I had that feeling, you know the one, when you wake up and everything just feels a little…off. It wasn’t due to any self inflicted torment (although that is the reason why this post is a day late, which I’ll get into later) but it felt distinctly like the beginnings of a cold, almost on cue for the same time I did this last year. Great, I thought, I’m going to have to ride out the last day of the conference a blithering mess and then be that guy on the plane that gets everyone sick. Thankfully though that particular feeling didn’t last long , although the extreme humidity outside and the near freezing temperatures inside didn’t do much to help that along.
The sessions I had lined up with a specific topic in mind (I wanted to dive into the backup/disaster recovery stuff that they just put into Azure) turned out to be complete wastes of time. One of them being another vendor junket and another a 400 (expert) level class that was realistically a 200 (beginner) class and the only reason I could think of for it being labelled as such was due to the over-inflated ego of the presenter. The final one was interesting to a point, but I’d already seen the majority of it through various other sessions that were tangentially related. Thankfully the interview I did with Don Jones turned out quite well despite me not really knowing what to do, which can be wholly attributed to the fact that Don is a really switched on guy.
However this was only a small part of the day since tonight was the closing party which promised to be quite an amazing event.
After we’d all filed our posts for the day and rested up a little bit we trundled down to the Mercedes Superdome to get our drink on courtesy of Microsoft. There was no shortage of entertainment with all attendees greeted by a marching band at the door and the main floor thriving with people in front of a live band. We spent most of the night checking out the various side shows they had running (like a hand writing analyzer, the one that doesn’t use science) whilst slowly making our way through a good chunk of Microsoft’s booze. That was all mere distraction however as they announced the “special guest” they had been alluding to all evening.
Now don’t get me wrong, the instant her name was said the entire TechEd population flocked to the center stage so she still has drawing power, but the performance that followed afterwards can only be described as atrocious. Sure I enjoyed myself, and so did a lot of other people there I’m betting, but I’d hazard a guess that most of them enjoyed it for all the wrong reasons. Indeed it was a bizarre performance in its own right as she didn’t have a band and, whilst all credit should be given to her for not lip syncing, she was essentially singing over the top of her own performance. You could do worse when you’re pushing 70 though.
The band that followed (Mojo Band) we’re quite excellent, playing songs from Elvis all the way up to the Black Eyed Peas, nailing them all. They certainly did a lot better job of getting near immovable crowd dancing (although that’s to be expected when you cram 12,000 nerds in the same room with nary a computer to be seen) than the other band did and we spent the rest of our time there chatting and enjoying their covers. The TechEd party closed at midnight and with all of us sufficiently intoxicated Bourbon St started to sound like a great idea. In retrospect it was, although the current dull headache I’m nursing might attest to otherwise.
We meandered around a bit looking for a place to pick up a couple of roadies (walking around with an open container is legal here, surprisingly) but we ended up finding a bar to settle into. Before we could get drinks though we were accosted by one of the shot girls and of course, we all obliged. Suffice to say I have a photo for one of my friends who requested I do “something stupid in Bourbon St” for him thanks to her. After that we barreled around looking for another place to grab some more drinks and ended up in a divy jazz bar where one of the competition winners was parted with 20 of his dollars for the pleasure of standing on stage for 5 minutes.
By this point (I think it was around 2:30am) I was getting seriously hungry and ended up in one of the local burrito places. I have to say that it was actually pretty well done, even upon reflection the next day, and the others picked up a couple roadie slushies to tide them over. I was nearing that tenuous point where Drunk Dave was about to come out and, knowing that I had to endure 18+ hours of flying the next day, decided not to continue and wandered off back to the hotel. It was halfway back there that I caught up with Gus who’d gotten separated from us an hour previously and, with no one but me with international roaming enabled, was out of contact with us.
Of course that meant today I woke up feeling a lot less than optimal, especially when I saw I only had 30 mins to pack everything and check out. I managed to get it all done, of course, however the TechEd bag and my new Surface have proved to be problematic leaving me with 3 bags to carry around. Once we were all sorted we headed over to Mother’s, a Zagat rated restaurant across the street that always had a long line snaking out the front door. The food there was pretty great, especially for the price, and was most definitely better than the usual Maccas run that I seem to fall into every time I’m hung over.
We spent the rest of the day aimlessly wandering around New Orleans since we didn’t have time to really do anything thanks to our late start and need to get to the airport early in the afternoon. The highlight (and this says a lot about our state of mind at the time) was sitting in one of the ferries that crosses the Mississippi river. After that it was a quick trip to the airport where I’m currently awaiting a connecting flight to Dallas before the 15 hour flight back to Australia.
All in all it’s been a pretty good trip and whilst I haven’t seen as much of New Orleans as I would have liked I did get to check off pretty much everything on my “must do” list, although the list of recommendations I got from friends is untouched. It’s definitely an interesting city, one that definitely requires more than one night of drunken stumbling to explore properly. I don’t think I’ll ever make the trip out here specifically to do that, however, but should I ever find myself doing a second tour of the USA it’ll be one of the many stops on my list.
I don’t know what it is about holidays or trips away but I seem to spend the first half dreading everything about the place I’m in and then once I’m past the halfway point I seem to yearn for it not to end. This trip is no different as I wasn’t too crash hot on the whole idea but late yesterday I felt like I hit a turning point. My article that I dreamed up went down a treat and today the vague layout I had given myself helped to focus me on the important points of the sessions I was attending. Now I feel like the little amount of time I have left here isn’t enough and I curse my former self for being so impudent.
Most of today was fairly uneventful as I had managed to choose a few sessions that had significant overlap with each other. This is despite them claiming that “no one else has seen this content yet” so I ended up spending an undue amount of time on Reddit just waiting for it to finish so I could move onto the next one. Thankfully I had 2 sessions that were really quite awesome, especially the Azure Internals one done by Mark Russinovich who’s fast becoming my favorite presenter for everything Microsoft. I’m less worried about what I’m going to see tomorrow since I can do a reflective post about everything and I expect the chances of me finding out anything amazing on the last day are slim to nil.
I finally decided to brave the line for a Surface¹ as I knew I’d kick myself if I didn’t take them up on the offer. Like most I was planning to go for the duo, getting one of both to take advantage of the price difference, however thinking about it I have no need for 2 tablets (my wife swears by her Macbook Air and I my Zenbook) but for $99 I figured the RT was cheap enough for those rare times I’ve found myself thinking “Hey a tablet would rock here”. All told I was in the line for about an hour or so when all I would’ve been doing otherwise was surfing the web so it wasn’t time wasted and the short line for lunch afterwards was a nice bonus.
We all managed to catch up for beers and dinner after we’d all finished writing our posts which was bloody fantastic and was most definitely one of the key things that had been missing from this trip. It was also very interesting to hear the journos war stories about the various tech press and the media in general and even better still being able to relate to them as a blogger (and not be ridiculed for it, omg). I did feel a little bad for the other guys though as whilst they we were all talking shop I felt like we might’ve been excluding them a little bit, but thankfully the conversation didn’t circle around journalism for the whole night.
Tomorrow is shaping up to be a pretty excellent day with the sessions stopping early and the big Microsoft piss up happening shortly after. I know we’re all looking to exploit this for all its worth so it should be a good time to get loose with everyone after a hard week’s blogging. Whilst that might preclude doing anything particularly interesting the day after it’ll all be worth it if we enjoy ourselves. I’ll just have to make sure to not get too wrecked as we’ll be shipping out the next day and flying hungover isn’t exactly one of my most favorite things to do.
¹For those not in the know they’re offering them to TechEd attendees at a ridiculous price point, $99 for the RT and $499 for the Pro.
I’ll have to admit I was a little bit stressed this morning. I’d spent the majority of the night previously thinking about the narrative I wanted to put forward for my post for Lifehacker and the night’s sleep didn’t bring about any sudden moments of clarity. This isn’t completely unusual, indeed there are many times when I go through a similar process for my daily entries here, but the thought of not being able to deliver something (well, something that was up to my standards) to someone else for publication wore on me heavily. Still I’m not one to dwell on problems that don’t have an immediate solution so I trucked myself out to TechEd.
My writer’s anxiety wasn’t helped by the fact that the first session I had chosen turned out to be a 75 minute long advertisement for NetApp. Now usually I’m ok with sessions like this, especially if I’m interested in the particular tech they happen to be peddling, but no where on the session information did it say anything about this being all about whatever NetApp could do rather than, you know, what the session description led you to believe. Thankfully the second session I went to was with Mark Russinovich (of SysInternals fame) who’s presentation was not only great the stuff he talked about it was the inspiration for my post on Lifehacker. That’s also led onto me figuring out where I want to go with it for the next 2 that are due which just makes everything a lot easier.
The lack of a common meeting point (like the press room was the last time around) has led to this weird situation between all of us. Since we’re all in sessions for most of the day and the majority of them don’t overlap I actually didn’t see anyone else from the Lifehacker crew today. Sure there were a couple emails shot about but apart from that I’ve had no contact with them. After the experience I had travelling with DFAT it certainly feels a bit weird to me as we’d always meet up after work for dinner and a chat, something which was always fun after you got over that initial getting-to-know-you hurdle.
However this also afforded me a little freedom to do what I pleased after TechEd finished. After battling with dodgy Internet to get my post and pictures uploaded for the better part of an hour I finally made it out of the hotel and set out to look for some local cuisine. I’d tracked down a decent looking restaurant called Luke and, after walking in circles and almost giving up on finding it, settled in for a nice meal of baked oysters, a burger and an Oaked Arrogant Bastard ale. The food was quite incredible as the following photo will attest:
I had thought ahead and brought my camera with me to the restaurant (none of the pics I’ve uploaded so far are from it, however) and afterwards I went on a bit of a tour around the area near my hotel. There was no limit of interesting subjects, at least for someone like me, and looking over the photos shows that I should have at least a couple keepers, maybe more once I get done with them in Lightroom. I was going to install a copy of it on this laptop however I don’t really have the time to go through them right now, unless I want to cut sleep out completely. It’s enough to satisfy me should I not get another chance, but I’m hoping to spend the better part of Friday doing the same thing again, only during the day.
So two days and two more posts to go. I’m feeling an awful lot better about this whole thing and I feel like its going to be reflected in my writing. Hopefully I luck into some more of those inspirational sessions as whilst I’ve got a general idea of what I want to write those kinds of posts always feel a whole bunch better. We shall have to see though and I’d better stop prattling on here in favor of getting some decent rest before tomorrow.
Due to our late arrival yesterday we had to be up pretty early to get to the convention center for registration. Thankfully I’m still in the throws of jet lag and was awake from 5:30am onwards so the 6:40am start wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be. Whilst I was getting ready I noticed that my camera battery was a little low and then realized that I had left my charger at home. One of the Lifehacker guys is using a Canon though so hopefully I’ll be able to bum a charge off him so I can spend what little free time I have taking pictures as I found today that spare time is going to be at something of a premium.
The keynote turned out to be a lot more interesting than I had expected, mostly because my expectations were in the toilet after last year’s TechEd Australia. There was the usual over the top parts, the keynote speaker playing a James Bond-esque character and trundling up in an Aston Martin being chief among them, but thankfully that was essentially it with the rest of it focusing on good old fashioned technology. As the other’s remarked there was a lot more newsworthy stuff in the keynote than we’d expected and whilst I won’t cover it here (mostly because I’m sure it’s already been done to death everywhere else) suffice to say that instead of walking out feeling confused and slightly angry I was instead pretty eager to dive into some sessions to get my hooks into the newly announced features.
My choice of sessions was probably a bit sub-optimal though as the first couple we essentially retreading the same ground with not a whole bunch of new insight. Indeed the best session of the day was the one I hadn’t planned to go to since it was labelled TBD but my press buddies informed me they would be the ones to watch out for since TBD was code for “covers as of yet unannounced features”. With that in mind I’m taking a good long look at my schedule for tomorrow as I’d rather spend my time being interested in these sessions than nodding off halfway through them.
This time around has felt a whole bunch more disconnected than last year as after the keynote we all kind of went our own ways and we didn’t have the convenient press room to retreat to. It wouldn’t have been much of an issue but it seems that they couldn’t arrange the powered seats like they did last year which put me in the unenviable position of having to ration my use of the laptop, which meant my notes were pretty brief. It seems like an odd oversight given that they had it at TechEd Australia but I guess it must be a limitation of the venue.
I wasn’t so fussed about the relatively long hours last year since I’ve already seen most of what Brisbane has to offer but it does feel like a right shame that I’ve been here 2 days and I haven’t really seen much of New Orleans. Since TechEd won’t be providing dinner tomorrow though that might give me a little bit of a chance to get out and see a little bit of the place while I search for something edible. There seems to be a really cool little amphitheater/restaurant across from me that had live jazz playing tonight which is quite intriguing but it might have to wait as I’ve got a couple suggestions from friends to check out first.
I guess I could just go AWOL… 😉
As most of you are aware sine I won the little blogger competition that Lifehacker ran last year they invited me to tag along for the culmination of their World of Servers gig at TechEd North America. That meant I’ve spent the better part of a day travelling from Australia to New Orleans and whilst I won’t bore you with the details of the rather uneventful journey (save for me being “that guy” who was late for his flight because he simply didn’t hear the boarding announcement) I thought I’d give a little comparison to the last time I was here, nearly 3 years ago now.
For starters the flight over was much better than the last time I went, all because instead of flying Delta I was on Qantas. My wife and I lucked out somewhat last time as we managed to score a whole row of seats to ourselves on the way up (not on the way back) but flying solo this time around I was pretty impressed by the little marginal differences between Qantas and Delta that made the experience a little more tolerable. I’ve also become a bit better at sleeping on planes than I was back then (I think that was my first truly long haul flight, actually) and I managed to sleep through most of it.
Not that it helped my jet lag at all, as the headache I’m currently enduring will attest to.
New Orleans seems like a great place, all of the locals I’ve talked to so far have been really easy going. I didn’t get to see much of it as we got in at around 6pm and we’re going to be heading out to the venue at 6:40am tomorrow but there’s an odd dichotomy going on in the buildings, much like that I saw back in Montreal. I figure that’s mostly due to the destruction that hurricane Katrina wrought here all those years ago but thankfully it looks like quite a few of the older buildings survived.
Tomorrow we’ll have the opening TechEd keynote and then we’ll be off to our first round of sessions. I’ve predominately aligned myself with the enterprise/cloud space and whilst I haven’t been able to fill every session with something along that idea there’s been more than enough on offer for each time slot to keep me occupied. I’ve already had a couple clashes which has led to some tough choices about which ones I actually want to attend. That was made somewhat worse when Angus Kidman (the man behind much of Lifehacker Australia’s tech news) said that the TBD sessions would all be Windows Blue related. I’ll probably have to have a look at reworking it once I get a little downtime, probably during the keynote.
So if you’re coming here for your daily dose of tech/gaming/whatever related news I’m going to disappoint you for a little while but I’ll be doing wrap up posts every day over on Lifehacker Australia which I’ll be sure to retweet on my Twitter account. Mostly I’ll just be posting about the various exploits I find myself in whilst I’m over here in New Orleans and, time willing, sharing a few photographs that I manage to snap.
If you’ve been here a little while you’ll know that last year I won a competition to go up to Brisbane to cover TechEd Australia 2013 for LifeHacker Australia. During my time up there I wrote three posts covering everything from PowerShell, the evolution of the term “private cloud” and why Windows Server 201 would succeed. Evidently the LifeHacker writers and readers loved what I wrote and I ended up winning the mini-competition with the 2 other guest bloggers. At the time I was told that this would lead onto another series of posts for Microsoft themselves however that never eventuated but I did end up with a shiny new HP MicroServer that’s become the mainstay of my home network.
I thought that would be the end of it but a couple months ago Angus Kidman, the man behind much of LifeHacker Australia’s tech coverage, contacted me with an offer: come with him to the USA and participate in covering TechEd North America as part of their World of Servers initiative.
Of course I said yes.
It will be much the same as it was last year, I’ll be attending TechEd in New Orleans every day and writing up a post that sums up the lessons learned that I take away each day. The primary focus will still be on Server 2012 although with Microsoft’s increasing focus on cloud integration you can rest assured that I’ll be weaseling my way into as many Azure sessions as I possibly can. It’s going to be interesting to compare and contrast the two as I’m sure TechEd North America is going to be huge by comparison and hopefully that means we’ll get some juicy insights into some of Microsoft’s upcoming products.
But this post isn’t just for me to humble brag to you guys. I’m here to tell you that LifeHacker Australia is offering this very same opportunity to 2 lucky IT professionals! To enter all you have to do is fill out this entry form and answer a few questions about your IT chops. Once you’ve done that you’re in the running to win a fully paid trip to New Orleans to cover TechEd North America and you’ll get to hang out with me for the duration of the trip (most people would consider that a perk…most people ;)).
If you’re a budding blogger hoping to get a foot in the door or just a tech head who loves everything Microsoft then there really isn’t a better opportunity than the one LifeHacker is offering here. You’ve only got until May 1st to get your entries in (that’s 2 weeks people!) so I’d encourage you to get it in sooner rather than later. I’m incredibly excited to be going along for the ride on this one and if my previous experience was anything to go by it’ll be a blast and it’d be amazing if I could bring one my readers along for the ride.
Hope to see you there! 😀