All things Tech Ed

Here I am on the Gold Coast at my first ever Tech Ed and I feel the urge to share some thoughts and feelings. Lets start from the, well, start.
Flight was good, some nice cloud formations and Virgin Blue was really good (the bar-code based check-in is the stuff dreams are made of). It never ceases to amaze me how quick it is to fly around the eastern seaboard.
We got in on Monday evening (there are 2 other guys from Ambulance here with me) and experienced a maxi-taxi ride to remember. The grinding sound of a diesel engine being strung beyond all natural limits at every gear change at the hands of a merciless driver keen to get us to our hotel quickly so she can move onto the next job is something to behold. I never thought a van could pull away from lights like that.
The apartment lived up to all expectations and even exceeded some but unfortanetly we are right next door to a construction site and it turns out the workers insist on starting very early in the morning, with loud banging and whirring cranes moving equipment around at a time I usually associate with hitting the snooze button.
The first day was TechEd Student Day and as I am still studying my masters I registered and went along. I stayed long enough to see the excellent session on Dystopia, a game built on the Half Life 2 engine, Source, using Visual Studio, by some guys (mainly ozzies) in their spare time. The premise for the game was brilliant and the delivery was spot on with amazing visuals and a great sounding plot-line. After hearing so many high school students answer the question "What sort of programming do you want to do?" with "games" at my recent seat at a local careers information evening, it was really good to actually learning a little more what is involved with it these days.
After that was the XBOX welcome party, which was pretty darned tootin’ I’ve got to say. The night started with pizza, boutique beer on tap and great hotdogs and was well attended, including a great set by local band Kiss Chasey. After quite a few drinks Joe and I jumped in the inflatable boxing ring and donned the oversized boxing mits to go a few rounds with each other. All I can say is that we both have a much better appreciation for how unfit we are now as we were absolutely knackered by the end of it and took quite some time to recover over numerous ice waters. Eeek, I really need to get fit again! We finished the night with some pool in the games room at the resort. Good beginning.
Today was the first day of sessions. The keynote covered a few different areas with the highlight for me the preview of cool new visual effects in Windows Vista and a demonstration of an amazing use for Indigo web services. It involved a service monitoring what was being watched on a Windows Media Centre PC and prodiding interaction (like shopping) and alerting based on the programs detected. Really cool.
The next two sessions I went to were on Visual Studio Team System 2005, with the first comprising of an overview of the main features of VSTS followed by a peek under the covers at the architecture that makes it all tick, including ways to customise and extend it. The next session was to be about managing the software development lifecycle using VSTS but the first 15 minutes was basically the same overview I had just seen and had seen many times before, so I bailed and checked my e-mail.
That leads me to the so-called wirless access that is being provided at TechEd this year. Maybe I read too much into it at some point but I was under the impression that when I registered, paid my fee and answered in the positive to the question of did I have a wireless device, that there would be free wireless access provided throughout the event. And I was right, sort of. Turns out that details provided hook you up to the Telstra wireless hotspot onsite for one hour only, after which you are expected to pay. Hmmm, yeah right. We signed up to another provider that had really good reception from our apartment and was only $29.95 for 7 days so the prices Telstra was trying to push were a bit much to take. Never mind, there are at least heaps of terminals provided at the event with net access so I can check e-mail between sessions.
Other sessions attended today included ASP.NET 2.0 and databinding, best practices for SharePoint Portal Server deployment, and new features in VB.NET 2005. Not too bad but I am looking forward to some of the more diverse topics I am planning on attending tomorrow.
This evening’s social event was the ‘Ask the Experts Forum’ which was really just all the speakers and other MS (and non-MS) people in the exhibition hall at the relevant stands or just walking around talking to people. I guess this is what these events are really about, taking advantage of the oppurtunity to not only talk to experts and ask questions about scenarios face to face but also to network with and mingle with these personalities that you feel like you know already due to hearing them speak at so many events and user group meetings and/or reading their blogs and articles all the time. I don’t hide the fact that I aspire to work for Micorosft, or one of their well known partners, one day and I think taking the time to not only get to know some of them but become known myself (for good stuff that is) is really important. In fact, while sitting in the sessions today I said to myself "I’m going to be a speaker at next year’s TechEd". No idea what I’d talk about just yet, but that’s just semantics really
OK, I could go on and on but none of this is really useful and it’s getting late and tomorrow is another big day of sessions followed by the offical Tech Ed party at Warner Bros Movie World, so I think I’m going to need all the energy I muster, and those construction site workers’ alarms will be going off any moment now…