Just back from a four day trip to Orlando in Florida, attending and speaking at the ASP.NET Connections conference for the third year. I must be getting used to traveling to the U.S. these days because I managed to avoid the usual jet-lag, which always seems to be worse flying Eastward than Westward. Arrived back at Manchester airport around 9:00AM, quick breakfast in a transport cafe (I don't know how the airlines have the cheek to call a dry and sugary cake-style roll breakfast), and then a two hour drive home over the hills and through the Peak National Park - some of the most beautiful scenery in England. Had a couple of hours sleep in the afternoon, caught up on some recorded TV, and finished with a good night's sleep. Then fresh as a daisy the next morning! This means, of course, that I'm losing one of my main excuses for being late on delivery of materials to my publishers... I'll have to find a new one I suppose.
The conference was great, with good attendance figures and seemingly even more knowledgeable people attending my sessions than in previous years. Trouble is the questions get harder to answer. Still, it's a good sign and hopefully I didn't make too much of a hash of answering them. I did decide to use two machines in one session, which inevitably meant I forgot to switch the screen from one to the other at the right times. There I was blabbering on about the contents of the slides while the audience was still looking at the results of the last demo! But I think I got away with it in the end.
The topics that seemed to get people really excited (OK, so they weren't quite dancing in the aisles) were some of the new features in ADO.NET. I know that a colleague (Julia Lerman) got applause for showing the Notifications Service and Cache Invalidation stuff in SQL Server 2005 - in fact she obviously did a better job of this than I did because all I got was a muted "Yep". Still that's better than a "Whatever" I suppose. But they did seem excited about asynchronous command execution, and the new XML columns and UDT support in SQL Server 2005.
I did get one day off during the conference, and planned to top up (or, to be more accurate, start off) my tan. However, as is usual when I travel abroad, the good weather immediately moved to England and all we got was cloudy skies, rain, and even a storm that blew a hole in the hotel roof. It's a wonder they still let me into the U.S, what with previous issues involving weather, flooding, riots and elephants (see previous diary entries for more details). So I ended up getting some proper work done in the hotel room that day instead. I suppose in the long run it's better for the soul and the pocket.
One extra and interesting experience was getting the chance to help out with the post-conference session that Paul Litwin presented on Visual Studio 2005. The previous evening we tried to help delegates get their laptops set up with VS Express and SQL Server Express, together with the sample database, and (of course) came across several of the same problems that I've experienced trying to get all this stuff to work together. It does seem like FDISK is a good starting point if the machine has previously seen any V2.0 software. But we got almost everyone up and running in the end, and - although I had to leave early to catch the flight home - they seemed to be finding it very useful. It was good to talk to people, and useful to me to see how they used VS.
On another note, I must comment on the issues raised in the previous diary entry about Visual Basic 2005 and VBA. Talking to several people, including Bernard Wong from MS, I discovered that the "discussion" going on about whether VB 6.0 would continue to be supported, and whether Office 12 would include VBA, has raised a lot of hackles. I was told that there was definitely no doubt about it - VB 6.0 will continue to be supported (including on Longhorn) and VBA will continue to be included in Office. There are just too many applications out there to do otherwise, including the thousands (millions?) of Excel spreadsheets that use VBA. I guess even Microsoft is frightened of upsetting accountants...!
Anyway, the "official" Microsoft product lifecycle page is available at http://support.microsoft.com/gp/lifeprodv/, and the explanation is at http://support.microsoft.com/gp/lifepolicy/. Just a shame they used an "X" to mean "yes" - which you can only infer from the fact that there is a blank column which I assume means "no"! Also, J. Roxe has posted some more positive details in his blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/jroxe/archive/2005/03/17/398325.aspx.