A Canuck In The Machine

Mark Relph - Senior Director - Startup and VC Team

November, 2006

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    Seriously...how much do you love the Gears Of War ad?


    Video: Gears of War ad


    Especially those of us who are old enough to know what song is playing ;-)

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    Are You Attending The Toronto Launch Event?


    If so, let me know.  I'd like to hear from folks about your thoughts on Vista and Office.  I'd especially like to hear about your success stories and innovations on the new platform.


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    ISV Close-Up: 90 Degree Software


    Check out my friends at 90 Degree Software.... a great Canadian ISV based in Vancouver.  They are doing some very innovative new report designer and BI tool (the product is called Radius).  They are BI experts and are leveraging the full power of Office 2007 and Vista.  One extremely cool feature is the use of the Office UI and the new license.

    They have been in the news:  http://www.canada.com/theprovince/news/money/story.html?id=7ec90985-4091-4a5f-90f2-24f156a44f26

    and featured on a few blogs: http://blogs.msdn.com/bimusings/default.aspx



    They are one of our featured Vista/Office launch ISVs and they will be featured both in New York and across Canada.

    Michael and the 90 Degree crew are an amazing example of true Canadian innovation.  They are building the kind of products that I would like to find more examples of in Canada.


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    Battlefield 2142


    Ok... I admit it... I am a gamer.  One of my favorites is the Battlefield series from our friends at EA.  1942 and Battlefield 2 are amazing games, but I think that they have just outdone themselves with 2142.  Check out the video... one word: WOW.

    (Not to mention the fact that it continues to highlight the power of Windows as a gaming platform)


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    FeedYourZune - RSS Reader


    Not sure if it works... but podcast support for the Zune....



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    Farhan Rocks Out About Search on Soapbox


    Our friend down at the Online Services Group in Canada, Farhan, talks about Live Search.  Awesome video Farhan!

    Video: Windows Live Series - Live Search

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    Metric On The Plane To Seattle


    It's not often I sit beside really interesting people on the plane when I travel alone.... this time I had the pleasure of meeting some of the members of the pseudo-Canadian band Metric.  They were on their way to Seattle to record a new album after 260 days on the road.  Nice folks, cool band.  Check it them out.

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    Seattle - Snow Doesn't Mean The End Of The World


    Seattle is a great town, but not when the white stuff falls.  I landed at SeaTac and it took 2 hours to do what is usually a 20min drive..... the roads were covered in ice, but I can't believe the number of abandoned cars.  (Like the zombies attacked and everyone ran for it our something)











    Geez... last week it was a falling crane, this week paralyzing snow.

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    Launch Event Follow-Up Resources For Developers


    The 2007 Microsoft Launch Event

    Are you going to the Launch?  Want to learn more after you leave?  Well - you only need to remember these 2 links:



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    MSDN Canada Code Awards


    Who’s doing the best development in Canada? Submit your nomination now in for the very first MSDN Code Awards
    The MSDN Code Awards are your opportunity to tell Canada who you think is doing the best development work in Canada.

    Who has created the most innovative application? Who’s driving business performance? Who’s contributing to their community? Let us know who you think is on coding’s cutting edge. It could be an individual, or a whole team of developers. It can even be you. To submit your nomination in the MSDN Code Awards, click here.

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    Launch In Edmonton


    First - thanks to everyone who came out.  The attendance was just incredible - 1200 people!  It was just great to be able to do an event of this size in a great city like Edmonton.

    Some of my pictures:


    We took back a lot of feedback for future events.  Next stop: Toronto!

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    Off To Edmonton - Let Launch Begin!


    Launch begins in Edmonton on Thursday.

    I can't tell you how excited I am that we are on the eve of our Office and Vista Launch Events for our business customers.  More details from behind-the-scenes are on the way.

    Will you be at Launch?  Let me know.

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    I'm Not An iPod Hater.... I Am A Microsoft/Zune Fanboy.


    I am now "social", I have a Zune... :-)

    I will start this post by saying the following about the iPod:

    • Apple does a great job at industrial design.  The iPod is a well built device (I am not a fan of the shuffles).  You won't ever hear me slag the device.  I think that other devices are just as compelling, however.  (I think the same of their laptops.... wicked machines, just run Vista and we could do beautiful things....)
    • Everyone always talks about the iPod's "user interface" being so great compared to everything else.  This I just don't understand - honestly.  It's a wheel, ok great, I can see the benefit there, but how much better can "artist / album / song / playlist" get?  I find the majority of people who say that it is "so much better" haven't actually ever tried anything else.
    • I just don't think iTunes is the end all and be all of software like people make it out to be.
    • I like to think for myself and buy the device I want, instead of what the other kids tell me to.  (Sorry Bono, Engadget, TechCrunch and Scoble)

    I should also give you a sense of how I use digital media and these devices:

    • My wife and I both love music and we have a very large music library.  We currently own at least 1 player each, plus a larger capacity player we travel with. (We travel A LOT)
    • My latest purchase was an iRiver CLIX - which I love.  Small, wicked screen, great sound, FM, recording, very cool navigation, works with URGE.
    • Our entire home entertainment system is powered by Media Centre
    • Our entire wedding reception was powered by URGE music and a portable media centre from Creative.
    • We are big fans of subscription services like Napster and Urge.
    • We are a no-Apple, no-Sony household.... again, personal choice, nothing against those 2 fine companies or their products.....

    ok, so there is the background.  Here is my take on the device:

    It's a good, solid, cool device - especially for V1.  Personally, I think that the anti-MSFT crowd is simply not giving us enough credit.  You know J Allard and the crew will be innovating like crazy on the future versions.  (xbox v1 vs. xbox 360....J is simply one of the shining lights inside of the company right now)

    The Pros:

    • I like the name.
    • Brown is the new black ('nuff said) - actually it's brown-green which is cool.
    • Like Xbox Live is all about "playing together", the "Join The Social" theme is a great way to think about how people will use these devices.
    • The exterior has a interesting texture and the device feels solid.
    • I really like the Marketplace (note:  I have been using URGE for a while and I am a big fan.... it's basically the same technology....... good UI, great search (fast!), easy to synch, easy to create playlists, easy to rip and burn CDs, integrates music, pics and videos.
    • I LOVE the fact that there is an all-you-can-eat service.  Why?  Well, it is the fastest way to create a playlist from music you don't already own (I want my retro-80s mix, but I don't really feel like buying the old Prince albums) and it is a great way to be introduced to new bands risk-free.
    • The screen is big, bright and easy to watch.
    • Music, plus pictures, plus video, plus radio.....
    • Music sharing!!!!!!  The Wifi works like a charm.  4 of us bought Zunes this week and we were beaming content to each other like crazy.  songs, pics, videos, albums - all sent wirelessly in a flash.  You also get to pick a neat name for your device.... Some people of complained about the 3-play/3-day rule, but to me it makes some sense.  The idea is - "hey, check this out" not "hey, let's pirate content together".....
    • "Flagging" content and the "inbox".... you download a playlist and you just love a song and want to remember it, you flag it... it shows up in the inbox on the device and on the marketplace.  If you get sent content it gets flagged as well.  Notice I am saying "content" and not "music" - it works for pics and videos, not just songs.
    • The player pauses if the headphones are unplugged.  I honestly discovered this by accident tonight on the plane - what a great feature!  Reminds me of the controllers on the 360 which do the same thing. 
    • The box / packaging is AWESOME.  Best ever for any MSFT product, ever.
    • Auto playlists and pre-made playlists from the marketplace (yes, I know iTunes works the same way)
    • Great display of album art
    • Good sound.  Some people have complained the volume isn't loud enough, but I haven't found that yet.
    • Personal background themes are an neat feature
    • It is the first WMA player with a solid set of accessories (like car kits, travel kits, speakers, etc).  Creative has done a fairly good job, but not at this level.  (note:  I am a big Creative fan as well)
    • The potential to evolve the software is intriguing. 
    • The marketplace leverages Live Login which I like to keep it streamlined with other services.
    • It will work with Vista, no matter what you have heard.  We aren't crazy.
    • Like the 360, it makes us cool again.  I will carry it with pride.
    • You don't have to be like every other drone in the world that buys an iPod.  (hey, it's everyone's personal choice... just not mine)  People asked me about it on the plane and at the airport... nobody cares about each others' iPods.  :-)

    The Cons:

    • The control pad looks too much like a wheel.... it's not a wheel.
    • No podcast support per se.  Not sure how big a deal this really is, but it is a shortcoming.
    • The marketplace is US only for now - but that is a very short term issue that every music store faces.... more of a music industry issue than a technology issue.  (Warning - if you buy a Zune and bring it back to Canada, the marketplace won't work for you - for now)
    • Is the device as small as it could be?  I honestly don't know, perhaps.  It doesn't bother me at all - you get good battery life, a great screen, wifi, etc.  so there is lots "in the shell".... overall it is small enough to carry around no problem at all
    • I don't like having 2 players on the system - Windows Media 11 and Zune - I wish this was a "tab" on WM11.
    • I completely understand the business model and the benefits of a "vertically integrated" device, but I do wish that it worked with URGE and other Play-For-Sure systems.  Hey, we need a unified stance against the iPod in order to win in the marketplace...

    What I hope to see soon:

    • TV shows!!!
    • Solid Media Centre integration like the Xbox 360 support.  (I need to test this at home)
    • Integration with Windows Media Connect via the WiFi would be amazing (like some kind of base station)
    • Zune "minis"???
    • I want it to work in my car (are you listening Audi?)

    More details to come, but I would say that all and all I am happy with the device.  (I have only played with it for 2 days)

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    Zune and Vista - the blogs and media are just wrong.


    Honestly, do they think we are crazy?  Of course it works with Vista.  I have one, I have Vista, it works.  When you get one and get Vista, it will work as well.

    Don't believe the hype people.


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    Bad Water and Office 2.0 - The Single Point Of Failure


    Don't get me wrong, much of the Office 2.0 craze are concepts I agree with and endorse.  I believe that great services, matched with great software, will change the way we work.  Office 2007 starts that trend, IMHO.

    My colleagues and I were discussing one core flaw in the Office 2.0 vision -> the assumption that network connectivity will not only be everywhere (which it will), but that it will always be available (it won't).  Single point of failure is not a new concept and is not limited to Web 2.0 / Office 2.0 by any means.  I just believe that the "visionaries" need to consider the issues of what will we do when the infrastructure goes wrong.... (like at the Office 2.0 conference when people couldn't even do demos because the wireless failed)

    Let me use an example to emphasize the problem.

    I am sitting in the Vancouver airport.  I am itching for a coffee.  I head to Starbucks.

    What does coffee and Office 2.0 have in common?

    1)  Starbucks / Tim Hortons, like Wifi, is almost everywhere

    2)  It's something I would use many times a day

    3)  I get REALLY cranky if I can't get access to it

    4)  They both have a single point of failure (for one it is the network, for the other it is water)

    So, here is the situation:

    Two days ago there was a major storm and the water supply in Vancouver has been compromised because of overflow (http://www.citynews.ca/news/news_5372.aspx).  Everyone has to boil water to drink it.

    Nobody is serving coffee because of it (too much trouble to boil that much water in advance)

    So, no coffee for me.... the single point of failure made sure of that.

    I'm glad I don't need WiFi to do the reports I have due today.....

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    Crane Collaspes In Bellevue....A Little Too Close For Comfort


    It has been an interesting day here in Redmond and I thought I would share the news….

    Today the our Enterprise Search vTeam hosted the first Canadian Search Partner Summit at in Redmond.  It was a great day and we had planned to cap the event off with diner at the Seastar Restaurant in downtown Bellevue. (Great place, btw)

    After arriving by bus, our group was gathering for pre-dinner drinks when we heard (and felt) an extremely loud crash near (or as it turned out - ON) the building we were in.  We were immediately evacuated out of the building (we were in an all glass atrium) and discovered that a 21 storey tall construction crane in the lot right next to the restaurant had collapsed.  It severely damaged 2 buildings as it fell and unfortunately killed 1 person in the condo building across the street (that was hit by the arm of the crane).  The entire block has been closed down for inspection and cleanup.

    The scary part is that 15 minutes before the crash, our bus (with all 25 partners) was parked directly in the path where the crane fell. 

    Everyone from our group is fine, although an extra round of drinks was ordered (once we found somewhere new to eat)…..

    Attached are 2 phones from my smartphone….

    Crane accident in Bellevue 2Crane accident in Bellevue

    Coverage is here:



    Construction crane collapses, killing one in downtown Bellevue

    Crane collapse kills one in Bellevue


    BELLEVUE -- One person inside an apartment building was killed when a construction crane collapsed Thursday evening in downtown Bellevue, striking several buildings.

    Bellevue Fire Department Lt. Bruce Kroon said the man's body was found in a fourth floor apartment of the Pinnacle Bell Center Building.


    The crane was being operated at the time it fell, and the operator was hurt but reportedly was going to be OK, police spokesman Greg Grannis said.

    Firefighters used a ladder to retrieve the operator from about 20 to 30 feet above the ground, but he was able to pull himself out of the cage, Kroon said. He was taken to nearby Overlake Hospital.

    The accident occurred on 108th Avenue Northeast near Northeast Fourth Street, a bit north of the Seastar Restaurant, and the crane was blocking 108th Avenue Northeast.

    Jennifer Rupley was working late in her office building when the crane came smashing down. "I thought it was an earthquake and then the glass behind my desk and the wall came crashing in," she told KOMO-TV.

    The crane was working on 333 Bellevue Tower, which is an office building that has been vacant for a few years.

    The crane operator told the fire department he was getting ready to shut down for the night, when he heard a crack and the crane went down, Kroon said.

    The top floor of the Pinnacle Bell Centre Apartments was crushed and the building immediately next to the crane was damagedextensively, Koon said.Police officers and firefighters are still checking other buildings that were crushed by the crane. The cause of the accident was not immediately known.

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    This One Time At Game Camp


    This one time at game camp... (13)

    On Nov. 11th our Community Team hosting the first ever Game Camp in Canada

    The event was a great success... standing room only... great feedback... we feel great about it as a V1.0 event.

    What the CANDEV blog for more info and follow-up content.

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    It's A Big Day... VISTA RTMs!!



    I am running it on my production machines (all of them, including Media Centres) and it rocks.

    Check out the coverage:



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    Live Local Virtual Earth - Way Cool 3D


    Our friends at the Live team have launched 3D mapping on Live Local.  It is an amazing engine, that runs within IE (so you don't need a separate application).  There is fairly good coverage across North America.  Much better Canadian resolution is coming very soon :-)


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    Relph Sr. -> Startups and Shredding (Bikes, not Documents)



    Shredding and the Art of the Start


    As I was panting my way up “The Walrus” a favorite trail on Vancouver Island that I ride with some friends on Sunday mornings, I began to ponder that starting a technology venture and mountain biking are kinda similar. How so? Consider the following shared principles........

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    Audrey Carr comments on our User Experience Evangelist


    Audrey shares her concerns with how we are reaching out to the designer community. 


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    Sasha considers a job on my team


    An interesting post from a would-be evangelist after speaking to one of my managers.


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    Exciting Roles Open On The Canadian Developer and Platform Team


    My organization is hiring!  We are looking for some great people to join our team (which is a very unique group inside Microsoft)

    If you are a high energy person looking for a unique challenge in technology, get in contact!

    • Architect Advisor - The mission of the Architect Advisor is to demonstrate the value of new innovative Microsoft platform technologies by engaging with senior technical decision makers (TDMs) at both enterprise customers and partners.
    • ISV Developer Advisor - The mission of the ISV (Independent Software Vendor) Advisor is to demonstrate the value of new innovative Microsoft platform technologies by engaging with Technical Decision Makers at Canadian ISV’s.
    • Partner Developer Advisor - The mission of the Partner Developer Advisor is to demonstrate the value of new innovative Microsoft platform technologies by engaging with Technical Decision Makers at Web, Custom Development and VAR Partners.

    Full Job descriptions are available at;  http://www.microsoft.com/canada/employment/default.mspx

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