas about 1pm and am greeted with 1) smog, and 2) traffic…jeez; at least the Venetian lets me check in 2 hours ahead of time.

MIX registration starts at 4pm, so I settle in, then head over to the registration area. I go up the longest escalator in the world, only to be met by 2 gigantic bouncers who say I can’t go any further until 4, and that I have to go back down to wait. For the next 20 minutes I count how many people take the trip up…then down. One developer…I know he’s a dev as he keeps testing the system…actually takes the ride EIGHT times!  Finally its check in time and a herd of geeks, and weirdo designers head up. Check in is painless, and I’m on my way.

My best friend Rich moved to Henderson (just east of Vegas) a while back. We stay in touch with IM and email, but haven’t seen each other since. So I head over to his house to have dinner, visit, catch up and get to know his two boys, Jack and Carson. It takes a while for the boys to warm up to me, but then Jack tells me he wants to do a puzzle, and Carson keeps climbing on me. What can I say? Little kids love “tio James”. Hope starts giving the boys their bedtime baths, and Rich and I head over to a little “wine lounge” Vox ( This place just rocks! It’s a trendy little bar with mixed drinks and great wine. The wine is super expensive; $13 for half a glass, but if you sit at the bar, and nurse a twenty dollar bill in the video poker machine (or at least pretend to), they keep refilling your glass. Sweet! If you go, be sure to hit up Edgar, Allison and Danielle.

Rich and I had a great time catching up… I really do miss this guy… and he bounces several of his latest enterprise level, make a gazillion dollar ideas off of him.

I head back to the Venetian to sleep and get ready for the morning… the first day of Mix with Ray Ozzie and Scott Guthrie giving the keynote.

I miss Carmina. We’ve talked several times today, and Rich started giving her the old “Rich” routine. This is the first time in our marriage that we’ve been, or will be, apart longer than a day.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.


Cal Schrotenboer's Presentation to the IEDOTNETUG - WPF

By James at March 02, 2008 11:02
Filed Under: Web Development, Inland Empire .NET UG
Here are Cal Schrotenboer's slides for his presentation to the Inland Empire .NET User's Group on Windows Presentation Foundation, given on June 12, 2007 

IntroductionToWPF.ppt (234.50 kb)

LearnWPF_WCF.ppt (91.50 kb)


About the author

James James is a five time and current Microsoft MVP in Client App Development, a Telerik Insider, a past Director on the INETA North America Board, a husband and dad, and has been developing software since the early days of Laser Discs and HyperCard stacks. As the Founder and President of the Inland Empire .NET User's Group, he has fondly watched it grow from a twice-a-month, early Saturday morning group of five in 2003, to a robust and rambunctious gathering of all types and sizes of .NET developers.

James loves to dig deep into the latest cutting edge technologies - sometimes with spectacular disasters - and spread the word about the latest and greatest bits, getting people excited about developing web sites and applications on the .NET platform, and using the best tools for the job. He tries to blog as often as he can, but usually gets distracted by EF, LINQ, MVC, ASP, SQL, XML, and most other types of acronyms. To keep calm James plays a mean Djembe and tries to practice his violin. You can follow him on twitter at @latringo.

And as usual, the comments, suggestions, writings and rants are my own, and really shouldn't reflect the opinions of my employer. That is, unless it really does.

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