The first day of Build 2015 blew my mind!

Satya NadellaYesterday I spent quite a bit of time watching the live stream for Build 2015. I was able to be at Build a couple of years ago but I was unable to get into the registration page when it opened a couple of months ago. I’ve been super busy with client work for the last month so it was probably a good thing that I didn’t travel 3,000+ miles to San Francisco. I’ve been looking for a new laptop / tablet machine and have been thinking about getting the Surface Pro 3, but I wanted to see what was given away at Build. Microsoft gave away the HP Spectre x360. So I spent about $1,500 (after tax) on the 512GB SSD version of that laptop last night. I’ll be digging into that before too long. It will be my presentation machine. My previous machine was an Asus EP-121 Windows 7 tablet that I made a Windows 8 machine. Anyway, I wasn’t able to attend Build, but I spent part of what the conference ticket would have been and bought the “give away”. But this post isn’t about the hardware given away at Build. It is about all of the AWESOME announcements made! Let’s dig in…
I’m going to take you on the journey as I saw things. I went to twitter feverishly as I saw all of the technical goodness that Microsoft was sending our way. First up, we get to hear from relatively new CEO, Satya Nadella.

After Satya, is a hero of mine – Scott Guthrie. I first hear Scott talk back in 2000 in Orlando where he introduced this thing called ASP+ and showed off IBuySpy (later to become DotNetNuke) and of course when ASP+ got to beta, it became ASP.NET. To see a developer rise over the past decade to a very influential and respected member of Microsoft has done my heart good. I always sit in to listen to Scott anytime I get a chance. He has done a lot for Azure since he went to that position a few years ago. He does love his red polo 🙂

 

Next up on stage was Mark Russinovich, who is super smart and really understood how the operating system worked more so than almost anyone who worked at Microsoft. Microsoft did well to bring him on board and make him a fellow. During his part of the keynote, he demo’d Docker working in Windows. Super awesome! He also showed an actual breakpoint being hit from Visual Studio while remote debugging a .NET app on Linux.

Being able to run .NET Core on Windows, Linux and Mac is awesome. It was around this time that this was reiterated. ASP.NET 5 is great. If you haven’t taken a look at it, do yourself a favor and take a look and watch some of the weekly community stand-ups the teams do. It is open to everyone! At this point the first BIG bombshell was dropped. Below, you will see this is Visual Studio Code running in both Mac and Linux. Too awesome!

 

Oh, and it’s free! The installation experience is super smooth. From download to install it was less than 90 seconds. It was probably closer to 60 seconds.
The next thing was saw was more information around Universal Windows Apps (for Windows 10). Universal Windows Apps have been around for a while, but this time it’s for real. 🙂 You can finally write once and deploy across all of Windows – even including the Hololens! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

After talking about Universal Windows Apps, they started to talk about 4 new ways to bring apps to Windows. This included bringing in existing web applications, bringing in existing .NET and Win32 applications, bringing in Android apps that used the Java/C++ “subsystem” and finally, even bringing in Objective C apps. That is pretty incredible to make it as painless as possible to let all developers to bring in their apps from all the different ecosystems (even Windows desktop). It was around this time that my head felt like it was going to explode and I spit out this tweet:

And then I promptly retweeted @Windows (along with well over 1K other people):

Then there was talk about the project previously known as Spartan. Microsoft introduced their new browser that will ultimately (read as a long time from now) replace Internet Explorer. This browser is called Microsoft Edge and it looks to be pretty awesome.

Next, they showed Continuum which allows your Windows Phone to be your PC. This will be huge in emerging markets where many people have a smart phone but don’t have a conventional computer. Paul Thurrot said it best with his tweet:

 

And finally, we started to see the bit I was soooo excited about. Microsoft Hololens. It is hard to believe it is real. When they first showed this when they announced Windows 10, I was down right giddy. Sersiously, I was almost aggravated with myself over how excited I was over a piece of technology. But I couldn’t help myself. It was exciting. Seeing the demos again at Build just brought in even more excitement. I’m finding it extremely hard to wait for Windows 10 simply because of the Hololens. It is going to be awesome.

 

Then we got to see a cool robot named B15. I’m telling you, this is going to change the way we interact with the world.

 

And with that I’ll wrap up my experience with the keynote from the first day of the Build 2015 conference. It was awesome and I think this image of Satya shows how he thought it went:

East Coast Game Conference 2015

I was able to speak at the East Coast Game Conference last week. It was a good time. I gave a talk on Unity 3D. The room was pretty full and I was able to meet quite a few folks afterwards. I always enjoy talking to people after my talks.

I was able to attend some good talks as well. I listened to Luis Cataldi, from Epic talk to students and those trying to get into the game industry. He had several great points. He said,

Good habits trump raw talent.

This is so true in almost every field. Talent is awesome, but many times it is about grit. It is about sticking with something and working it out. Figuring out what went wrong and what the problem was and then fixing it. It is about not giving up and continuing to move forward. It is nice when we can work smarter and not harder, but sometime we just need to dig in and work harder. And that is ok. In fact, usually that is much better than having all the talent in the world and not working that hard. So, if you aren’t the best developer in the world, or the best artist, writer or whatever … don’t worry – just work. Diligence pays off – every time.

He also said,

Do less, better. … Make an awesome broom closet, not a mediocre city.

Here, he was discussing creating portfolio work to present to companies to try and get a job. If you want a job in a game studio, chances are you will be working on some part of an engine, or creating some tool for the game developers to use, or you will be tasked with making the flooring of the buildings. These are all very limited in scope and require a great deal of domain knowledge. These types of game companies want someone who can spend time getting something done at a fantastic level. He also mentioned, that in regards to your portfolio, you are judged on your worst piece, not your best. So if there is one in question, it is best to leave it off. Only show your absolute best work.

I met up with Dave Voyles and David Crook, both Microsoft employees, and was able to enjoy a meal with them. There was great conversations and plenty of good food. I then headed back to put the finishing touches on my presentation. It felt a little awkward talking about Unity 3D in Epic’s backyard. I love both engines and am so jealous that these tools weren’t available 25+ years ago when I was getting started.Dinner with Dave Voyles (photographer) and David Crook

The keynote was presented by Mike Laidlaw, the Dragon Age Creative Director at Bioware. His talk was fantastic. I enjoy the Dragon Age series, but unfortunately, I hadn’t had the opportunity to play Inquisition yet. I’ve been working on getting my game development site off the ground and between that and consultant work, I’ve had very little game playing time. Still, it was great to hear him talk about the game.

I dropped in on David Voyle’s talk on WebGL. Unity is working on getting this to work, but there are still some missing pieces in many of the browsers. WebGL is still a great way to get your website to be able to utilize your GPU. If you haven’t taken any time to look at this great technology, spend some time to get to know it.

I had lunch with David Voyles and David Isbitski, formerly with Microsoft, currently with Amazon. After lunch, I was able to hear @thedavedev talk about in app purchases and a lot of support data that discussed best practices for monetizing apps.

I also attended a talk from David Crook where he gave an overview of Azure for game developers. I personally think Azure and Game Development go together like peanut butter and jelly.

I wrapped up the sessions I went to by attending a session on “Idle Games”. I had never even heard of the term. These are games that basically play themselves or require you to click to progress. It was fascinating hearing Anthony Pecorella, from Kongregate, talk about this new genre of games. He talked about games like AdVenture Capitalist 2014, Cookie Clicker, A Dark Room, Candy Box, Tap Titans, Bitcoin Billionaire, DripStat, and Swarm Simulator.

Overall, it was a great conference and I had a good time. This was the second time I’ve spoken at the East Coast Game Conference and I hope to go back next year.

Launching devgame101.com

devgame101In addition to the consulting and custom software development I provide through GlobalCove Technologies, I’m also creating information products to help people create their own games.  Back in 2007 and 2009 I authored two books on how to create games using Microsoft’s XNA Framework. I’m getting back to my first technology love – video games – and am launching a site to teach video game development. You should check it out at devgame101.com

For the launch of the site, I’m doing a webinar to teach how to create a 3D game using Unity. If you have any interest in game development, I suggest you check it out.

Alcohol and Geek Conferences

So there was a lot of tweets today about alcohol at conferences and folks feeling left out.

The original post was actually making a point about not being able to have meaningful conversations with smart folks once they get sauced.  I’ve definitely ran into that at some conferences.  While at the Microsoft MVP conference last month there was someone who had consumed too much and abruptly interrupted a conversation I was having with someone else.  I’m always opened to including anyone in any conversation I’m having at a conference, but this was overbearing and obnoxious.  It wasn’t the conference’s fault but the person who consumed too much.  Now that I think of it, this happened twice on two different nights at the conference by different people.  Hadn’t thought about it much before.

A lot of the article seemed to address something that I haven’t ran into – conference organizers talking up the booze.  Most of the conferences I have gone to are Microsoft conferences.  From Convergence with big budgets for their partners and customers who spend millions of dollars on different ERP systems (like Dynamics AX, GP and NAV as well as Dynamics CRM) to Gamefest which has just a few hundred game developers (mainly guys from AAA studios and some indie folks like myself) along with those in between.  I’ve also been to some community conferences like Codestock.  There was alcohol available but it wasn’t a drunkfest – or at least I didn’t see it if it was.  So perhaps it is just the JS conferences where this occurs or perhaps I’m too blind to see it.  There typically is some party event but it seems that most folks leave those to go to a bar to hang out and/or really get hammered.  I’ve not joined anyone at the bar after the main event closes down at 10 or so.  It seems it is common for folks to not come back until 2AM or so.  They typically miss the sessions the next morning.  I’m not going to miss a session when I’ve paid money for the conference.  Some folks go just to socialize and have those conversations while sessions are going on.  I typically don’t.  I could see great benefit in that, but unless there is no topic I’m interested in or the speaker is having a hard time I tend to stick to sessions.  I do like open spaces for the times when nothing else fits.  

Regardless, I didn’t feel excluded because folks were drinking and I wasn’t.  I chose not to go to the bars in wee hours of the morning but even if it wasn’t at a bar I’d probably not go anyway since I’d want to get to the sessions in the morning.  I’m definitely not a Brogrammer. Oh well, wasn’t cool in high school, why should I start now?

Warning: Contains Offensive Language

This has nothing to do with conferences, but when thinking about feeling left out I recall going out to dinner with some coworkers and their wives about a decade ago.  We all had a good time, I thought.

A couple months later I found out that the group had done a couple more of those dinners but I hadn’t heard about them.  I was confused as to why I wasn’t asked to join them again.  When I asked a good friend why we weren’t invited he told me.

It seems that my wife and I were the only people that didn’t order any alcohol. I was shocked to hear this was why I was excluded.  I asked if I came across as descending or anything. I was assured that I wasn’t but they didn’t feel comfortable drinking around us.

That blew me away.  So I felt left out but it was because I made them feel uncomfortable.  I didn’t say anything about them consuming the beverages.  Just the act of me ordering a Mountain Dew instead of a Budweiser caused discomfort with my coworkers.  I still don’t understand this.  Regardless, you won’t hear me passing judgment on someone who is drinking beer or wine. I hope people don’t pass judgment on me because I prefer carbonated drinks.

So I guess when it comes to drinking at conferences I think the thing I try to do is make sure I’m not making someone else uncomfortable.  I’m not uncomfortable talking to someone with a beer or wine glass in their hand. I don’t want them to be uncomfortable with me because I have a soft drink in mine.

There are better ways to have meaningful conversations than at a loud bar or party event.  I typically don’t stay at those too long because you can’t have a good conversation.  I’ll go back to my room and write some code and reflect on the things I learned.  I hadn’t really considered those events really part of the conference so I didn’t mind.  Of course, open bars have got to be expensive.  I sure hope I’m not paying for that in the price of my conference ticket.

In my opinion conferences are there so we can learn and be around folks with the same interests. Meaningful conversations are easier to have when someone isn’t plastered but I’ve only seen that a few times.  Of course, I head back to the hotel room around the time folks are looking for a bar after the party so I probably avoid seeing a lot of it.

As with everything, moderation is the key.  Anything to excess is bad – including coding non stop and constantly thinking about work.  That is excess and it isn’t healthy and I constantly do it.