Copenhagen in Winter

Why is it that Microsoft hold their Winter conferences in the North of Europe (i.e. Denmark) and the Summer ones in the south (i.e. Barcelona)? Why not the other way round? I even endured last year's PDC in Florida in June - whereas any sensible person wouldn't go near Orlando except between October and April. Maybe it's some kind of character-building thing for their speakers. Anyway, as you can see in the photo, it was cold in Copenhagen. While I did take some close-up pictures of the conference center, I thought that the frozen river on this one would help to convey the weather conditions better.

It also got me thinking. The place is called the "Bella Center". A half-Italian and half-English/American name for what is obviously a prestige building in Denmark. And out of the fifty or so flag-poles (obviously there to proudly display the flags of the world's nations to demonstrate the international nature of the center) about 90% were flying a flag with the "BC" conference center logo... No I didn't ask.

Inside, the usual pizzazz of a Microsoft conference. The whole place looked like it had been specially built just for Microsoft, as you can see from the photo of the reception area. But I guess all MS conferences give this impression. In fact, I bet if they had one in a small town, the would just paint logos over the entire place and rename it Msville or Visual Town.NET.

Much of the conference was devoted to the mobile world, with an excellent display of wireless and small-screen devices. There were also some useful conference sessions on this topic, with David Kurlander presenting the state of play with the Mobile Controls for ASP.NET and other software that they are developing for mobile devices. Another of the booths that caught my eye was the Fujitsu "COBOL for .NET". I even went along to a session to see it, and Dave and I are wondering whether to rewrite the Web site in COBOL. Not for any particular reason, you understand, but just because it can be done. However, I also found out that my favorite one of the forthcoming new languages is actually not going to make it to release. It seems that the people developing Objective Camel have pulled the plug (taken the hump?). Sad faces all around here, as we really wanted that on our CVs.

There was also a nice big booth selling books. However I was horrified to discover that they were only selling books from MS Press. Not one from Wrox - so much for my royalties. I decided to make my point by walking past the booth several times with my nose in the air. But I don't think anyone actually noticed.

After a quick rehersal on Tuesday night, I was "on stage" on Wednesday to talk about ASP.NET. The photo shows Dave and I posing in relaxed mood that morning examining the equipment. I even did a demo using Visual Studio to build an ASP.NET page. On my rather under-powered laptop machine, during tests, the demo with Beta 1 took 30+ seconds to compile and display the page. So I'd got all the chat ready to describe what was going on, all the various windows that appear, and how the compilation and deployment is taking place. On the demo machine I used during the session, it compiled and ran the page in less than 2 seconds. That completely screwed my carefully rehearsed chat. I had a look at the machine afterwards, but it was securely fixed to the floor.

Still, I think it went well. It was nice that when I asked if anyone had used ASP (after all, it was a Visual Studio conference), almost every hand went up. I remember doing a session once on extending the data-binding features of IE5 to use XML, and I asked if anyone had used data-binding in IE4 or IE5. Not one hand, so I ended up spending almost all of that session on the first three slides. Thankfully, nothing like that here. Got through all the slides, and there were lots of nodding heads (in agreement rather than asleep - well mostly not asleep). One thing was that we used a "wired" microphone rather than the more usual wireless ones. Ended up with a one-inch thick cable clipped to my belt and strict instructions not to walk more than three paces in any one direction. At least it wasn't spring-loaded like those dog leads. Mind you, I think it was only there to stop speakers falling off the stage.

Wednesday night was party night, with model car racing, wild bull rodeo machines, hot dogs, popcorn, and lots of free beer. Now that's what I call great conference organization. Highlight of the night was a two-hour long session by two presenters dressed completely in black and wearing shades. I remember thinking that they seemed vaguely familiar. The technical content of the session also seemed quite low, and they didn't seem to be using Visual Studio. However it was certainly very entertaining. Next time I'm demonstrating a hot new technology I'll see if I can get an orchestra as well.

By Thursday night we were all starting to feel the pace (of learning about VS, of course), but I was really pleased to hear the comments from other attendees. Almost everyone seemed fired up and really enthusiastic about .NET generally. Many of them said that they were impressed by the enthusiasm shown by the speakers and staff - it seems to have rubbed off and it looks like it was a really useful experience for most of those that came along. As to seeing some of Denmark's most beautiful city, I only flew in on Tuesday afternoon and left early on Friday. So no pictures of "Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen" - though a detour by the conference coach one evening did give a brief glimpse of some of the city. Maybe I'll be back there in Summer next time.
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