MSDN Roadshow In Augusta, March 19: Well Worth The Time

People love to criticize Microsoft, and much of the criticism it gets is deserved (when you release patches to your OS that are bigger than the original software, you probably deserve some negative press). But the one thing Microsoft does better than anyone is product support, especially developer support.

Enter the MSDN Roadshow, a series of all-day programming seminars Microsoft puts on at various locations every couple of months. If you work in .NET, Windows Presentation Foundation or any related technology, you really ought to attend.

Here in Maine, the MSDN Northeast Roadshow will be held Thursday, March 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Central Maine Commerce Center in Augusta, in Florian Hall.

Preregistration is a really good idea; you need a Microsoft Live ID to do so.

The Central Maine Commerce Center is the old Digital Equipment / SCI Systems manufacturing plant on Civic Center Drive. Google Maps marks the road going down to the building, but the building itself is not visible from the road. I’ve posted the properly marked location on my Google Maps.

Directions from the Office of the Maine State Fire Marshal:

Directions to Florian Hall at the Central Maine Commerce Center

Arriving in Augusta from the south on the Interstate, take Exit 112B (Augusta/Belgrade), bear right onto route 27 and go approximately 1.2 miles and turn left into the Commerce Center. Park anywhere in the parking lot. Come through the front doors near the flags. Look for the LCD screen (straight ahead). The entrance to Florian Hall is adjacent to the reception window under the LCD.

Arriving in Augusta from the north on the interstate, take the Augusta/Belgrade exit, Exit 112, bear right onto route 27 and go approximately 1.2 miles and turn left into the Commerce Center. Park anywhere in the parking lot. Come through the front doors near the flags. Look for the LCD screen (straight ahead). The entrance to Florian Hall is adjacent to the reception window under the LCD.

The Roadshow isn’t for everyone. If you’re not a programmer — if you’re an IT manager, or a network engineer, or the like — you won’t get much out of it other than free coffee, pizza and soda for lunch and the chance to win software / books as a door prize.

(Actually, the Roadshows in Augusta tend to be heavily attended, mostly by state workers looking to get a paid day away from the office, a free lunch and a chance at winning some schwag. Most state offices don’t manage their own software, and of those that do, few use Microsoft programming technologies.)

Even if you are a programmer, it’s easy to get lost in the material. These events are aimed at people who grasp fairly well the concepts of Windows programming.

You’ll be introduced to plenty of new technologies and approaches, which is the primary benefit of attending the Roadshow. Chris Bowen and Jim O’Neil (who, along with Bob Familiar, put on the Roadshow) take questions as you have them, which is very helpful; and they are pretty good about rephrasing something they said if you didn’t quite follow it the first time.

But if you’re new to programming, or haven’t done much programming in Microsoft technologies, much of what they are talking about will fly right past you. I’ve missed the boat on a couple of topics they’ve discussed, and a look around the room often bears out that I’m not the only one.

(A hint: If you can’t follow what they are talking about on their blog postings, you probably won’t be able to follow what they discuss in person.)

On the slate for this Roadshow are .NET best practices, Azure (a new technology to me, one I’m very excited to hear about), XNA (which Chris and Jim have discussed briefly in recent Roadshows), F# (I’m not entirely sure Microsoft needed to produce another scripting language, but I’ll hear them out), and debugging methodologies — a pretty common theme in recent Roadshows.

Microsoft holds MSDN Roadshows all across the country, so check out the in-person events listings. You’ll learn a great deal, be well-fed, and might even take home some valuable stuff.

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