A Canuck In The Machine

Mark Relph - Senior Director - Startup and VC Team

  • A Canuck In The Machine

    IT Skills & Talent In Canada – Myths and Realities - Part 1


    Working in today’s IT industry comes with a variety of challenges, especially in these tough economic times.  Jobs are becoming more complex, employers expectations are high and employees need more than just technical skills to grow their careers.  I had a chance to sit down with Shane Schick from itWorldCanada to discuss the state of the IT Profession in Canada.  We discussed several “myths” and industry perceptions on the IT skills shortage and lack of IT talent in Canada.

    We chatted about what the IT industry as a whole can do to help close the gap between employers and employees expectations.  The key is driving the right demand for IT skills, while meeting this demand with the right supply of talent.  We also highlighted some of the things that Microsoft Canada is doing to address these issues – such as Techdays, EnergizeIT and the Ignite Your Career Series.

    Shane and I divided our chat into the discussion of 4 “IT profession myths”.  Shane even had actual comments from his readers that we used as the focal point of the discussion.

    Here is the first part of the series, titled “IT Doesn’t Matter” (in Silverlight).  Check it out, let me know what your thoughts on the topic are.


    I will post parts 2, 3 and 4 later this week.

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    Reboot Canada


    Are you a gadget geek like me - always building your own PCs and Servers?  Always buying the latest toys?  If you are, then you have likely faced this problem - a closet full of outdated parts or a PC that becomes a paperweight when you upgrade. 

    Recycling a PC is not a simple task and the idea of sending my old equipment to a landfill turns my stomach.  I have been searching a long time trying to find a good way of disposing of my old equipment - let's call it “e-cycling“.  I finally found the solution!!!

    reBoot Canada (www.rebootcanada.ca) is a non-profit charity providing computer hardware, training and technical support to charities, non-profits and people with limited access to technology.  What an amazing operation!  I was there yesterday to drop off my donation.  With a limited staff of a few full time people and a small army of students they tackle a mountain of donated equipment at their warehouse in Toronto.  I don't envy their task!!  They strip down, test, refurbish and finally rebuild all of the equipment.  It is then sent out to charities around Ontario.

    I am proud to say that Microsoft Canada supports reBoot (see press release) as part of our community activities. 

    So - Geeks Of Toronto Send Them Your Old Gear! 

    You will be helping a charity, preventing landfill and you get a tax receipt.

    Hats off to Devon and the team at reBoot!  Keep up the great work.



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    From IMPRINT - Microsoft "sends us the Bill"


    From the latest edition of IMPRINT (Waterloo's student paper)

    Microsoft sends us "the Bill"

    Bill Gates to make UW his only Canadian stop in North American tour

    Ashley Csanady - staff reporter

    Bill Gates will be returning to UW on the morning of February 21 to address students in the Humanities Theatre. Much like his first visit in 2005, this is the only Canadian stop on a North American university speaking tour.
    The multi-billionaire and co-founder of Microsoft will be speaking to students primarily from math, CS, and engineering about the role that innovation will play in driving the new economy. As well as the roles and opportunities for students who are enrolled in those fields in shaping that innovation.
    Students will also get “a behind closed doors look at some of the innovation currently being developed,” said director of corporate communications and public relations for Microsoft Canada Cynthia Keeshan. These will be examples of the type of innovation that Gates will be discussing and the result of Microsoft’s  $7 billion US research and development department.
    Although the event is being touted as his “farewell tour” by everyone from university bigwigs to an article in The Record on Friday, February 8, Keeshan clarified that this is certainly not the case.
    The misleading headline of The Record article, “Bill Gates to include UW in ‘farewell tour,’” was based on an interview with UW president Johnston. He is quoted in the article as saying, “This is his farewell tour.” Where did this confusion come from? According to Michael Strickland, from UW’s communications and public affairs department, the misunderstanding stemmed from initial talks regarding Gates’ visit. Apparently, at the outset, the talk had been considered part of a final round of speaking tours, but as Gates is staying on as Microsoft CEO, it is hoped and believed he will continue speaking with students over the coming years.
    Although Gates announced his retirement from the position of chief software architect for Microsoft last June, Keeshan said that he will still be staying on in his role at chief executive officer of the corporation.
    She also said, however, that Gates does plan to “focus a little bit more of his attention towards some of the work he is doing with his foundation.”
    “The University of Waterloo and Microsoft have always had a relationship,” said Keeshan when asked why UW was, once again, the only Canadian stop. She added that it’s also one of the top academic institutions from which Microsoft recruits, as UW has a reputation for producing some of the top graduates in CS and math.
    When asked whether Gates would be furthering those recruitment efforts through his speech, Keeshan replied, “Microsoft is a company very driven by innovation [... Gates would] love to bring talent to the company to further that agenda.
    She clarified, however, that Gates’ speech is “really about the power of innovation to have an impact on our society and our economy.”
    Tickets will be distributed through the various faculty societies. Math, engineering, and CS have been allotted 100 tickets each, while ES, science, AHS, and arts have 25 tickets each. The CS tickets will be distributed through the computer science club as CS is a subset of the math faculty.

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    07/11/2004, 8:58 PM - Blogging at 40,000ft to avoid Air Rage... (RANT)

    After an incredibly busy October, I have found some time to return to blogging.  Locked in a metal tube at 40,000ft seems a great time to get my thoughts down on "paper".


    First - a quick discussion on technology and flying.  On my last 2 flights (to Vancouver and Montreal) I have noticed some incredibly poor technology travel etiquette from my fellow passengers.  So, let me share my 2 cents worth about how to make your techno travels more enjoyable.


    Quick Draw McGraw: I am a road warrior - TabletPC, Creative Nomad, Mobile Phone.  I take this cache of gadgets through airport security each and every time I fly without issue or delay.  I am never asked "do you have a laptop" by airport security because I have it out and ready for inspection quickly.  There is nothing worse than being the guy in a busy airport that has to tear about their briefcase or carry-on luggage to find their laptop and digital camera.  You know you are going through security, so have your laptop handy.  For the sake of the 100 people in line behind you, I recommend a briefcase or backpack with a quick access laptop compartment.  Ogio (www.ogio.com) sells what I consider to be the absolute best bags with this and many other cool features.


    The middle seats sucks, but deal with it:  On a packed Airbus 319 flight to Montreal last week I was sitting in the window seat in a 3 + 3 configured place.  The gentleman in the aisle seat was already their and our middle seat companion had not yet arrived.  About 10 minutes before departure he did turn up (and had obviously changed flights as many of us do on the Montreal - Toronto commute).  He was friendly and made a joke about "middle seat disease" or something along those lines.


    That's when things went downhill.  He pulled out his laptop. 


    Let me paint a picture for anyone who has not flown from Toronto to Montreal.  It is important to understand that they have crammed as many seats onto the plane as possible which means there is almost no room for anything other than remaining motionless for the duration of the flight.  I make it a rule not to use my laptop on flights like these for a couple of reasons.  First, you run the risk of damage from the person in front of you reclining their seat.  Craig, our Developer Audience Manager, had this exact thing happen to his tablet.  Second, unless you are a Hobbit there is no way to type without your elbows interfering with your fellow passengers.  This is the beauty of the TabletPC - "slate" mode and handwriting avoids this exact issue.


    Back to "Mr. Middle Seat" - with his laptop charged he proceeded to update his calendar.  This involved him elbowing me in the ribs with each entry.  I didn't want to invade his privacy, but it was hard since his screen was so close to me that most of my field of vision was filled with the details of his sales calls and doctor appointments.  Odd thing was - it was the Palm Desktop software - which begs the question, "if you have a tiny little PDA why not use it when in such a confined space?".


    The refreshment card came and I thought that was the end of the ordeal.  Alas, no.  Next came Flight Simulator.  I am a huge supporter of Microsoft Game Studios.  Flight Sim is one of the best games ever….. But not when you need to break the rib of the guy next to you to bank the plane to the right…. I honestly couldn't believe that this guy was playing a game under these conditions.


    So… the moral of the story is:  if you are unlucky enough to end up in the middle seat, buy a magazine or a TabletPC…. (or avoid sitting next to me!)




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    The Apprentice


    Had an idea for a reality show.  It's a play on the Donald Trump sponsored show “The Apprentice” where the thin and beautiful entrepreneurs of America compete to run one of Mr. Trump's companies.  The contests have been ridiculous so far - selling lemonade, managing Planet Hollywood, renovating a house and running an auction. 

    I'd like to recommend some new contents for future episodes.  Tasks and challenges that I believe will better test the business savvy of the contestants:

    • ERP Integration - contestants must develop and deploy a full scale ERP system that meets the needs of every department and division in a single day.  The team the stays on budget wins...
    • Migrate from the mainframe - the team that saves the most money on maintenance charges wins...
    • Stop the virus - the team the can convince the most users not to open unknown attachments wins...

    These are contests worthy of hearing “You're Fired” from Donald....


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    Introducing Canadian Developer Community Radio (brought to you by MSDN Canada)!


    Introducing Canadian Developer Community Radio (brought to you by MSDN Canada)!


    "Podcasting" - we really question the term as it seems to limit one's choice of device, but we love the concept and the power of this new paradigm of audio delivery.


    So, let's call it a "BlogCast" or an "Internet Audio Broadcast" and leave it at that.


    Here at MSDN Canada we are always looking for new ways to reach out to the Developer Community.


    So we decided to try our hand at this new form of communication as a way to give all of you a different view to what is going on at Microsoft Canada and in the community across the country.


    This is only a beta test of our new show.  It's also only the first of several ideas we have for audio content. 


    For every show we will include:

    • Show Notes (Text and OneNote)
    • Links To Relevant Information
    • Audio provided in WMA & MP3
    • RSS Feed


    Show #0.9 (Beta) – Live From The MSDN Web Development Deep Dive In Toronto

    March 22, 2005



    The Show Notes:


    MSDN Deep Dive - Building Web Applications with ASP.NET 2.0

    • During this Deep Dive event, Microsoft Developer Specialists will introduce the new features in ASP.NET 2.0 and Visual Studio 2005, including Personalization, Master Pages and navigation controls. From there, the session will delve into core Web development concepts for creating secure, reliable and scalable Web applications.
    • ASP.NET 2.0 reduces the amount of code required to perform data access tasks by adding a number of data-enabled controls.
    • Create more robust applications. You'll discover how to use Object-Relational Mapping techniques to create robust, secure data access layers for your Web applications.
    • Improve security. You'll find out the best way to use forms and Passport authentication, and run a .NET based process within IIS through impersonation
    • Post Event Blog Links: http://blogs.msdn.com/stoey/archive/2005/03/11/394381.aspx



    Last Developer Standing - www.lastdeveloper.com

    • Last Developer Standing is an online contest that allows you learn .NET and gives you a shot at winning $25,000. That's right, someone will win $25,000 based on their knowledge of .NET. Now, you don't need to be an expert - the big part of the contest is learning. Every two weeks you'll receive a module that consists of some learning materials, like recommended online reading, some eBooks from MS Press, that you would otherwise pay big dollars for, webcasts, presentations and more. Then you'll take a test based on those resources. There are 9 rounds in total. You'll be competiting against thousands of developers, if you do not score the best, you don't move on. That is, if someone scores perfect on a test, and you don't, you're out of the running. We're looking forward to giving the last developer standing - $25,000. We anticipate this to go the distance, all 9 rounds with people getting perfect tests. Which is why we've created a very interesting 9th round! The final round will be played over Microsoft Office LiveMeeting! That's right we'll have an online elimination match - if you get a question wrong, you're gone.


    VSLive! Toronto - April 13-16, 2005 – www.vslive.com

    • VSLive! is an industry developer conference put on by Fawcette Technical Publications and sponsored by Microsoft Canada. The conference features world-class speakers from Microsoft (mostly Redmond) and industry experts. This is the conferences second year in Toronto.
    • The format of the conference is 2 days of hands-on workshops and 2 days of sessions in a typical conference format. This is an amazing opportunity that happens in Canada only once a year.
    • Notable speakers include:
      • Prashant Sheridan, Senior Product Manager for Visual Studio, Microsoft Corp.
      • Rebecca Dias, Web Services Product Manager, Microsoft Corp.
      • Scott Watermasyk, Telligent Systems - Scott is a web development guru, he created the .TEXT ASP.NET application that supports millions of blogs per day on Microsoft.com
      • Fritz Onion, Pluralsight - Fritz Onion is a founding partner of Pluralsight, a think-tank organization delivering in-depth technical content and training, where he focuses on Web development with ASP.NET. He is the author of the highly acclaimed book Essential ASP.NET.
      • 20 more World class speakers


    Interview With Rob Windsor (http://www.tvbug.com) - Sorry about the bad audio!


    Interview With RD Barry Gervin - http://barry.regionaldirector.ca/Community/default.aspx


    Interview With The Deep Dive Speakers



  • A Canuck In The Machine

    Rocking The Toronto Launch - My Day At The VS / SQL Event In Toronto

    Rocking The Launch:
    Bristowe Rocks Out At The Launch
    Here at Microsoft Canada we have been working our butts off getting ready for the tour.  I am talking about really long days and a lot of effort from a lot of people.  So, it was a real thrill to finally get to Launch Day.
    For me, Launch started on the 7th with the press event (see my previous post).  It was held downtown and featured 6 of the customer case studies that my team worked on.  I am really proud of the team for working with our customers and partners on such amazing stories such as Toronto.com, Workers Compensation BC, TD Bank and Squirrel Systems.
    From the press event I headed home to do some email and to change (I was wearing a suit and tie for the press event, which wasn't going to go over well at the largest Developer event in Microsoft Canada history!)
    First stop was the venue to check out the setup.  It was about 5pm when I arrived at the Congress Centre and after figuring out how to actually get into the building I was able to see first-hand how much work it takes to transform this giant building into an event.
    Piles of chairs, tables were spread across the floor while the AV crew assembled the massive screens in the main room.
    We waited while the speakers went through the keynote and prepped the machines for the next day's sessions.  Jerome and John have 2 state of the art AMD 64-bit demo machines to use.  We run all of the demos as VPCs -> it's the easiest way to maintain a constant state and is super easy to restore to the beginning of the demos (thanks to the "don't commit changes" feature in Virtual PC.  Actually, the guys load Virtual Server)
    Once we were sure things were under control at the Congress centre, we headed over to a local bar for the User Group reception.  This was a ton of fun.  The very cool thing about my job is the interaction with the community.  We had a really great turnout for the event - thanks to everyone who stopped by.  After the UG event I headed home to get some sleep.
    At the UG Event with the Community folks!
    I was out the door and on my way to the event at 6am.  I occurred to me that this wasn't even all that early compared to the dozens of folks from our events company that had been at the show for at least an hour before I even got into the shower at home!
    The event looked GREAT when I arrived in the morning.
    The room just before the crowd came in.
    People started flooding into the event.  If you have never been to the congress centre, let me paint a picture for you.  It is a large warehouse-looking building near the airport in Toronto.  It is surrounded by huge parking lots.  These lots were completely full by the time the keynote started!  People have asked me, why the Congress Centre and not somewhere downtown.  Well, two reasons - 1) there are really only 2 venues that can hold an event like this - the Congress Centre and the Convention Centre.  2) the feedback we have had from the attendees overwhelming tells us that people find events downtown hard to get to, expensive to park at and hard to get home from.
    9am.  Keynote Time!  David Hemler (MS Canada President), Craig Symonds (VP Tools Division), John Bristowe (Developer Evangelist) and a few guests were the featured speakers.  The keynote went well, but I have to say the John's demo was the high point.  He really brought great energy to the morning (which was on the verge of seriously lacking intensity).
    John Rocking The Keynote
    Several people said they felt that John did better with the demo than the guy in San Francisco!
    The day then moved into 2 tracks.  The "IT Pro" Technet (SQL) track and the Developer (MSDN) track.  Barnaby and Damir were the presenters on the IT Pro side and John, Jerome and Barry Gervin were on the Developer side.  Given that this was the first time any of these guys had presented this material to a live audience (outside of the dry-runs) everything went quite well.  It wasn't perfect, sure - but try to run 8 hours of content flawlessly - it's hard.  We had 1 demo self-sacrifice to the demo Gods, but it wasn't a major part of the content.  (And with a quick restart of the VPC was easily fixed).  We haven't had the evaluations come back yet, but I think we did well.  (If you have comments, let us know)
    John and Jerome
    During the breaks a lot of people went to the experts area.  I am so glad we did this, it really helps to raise the technical level of what is essentially a marketing event.  30+ experts from Microsoft Canada, Microsoft Corp and the community were on hand to answer questions.  For anyone going to the other cities ->  save your questions up and visit the experts area!! You won't regret it.
    Anthony holding court in the experts area
    Check out the "Launch2005" tag for more photos:
    (I had my SLR with me - I am a bit of a photo nut.  I took 200 photos and have uploaded about 60 of them to the Flickr pool)
    I previously announced 2 contests in the blogs.  The first was "wear your old Microsoft clothes to the event" - the winner was a gentleman wearing a VB4 t-shirt.  Not bad!  This contest will still be in effect for the other cities.  Just show your stuff off to one of the staff or the VJ. 
    The second was the blogging contest.  This was a little disappointing to tell you the truth.  We had to basically beg to find 3 people with blogs and even then they weren't seriously posting material about the launch.  So, if you have a Launch post (good or bad) let me know and you might still win a prize.
    Some people felt that the banter between the presenters was "forced" - I am not sure on this one.  Yes, this was the first event so it was a little scripted, but the other option is a free-form approach that means things are more likely to go off the rails.
    Here is what I think could have been better in Toronto:
    • We need to promote the experts area a little more.  Too many people missed a chance to talk to some very smart people.
    • The main area was a little noisy because of the music from the launch area during the Developer Track.
    • Not enough chairs in the SQL track
    • The Q&A session wasn't practical in the big rooms -> just too many people and not enough time.  (if you had a question you wanted answered, please do visit the blogs of the presenters and post your questions.
    • Traffic was a bit of a problem.
    The good news for the remaining cities -> we take everything we learn and make as many positive changes as possible.
    I think that the day was easily an 8/10 in my books.  Not perfect, but a great day.
    Check out the launch blog for links to the various other blog posts.  http://blogs.msdn.com/canadian%5Flaunch%5Ftour%5F2005/
    Thanks so much to everyone who attended.  I really do hope that you found the event valuable.
  • A Canuck In The Machine

    Photos From The Ice House


    Some photos, taken by my team today at the Ice House.

    IceHouse (22)

    IceHouse (17)

    IceHouse (16)

    IceHouse (8)

    IceHouse (15)

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    Sneak Peak Pictures - The Launch 2005 "Special Edition Software"

    So, we just got a shipment of the special edition DVDs into the office.  Very cool.  I just couldn't help myself, so I took some pictures just for all you blog readers out there.
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    A New Members Of The Developer Evangelism Team @ Microsoft Canada


    I have blogged several times about a few open positions on the team here at Microsoft Canada.  We have been focused on bringing some amazing talent onto the team to help us with our mission of continuing to win the hearts and minds of Canada's developers.  I thought I would share some exciting news about some of the new folks joining the team:


    John Bristowe:


    John Bristowe will be joining the team as our Western Canada Developer Evangelist!!!  I am just thrilled to have John’s experience on the team and he will be a major asset to us as we head into the launch of VS 2005 and our other FY06 priorities.  For those of you who don't John (which isn’t many of you), he is a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), an active member of the Alberta .NET User Group and the Calgary .NET User Group, a MVP for ASP/ASP.NET, and the Microsoft Regional Director for Alberta.  John graduated from Bishop's University in 1999.  Later that same year, he relocated to Australia where he consulted for numerous companies. During his time in Australia, he co-founded and ran the Melbourne .NET User Group, the largest .NET user group in Australia. In 2002, John moved to Chicago and joined Empowered Software Solutions (now Magenic).  While in Chicago, he was a member of the Chicago .NET User Group and the Midwest District Technical Community for Microsoft. Two years later, he moved to Calgary and joined Quadrus Development as a Systems Analyst.  John is a very active member of the .NET community.  He has have spoken at numerous conferences and events, including Microsoft TechEd, Web Services Edge, CAMP IT Expo, and many user groups.  He has also conducted interviews with .NET Rocks! and MSDN TV and delivered Webcasts for Microsoft.  John also leads or participates in various GotDotNet workspaces and SourceForge projects including the ASP.NET Forums, the Event Sharing Framework, Plumbwork Orange, and Plumbwork Indigo.  His blog is available at http://www.bristowe.com/blog/ .  (Soon to be blogs.msdn.com)


    In his role, John will be focused on winning the hearts and minds of developers in Western Canada.  John will be focused on the launch, on driving Developer excitement in the community, on early adopter customers and of course on maintaining a relationship with the RDs!  John will remain based in Calgary (joining Dan Sellers).


    Welcome to the team John!  We are very excited to have you joining Microsoft Canada.

    Mohammad Akif:

    In his new role, Mohammad joins Karen McGregor and Carol Roy as DPE’s Architect team.  He will be focused on influencing key enterprise architects, driving .NET as a standard with target accounts, securing customer wins around key emerging technologies and positioning the Microsoft platform within certain industry initiatives.  Mohammad has over ten years of experience working at various fortune 500 companies including Citibank Singapore, Hitachi Malaysia, Fujitsu Singapore, Sprint USA and North West Airlines. 

    Before joining Microsoft he was the practice lead for Sun Professional Services for the US Northeast Region where he won various awards for supporting the sales and consulting organization and growing Sun's business in the region.

    Mohammad has co-authored several publications including 'Java and XML, programmer's reference', 'Web Services Certification Exam (administered by Sun)' and he contributed to the J2EE core patterns book. He presents frequently at industry conferences in the areas of Services Oriented Architecture, Reference Architectures for industry verticals, Security Solutions and Web Services. Mohammad has a BS in computer science, MBA in marketing and Certification in Management.

    In his free time, Mohammad likes to play basketball, racquetball, volleyball and various games on XBox. He is an avid reader with an eclectic taste and writes about world affairs. He loves to organize office outings, team events and other activities. He is very excited to join the Microsoft Canada team and is looking forward to meeting everyone.

    Mohammad will be relocating to Toronto from New Hampshire.  He will start at Microsoft on July 4th.

    Welcome to Microsoft, to DPE and to Canada!


    Çigdem Çimen:

    Çigdem Çimen joins us from Microsoft Turkey where she spent her last 2 years as a Senior Product Technology Specialist. In this position, Çigdem has enhanced sales opportunities and tripled the e-business server references over the past year.  She is known for her passion for technology and her customer focused approach.

    Çigdem joined Microsoft Turkey in 2000 as an Evangelist to drive adoption of .NET.  She worked on creating a great momentum in the Turkish developer community, increasing satisfaction among developers/architects, engaging with partners and building an energetic .NET ecosystem at Microsoft Turkey.  She is one of the international speakers in Middle East Africa Region.

    Prior to Microsoft, Çigdem worked in software development at Akbank, a leading Turkish bank, for almost 2 years. At Akbank, she successfully improved the productivity and efficiencies their alternative delivery channels by implementing emerging technologies as part of the banking infrastructure. In her career prior to Akbank, she held positions as a software engineer in several companies in Turkey.

    Çigdem holds a B.Sc. and a M.Sc. in Computer Science. She likes sailing (she is also one of the members of Microsoft Turkey Sailing Team), contemporary dance and her latest interest is Pilates.  Çigdem also has aspirations of pursuing her MBA in the near future.

    Çigdem will join us on July 11.  Many of you have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new ISV DE, so I know you will take some time to introduce yourself to Çigdem and to welcome her to Canada.

    In her new role Çigdem will join Ryan Storgaard in our efforts to enhance Canada’s ISV ecosystem.  She will focus on Evangelism Wins with targeted/managed ISVs and the competitive recruiting of key ISVs.  She will be located in Toronto and will be focused primarily on Central and Eastern Canada.

    Congratulations Çigdem and welcome to the Microsoft Canada team!


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    DemoCamp Toronto 17 - Feb 25th




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    PR: Microsoft Canada Announces Blue Sky Award


    Inaugural award recognizes significant contributions made by the technology community

    MISSISSAUGA, ON – March 17, 2008 - Microsoft Canada Co. is pleased to announce the creation of an ISV Innovation Award – the Blue Sky Award – recognizing exciting, cutting-edge solutions developed on the Microsoft-based platform. The award is open to ISVs yet to achieve Certified or Gold Certified Partners status. In developing this award, Microsoft Canada is helping to recognize innovation by creating a forum for leading Canadian software developers to showcase their outstanding achievements.

    People are the lifeblood of today’s businesses – their passion and ideas have the power to part clouds and create a world of limitless opportunity. The Blue Sky Award is designed to celebrate their innovation and the leading-edge applications they inspire.

    "Independent software developers lead the cutting edge of technology innovation in Canada," says Mark Relph, Vice President of the Developer & Platform Evangelism, Microsoft Canada. "The Blue Sky award allows Microsoft to provide ISVs with the opportunity to showcase their outstanding achievements and to recognize their efforts."

    Entrants will be judged on the unique use of technology, the real-life challenge they are solving and the market potential. The winner will receive a customized engagement plan to support their software development, which includes:

    • Software development resources
    • Business development resources
    • Public awareness campaign
    • Exposure to other Microsoft-based resources both in Canada and Redmond, including access to senior executives, developer evangelists and partner account managers

    “We are pleased that Microsoft is creating awareness around our desire to innovate and contribute to Canadian society and the economy. As a Microsoft ISV, we have seen the many benefits of developing on the Microsoft-based platform,” says Julian Spillane, CEO, Frozen North Productions Inc.

    About the Award
    For more information on the Blue Sky Award please visit: http://www.microsoft.com/canada/bluesky or click here to view the award information video.

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    Hey Canada Technology Professionals: Ignite Your Career!


    We’ve launched a great new set of webcasts called “Ignite Your Career”.  It’s all focused on helping Canada’s ICT professionals be a successful as possible.  So, it’s all about you.  We’ve pulled together 6 great topics and a set of awesome guest speakers.  If you head to the site you will see a list of the sessions and a nice video from yours truly talking about the sessions.

    clip_image002Here is the official pitch:

    “Welcome to the Ignite Your Career Webcast Series. The goal of this Webcast series is to support your career development by bringing together experts in the Canadian ICT industry to provide insights and to answer your questions. This year, we have broadened the range of topics and are reaching out to all sorts of audiences – it doesn't matter if you manage infrastructure, development, or IT architects.”

    Everything is both live and on-demand…. so you can be a part of the conversation or watch/download it later.

    You definitely should read Rick’s post here about how the sessions are being run.

    Series Line-up

    Industry Insights and Trends - Tuesday, March 3rd - 12PM-1PM EST REGISTER NOW

    Discovering Your Trusted Resources - Tuesday, March 10th - 12PM-1PM EST REGISTER NOW

    How to Establish and Maintain a Healthy Work/Life Balance - Tuesday, March 17th - 12PM-1PM EST REGISTER NOW

    How to Become a Great Leader - Tuesday, March 24th - 12PM-1PM EST REGISTER NOW

    Building, Managing and Strengthening Your Team - Tuesday, March 31st - 12PM-1PM EST REGISTER NOW

    Women in IT Panel Discussion - Tuesday, April 7th - 12PM-1PM EST REGISTER NOW


    There is a good post here about the Women in IT session and Shane at itWorldCanada also blogs about the first webcast here.

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    My continued love of the Dell M1330


    Dell XPS M1330

    My team and I have come to a clear conclusion – the vast majority of really happy Vista users are also M1330 or M1530 users.  Seriously, when I talk to somebody and they say that they are loving their Vista experience they always seem to answer “M1330” when I ask “what machine do ya have?”

    Dell Canada has been kind enough to let me play with an M1330 for a few months now.  It’s fast, light, good looking, easy to use.  Mine is has 4GB RAM and a 180GB drive.  The screen is amazing…… the machine just makes me proud :-)   …………  It also makes my fellow MS Canada senior leadership team members a bit jealous :-)

    Looking for a new machine?  Get this one.  The price is right and you won’t regret it in my opinion…

    I only have 1 ask of Dell – build a docking station for this machine and help corporations understand that XPS does not always mean “consumer”.

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    MIX08: The real lesson learned.....


    I'm on the flight home, reflecting on the key take-away from MIX08.

    • What is it that Microsoft has shown real commitment to standards in IE8?  No.
    • What is it that the momentum behind Silverlight in tremendous?  No.
    • What is it that Windows Server 2008 is the best platform for PHP?  No.


    What then?


    Easy.  I'm simply not as good a blackjack player as I like to believe.  Oh, and that my least favourite number is now 12.  :-(


  • A Canuck In The Machine

    NEXT UP - BillG @ University Of Waterloo



    On Feb. 21st Bill will make a stop at Waterloo.  He is on a "farewell" tour of schools in North America.  Obviously, this is a big deal and both Microsoft Canada and Waterloo are VERY excited about the event.  He will talk with students and meet faculty and will likely talk about the Foundation's gift to Waterloo to support high school outreach program.  I will be there, so I will let you know how it goes.


    February 08, 2008



    Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, who entertained University of Waterloo students during a visit here in 2005, is coming to campus again.



    UW plans grand expansion of Canada's largest mathematics and computer science outreach program
        WATERLOO, ON, Nov. 8 /CNW/ - The University of Waterloo will greatly
    expand Canada's largest youth outreach program in mathematics and computer
    science - currently reaching close to half-a-million young people - because of
    a gift from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
        The US$12.5-million donation is a "visionary gift," says David Johnston,
    president of the University of Waterloo. "It will allow our Centre for
    Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC) to expand its world-class
    outreach program to reach hundreds of thousands more youth and educators
    around the world."
        UW and the foundation share a common goal to give young people the
    opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in an
    ever-changing world.
        "The University of Waterloo has established a record of academic
    excellence, fostering intellectual growth in the fields of math and computer
    science," said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
    "We are proud to support the university's efforts to prepare the next
    generation of students for a world of innovation."
        The gift comes at a time of growing concern about the decline in interest
    of young people in the fields of mathematics and computer science across North
        The most recent Statistics Canada figures show that the number of
    students enrolled in undergraduate programs in mathematics, computer science
    and information sciences dropped by 8.7 per cent between the 2000-01 and
    2004-05 academic years. The significant decline occurred while total
    undergraduate enrolment soared by 21.6 per cent over the same period.
        Thomas F. Coleman, dean of the faculty of mathematics, says the gift will
    allow the centre to significantly enhance outreach efforts, including its
    contests, workshops and Internet resources aimed at secondary and elementary
    school students and teachers. The CEMC currently reaches around
    450,000 students in Grades 4 to 12 and 10,000 teachers annually, mainly in
        With the shift to an increasingly knowledge-based society, Coleman says
    there will be a huge need for people skilled in mathematics and computer
    science. "This gift will make an enormous difference in helping us to advocate
    to a much larger youth audience throughout Canada, the United States and
    elsewhere in the world about the importance of considering an education in
    those areas."
        Coleman adds he hopes this grant "will inspire significant additional
    support from individuals and foundations, as well as the private and public
    sectors. We welcome additional partners to this exciting venture."
        With the gift, the CEMC will:
        -   Dramatically improve access to CEMC enrichment and outreach
            activities, focusing in part on young women and those facing
            geographic or economic barriers to learning.
        -   Develop a 'train the trainers' network for mathematics and computer
            science teachers. The network will then deliver outreach programs at
            the grassroots level. These programs will stimulate interest, build
            skills and increase awareness of the opportunities available in
            mathematics and computer science.
        -   Expand the centre's extensive education network by collaborating with
            more elementary and secondary schools and school boards.
        -   Develop a community of educators, industry representatives, local
            organizations and governments to be an advocate for education, issues
            and opportunities in mathematics and computer science.
        -   Continue enhancing the quality of the centre's current programs,
            especially global contests, enrichment programs and school visits.
        About the University of Waterloo's faculty of mathematics
        The University of Waterloo's faculty of mathematics is the world's
    largest centre for education in mathematical, statistical and computer
    sciences. It is one of only four such faculties in the world. With more than
    5,300 students, 185 full-time faculty members, and 180 courses in
    mathematical, statistical and computer sciences, the faculty is a powerhouse
    of discovery and innovation.
        About the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing
        Formally established in 1995, but with mathematics contest activity
    dating back to the early 1960s, the CEMC is Canada's largest mathematics and
    computer science outreach program. Its activities have produced a successful
    model for reaching math and computer science students for youths and
    educators. During the last year alone, CEMC's contests, workshops and Internet
    resources have impacted more than 450,000 students (in Grades 4 to 12) and
    almost 10,000 teachers at about 1,500 schools, primarily throughout Canada.
    For further information: Thomas F. Coleman, dean of the faculty of
    mathematics, (519) 888-4567 ext. 84480; Ian VanderBurgh, CEMC director, (519)
    888-4567 ext. 32358; Michael Strickland, UW media relations, (519) 888-4777
  • A Canuck In The Machine

    Microsoft's Phil Sorgen on social responsibility


    On the Globe & Mail site today.

    “Should a corporation answer only to its shareholders, or should it have a social conscience as well?

    Not all executives are convinced they can afford to pour time and money into such things as community projects. But according to recent studies, an extraordinarily high number of their employees want to be involved in a company's social responsibilities, would prefer to work for a company with a strong commitment to community, and believe companies tied to a charity are more trustworthy and more respected.

    An increasing number of companies have gone beyond writing cheques or donating cash to charities, donating products, services and time to works in the community.

    Join the Conversation with Microsoft Canada president Phil Sorgen, who will take your questions about Corporate Social Responsibility from 1 p.m. to until 2 p.m. Wednesday, who can offer a history of his company's CSR projects and ideas on how companies can start their own programs”

      FYI…. Phil is my boss here at Microsoft Canada :-)

    • A Canuck In The Machine

      MSR Releases The Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE)


      I’ve been using ICE for a while.  It rocks – the best way to build panoramic or composite images from a group of photos.  Try it out.

      From the site:

      Screenshot2-480“Microsoft Image Composite Editor is an advanced panoramic image stitcher. You shoot a set of overlapping photographs of a scene from a single location, and Image Composite Editor creates a high-resolution panorama incorporating all your images at full resolution. Then save your stitched panorama in a wide variety of formats, from common formats like JPEG and TIFF to multi-resolution tiled formats like HD View and Silverlight Deep Zoom.”

    • A Canuck In The Machine

      PDC08 – The Canadian View - Choice and Flexibility. Canada Needs Both.


      This is the first in a series of posts leading up to the Microsoft Professional Developer Conference at the end of October as well as TechDays across Canada.  Our team will be heading to the show, but our priority is to help you understand the announcements, the key technology trends and the impact to Canadian developers and our local IT industry.

      Today Canadian businesses are demanding the ability to connect people and information across devices and user experiences and the flexibility to choose where and how their infrastructure is managed and their business data stored.  The web has fundamentally changed how applications are built.  I’m talking about the demand for Choice of user experiences and the demand for Flexibility of the their platform and infrastructure.

      Choice of User Experiences

      Canadians expect to be able to access their information through a growing spectrum of devices and experiences.   Let me give you a quick example that many of you can relate to today.  During the day I use Outlook 2007 to check my email.  It’s got fully featured user experience tailored to getting through emails and calendar items quickly. I have a rich experience and I can continue working when I’m disconnected from the Internet.  But what happens when I’m not at work or I’m travelling?  Like all of you, I’m able to check my email on my Smartphone or using a Rich Internet Application. This is a great example of the user experience choices that users demand for all applications – I use Twitter in my browser, on my phone, from other websites and from a RIA.  That same level of choice is being demanded for all sorts of information across a business from customer and product information to business intelligence and management.  This is an amazing trend but to make it a reality, Developers need the ability to easily provide a selection of user experiences for the solutions they build.  More on this later.

      Flexibility of Infrastructure

      Similar to the demand for a broad choice of user experiences, businesses are realizing that they can and want to take advantage of the Internet to support various parts of their infrastructure needs.  For example, a small business with a limited IT budget may choose to save money and host their email and web server in the cloud but decides to invest in a secure self-hosted environment for their customers confidential data or corporate IP.  A large organization may want the agility that comes from adding services and capabilities to their already rich IT infrastructure.  The fact is that businesses of all sizes need the flexibility of choosing how and where their infrastructure is managed in order to maximize the value of their IT investment.  More on this later.


      In the coming weeks I want to dive deeper into these two trends. Specifically, I’m going to focus on how Microsoft is supporting Canadian Developers and IT Professionals to deliver on the promise of Choice and Flexibility.


      If you’re a Canadian Developer or IT Professional, the best way to be prepared to be on top of these trends in the future is by building your skills today. If you are looking to grow your skills, then you definitely need to consider attending Microsoft TechDays (www.techdays.ca) .  If you are a need to understand the longer term roadmap of how Microsoft plans on addressing Choice & Flexibility, you might want to consider attending or following the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (www.microsoftpdc.com).


      So tell me, how are these trends impacting your business?  If you’re a developer or IT Professional that’s thinking about this for your business, I want to hear from you.


    • A Canuck In The Machine

      Vintage – The TRS-80 Model 100


      Thanks to David Crow for spotting this article about the classic TRS-80.

      I actually have one of these in my office.  It used to belong to my father and I have kept it for all these years.  Interesting note about the TRS-80 is that it is the last production code BillG ever directly wrote.

      PCWorld: Inside A Classic



      Bill's Last Hurrah

      A quarter-century ago, Bill Gates was still getting his hands dirty with tasks that, today would be left to entry-level Microsoft programmers. Case in point: Gates, with another colleague, programmed the Model 100's built-in software, which is contained within the chip you see before you. To this day, the Model 100 remains his last major programming project at Microsoft.

      In an interview with the National Museum of American History, you can still hear Gates' pride in the project. "It is a cool user interface, because although most of the code is a BASIC Interpreter, we did this little file system where you never had to think about saving anything. You just had this menu where you pointed to things. It was a great little editor and scheduler. We crammed it all into a 32K ROM.""

    • A Canuck In The Machine

      ‘Tis The Season To Think About Backups


      Digital cameras and music players are likely still high on many people’s gift list despite the economic situation.  Even if Santa doesn’t have one of these heading for your stocking, I bet you already own one in your family.  As more of our world goes digital we all benefit from how easy it is to view, share and use our most precious memories.  There is a key downside that I see almost everyday – just as digital memories are easy to create, they are easy to destroy. 

      When I think about my friends and family, most people simply are not backing up their personal digital memories in an effective way.  Anything can happen – failed hardware, accidental deletion, file corruption or even situations like theft and fire.  Just this week a close friend as well as a colleague here at Microsoft had their houses broken into and their PCs with all their photos and videos stolen.  Luckily they had done a proper backup.  I know too many people that have lost pictures of their kids, the wedding, their special occasions simply because of a failed drive or an accidental deletion.

      So, here is my advice (no matter what platform you use) on  backups:

      • Backup More Often – Daily If You Can.  Once a year isn’t enough.  I recommend once a WEEK at least, but there are ways to get to a daily schedule.  Home Server, for example, can do easy backups every day (this is what I use).  My PCs backup every night between 2-5am when they are not in use (and they wake from sleep, so you don’t need to leave them on all the time)
      • Organize Your Files For Easier Backup.  In the Windows world, this means putting everything in My Documents – or in a few select locations.  If you spread files around it just increases the odds that you will forget something.  This is an easy habit to pick up and it will save you a lot of time when trying to back everything up.  Having everything in one place also allows you to use a simple script tool like Robocopy.exe to backup your files. 
      • Focus On Data, Not Software.  The most important part of your PC is your data.  Software and the OS can always be reinstalled.  There are really 2 types of backup solutions – those that copy files and those that make an image of your machine at the disk level.  Both are valid ways to backup your data, but only the imaging solution lends itself to a “automatic full recovery” of a lost machine – i.e. your drive fails, you replace it, then restore everything including the software and your settings.  Most of the time, however, you might just need a simple copy of your data – i.e. your PC gets stolen, you buy a new one and you just want to put your data on it you don’t want to replace the software on the new machine.  You definitely need to be careful not to overlook any key setting files you might not want to be without – like your Outlook PST files, RSS feed lists, you contact database, etc.  These depend heavily on the software you have installed, so I focus on these key folders in Vista – most of which are in the \users directory:
          • \users\desktop
          • \users\documents
          • \users\music
          • \users\pictures
          • \users\videos
          • \users\downloads
          • \users\favorites

        Of course, if you use a imaging solution you don’t need to worry about picking out the parts of your system to backup – you just get everything.

      • Attempt A Full Restore At Some Point.  No backup solution is effective if you can’t actually recover any data.  You should always test your backup solution – once when you begin using it and then periodically to ensure your system is still doing the job you think it is.  How can you test it?  Purposely delete a file and try to recover it.  Take an old PC and attempt to restore it completely if you are using an image based backup like Home Server.  The ultimate would be to pretend that your primary PC was stolen, destroyed or had a complete hardware failure.
      • Move A Set Of Backups “Off Site”.  This might sound like something that a business would do, but everyone should think about it.  Purchase an inexpensive external drive, save a snapshot of your data to it and then get that data out of the house!  Take it to the office, your safety deposit box, a family members house, a friends house, whatever.  Here is what we do:  Home Server backs up our machines daily.  We have 2 external hard drives that we use to take a snapshot of all our data.  1 stays in the safety deposit box and the other is at home ready for the backup.  Once a quarter, we swap these drives – bringing the one from the bank home and taking the newer backup offsite – this gives us a permanent image in case the worst happens.  There are also online options that can upload your data to servers in the cloud, thus achieving the same results.  Trust me, this is the one tip that could really save your butt and it is really easy to do.  How terrible would you feel if you lost both your PC and your backups?

      A well thought out backup strategy might just be the best New Years Resolution you can make for 2009.

    • A Canuck In The Machine

      IT Skills Shortage – Myths and Realities – Part 3


      (This is part 3 of a 4 part series, you can read the first post here)

      Here is the second part of my discussion with Shane Schick on the Myths & Realities of the IT Skills & Talent landscape in Canada.  This part is titled “Myth 3 – I have to leave to stay employed”.  Check it out, let me know what you think.


    • A Canuck In The Machine

      IE History Of The Net Video…"oh, that’s what InPrivate is for…”


      Say what you want about IE, the product team has pulled together this really funny video about the “history of the Net”…..  I particularly like the “developer” chant.  :-)

      (and for the record, you really should give IE8 a try…. it’s a whole new ballgame for us)

      <br/><a href="http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?vid=dc85f3da-9951-4167-8209-66202d255de2" target="_new" title="IE8 Net History">Video: IE8 Net History</a>

      There are a bunch of shorter video out-takes posted here as well.

      You might also want to read Joey’s post “You, Silverlight and Internet Explorer 8: A Hot Threesome of Browsing Fun”

    • A Canuck In The Machine

      IT Skills In Canada – Part 4 (Final)


      (This is part 4 of a 4 part series, you can read the first post here)

      Here is the final part of my discussion with Shane Schick on the Myths & Realities of the IT Skills & Talent landscape in Canada.  This part is titled “Myth 4 – Certifications Aren’t Worth It”


    • A Canuck In The Machine

      Windows 7 + Silverlight + CTV.ca + 32” LCD = Obama Speech Goodness



      John Oxley, our Director of Technical Audience Marketing & Evangelism, hooked up one of our 32” Dell LCDs to his Dell M1330 running Windows 7 to watch the Silverlight powered Obama stream on CTV.ca.  We were very impressed with the network performance of Silverlight + Win7.

      Yes, this is what the geeks do during the day :-)

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