Tiago is already disappointed about my talk tomorrow. Easy! It's not entirely dumbed down. ;)  

Categories: EMEA Longhorn Preview

On our 4 hour taxi ride from Portoroz in Slovenia to Zagreb in Croatia, I decided to make some significant changes to my Indigo slide deck for the tour. David Chappell called my talk an “impossible problem”, mostly because the scope of the talks we are doing is so broad, ranging from the big picture of Longhorn over Avalon and WinFS to the Whidbey innovations and I am stuck in the middle with a technology that solves problems most event attendees don’t consider to have.

So I took a rather dramatic step: I dropped almost all of the slides that explain how Indigo works. What’s left is mostly only the Service Model’s programming surface. For the eight slides I dropped, I added and modified six slides from the “Scalability” talk written by Steve Swartz and myself for last year’s “Scalable Applications Tour”, which now front the talk. Until about 20 minutes into the “new” talk, I don’t speak about Indigo, at all. And that turned out to be a really good idea.

As I’ve written before, many people who attend the events on this tour have no or little experience in writing distributed applications. In reality, the classic 2-tier client/server model where all user-code sits on one tier (let it be Windows Forms, VB6, ASP or ASP.NET) and the other tier is the database does still rule the world. And, no, the browser doesn’t count as a tier for me; it’s just a “remote display surface” for the presentation tier.

Instead of talking about features, I now talk about motivation. Using two use-case scenarios and high-level architectural overviews modeled after Hotmail and Amazon (that everybody knows) I explain the reasons for why distributing work across multiple systems is a good thing, how such systems can be separated so that each of them can scale independently and what sort of services infrastructure is needed to implement them. And it works great. Once I have the audience nodding to the obvious goodness I can continue and map the requirements to Indigo features and explain the respective aspects of the service model. The flow of the talk is much better and the attendees get more and immediate value out of it. If I weren’t so time constrained I would probably map it to Enterprise Services (now) and Indigo (future) all in the same talk and also show to do the transition. I am sure that I can do that sort of talk at some event this year.

Lesson learned: Less features, more why. With the majority of developers the challenge isn’t about showing them how distributed systems are being improved; it’s about getting them to understand and possibly adopt the idea in the first place.

Categories: Talks | EMEA Longhorn Preview | Technology | Indigo

I am in Budapest today and I am just done with my Indigo talk (you can find the slides at http://codezone.info under “Talks”), having done it for the 6th time on this tour throughout Europe. After the events Den Haag, Oslo, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Geneva, I still find Indigo a very difficult topic to talk about on this tour. It’s not about technology or because my talk doesn’t work: It’s about whether people think it’s relevant to their work.

The true challenge is to explain to the developers we meet that Indigo is going to be very important for them down the road. I find that when I talk to developers on this tour or look at their evaluation forms that very many of them apparently still write fairly compact (to avoid the word monolithic) ASP.NET applications or Windows Forms applications that use a conservative client/server approach. All presentation and logic resides in one tier and the only remote component worth mentioning is the database. That means that the majority of the folks sitting in my talks hasn’t even touched one of the existing distributed technology stacks that Indigo is set to replace.

The difficulty presenting Indigo on this tour – alongside sexy stuff like declarative UI programming with spinning Windows and Videos with alpha-blending in Avalon and googlefast cross-media searches across all of your local storage media as in WinFS – is that Indigo is about things that are hidden inside applications and do not surface to the user. Stuff that drives server-applications is sometimes hard to understand without knowing the architectural background and the motivations. (Sidenote: A while ago I heard a rumor from a usually trustworthy source that the spinning balls in the COM+ Explorer exist because COM+ was horribly hard to demo as well and the spinning balls provided a good way of visualizing that stuff was happening.)

The ideal talk for an unsuspecting audience with little knowledge in distributed systems would have to sell the whole idea of distributed systems to boot, the experiences and errors made, the reasons for why Web services are a good thing, the problems creating the motivation for and the principles of service oriented architectures, a set of some tangible application examples and use cases along with the solutions that Indigo provides; all of that in the same talk and within 75 minutes. And that in a way that developers get to see code and demos, too. That sort of talk would span about 20 years of distributed computing history. I am not sure this fits in 75 minutes. Therefore I think I will have to be happy with only a fraction of the audience being interested and/or willing to appreciate the things that I am talking about here. 

Very many folks think that the topics I am talking about are only relevant to “big apps” and have a hard time seeing the benefits of something like Indigo – much in the same way as it is with Enterprise Services or Web Services.

If you believe Don Box, who said at PDC that Indigo will ship at some point between Whidbey and Longhorn, and think about the implications of that, Indigo is in fact relevant to everyone writing applications that expose functionality to other applications in some way – now or at least quite soon. The first ship vehicle for Indigo will be, if Don’s statement holds water in its consequences, some service pack or upgrade pack for Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP. That means nothing less than the entire application infrastructure of Windows Server 2003 is getting a major upgrade probably in a year or so from now.

If you are writing applications using ASMX, Remoting or Enterprise Services today, the impact of Indigo’s arrival can be immediate if you want to make it so. If you code your applications cleverly today (following guidelines explained by Joe Long here or in my talk) and don’t play too many tricks on the infrastructure – for instance by using the Remoting extensibility points – you should have a fairly smooth upgrade path to Indigo. The goal is that upgrading code will be simple and mechanical in most cases.

Categories: EMEA Longhorn Preview | Indigo

January 24, 2004
@ 09:54 AM

The Microsoft Developer Days 2004 in Den Haag (The Hague) were a great event. Not so much fun was going there (the train from Utrecht was split in two trains on the way and I ended up in Rotterdam instead of Den Haag at first) and getting back (the train from Venlo to Düsseldorf simply didn't go because of "technical difficulties" so I had to take a rather expensive cab home). 

I've had lots of interesting discussions and the result of one was that I might be speaking at the SDGN's CttM conference. I'll definitely be back for the second run of the Architect's Forum in Zeewolde in March 29th.  

De SDGN heft gezegt dat ik nu moet genoeg Nederlands lere omdat ik mij CttM presentatie in de Nederlandse taal kan doen, maar ik weet niet of ze bereid zijn om mij zovel tijd voor een presentatie te geve zo dat ik ook lang genoeg voor iede enkele woord kan zoeke. :)     

My talk on Indigo apparently went well for the audience and one of my fellow RDs even said that he learned more about Indigo in my talk than at the PDC (that's because I consolidated the PDC slides and therefore have it "all at once"), but personally I was a bit unhappy with it. Didn't flow right. Two slides too much, one slide missing (I need to explain "Dialogs"). This will be fixed for the next stop in Oslo on Monday.

Categories: Talks | EMEA Longhorn Preview | Indigo

I leaving shortly for Den Haag for the first installment of the Longhorn Developer Preview Tour throughout Europe as part of the Dutch Developer Days 2004. We start tomorrow and I am quite excited since this is the first time I will speak about Indigo in any detail to a larger audience. I've witnessed Indigo "forming" from a distance when the team was still in "stealth mode" and it's great to see how it comes along.

But be forewarned: In my talk there will be no live demos. I have 75 minutes for the talk and I had to decide whether I concentrate on explaining the "M5" milestone that is currently in development in Redmond and which implements the (likely) final programming model or whether I allocate more time to the M4 model found in the PDC build. The decision that I made was that M4 is so different from M5 that unless you want to get a major degree in Longhorn development history or have way too much time on your hands, learning and therefore showing M4 code is almost pointless. I will show code, but it won't run.

If you want to check out how this first run of my talk goes (as usual, I don't really rehearse talks so this is as spontaneous, "fresh" and probably embarrassing as it gets on this tour), Microsoft Netherlands will have a live webcast tomorrow that you can log into at http://www.microsoft.com/netherlands/msdn/devdays/webcast.asp.

Categories: Talks | EMEA Longhorn Preview | Indigo

January 20, 2004
@ 08:04 AM

I am getting ready for the Longhorn Developer Preview tour. Now that the whole notebook ordeal is hopefully over, I have been and still am polishing slides and we'll have an online rehearsal today during the day. Furthermore, we're working with Microsoft EMEA on a two day workshop about writing service oriented applications that consolidates all the thinking that I've been blogging about in the past year. The "sample" around which the workshop will center is, not very surprisingly, the FABRIQ.

I really need to get back into a "blogging mood".

To expect that the newest hardware works with a pre-Alpha version of the newest Microsoft operating system may be expecting a bit much. My Alienware Area51-m just wouldn't boot past the logo screen just 3 seconds after booting from the install disk. It just hung. Bummer.

To expect that a hardware vendor, especially one that's comparatively small and which is specialized in gaming machines and therefore very consumer focused, would even consider providing support on that issue is hopeless.

Is it? Well, usually it probably would be, but not with Alienware. Their tech support simply rocks. And with their help and help from the Longhorn Evangelism team in Redmond, Longhorn is now finally running on my new notebook.

The problem of the Area51-m not booting Longhorn is an unfortunate combination of a more BIOS-sensitive bootloader in Longhorn compared to XP/Win03 and a bug in current production AMIBIOS (AMIBIOS8, 1.09) that Alienware puts on their machines. Once we had that identified and I got the same fix that the Longhorn Evangelism team got for their Alienware machines (they have them too), flashed the BIOS and Longhorn booted.

Done? Unfortunately not. What I found was that this particular "special fix" BIOS version (1.08.01) would work stably with Longhorn and Win03 only when the machine is on AC power. Once you unplug and run on batteries, both OSses bluescreen after about 10-15 seconds.

Because this is my primary machine, I must have the machine running on batteries and therefore I re-flashed the BIOS back to the production version (1.09) so that at least Win03 would work and for Longhorn demos I'd just re-flash down to the other BIOS. Once done, I rebooted the machine and it happened to boot into Longhorn. And worked. Why would the installer hang so early on this BIOS version but the OS just boots fine once installed?  Puzzling.

So after all this had been sorted out, I figured that Longhorn isn't a good idea to have on the D: drive, after all. It does work, but I'd have to adjust a lot of demos and that's just too much work. So I am installing Win03 and Longhorn once more right now in the following sequence: BIOS 1.09 > Win03 to D: > "special fix" BIOS 1.08.1 > Longhorn to C: > BIOS 1.09. Now that we've got this sorted out, Alienware will hopefully have a permanent fix for the production BIOS soon so that this step becomes unnecessary and so that others can get Longhorn installed on their Area51s as well.

On the Longhorn tour, we'll have two of these boxes as our demo machines. Although they are absolutely swamped right now, Alienware made it possible to provide a system for Microsoft on very short notice, so that we don't have to carry a rather massive desktop PC around on "this 13 cities in 13 consecutive work days" tour as was initially planned.

Now I need to work on my backlog.

January 12, 2004
@ 05:58 PM

So my new notebook is an Alienware Area-51m. It's really, really fast, and looks great, but as of now, it doesn't get past the boot screen when I try to install Longhorn. The Longhorn boot screen starts fading in and the machine locks up. Win03 and XP work just fine ("great!" I should say). So I am sitting here, fiddling around with the install options and I am suspecting that something in the BIOS isn't quite like Longhorn expects it to be. To be continued ...

January 6, 2004
@ 04:38 PM

Longhorn Developer Preview events all over Europe. I collected the event pages for you so you can register. The days in boldface are those on which I am speaking.

The Hague, The Netherlands: Developer Days 2004; Wednesday and Thursday, 21st/22nd January

Copenhagen, Denmark: Longhorn Developer Preview; Tuesday, 27th January

Helsinki, Finland: Longhorn Developer Preview; Wednesday, 28th January

Geneva, Switzerland: Developer Days 2004; Wednesday and Thursday, 28th/29th January

Budapest, Hungary: Longhorn Developer Preview; Friday, 30th January

Warsaw, Poland: Developer Days 2004; Monday and Tuesday, 2nd/3rd February

Portoroz, Slovenia: Developer Days 2004; Tuesday and Wednesday, 3rd/4th February

Dublin, Ireland:  Longhorn Developer Preview; Tuesday, 10th February

There are also events scheduled in Portugal (Feb 9), Spain (Feb 3), Croatia (Feb 5) and Italy (Feb 6), but I have yet to find the pages.

Categories: EMEA Longhorn Preview

January 6, 2004
@ 03:47 PM

Are you going to one of the Longhorn Developer Preview events or Developer Days 2004 events around Europe end of this month or beginning of February?

If you are, I have a question for you. I’ll be talking about Indigo and I am in a demo dilemma. My slide deck, like the ones that Steve, Joe, Don and the others showed at PDC, reflects mostly the status quo of the Indigo M5 milestone that is currently in development. The problem is that there are no M5 bits that I could show (there are not even M5 bits I could get). The PDC Longhorn build contains the Indigo milestone M4, whose programming model is very different – the “final” programming model for all of us happens to be added only in M5; whatever is in M4 is really an “internal” programming model that exists for testing purposes.

So what should I do? Spend more time explaining how things are going to be in the real thing (M5 and going forward into the Beta) or spend that time on doing M4 demos? Personally, I’d rather cut the demos entirely or show simply what needs to be done to get the SDK samples to run so that you have a starting point if you really want to play with the early bits. Make yourself heard; comment here.

Categories: EMEA Longhorn Preview

I am very much looking forward to the “EMEA Microsoft Longhorn Developer Preview Tour” that’s going to happen in a very dense 3 week stretch in late January / early February 2004. I feel honored to have been invited again to present the highlights of the PDC on a speaking tour throughout Europe (as in 2002) with David Chappell and an excellent group of Microsoft EMEA technical evangelists (Lester Madden, Nigel Watling, and Hans Verbeeck). We are going to be in 13 countries within 3 weeks – or 15 workdays. I will post links to the individual country’s event sites as I learn about them. In one day, we’ll take you through the best of Longhorn, WinFS, Avalon, the Visual Studio Whidbey release and Indigo (my part). If you weren’t at PDC, you should go. If you were at PDC, you should still go just to hear David speak. :-D

Here’s the first event I know the official site of. The Developer and ITPro days in Belgium are, however, much bigger than “just” our tour. We’ll be there on the second day (Feb 11th), but there’s a very exciting program on the first day already and the array of speakers is nothing less than impressive. (I just wonder why some of the speakers look like lizards right now)

Developer and ITPro Days 2004. February 10th-11th 2004, Ghent, Belgium. I’ll be there.

 

Categories: Talks | EMEA Longhorn Preview