Launch Tour 2005 – Toronto – Part I – The Drive and Keynote

Overall Value of Time Spent and Benefits Derived: 4.5 stars

As a super quick executive summary (I will provide longerdescriptions of the events that I attended) it was a verybeneficial, productive day, and I’m very happy to have gone. Theinformation was top notch and well presented, and (as Mark Relphmentioned in the comments) there was the benefit of the free copyof SQL Server 2005 Standard Edition (you also get VS2005 StandardEdition, but most devs already have a development-legal copy of abetter version of that via MSDN. The SQL Server can actually beused in production, or so I am led to believe). I’m writing this assomeone who has been using Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005in various incarnations for quite a long time – I’ve actually givencorporate presentations on the benefits that SQL Server 2005 bringsto the table. Nonetheless, I still found the session veryvaluable.

As always, they gave out pens and notepads. Why are the brandedpens they give out at these sorts of events always the cheapest,worst pens that money can buy (or maybe that you don’t even needmoney to buy) I realize that the obvious answer is “becausethey’re cheaper”, but I really think that’s the wrongplace to save money. When I’m sitting there looking at yourbranding on a pen, and it’s tearing through paper with its rusted,cubical, ultra-cheap nib, it rubs off poorly on your brand:I’m correlating something cheap and shoddy with your brand. Pony upfor some nice gel pens or something.

All of these pictures were shot on a little P&S SonyDSC-P150, and to avoid being a jerk they were all shot with theflash disabled. It’s remarkable that most of them turned out aswell as they did (I’ve gotten good at being remarkably still whentaking the shot). I didn’t want to be a pretend-journo with thedigital SLR, though the ISO 1600 and much brighter lens would havebeen very beneficial in this environment.

It is amazing how long it takes to drive anywherein Toronto. Given that the Launch Tour here in town was hostedbeside the airport, driving was the only real option (versus beingat the TO convention center, which would have been a much moreconvenient GO commuter train ride). I left at 7:30 in the morning,and still didn’t get there until 9:15am. Thankfully getting throughregistration and into the keynote was a breeze, and I really didn’tmiss anything.

The keynote, as keynotes usually are, was theleast worthwhile part of the show (although still fairly good),held in a very large room with 7 impressive, very largescreens, and a very nice sound system. It was basically somecheerleading (with the crowd involved and responsive), coupled withglowing tributes from partners who clearly would have sold theirfirstborn to get mentioned at a Microsoft event. The social-prooftechnique of convincing developers (where it’s superficialglossaries that “someone big and impressive is using it!”, ratherthan a credible case-study to be carefully analyzed) is old andtired, but it was trotted out here. One HMV representative,for instance, said that they went with SQL Server 2005 becauseit “very easy – everything is setup for you!”. Other keynotetidbits were things like the statement that there are more units ofSQL Server installed than IBM & Oracle combined: Of coursethere is. SQL Server is far more likely to be on dozens or hundredsof small workgroup machine throughout an organization, whereasmost DB2 and Oracle installs live on monster boxes that serveentire organizations. It just seemed like a deceptively meaninglessmetric.
As always, an ecommerce sample was used, with thedeveloper evangelist (John Bristowe) demonstrating creating aonline music store. Why do these events focus on public ecommercewhen >95% of the attendees are corporate developers?
Code snippets came up during the keynote, as itdid during several other sessions. Code snippets are basicallyautomated copy-paste code, and I really don’t understand why thiskeeps being brought up – while I can imagine some uses forthis sort of copy/paste, 9 times out of 10 (more like 9.9 out of10) it will be an abuse rather than a bestpractice. Automating copy/pasting doesn’t make it better thancopy/pasting.
During the slower sections of the keynote I wasevaluating the profile of the audience: Overwhelmingly male (about99% in the “developer” track, and about 90% in the database track),probably averaging about 40ish, and almost universally dressed inbusiness casual. There were a few suits, but the number ofpeople dressed in t-shirts or jeans could be counted on one hand(I’m not passing judgement – just giving observations).Overwhelmingly the crowd appeared to be the corporate developertype. It must have been tough for the Microsoft evangelists to findanyone wearing classic Microsoft attire to hand out the prizes to,per their blog entry.

Getting the day started. Yes, this car is a mess. It’s a225,000km commuter car that has served me well.

Since I’d never been to the congress center. I accidentally printedthe maps on 8 1/2 x 11 glossy photo paper, but the quality of theprintout was superb.

The Microsoft Canada mothership, visible en route

Parked in Section 10

Registration (or rather scanning of online pre-registrations). Hereyou receive a little nametag necklace, in which you place yourprinted registration.


Keynote. 7 screens, all about 9’x7′. Remarkably they all are brightand clear. While there are empty seats evident, this was due to thevery large number of late arrivals – the place was packed to thebrim at the halfway point.

Keynote. While Biztalk appeared in many of the slides, at all ofthe presentations I went to it was largely MIA – barely mentioned.That makes sense given that it doesn’t actually come out until nextyear, so I wonder why it was included with the branding of thisevent: Did they originally think they could pull it off and releaseit now when they originally planned this?

HMV is using it. Why aren’t you BTW: Have you heard about HMVsonline music store?

Trusted Business Platform

Intel vs AMD (a 32-way Intel box is used to demonstrate thehigh-end, and a 4-way AMD Opteron is used to show the immense poweravailable even on a “low-end” box, in this case servicing 18,000simultaneous SAP users)

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Coming Next: Some of thesessions, including witty observations and clever commentary.