My experience during TechDays 2012 in The Netherlands

Blog Post created by MvanderVeeken Employee on Feb 20, 2012

This has become a pretty big story, scroll down for the TL;DR; (Too Long; Didn't Read;)


I'm always really excited to go to conferences. One of the conferences I always try to attend is the local Microsoft Developer Conference in The Hague. It was previously known as Microsoft DevDays, but it has now been rebranded to Microsoft TechDays.


It is a 3 day event. The first day focussed on 'IT Professionals' (mainly administrators), and the last 2 days focus on 'Developers'. Development is in my blood, but I still decided to go the full 3 days, and also attend the 'IT Professionals' day.


When I first arrived, I found it funny that the IT Professionals (read: admins) attending the first day are a very different bunch. I was wondering where all the people with their laptops were, scattered around the conference site, writing code, drinking coffee and chatting. That's what developers do, but it seems that admins are a different bunch. Also in terms of enthusiasm: admins tend to cheer and clap a lot less during exciting announcements. But this could be my persional bias as a developer...


The keynote was presented by two really funny dudes, and there was a lot of talk about Windows 8, Windows Server 8 and System Center 2012. After that there were 5 different parallel tracks. Topics ranging from general system administration, to 'what's new in Windows Server 8' to advanced topics of windows Debugging and security. I decided to focus on security. I attended a total of 4 security topics, and these were all pretty good.


The first two sessions were presented by  Hasain Alshakarti . The topic of some big security breached came up, specially the one at Symantec, DigiNotar and RSA. The message was clear: it's almost impossible to know who you can trust anymore. The security breach at DigiNotar had a big impact on the way we think: hackers were able to issue their own signed security certificates, which caused a lot of trouble. Especially, here in the Netherlands a lot of govermental agencies were using certificates by DigiNotar. After the security breach it was impossible to know for sure who had issued these, and it was almost impossible to recognize if you were on the real goverment site, or a spoofed one (with all risks attached). 


The last two security topics were presented by  Paula Januszkiewicz . This was very refreshing. She was very knowledgable, and she brought the topics with a lot of fun and charm. She did tons of demo's, which really impressed the audience. I wasn't aware that in this day and age, the Windows operation system allowed for so many malicious actions. She demonstrated retrieving passwords, being very annoying with the Windows debugger, to totally crashing entire enterprise IT systems.


The last topic was about the risk of disgruntled IT administrators. The point of the presentation was to make people aware of the power that (Enterprise) administrators have, and the risk that comes with that. If an administrator turns evil, for instance because he is unsatisfied with the company, or he is at the brink of being fired: he can do a lot of damage and (almost) bring a company down. There were a few nice examples where disgruntled administrators can do tons of damage using malicious (Active Directory) configurations or some evil scripts.


All and all I had a very good first day, even though there no development topics. If you ever had the chance to attend topics by  Paula Januszkiewicz , make sure you do!


The second day was the first of two development conference dayS. When entering the venue, you could immediatly feel that developer vibe and atmosphere. Everywere people are talking geek, and the energy was very motivating.


The keynote was very interesting, and had a lot of small demonstrations. Offcourse, the mandatory Windows 8 demo, but also a lot about Metro development and Windows Azure. I was looking forward to hearing Scott Guthrie speak. I'm always very inspired by him and the way he speaks. Offcourse, he had an awesome demo with code. The small demo made use of the Azure Service Bus, and allowed people in the audience to write messages with their phones to the big screen. This was reason for a lot of hilarity, as people send messages ranging from 'Hello Scott, you are awesome', to 'format c:\' and '; -- drop table users;'. 


The first breakout sessions I attended was called 'Rocking your enterprise with Microsoft Kinect'. As you may know, I developed some Kinect with PI AF demo's a few months ago, so I was very anctious to see what was next. The overall message of the presentation was very nice. I was glad that other people are also enthusiastic about the Kinect sensor and what it could do for business applications. I was a bit dissapointed by the examples that were presented, as I already studied those before. One really funny thing was the fact that one of his demo's looked suspiciously like my Kinect + AF + Bing Maps demo that I uploaded to YouTube a few months ago. It also was a data visualization demo, with a carrousel of country flags...


The rest of the day was filled with very nice topics surrounding MVC4, WebAPI, Metro, C# 5.0, etc. 


In the evening there was something called 'Geek night', which basically meant that there were a lot of fun sessions. I went to a Kinect track. The first session was very interesting, as the presenter  Kay Hofmeester  (who works on the Xbox team) raised a lot of interesting questions about Natural User Interfaces in a non-gaming environment. It was very nice to hear someone struggling with the same questions around this subject. I will definitly contact him to get more insight.


The second presentation in the evening was presented by Rob Miles . What an awesome presentation! Everything broke down, demo's stopped working and applications crashed. The guy presented the entire presentation with the charme and jokes of a standup comedian. It had been a long time since I had to laugh this hard during any presentation. The guy was just funny as hell. If you ever have the chance to attend one of his presentations, please make sure you do!


The last day was filled with a lot of real in depth technical tracks. I made sure to attend the introduction to MVC4 WebAPI framework. This is a very interesting concept, and I will definitly research that further and blog about it.


Then the sessions came where I really looked forward to: C# 5.0 async 'behind the scenes', and a talk about 'Project Roslyn'. 


C# 5.0 offers true asynchronous programming trough a set of new keywords and methods. Bart de Smet took us trough some of the internals of async, and how the compiler handled the async calls and keyword. This was a very good session, where the internal state machine that the compiler creates was programmed out in detail.


The last session for me was about Project Roslyn. As you may know, I'm a big fan of the project. Roslyn opens up the compiler, and offers API's to get directly involved in the compilation process. I did a few blogposts about it here and here.






Microsoft is focussing all client development on Metro and ASP.NET (MVC). There is not too much mention of Silverlight, but Silverlight developers will have acquired the right tools to hit the ground running with Metro development. Windows 8 and Windows Server 8 will bring a lot of great innovation. I'm personally very anctious to get my hands on the Consumer Preview of Windows 8 that will be released end of this month. 


My focus on getting a Natural User Interface with Kinect to an office/enterprise environment is shared with a lot of people. This was very refreshing to notice. There are a lot of uncertainties and undiscovered realms here. A very good analogy by a presenter was when video recording became available, it was not that populair because the concepts of zooming/editing and moving were not yet introduced. Introducing Kinect as a controlling device for your PC also needs some new ways of thinking.


Roslyn is going to be awesome! There are so much possibilities here. I will be sure to dive deeper into it, and blog about it here.


Long story short: I don't possibly have enough time to dive deep into all this new stuff in the short term, which annoys me