# Friday, 11 May 2018

Microsoft held its annual Build conference this week in Seattle. Years ago, these large developer conferences were a chance for Microsoft to reveal everything they had been working on for the past year. In recent years, the company has been much more open, allowing users and customers to see products as they develop. But that did not mean that Microsoft did not have some big announcements this year.

The Day 1 keynote was hosted by CEO Satya Nadella and CVP Scott Guthrie and focused on developer tools and cloud computing. Microsoft Azure, Microsoft 365, and the Visual Studio ecosystem took center stage.

For me, the most interesting announcements were Azure Dev Spaces, Azure Cognitive Search, Azure Databricks, Kubernetes as a Service, and DevOps Projects.

Of course, the most exciting part came 3 minutes into the keynote, when they announced that the 2 youngest Build attendees were the 10- and 12-year-old daughters of my friends Tibi and Nicoleta!

You can watch the full keynote below or click this link.

Below are the notes I took during the keynote.


3 core pillars
     Privacy
        Privacy is a Human right
     Platforms
         Azure
        Microsoft 365

Key Technologies
    Ubiquitous computing
        Distributed, event-driven, and serverless
         Azure:
            50+ regions
            70+ certifications
            Open Sourcing Azure IoT Edge
    Artificial Intelligence
        Project Kinect for Azure
            Ultra-wide field of view
   
    Multi-Device, Multi-Sense experience
         near field, far field
        mixed reality
        Microsoft 365
        Cortana
        Cortana + Alexa integration
       
Microsoft Remote Assist
    Video calling
    Image sharing
     Mixed reality
    Integration with MS Teams
Microsoft Layout
     Share and edit designs in real time
    Mixed Reality
   
Accessibility

Azure areas
    Dev Tools + DevOps
    Containers + Serverless
    Internet of Things
    Data
    Artificial Intelligence
   
Dev Tools + DevOps
    Visual Studio Live Share
         Works across PC and Mac
        Works across VS and VS Code
        Watch co-workers code, keyboard, mouse, and debugging context
        Work independently or together
        Secure connection
        Free!
    Open Source
        Microsoft is the single largest contributor to GitHub
        Launching today: Text API (Linting and Code analysis)
        App Center + GitHub integration
            Continuous integration app from within GitHub
            Testing on physical mobile devices hosted in Azure
    DevOps
        Branch from Kanban board tasks.
        Azure Portal: DevOps Projects
            CI/CD pipeline
             Integrated with VSTS project
            Deploy to App Services or Kubernetes
            Any language or platform

Containers + Serverless
    Kubernetes as a Service
        View health of each container
        Logging available
            Query, show charts
    Azure Dev Spaces
        Run and debug in a private space in Azure
    Azure Event Grid
        Serverless composition
        Workflow executed
       
Internet of Things
    IoT Edge
    VS Code project consisting of containers
    Containers running on local device
    Azure Function running on local device

Data
    Cosmos DB
        New pricing options
        Global Scale
        Multi-Master Write Support (much faster writes: trillions of reads & writes per second)
        Reduced Write Conflicts
        Graphical interface in Azure Portal: Deploy data globally

Artificial Intelligence
    Azure Cognitive Search
        Index and analyze data in Azure
    Azure Databricks
         Spark-based analytics

Friday, 11 May 2018 02:54:15 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, 09 May 2018

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IMG_0442We stood in San Francisco's Creativity Museum, waiting for the announcement of the top six teams at the Imagine Cup US Finals. Twelve teams from universities across the country had qualified for the US Finals, earning a trip to California and a chance to pitch and demonstrate their software, hardware, and business ideas to a panel of judges. Coding, planning, pitching, and judging were complete on this warm California evening and all that remained was the award announcements. The top six teams would win cash prizes up to $10,000 and a chance to compete in the International Imagine Cup Finals held in Redmond, WA in July.

IMG_0425One by one, the finalists heard their names called and were called to the stage to accept their awards. The winners jumped with joy and hugged one another when they were called. It was a reward for months of planning and hard work.

IMG_0434I was able to be a part of this event for the first time this year, serving on the selection committee, advising as a team mentor, and assisting the judges during and after the presentations. I was impressed by the projects, which showed remarkable creativity; I was impressed by the presentations, which were far more polished than anything I could have done at their age; I was impressed by the judges and their commitment doing to a thorough evaluation and providing constructive feedback; and I was impressed by the team that pulled together this amazing event, involving hundreds of students, professors, mentors, judges, contractors, and volunteers.

IMG_0424Students elected to solve real world problems, including

  • Using cameras and artificial intelligence to assist wheelchair-bound people;
  • A drone that captures and analyzes images to detect potential forest fires;
  • A HoloLens app to assist with remote, real-time training;
  • Using Facial Recognition AI to reunite separated refugee families

IMG_0444Every student with whom I spoke told me that Imagine Cup was a great experience and I have to agree. I am looking forward to the Canadian Imagine Cup Finals in Vancouver, BC later this month!

 

IMG_0422

IMG_0423

Wednesday, 09 May 2018 11:33:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, 08 May 2018

IMG_0394The DataFest concept was created back in 2011 by the American Statistical Association. Students are provided a large data set and are given 2 full days to report on some useful insights and/or visualizations about the data.

IMG_0388I attended the ASA DataFest at the University of Toronto May 1-2. The event was organized by UT Professor Nathan Taback, who served as host.

The students – all from U of T - worked in teams of 2-4 and presented their findings on the evening of the second day. This was a judged competition with prizes for the top 4 teams.

Students had no knowledge of the data set before it was made available to them when they showed up at the venue. Data was provided by the Indeed job search engine and included information on job postings in the United States, Canada, and Germany.

IMG_0406 Following Dr. Taback's opening remarks, I delivered a presentation on Data Science tools in Azure, including demos of Machine Learning Studio and Azure Notebooks. Over half the teams ended up using these tools in their analysis.

IMG_0407In addition to the opening ceremonies, I served as a mentor during the DataFest and a judge at the end. Several professors and students donated their time as mentors during the event and judges included professors and industry professionals. I also recruited local MVPs Atley Hunter and Vivek Patel, along with user group leader Ashraf Ghonaim to serve as mentors and/or judges.

Almost 200 students attended, and 19 teams presented their findings on Day 2.

IMG_0414The winning team used Azure ML Studio to split users into low, medium, and high salary ranges and determine the factors required to move from one level to the next level above.

Microsoft donated prizes and money for food to the event (along with my time) and Azure credits for the students to use.

Tuesday, 08 May 2018 12:01:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 07 May 2018
Monday, 07 May 2018 11:18:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, 06 May 2018

5/6
Today I am grateful for:
-My first time attending and mentoring at an Imagine Cup Finals event
-A post-event party at the Creativity Museum in San Francisco last night

5/5
Today I am grateful to meet new people in far-away cities.

5/4
Today I am grateful to play ping pong for the first time in years.

5/3
Today I am grateful for a successful DataFest at the University of Toronto and that I was asked to present the awards at the end.

5/2
Today I am grateful for all the students who signed up for an Azure account after my presentation yesterday.

5/1
Today I am grateful for nice weather in Ontario yesterday.

4/30
Today I am grateful to make it safely to Waterloo, ON yesterday.

4/29
Today I am grateful for a visit to the Field Museum yesterday with Jeff and Lynn.

4/28
Today I am grateful to spend the week working with smart engineers to build a cool app for the Seattle Storm WNBA team.

4/27
Today I am grateful to see Infinity War last night.

4/26
Today I am grateful for a team dinner last night at the Hard Rock Café.

4/25
Today I am grateful for a visit to the Museum of Pop Culture last night in Seattle.

4/24
Today I am grateful to those who had a kind word for me yesterday when I was feeling down.

4/23
Today I am grateful for my new computer

4/22
Today I am grateful to Michael and his team for 10 years of hard work to host a consistently excellent Kalamazoo X conference.

4/21
Today I am grateful to wake up to this view.
Image may contain: sky, cloud, skyscraper, tree and outdoor

4/20
Today I am grateful to deliver my final lecture of the UIUC academic year.

4/19
Today I am grateful to attend an OpenHack event in the Willis Tower and learn about IoT.

4/18
Today I am grateful for a Polsky Center mentor reception at The Kitchen in River North last night.

4/17
Today I am grateful to finish my taxes on time.

4/16
Today I am grateful to work from home on a bad weather day.

4/15
Today I am grateful for:
-My first visit to the Museum of Broadcast Communications and the SNL exhibit
-An excellent concert by the Average White Band last night in Hyde Park

4/13
Today I am grateful to return home safely after a week on the road.

4/12
Today I am grateful to see a Clippers - Lakers game at the Staples Center last night.

4/11
Today I am grateful for my first visit to the University of Southern California yesterday.

4/10
Today I am grateful for my first Azure University Tour stop in Austin, TX.

4/9
Today I am grateful for dinner and a Durham Bulls game yesterday with Christine and Cosby last night.

4/8
Today I am grateful for
-an exciting overtime Hurricanes-Lightning hockey game last night
-my first time at PNC Arena.

4/7
Today I am grateful for my first visit to Durham, NC.

4/6
Today I am grateful for my first bike ride of the year.

4/5
Today I am grateful I was able to find some badly-needed Advil in my unpacked boxes yesterday morning.

4/4
Today I am grateful for Superdawg with Tim last night

4/3
Today I am grateful for:
-Lunch with Jimmy yesterday
-Attending the NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four last night

4/2
Today I am grateful for Yelp, which helps me find a good meal in an unfamiliar city.

Sunday, 06 May 2018 16:55:29 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, 02 May 2018

A Spell For ChameleonEveryone in Xanth has a magical power. Everyone except Bink.

Some of Xanth's citizens are accomplished wizards, while others can do simple tricks like make a spot appear on a wall. But, Xanthian law states that if you reach the age of 25 without showing evidence of some magical ability, you are forced to leave to the non-magical land of Mundane.

Bink is 25 and is banished to Mundane.

In Mundane, he meets the evil wizard Trent, who was banished decades before for trying to usurp the throne of Xanth. He then meets Fanchon, an intelligent ugly woman, who fled Xanth for reasons of her own. The three travel together, encounter adventures, overcome dangerous magical creatures and plants, collaborate, and fight. Bink wrestles with moral questions, such as: What does it mean to be an Evil Wizard; and is it ok to be attracted to females of another species if she has big breasts; and do I prefer dumb pretty women or smart ugly women or something in between or a variety?

A Spell for Chameleon was so popular that author Piers Anthony decided to convert his planned trilogy into an ongoing series that now extends

Anthony creates an imaginative world, filled with wonders and dangers and his characters are relatable, even if he spends a bit too much time explaining their motivations, rather than letting the reader discover these themselves.

Anthony also brings a lot of puns and other wordplay into his narrative, which can be entertaining.

The book is a fable with a couple morals - everyone is special and worthwhile in their own way, even if it is not obvious to others; and evil is defined by those in power, rather than by absolute laws. The messages are a bit heavy-handed, but they mostly work.

However, I found parts of the story to be troubling.

Anthony comes across as sexist, giving undue attention to the physical appearance of females. Also, Bink participates in a rape trial and the conclusions (the judge's remarks and Bink's opinions) made me more than a little uncomfortable.

A Spell for Chameleon reads like a children's book, but there is too much sex for it to be appropriate to children. Still, it had enough creativity to hold my attention.

Wednesday, 02 May 2018 19:16:55 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 30 April 2018
Monday, 30 April 2018 15:13:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, 28 April 2018

WrinkleInTimeIt is a strange experience to read a book twice with a gap of nearly 50 years between.

I think I was in fourth grade when I first read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. This week, I read it again.

I enjoyed this book as a boy, but I didn't remember many of its details. I didn't recall the book's ending, but I recalled the characters and a few scenes here and there. This re-read was like visiting an old friend. I would read a passage and remember its effect on 9-year-old me. I believe this was the first time I heard the idea of more than 3 dimensions in the Universe and that one could consider time as a fourth dimension.

"A Wrinkle in Time" is the story of the Murray family. Mom and Dad are brilliant scientists and their four children are all brilliant, but some have quirks. Meg is an outsider, who struggles to fit in at school. And Charles Wallace is a 5-year-old with the mind of an adult, even though the rest of the town believes him to be mentally handicapped because he seldom speaks in public.

Meg and Charles - along with their new friend Calvin - set out to find their father, who has been missing since he set out on a secret government mission years ago. They are assisted by 3 mysterious ancient women. Their journey takes them across time, space, and dimensions, where they encounter other sentient races and an evil force determined to conquer the universe.

It is an adventure and a morality play, involving a galactic struggle of Good versus Evil. It's a delightful story with a good characters and imaginative worlds.

The ending is a bit rushed, but the journey is very rewarding.

It was a rewarding adventure for me to read this book twice with a gap of almost 5 decades between. I look forward to reading it again in another 50 years.

Saturday, 28 April 2018 15:03:51 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 23 April 2018
Monday, 23 April 2018 09:21:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, 21 April 2018

GardensOfTheMoonGardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson is the first book in his 10-volume "Malazan Book of the Fallen" series. It takes place on the continent of Genabackis, where the Malazan empire holds power through force and where men and gods and magicians and dragons and various sentient races exist together - often in violent battle with one another. This first book follows many characters and plotlines, taking the reader through the battle for the continent.

I'm unsure exactly why Gardens of the Moon failed to hold my attention. It's a decent story and some of the characters are quite good (especially Anomander Rake, the giant ancient warrior wizard king). I liked when two storylines would finally converge as their characters crossed paths. And Erikson does a decent job of building an imaginative world filled with its own rules and politics and even a fortress that floats in the sky.

But I found the plethora of characters to be confusing. I found the non-linear storytelling confusing. I found the constant death and resurrection of characters and the multiple names of characters to be confusing.

I frequently found my mind wandering away from the story. More than a few times, I had to re-read a chapter to understand it. And I would often completely forget a character shortly after he disappeared from a story, so that I was confused by his appearance in a later chapter.

Complexity is fine if I am committed to reading (or re-reading) an entire series. But I was unfamiliar with this series before I picked up Volume One and Erikson did nothing to draw me in and encourage me to complete the journey.

I know that many people love this book and I wonder if it is more enjoyable in the context of the entire 10-volume series.

I don't think I will find out.

Saturday, 21 April 2018 09:08:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)