Three Weeks in Review

It's been a quiet month so far on my blog: mainly because I've been on a fortnight's holiday and my wife accidentally leaked apple juice all over my Pocket PC Phone Edition, rendering it out of action. I'm still not 100% certain that it wasn't deliberate to force me to disconnect, but I'll give her the benefit of the doubt!

Nevertheless, there's been plenty going on to relate. One big personal item that I'll write about in the next post; the other items being mostly changes that have been covered elsewhere. Most of these have been blogged about plenty, I guess, but that never stopped anyone from adding their penny's worth...

  • We've publicised some changes to Longhorn, in particular the dropping of WinFS and the extension of support for Avalon and Indigo to downlevel platforms. The cuts seem like bad news, but will actually make a big difference to our ability to close down the release and increase schedule certainty. The addition of Avalon and Indigo to the WinFX application development framework that will be supported on Windows XP makes up for the loss to a great extent, however. ISVs and other software developers can develop using these new technologies knowing that they won't require a wholesale upgrade of their end users' platforms to Longhorn. And there are still tons of new features in Longhorn that will make the upgrade worthwhile, many of which haven't yet been publicly disclosed. So amidst the jokes about Longhorn becoming Shorthorn, there's some good positive things that will come out of this.
  • We announced some changes to the Visual Studio 2005 editions. A new Standard Edition provides a halfway house between the Express Editions and the Professional Edition, offering part-time programmers the opportunity to have a powerful environment with MSDN without having to pay the full price of the Professional Edition. I hope this will be popular with VB6 developers who have been holding out for decent migration tools and the same ease of use that VB6 provided: with language changes such as the "My" extensions, the return of Edit and Continue, and the hugely underexposed Object Test Bench feature, this release answers most of the criticisms of the 1.x Framework releases whilst adding tons of power and new capabilities to those who didn't migrate earlier.
  • Yet another massive J2EE / .NET benchmark riles the TSS crowd by demonstrating the productivity, reliability and manageability of the .NET world. This one will run on and on, I guess...

In the UK, there are some great events coming up:

  • VBUG announced their 10th anniversary conference, taking place in mid-November. These guys are great - I've been involved with them for nearly a decade now, and they are one of the most helpful, genial bunch of people I've come across. I'm embarrassed to admit that they do a better job than we do in terms of geographical reach as well, with user groups from . Their conference covers all aspects of .NET, including a pre-conference day on migrating from VB6 to VB.NET, and two tracks of sessions spread across three days. At just £299 + VAT, this is a steal.
  • We (i.e. Microsoft UK) are running a one day security for developers event in London in early October at which Steve Ballmer will be the keynote speaker. Places for this free event will go quickly, so get in there fast.
  • [Update] There's an interesting looking smart client event happening in Reading on the 30th September. It concentrates on how to develop Windows Forms applications that use the PAG application block classes to handle intermittent connections. One of my colleagues, Paul Foster, will be demonstrating some nice managed code wrappers that facilitate building integrated CRM systems using Office 2003 and WSE. Attendees will get a free copy of the 220-page PAG smart client guide: another good reason to be there!

Lastly, and à propos de rien, I just want to pay tribute to the ongoing success of the Mars rovers. I haven't heard them mentioned on the mainstream news or even on geek sites for a long time, yet both Sprit and Opportunity are quietly conducting science on another planet, having clocked up nearly 500 martian days and several miles of travel. I've been checking the NASA site nearly every day since the end of last year to see how they're progressing, and they almost feel like old friends now. The software and operational challenges are fascinating, and the team who have kept these machines going despite all kinds of unforseen events deserve huge credit.

My own big news will have to wait for tomorrow...

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