Cloudy Skies in Southern California

Maybe someone had told them that two weird guys were coming over from England. Or maybe they laid on some typical English weather just in case. Either way, we felt quite at home in Southern California this time - San Diego presented us with grey skies, persistent clouds, and a sprinkle of rain as well. Makes a change from baking in the sun outside, and then freezing to death inside with the air-conditioning. Just a shame, then, that they had some really nice weather back in England (sunny days and warm!) while we were away.

So what were we doing in San Diego last week? Obvious - attending the Microsoft TechEd 2004 Conference so as to shamelessly plug our latest books, and meet up with publishers, developers, evangelists, consultants, marketing people, bar staff (where possible), and in fact anyone who might offer us a job. Despite best intentions to see as many of the sessions I could, the whole week rapidly seemed to descend into a continuous stream of meetings. Well, in between the eating of great steaks and seafood, and the drinking of beer.

Still, as you can see from the photo here, I managed to spend some time wearing a daft T-shirt and manning the Sams booth. I can't remember what this conversation was actually about, but it was obviously becoming quite animated at this point. I was probably rambling on about XQuery, or politics, or some mind-boggling combination. Seems everyone I met wanted to talk about the state of the world, and what we "Brits" think. I must say I tried to avoid this topic area as much as possible, though maybe I was less than successful as the thirsty evenings wore on.

Anyway, the T-shirts were actually really good. Sams has adopted an "old-time circus" theme this time, and Dave and I seemed to have been selected as either acrobats or tight-rope walkers - it was hard to be sure which from the picture. The slogan read "Latest and Greatest Thriller from the ASP.NET Masters", and Dave demonstrated his circus skills by juggling with a selection of items, as you can see here.

I have no such abilities, though tight-rope walking was a skill that I gained during my previous career in the world of commerce. Suffice to say that I managed to resign before the roof fell in that time, though I did take a tumble with the Wrox collapse last year. I suppose I ought to insert some feeble pun based around safety nets and Microsoft .NET here. Tell you what, I'll leave it to you to enter your own:

- - -   - - - - -   - - -   - - - - - -   - - - - - -   -   - - - - -   - - - !

Glad we got that over with... and if your effort is any good, send it to us and we'll fill in the blanks here. We might even send you a prize.

As well as meeting people, Dave and I were there for book signings. We did one for Wrox, and one (shown here) for Sams. I enjoy these kinds of events, though the positioning meant that we were struggling to attract the passing delegates' attention, and the timing meant we were competing with lunch. I always wonder if we shouldn't position the benches as a chicane, like on a racing circuit, or employ some burly security guys to round up stray attendees. Still, I reckon we signed more than three copies at least ... maybe we should wear the wigs next time.

Even though I saw only a small selection of the sessions, it was a good conference. I'm told that it was a sell-out, with around 11,000 present - which (combined with the sell-out at PDC last November) bodes well for the future. And there were exciting new products to get to grips with as well. ISA Server 2004, the Office Business Framework, and many others. And useful installation/integration sessions on Exchange Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003. Plus, of course, .NET and general development sessions. I was particularly keen to follow the ADO.NET and System.Xml developments, as we're working on a book about just these topics now. And, in case you haven't heard already, I can tell you that there is some great stuff coming in version 2.0.

Weirdest thing of all: huge posters inside and outside the conference center, and massive publicity efforts, for Windows XP Service Pack 2. OK, I know that it's a major SP release, with lots of important features, but massive advertising for a Service Pack? I suspect that Microsoft spent more money printing the posters and banners than the average developer earns in a year.

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