Whiskey and Gambling in Seattle


One of the lovely things about the MVP Summit is the "appreciation night" that they organise for us each time we come. It's nice to be appreciated. This year we all descended on a whiskey distillery to sample a few, eat some good grub and maybe do a little light gambling. Great fun. 

Betting the farm (the dealer got 19)

Betting the farm (the dealer got 19)

The best gambler of the night earned a substantial donation to a charity of their choice. I was not the best gambler of the night. In fact it all served as a salutary lesson for me as to how fast you can burn through money, even if it is fake...

Beating the odds at roulette

Beating the odds at roulette

Action at the blackjack table

Action at the blackjack table

Fancy a whiskey?

Fancy a whiskey?

A great time was had by everybody. Thanks to the folks from Microsoft for setting up such an excellent event. 

Satnavs 0 Snow 1

I thought we were being so clever. with our planning for the journey to the MVP summit.  Booking a hotel close to the airport  and ravelling a day early seemed like a good way to handle "The Beat from the East meets Storm Emma". What could go wrong?


There are only a few roads between Hull and Manchester airport. And this afternoon they were either broken or impossible too get to. I chose to use Waze as my navigation weapon of choice. It's supposed to be able to detect road closures and automatically route you around them in advance. 

What it is not supposed to do is send you off the motorway and then back on at the same junction, put you into a half-hour queue to get onto a road that turned out to be shut, and send you down roads so scary that you turn back trembling. 


Once we'd, rather sensibly in my opinion, not driven down the road marked as closed, Waze proceeded to try and take us back the same way. Idiot code. You;d think that a satnav would be able to reason that if I've not used the road, there's probably a good reason for this. At very least it should ask a question "Is the road you just tried to use blocked?" and then use the answer to get us where we want to be. 

Actually, I think the whole sorry affair threw up my rather worrying reliance on technology. In the "Good Old Days"(tm) I would spend a few minutes with the map before heading out. That way I'd know if a particular direction is a good idea or not. Nowadays I just wait for the navigation to catch up.

Oh well. At the moment we are in Leeds buying train tickets for the last leg of the journey.

Day 2 of the MVP Community Event


Another day of MVP chat at the MVP Community event. Some really interesting talks and some very thought provoking ones too.

I really like meeting up with all these people.

The only downside was that I didn't get to win the Xbox One x competition. If only I'd been a bit quicker with my answer (and actually known what the answer was....)

Thanks to Claire and the other stalwarts who put everything together. 

MVP Summit Day 4

MVP Robot ready for action. 

MVP Robot ready for action. 

Day 4, and I don't think I'll be breaking any non-disclosure agreements by telling everyone that I went to a session about Microsoft Azure Internet of Things today. I took a long a Hull Pixelbot that I happened to have brought with me, and showed what my particular style of connected device looked like. Folks seemed quite impressed, which was nice. 

First Day in Bellevue

The weather in Bellevue is un-seasonably nice. It's much warmer than where we came from. We went for a walk this morning without needing heavy weather gear, which was nice. 

I have no idea who is getting the love here. Or even if it was always the same person.

I have no idea who is getting the love here. Or even if it was always the same person.

In the evening we had a great time at an MVP event in the Georgetown area of Seattle. There are lots of fascinating bars and whatnot, one of which had an amazing collection of pinball machines.

They even had a Twilight Zone machine, which was awesome, even though I still can't play it.Thanks so much much to the Microsoft folks who did such a great job of setting up the event.

Visual Studio Code and Alien Invasions

One thing that got pretty heavy mention at the MVP summit was Visual Studio Code. Turns out this is awesome. I reckon that if aliens ever come to earth it won't be to steal our water or turn us all into their slaves or whatever. It will be to get hold of Visual Studio. It is the best place in the universe to write code. 

Visual Studio Code is a lightweight development environment that takes the essence of the Visual Studio development process and makes it work on Lunix, Mac OSX and Windows. It is designed to be extensible, so that you can create bindings for your own development process and programming language (although there are lots available already). And it's free.  Great stuff.

Perhaps by beaming the installer out into space we can save ourselves an alien invasion or two. 

MVP Summit Last Day

This is what passes for MVPs on the rampage....

This is what passes for MVPs on the rampage....

Today was the last day of the Microsoft MVP Summit. Tomorrow I fly home. I've just about got over the jet lag, in time for another bout when I get home. We had another day of interesting discussion and a hackathon which was great fun. Then out for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and then packing.

It's been a great summit. I always leave these occasions with a head full of ideas for things to do and a strong desire to come back for the next one. Thanks to Microsoft for setting up such a fantastic event.

MVP Summit 2015 Day 1

These are the trees across from the hotel

These are the trees across from the hotel

Today was the first day of the MVP Summit proper. After getting up bright and early (it was kind of hard not to bearing in mind the time difference I'm working with) we headed off to the Microsoft Campus. The sessions at the summit are organised into tracks and this year I've decided to follow the "Internet of Things" track. I want to find out what the future holds in the embedded computing space from the Microsoft perspective.

The answer is; a lot. I've always liked making embedded gadgets, although I've been painfully aware of their limitations in the greater scheme of things. It's fine to make a balancing robot, or flashing lights or a Logo Blaster, but for me the true usefulness of embedded devices only comes when they are properly connected to each other and the internets. And by properly connected I mean behind industrial strength networking, loophole free operating systems and trustworthy authentication.

I don't think I'm giving much away when if I say that Microsoft seems to feel the same way too. For me the great stuff was not just the future of Windows 10 on embedded devices (although that is looking really interesting) but also the cloud elements that are going into place behind these tiny, cheap processing machines. Inspiring stuff.

When we arrived at the hotel and got off the bus after a day of fascinating content Doug turned to me and said "Careful that you don't sit down on the bed in your room, fall asleep and wake up at 10:00 pm". I assured him that I wouldn't do anything as silly as that, and that I'd see him at the MVP Summit Welcome Reception in an hour or so. Then I went upstairs to my room, sat down on the bed and........

Oh well.

I'm a bit cross with myself to be honest. Missed a party with free food and drink. Ho hum. At least I'll be nice nd fresh for tomorrow morning. At 3:00 am....

MVP Summit Party at the Living Computer Museum

Driving over the floating bridge to Seattle

Driving over the floating bridge to Seattle

One of the highlights of the MVP Summit is the party organised by Desiree and her team. I've been lucky enough to go on a few of these over the years, and there was much excitement tonight as we boarded the bus to "Who knows where" for the event this year.

The coach driver was sworn to secrecy but after a short journey from Bellevue to the Seattle outskirts we arrived at the party venue  The Living Computer Museum.  

Commodore Pet running my bubbles program

Commodore Pet running my bubbles program

The key word in the name of the museum is "living". These machines are all in working order and you are allowed, even encouraged to play with them. I was able to relive some of the coding of my younger days and I went round putting my "bubbles" program on as many machines as I could find (and there were a lot of them):

10 PRINT SPC(RND(1)*40);"o":GOTO 10

This displays a rather nice rising bubble display. See if you can work out how it works.

I learnt to program on one of these

I learnt to program on one of these

Once I'd had a play with all the microcomputers (and there were a lot of them) I spotted something that really made my heart jump. They had a card punch machine just like the one that I used when I was learning how to program. At the university we had a bunch of these and you would type your program onto punched cards that were fed into the machine two or three times a day, They even let me sit down and punch a card for old time's sake.

It's a very weird feeling to see something that you used to use (and which was at the cutting edge in it's day) turning up in a museum like this. When you think that the iPads and flat screen TVs that we think are state of the art now will be in a similar situation in forty years or so it gives you pause to think about technology and how fast it changes things.

A truly awesome place.  Not for all perhaps, but for Microsoft MVPs I can't really think of a better place to have a do. I'd be happy to have the party there every year. I'm certainly going back there under my own steam at some point in the future.

Hello Bellvue

So, here I am in one of my favourite places in all the world. For one of my favourite events of the year. I've been coming to the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional summit for a while now, and it is always fun. it is great to see a bunch of familiar faces and get to talk tech.

I flew in this afternoon on a geek-packed plane. The best way to get from Hull to anywhere is to nip down to Humberside airport, take a one hour flight to Schipol airport near Amsterdam and then fly anywhere; usually non-stop. So that's what I did.

The flight was great, although the last twenty five minutes were a bit more action packed than I was expecting. On some flights the captain says "Watch out for turbulence" and nothing much seems to happen. Well, this time we definitely got the bumpy ride that was promised.

After a bit of queuing at the airport we headed for the bus. A 2.50 dollar bus ride beats a 50 dollar cab ride every day. Once I'd unpacked I of course headed for the Bellevue mall and the Microsoft Store there. I wanted to have a look at the new Surface Book and see what other goodies they had in stock. The store was mad busy. Packed with people stacked up and waiting to buy stuff. It was so hectic at one point I had to go upstairs to the Apple store for some peace and quiet....

The Surface Book looks really nice and I was mentally setting aside the funds to get one but I've now really changed my mind. Thing is, it is rather expensive and probably scratches an itch that I haven't got. I don't need hairy graphics performance or all day battery life and so I reckon I can make do with my trusty Surface Pro 3. The other thing that I discovered is that the Surface Pro 4 Type Cover is awesome. Awesome, awesome, awesome. The keys are much better, the trackpad is proper and the hinge arrangement seems a lot stiffer, so it is much less "clacky" if you fold it back to angle the keyboard a bit. This keyboard is so good that I think it makes the Surface Pro a really viable laptop, without the need for the fancy book.

I'm typing this post on the new keyboard and it works really well. I managed to get one of ones with built in fingerprint reader (not available in the UK sadly) and It works wonderfully too. I'm going to have to live with slightly wrong keys here and there, but I reckon it is worth the trade off.

They also had some Microsoft Band 2 devices on sale. I quite liked my version 1 band, but it was never really as comfortable as I would have preferred. The new band addresses that, with much more flexible sides and a really premium feel that is streets ahead of the first version. I picked up one of them too (I figure that if I decided to get one any later they would have sold out) and I'll have a play with it later in the week. All I want to do at the moment is sleep....

Flying Home

Got up bright and early today and the weather was lovely. Made a quick trip over to the Microsoft store to see if they had any Microsoft Bands in stock but unfortunately they hadn't. Oh well, with a bit of luck I should be getting one fairly soon. 

Then it was into a metal tube and away into the sky. I hate leaving Bellevue/Seattle. Even though it rained for pretty much our whole trip it has been a lovely place to visit. Here's to next year. 

MVP Summit Day 2

I used amazing "Sky Camera" technology to get this photograph while we were waiting for Satya Nadella.

Another day of good stuff at the summit. I always leave these affairs with a whole bunch of things that I want to try out.

In the evening we had a Welcome Reception where Satya Nadella came along. All very interesting stuff. After all that I was a bit exhausted and staggered back to the hotel and bed. Early start tomorrow.

On the way back I grabbed a shot of Bellevue at night.

My quest for a Microsoft Band is ongoing. The offer here still stands.