Valuable at Cambridge

I'm a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), which is nice. Always good to be considered valuable. Amongst the benefits of this status are invites to MVP Open Days, which are always interesting. Today I've been at one in Cambridge.
..and that's just the local public toilet.

Anyhoo, we set of bright and early, as shown by the clock below, and went down to Microsoft Research where they showed us a whole bunch of good stuff, only some of which I'm allowed to tell you about. There is a lot more to Vista than a pretty interface, oh yes, and mobile development is just going to get more and more interesting.

Town clock?

On the way back to the college we noticed that the bluebells were out.

..and they do have the most impressive garden sheds I've ever seen.

Every now and then you find out that someone you have admired for being very good at one thing is also extremely good at another. Our MVP Lead (the person charged with looking after our valuableness) has always impressed us loads. Turns out that she can also carry a tune, as she proved by donning a blonde wig and belting out a whole bunch of Eurythmics tunes at the meal at the end of the day. I managed to get a photograph of her in action but it is a bit dark because as a serious photographer (ho ho) I eschew such modern frippery as flash :


Good job Lorna, great stuff.

Winding Up (or is it Down?)

Last few pictures from the San Jose experience.
On Friday night we went to Fry's Electronics (seemed somehow appropriate). While we were waiting for the taxi back I snapped this. And I didn't buy that much really. Honest.
This is where I've been working all week. The dog is called Jake (you can just see him on the Smartphone screen).
Jon said he was not really trying to get T shirts from the stands. Yeah, right.
This is the offical vehicle of the San Jose Aviation Special Police. Please try to keep a straight face when you are being cuffed and stuffed.

Travelling Ages your Brain

When we were at the Nintendo GDC keynote we were given a copy of the new DS game which trains your brain and works out its age. I fired it up on Friday and managed to get a brain age of 52 (which is not great but close enough to my real age to not frighten me too much). And it does give me scope for improvement.

Today, in a heavily jetlagged frame of mind, I fired the game up again. 68. Oh well.

Actually, I've just been thinking, if the better you are at the game the younger your brain age is, the best way to win is to set there going "Goo Goo" and sucking a dummy.

Note : this is not the case. According to the book, your optimum brain age is 20. I'm going to head for 12.

Crunch Day

Today was the day that I did my talk at the GDC. After some last minute tweaking I set forth at 9:00 with 41 slides and 8 demos to deliver in one hour. At the end of it the audience seemed happy enough. Only one demo failed on me because I'd left a file open by mistake, but the rest worked OK and at least this failure gave me the chance to tell "my favourite joke in all the world" while I tried to recover.

If you want to get hold of the resources from the talk you can find them here. I'll be using the material as the basis of a talk at the MEDC (the Microsoft embedded developers conference) in May. If you are serious about mobile development (and who isn't) I'd strongly advise you to go along and take a look. And I promise to tell my favourite joke again.

Now you see it, now you can't

We went to the Sony PS3 keynote today. The queue was enormous and so we only just got in. Fortunately we managed to find a seat on the balcony next to one of the huge screens:
Unfortunately for us, they were not using the side screens for the actual PS3 video. so all we saw was as above. Apparently they wanted to use High Definition Video, and only the middle screen (set cunningly back on the stage) could do that. So we were left with nothing. Which did not impress. Later in the talk I moved further back so I could see things and the stuff there was very impressive. Launch in November? I'll be there.

Then one of the real highlights for me. Ronald D. Moroe, the brains behind the wonderful new Battlestar Galactica, came and told us how he put the new show together. Very interesting to hear what were effectively design decisions being described about character and plot. I wasn't sure about the video game connection when he started, but as a lot of video games now tell a story it actually made a whole pile of sense to have him give a talk.

Ronald and the original version.

After that I was due to help out on the Windows Mobile stand. So it was on with the Microsoft shirt and away to give help and support to people wanting to know more about writing code for mobile devices. Great fun. I keep meeting ex students and people from way back who see me, do a double take, tell me I taught them to program and then give me a business card with an impressive title on it. Great stuff. Jon insisted that I put this picture of me out there.


The chap on the right is Eric Engineer, Microsoft Product Manager and top bloke.
As a form of revenge, and also so his loved ones can see what they have been missing, I've also added a picture of Jon with a Camel.


More later

San Jose Sunday

So we set off for a wander round San Jose.
Fancy a weiner?
These are the things you aren't allowed to do on the train. I was kind of hoping that one of them would be take photographs, which would have been a lark. What do you think the thing on the bottom right (which you are allowed to do)is?
I have a weakness for neon signs.
This was inside the mall in the police station thingy. This is a kind of care in the community that I've not come accross before.
The trainstop had this really nice glass roof.
..and here is the train.
This is the San Jose flea market. A completely amazing place. If you are in San Jose and have a need for a cheap chainsaw, or arc welder, or wedding dress, or cowboy hat, or anything, you must go there. I bought a bag. And a watch.
Where we are.
So, are you a Felipe kind of person. Or do you prefer Eli?
On the way to the brewery for dinner.
This is the beer sampler. Don't have the very dark one. We think that they accidentally poured us some furniture polish. The one with the lemon in was nice though. As was the buffalo burger.

Do I know the way to San Jose?

Yes. In fact I'm here now writing this. Sitting in my motel room with free WIFI and a big bed. Which I plan to use in a minute or too. But first, the start of the reportage.


At Manchester airport they had a very impressive skylight.


On the plane to Chicago they had happy cheese.


This was the roof of the moving walkway accross the airport in Chicago. Impressive for a ceiling I thought.

..and this is where we just had tea. More tomorrow.


Helped out at the University Awards Ceremony tonight. I did some judging and some presenting. Great fun. Half way through we had a quiz called "Hostage to Fortune". Two local schools were in the final. Each school had a quiz team and one very special member:
You may be wondering why the two people in special suits. In a padling pool. Well, at the end of the quiz this happened:
I thought the tradition was that only the loser got gunged, but apparently in Hull we are made of sterner stuff.

Shopping for Bargains and Shutting off the Power

Went up town with number one son today. Which was nice. Although I always seem to spend more when he is around. I'm not quite sure why this is, he protests quite strongly when I start to buy something, and definitely sees himself as the voice of reason in this respect.

But I still end up getting stuff. In this case I bought the game Lumines for the PSP. It is rather impressive in a "tetris on acid" kind of way. It never ceases to surprise me how games manufacturers can come up with different takes on falling blocks that need to be jiggled in some way.

I also found out something about the PSP (and also my stupidity I guess). You can just turn it off. In the middle of a game. Previously I've been carefully exiting my games and then shutting down the power. You know, like you do with the PC. However, just to see what happens I turned the PSP off in the middle of a game. And when I turned it back on again the game was still there. Amazing. I suppose that this is all in the thick little book which came with the device (being a thick big person I never read that of course).

Beyond Your Wildest Imaginings

Bad things that happened today: At the celebration meal at TGIF on the way back from the competition I dropped a piece of some chilli stuff off my fork in my bag onto the tablet PC.

Good things that happened today: Everything else. And I mean everything else. We won big. We won the lot. I think I've just slid into an alternative reality where I'm writing the script for a while (but even I wouldn't have dared write down what has happened today). The various Hull teams took over the competition like a really tough bunch of highly trained competition ninjas. Which they sort of were. We ended up with first, second and third place. Amazing. The rest of the world must even as I write this be planning their revenge. Let them try. We can take it. After today we can take anything.

After we had cleaned out Microsoft we went out for our meal where the one bad thing of the day happened. After that it was the smoothest bus ride we have ever had from Reading to Hull. No hold ups, in bed before midnight.

I'm incredibly proud of the students in all the teams. I'm proud of my colleagues who came along to provide mentoring support. Very well done people. I'm fairly sure that real life will be kicking back in soon. If you want to find out more, and see some pictures, take a look here.