On Friday I attended Microsoft’s ‘Insider Dev Tour’ in Melbourne, one of about 44 similar events being held around the world throughout the month of June. Microsoft advertised the event as being ‘for developers interested in building Microsoft 365 experiences (…) today, using the latest dev technologies, as well as for those who want a peek into the future,’ and it was completely free to attend. Hosted at the offices of Xello, a Melbourne-based IT consultancy company, the event was all day, running from the hours of 8 to 5, and had food and coffee provided.
I was fairly excited when I heard about the event, having being recently drawn in to the Windows desktop development ecosystem through my involvement in the Open Live Writer project. I wasn’t going in with any particular agenda on things I would’ve liked to learn, but rather I was just curious as to how the whole day would play out and if I’d pick up any nifty skills. I’ve never been to any kind of developer conference before, so really this would’ve been a first for me.
The day was jam-packed full of talks. It began with an hour-long keynote from Rita Arrigo, a Microsoft Digital Advisor. The keynote didn’t cover any specific topic or theme, but rather pinballed between many exciting happenings currently underway in the general Microsoft developer-sphere. Some of the topics covered included Mixed Reality and the Hololens, Blockchain and AI. Although the keynote was quite buzzword dense, it did touch on how many businesses are leveraging these new emerging technologies.
The keynote was then followed by ten different 25-minute talks, featuring presenters from Microsoft and various local IT agencies. I found the talks to be of varying quality, some were really well-presented, engaging, and sometimes even funny, whilst others were dry and seemed to drag along without really presenting any key take-aways. I was taking notes throughout the whole day, and will quickly outline my favourite talks below;
- The Future is Now with ASP.NET Core 3.0 presented by Ryan Preece. Whilst I had already watched what was essentially the Build 2019 version of this talk online, Ryan managed to efficiently sum up the key points whilst adding some humour. Topics covered included Blazor, ASP.Net Core, gRPC, and most importantly, tying all these technologies together to create a modern, entirely C# based modern web application. What I found most interesting is how Visual Studio automatically detects and compiles gRPC protocol specs into their relevant C# counterparts, and that these Protobuf files themselves can stored in a shared project in your solution, referenced by both your server and client projects. Snazzy stuff.
- Build Embedded and IoT Solutions with Microsoft Windows IoT Core presented by Vatsalya Goel. Whilst the first half of this talk was essentially outlining Microsoft’s general IoT business direction, the demonstration was where it got interesting. We got to see what the typical development process for Windows 10 IoT consists of, with a simple LED blinking application (essentially the Hello World of IoT dev) deployed to a Raspberry Pi. I actually learnt a fair bit about Windows 10 IoT through this talk, as I wasn’t too familiar with the platform before-hand. What I found most intriguing are how Win10 IoT apps are actually running on the full-blown UWP stack. It raised for me concerns relating to performance and overhead, as well as how exactly you interface with your IoT device once it’s deployed. It turns out that Remote Desktop for Windows 10 IoT requires hardware accelerated graphics, which the Raspberry Pi does not have, so on that hardware specifically you’d have to find another way to control your applications.
- Leverage the Power of Machine Learning on Windows by Stefano Tempesta. In another quite humorous and informative talk, Stefano outlined the basics of machine learning and demoed these concepts on the online Microsoft Azure ML Studio. Various examples were provided on real-word applications of various machine learning algorithms, as well as how machine learning could be integrated into traditional every day applications. Exciting.
For a completely free event, there’s not much to complain about with this one. As I stated earlier, some of the talks felt a bit lacklustre, but that was easily made up for with the provided morning and afternoon teas, as well as lunch. In its promotional material, Microsoft did place a heavy emphasis on networking with others in the industry, however many of those in attendance at the event were from more-or-less the local enterprise IT scene; not an area that I’m particularly involved in. Overall, I would consider returning if the event were to be held again next year, and almost definitely if they chuck in some more involved developer-focused talks, and/or some longer talks. Maybe go for quality over quantity?
Until next time.