Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Shiny Discs!

I spent this morning at a Microsoft MSDN event. Ordinarily I'd do a mini-review over on my much-neglected Company blog, but having left half-way through, which means I have a false impression of the event as a whole, and with a ton of other stuff to do (yes, I know today's blog is appearing a bit late in the day!) I don't feel justified in doing so. There are just too many other priorities at the moment, one of which has more to do with the subject I usually blog about here - films and TV shows released on shiny digital discs!

My early departure from Olympia in Earls' court, the venue for today's Microsoft MSDN 'Technical Roadshow', was not so much that the talks were particularly bad, but more that the usual MSDN event problems got on nerves that were already frayed by the remnants of a nasty cold that were screaming "Go back to bed and get some sleep before you go out to see 'Equus' tonight!" Plus, the afternoon agenda was nowhere near as interesting to me as the morning agenda had been.

Given that today is officially a 'day off work' (ie a day I can't charge a client money for) I felt justified in leaving early, particularly since all the signs were that Microsoft evangelists really haven't learnt from past failures and endless critiques of similar events in the past. I've got used to demo screw-ups now, particularly where beta software is concerned, but when a speaker doesn't even notice at one point that what he is saying he's demonstrating isn't actually happening (or when he DOES notice something isn't working at all keeps blaming it on 'a rebuild of my laptop I did on Friday') there comes a point where you realise some things will NEVER change, despite the endless feedback forms, blog rants like this, and supposed market research that Microsoft undertake in planning such events.

Microsoft make an excellent product called Virtual PC that enables you to run 'virtual' environments without having to keep rebuilding your PC (just backup the 'virtual' environment regularly). It's considered essential these days for the mainstream 'production' developer, let alone the full-time evangelist who has to spend a lot of time demoing frequently changing beta software to large audiences. And it's free! So why the **** don't full-time Microsoft evangelists use it, instead of trotting out the same tired old excuses we've been hearing at these events for the last 10-15 years?!! OK, maybe I'm being a bit harsh and we all have bad days, but some of us prepare for the worst instead of insulting our audiences by just crossing our fingers and hoping that everything will be perfect on the day. How long does it take to rehearse a fairly straightforward demo after a machine rebuild anyway? Saying to an audience of several hundred people 'I haven't tried this since I did the rebuild' of an action that takes mere seconds to complete is just lame!

All that being said, I felt the morning was actually worth attending, despite the problems, because it sparked a few ideas for my new Shiny Discs project. This was intended to be an ongoing project to centralise and improve all my different DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray disc reviews which appear across a bewildering number of free public blogging sites, so that there would be a central point to showcase the reviews and add much-needed search and release news facilities to. I now see it as being more a 'mash-up' that I think will add real value to some of the bigger commercial and independent review sites out there that I use on a daily basis. At the moment Shiny Discs is just a name (every other .com name I could think of was already gone, so apologies if it makes you think of CDs rather than DVDs), with a company working on giving me a nice professional logo to go with the name, literally as I'm typing this. Yes, I've realised I can fake SOME graphical ability with Photoshop and filters, but my 8% for a mock Art O-level is still lurking there in the background!

Hopefully ShinyDiscs is going to become something much bigger and much more useful than I'd originally envisaged, and that's thanks to some of the technologies (ASP.NET AJAX in particular) that were demo-ed this morning, albeit somewhat clumsily at times, by Microsoft staff.

I'm sure will be the subject of many a future blog entry, before it's finally launched, and the big struggle at the moment is balancing the time needed to make that project real, while still keeping the existing blogs updated with new reviews on a regular enough basis to keep the few readers I currently have still interested. But, in many ways, focusing on is going to become the priority because it will not only enable me to spend some 'free' time getting up-to-speed with some newer technologies that will become increasingly important on the work front, but will also help with the time-consuming process of getting new reviews read and written.

At some point over the next few days I hope to post three or four samples of the planned logo for the new project and get some feedback on which one's preferred. In the meantime I'm sure a review of 'Equus' and those promised new Newman/McQueen DVD/HD-DVD reviews will eventually appear. Stay tuned!

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