Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tech-Ed and the Case of the Powerpoint Poisoning

As you know, I attended Tech-Ed (IT Pro version) last week in Orlando, Florida. I made it back, my luggage made it with me, and the airline somehow avoided breaking my three Pat O'Brien's hurricane glasses. Friday night after the sessions a couple of us went to the Hard Rock Cafe out at Citywalk and then over to Pat O's piano bar. My voice is still recovering. I think after the second hurricane and the free MGD that the Miller Lite girls gave us (thanks Rochelle and Kelly!) I had decided that I sounded pretty darn good (which called for the 3rd hurricane). I think the other patrons would probably dispute that assessment however.

This year I was disappointed in that very few of the Microsoft folks that I know were there at Tech-Ed. Even one person who was on the agenda for a couple of break outs was a no show. This seems to be getting worse each year as people either take different positions or leave Microsoft entirely. One thing I wasn't disappointed in was the shuttle buses. Somebody did something right there and we never had to wait long at all. In fact, last year many of us had to wait over an hour at the evening event to get a shuttle home. This time, there were several of each route sitting waiting for us. The ones to and from the conference sessions were likewise very available. That part was well done. The weather cooperated this year too and only managed to rain and thunder while we were in sessions. At one point on the third floor you were hard pressed to decide whether there was a lot of clapping next door or if the thunder was just right overhead. This beat last year again, as last year we got completely drenched at the evening event out at Universal.

I did end up with a case of PowerPoint Poisoning though. It was either that or alcohol poisoning, but I'm going with the PowerPoint as my story. The way this works is they feed you a bunch of food, stick you in a darkened room with an often monotone speaker, and flash slides which are often devoid of any interesting content. It's no wonder that half the room nods off from time to time. I know I did, and I saw a lot of other people in the same boat. There were of course the normal stock of superlative speakers who keep the audience engaged. Folks like Mark Russinovich, Steve Riley, and Mark Minasi - no sleeping in their sessions. Well done!

I also went to a few sessions that seemed to be covering some fairly important things but were very lightly attended. One example was Michelle Abrahams talk on Windows Search 4.0. This session was only a level 200, so it wasn't very technical. However, it covered the just released update to Windows Search that makes the Vista Instant Search feature tons more stable (it used to corrupt itself fairly often if you had a high volume of email). Perhaps people stayed away from the level 200 sessions or just didn't think this was important but it was their loss: this is something they should be deploying - now.

Overall, the sessions were pretty good but I did get a lot of repeat information that I've probably known for years as a veteran of several TAP programs. For instance the same guy was there talking about building Windows XP images and how to replace the HAL - same thing as last year and the year before (fortunately I didn't attend this time, but one of my coworkers did). I thought that both Chris Jackson and Aaron Margosis did a good job with their respective sessions on app compat and LUA issues. My notepad does have a couple of nuggets that I picked up from some of these sessions - so the PowerPoint Poisoning was worthwhile.

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