So much for blogging at the PDC. Looks like the web server went tits up as soon as I left for LA. Oh well, here’s the short and curlies of it...

Landing in LA was made slightly more interesting than usual by not knowing about the bushfires that are currently enveloping swathes of California around Los Angeles. The surrounding clouds on our descent changed from the typical white to a dark, sooty orange for a few minutes and then to grey before the pilot chipped in that the burning smell was not attributable to anything connected to the plane and would people please stop panicking. Given that LA is the vacationing resort for Hell, surely the orange isn’t a massive surprise when descending towards the airport?

Sunday was pre-conf day dawning bright and cheery except for the eternal grey from the fires some 100 miles away. Sitting in the coffee lounge area, familiar faces abounded, some happy to stop and chat and other, Microsoftie ones looking a little stressed that their session partners hadn’t managed to get into LA yet, because the airport closed due to the fires. There is a very real sense that Microsoft’s first sold out PDC will be attended by only half those who have paid.

At the reception in the evening, it’s fairly obvious who the bloggers are at the conference. Black t-shirts shouting “I’m blogging this” abound. Some I even know. Don XML, Kirk Evans and Peter von Ootigen are on good form this evening.

Bill & Jim’s keynote is as good as any I’ve seen at a Microsoft conference. There’s humour, self-deprecation, forward thinking and demos enough for anyone. I doubt that the VH1 ‘Behind the Music’ homage will ever make it’s way out of Redmond for the public to see but damn it was good. Steve Ballmer making a monkey of himself is not new, but getting Sean Combs, Bill Clinton, and John Scully to guest is pretty cool. Even Bill G played it up and to great effect. Don Box and Chris Anderson came out to demo Longhorn code for Allchin’s part of it and even got him to write some as well, peering over his glasses as he typed.

Longhorn looks very cool, even if it is two or three years away. The frustrating thing about all of it - Longhorn, Aero, Avalon, WinFS and Indigo, is that it’s at the not-quite-blue-sky stage of things where you can see how the pieces will fit but not what the pieces will really look like. All the alpha bits were of the previous code milestone and have already changed. Talking to the Indigo and WinFS team, it’s plain that the object models there will be re-architected before beta 1 is even contemplated. Which means that concepts are important here and not code, even if it is split around. Don had four talks and his team ten or so depending on repeats. His were basically overviews of the technology and the rest were drill downs into its various aspects - serialization, integrating current distributed apps, security, p2p, wse, interoperability and so on. I suspect that the same was true for those following WinFS and Avalon. WinFS seems to have been well received across the board, although Avalon and its XAML markup language seems to have sparked a few flames from followers of XUL.

Shortening the timeframe, Whidbey (.NET 2.0) and Yukon (SQL Server) were also making debuts. Again still in alpha, although at a point closer to a public release than Longhorn, these technologies were well received but almost overshadowed by the ‘other Windows’ on show. PDC is always a space for previews, but it shows the mentality here that more are attending Longhorn looksees than Whidbey and Yukon, which are closer to release. Wonder what will happen in two years when Orcas (.NET 3.0 for Longhorn \ Yukon 2) shows up? Looks like both these two upcoming bits are waiting for WinXP Service Pack 2 before releasing a public beta 1 release. Given that there were a handful of SP2 talks here I think it will be fairly major, not only for the fixes but for the additions too. Security advocates start paying attention!

So many characters and personalities here. In no particular order then, I thank the following for making my PDC better

  • Dave and Al - you can’t ask for better travel mates
  • John, Gary and Julian - stalwarts of the Apress stand
  • Neil and Amy at SAMS, even if Neil was delayed, he is the Doug Seven of the publishing world.
  • Stephane, Curt and Karen at AdWes - for the party, the drinks and the general fun
  • Don XML, Dave Lalande, Peter von Ootigen, Kirk Evans, and Ed Daniel
  • Those who attended the birds of a feather session I haven’t mentioned already - hope you enjoyed it and sorry I kept slipping accents.

Last but not least, thanks to those of you who came to the books birds of a feather session which I hosted with Gary Cornell on Tuesday. I think it went rather well. See you in two years perhaps?