Thursday, August 25, 2005

Thursday’s Incidentals

I've talked to a number of folks that found rather strange charges on their hotel bill when they checked out. There was a $150 charge on mine for a massage. Fortunately, they hotel was very good about removing the charge without arguing about it. It pays not to use quick checkout though, even if the regular checkout line is long.

Enhancements Section

Over 85% of the high vote value enhancements are implemented

The panel consisted of (or was supposed to consist of):

Jonathan Baker
John Strano
Dimitri Volkman
Dave Dichman
Loren Corbridge
Evan Ireland
Ian Thain

For some reason, Jonathan Baker wasn't able to make it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Wednesday’s Special Event

I'm a video game junkie, so this year's special event was one of the better one I've been at in a while. (Of course, I haven't gone to many of them recently, so I'm speaking out of ignorance as well).

Sybase reserved the GameWorks on the strip for 3.5 hours. A wide variety of food was provided, and the games were set to run for free. People who climbed half way up the climbing wall were rewarded with flashing sunglasses, and those making it to the top won an additional prize. There were also several competitions (indy racing, basketball throws, pool) which had prizes as well.

Terry Voth making his ascent
TeamSybase member Terry Voth making an ascent on the climbing wall

Terry Voth farther along on his ascent
TeamSybase member Terry Voth farther along on his ascent

Mike Nicewarner
Normally mild-mannered TeamSybase member Mike Nicewarner now sporting a tattoo and blowing away bad guys

Alex Whitney
Former PFC project manager and now PocketPC application expert Alex Whitney doing his best to protect us from evil aliens

Engineering Team
Members of the Sybase Engineering team attempting to kill enemies in a video game. Let's hope they're better at killing bugs in code than they seem to be at this game...

Wednesday’s Incidentals

A few complaints:

It wasn't entirely obvious to me where we were supposed to pick up the hard copies of the presentations for our AM classes (the PM classes are only done on CD). I've found it now, but either somebody didn't mention it to me during registration or I completely missed any signs indicating where it was located.

I'm not sure whose bright idea it was to locate the meeting rooms adjacent to what appears to be freight elevators. It was not unusual to have a session interrupted at times by loud noises from people moving heavy equipment. I don't see why the hotel can't wait until lunchtime or after hours to move equipment in that area if they know a conference is going on.

There was a similar issue during the keynotes, as the breakfast area was directly adjacent to the room where the keynotes occurred. Apparently the hotel did not mind making a significant amount of noise cleaning up after the breakfast and moving equipment around during the middle of the keynotes.

Wednesday’s Sessions

I finally managed to catch an AM session: Marty Mallick's presentation on RFID 101 – Understanding RFID. During the discussion on different readers, Reed Shilts noted that there is an RFID reader available for PocketPCs as well. The Wireless Dynamics SDID reader comes in a SD memory card form factor.

SDID RFID Reader for PocketPCs

Wednesday’s Keynote

Jonathan Baker began the Wednesday keynote and introduced the three points that would be discussed:

PowerBuilder: Believes in .Net
J2EE: Tomorrow has arrived
Mobile: The future is now

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Tuesday’s Incidentals

I really do like the way they did the Conference Program Guide this year. Rather than a hard binding like it's been in previous years, this year's is a three ring bound version in the portfolio provided upon registration. So when you get additional materials (such as the daily NewsWave) you simply include it in the three ring binder.

The Pocket Guide actually came in the binder as well, you simply folded it up. I must admit it wasn't entirely obvious it was there though. Yes, there was an index tab that said "Pocket Guide", but it was fairly well down in the Program Guide so I didn't get to it until today.

What I didn't particularly like was the map of the conference center (or rather, the lack thereof). Only one floor of the four floors was actually mapped out. And the keynotes and lunches were held in the event center, which is a bit of a hike from the conference center. (Between the heat and the length of the walk, it kind of reminded me of previous conferences in DisneyWorld.) And there was no map provided in the conference materials for the entire hotel (so we could see how to get to the event center). There are maps scattered throughout the hotel as well as direction signs, but they're not always that helpful. They say that "all roads lead to Rome" but what I tended to find was that "all roads lead back to the casino". I lost track of the number of times I got lost in the maze of the first floor of the hotel in the first couple of days here.

I have to complain about something somewhat related. The main reason I'm checking the Program Guide is to find where the sessions are. Perhaps the information wasn't available when I originally registered, but it certainly wasn't made available in the "add to Outlook" options that were you scheduled your sessions online. I took advantage of that option, and then synched with my SmartPhone so I would only need to carry that around. Ian's PocketBuilder app for tracking the sessions is great, but I really only wanted to handle it in Pocket Outlook.

That's really an issue for the third-party that handles the registrations for Sybase. If they do decide to fix that for future conferences, they could also improve on the "add to Outlook" feature in another way. Once I had my schedule complete, I had to perform the "add to Outlook" operation individually for each session. There has to be some way to implement that in a batch process so that my entire schedule is added at once.

Some kudos to the hotel though. Unlike the Gaylord Palms, the meeting rooms here are well marked. It was generally pretty easy to find my sessions, even without a decent map in the Program Guide. Also, as with the last two conferences in the Gaylord Palms, there is a WiFi hot spot in the conference center and high-speed connections in the hotel rooms. The email kiosks are back again this year as well.

And, as opposed to the Gaylord Palms, there are plenty of other places to go within walking distance. You aren't trapped in the hotel if you don't have a car handy. On the other hand, the few times I usually come to Las Vegas is in winter, when the temperatures are reasonable. So although there are lots of places to go within walking distance, I'm not doing too much walking outside in Las Vegas in late August when it's 102 degrees.

Tuesday’s Sessions

I attended Dave Dichman's "PowerDesigner Futures" session first. He discussed the following upcoming features:

Tuesday’s Keynote

Tuesday's keynote was incredible! As you're walking into the event center where keynotes are, you're met by "demonstrators" who are demanding that the secrets about "Area 15" be made know. They were handing out "National Enquirer" style newsletters that included articles about Raj Nathan being abducted by aliens, Tom Traubitz being mistakenly launched into outer space, and even an update on the whereabouts of Mitchell Kertzman. And then you found a green light stick on your seat in the center.

Later, MIB agents arrived in what appeared to be a Hummer and took position on the stage. Then the aliens beamed down Raj Nathan in their midst so he could deliver his keynote.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Monday’s Incidentals

It took me a while to discover Cypress Street Marketplace, about the only place within Caesers Palace that you can get a meal at a decent price. It's like a bit better quality version of the food court you would find in most major shopping malls. It's also got the Java Joint, which I visit regularly. As with last year's conference, the coffee served with the conference supplied meals is mediocre and the cups are hardly large enough for a coffee addict like me.

Speaking of lunches, the ones served at the conference are typical. Rather small and not a whole lot of choices. Still, I don't have it near as bad as folks like Steve Katz. Steve (and a number of other conference attendees) are Orthodox Jews. Steve was sitting next to me when they delivered his kosher meal. It looked like a rather old airline meal. I loaned Steve my van (I drove to the conference) so he could run out and get a real meal.

Breakfast is pretty much the same high-carb stuff, although there were yogurts and fruits available.

The Sybase reception Sunday night and the sponsor reception Monday night had great food, but either not enough or it wasn't coming fast enough. Often the tables were empty for a while, followed by a rush and a long line when it was finally replenished.

Monday’s Sessions

I didn't make my AM session (Modeling with PowerDesigner 11) because I was making last minute changes to the presentation for my own session in the afternoon.

I did manange to catch most of Dave Fish's afternoon session "Up Close with PowerBuilder 10.5". There was quite a lot of feedback on the new features being developed. I was somewhat concerned about the few number of audience members that we actually participating the in the beta. The more people that participate, and the sooner they get involved and provide feedback, the better the end result will be.

Then came my own session "SOA with PowerBuilder/EAServer". It was well attended (I had one of the smaller rooms, but it was full) and from the people I talked to later it seems to have gone over well.

Monday’s Opening Keynote

TechWave was opened this year by the illusionist Rick Thomas. His grand finale illusion involved a number of volunteers from the audience.

Rick Thomas

John Chen indicated that this year's TechWave set recent records for attendance (1500) and sponsors.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

So much for the gameshow…

We (TeamSybase) got our clocks cleaned by the Sybase folks. We thought we might have a chance with categories like Sun, HP, Oracle, Big Blue, etc. Turns out Sun was about the solar system, HP was about Harry Potter, Oracle about the Matrix and Big Blue about the ocean.

The audience seemed to enjoy it, particularly those that won prizes. For our own efforts, we received rubber chickens....

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Test your Sybase Knowledge Gameshow

Pompeian Ballroom in the Palace Tower around 3:30 on Sunday the 21st.

Four TeamSybase members (Millard Brown, Terry Voth, Mike Nicewarner and myself) will do battle against a team from Sybase employees. Each team will take turns answering multiple choice questions off a Jeopardy style game board. The questions will be about 50% Sybase engineering related and the rest from other walks of life. There will be two rounds with a tie-breaker question just in case.

The audience will have handhelds and play along. They will have a chance to win some cool prizes (30 GB iPods, PSP's and Optic Nerve Sunglasses are up for grabs) at the end of each round (so to the audience it is really two games).

Jonathan Baker (Sybase) is the emcee and "impartial" judge

Friday, August 05, 2005

Track historical Amazon rankings

Something you may not be interested in unless you're an author, but it's possible to use the Amazon web services API to track the ranking of items on Amazon over time. The folks at TitleZ have made their implementation of it available. The following is the report for the PowerBuilder 9 books from SAMS.

TitleZ ranking for PowerBuilder 9 book