CUTC – where the future goes!

cutc2009 CUTC abbr. Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference. [que-te-see]

  1. Happening in Toronto on March 12-13, 2009 at the Toronto Hilton.
  2. CUTC is the biggest and most defining platform for students to meet and learn from experienced industry and academic professionals.

I haven’t been to a CUTC yet. Unfortunately, I won’t get to go this year. It’s happening the same time as SxSWi and I’ll be back in Austin. Looks like a great event for Canadian undergraduate students (sponsored by Rypple and Infusion Development). The conference schedule includes:

  • TechPanels – open panel discussions between 2-4 industry representatives on cloud computing, mobile communications and next-generation consoles.
  • TechShops – Interactive workshops with hands-on tinkering. Play with Eclipse, Maya and other tools.
  • TechTours – Go see where the magic happens. Picture desks and monitors 😉 I actually love lab and studio tours. Seeing others workspace is inspiring and can help you determine if you want to work there.
  • TechTeam – Divide into groups with students and industry pros to build upon an idea and present a feasible solution. Awesome, you get to see how people at different companies think about rapid problem solving.
  • TechShow – I think this is presentations, entertainment and inspiration. It’s a show. It’s designed to facilitate conversation.
  • TechExpo – think tradeshow. You get to see what’s going on in the industry. Push it. Poke it. Prod it.

In case you missed it, it’s about Tech!Looks like a great conference. Just hoping that they publish a schedule sooner rather than later.

Software, support & visibility

microsoftbizspark It’s funny, I’ve asked about startups building on .NET in the past. And with the development of programs like BizSpark the continued support of events like StartupCampMontreal and Founders & Funders, and yesterday’s funding announcement at Xobni, there a number of new opportunities for startups to get access to free software and exposure.

Microsoft Blue Sky competition for the so-many startuppers using MS technology” – Heri

BizSpark is a program aimed at providing startups with access to software, support and visibility. Startups need to meet the following requirements:

  • Is in the business of software development,
  • Is privately held,
  • Has been in business for less than 3 years, and
  • Has less than US $1 million in annual revenue

There are no initial costs. At the end of the three years there is a US$100 fee. Startups can participate in BizSpark for up to 3 years, (assuming they haven’t changed ownership or gone public in years 1 or 2). The program includes Visual Studio Team System Team Suite (VSTS) with MSDN Premium for development, testing and demonstration purposes. There are also production licenses for Windows Server, SQL Server, BizTalk Server, and Office SharePoint Server. It’s a pretty complete package for startups looking to gain access to the tools for design and development.

How do I sign up?

First you need to find a Network Partner.

What is a Network Partner?

“Network Partners are active members of the local software ecosystem engaged with high-potential, early stage Startups. They are organizations specifically focused on supporting software entrepreneurs and Startups, or whose activities include a focus on promoting and supporting software Startups, through programs, mentoring, networking, business advices, financial and legal assistance or similar services and activities.” – Network Partner Program Guide

Basically, these are the folks supporting startups. In Canada today, there were over 20 Network partners including:

I keep looking for Network Partners to join the program. I’ve been working on folks in Alberta, British Columbia and on the East coast. Turns out there is a lot of ground to cover in this country. If you have an organization that supports start-ups in Edmonton, Calgary, Sudbury, Charlottetown, Halifax, Dartmouth, St. John’s, Quebec City, Yellowknife, drop me a note and I’ll do my best to get them to register. Or if you think you should be a Network partner, sign up using the Champ ID = davcrow.

If you can’t find a Network Partner, drop me a note.

Other Programs

If you don’t meet the requirements for BizSpark, there are other partner programs. I’m not an expert here, I find that most early stage companies are limited due to the “being in business for less than 3 years”. The other program is Empower for ISVs. I’m not entirely sure where you fit if you’re offering a SaaS solution outside of BizSpark. But there are programs that can help, check out the SPLA and SaaS On-Ramp Programs

BlueSky & Ignite IT

blueskyThere are 2 programs that offer developers and ISVs an opportunity to showcase their products and solutions. The Microsoft Blue Sky Innovation Excellence Award offers Canada ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) a way to gain access to product experts and members of the Emerging Business Team Portfolio Managers (think Christopher Griffin, Don Dodge, Cliff Reeves and others), exposure on MicrosoftStartupZone and a case study, access to new technologies and architectural guidance, software tools, among other things.

igniteitawardsThe Ignite IT Awards are a Microsoft Canada awards program aimed at celebrating the problems that were solved through IT solutions. There are both Developer and IT Professional stories. There are 2 prizes of $5,000 along with exposure. These aren’t primarily startup focused, however, since a lot of startups should be using technology to solve a problem and the Submission Form is nothing more than your elevator pitch. It’s should be good practice to practice giving your pitch and creating a 60 second video demonstrating why your solution is valuable. Think demo or clip of happy users. My thought is that this could easily be repurposed to help explain to your potential customers the power and benefit of your solution.


Blogging Azure

    windows-azure Microsoft released the initial details about the cloud computing platform at PDC in October. The platform is roughly a 3 layered approach. Best I can figure it’s very similar to an existing server configuration. Just like I have operating system and server topology in a data center design, I need to do the same in building a cloud application.

    Steve Marx provides an example Hello Cloud application in Learning to Build on Windows Azure. Basically he writes a standard ASP.NET application, and then separately configures the runtime environment. It’s interesting because it allows for a level of abstraction around the platform: compute, storage and management. CloudEnterprise has an interesting comparison of Windows Azure to Amazon AWS, Google App Engine and VMWare. 

    Feature Microsoft Amazon Google VMWare
    Availability Early private CTP Commercial available Public beta Announced
    Computing Architecture Windows 2008 virtual machines Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) to upload XEN images Python and run on shared application server layer Move virtual machines between environments
    Storage Cloud Storage Services (blog, table & queue) + SQL Services Simple Storage Service (S3) and SimpleDB Datastore APIs
    Message Queue Cloud Storage Services Simple Queue Services (SQS)

    Table adapted from

    I’m trying to relate it to my experiences building Rails apps and deploying on EC2 and S3 instances. It feels different than the Amazon AWS approach. It feels less like hosting a VM instance on Amazon infrastructure and using their storage and queuing service to scale my architecture. But learning to use EC2, S3 and SQS took some time. I’m thinking it will take additional time and prototyping to learn how to architect and build my web apps to run on Azure (bigger challenge seems to be teaching me C#). It’s different.  

    Intro to Windows Azure Services Platform

    Windows Azure Blogs

    • Windows Azure – Windows Azure team official blog.  Yes, nothing there now, but more will come, so subscribe. J
    • Cloud Compute Tools Team – The team that built the Visual Studio integration for Windows Azure.  Points to lots of good resources by individual team members.
    • David Aiken – Windows Azure Technical Evangelist
    • David Lemphers – PM on Windows Azure
    • Gus Perez – Developer on Cloud Compute Tools
    • Jim Nakashima – PM on Cloud Compute Tools
    • Sriram Krishnan – PM on Windows Azure
    • Steve Marx – Technical Strategist on Windows Azure

    Other Blogs & Resources

    • AzureFeeds – Aggregation of a bunch of feeds (including most of the above)
    • David Burela – Playing with Silverlight and WCF in Windows Azure services
    • Mike Amundsen – Currently doing some work against Windows Azure tables
    • Tanzim Saqib – Wrote a couple nice pieces about Windows Azure, but haven’t seen a lot lately on the topic…

    Rogers Wireless – Mobile Interaction Designer

    Toronto, ON

    Rogers Wireless, Canada’s largest wireless carrier, is looking for a passionate mobile interaction designer to join our User Experience team, to be based in Toronto, Ontario.

    This individual will be responsible for the concept, design and execution of intuitive, highly usable, engaging user interfaces for all mobile devices and applications in Rogers Product Portfolio.

    The ideal candidate will possess excellent user interface design skills, a strong understanding of human interface design, and a natural ability to understand users’ needs. Previous experience in application and/ or web design is essential, while experience in mobile device design is highly desired. A gifted eye for aesthetics and attention to detail are a must.

    This individual is an analytic problem solver who can take user research, user & business requirements and translate them into user interface designs that are highly usable and engaging. Throughout the new product development process, this individual will be called upon to produce mock-ups, wireframes, storyboards, screen flows and prototypes (paper and/or interactive). As the successful candidate will design and produce all final graphical assets that will appear in Rogers mobile devices and applications, experience in icon design is essential.

    This individual will also help to author, implement and test detailed user interface specifications and will be involved in roadmap planning & coordination, user interface concept development and technical specification development for vendor use.

    The successful candidate will have strong organizational and problem solving skills, excellent communication skills both written and oral, and solid relationship building skills. The deployment of new products is the result of a team effort, so the ability to work in a team environment is required.

    Responsibilities include:

    • Conceive, design and produce iconography and graphical UI elements for all mobile devices, applications and services.
    • Develop a visual evolution roadmap for all iconography and graphical UI elements.
    • Design user interfaces for mobile devices, services and applications in the Rogers Product Portfolio.
    • Communicate, test and validate this UI designs by producing mock-ups, wireframes, storyboards, screen flows and prototypes (paper and/or interactive).
    • Assist in ensuring new devices and applications are properly architected from end-to-end based on user experience guidelines.
    • Act as Subject Matter Expert (SME) for User Interface and User Experience
    • Testing and evaluation of new devices and applications.
    • Assist in evaluation of new and existing vendors ability to comply with UI/UE requirements
    • Providing user interface guidance to device OEMs and internal product managers for application development.
    • Participate / co-ordinate conference calls between device manufacturers and third party vendors for product development.
    • Provide support and assistance to New Product Development team members for all new product launches.
    • Other day-to-day activities and/or projects as outlined by the manager.


    • Post-secondary education (preferably in graphic design, interaction design, multimedia design, industrial design or a related field).
    • 2-3 years of user interface design experience focusing on mobile (highly desired) web, or software applications.
    • An outstanding portfolio of work demonstrating the successful delivery of innovative, easy-to-use, visually stunning interface design solutions.
    • Exceptional understanding of fundamental design disciplines (typography, composition, color and animation) and principals (affordance, clustering, progressive disclosure, consistency, etc…)
    • Ability to work effectively and independently on multiple simultaneous tasks within a fast pace environment.
    • Proficiency in graphic design tools, including Photoshop and Illustrator.
    • Proficiency in visual prototyping and wireframing tools, such as Visio, Illustrator and Flash.
    • Proficient in Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Excel)
    • Excellent oral & written communication abilities.
    • Strong problem solving skills, detail oriented, with the ability to manage multiple tasks, deadlines and priorities.
    • Highly motivated individual with superior organizational and analytical skills.
    • Knowledge of overall wireless industry – GSM/GPRS/EDGE/HSDPA, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc…
    • Willingness to work flexible hours to meet changing deadlines.


    Applications can be email to Markus Grupp, Manager – User Experience on Markus.Grupp at

    Improving the mobile browser


    The latest set of announcements at PDC have focused on improving the end user and developer user experiences. Windows 7 is a continued evolution of the desktop user experience. Internet Explorer 8 is a web standards compliant browser.

    There is a gaping hole in the browser on Windows Mobile. 

    skyfire-betaWhy does a browser on mobile matter? Look at the Rogers market share this past quarter as a result of the iPhone. Is it phone bling? Definitely. But it is also a device that has a desktop class web browser.

    Skyfire announced their open beta today. It boasts an impressive set of features including:

    • New Super Bar that combines search and URL entry into one bar
    • Skyfire can now be set as the default browser
    • New search bar on the Homescreen
    • New start page redesign
    • Faster start-up and page loading times
    • Share a link via SMS
    • Invite friends to download Skyfire via SMS
    • Save an image
    • Download files

    And the best part is that Skyfire also supports Flash video on Windows Mobile. The web is the primary distribution channel for content, wether your on a mobile phone, a custom application or dedicated device. The richness of the experience can be improved (see LukeW’s summary of Mix07 Beyond the Browser). And it’s great to see a desktop class browsing experience come to Windows Mobile.

    Give customers choice

    Mark Relph has been talking about Choice and Flexibility (part 2) for customers. Today with the announcement of Windows Azure you can start to see how Microsoft is trying to offer the rich user experience choices and the choice of infrastructure, on premises or in the cloud, for developers, IT Pros and ultimately consumers.


    What you get is the opportunity to figure out what is right for you, your developers, your organization, your customers and your applications. The goal is to provide designers and developers a common set of Services that can be mixed an matched. If your a startup, you can decide to keep your application, infrastructure and services in the cloud leveraging the ability to instantly scale your applications and manage your costs. If you are an existing company with a large IT investment, you can leverage your existing corporate infrastructure layering in the pieces that allow you to grow or reduce your costs through the economies of scale offered by the cloud services.

    You can start see the applications and tools that Microsoft has been shipping in context. Internet Explorer 8 is a tool for accessing software in the cloud. Silverlight 2 is a way for designers and developers to create compelling rich Internet applications. Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) is a powerful environment for desktop software development. As developers you get a shared set of tools (Web Standards, Javascript, JQuery, .NET, XAML, C#, VisualStudio 2008) that can be used to build applications and services.


    Developers can begin to build solutions that fit the needs of their audience. It is about being able to build the right solution for your company, your audience, and your market using the appropriate tools and technologies. ProductWiki is building a web service for open product reviews. Me.dium is building a shared social browsing experience. ThoughtFarmer is enterprise collaboration tool that lives behind the firewall. Xobni is mail analytics and improved communications integrated in Outlook.


    It’s about choice. The choice of device. The choice of user experience. The choice that fits your business and your customers. It’s about the flexibility of the platform to grow and evolve as you do.

    PDC kicks off tomorrow


    Getting ready to head to LA for Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (which begs the question as a non-professional developer what am I doing at PDC?). I’m preparing for a week of some in depth Microsoft experiences and announcements. Next to the coffee or the bourbon, the keynotes are the best part of a conference. I’m expecting big things from Ozzie, Scott Guthrie, Steven Sinofsky, and Don Box.

    I love the layout of the Timeline application. It’s a great way to access details about each session and build a personal schedule. A higher resolution monitor (I’m running at 1280 x 800) would have meant a little less scrolling, but generally a good experience. Here are some of the sessions out side of the keynotes I’m looking forward to.

    • The Future of C# presented by Anders Hejlsberg
    • A Lap around "Oslo" presented by Douglas Purdy, Vijaye Raji
    • Windows 7: Design Principles for Windows 7 presented by Samuel Moreau
    • Oomph: A Microformat Toolkit presented by Karsten Januszewski
    • Office Business Applications: Enhanced Deployment presented by Saurabh Bhatia, Andrew Whitechapel
    • Developing for Microsoft Surface presented by Brad Carpenter, Robert Levy

    It’s great to see sessions by the Mono team. Having spent a couple of days hanging out with Geoff Norton at FSOSS in Toronto.  I am blown away by the work that is going on by the Novell team and the Silverlight team to build a new cross-browser, cross-platform runtime. They are building some great tools.

    This will be my first deeply Microsoft conference. Yes, I’ve attended the internal events, but I’m really interested in observing and participating with the folks that build Windows applications, applications for the web on the Microsoft platform and learning more about their experiences.

    Mix09 <3 Your Web

    PDC is less than a week away, and it appears that the Mix team is busy announcing plans for Mix09 in Vegas.


    Agenda & Speakers

    There is a great list of the usual suspects and the some new faces including:

    Restyle & 10k Smart Coding Challenge


    Do you hate the style of the Mix site? Change it. Use your own CSS and images to ReStyle the Mix homepage. This is a great opportunity for local web designers to create a new experience. 


    Inspire the world with just 10k of code.  It reminds me of Stuart Butterfield’s 5k competition. It’s a great chance to win a conference pass, hotel accommodations and a gift card (money) for time in your Vegas.

    What could you create for the Web if you only had 10 kilobytes of code? It’s time to exercise your minimalist creativity and get back to basics – back to optimizing every little byte like your life depended on it.


    Both of these challenges have the same prize:

    One winner will receive a pass to MIX09, hotel accommodations and a Visa gift card. Other great prizes are to be announced. Official entry requirements, procedures, rules and restrictions coming in November.

    What: Mix09
    When: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 (all day)
    Where: The Venetian Hotel

    Las Vegas, NV   USA

    Moving mountains

    techdays-2008Mark and the Community Team at Microsoft Canada have been working hard on TechDays.This is the first attempt to move beyond a marketing event. Though you might not get that from the web site. It is a shift from Microsoft speakers standing on the stage with new product announcements and walkthroughs to sharing the stage with non-Microsoft employees showing examples of solutions they’ve built to solve problems (in big companies, small companies, as individuals, etc.).

    What is TechDays?

    TechDays is a career-development event for developers, IT professionals and IT managers with a focus on the Microsoft platform.

    It’s hard out here…

    This event is a big change for Microsoft. It represents a shift from marketing and product launch events to a focus on software development and IT as a profession. The goal is to focus on career development of professional and practical developers. To give real-world developers an opportunity to share their stories and experiences with attendees. To provide a public forum to celebrate the people making a difference to their companies, to their communities and to people.

    techdays-speakersThe biggest change is that the content is not going to be Microsoft presenters doing Microsoft demos and product launches. It’s probably not obvious from looking at the speakers page, but 90% of the content is being delivered by non-Microsoft employees. The first seven people listed on the Speakers page are all Microsoft Canada employees. 

    Once you scroll past the usual suspects, you’ll find a group of Microsoft friendly people from other companies. Consultancies. Big corporations. Smaller companies. Client side. It includes MVPs like Colin Bowern, Mark Arteaga, Laurent Duveau, and Barry Gervin. And others like Robert Burke and Ken Cox. Sure lots of these speakers are MVPs, it means that they are “exceptional technical community leaders”. They are experts. They write books. They blog. They consult. They build things in the real world.

    Baby steps

    I think it is courageous of the team to take a chance, they are having to battle internal forces that are resistant to change. They are making a bet that developers and IT professionals in Canada on the Microsoft stack want something more than canned demos and pitches. The bet is that professional development involves hearing from others in the community. About sharing their stories of the trials, tribulations and learnings to make help make others better developers. Yes, it’s about the Microsoft developers.

    It is a step in the right direction. I hope that people will support the changes, because it will make the next set of changes easier to get support for.

    If you are a Microsoft developer, IT professional or IT manager, then TechDays is attempting to bring the best of Canadian Microsoft community to you in 7 different locations including Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Halifax and Winnipeg. Check out the Mark Relph’s Letter to your Manager if you need help generating support.

    AWS to support Windows Server

    aws_logo I am not sure how I missed this, Amazon EC2 to support Microsoft Windows Server, this looks like it is something else that attendees at PDC can expect.

    The 32 and 64 bit versions of Windows Server will be available and will be able to use all existing EC2 features such as Elastic IP Addresses, Availability Zones, and the Elastic Block Store. You’ll be able to call any of the other Amazon Web Services from your application. You will, for example, be able to use the Amazon Simple Queue Service to glue cross-platform applications together.

    Existing EC2 tools will be able to launch Windows-powered EC2 instances. Once launched, you can use the Windows Remote Desktop or the rdesktop tool to access your instances.

    I fully expect to see this new level of flexibility used to create complex, highly scalable, heterogeneous EC2 applications using a mix of Linux, Solaris, and Windows instances, all on a pay-as-you-go basis.

    I’ve been holding off on a Windows host mostly because I didn’t feel like any of the hosts offered me the flexibility of EC2, Joyent Accelerator, MediaTemple GS, Mosso, or others. Because I want to run emerging technologies on my system, it makes it really hard to just purchase a shared hosting account. And I’m not the guy that wants to host a Windows Server in his basement. I like having my Software+Services in the cloud (hosting is something that I’ve outsourced since the 90s, why change that opinion now).

    I wonder if the pre-beta bits of Windows 7 will run on EC2?