24 November, 2010

Tech-ed 2010 in Durban

2010 was the first year ever that I went to a Tech-ed session, and must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. My decision at the beginning of the trip was to get as much out of it as I can, and hopefully there would be a break somewhere where I could do a geocache, which would have made it my 700th find.

Sunday: The opening keynote was not very impressive but not bad either. It definitely was not awe inspiring. This was not the case of the local Microsoft MD. The evening’s Halloween street party was quite entertaining, and the food was good. I did not stay to late, as I wanted to get up early, be fresh, and enjoy the next day without a hangover.

Monday: I attended all the sessions for the day, and even did a lunch time breakout session. I went to the ADO.Net Entity framework session, and was quite intrigued how simple ADO.Net can populate simple entities. I seem to remember quite a bit of configuration though.

The highlight of the day though was Miha Kralj’s session on “If there was a school of IT Architecture, what would I learn there?”. It was a riveting session. Although I cannot remember much of the session now a month later, the one thing though that I clearly stood out and what I remember him saying is that an good architecture one should have a certain “gene se qua”. This made me reflect on some of the systems I have worked with previously, and have come to the conclusion the “gene se qua” for me is simplicity.

Bart De Smet’s session on function programming and F# was also very good, and I was amazed at how different F# is to C# and Java. Somehow in my mind I though the three programming languages were closely related in their syntax. Some of the things Bart did in his session went over my head, but I could start to relate back to the F# code once I saw what the output was of the programs. I changed out one of my set session afterwards to hear more of Bart. He definitely knows his stuff, and is very interesting to listen two.

The last session ended at 18H15, and Janco and I stayed to go to the Dev Idols. I thought it would take no longer then about 90 minutes, but we were there till after 21H00, and just got back in time to the hotel to have dinner before they closed.

Dev Idols was held here in Africa for the first time, and each of the six contestants had 10 minutes to present a small session, to a panel of four who would judge them. The contestants were quite entertaining, and the most interesting one was remote controlling a TV via the UPnP protocol. William Brander presented this spoke well, by first stating the problem, some considerations he had to make, then his program’s basic architecture, and then delving into a little code.

There was also a 10 minute session on DeepZoom Composer, and how to secure the images. But why the images had to be secured was beyond me.

Tuesday: Over all, an interesting day, and not as long as Monday, although I did have some toothache, which was a bit of a dampener.

I went to some session where the most notable one are: Patterns of Parallel programming, 10 mistakes of Unit Testing and new C# 4 features.

I did not go to a lunch time break-out session, but rather opted to eat lunch quickly, and go for a 2 km hike through the neighbourhood, to work of some access energy, and attempt 2 geocaches. As it turned out there were muggles (non game players) close by each cache, and I had to leave them both.

The excursion to uShaka Marine was another notable experience, and lovely to see the fish so close up. The food was good, especially the lamb shops. I am not that fond of ice-cream but I thoroughly enjoyed the chocolate ice-cream, while viewing the fish below ground level.

Wednesday: This was to be the last day of Tech-ed Africa 2010. The morning started with learning how to slice and dice legacy code so one could add unit tests to it, and so find bugs in the code. The sample used was C#, and the variable names were in Russian, and although they were foreign to us, we were still able to debug, and fix the code.

The closing keynote was AWESOME!! Miha Kralj was the speaker, and for 40 to 60 minutes he bombarded us with verbal and visual information. To such an extent that at times the I was totally lost, and had to exert effort to keep up reading the slides, and listening to him. Very well done, and he is high on my list, with Bart de Smet, of sessions to go to, for when I go next time to Tech-ed Africa.

In Closing: I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Tech-ed Africa 2010, and definitely would go again. Much was learnt, and my field of knowledge widened and also opened to other new possibilities.

At home I am writing a WPF based geocoin program for my geocaching coins, and trying to build two things into it:
a) A certain “gene se qua”, and
b) “Code I’m proud of”

Here are some additional images from the trip:

08 June, 2010

The Gautrain and my first ride

I must confess that I was very pessimistic about the Gautrain a few years ago, and thought it would turn out a big white elephant.
As time wore on, and I saw the Gautrain being built, my interest in this new form of public transport here in South Africa intrigued me. We also did a geocache called "Gautrain Site visit" in Marlboro which prickled my interest even further.

When I heard the public service was to launch on the 8th of June 2010, I wanted to be the first one on the first train. I convinced a few work collogues to join me on this first historical trip. I spoke to about 7 people, and there were 4 of us at the station 5AM on this historical morning.

I arrived about just after 5 in the morning. It was still pitch black outside, and already there was a queue of about 6 cars waiting to enter the car park. As it turned out, the system which operated the boom gates was not working and it took 25 odd minutes to get that up and running. The boom gates being down, made me miss the very first public accessible train, which upset me a little as I so wanted to be on it, but one can expect a small glitch in a new system.

While waiting for the booms to open, I decided to take a few photos of the cars and station. As I was about to take a photo, this security guard asked me what I am doing. Now what am I supposed to answer? I have a camera in hand, what does he expect me to do? I wanted to say "Phone my wife", but being snotty, might cause problems, so I said that I was taking some 'personal' photos.

Once the boom gate system eventualy came back online we could edge our way through the booms and park our cars, after which I entered the station and was presented with my second queue for the morning to get our Gautrain gold cards. The 5 or so automatic machines where down, and the one and only manned kiosk was processing a person about 1 every 5 minutes (more glitches). Eventual a singe automatic machines came online, which helped little. What did help, was that a security lady came out with a red bag, and said we could buy a Gold card with R90.00 on it. I handed over my R100 (R10 for the card, and R90.00 into the t-purse) swiped the card, and was through the gates ready to go up for my first Gautrain ride.

Taking the escalator to the top brought us to our first close up view of the Gautrain. It is very slick looking! Pressing the button let us into into a mostly white cabin with blue seats. Two on the one side and three on the other side. I thought that aisle is a little narrow, especially if you have some luggage (Maybe the ORTIA carriages are wider, don't know).

The acceleration was very smooth, and it was quite an experience to see the night lights of the East Rand (Ekurhuleni) from the Gautrain for the first time. The only real landmark in the darkness I could distinguish was Kelvin power station cooling towers. We were a total of about 15 passengers and 3 guards in our carriage.

The deceleration at Marlboro was also very smooth , and the lights at the station seemed quite bright after the ride in the darkness. I remember that when I was in London, and arriving at the Canary Wharf station of being very impressed. Marlboro is no where near in stature to that of Canary Wharf, but I remember being just as impressed entering Marlboro station.

The trip to Sandton was quick. Really quick. The train swayed a little from side to side, which gave the impression what we were now going faster then before.

Once we exited the train at Sandton station we took 4 very long and steep escalators back up to the top. Again some memories from the UK surfaced.

Once outside we were met by the dawn of the morning, and a brisk walk to our offices at Inanda Greens office park.

On the return trip, I set up my GPS to keep track of our walk back to the station, and it reported we had walked just over 800 meters to the station entrance from our offices. Five escalators down, we were at the platform taking us back to Rhodesfield. While we waited I saw a lady that works with us, and walked over to chat to her, and while chatting met up with two other friends as well.

On the way back I took some photos with a Geocaching TB and coin, which could be the very first Geocaching items on the Gautrain!

Back at Rhodesfield I wanted to load money onto my card for the next day, but was met with more system glitches, which took over an hour to sort out, but now I have an additional R200.00 loaded onto my Gautrain gold card. I will use the train for a few days more before I make up my mind if I will use it more often. I think it definitely is a good option for me during the soccer world cup starting in 3 days time, as traffic is going to be horrendous for the next few weeks.

All in all I am very impressed with the days events, although there were more 'glitches' then expected, but I suppose one can expect that from a new system delivered before the original due date.

One can see the stations are made to be functional and automated. I would have liked to see a sign, which tells you which platform the next train is leaving on. I was told that it would soon be there.

Looking forward to my next trip tomorrow.