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Trip to Microsoft Build - Days 5, 6 + 7

Hello again everyone! I have decided to group together the last 3 days of my trip as I think it will all easily fit into one page if I am sensible. So let's go!

The 2nd day keynote was more business-related than Day 1 so I decided not to rush to the queue but instead head upstairs to the overflow room where Jim and Laurent were watching. A summary of the announcements can be read here.

My highlights:

  • Windows 10 April 2018 Update - This has some cool new features appearing including Timeline. If you are logged into the same account across multiple devices you will be able to see a timeline of your activity so you can easily switch from laptop to Phone to PC and carry on where you left off without having to find the page again.

  • Microsoft Launcher - I installed this straight away on my Samsung Galaxy S8. It replaces my current home screen management and if I want, swaps Google Home for Cortana. This has been interesting as it has allowed me to receive text messages on my Windows 10 PC like iMessage users get their messages synced cross-device with Apple. I only tend to receive text messages for 2FA however so even a few weeks later the jury is still out.

  • Ink Analysis with Cognitive Services - This allows for the reading of handwiriting, even at an angle and really analyse it down to paraphaphs and indentation. This could prove really powerful to help those with issues writing or for scenarios like doctors where their handwriting is famously illegible.

  • Android Emulator for Hyper-V is here - As a mobile developer, this announcement is huge! In the past Windows has not been able to run the faster Android Emulators alongside Hyper-V so you had to make a choice between the best emulator or VM stuff like Docker. If you didn't need Docker anyway but had an Intel CPU then you had access to the HAXM-Accelerator which made it much more usable. AMD CPU like me? No such luck, stick to the slow stuff or Xamarin Live Player!

  • Custom Javascript Functions in Excel - Now I rarely use Excel, the only spreadsheet I use regularly is a Google Sheets page for managing my finances so this announcement doesn't impact me hugely at the moment but I liked the potential it has. It means you can pull in data from elsewhere like Microsoft Graph and have functions as if they were out of the box there for you to take advantage of.

So that's the keynotes over. Around lunchtime everything went up a cool level for me. As I mentioned in an earlier post in the series, James Montemagno created a Gist which listed where he will be and when if people want to join him for coffee. So I headed for Monorail Espresso just down the street from WSCC to meet up with him and Frank to grab some caffeine. There were only 3 others there with them when I arrived so we all grabbed a small table and had a chat.

As you can imagine, most people will just want to talk code as they have the chance to ask how to do things and how to solve issues and all sorts. But I know from Discord and chatting to James about it that as much as they love talking code with people and it is why they are there, after a while it gets exhausting and they need a break so I avoid asking code questions especially in person.

After about an hour of mainly poor Frank being asked how to do stuff and his experiences with things, James and Frank casually ended the coffee meetup so they could grab some lunch. But as their friend I was lucky enough to be asked by Frank to join them so that was awesome. We headed to a waffle place a few blocks away and James bought us some delicious waffles. So we ate nice food and talked about all sorts of fun non-code stuff because we all have shared interests.

In the afternoon was Miguel's talk on Xamarin. James and I watched it together which was cool as I got his perspective on some of the great announcements being made. I knew about quite a few of them as they had been mentioned previously but it was fantastic to see Miguel actually showing some of this stuff and examples of its usage. I highly recommend you watch it for full value and code samples. It can be found on Youtube here.

I spent the rest of my time at the Expo that day, chatting to people, picking up VS related T-shirts, Matt was and talking shop at the Lounge area with Brandon. In the evening there was another CDA event. This one had a few more attendees than the night before so it was a standing up event with some food and talks. There is a local charity that teaches coding to young female prisoners to allow them to have a set of skills for when they get out rather than having no prospects and reoffending.

The talk was really interesting. They had to deal with issues we don't have to outside like not having internet access. They couldn't just Google a problem or read Stack Overflow, they rely on textbooks. Some graduates of the program even shared their story which was really awesome. Great job CDA team, especially Allison and Mel for organising two days of inspirational speakers.

Woah Day 6 already and the last day of the conference. My first stop of the day was James' talk on Cloud-connected apps with Visual Studio, Xamarin and Azure. I finally got to watch him give a talk live which was awesome after admiring him for so many years. As expected he made it look easy, even when conference wifi was causing him pain.

Shortly after that I headed to one of the smaller open-plan theatre places to watch Brandon discuss using Cognitive Services to make smart apps. It started with a really fun contest using an app Brandon had written earlier where the volunteers had to try and take a photo of themselves making the given facial expression and the one with the highest percentage probability won.

Brandon also showed other uses for Cogntive Services that are close to my heart like textual sentiment analysis to read intention in a message. The example he used (which I actually got wrong) was a message from a pretend boss about getting all work done today. I assumed the boss was annoyed he hadn't done something but the analysis said it was about 77% happy so the boss was actually being genuine.

I spent the rest of Build chatting to CDA's and sitting on the floor of the atrium area in front of the Channel 9 stage watching them having a hilarious debate about stuff ranging from tabs vs spaces, comments vs self-documenting to ; or no ;. I actually disagreed with most of what they were saying but a twitter joke a couple of weeks ago actually led to Burke saying I should be on the next one so you never know!

One final stop on the way out, a workshop with the Mark and Rob from the Xamarin University team on connecting your Xamarin apps to the cloud. This was hands on with computers supplied with all the tools and code required so that was fun.

That evening was the celebration party at the Seattle Center. This had loads going on! There was a tent with a silent disco, a band, lots of food, games, characature artists, the Chihuly Glass Museum and Gardens, and the Museum of Pop Culture which had a lot of awesome stuff in there like a sound lab and costumes from Marvel films. Sadly I didn't get to enjoy it as much as I would have liked as it was 4500 people in a small space and I was mentally exhausted from jetlag and the intensity of Build so I was in a bit of a daze walking round but I did take lots of pictures I can treasure which is nice.

I woke up on the last day and packed my things. It was all a bit surreal, time had flown by and I had really felt happy in Seattle. The city was friendly, the weather was good to us, Build was awesome and I had met such amazing people. But I had one final little treat in store. The amazing as ever Jim had organised for me to see the campus a bit more and see Building 25 where the CDA team are based as well as James and other big names.

The first thing we did on arrival was get breakfast at the Building 16 canteen. It's still weird to think back to campus. It really is such a relaxed place, you would not believe it is a place of work instead of a holiday village.

Jim gave me a tour of Building 25 and when we met up with James later he got us into the Channel 9 Studio which was awesome!

On the way out I met Seth Juarez which was fun then Jim and I grabbed my suitcase and ordered a shuttle to take us across campus to the Employee Store where I met Donovan Brown outside. He jokingly told me to buy a black shirt (he is famous for black shirts and went on a Black Shirt tour like Scott Gu does with his red shirts) so I bought a black t-shirt with a Microsoft logo. I wanted one anyway but it was partly for you Donovan!

Then it was time to go. I headed to the airport, went through security etc etc and eventually boarded the plane. I won't lie, I was quite emotional when the plane took off. I really had such an amazing time and wasn't ready to leave. The conference was exhausting but a lot of fun so I think 3 days was the limit for me on that but there was so much else to do in Seattle itself in terms of sightseeing, I also wanted to see more of Redmond and Bellevue but I definitely plan to head back to Seattle.

There we have it, the end of my series on my trip to Seattle. I hope you enjoyed reading it and got a sample of how full on, action packed and amazing Microsoft conferences are. I certainly want to go back again in future if I can. If not to Build then definitely Seattle!

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Luce Carter

Dev 🥑 at MongoDB | Microsoft MVP | Twilio Champion | I help developers build confidence and battle Impostor Syndrome, one line of code or story at a time | She/Her