Category - Build

  1. Build 2018

    Another year and another Build conference. Last year I said I’d go this year given the opportunity, and I was given the opportunity.

    The original build conference was billed as //build/ Windows. You could bring whatever tools you knew to build great Windows apps. This conference has morphed over the years and is now //build/ Azure. This is disappointing to me.

    Like last year the first day keynotes were centered around the server and Azure. Day 2 was focused on Windows. The Windows part wasn’t as spellbinding as it has been in the past, and overall it felt evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary in it’s content.

    There was advancements in the Fluent Design Language, but it is still for XAML developers only. There was the announcement of .NET Core 3.0 that will be in preview later this year.

    The things that stuck out to me were the Adaptive Cards to be used in Windows new Timeline feature that was released last October, Sets which may or may not appear in Windows this fall, and finally but certainly not least is Visual Studio Live Share.

    Timeline, as I said before, is a feature of Windows that was introduced last fall. You can see what you were working on in the past and reopen windows that you have closed. Right now it seems to work best with Edge and not much else. So that’s why Microsoft was making a big push for it at Build to teach us how to incorporate the Timeline into our own apps.

    Sets is using tabs everywhere, not just in your browser. They look at it this way, “Imagine I’m planning a trip. I’ve got Excel open and PowerPoint and three browser tabs plus this trip planning application.” The problem I see with this is that they haven’t learned from their Windows 8 experience yet. People don’t look at one thing at a time. They like to have Windows next to each other so they can compare or copy text or just look at two different things. Sets forced you to have one tab open at a time. If you want to switch between that Excel spreadsheet and PowerPoint tabs you can only have one open at a time. You can’t place them side by side. So unless they are going to come out with a split view for Sets, I don’t see it taking off anytime soon. Having said all that though, I do like the Sets integration with Timeline feature. You can click once and rehydrate the entire set you had open.

    Finally there was Visual Studio Live Share. This is an add-on for Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code that allows multiple people, I was told at most 6 people at a time, to be working on a codebase and sharing the debugging. I can actually see this working for the teams I work on and I will push for us to try it when I get back to the office on Monday.

    The only party I went to this year was the Windows Weekly party. That was a really great time.

    This year’s build was a lot of fun, but not all that useful to my current job. I’m wondering to myself if I just haven’t been keeping up or if Microsoft has left me behind. Time will tell. Once again, if given the opportunity to go again next year, I sure will.

  2. Build 2017

    Microsoft Build is the ultimate conference for me. It’s a developer conference that focuses on Microsoft’s roadmap for the coming year. Every year after the keynote and first day of sessions I rush to a computer to try out what I’ve learned. It’s such a rush to, as everyone says, drink from the firehose. This year, however, was different.

    The first day was about server technologies. Normally they save that for the second day. There’s some interesting advances in Cortana, and I think it might be fun to code up a skill for her. ASP.NET Core 2.0 is coming soon, but the major feature there, Razor Pages, is like a giant step into the past with Web Pages. Not really impressive. I’m working on rewriting my web sites using Core, but I’ll probably stick with ASP.NET Core 1.0 for them.

    Day two was about Windows. This should have been the day that excited me the most. Really though, the most inspiring part was the new Fluent Design Language. The major building blocks are: Light, Depth, Motion, Material and Scale. It looks great and I was excited to learn more, but it’s XAML only. They said implementing it in HTML/JS/CSS would be difficult. I may have to prove them wrong on that. In fact, aside from the TypeScript talk, there was very little in the way of JavaScript. It’s almost as if Microsoft is pushing XAML and not recommending HTML for building apps. This is further exasperated by the fact that Microsoft introduced XAML Standard 1.0.  I bet next year we’ll see a tool to convert XAML to HTML so that you can build your web sites in XAML and not have to touch HTML. The problem is that it makes it really convenient to share code between apps if it’s written in HTML. I’ll have to think on this more, but expect samples to come from me of how to do things in the Microsoft Universe in HTML. I’m thinking of starting with some Surface Dial examples.

    The Parties!

    First I’d like to thank everyone that invited me to a party. I had a great time at all of the parties that I attended. There was a Windows Insider’s Party and I think that was the best one. It wasn’t crowded and everyone was friendly. There wasn’t a super star that everyone crowded around, except maybe Brandon LeBlanc. I didn’t get to meet him, but I also didn’t talk to Mary Jo Foley or Paul Thurrott at the Windows Weekly party.


    Tuesday night when I first arrived I was invited to a Visual Studio Developer Day. It was like speed dating mixed with a job interview. It was scary and took a lot out of me. They sat us at a table then we’d have 20 minutes with a product team that would grill us on an aspect of Visual Studio. They were trying to learn as much as they could about customer usage of Visual Studio. After the 20 minutes were up they’d switch. This went on for a couple hours. Then they had some drinks and appetizers down in the lobby outside the Company Store where we were given vouchers to spend $200.

    Final Thoughts

    Build was a lot of fun. It wasn’t as exciting as previous years, but I am still glad that I had a chance to go. I’ll definitely go next year (given the opportunity).

  3. Build 2015

    This year marks the 4th year that I have gone to the Microsoft //build/ conference. I had to miss last year due to some mix-up at work, but that’s in the past.

    Every year seems to try and outdo the previous year and this was no different. This year some announcements were made that blew many people away. I was not one of them. I did find many of the sessions were very useful and made the whole conference great.

    What’s with iOS and Android?

    Ah, cutting straight to the heart of the matter. Microsoft announced a couple of projects that were aimed directly at developers of other platforms. The announcement is that Microsoft has crafted a couple of cross compilers that, with minimal code changes, would allow a developer to compile their Objective-C code (for iOS developers) or their Java/C++ Android code into fully functioning Windows 10 binaries. There seems to be some caveats, as one might expect, but the immediate response of course seems to be, “Who needs Windows developers anymore?”

    Who does need Windows Developers?

    Well, frankly, I hope a lot of people decide that they need Windows developers. Sure now you can just ask your iOS or Android developers to pull double duty and compile their code for Windows as well as the primary platform. Heck, a clever release engineer could automate the whole thing. It just came across to me as a big slap in the face from Microsoft. Am I even needed anymore?

    What about the fun stuff?

    hololens_5Okay, let me switch gears a little and talk about Windows Holographic and the HoloLens. In a stroke of luck, I managed to wiggle my way into the demo of HoloLens. This is the head mounted visor thingy from Microsoft. These things were kept pretty secure and out of the way. They were in a hotel next to the convention and you had to be invited to go see them. Before I got to put my hands on it I had to lock away all my belongings like my cell phone. Then they measured the distance between my pupils (66 mm in case you were wondering) and then they led me into another hotel room. To get to the room I had to squeeze past quite a few security guards. This was serious business.

    Finally I got into the room where they placed the HoloLens on my head and ratcheted it down to fit snug. Then they booted up the device and I got to see my first glimpse into the future. The future my friends has a very narrow field of view, but I had to remind myself that even video on the Internet was once postage stamp size and look at it now!

    The demo consisted of looking at a construction site as though I was the architect. I’m going to spare you all the details of the 30 minute demo. If you really want to know contact me on Twitter and I’ll spill it. In the end I was impressed and it was cool, but honestly it has a long way to go before it is as impressive as the example footage we saw in January would lead us to believe. “Meh,” I said and I meant it. Even though everyone else was jaw dropped.


    I went to 12 of a possible 13 sessions. I skipped Friday morning because I rode to the City with my wife. Because my work paid for the conference I thought it best to attend sessions that will help me with my work. This meant that I missed out on the great maker kit that was handed out at the Raspberry Pi 2 talk. Epic sadness there. I will watch the talk online though and get my RPi2 running Windows 10 very presently.

    Design Sessions

    Four of the sessions I attended had to do with design. I am not a designer by nature, but this is where my company seems most interested at the moment. Specifically, we have a Windows 8.1 app now what do we have to do to get it ready for Windows 10? The answer to this is a little complicated, but since nobody even mentioned the old swipe AppBars it is clear that we need to put the navigation on the screen somehow. Many of the apps I saw used the Hamburger menu system that is popular on mobile phone apps. Other apps just had their controls right on the app window. It is clear then that hiding the app controls is not the way to do things. I suppose this is another place where Microsoft was listening to the consumers complaints about Windows 8.1.

    In a talk on Navigation and Windowing in Universal Windows Apps, the speaker introduced us to multiple windows single application. Although this technique has been used in the past it hasn’t, until now, been used in Metro either on the phone or on Windows. This is interesting because it means that we could have the viewer open in one window and our library still present with navigation controls in another window.


    I went to a TypeScript and several JavaScript talks and the number one thing I got from them was that Microsoft is committed to standards based JavaScript and all the recommendations were around using ECMAScript 6 (A.K.A. ES6 and ES2015). This is handy since that is what we are using at work now. When asked how to handle down-level browsers the speaker recommended transpilation tools such as TypeScript or Babel. Babel is what we are using at work.

    It was interesting when the speaker at one of the sessions asked if anyone was currently using ES6 only a few hands went up. Listen to me, you may just be reading this blog and not paying attention, ES6 is good stuff. I recommend looking it up and taking a tour. Here’s a good resource to get you started.

    Why all the focus on ES6? Two reasons really: First Microsoft has a new browser out called Microsoft Edge. This browser is built on standards compliant JavaScript, HTML and CSS. It is fast and the way of the future for Internet browsing. Second, this Edge browser is the rendering engine that is used in apps built with JavaScript and HTML. ES6 will allow you to get the best possible performance out of both the web browser Edge and your HTML/JavaScript Windows 10 apps.


    This is just the beginning of what is in store for Windows 10 development. My trusty Surface Pro 3 and I will be taking a wild tour of application development. I hope to document it as best as I can and I hope you follow along. Build 2015 was a fairly emotional ride for me and I am glad I went. Windows 10 will be released soon-ish and I hope that everyone that went to //build/ will tell all of their developer friends how to make the best apps they can. Microsoft’s goal of a billion devices starts with one killer app. That app is different for everyone so I hope that you get out there and build apps.

  4. Build 2014 an outsider’s summary

    I was unable to go to BUILD this year, and that made me pretty sad. This year’s theme was “Cloud First; Mobile First.” – but wait, how can both be first? Well, that’s the question they wanted you to ask so instead let’s ask, “What about desktop?” You see //build (yes I’m going to type it every way I can) was about 2 things this year: Azure (now called Microsoft Azure) and Windows Phone 8.1. Sure there was a little talk about Windows 8.1 Update, but really that was a sideshow (along with the teaser that they are bringing the Start Menu back).

    Cloud First Mobile First and desktop never. Think about it. A few months ago when //build/ was announced there was talk about Windows 9 making an appearance. However, there wasn’t a single word about it at this conference.

    Cloud First Mobile First, does that mean that we will have another /build conference this year and the topic will be Desktop Second? Also, it seems strange to have a /b conference and not have a build to give out to people. In fact, although the new UI for Azure was sent into the wild, the build for Windows Phone 8.1 will come in, “the first part of April.” Emphasis is mine.


    Cloud First Mobile First except for Americans. The nice new Nokia Lumia 930 was introduced, but if you read between the lines they say ,”we will continue to push the Nokia Lumia Icon for American audiences.” That means that the 930 won’t be coming to the States anytime soon. Also on the cloud front, the big advances in datacenters are taking place in Europe and Asia with heavy emphasis on data redundancy being at least 500 miles away, but in the same geographical region. A nod towards not having your data in America at all for fear that the NSA is reading all those trillions of records.

    Maybe I’m just biased because I’m a desktop developer now. There was some great new advances for web development. The new edit in browser and the changes appear in Visual Studio is one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in a long long time. In the end though, I’m glad I wasn’t able to pay the $2095 to attend the conference. Maybe there’ll be another one in September that is dedicated to the desktop.