For me, the most valuable take-away from the PDC wasn't the free bag (it's starting to come to bits), the mound of advertising inside it (thrown away before I arrived at the airport), or even the geeky gadgets and toys (there's only so many pen/torch combinations you can find a use for, after all). It was the hands-on labs that accompanied the sessions themselves.

The challenging thing with a conference like the PDC is that there are so many new ideas seeing the light of day for the first time - even for internal employees of Microsoft. Different teams each brought their own pieces of the jigsaw to the table, and you had to assemble the pieces together yourself to try and identify the overall picture. It's only after the conference that you get to do the assembly.

I'm a kinaesthetic learner - hearing someone talk about the way something operates isn't enough for me, I need to physically go through the process myself to get a feel for the steps that need to be taken. Hands-on labs allow me to do that, but a crowded lab room in a conference is not exactly the best learning environment.

Fortunately the Longhorn and Indigo hands-on labs are available for download from the PDC site. If you weren't able to attend the PDC but have downloaded the Longhorn bits from the MSDN Subscribers area, it's well worth your time to run through a few of the labs. I've just spent a few hours going through some of them, and it's really improved my understanding of the Avalon event model and the XAML syntax. Even if you did attend the PDC but like me missed out on the labs, take some personal development time to get familiar with this material - it's better than any of the articles out there and will give you a better grounding in the technology if you learn in a similar way to me.