Heroes Happened … here

Last week I attended one day event organized by Microsoft named Heroes Happens Here. It is series of introduction targeting new products: Windows Server 2008 (not out yet) SQL Server 2008 (not out yet) and Visual Studio 2008 (out and well).

I do not do much Microsoft development these days – my world is currently rather unevenly divided between Java (about 70 %), Web-ish technologies (XHTML, CSS, JavaScript, some Ruby) and OS-X (Objective C) which I am trying to squeeze in and get finally started. But Microsoft is such important platform that one must pay attention what is going on.

The event was well prepared and well executed. After all, Microsoft is doing this for quite some time and experience shows. For the first time, there were more people attending that the space in Cineplex allowed – so there were overflow rooms with huge projection screen for the slides/demos and smaller screen showing the video-feed of the presenter. We ended up in overflow room. One very important comment to whoever was in charge of camera control: please do NOT zoom in on presenter and then try to follow him as he walks. Seeing how the space floats in front of your eyes is quite nauseating experience. Even if the speaker is good looking guy (as I overheard from some female attendants), most of the audience does not really care about detailed snapshot of his face with moving background, but about slides and his words. Think about the people in the other room – if they are fine with seeing the presenter from large distance, so are we. No need to play movie director and add “dynamism” to the stream.

The above is probably only objection to the format and execution of the event – all the rest was fine. The speakers were great (thanks, Christian) and the script was surprisingly well acted on. You guys have more talent than just technology evangelism.

From the products introduced I was mostly interested in VS 2008 and SQL Server 2008. I really liked the enhancements done in 2008. Nothing revolutionary, but nice features that make coding experience and developer productivity so much better. I wish the VS 2005 had this features :-). However – and there is always however – I have seen nothing that Eclipse/IntelliJIDEA/Netbeans would not offer for quite some time. In many areas the VS is still playing catch-up (like refactoring), in others will probably never quite catch up (extensibility – being a closed source product not an open source platform). But now, it is closer than ever. Where VS will probably beat Eclipse is speed of execution and look && feel (being a native App). I am looking forward to find out. Great work, Microsoft. It is important that there is more than one platform/toolset to keep the innovation going.

I am also quite excited about enhancements in SQL server 2008, specially in BI area and reporting. I will wait for the release to find out though – no cycles right now. I just hope the features will not disappear the same way as the WinFS did from Vista.

The Windows Server 2008 is least important from my personal perspective. With more and more services moving into the cloud and progress in virtualization (“software appliances”), there are IMHO better alternatives to host your VM’s on – as well as better OS-es to be used as guest OS. I would probably prefer to use some derivate of Unix for both (OS-X or Linux) or true VM Host (VMWare) and Unix combination. Buying Windows license to run appliance starts to be prohibitively expensive, if you want to build many of them.

One final remark to the general impression from this and past Microsoft tech events: I realize that tone of the announcement and presentation must be upbeat and optimistic, but there is no reason make it sound as if Microsoft just invented it and if that was the greatest innovation since the TCP/IP protocol. Even more if it is basically a bug fix feature: “ .. and now, the graphic designer of Web page actually works and does not rearrange and screw up your markup every time you switch into visual mode and back as in VS 20xx“.

I was very happy to observe that this “spirit” was tuned down a lot. What I have seen on this year HHH is more sober, mature Microsoft that has really competitive product and does not need to sink down to the FUD as often as before – they even mentioned “works with Firefox” ;-), but still did not dare to say the G word.

On the other hand – what kind of “innovation” is to say that you do not really need to run GUI on Web server ? Did the last 30 years not happen or what ? Just because until PowerShell came out, the Windows “shell” was such a lame and hardly usable tool for doing anything non-trivial (compared to e.g. BASH), it does not make making GUI mandatory a good idea. And allowing GUI-less server should be more appropriately presented as “OK, we were wrong but we fixed it” rather than “Look what cool feature we have just added”.

As Henry Spencer once said:
“Those who do not understand Unix are condemned to reinvent it. Poorly”

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