#PDC08 keynote (day 3, part 1)

.NET, PDC, Technical stuff, Work
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Yesterday featured another day packed with sessions and started with a great keynote showing off the new Windows 7, what’s coming onto us with .NET 4 and the new development environments (starring Visual Studio 10) as well as innovations in the field of Office (web office is going to allow editing and synching documents online).

Let me tell you this: VS10 looks really great. I had the chance to talk to Scott Guthrie after the keynote and told him I couldn’t wait testing the bits ASAP. Guess my new Alienware laptop is going to be packed with Virtual Machines. As for Windows 7, it makes a great impression so far, and I really think that MSFT learned from the Vista PR fiasco. Let’s hope that the public gives a chance to this OS this time instead of starting bashing from the start.

Yesterday was party night (actually each night is party night at PDC, but last night was official). Microsoft rented the whole Universal City amusement park in Hollywood and opened the park (including the rides and restaurants) for us. It was fantastic. Almost no lines. I did the Simpsons ride (really great!), the Mummy (disappointing because too short) and the Jurassic park ride, really nice too. The park was themed after Halloween and featured zombies running around with chainsaws, horror mazes (the Texas Chainsaw Massacre maze was terrifying). Thankfully there was free beer (you know, as in free software…) so all ended well. I ended the night chatting with the Infragistics crew and Jaime Rodriguez at the hotel bar and managed to sign a book for Tim Sneath.

Anyway. We’re now in the 3rd keynote, before a 3rd day packed with sessions again. Today’s keynote is dedicated to Microsoft research and features Rick Rashid, VP or research. I love these guys, and they have a really cool job. I was lucky to talk to Research last year about many core computing, Singularity (before it was made public on Codeplex) and other fascinating topics. It’s really a great part of MSFT. So I am expecting to be impressed today and I hope they’ll have many demos of what the guys are working on.

Rick talks about Microsft Research (MSR), their growing size, how it started in 1991, and their ties to universities. The second largest location of MSR is Beijing, and was established 10 years ago. Impressive list of locations too. Talks about awards and mentions that MSR is probably the world’s single largest computer science institute today.

Rick mentions products that have come out of MSR’s studies, such as the tablet PC and the Robotics studio. Rick mentions the work being done with Siemens in the field of Concurrent computing (I have to admit that Siemens’ collaboration with MSFT is pretty cool and I will kind of muss that when I move on to IdentityMine).

Mentions how technology research was used to help the allied in WWII. Research can be used in difficult times to help solve problems such as global warming etc…

Talks about SLAM, a new programming model that MSR is currently working on.

DryadLINQ for cluster computing. executes on thousands of node and terabytes of data.

Saving energy with MSR

Energy is also a field of research as computers are a major consumer of energy today. MSR is working on reducing this. Feng Zhao, principal researcher at MSR, talks about this topic. Computers can be made more energy efficient. Feng shows sensors that can be used to inprove the HVAC in the auditorium where we sit. Small sensors collect data with minimum amount of memory and of processor power. A visualization software shows data and how the temperature evolves in the building. Data is collected, passed to collecting devices and mashed to be shown on aerial view of the buildings. Huge amount of data are collected, and this is where cloud computing is interesting, to store and share the data with analysis PCs. Microsoft is using this for multi-mega watts data centers.

Now shows how the EPFL in Switzerland is using this kind of analysis software to share data collected in the Swiss alps with other research facilities. MSR provides a Wikipedia of Sensors, so that you can share sensor data with other institutes, aggregate them across a much larger scale. Shows data collected in Davos Switzerland displayed on a Virtual Earth map, including 3D view.

Other projects

MSR is using algorithms developed to fight against spam to identify HIV mutations. Robotics and Tablet computing are mentioned. World Wide Telescope to create large tiled images. New version of the World Wide Telescope is released today. Impressive demo.

Programming for kids

Now talks about programming for kids with the Boku project. Boku is a robot and needs to be programmed to succeed. Programming is a fundamental life skill.

Demo of programming in Boku. No keyboard involved, only XBox 360 controller. Teaches concurent programming to children visually by creating rules for their characters. Very cool UI to select options with a kind of DNA like spiral in 3D. Cool video shows programs created with Boku.

Surface computing

A video shows the early days of Surface computing. Project Second Light shows “interaction beyond the Surface”.

New type of Surface computing is being created now. A second image is projected on a piece f paper to display additional information. The additional image is only shown on the paper, not on the original picture. Clever usage of LCD screen and switching it with voltage between transparent and opaque to display alternate images. Using IR cameras, you can even touch-enable the secondary surface. Very impressive!

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