Windows Higher Ed 2012 Wrap-Up

I was in Seattle this week for the Windows in Higher Education Conference (WinHiEd for short). I’ve only been the conference once before back in 2007. The conference schedule wasn’t consistent in later years and when it was held, it shifted to be in the spring, a little too close to TechEd to justify attending both. Because my TechEd registration is free this year, courtesy of being a TechEd 2011 VIP winner, I decided to give WinHiEd another try.

There were approximately 70 attendees this year, down from the 100 or so that were there in 2007. Hopefully they can increase the attendance next year. More attendees means more opportunities for peer presentations. The goal has been for presentations to be split evenly between Microsoft and peers. This year, things were skewed more towards Microsoft. Before you ask whether I gave a presentation, the answer is no,and the main reason is we’re not doing anything that I think anyone would find interesting. Right now, my time is pretty much spent just keeping things running. Maybe someday there will be resources and time to actually work on new and cool things, but that day is not yet here. Sigh…

We hit a rough patch the first morning after our keynote about Windows 8. Someone tweeted a picture of one of the Samsung tablets we had a chance to look at after the session. Some things were also said about Windows To Go. Apparently these both ran afoul of the NDA we signed so there was hand-slapping for a few minutes. Now, I understand and respect an NDA. However there were a few things the organizers could have done to prevent this from happening:

  1. When you’re having everyone sign the NDA, call out just what it is we’re signing. It felt like we were being herded through the registration and I’m not sure everyone understood just what it was we were signing.
  2. Since not all of the sessions are covered by NDA (the peer presentations for one), if a session is going to be covered by the NDA, make an announcement beforehand.
  3. If a session is covering a product that had already been released, call out during the presentation if something protected is going to be mentioned.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what we were told about Windows to Go that isn’t already public. The only feature I remember seeing on Monday during the presentation was talked about Build and there’s a video of the Microsoft session form that conference on YouTube. Similarly, if you’re doing a demo on Server 2012 Build 8250, the publicly available beta release, it is kind of hard to call that confidential information. Just saying…

I won’t list all the different sessions. You can see the agenda on the conference web site.  I especially enjoyed the session by Sean Riordan from Stanford about using Azure with HPC.  I hadn’t ever though much about Azure or HPC, but after hearing Sean’s presentation, I have a few ideas for some things I’d like to try with one of our faculty that might give him access to more computational power than we can provide and could help us get rid of several workstations he has in our computer room. Food for thought anyway.

There were several good PowerShell both from Microsoft and people from several schools. PowerShell is one of those things that I know I need to get more proficient at, but competing priorities usually leaves this area on the backburner.  At the very least, I’ll be able to get copies of some great scripts other people have created and adapt for use in my environment.  The session on PowerShell 3.0 was great and really benefited from the enthusiasm of the presenters, Hemant Mahawar and Refaat Issa. Much of the session focuses on the changes to the ISE for v3.  You can find out more about the changes to ISE in PowerShell 3.0 on the TechNet web site. The addition of Intellisense and other editor enhancements really lend themselves to folks trying to become more proficient in PowerShell. I’m looking forward to making better use of this tool.

Another great session was Buck Woody’s on “SQL Azure, Big Data, and moving to the cloud.” I’ve seen Buck online, mostly on Twitter, but never had the opportunity to hear him present in person.  Now I’m not really a SQL guy, but this was a great session.  It felt more like a college lecture, which isn’t surprising because Buck teaches at University of Washington. If you ever have a chance to see Buck, go do it.  You’ll be glad you did. You can find his website at http://buckwoody.com We tried to get the hashtag #lovemesomebuck trending but getting something to trend apparently takes more than two of us tweeting.

Overall I found the conference to be useful, but it won’t be a replacement for TechEd for me.  Someone during a feedback session indicated that he would be more likely to attend this conference than TechEd again. I had a hard time rationalizing that with my experience at the two conferences. But that’s the great things about all of these different technical venues, there’s something for everyone.  I might be more inclined to make this a regular stop if it were scheduled with more time between it and TechEd and if attendance was high enough to provide sufficient peer content. We’ll see what happens next year.

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