Friday, December 30, 2005

Blog Feed Experiment

I got a little free time today, so I started looking into some ideas that I've been developing.

Can you do me a favor? I'd like to see how this fieldset element comes across in the various RSS aggregators.

If you subscribe to my feed, could you email me a screenshot showing this post in your particular RSS reader? Thanks.
One involves some look-and-feel issues with this blog. But, I don't want to possibly screw up people who read the blog using RSS feeds.

So, this post is an experiment to see how various aggregators handle certain HTML elements (specifically: FIELDSET/LEGEND).

PSA: MediaPlay Going Out Of Business

I'm probably the last person to know this, but Media Play is closing all bricks-and-mortar stores across the country (online presence will remain) effective some time in January 2006.

A co-worker and I walked through the store in Ann Arbor yesterday, and there was still a few decent things on the floor at a 40-60% discount.

I'm personally going to keep an eye on the inventory of guitars, and wait to see if they will increase the discount any further (most of their electric guitars of varying styles were originally $199, marked down to $119 as of yesterday). I figure that if by some chance they hit 75% off, and the inventory remains as high as they were, that I could make a low-cost jump into electric in the near future!

I'm not quite sure what their reason for going out of business is. But, at one time, the store nearest to me had a great selection of books, but that went downhill after they remodeled or something. I was never really compelled to purchase a lot of things from Media Play, so maybe that has something to do with it.

See if there's a store near you:

Einstein Riddle

I love logic problems. This one took me about 25 minutes to solve.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Copying Messagebox Text

Here's a little nugget of information that I think is not widely known:

What do you do when you're testing a program, and a message box pops up to display an error condition? Well, most of my testers will ALT-PrintScreen and email the whole screenshot to me. Then, I must manually type the message into a textbox if I'm searching the Internet for information about the error.

Well, it seems that there's been the ability all this time to just hit CTRL-C when the messagebox is modal, and onto the clipboard will go a text-only version of the messagebox contents, including title, message, and buttons!

For example, I'm currently being forced to create some Crystal Reports (I'm sorry for using such obscenities) for a client. Of course, something is not installed or configured correctly, because the designer is showing an error via a messagebox. Well, CTRL-C on that error gives me the following:

Crystal Reports ActiveX Designer
Failed to load database information.
Details: The database DLL 'crdb_adoplus.dll' could not be loaded.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

ZMachine.NET Workspace

I have fulfilled a promise to the community by establishing this workspace for my ZMachine.NET project. I have uploaded the ZMachine class library code, as well as the console application code.

What is a Z-Machine? Refer to the following:

Where does the project go from here? Well, I would like to see support for later versions of the Z-Machine added (currently, only V3 is supported). And, there's got to be better ways to do things, like saving games, etc.

What's the buzz all about?I looked at my referrer logs, and noticed a large spike in the number of hits landing on this page from search engines. Is there a Z-Machine buzz that I'm missing? Please leave comments!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Squeaky Wheel Gets The Greasin'

Mike Judge, creator of the cult classic Office Space also produced another little cult classic called Beavis and Butthead. Now, there's not much that you can take away from that show, but I did get a one-liner stuck in my head:

The character Tom Anderson (who sounds remarkably like Hank Hill on another MJ production, King of the Hill) said, "If you get bad service, you've got to complain. Squeaky wheel gets the greasin'!"

And what better way to complain about bad service than through a blog read by tens of people!

Being the Christmas season and all, we decided for the second year in a row to take a family portrait and have it printed onto a Christmas card so that we can send it out to friends and family. This way, we think, everyone can see how big the kids are getting, and how much older we're starting to look. You know, all that fun stuff that a cheesy family portrait printed on a Christmas card provides.

Well, the portrait session itself was a nightmare. You see, procrastinating until right before Thanksgiving (which is like 4-5 weeks before Christmas) was a bad idea. We could not get an appointment at Photo Innovations (great place to take pictures, btw) or anywhere else in town before we left on a little vacation over the T-giving break.

We did finally book a photo session at the Sears Portrait Studio in Findlay, OH, which is maybe 45-minutes from my house, and was on the way to our destination. How lucky were we??!!

Well, as it turns out, we weren't all that lucky after all. You see, we started on the road driving in the first major snowstorm of the season, so the drive between our house and the store was extended. And, our appointment was right in the middle of the twins' naptime. And, Sears was running like 45 minutes behind (we had gotten there about 30 minutes early--seems the drive wasn't that bad after all). And, the twins did not want to get dressed (after we arrived at the store).

When we finally got into the studio, the twins did not cooperate. And, the photographer had a quota of shots that she had to take in order to try to upsell us on all of the great photos that are always taken after the boring "package" photo.

After about 20 minutes in the studio, we told the photographer that she had to give up because the babies did not want to be there any more. So, she had us sit in the lobby area so they can show us the pictures, and we can put together an order.

Well, maybe a half hour after that point in time, the temporary employee who was assigned to show people their pictures and take orders finally got around to sitting down with my wife (I was outside in the store walking the kids, trying to keep them from crying). And according to my wife, the temp didn't know what she was doing, and had to keep asking the supervisor questions.

So, two hours after our appointment time, we finally got back on the road, sans Christmas cards. You see, Tina specifically made an appointment at this Sears because they offered in-store printing of pictures (like Photo Innovations). What they don't tell you is that it's an extra per-sheet fee to have them printed on-site, and that Christmas cards are not included. Yup, we would have to wait about a week to get them.

Well, one week came and went. My wife gives them a call, and they insist that the order should be shipped and we should receive them before December 7 (which is like 2 weeks after the appointment).

December 7 comes. No pictures. Tina calls Sears. They will ship that day.

December 8 comes. Tina calls to confirm that they have shipped. Sears has no idea. No, wait. Sears says that they haven't even been printed! WTF!

December 9 comes. Tina calls to confirm. Sears has no idea. I've got a pissed off wife onhand.

December 12 comes. Still no cards. Christmas is two weeks away and we've still to receive the cards (and then mail them) before the holiday comes and goes. Tina goes over the store manager's head and calls the Sears customer service center. It seems that they can somehow force the store to print them on-site (albeit, the resulting cards will be of a smaller dimension) and then the store can overnight them to us.

"Heh," I think to myself. "If only the store would have printed them that day, then I wouldn't have to blog about HOW CRAPPY OF SERVICE WE'VE BEEN GETTING!" No wonder K-Mart owns Sears...

December 13 comes. Findlay Sears swears that they're going to "Overnight Air" them to us. I wonder how that's going to work, since the store is a 45-minute drive from my house. They'll probably ship them UPS, truck them to the air hub in Louisville, KY, and then realize that they don't need to go onto an airplane, truck them back to Toledo, OH, and place them onto a local truck. Oh, and we're supposedly getting a 20% discount.

December 14 (today): NO PICTURES! But, they were "definitely" shipped out this morning by "Next Day Air". Oh, and get this: the customer service rep refused to escalate Tina's phone call to a manager because "there's nothing more that they would be able to do for [her]". Umm, here's a note for anyone in a customer-facing role: That was definitely not the right thing to tell an upset customer.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Windows Live Local Bird's Eye Imagery

I was playing around with's Bird's Eye view again, and noticed that they have multiple sets of data online at the same time. That is, you don't always get the exact same photo each time you view an area.

I would expect that as you change the view to spin around North, East, South, and West that the times of day, and even maybe the time of year might change. But, I noticed while spying on my house that sometimes the year itself that the picture was taken for any given view changes! I can't figure out when it decides which picture to show, either.


All three of these are "South-facing" views of my house.

This one was definitely taken before the fall of 2004, because the big spruce tree between the two houses was cut down then.

This one was taken on a Friday morning (garbage day--see the cans by the street?) in what I would say the spring of 2005 (the spruce tree is gone, but leaves are not on any of the trees yet. Also, my red-roofed neighbor had not yet let himself into my backyard to clear away the leaves that I left there over winter).

And this third one was probably taken on the same day as the second picture, only in the afternoon (no garbage cans, and the shadows are casting eastward).

XBOX 360 as a Media Center Extender

I finally got around to enabling the XBOX 360 as a Media Center Extender ("Bobsled" device). The process was pretty straight-forward from the PC Setup side.

However, the whole experience, while positive, was without a few disappointments:

1. I could not find a way to view videos that are located on a fileshare (i.e., not locally saved on the MCE PC). In my case, I use GB-PVR to schedule and record shows on a less-powerful machine, and then just play them back on a more powerful machine across the network. I had hoped to be able to do the same from the XBOX connected to my TV (using the Media Center PC as a bridge).

2. There are times where the Media Center experience seems to be hung, only to take off again 10-20 seconds later. For example, when the XBOX first connects to the MCE PC (using RDP, which I think it just the coolest use of technology, BTW), the main menu will appear. But, if I use the up/down arrows on the remote, nothing appears to happen. But, 10-20 seconds later, those "keystrokes" are finally processed and the menu selection changes. Similar unresponsiveness was witnessed after stopping a video.

3. This one was expected, but a little disappointing nonetheless: XViD/DivX encoded videos apparently cannot be played. :( I need to investigate this a little more to see what codecs are actually supported, because I don't want to keep MPEG2 files around (1.8 GB/hr is what I record them at) when I can transcode to a more compressed format.

UPDATE (12/13/05): Chris Lanier makes the case for why DivX is not (and will not be) supported on the XBOX:

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Windows Live Local.... WOW!

The battle between Google and Microsoft over mapping continues. I was a little skeptical when the big announcement about Windows Live Local was made. I mean, we've already seen everything, right?

Well, I went to the site, typed in my address, and then saw a notice that a Bird's Eye View was available in my area. "What's this?" I asked myself. I didn't get a reply.

Now, both Google Maps and, Google Earth... have pretty sucky imagery for my neck of the woods. So, I was expecting pretty low-res results.

Lo and behold, there's actually kick-ass aircraft imagery of my neighborhood!

SQL Server 2005 Editions Comparison

I found the following buried in a document (SQL Server 2005 Product Guide), but I could not locate it on the Microsoft site.

UPDATE: The link was staring me right in the face on the SQL Server homepage! Think of the table below as being a summary for this:

$24,999 per processor
$13,499 (server + 25 users)
$5,999 per processor
$2,799 (server + 10 users)
$3,899 per processor
$739 (server + 5 users)
Fully integrated data management and analysis platform for business critical enterprise applicationsComplete data management and analysis platform for medium businesses and larger departmentsMost affordable and easiest to use database solution for smaller departments and growing businessesFastest way to learn, build and deploy simple data-driven applications
Unlimited Scale and Partitioning1-4 CPUs
Unlimited RAM
1-2 CPUs
3 gigabytes (GB) RAM
4 GB database size
Advanced database mirroring, complete online and parallel operations, and database snapshot

Advanced analysis tools including full OLAP and data mining

Advanced reporting with customized, high scale, and ad-hoc reporting

Advanced ETL with complex data routing and transformation capabilities

Available in native 32- and 64-bit editions*
Database mirroring

Basic ETL

Standard OLAP server with Analysis Services

Standard reporting with Reporting Services

Data mining

Full replication and SSB publishing

Available in native 32- and 64-bit editions*
Management Studio


Limited replication publishing


Back-up log shipping

Basic reporting
Simple Management Tool

Simple reporting

Replication and SSB Client

*Supports Itanium 2 and x64

Why Didn't I Think of This?

I can't add much to this, so just read Alex's blog entry:

WIndows XP MCE

I've finally rebuilt the "family" PC. The last time I built it was when Server 2003 came out. It's funny to see how much stuff accumulates on a hard drive over time.

Anyways, I installed MCE this time primarily because I want to see what the XBOX 360's Bobsled capabilities are all about. I personally use GB-PVR as a VCR alternative (running on a different machine), and MCE is able to connect to a file share on that machine and play recorded TV shows. So, it should also be able to send audio/video to my XBox, allowing us to actually watch those TV shows on, well, a TV. (Up until now, we just used WMP to view the shows).

Stay tuned for more of this saga!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My Addiction

I don't do drugs. Never touched the stuff. I don't smoke, and really only drink every 1-2 months. So, when I mention that I'm addicted to something, it's not a chemical dependency that I'm talking about.

Rather, I am addicted to Qdoba Burritos. There, I said it.

In the last week, I've eaten at a Qdoba Mexican Grill three times. And the closest one is an hour's drive from my house!

I've got a menu in my truck that I use to track which items I have tried (I'm working towards eating everything at least once). Let's just say that there are more items checked than unchecked.

If you've never been to a Qdoba (which is very similar to Chipotle), then what are you waiting for? The burrito is the size of your head, yet when you are finished eating it, you become sad that there is no more of that yummy goodness to devour.

Placing an order is sort of like being in the Soup Nazi's line: there's a sequential workflow that takes place as the burrito is assembled before your eyes.

First, you decide which of the burritos you want. Throw a dart--they're all delicious. But for the sake of argument, let's say that you want a Steak burrito.

They'll steam the 12" tortilla, and ask you what kind of beans that you want (black or pinto). I always go for the black beans myself. Onto the flour tortilla goes a heaping scoop of cilantro rice and your beans. Then your meat is added, and you are asked what kind of salsa you desire.

Here's where you can order in spanish, because the salsa names are, well, en español. There's the Pico de Gallo, Roasted Chile Corn Salsa, Salsa Verde (my favorite), Salsa Roja, and finally the hottest: Fiery Habañero Salsa.

Further down the line, you'll hear a question asked of you: "Cheese or Sour Cream?" This sounds like an exclusive or, but just say "Both, please" and they'll top the burrito with a glob of sour cream and a handful of shredded cheese.

If you want some Guacamolé, here's your last chance. Because someone will soon fold the burrito into it's familiar shape, wrap it in foil, and serve it to you.

What can I say: ¡Muy delicioso!

12 Subscribers!

Ladies and gentlemen, a new record milestone has been reached. We now have a whopping 12 people who subscribe to this blog's RSS feed (through Feedburner)!

What can I say, but I am truly honored. I mean, a true dozen of you actually care enough to add the feed link to your aggregator. /me wipes tear.

Watch out, Robert Scoble and/or Joel Spolsky: I'm catching up to your readership levels!

720p vs 1080i

Rory provides some insight into what goes on inside of your HDTV, and exactly what role Oompa Loompas and Hobbits play in displaying your picture:

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My own take on the 720p vs 1080i debate:

720p has an addressable pixel resolution of 1280x720. If you want to show 60 frames a second of this resolution in a progressive mode, then you need to have bandwidth capable of addressing 1280*720*60 => 55,296,000 pixels per second.

1080i has an addressable pixel resolution of 1920x1080. If you want to show 60 frames a second of this resolution in a progressive mode, then you need to have bandwidth capable of addressing 1920*1080*60 => 124,416,000 pixels per second.

But, if you interlace the 1080's resolution, then you only need to have bandwidth capable of addressing 1920*540*60 => 62,208,000 pixels per second.

So, for roughly the same bandwidth, you can have a higher resolution image, but it takes twice as long to load each complete frame. This is great for still shots, but when you have fast movement on the screen, you can have motion artifacts (I suppose that the quality of your monitor's deinterlacing abilities will dictate how much artifacting is perceived by your brain).

However, 60 fields per second (30 complete frames per second) is not a terrible thing, though. That's what you see when you watch normal television (NTSC). Do you notice motion artifacts? Probably not, unless you're standing 1-foot away from a 27" television set. You see, your eyes and brain tends to merge the fields together into a fluid motion picture. It also helps on regular television sets that the resolution is lower so that individual pixels tend to blur with their neighbors, which in turn helps to hide the combing (motion artifact).

Now I don't own a HDTV set, but I've stared at them in Best Buy on occasion, wishing that Santa Claus would just mistakenly load an extra one in his sleigh, realize that fact while in-flight, and just leave it at my place. And here's what I can say to people debating 720p vs 1080i: Waah, waah, waah.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Little Annoyance with XBOX 360

Here's something that kind of annoyed me:

When I fired up the XBOX 360 for the first time, I had to create a HDD (local) profile in order to play. This is the profile that I used to get past many bosses in Kameo (and unlocked many elements).

Deleting Xbox 360 ProfilesA lot of people landing on this post have been searching Google for ways to delete profiles from their Xbox360. This is done through the dashboard.

Be sure to sign out of Xbox Live, and then navigate to the following:

System -> Memory -> Hard Drive -> Gamer Profiles

Select the profile that you want, and then you'll have the option to Move or Delete it.
Well, I also created a second profile when I signed up for XBOX Live (gamertag: JasonMF). I did this primarily because I didn't really understand how Live worked, so if it was something that I needed to continue paying for, or any other reason why I didn't want it, then I could just delete the profile without disturbing the HDD-only profile.

Turns out that now I can't find a way to transfer all of my achievements from the HDD profile to the XBL profile. So, I probably have to play Kameo from the beginning again so that I get credit on XBox Live.

Though, I wonder if I just associate the HDD profile with my XBL gamertag, if everything would be automagically be recorded... I'll have to play around some more.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Oh, So That's Why You Change Strings!

I bought some new strings today for my guitar.

Being self-taught and all, I really didn't know that you are supposed to periodically replace all of the strings (like monthly, if not more often). I had just thought that you only replaced them when they broke. Silly me.

I did notice after having my guitar for about a month that the tone really started to become dull. That should have told me that it was time for a string change, but I just thought that my playing was getting worse! Again, silly me.

My new strings: Elixir Nanoweb Acoustic Light.

The great bright tone that I loved when I first picked up this guitar is back! And, being coated, these strings are supposed to last longer and keep the squeaking down. They were a little more expensive ($15 at Guitar Center), so we'll see how long they last.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Let the Price Gouging Begin!

The XBox 360 launched in stores today. And it already looks to be this year's Cabbage Patch Kid. One quick look at eBay, and you can see the price gouging in action: BIN prices of $3500??! I surely hope that those auctions close with no bidders.

I wonder how much a lightly used (a.k.a., personally tested to ensure that it is defect free) unit would go for as Christmas nears and all stores remained out of stock???

Sunday, November 20, 2005

XBox 360 Pictures

The brown box contained a game (Kameo), the XBox 360, and a note saying that the game that I selected originally will arrive separately in the mail.

I carefully opened the lid of the XBox, and this is what I first saw.

I remove the unit itself, exposing some documentation.

In the bottom of the box is all of the goodies. That long green thing at the top is the power supply block, and it's huge! Also included was a CAT-5 cable, a wireless controller, a IR remote, a headset/microphone that plugs into the controller, and A/V cables.

At the top of the rear of the XBox is a connector for A/V (supports both TV and HDTV). The I/O section has a 10/100 Ethernet jack, and a USB-2.0 jack (which the wireless network adapter would plug into).

I tried plugging in a SMC USB WiFi adapter that I had, but no luck--it didn't detect it. I did notice that they gave some instructions on the screen for configuring their own WiFi adapter, and it includes running software on a XP machine to load something onto a USB flash stick which you then transfer to the XBox. I may play with that to see what files it creates.

Unlike the old XBox, there are no dedicated connectors for hard-wired controllers--every controller is wireless. However, in the front at the bottom are two more USB-2.0 connections.

The fabled Hard Drive! It snaps onto the top of the unit. It is a sealed unit, but it is only big enough to contain a laptop-sized HDD.

Here's where the hard drive unit snaps in.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Big Brown Box Arrived Today

Yawn. Another boring day. Not much happened today except the Buckeyes pulled another win out of their asses against the Wolverines in the last minute of the game, and my XBox 360 arrived!

I didn't know which version the Pepsi/Mt. Dew "Every 10 Minutes" contest was giving away. Turns out that it was the tricked out version, with the hard drive and media remote control. Sweet!

I was actually contemplating ebaying this thing, since I could probably have pulled in a cool $1000, especially as Christmas nears. But, I felt it was time for me to have a new toy. In other words, I have no self control, and immediately ripped into the box to see what all was included.

Look for some pictures to be posted later, as well as a first thoughts write-up.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Text Games Rule!

If you've never played a Text Adventure Game (a.k.a., Interactive Fiction), then you don't know what you're missing!

I have a vested interest in this genre because I grew up on these games, and was so interested in their inner workings, that I coded a Z-Machine interpreter (emulator) in C# (which I then showed off the power and ability of SQLCLR to use existing complex business logic by running the emulator entirely on a SQL Server).

At least one other person that I know of is also interested in this genre of entertainment, and has given presentations around a tool used to create your own stories.

UPDATE: Many people coming to this page through Google may be interested in the following GotDotNet workspace:

Saturday, November 12, 2005

DNR Road Trip Tracker++

I actually created this a while ago, but it wasn't on a server that I could allow the general public to access. Last night, I signed up for a free ASP hosting service ( so that I could finally blog about this.

The DNR Road Trip Tracker that Dr. Neil and his team put together was nice. It allowed a GPS-connected PC inside of the boat to periodically send it's current geolocation to a server, which the Via Virtual Earth team saved to a XML file. When the tracker page was loaded (either from the DNR Road Trip Homepage or from the VVE URL directly), the ASPX would take the coordinates from the XML, and stuff the data into the HTML by means of a [table]. Javascript would then iterate through the rows of the table, and create a pushpin for each geocode (lat/long pair).

This was cool, and let you more or less see where the DNR team was at any point during their drive. But, because each point was plotted individually, it took a very long time to get through all of the points to the end of the trip. Also, it appears that in order to get updated information, that you had to reload the ASPX, which meant waiting for all pushpins to be plotted again.

I wanted to see why the plotting was so slow, and what could be done to improve the rendering. I also wanted to see if I could eliminate the need for the ASPX to include the data (i.e., a HTML/JavaScript-only solution). So, I set off to improve the work that Dr. Neil, et al, had initiated.

Making the page HTML-only was easier than I thought. The ASPX was really only needed to merge the data into the resulting HTML. But, since the XML was also accessible to the web, I immediately thought of AJAX (in concept, at least). But, the data was on another server, so the browsers were having a fit security-wise with trying to access it.

My solution was to use a simple ASP and ServerXmlHTTP to act as a proxy server. That way, when my ASP was executed, it fetched the XML from VVE, and then returned the result on the Response stream.

dim x
set x=server.createobject("MSXML2.serverxmlhttp") "GET", "", false
x.send ""

response.write x.ResponseText

set x=nothing

Instead of using a Msxml2.DOMDocument object on the client (which FireFox did not seem to like, but since I don't like FireFox, the feeling is mutual), I opted to do straight-up javascript string parsing to extract the data points.

Then I started playing with the VE API, and seeing what I could do to improve the render time of the pushpins, as well as look-and-feel things. Well, I discovered that you could render 50 pushpins in not much more perceived time as one pushpin with a minor code change. Also, by inserting some pauses, I gave the map some time to load tile images, so that the pushpins would plot on top of, well, a map instead of on a blank canvas (this was another annoying issue with VE and slow connections or heavy CPU loads while the trip was being plotted). This worked surprisingly well with little code change from Dr. Neil's.

I also added some "nice to have" things, like when the date changes, I create a top-most pushpin with the new date so that you can see where that day's leg starts. Also, I cycle through colors to distinguish one day's leg of the trip from another's.

Here, just take a look. It's all client-side (HTML/JavaScript), so you can examine the code for yourself. Hopefully, this free ASP host won't cause problems (i.e., with that proxy ASP that grabs the data from VVE in order to prevent cross-site security issues).

11/13/05: If you get a map, but no dates start showing up, then chances are that the WebSamba server is overloaded (happened once since I started hosting on it). IOW, try again later. :(

Friday, November 11, 2005

CNN Has A Sense of Humor

Browsing headlines on, the following stood out:

Man glued to toilet sticks to story

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Mystery Guy Who Was Also In San Francisco

I said in a previous post that I flew on the same red-eye flight between San Francisco and Detroit with someone who was wearing a staff shirt from the SFO launch event. This guy looked really familiar to me, and I couldn't place him.

I sort of thought that maybe he was on the floor (maybe at a kiosk), and I talked to him. But, that didn't seem right. Then I thought that maybe he was a speaker, and I watched him present. But, that also didn't sound right. No, I somehow knew this face from months before.

When we arrived in Detroit, he got off the plane long before me, so I was unable to stop him and ask. I figured that he was heading to our event, so I decided that I would just locate him there.

I looked for him all day, but didn't find him. Maybe he's a local then. Or, maybe he was just connecting through DTW... Oh, well.

After the launch event, Drew Robbins (DE for Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky) had invited me to dinner with a lot of blue badges and other community members. Had a nice time, and talked to a few people. I also learned that Josh Holmes is not a fan of SQLCLR. ;-)

But, about midway through, in walks the mystery guy! Now I had the chance to find out just who he was and how I knew him.

I first start my covert operation by asking Josh who he was. Josh is pretty connected, being an INETA speaker and a MVP. And, of course, Josh knew exactly who he was. Chris Mmmmmggeedsreasdjk. Or, at least I didn't recognize the name. But, I learned that he was an RD out of Dallas, and ran a company named Notion Solutions, and was a VSTS guru.

That was all well and good, but I still had no clue how I knew him. Being a RD, he probably gave a Grok Talk that I watched. But, that's not enough to make a big impression on me. No, I watched this guy for a good length of time before.

After dinner, while people were leaving, I saw my opportunity. I walked up, and introduced myself, and then just right out and said, "How do I know you?" I think after a few wrong guesses, he finally said "Coderoom".

Of course! He's the "No, I’ll do code then, if you’re going to just sit here and bitch." guy from the pilot episode! Chris Menegay, not Mmmmmggeedsreasdjk!

We chatted for a while about certain behind-the-scenes aspects of the show, and I was satisfied that I finally solved the mystery of who this guy was. Now, I'll know him as the VSTS expert instead of the cranky Texan who smuggled bottlecaps into the Coderoom filming.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

SFO Post-Event Party

Oh.... My.... God! The event turned from business to pleasure at 6 PM, starting with the kick-off of a happy hour on the second floor while they transformed the third floor into a party zone (and don't even think about trying to get upstairs early, because the security was tight).

So, I'm standing in line for chips, or veggies, or something. Lo and behold, the .NET Rocks duo starts interviewing someone behind me! (Deb Kurata - the interview is 19:15 minutes into the show).

Ok, for the first time, I'm watching this process live, instead of just listening live (or listening to an edited interview). And, I don't think that Carl had time to get a judge to issue the restraining order, so I was was in no danger of being arrested by remaining this close to him:

Watching the interview process is interesting. Carl has 2 mics, but one is occupied by the guest, while the other is shared by both him and Richard. Well, I don't know if there's ever a cue, but every now and then, Carl shoves the mic into Richard's face and Richard immediately starts talking and/or laughing as if he were on mic the entire time. The rest of the time, Richard just looks off into the crowd, or watches Carl in much the same way that I did. It's a little comical to watch.

Well, finally, we were allowed upstairs. AC/DShee was on the stage. The floor was packed.

I met up with Michael Voigt from Switzerland, whom I met the night before at the CS Developer Competition finalists dinner. We grabbed a couple of beers, and then watched an airbrush artist create this picture of Gene Simmons right before our eyes (remember, it's a rock-and-roll theme).

I wandered around to see what else was set up. The ballrooms, which had been lecture halls just an hour prior, were now divided up into a pool hall:

I'm pretty sure that pool shark Juval Löwy is walking out of frame to the right:

And, you can't have a party for developers without having Foosball!

Another room was transformed into a lounge area:

The music was loud, no matter where you went. Up till this point, I was still carrying my laptop, so I decided that I would take it to the coat and bag check area. Unfortunately, after I left Michael, I didn't find him for the remainder of the night.

One part of the party area was dedicated to video games. There were multi-player XBox games:

Single-player XBox kiosks:


And Cocktails (getting back to my R.G.V.A.C. roots!):

Well, 3-4 beers had it's effect, and I travelled to the men's room. On my way in, I just about ran right into Paul Sr. from American Choppers, who was coming out. What is this, the Discovery Channel trip for me (see earlier post about flying on the same plane as the Mythbusters).

I was fortunate to have been in the "backstage" area at that time, because staffers were clearing a path for Paul Sr. to ride the chopper through the crowd! I think Mikey was on stage, and from Jason Mauss's blog, the crowd was chanting "F*** Oracle", but I couldn't hear anything because, well, I was standing 15 feet from a Harley!

Wow, all of that excitement made me a little hungry! So, I get in a food line (specifically, the BBQ Rib line) behind... None other than Richard Campbell, Canada's own Memphis-style BBQ Rib king himself. We chatted a little bit about meat, I think (remember, it was loud, and I had consumed several beers), and about how the DNR duo were so ready for the trip to end in order to get back to their families.

The ribs were decent, but as Richard pointed out, they were boiled, and flavoured [his words, not mine] with liquid smoke and lots of sauce. :)

So, here's an uber fan standing in the middle of a party with AC/DShe playing, eating ribs with Richard Campbell (and Carl, who joined us with his own plateful). It just doesn't get any better than that. Or did it?

I don't remember for sure.... And, I hope that Geoff does some really good editing.

Update: Carl "lost" my interview. ;-)

Me: Are we recording?

Carl: Yeah, man, we're recording.

Me: Are you sure? Don't you want to, like, plug these microphones in or something?

Carl: Who's the professional podcaster here? Who got interviewed for the New London local newspaper?

Me: You, sir.

Carl: Ok, so let's get this thing over with already. I've got so many more people to talk to here.

(Later, that same minute...)

Me: Thanks guys.

Richard: No problem, Jesse.

Me: Uh, that's Jas...

Carl: Yeah, ok. Richard, look, there Chris Menegay. Hurry!

Richard: Oh, Carl--you'd better plug in that XLA cable. We don't want to lose an interview.

(walk off stage left)

Me: Um, ok, catch you later...


(This dramatic recreation of events is like, totally true, as far as you know)

The time came for me to leave in order to catch a train to the airport (this was while they were setting up the stage for Cheap Trick). I snapped a picture of the airbrush artists' work on my way out.

San Francisco Launch Event Pictures

Some pictures that I took throughout the day on 11/7.

The first thing that you see when you arrived on the second floor was the big registration line.

After securing your pass, you are able to get past the tight security and enter the main convention hall. This is the first thing that I saw, which was coffee.

Another shot of the convention hall. Each vendor had a kiosk, which you can see behind this guy standing on one foot.

Here's the Ask-The-Experts area. Unlike Detroit's show, all of the experts were in one corral, so if there was a question that spanned both Visual Studio and SQL Server, then it was very easy to get a couple different experts together for consulting.

People are gathering for the keynote. Music was playing, slides and videos were being played on the screens to the side of the stage. VIP's were allowed to be seated in the front-most rows. (This shot was about 30 minutes before Ballmer took the stage, so most people were not seated yet).

The opening act: Cheap Trick!

Steve Ballmer takes the stage.

Here's a typical Cabana session. This one was on mobile development, and one lucky member of this crowd (who happens to be out of frame to the left) won a smart phone for wearing a Windows Mobile hat.

Here's the Hands-on Lab where people could try out the software.

These stretched Hummers kept delivering supplies, or at least every time that I saw one pull up, people took boxes out of them.

The post-event party continues here:

Detroit Launch Event

I had to leave the San Francisco post-launch party early (before Cheap Trick took the stage) in order to catch a train to the airport. I wanted to give myself plenty of time, just in case I was victim of one of those random strip searches. No such luck!

The red-eye flight back was delayed because the co-pilot's oxygen mask was broken. I'm thinking, "Have a little faith that you won't need it, dude, and let's get this bird in the air." Despite being exhausted, I found it hard to sleep because I couldn't get comfortable.

I did notice a guy sitting a couple rows in front of me who looked REALLY familiar, and he was wearing one of the Staff T-Shirts from the launch event. I didn't recall if I talked to him, or if he was a speaker, or what... I decided that I would find him later and ask. (more on that in another post)

I guess that eventually, I fell asleep, because I don't remember most of the 4 hour flight. I arrived at DTW around 6:30 AM, and headed over to the rental counter to pick up a car.

Some time later, I found myself downtown Detroit, trying to figure out where to park at the RenCen. After maybe 15 minutes, and a U-Turn at the tunnel entrance (the tunnel to Canada, that is), I finally entered the building. But, nothing was marked! I was expecting banners and signs, like at the San Fran event, but nothing. You wouldn't have even thought that there was a Microsoft event in the building if you didn't already know.

I knew that the event was at the Marriott, so I kept following any sign that I found with the Marriott logo on it. Eventually, after maybe 15 more minutes of wandering around, I ended up at the event registration booths where I picked up my long-sleeve Microsoft speaker shirt, and my name tag. The Renaissance center has to be one of the most confusing venues that I have ever been to.

Now, for most of the previous day, I wore a "Windows Mobile" hat, trying to score a smart phone. Let's just say that without showering that morning, that I was not having a good hair day. I should have just put the hat back on, but in my sleep-deprived state of mind, I figured that somehow funky hair looked better than wearing a hat would. After actually getting a good night of sleep, I realized that I was probably wrong. Oh, well.

I spent a good portion of the morning at the User Groups booth, where we gave away a lot of swag (books and T-Shirts) via a registration application. People would sign up using our application (written by MVP and INETA Liaison Greg Huber), and upon clicking "Save", would be informed as to whether or not they were an "instant winner". This worked surprisingly well, and was very popular.

Local Regional Director and author Bill Wagner also hung around the User Group booth for a while. I think I was joking around when I asked him to sign my copy of Effective C#, and said to just put "To Jason, With Love, Carl Franklin", as if I didn't know who Bill was. He gets done, and now my book says: To Jason, With Carl Franklin's Love, Bill Wagner....

The keynote was a little less spectacular than the previous day's. ;-) But, in talking with people, they still left with a feeling of excitement about the products. And they didn't know what they had missed.

I spent most of the afternoon in the Ask The Experts area. San Francisco had all of the "experts" together in one area. Detroit separated the Developer area from the Data area (which is where I was assigned). Nonetheless, I travelled over to the other side a couple of different times, and met people like Patrick Steele (from GANG), Alex Lowe (from Telligent), and Eric Maino (from Microsoft). There were more people that I talked with, but their names escape me at the moment.

Though I didn't attend any of the sessions, it appeared to be a successful event. And everyone walked away with their free copies of VS 2005 Standard and SQL 2005 Standard.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Now, I'm the Dork...

Ok, so I spot Carl and Richard checking in. Wanting to give them their space, I just hang back and chill out at a nearby Cabana. But, then I got interested in what was being discussed and totally lost track of them. I look at the escalator, and they're heading down. So, I give chase, sprint the 15 feet to the escalator and then start walking down the stairs.

What do I do? What do I do? Suddenly, almost panicked, I shout "Carl…Richard". What? I'm pretty sure that the script did not say "The out-of-state guy attracts attention to himself." Why did I do that? Well, there was no stopping the situation now. I had to commit. I finish walking down the step to right behind them, and introduce myself.

Suddenly, I get the feeling that their worst nightmare just came true. They are now face to face with that weird live listener stalker dude from Toledo who publishes webcam videos of them on his blog.

"So, you spotted us, eh?" asks the Canadian.

"Yeah," I replied. Say something else. SAY SOMETHING ELSE! Oh, this is awkward.

Carl breaks the silence. "Oh, Jason F. You're that weird stalker guy who has our webcam videos on his blog."

"That's me." What did I just do? Did I really just make my first IRL impression by admitting that I'm a stalker? Even though the last thing that I wanted was to come off as is a psychopath? I can visualize the restraining order now.

As suddenly as it started, I found myself at the bottom of the escalator. They were obviously heading out of the building, and I…well, I had no reason to leave, so I tell them that I'll "catch them later" (do people even still say that?), and start to head towards the other end of the building where the Up elevator is.

"You're going back up?" asks the Canadian, half inquisitive (probably because most stalkers would have followed them to Starbucks), and half relieved.

"Yeah. I just saw the two of you, and wanted to say 'Hi'"

"Ok, see you later."

I am a dork. The end. I wonder if another podcaster is in the need of a stalker fan?

Launch Event!

Showed up, checked-in, and was handed a VIP badge. Cool! I'm a VIP... But, as I wander around the conference, it seems that most badges are either VIP or Staff, so maybe being a simple "Attendee" is what is chic at this conference.

Come to find out, VIP's get to sit in the first section of rows at the keynote speech. Cool! I'm center stage, about 8 rows back. The music is blaring, and the anticipation is building. This thing is going to rock!

Cheap Trick opens up with a rocking number, and then Steve Ballmer takes the stage.

Summary of the keynote: The products rock, SQL Server 2005 is a scalable, robust, enterprise-level alternative to Oracle, and the express versions of products are free (so there's no reason not to have Express on every desktop).

I've been wandering around the floor, popping in and out of different sessions. The Windows Mobile team even has me wearing one of their hats in hopes of scoring one of the 7 smart phones being given away.

Grabbed a turkey boxed lunch, and then chatted with some folks about Microsoft Dynamics (new branding of the Business tools, like CRM and Great Plains) and the new SP2 for Win2k3.

I'm also finding myself staring at the chest of some women walking around, but it's not what you think. HP is advertising their digital photography, and have LCD monitors embedded in shirts playing videos. Pretty weird, in a Teletubby sort of way.

".NET Rock Stars" that I've recognized so far today: Juval Löwy and the well-dressed David Chappell.

Monday, November 07, 2005


I paid $10 for a taxi to the Wharf, having learned my lesson about the hills of San Francisco the day before. I walked around for a bit, saw a huge group of sea lions (which are noisier than a flock of seagulls):

BTW, if the much-discussed Marina district of Toledo is to be like the Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39 of San Francisco, then I am all for it. Get 'er done Carty.

I boarded the ferry to Alcatraz, and headed out to the island.

I took the audio tour, where they give you a MP3 player and headphones, and you walk around the cellhouse as directed by the guy on the tape. I highly recommend it.

All in all, a neat place, but it did not feel spooky in any way.