Here’s Chris Muench’s report from the second day of WinHEC 2005.

After a promising first day I was looking forward the second day. The titles of the sessions I was planning to see looked very interesting and when I sat in I had big hopes for new information. Well, it turned out that there is lots of truth to the saying that everything has two sides. The other side of the WinHEC is the Driver DevCon that runs parallel to the WinHEC and shared the keynotes and lunch area. Having been on the WinHEC for two days and talking to a friend who was at Driver DevCon I now know, that the WinHEC is more superficial than the Driver DevCon.

On the one side – the marketers, business deciders and new-comers – the WinHEC is the right show. Let’s call this side “The ones that want to know”.

On the other side are the developers, hard core hardware expert and deep-insiders – you have the Driver DevCon. I call this side “The ones that want to know – more”. (You can see that I have some origins in Marketing – always find positive formulations ).

Anyway, I am just a little sad that the WinHEC and Driver DevCon advertisement did not state that a little clearer. This would put some of the sessions in a better perspective. For most of the WinHEC sessions I am pretty sure that the speakers get some shallow rates regarding the depth of their session. Most of these sessions were done by “Product Managers” – a term for the marketers at Microsoft. If you came to the WinHEC with the plan to get introductions and high level overviews, you got exactly the right content. If you came to WinHEC because you have visited pervious WinHEC “deep-inside” sessions, you might be a little disappointed. Those sessions have been moved to Driver DevCon.

Well, I made the best out of if and learned about the really new things that have not been explained before such as the new Driver Quality Signature (DQS). This new concept allows hardware vendors to sign their own drivers, if they do not fall in any of the classes Microsoft has declared for WHQL (the Windows Hardware Quality Lab). In fact this is very good news especially for vertical markets such as Industrial Automation where communication drivers were squeezed into the “Networking” category just to get the much desired WQHL certificate. Most of them failed the certification because NDIS and other office and IT requirements are of no importance on the factory floor if you connect only to I/Os.

Microsoft also presented a new tool called WinSAT. A generic benchmark utility that will analyze a given Longhorn PC to determine what features of Longhorn can be enabled. The tools can analyze parts of the OS such as Direct3D performance, the compositing engine, Memory performance and Hard drive speeds. The results are stored in XML files an since the tool is maintaining a history of these files, other applications can parse these logs and make decisions for themselves what features to enable. The WinHEC version of Longhorn already includes the first alpha version of WinSAT and everyone is encouraged to try out this new tool. (just type “WinSAT.exe” from the command line in Longhorn). For this release you still have to be logged in as an administrator to run the tool. In later versions this will be allowed for limited users – if the general Enterprise Policy has not blocked the tool. One other very interesting thing is that this tool currently runs on Windows XP as well. Just copy the WinSAT.EXE to your XP machine and run it. I will give this a try right after WinHEC

The third interesting session I saw (again, I reduced my expectations for depth quite down not to be too disappointed about the content), was a session by NVidia regarding optimizations for Windows Media Center. In general this session made the exact right points (reduce noise, reduce heat, speed is already good enough) but I was a little concerned hearing the speaker say that he is not a techno expert a couple times. Right now in the current state of Media Center (still in its “Version 2”) MCE is more a product for enthusiasts and techno experts. Advice coming from somebody who declares himself non-technical is kind of counter-productive. His slide on the noise acceptance showed 30db to be acceptable and 20db to be virtually silent. My experience is that this might be true for big inner city apartments where you have constant street or similar background noise. In rural areas and suburbs, 20db is a reason for moving out of a noise neighborhoodJ. If the room would have been filled by new-comers and “just here to learn about this”, the slides would have exactly hit the target audience. From the Q&A at the end, there were at least some professionals in there wanting to know more details about this topic.

At lunch I had the pleasure to meet with Joe Peterson, Shanen Boettcher and Clyde Rodriguez for a “bloggers lunch”, together with about 20 other “blog addicts”. Shanen, Joe and Clyde answered all our questions very much in details and I even got an answer to my WinFS question I was left with after the keynotes. So if you read my blog-part from yesterday about how Shannon’s Explorer metadata-view demo, here is the official answer:

In Longhorn the metadata information required to do the filtering sorting and grouping will be stored with the file in the file system. Later, when WinFS ships, these tags will be migrated to WinFS in a “fairly easy” migration. Shanen wanted to show to the audience that all the demos they showed at PDC2003 are still working – just the underlying technology that was originally envisioned might have or will change until Longhorn ships. I can live with thatJ

Now I am tired and ready to fold for the day…lets see what the last day brings.

Chris (on Mikes Blog)