Random thoughts from DevCon

Well, I've been here in San Diego since Monday and attended the first 2 days of the Embedded DevCon 2004 show. I sometimes forget how tiring it can be just to be on your feet all day since I'm used to spending most of my work day sitting in front of a computer. But it has been amazing to get a chance to meet so many customers and talk about the wide variety of directions people are going with the embedded tools and different development and deployment strategies.

So far, I haven't presented (since I got “lucky” enough to have both of my talks on the last day of the show), so instead I have been acting as a proctor for the hands-on labs other folks in my group have been presenting. I also went to a lunchtime Q&A session called “ask the experts” today, though I don't know that I can really consider myself anywhere near an expert given my relatively short time on the embedded team and the wide range of issues that our customers see every day. Overall though, this was a great chance for me to see some of the specific pain points and give me some ideas to take back to Redmond when I head back on Friday.

Here is a list of the things I took notes on during the Wednesday “ask the experts” session that I specifically want to research and come up with plans for addressing:

  1. SOURCE CONTROL (typed in all caps for big emphasis) - Microsoft has not done a good job of recognizing the importance of being able to maintain solid version control for component SLD files and image SLX files. We need to figure out a set of best practices and create a white paper and possibly supporting tools to make the pain of source control for XP embedded much less in the future
  2. We should consider creating some kind of living FAQ document that contains top issues and solutions and is auto-posted to the newsgroups. There have been several cases where answers to common problems get buried in the newsgroup, never to be heard from again
  3. We need an FAQ or guide for troubleshooting odd event log entries that are generated when booting an embedded device. Lots of times these are caused by missing dependencies but how can they be tracked down?

This afternoon I went to my colleague Nandini's talk about First Boot Agent (FBA). I thought she did a great job of presenting her material and fielding the questions at the end of the session, I only hope that my talks tomorrow go half as well as hers. What struck me about the questions was the amount of interest in resealing and cloning. These are aspects of XP Embedded that I haven't explored very much yet in my time on the team and I'm going to make a point to get a greater understanding of how these work and where the problems are in our current cloning support.

Wow, I've let the time get away from me while typing out this stuff and I still need to practice my presentations one more time before I fall asleep so I'm going to sign off for now.