Wednesday, 09 September 2009 05:44

Microsoft Tech-Ed Australia kicks off with stickfights and Exchange in the cloud

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It’s on, and I’m here. Microsoft Tech-Ed Australia is running from today until Friday 11th September on the sunny Gold Coast of Australia. An incredible 2000+ attendees are roaming about with HP Mini netbooks. Demonstrations have already begun of Exchange 2010, Office 2010 and Visual Studio 2010.

Pleasingly, the most popular (that’s right, “popular” – not “common”) name is “David” with some 99 Davids in attendance, surpassing even the Johns.

Over 2,000 paid attendees have converged on the Gold Coast and had room permitted Microsoft still had 400 hopefuls on wait lists. Officially, Microsoft is citing the number of female participants at a record-topping 200 (although my esteemed colleague Beverley Head has been counting and suspects this number includes staff and exhibitors.)

In a first for Tech-Ed anywhere in the world – and possibly any technical conference anytime, anywhere – all paid attendees have received a HP Mini 2140 netbook (“or mini note,” as HP prefer to call it.)

This netbook is surprisingly pleasant to use; while still retaining the diminutive form-factor of a typical netbook it has a responsive keyboard with decent-sized keys and a crisp screen.

Mind you, the maximum resolution of 1024x576 is proving insufficient for certain applications. One of my first actions was to download the Cisco VPN client thinking I could aim to work off the netbook for the entire week and avoid touching my regular, 15” ASUS Lamborghini laptop.

Alas, Cisco have mandated a minimum height of 600 pixels (heaven knows why – it’s a VPN client, not a CAD program!) so the installer refuses to co-operate.

The unit is preloaded with Windows 7 Ultimate (I expect the Starter Edition, allegedly aimed at netbooks, would not be met with as much acclaim) and contains an Intel Atom N270 CPU, 2GB of RAM and carries a Windows system rating of 2.1.

The WiFi network seems to be suffering no strain under the weight of so many connected units. A quick visit to an online Broadband speed test showed a Telstra Internet connection with a download speed of 2.30Mb/s and upload of 6.65Mb/s. Such skewed asynchronous results suggest a large number of simultaneous downloads taking place, but still plenty of bandwidth to go around.



In a twist from previous years, there was no singular superstar keynote presenter. Instead, representatives from the various tech streams presented entertaining demonstrations of the upcoming tech from the Redmond software giant.


Lee Hickin deftly showed off Exchange Server running in a cloud, providing anywhere online access to corporate mail and calendars. Migration tools provide administrators an effortless dream run synchronising existing mail and Active Directory detail to the cloud environment.

Hickin quipped that in this modern day it doesn’t matter if your mail server is on “1st floor, 2nd floor or Singapore” before taking a cheeky jab at the recent e-mail outages suffered by the free Gmail system.

Alistair Speirs showed off new facilities in Outlook 2010 to reduce e-mail and clutter, with “ignore” and “cleanup” buttons to get rid of annoying duplicates and junk. These exploit a new central concept of threaded discussions, with the main client now being able to collapse all messages that make up a thread into a single line item.

Speirs next demonstrated Office 2010’s simple image editing tools that allows the graphically challenged (like myself!) to apply artistic effects to ordinary clip-art and other imagery including – at last – a single button-click option to remove the background of any picture.

Sara Ford, program manager for Microsoft’s open source site, Codeplex gave a high-energy talk on new features within Visual Studio 2010, illustrated by an entertaining stick-figure karate game.

The resources making up the stick man imagery can be dragged-and-dropped right into source code files adding to the program comments. Tabs can be snapped off the Visual Studio IDE and dragged around, including finally to multiple monitors.

Sarah Vaughan concluded the introductory keynotes with a brief demonstration of the enhanced touch-screen facilities built into Windows 7 and BitLocker-to-go encryption for removable USB devices.

Additionally, and sure to bring relief to help-desk support staff everywhere, Vaughan presented a Windows 7 tool to automatically record actions a user takes, along with screenshots. The resulting file then allows far greater analysis and understanding than “my computer doesn’t work.”

Tech-Ed has officially begun, and iTWire will bring you all the news as it happens with Beverley Head, Alex Zaharov-Reutt and myself all on the scene.

Disclaimer: David M Williams is attending Tech-Ed as a guest of Microsoft.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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