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January 26, 2007

New Day? (Vista and Office 2007 Launch)

I attended Microsoft's launch of their new operating system (Vista) and their new version of their Office suite (Office 2007), in the LA Convention Center. Both products look shiny. I had participated in the Office beta, and like what they have done. None of my machines have the horsepower to run Vista in a proper way (i.e. a way that puts the operating system into the background and lets me focus on my work), but it too looks like it has some interesting enhancements. It will probably be really really great in a couple of years, after the hardware catches up.

But overall, I was somewhat disappointed by the event. I would have thought that Microsoft would be smoother at running big events like this, but there were a number of unprofessional annoyances. First, I waited in the registration line for about 40 minutes, only to be told that by the registration desk that I should come back after lunch, as they didn't have time to print out the badge. (Later, registration took about ten seconds.) The keynote speech started late, and ran over 30 minutes late. People were walking out near the end, so that they would have time to register (ha!) and go to the bathroom. I attended the developer track, and all they wanted to talk about was SharePoint (a server component that I'm not really interested in), rather than all of the cool new things within Vista and Office. The new stuff DOES affect development, and it DOES affect the kinds of projects that we can undertake now, and I didn't feel like I really learned anything about it. I was kind of neutral on SharePoint before, but after having (somewhat boring) demos and speakers on it for most of the day (when I really wanted to see other content), I kind of dislike it now. The food choices ran out during lunch, as did the drinks. Even the swag was substandard... They gave out license keys to Office Professional (nice!) but they didn't include the media, thus requiring a massive download. (I'm at 15% now, and have about three hours to go.) I expected better.

The most interesting speaker was a gentleman from InterKnowlogy (in San Diego), who used the new presentation framework (WPF) to create a 3D molecule visualization tool for medical research. He was the only speaker that I heard that was even slightly challenging... He asked a question of the MS folks: WPF is something like the 4th presentation framework recently. Why was it, again, that we need another one?

Another interesting demo was how to develop gadgets for the Vista sidebar. I have a couple of interesting ideas worth pursing, I think. There is a danger to those gadgets: They could easily become the next target for crapware. The Vista sidebar is a place where small apps can run and be displayed, and is always on top of the desktop. Things like task lists and note-taking areas are fine areas for this. The demo was of pictures of houses, linked to a realtor's site... IMHO such a gadget is an amazingly poor choice for user-interaction (as people aren't going to want to have pictures of other people's houses rolling by as they do their work), but I'm sure that there will many companies, starved for attention, will try similar crapware apps.

Disappointing overall, but such events are still worth attending. It gives a sense of what issues Microsoft thinks are important, an opportunity to meet some of the other attendees that may have similar interests, and a chance to dream up some new ideas for my own business area.

January 10, 2007

Winter Break 2006-2007

Every year, we usually have some significant vacation time between Christmas and New Years. (See 2003-2004, 2004-2005, and of course, last year's wedding between 2005-2006.) This year, Elizabeth and I went to visit the Borlik side, in Indiana. (We spent time with her family in Colorado over Thanksgiving, and anticipate switching next year.)

It was a lengthy stay in the surprisingly warm Indiana. It only snowed briefly one of the mornings, with no accumulation. It was a pleasant, relaxing trip, with many family gatherings. As tradition, we visited with my dad's side of the family on Christmas Eve night. On Christmas morning, open presents at my parent's house. In the afternoon and evening, we go to my grandfather's house. Much food was consumed.

We had opportunities to get together with college and high-school friends (perhaps the only disappointment of the trip was that we didn't meet up with the Schmiedelers, unfortunately). There were other get-togethers with family members, several trips to Notre Dame for the pool (some exercise, at least!) and for ND basketball games. We spent New Years' at my parents' house, as usual, with the family.

So, Elizabeth and I celebrated our first anniversary. Are we no longer newlyweds? We celebrated with an excellent dining experience at LaSalle Grill in downtown South Bend. (The restaurant had good service, good food, and good ambiance. It can hold its own against some of the best in LA, in my opinion.) The year 2006 went by very quickly, in retrospect, with ups and downs, and we look forward to the new opportunities in 2007!

Wrapping presents in Indiana.
The devil on my dad's shoulder.
The photographers were ready to capture the Borlik family.
The Borlik family, on Christmas Eve, at my aunt and uncle's house. The Borlik family apparently now includes two particularly hairy specimens.
My cousin Mike is a chef at the Carriage House, an upscale restaurant in South Bend. He treated us to a dessert of Bananas Foster, which was both tasty and an interesting display. My aunt and uncle's new kitchen almost seemed to be designed to host a cooking show. More pics here, here, and here.
A hastily-snapped shot of my sister, and new "cousin" Jack.
Christmas Day at my grandfather's house.
A birthday celebration for my dad.
New Year's Eve. Yes, we have the funny hats every year.
What is she drinking?
We returned to Los Angeles with no difficulties, and our house was in order. Elizabeth's Aunt Kathy had sent her some white roses, to celebrate her good test results, and they looked beautiful. (They continue to look pretty good, too, even a week later.)