Just got back from an excellent day attending the NxtGenUG Fest '08 at Microsoft's campus at Reading.
Like all NxtGen related events everything was smooth and incredibly well put together. I enjoyed all of the talks and some of them have definitely inspired me to go and hit the computer for a play.
Mike Taulty's talk on ADO.NET Data Services was an excellent and engaging introduction to this feature that will be properly released with the forthcoming .NET 3.5 Service Pack 1. The technology seems very seductive, and I will try and find some time before long to have a play with it but it seems very data driven to me and the implications of this if the technology was to be deployed much beyond a simple demo app concerns me a little. Still, until I look into it properly that's just a gut reaction and may well be wrong.
Daniel Moth gave a short talk on Parallel Linq which looked very interesting and this is something that I will definitely be looking into before long.
Dave Morrow gave a really interesting talk on providing BI using SQL Analysis Services, Proclarity, MS Performance Point and SharePoint (WSS 3). The world of BI (business information) is not one that I know particularly, but this talk has really gotten me wanting to have a play with these tools. It'll stretch the limits of my hardware (even with VMs) to get the necessary environments setup to play around sensibly with this stuff but I think that I'll enjoy it and it'll be worth it. One thing that I wondered watching this demo was whether I could bring SPSS (a statistical analysis package I used during my MSc) to the party and get some even more interesting information out of this mix. No doubt I'll blog about this when I've looked into it, and had a good play, some.
The talk that most interested me however was Oliver Strum's talk on F#. I can't overstate how interesting and well delivered this presentation was in my opinion. I'd been wanting to look into F# for a few months now without ever getting around to it. Oliver's talk has made this (along with my continued playing with Spec#) the new big priority for my personal R&D time. I'd heard/read that F# would be a good tool for writing business rules engines, but had been leaning toward doing this with a Boo based DSL. This introduction to F# is making me think that I really need to look into this before I make that decision. I suspect also that, as an added benefit, a play in this space will do wonders for my use of Lambda expressions in C# too.
Of course the day was not just about the great speakers (they were all great, not just the ones that I've highlighted), but like any NxtGen event it was also about the pizza, the swag. I got, amongst other things, a free copy of the full DevExpress software (no that's not why I'm so full of praise for Olivers' fantastic talk), and some Microsoft 'Heroes' chocolates. Beyond all of that though the chance to meet and chat with former colleagues (great to see such a large number from Immediacy) and other NxtGeners (great to see so many from the Southampton branch) really made the day. Congratulations and thanks to Dave, Rich and John for another brilliantly hosted and put together event.
Now I just can't wait for DDD 7 (which, incidentally, I have just submitted a proposal for a Grok talk on Design by Contract and Spec# for).