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Codemash 2008 – It is all about Workflow!

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 07-11-2007


Jim Holmes holding his new bookimage Codemash 2008 scheduled for January 9th-11th is only a few months away.  It seems like only a few months ago I was watching Jim Holmes walk around the Kalahari Resort in a Hawaiian shirt and flip flops with six inches of snow on the ground outside.  Good times.  Another Codemash event is just around the corner and rumor has it the sessions have been finalized. 

I have two sessions slated for Codemash, both of which will be given on Workflow Foundation.  The first session is an introduction to Workflow Foundation.  Here is the abstract:

Your boss comes up to you and gives you some business logic one day at work. You spend weeks coding it. As soon as you get done he informs you the rules have changed. You want to smack him/her in the face but you politely smile and say thank you, I’ll have that done in a few weeks. Little does your boss know you’ve used Workflow Foundation to map out all the business logic. You quickly make the change declaratively within Workflow and go back to reading your RSS feeds. While this scenario isn’t true, it can be if you use Workflow Foundation. In this talk we’ll explore what Workflow Foundation is from the ground up so you’ll have a good sense of where to get started when you head back to the office.

In this session I hope to give a really good no non-sense introduction to Workflow Foundation.  What I mean by that is I’m not going to spend 30 minutes talking about Workflow Foundation and then show a demo.  I think for developers to really get WF they have to see it, touch it, caress it, squeeze it and call it George.  I can tell you all day long about Activities and Extensibility but until one sees just how cool it is you aren’t going to really get it.  Bottom line is plan on getting your feet wet with Workflow Foundation as soon as possible and then I’ll explain what the heck is going on under-the-hood. 

The second session I’m going to speak on is “Building Custom Workflow Activities”.  Here is the abstract for this session:

Workflow Foundation is a powerful tool that allows you to declaratively design and map out application logic. While a lot of custom logic can be created using the Code activity provided out of the box, it doesn’t work very well when you move workflow out of Visual Studio and into the hands of business analyst or end users who want to re-configure workflows. The real power of WF shines through when you build custom activities that can be re-used on numerous workflows by end users and other developers. In this session we will look at Workflow Foundation from the ground floor all the way through building custom workflow activities from scratch. In the end we’ll design a reusable workflow activity that can be easily configured complete with validation.

This session is all about code.  I think there are only 4 slides in the whole deck that basically explain why you want to write custom code activities in Workflow Foundation.  From then on it is all about code.  It is called “Code”-mash no? 


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Memphis Day of .Net Keynote Speaker Announced

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 01-11-2007


image Charles Petzold will be at the Memphis Day of .Net held November 10th speaking as the keynote speaker.  Charles is the author of the recent book “3D Programming for Windows” and many other great windows programming books.  He will be speaking on “The Future of Web and PC Graphics”.   For more information about the Memphis Day of .Net checkout the official web site for registration, dates and times. 


Start of TechEd Day 5 I Can’t Walk

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 08-06-2007


It is the start of our last day of TechEd 2007 and I’ve had a rough morning getting to the convention center.  I seriously can barely walk.  With 4 days of continuously standing in lines at Disney World before TechEd and then walking miles a day at TechEd I’m immobile.  Before you start thinking I’m some kind of wuss just know that I’ve had feet problems for years.  I think I am at the point that I am going to have to seriously have a podiatrist look into it.  The bones on the back of my heels hurt with every step.  Literally I’m hobbling around trying to get to sessions.  I’m sitting in the “Creating and Delivering Rich Media and Video on with Web with Silverlight, Expression Studio, and Windows Server 2008” and I chose it not only for the topic but because it was the nearest session from the bus drop off.

To limit my walking today all the sessions I attend with be on the South side or in the expo in the blue rooms.  Note to self, by a Segway

TechEd Day 4

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 08-06-2007


When I got to the convention center this morning I had to sit down and do some work.  Email was backing up on me left and right.  One of my team members and I found a table and got some work done.  Then it was lunch time which gets my vote for worst lunch this week.

After lunch I met up with David Silverlight in the developer area where I picked up my 6th place winnings from http://community-credit.com for the month of May and my award winning plaque.  I spent the next several hours hanging out in the developer area talking to the product teams about different technologies.

A few highlights were I stopped by the Workflow Foundation and WCF booth and was talking to a Microsoft employee about WF and it turns out it was Tom Lake!  For those that don’t know, Tom is on the SDK test team for Workflow Foundation and used to be on the Biztalk team.  Tom answers a lot of forum posts on Workflow Foundation and has written a lot of samples.  It was great to meet him finally since he’s even answered some of my questions as I explored WF.  Great guy and very easy to talk to.  If you have been wondering about WF, stop by and chat with Tom, he can walk you up and down the stack.  Tom it was a pleasure to put a name with a face.

I bumped into Alexei and we chatted about agile development and Team Foundation Server.  I met Alexei in person earlier in the week and it was good to put another face with a name since Alexei spoke at our Internal .Net User Group during the month of April.  I then walked over to the Data Dude booth to get some ideas on how to version database diffs, or at least how I was going to try to handle it with not everyone on our team having a licensed copy of Data Dude.  I chatted with several members of the C# team that I met in March at the MVP Summit and got done just in time to attend the Acropolis session.

I blogged about Acropolis earlier this week but this was a deep dive session showing the current state of affairs.  After the session was over I don’t think I learned anything I can use yet.  Things are still very rough but the vision of what it is going to be I think is something to keep an eye on.  I am going to have to get the bits and start playing with it.  During the session the presenter had to restart Visual Studio at least 5 times so if you do download the bits, expect things to be really rough.

After the Acropolis session I checked email and saw that I had received my CodeRush and Refactor! license I won from .Net Rocks.  I downloaded the bits real quick and then jumped on the bus so I could install it on the way back to the hotel.  As soon as I got back to the hotel I dropped my laptop off at the hotel and picked up Ellen.  We jumped back on the bus and were off to the TechEd party which was at the Islands of Adventure theme park at Universal.

TechEd Day 1

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 04-06-2007


I’ve actually been in Orlando since Thursday but today TechEd 2007 officially got underway.  I took a few personal days from work so Ellen and I could go to Disney World before TechEd started.  We hit all four theme parks, one per day.  I told her that I was going to have to go to TechEd just so I could rest!  It was tiring, but fun. 

Last night we officially kicked off TechEd with Party with Palermo at the Glo Lounge.  The who’s who of the developer community showed up.  Lots of people showed up, several hundred if I had to guess.  Jeff just keeps making his event bigger and bigger.  There is no end in sight!  I rode with Jason Follas to the party and we stopped off at the convention center before heading to the party so I could get registered.  While I was getting registered, Dustin Campbell called and we picked up him across the street at his hotel.  He fit nicely into the back of Follas’s Mustang (haha).  At the party we saw lots of people and talked geek shop until late in the evening.


The keynote was this morning at 8:30 AM and I had a hard time finding a parking spot but I made it on time to still catch breakfast with Josh Holmes and Drew Robbins.  After breakfast it was off to the keynote.  The keynote was mostly about server products.  The developer stuff they showed I already knew (silverlight, wpf).  It seems that Microsoft is really making their virtual server offerings stronger with Server 2008.  MOM (Microsoft Operations Manager) also appears to be doing some really cool things.  One of the demos showed how virtual servers were created on the fly to scale a web site and when the web site had errors MOM was alerted.  I really like the server side of IT but I just don’t get to play in that space much.

First Session – Microsoft and Mobile Devices

After the keynote the first session I went to was a talk about how Microsoft handles roughly 40,000 mobile devices.  The talk was given by Microsoft IT employees who support mobile devices for Microsoft.  The session wasn’t that great really, mostly because the presenters were not that good.  I could have had them tell me what they wanted to say before hand and done a better job I think.   There were some good tips on things people should do before adopting a mobile platform.  One of the questions that was asked at the end was “What are your most popular devices your users use?”.  The answer is about what I expected.  Most people they said use a device similar to my Cingular 8525 form factor as well as the T-Mobile Dash form factor. 

After the session ended I headed down to the Microsoft TechEd store and picked up a few t-shirts and then went to the Mobile Planet store and picked up a 1GB microSD memory card for $10.  I hadn’t purchased a memory stick for my cell phone and haven’t been able to take a lot of pictures and store applications on it so it was a good $10 investment.

Dynamics CRM 3.0

After lunch I went to a session on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0.  The CRM session was interesting to me since our team builds the CRM for our company and I haven’t had a chance to view their product.  I mainly went to the session to get new ideas for our CRM and see how the other half lives.  When the presenters finally got to the demo of the product I was surprised at what I saw.  The contact screen in CRM 3.0 looks pretty much the same as ours.  It is funny because I have never seen their product.  When I built ours I simply mocked the screens up based on our business needs and how the information would best be represented.  It was cool to see the exact same design. 

I really like the way they did their customizations and how forms are designed but the Outlook integration and customizations is where I started to see why we made the right decision in investing in our own CRM system.  The windows presentation relationship views they showed during the demo were neat but how many CRM systems have pictures of each contact?  Probably zero.  There are a lot of things CRM 3.0 does that we really wouldn’t want.  For example, the ability to export data to excel would be something we wouldn’t want as well as the offline capability.  Also the advanced find functionality is something that would need to be “gumped”.  I suspect that if you had 4000 desktop users using the advance search capabilities as we do it wouldn’t scale the way it is done.  It would really need to be moved to a data mart but I don’t know if the architecture supports that. 

After the session I went down to the expo floor to talk to the CRM team so I could see the product up close and personal and ask questions.  The product seems to be very customizable in terms of being agile for a business but at the end of the day it just isn’t customizable enough for our needs.  For example although CRM 3.0 integrates with Outlook, the main contact screen where you work contact records is actually a web page that is skinned to look like Outlook.  Being a Smart Client fan this really turns me off.  For example there are only so many events that can be fired on a textbox or other controls.  We use a lot of these events to trigger validation and other things behind the scenes.  When I looked at the customization there was only an onchange event that could be wired up via JavaScript.  There are other things that just aren’t possible with the way we customize our CRM.  For example in our system when a user enters a valid phone number into a phone field we display a CTI icon next to the phone number so our users can call the person using our internal CTI system.  I asked if this was possible and was told no.   Well, technically no because that kind of customization would have to be done by a certified partner.   This is where I stopped investigating CRM 3.0 and moved on.   In the end I did take away some ideas about how to handle a few things but I think we have a much stronger middle tier. 

Wrap Up 

Once I got done with the CRM investigation it was time for the Expo Reception.  I joined Jason Follas in the Virtual TechEd where Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell were doing a live show and giving away swag.   Both Jason and I won a copy of Coderush and Refactor.  After the show I spoke to Carl about doing an up and coming DNRTV show.  Stay tuned for future info on that.   Coderush and Refactor are two tools I’ve been wanting for a long time.  We decided to head to the Developer Express booth (the guys the write coderush and refactor) and bumped into Mark Dunn, Regional Director.  We wound up swapping war stories with Mark for about 30 minutes and are formulating a plan of attack to get some community going on in Mississippi.  Then it was off the the Developer Express booth to rub our winnings in the faces of Dustin Campbell and Mark Miller (who write coderush and refactor for Dev express, both MVPs).  We also met Ray the CEO of Developer Express. 

Long day to say the least and my dogs are a barking (my feet hurt). 

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