Microsoft

Rapid Business Development: Lightswitch vs. Dynamics CRM vs. SharePoint 2010 vs. ASP.NET MVC 3

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Tue, 05/03/2011 - 09:00

In this post I am going to look at comparing four technologies that can be used to build business applications easily. This post was inspired by how similar a number of products have become over the last few years and more importantly how the new kid on the block Visual Studio Lightswitch, which is a specialised rapid business tool development platform built on top of Visual Studio, is going to affect this eco-system. It is important to also remember that this is being written in the Lightswitch Beta 2 timeframe, so some details may change by launch.

Lightswitch feels very similar to me, to another product I have worked with in the past: Dynamics CRM, which is a Customer Relationship Management tool from Microsoft. CRM does very well in the xRM (x = extensible) scenario, where I think it will come up against Lightswitch a lot. I haven’t had an opportunity to use the latest CRM release yet, so I have had to rely on the help of experts to fill in my gaps!

SharePoint 2010 is another product I have worked with, can of course be used for building business applications quickly cause it is the “operating system of the enterprise” and has good features for these types of applications.

Finally, while watching Scott Hanselman do the ASP.NET MVC 3 demo in the MIX 11 Keynote, I was struck with how that is very close to a rapid business user development tool with all the new scaffolding features. ASP.NET MVC is a real outsider in this group because it is first a development toolset for web development and, maybe a rapid tool second where the rest are rapid development platforms or tools first.

I think the differences between these four are very interesting and while each has it’s strong & weak points, this should definitely not be looked at as a pick one only post. There are many scenarios where you want to combine them for even better experiences.

I have broken down the issues into twenty one(!) aspects (key points we can compare them against each other) which are grouped into six scenarios to make it easier to digest. Each scenario starts with a list of the aspects and a brief description followed by a comparison table of those aspects.

Starting

  • Ready to go out of the box: Once installed, can it do anything? Seems silly, but quick turn around at the start, even if actual development is longer is important as it helps with prototyping, shows some rapid development and hints at how hard it is to learn (for me at least, if it does something I find I can experiment and learn quickly). Important to note, we are not looking at making it align with your company needs here, we just want it to do something. Eating CPU cycles & RAM is not something either.
  • Northwind Style Sample development costs: This aspect looks further than the above aspect and looks at how much more would it take to get it tailored for a company, like the fictional Northwind, to have a XRM type system as it can be done across all four. Fewer $ signs means less time and/or resources for the functionality.
  Lightswitch (LS) Dynamics CRM SharePoint 2010 (SP) ASP.NET MVC My Thoughts
Ready to go out of the box Fast Fastest Fast Slowest LS & MVC need development, while SP needs at least 5min of tailoring. CRM, is ready to go once installed.
Northwind Style Sample development costs $ $$ $$ $$$ ASP.NET MVC has the highest development costs as so little is out of the box. Lightswitch excels in this scenario.

Finishing

  • Cost for on-premise deployments: This looks at the money cost for licensing to get the solution up and running on premise (i.e. in your company). Licensing is, of course, flexible and this will vary based on who you are – so this is not indicative for all. It does not include such things as server hardware or common costs, for example operating system licensing.
  • Deployment Complexity: Getting a solution up and running shouldn’t be difficult for an organisation and a lot of time can be lost (and costs incurred) changing, upgrading and troubleshooting systems that do not want to be deployed.
  • Deployment Documentation: When it happens that you need to deploy, having a wealth of documentation (be that video’s, best practice guides, troubleshooting material) is vital and plays a large part in getting a solution up that works every time.
  Lightswitch (LS) Dynamics CRM SharePoint 2010 (SP) ASP.NET MVC My Thoughts
Cost for on premise deployments $$$

Unknown.
Likely cost per developer seat.
No per user costs.
$ to $$$

Cost per user & cost per server. Visual Studio only if you are doing integrations or custom workflows.
$$$$ to $$$$+

Cost per user & cost per server. Visual Studio licenses for any serious work.
$$

Visual Studio licenses.No per user costs.
CRM on the small scale with low development is very cheap but since you pay per user can get expensive. LS & MVC only have development software costs, which is more expensive up front but do not increase as you add users to the system.
Deployment Complexity Medium Hard Hardest Easy LS, CRM & SP all have requirements that they need to work, in increasing deployment complexity, but CRM & SP are significantly harder than LS though due to their more complete product nature. MVC is easy because there is no constraints from it (other than a web server).
Deployment Documentation Yes Yes Yes No Only MVC has no official documentation, which makes sense as it is a development tool. All four have GREAT communities to help as well!

User Experience

  • Front End Technology: A good looking, feature rich UI can seriously ease adoption, and what we are looking at here is the richness level of technology used for the out of the box front end user interface.
  • How good the standard UI looks: Completely subjective and really this is based on what I think looks best.
  • Flexibility of out of box front end: In this aspect we are concerned about how easy it is to adjust and tweak the out of the box front end.
  • Themability : Corporate branding is massive business and making sure the application out of the box looks like it is part of your business is important. It is important to note that both CRM & SharePoint can have custom front ends built which enable this scenario, but that requires extra development, and we are focusing on the out of the box options here and assuming you have the theme built already.
  Lightswitch (LS) Dynamics CRM SharePoint 2010 (SP) ASP.NET MVC My Thoughts
Front End Technology Silverlight.

Supports out of browser (desktop) & in browser
Web

Just ASP.NET
Web

ASP.NET under the covers with sprinklings of Silverlight
ASP.NET LS clearly best here, since it will give the richest UI out of the box. ASP.NET MVC out of the box scaffolding isn’t pretty but can easily be improved.
How good the standard UI looks (very subjective) Low Medium Very. Low Depends on your web designer This is the most subjective aspect: LS & SP both have a fairly plain out of the box UI but SP has a bad UX to go with it. CRM is much better out of the box and if you are going down the MVC route you will likely be taking advantage of the best UI thanks to the complete flexibility – but that depends on how good your designers are.
Flexibility of UI development in the tool High Medium Medium High MVC & LS can almost do anything on the front end, especially if you combined MVC with Silverlight. SharePoint & CRM too have lots of options and work with Silverlight.
Themability Medium Low Medium High The flexibility of MVC is highest as it is a pure programming, with LS following up thanks to it’s strong theme support. SharePoint can be themed but not the same level as LS. CRM will always look like CRM!

Extensibility

  • API for integration: In the short term having an API means it is easy to get data into your new solution, in the medium term it means more ways to sync data and mash up your systems and in the long term it gives you a way to get your data out. It is vital to have an API.
  • Marketplace: Apple kicked the idea of having an AppStore into reality for many of us and now having a marketplace to get extensions, customisations or themes is an important aspect. I am ignoring public sites, like Codeplex for example, and only focusing on an official marketplaces. Galleries are just marketplaces with no vetting, which means they are bigger but the quality bar is not guaranteed.
  • Additional Authentication Options: Only your employees or customers (which may be everyone if you are lucky enough) should access your solutions. What do we get out of the box to limit access to the system? All four systems support Windows & Forms based authentication so I am only listing other options which are available.
  • Permission Structure (Authorisation): Being able to control what parts of a solution you can access, once you have logged in is also vital and having a lot of flexibility in this space is also important as very seldom will one structure work for everyone.
  Lightswitch (LS) Dynamics CRM SharePoint 2010 (SP) ASP.NET MVC My Thoughts
API for integration Yes Yes Yes - at least 5 of them. N/A In MVC you could build one, oData for instance, but it doesn’t have one out of the box. LS creates a WCF RIA Service for us. CRM & SP both have API’s, but SP is more complex as it supports so many different API’s with different subsets of features supported.
Marketplace Once it is released a gallery will exist. Yes Nope Gallery available CRM leads here in a big way with a REAL marketplace. ASP.NET MVC has it’s own gallery plus a strong 3rd party marketplace ecosystem.
Additional Authentication Options Anonymous and more available through custom development (e.g. Windows Live). Claims based authentication(custom development required). Claims based authentication via STS Anonymous and more available through custom development (e.g. Windows Live). Claims based authentication(custom development required). Anonymous and more available through custom development (e.g. Windows Live). Claims based authentication(custom development required).  
Permission Structure (Authorisation) Very basic and really just a half a step ahead of editing XML that MVC needs. Fantastic out of the box option, plus plenty of extensibility if needed. Good structure with many levels of customisation.
Out of the box is very simple.
Basic support for it but can be extended through development. A lot of XML work though may be needed. LS & MVC are the lightest here, both supports authorisation options but enforcing it is up to the developer to implement. LS is better slightly better at guiding the developer and needs no XML editing. SP authorisation is as varied & powerful as what CRM offers. However SP can easily get messy, users can break permission inheritance, while CRM enforces authorisation all the time and makes for a better structured environment.

Information Worker Features

  • Offline support: Being able to work when you are not in the office is a vital need for many people. So how do these platforms enable that scenario. In theory it is always possible to build this, so we are just looking at the out of box offering.
  • Easily Import Data: How do we get information into the solution, besides the API? Does the product make this easy with out of the box tooling?
  • Printing: Despite the promise of a paperless office, it still is not the case and being able to print is important, even if it is just to XPS or PDF for invoicing.
  • Office Integration: Integration into Microsoft Office products (i.e. Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, InfoPath & OneNote) means that your IW’s will be able to work in the tools that they are comfortable with, easing adoption and productivity.
  Lightswitch (LS) Dynamics CRM SharePoint 2010 (SP) ASP.NET MVC My Thoughts
Offline support No Yes Yes No Being able to work offline is important if you are a roaming user. LS & MVC offer nothing in this space while CRM & SP both offer offline via Outlook.
Easily Import Data (out of the box) Nope Yes, from CVS. Yes. Multiple options. Nope In all cases there are tools and other ways to import data but CRM & SP have an out of the box options.
Printing (out of the box) Nope Yes Yes – Poor Browser Level LS & MVC can have custom development solutions for printing,  other than that they both offer nothing out of the box. As browser printing has improved MVC has a slight advantage being HTML based normally. SP has printing, but it is very poor. CRM leads the way here with a great print scenario.
Office Integration Low

One way export to Excel.

Others can be custom developed
Medium

One way to Excel. Mail merge with Word & Outlook.
Deep integration with Outlook is available too.
High

Only Publisher doesn’t have some integration with SharePoint.
Every other Office product does, some like Excel are one way while others like Access are two way.

SP internally has features that understand Office files too, for example PowerPoint Libraries show thumbnails.
None

Can be custom developed.
 

Other

  • Databases Supported: Where the data can come from for your application is a critical piece of the puzzle because it means the difference between building ETL solutions to handle moving it around if the source is supported or having it just work.
  • Minimum Skills For Tailoring: Tailoring is what I refer to when I think of customisation of a system, without the need for a programming language. At some point you will need a developer but how far away that is and what can be done by a analyst or super user early on is important from a time to solution and cost perspective. Lower is better here.
  • Can run in the cloud?: If you not thinking about how you can leverage the cloud, then you are not thinking. Making sure the solutions can cater for the cloud is an important consideration. All four solutions can run in the cloud but how do they run is also important
  • ALM Experience: How does this tool work with a full ALM experience? Can I unit test it easily? Will it go into source control easily and what happens when multiple developers are updating the same files? How about build server and development tool integration? All important questions in understanding a complete picture of that these tools cost or what you sacrfice with some of them.
  • Requires Silverlight: Despite decent market penetration and ease of deployment in corporate scenarios, the requirement for Silverlight can be a deterrent to business, especially those where the CEO uses an iPad2 Smile with tongue out. This is not answered in the table as only Lightswitch requires Silverlight. CRM has no dependencies, SharePoint has a fall back mode and if you used Silverlight with MVC it would be possible to have a fallback mode, provided you developed it.
  • Data performance: This is also not in the table since it only applies to Lightswitch. For CRM, MVC & SharePoint I assume your front end (web) is always close enough, for example the same LAN, to the database but in Lightswitch you can really separate them. Here it is important to note Lightswitch is NOT great with data performance between backend & frontend. It sends massive amounts of data around. In my view it really does not feel optimised for WAN scenarios.
  Lightswitch (LS) Dynamics CRM SharePoint 2010 (SP) ASP.NET MVC My Thoughts
Databases Supported SQL Server, SQL Azure, SharePoint or anything supported by WCF RIA services. SQL Server SQL Server normally.

With advanced skills can use external data sources.
For scaffolding anything supported by LinqToSQL or Entity Framework. LS & MVC feel very close here, however LS has it’s own OM which MVC uses established ones meaning more options in the MVC camp.
Minimum Skills For Tailoring Intermediate
Lowest
Low Highest Being able to tailor with less skill is a big plus for CRM & SP. MVC doesn’t have tailoring as it is all development. LS really stuck in the middle ground here – for setting it up I suspect nothing more than power user but that ends much sooner and moves to needed a developer than with CRM and SharePoint.
Can run in the cloud? Platform as a service using SQL Azure for database & compute instances for front end. Software as a service: Can get it from Microsoft & Partners at a cost per user per month. Software as a service: Can get it from Microsoft & Partners at a cost per user per month. Recently launched in beta with Microsoft. Platform as a service using SQL Azure for database & compute instances for front end.  
ALM Experience Medium Low High Highest ASP.NET MVC is a pure development experience and so works well with ALM. SP2010 plus VS2010 is a great ALM experience (although mocking is difficult). LS & CRM are oddly very similar with customisations in XML though so expect some source control pain. Plugin’s for CRM and LS Extensions are a great ALM scenario. CRM falls short in the unit testing scenario though.

Special Thanks

A post this in depth could not have been done without input from my “brain trust”, and I thank each one of you for your help:

What's new in Microsoft .NET Framework 4 Platform Update 1?

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Tue, 04/19/2011 - 09:20

Even this Pooh is confused by the new PU!Microsoft today made me happy & sad all at once! Let’s hit the bad news bit first: (rant start) WTF is a Platform Update? The .NET Framework must be the least logically named thing ever! We have had to endure such inconsistencies major releases be a point difference release (.NET 1.0 vs. .NET 1.1 and again with .NET 3.0 vs. .NET 3.5) while other times major releases are major number differences (.NET 2.0 & .NET 4 come to mind), we've had service packs be patch updates until .NET 3.5 SP 1 which included MASSIVE new functionality and had finally .NET 4 dropped the .0 after the 4 (see how many Microsoft staff mess this up still), in contrast to every release before it! There is zero logic or pattern in this naming, which just adds to MASSIVE customer confusion. Today we are introduced to a Platform Update, and not just PU (like Poo or Pooh) but PU1… that implies more is coming… so WTF is it? Rant over, promise.

It is NOT the new name for bug fixes, the PU is in fact the best news for Workflow Foundation people as it includes some seriously powerful new features.

untitled2We finally get a complete state machine in WF (dance):

  • Entry and exit actions for a state
  • Conditional and default transitions that have transition actions
  • Scoped variables for a state machine
  • Improved tracking support

I know this was available on Codeplex for a while (and there is still other good stuff on there for WF not included in this), but this is just awesome to get it officially as this implies to customers a seriousness & support that having on Codeplex does not.

I would be happy if it was just that but they have ALSO given us the ability to use SQL Azure as a store for WF instances!!

This is HUGE!!

Just imagine storing a workflow in the cloud until you need it later? Ideas for roaming devices, workflows that span across devices and, naturally, better usage of worker instances in the cloud themselves all are opened up by this.

Lastly (and least-ly for me) they add the CompensationExtension class, which is used if you are creating your own host and wish to enable support for compensations in workflows. Not a big deal for me, but this could bring new features into my favourite host AppFabric, but we will need to see if that happens in the future.

The update comes in three parts:

  1. The runtime update. You need this to do development & you need to install this on machines that make use of the new features. You can get the update at KB2478063.
  2. The multi-targeting update allows Visual Studio to give you the option for this in VS as a drop down (see below) you can get this from KB2495638.

    untitled

  3. The designer update, which does include both of the above and provides all the bits needed to make use of the new features in VS. You can get it from KB2495593

So what you waiting for?! Go and get your workflow on!

Community Night: BE THERE

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Mon, 04/11/2011 - 08:54

Clipboard01Tomorrow is another community night, and I realised that there is MANY people who do not know about this fun event. This is a gathering of communities (or user groups or interest groups if you prefer) who meet on a regular basis. This is a totally free event which takes place the 2nd Tuesday of every month at Microsoft’s offices in Bryanston.

*Yawn* another Microsoft marketing session? WRONG! This is run by communities and Microsoft has NO say in the content or agenda, unless a community allows them Smile with tongue out Microsoft is really trying to help all communities by providing the facilities – not the content!

MobiZATo give a concrete example MobiZA, a user group focused on mobile development is doing a session on Android! talk about not Microsoft marketing there!

There is also a variety of communities in a attendance so you can also see things you would not have seen before, for example the business user group or the game developer group! And of course there is plenty of corridors for interesting discussions and some even contain food & drinks!

Hopefully I have given you a taste of what is in store and why you should attend and you can find more details on the DPE team blog.

mapFinally, if you have a user group maybe you should think of joining us at community night? Free venue, projectors, seating, food & drink. Plus plenty of people attend, could be a great way to grow your group. I would personally love to see some Linux & PHP groups there because it would allow those who have not had a chance to see the non-Microsoft world an opportunity and hopefully learn that it isn’t so cut & dry out there.

Remember, tomorrow 12th April 2011 @ Microsoft (map to the left) from first sessions kick off at 16:30 and second sessions get started between 17:30 & 18:00!

DevDays - The event for Microsoft Developers

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Thu, 04/07/2011 - 17:13

imageIt’s that time of year again, it is DevDays time again which is the premier conference from Microsoft for developers! This year it is a very different beast from previous years:

  • Cost: For the second year, you’ll need to pay. This year it is R350 and that is excellent value for the event.
  • Cape Town first: It kicks off in Cape Town this year on May 24th and then moves to Johannesburg after that on may 26th!
  • Johannesburg new venue: We are at Gallagher Estate this year! Very excited about the venue!
  • No Durban Sad smile 
  • Hash tag from day one! See complaining to Cliff on Twitter does work so now we can all hash with #DevDaysSA!
  • No SharePoint – I can’t remember a DevDays without SharePoint, but we have so many other awesome SharePoint options now (Information Worker, SharePoint Saturdays etc…) it is good to have some balance.

There is three tracks so you may want to brush up on how to pick good sessions (short answer, mine Winking smile) plus their is special slots for student & community sessions which really excites me to see new presenters getting big stage time!

I am also very glad that BBD Software (previously known as BB&D) is a major sponsor this year!

You can signup, get more details and engage on the official site at: http://www.microsoft.com/southafrica/devdays/

Agenda:

  • End-to-end software testing with Team Foundation Server and Visual Studio
    • Level: 200
      Speakers: Ahmed Salijee & Colin Dembovsky
      Visual Studio 2010 offers a wide range of software testing capabilities: manual testing, automated UI testing, database testing, low-level unit testing and even performance testing tools capable of simulating thousands of active users. It also provides support for test case management, defect tracking as well as configuring and running your tests in virtual and physical environments. But how do you know which tools to choose for your project? This session will, via a demo scenario, walk you through the various testing capabilities to assist you with the most effective use of Visual Studio 2010's testing capabilities. This session will be useful to developers as well as various tester roles including functional, performance and automation.
  • An end-to-end experience of Windows Phone 7 development
    • Level: 200
      Speaker: Rudi Grobler
      An end-to-end walk through for developing Windows Phone 7 applications using Silverlight
  • Blend: Wiring it all together
    • Level: 400
      Speaker: Shane Morris
  • A lap around Internet Explorer 9 for web developers
    • Level: 200
      Speaker: Simon Wilkinson
      Internet Explorer 9 adds new support for HTML5, CSS3 and many other new web standards, and this is the place to find out all about them. Not only will we learn about those, but we'll take a dive into the work the engineering team has done to make the browser faster through it's new JavaScript engine, the work they've done to ensure that the same mark-up works across all browsers and how hardware acceleration will make your site run faster, without any changes to your code!
  • Azure: Development from scratch
    • Level: 200
      Speaker: Gareth Jane
      The Windows Azure platform is a flexible cloud-computing platform which allows developers to rapidly create highly scalable software applications. This session will introduce developers to the various services and components of the Windows Azure Platform. We will create a very simple application on this platform, especially focusing on the areas which distinguish development on Azure from traditional application development
  • ASP.NET web development with MVC
    • Level: 400
      Speaker: Brent Samodien
      Join us in this session and discover the new features in ASP.NET MVC3 and what scenarios you can target with it. Learn more about the improved HTML Helpers and the new updates to Controller/Action/Method that make your code cleaner. Also, explore the richer URL routing and URL route mapping. We will also show how you can use alternative View Engines, including Razor.
  • A website's life: From sketch to publishing
    • Level: 200
      Speaker: Simon Wilkinson
      WebMatrix is a new, free, fully featured, easy to install web development tool that helps you build ASP.NET and PHP websites and perform validation, SEO optimization and one-click publishing. My favourite feature however is a new script syntax for ASP.NET called Razor, which will help you create dynamic websites incredibly easily. We will spend some time sketching/wireframing our website, doing visual design work in Expression Design and then experiencing the rich development toolset in WebMatrix.
  • Let's get ready for the cloud: Building your applications so they
    are cloud ready
    • Level: 400
      Speaker: Robert MacLean
      In a world where you hear people talking about the cloud, here are some guidelines on how to start building and structuring applications that will be easy to migrate to the Azure platform.
  • Code First in entity framework
    • Level: 200
      Speaker: Brent Samodien
      Code First has been a great success with customers, and in this talk, we'll take a deep dive into how it works and talk about its upcoming RTM (Q1 2011). You'll see how Code First uses convention over configuration to improve developer productivity. Its flexibility allows for either automatic database provisioning or the ability to work with an existing database. We'll be demoing features beyond the initial RTM, such as Migrations support, and we'll also talk about the roadmap for Code First going forward
  • Silverlight 5: The Future
    • Level: 200
      Speaker: Shane Morris
  • Exploring Windows Azure storage
    • Level: 400
      Speaker: Gary Hope
      Examine each of the foundation storage capabilities of Windows Azure, Blobs, Tables and Queues. Discover how to create storage accounts; upload and retrieve blobs and blob metadata; create, update and query tables; and create a simple service that uses a message queue for communication
  • LightSwitch basics: Building your first LightSwitch application
    • Level: 200
      Speaker: Robert MacLean
      Visual Studio LightSwitch is the simplest way to build business applications for the desktop and cloud. LightSwitch simplifies the development process by letting you concentrate on the business logic, while LightSwitch handles the common tasks for you. In this demo-heavy session, you will see, end to end, how to build and deploy a data-centric business application using LightSwitch. After that you will discover what is under the hood to better understand the architecture of a LightSwitch application. Finally you will learn how you can use Visual Studio 2010 Professional and Expression Blend 4 to customize and extend its UI and Data layers for when the application's requirements grow beyond what is supported by default
  • Kung Fu Silverlight: Tips and architectural patterns and practices
    • Level: 400
      Speaker: Dave Russell
      Learn about the rewards of using RIA Services together with development patterns, such as the Service Providers, Single Responsibility pattern, Commanding, user Interactions, Messaging, ChildWindows, Design Time Data, Testing, and developing using Model-View/View- Model (MVVM) pattern, to build Silverlight and Windows Phone apps. Hear the top tips you need to know for building data driven Silverlight apps that solve real world problems.

[MVP Summit 2011] - On learning

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Mon, 03/07/2011 - 17:51

MVP Summit is over for 2011 for me, in less than a few hours I board a plane and start the ~23 hour trip home. This was an awesome trip filled with learning both about Microsoft but also personally and the experiences had here rate among some of the best in my life:

  • Being able to attend a special dinner with various Microsoft technical fellows and vice presidents was amazing. My hero, Anders Hejlsberg was there and so were many other geek rock stars (Hanselman, The Gu and so on). What inspired me is the humility they all have. The whole dinner was amazing.
    02032011598
  • Shooting real guns for the first time was ridiculously fun and I thank Martin, Mike & Chris for offering me that unique experience.
    28022011557
  • Then heading to the snow (the real stuff this time, not the ice version Canada gave me) and snow boarding. I even threw snow balls!
    photo4
  • In South Africa we drink a piss we call beer and don’t think much about it – but here in America they do care. They have hundreds of micro breweries and so many technical terms for the beer. It is just staggering! It is also a lot of fun to go and sit in a brewery and drink the freshest of the fresh beer Smile
    0303201163004032011640
  • Then the Museum of Flight was just geek paradise for someone like me who loves the idea of flying (I do not think of 23 hours in economy class as flying) and space. Even the 4d simulator where you can go inverted and upside down was awesome. I even found time to be President of America for a few seconds.
    0503201166805032011727photo9
  • But most amazing was the new friends I made and the old friends I met up with. It was just awesome in every aspect, but especial mention must go to Rudi Grobler, who left SA with me, shared rooms, and did all the awesome things above (except the special dinner, next year he will be there) and Rein Hillman who put me & Rudi up at his house, opened his family and shuttled us ALL round Seattle.
    Group
    04032011645
    photo2

Oh, and if you wanted to know how many Dr Pepper I consumed – 17, excluding how many I can get on the planes Winking smile

[MVP Summit 2011] - Memories of Microsoft

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Mon, 03/07/2011 - 07:25

As I sit on the couch of the place I have called home for the last 5 or so days with my bags packed, Rudi trying to cheat at chess and the children of the house going to bed, it is insane to think that it was almost 2 weeks ago I was in South Africa trying to find enough clothes to bring and now it is over Disappointed smile

The first rule of being a MVP is don’t talk about fight club NDA material and unfortunately a lot of amazing (and even some boring) news we learnt this week was NDA.

28022011563

So what can I share with you?

  • Microsoft is listening – I have mentioned this before but the sheer volume of input sources to Microsoft is staggering. Some of those sources don’t always have good things to say, but Microsoft does factor that in and it is important. If you want Microsoft to change, tell them – just don’t insult them when you do.
  • Microsoft is a business – It is there to make a profit. So when it pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into research, you can expect it wants a ROI. Being this is a technology blog, what does that mean? WATCH MICROSOFT RESEARCH.
  • MVP’s are smart – I have said before that being a MVP is an award for community work but it is not until you sit in a room with some of them you realise how smart they are, and how well they can shoot:28022011559

To everyone from Microsoft who made this week special and for trusting us with information on project double rainbow unicorn*, thank you for all of it – it has been AMAZING!  Smile


* If you have no sense of humour, project double rainbow unicorn is a joke – no such project exists or at least none I know of.

[MVP Summit 2011] - It's cold

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Mon, 02/28/2011 - 08:09

What I learnt at MVP Summit today?

27022011517

It’s COLD, really, really cold. It’s raining and windy, which makes it colder.

This explains a lot about Microsoft & Seattle:

  • Lot’s of micro breweries – cause beer helps with the cold
  • Lot’s of coding – cause it’s too cold to go outside
  • Lot’s of awesome friends – cause nothing rocks like chatting to a friend at a fire in Starbucks
    27022011521

[MVP Summit 2011] - Touring with the local

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Sun, 02/27/2011 - 09:29

Day 2 of Summit has been a blast as Rudi Grobler (friend of The show) and I, spent the day seeing a different side of Seattle and surrounding as we were shepherded about by Rein Hillman, a local to these parts. Having a local with a car makes a huge difference – you eat and see things that no tour guide will ever tell you. Like:

  • The best Tereyaki: Yummy Tereyaki
  • The biggest geek shop: Fry’s
    26022011500
  • Some awesome board game shop
    26022011498
  • A few of the local bars – most were closed though, so no planning on our side.

All in all, a lot of fun and food Smile 

In the evening we headed down to Kent and the ShoWare Center to watch ICE HOCKEY! Which is an insane sport where I do not understand a thing that happened except goals – rest was just too fast and complex for my brain. I wish I had half the skills and reflexes those guys have.

26022011515

Time to hit the pillow, tomorrow is all starts and I need my energy!

[MVP Summit 2011] - 3 Minutes & 23 hours

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Sat, 02/26/2011 - 20:23

It is amazing how much can change in 3 minutes, this was the learning from the 1st day of MVP Summit 2011. I arrived in Seattle with Rudi Grobler for MVP summit after 23 hours of travelling which is frankly just ridiculous.

image 

During that time I did a lot of thinking and reading (thank god for my Kindle) but shortly after arriving in a VERY cold Seattle I had my first 3 minute mind change. I walked out the lovely SEATAC airport and saw SNOW! I get like a kid with snow, but within 3 minutes the cold was just too much and the appeal of the snow wore off Smile

One of things we did was head to the awesome Microsoft Store – this place is just fantastic. They have so much in there but so little feels like a store. It really feels like a place to go an experiment and play with Microsoft tech: There is Kinect stations, Microsoft Surfaces, tablets & laptops running Windows 7 and a variety of Windows Phone 7 devices.

25022011482

The 3 minute lesson here if from the store people – having super friendly and knowledgeable really means that it is so much better and easier to buy there. I hope that this fantastic learning in the consumer space is the start of something more at Microsoft.

Finally we hit a place called The Parlor for some beer & pool and run into a Microsoft Team (WinSE – suspect is second edition, since they had a service pack 1 disk "SE" = Sustained Engineering), just guessing but I think it was their ship party.

25022011492 25022011493

After some pool, where Rudi kicked my ass until another friend Rein Hillman arrived (which is when I fought back fantastically) we left and I had my final 3 minute lesson: Walking with your hands in your pockets, cause it is cold, means you need to using something else to stop your fall and your face doesn’t work well.

26022011497
Update: Thanks to Chris Johnson to tell me what SE meant.

Dev4Devs - it's coming!

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Thu, 01/20/2011 - 09:13
Update: Event moved to the 5th March 2011 - details: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/southafrica/archive/2011/01/18/devs4devs-returns.aspx

Dev4Dev’s, my favourite event, is coming up soon! It is a free event which happens at Microsoft offices on a Saturday morning where you get to see a variety of topics! The key points that make this awesome:

  • Each presentation is 20min long – so all meat in the topics with no fluff!
  • Even though it is as Microsoft, it is not Microsoft – some fantastic non-Microsoft technologies has been shown before.
  • It’s developers presenting to developers – so no marketing nonsense.
  • You can apply to present in one of the slots – so if you want to present at bigger events (TechEd, DevDays etc…) this is a great way to get on the radar of those who make those decisions!

All the details at: Devs4Devs Returns

For me this is the first one I will miss as I will be in Seattle for MVP Summit Sad smile