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September 20, 2005

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Demo

For the Monad talk for the PDC, we wanted to demo Exchange 12 and Monad integration. We didn't quite get it working, but Exchange was able to demo it during their talk later in the week. That's often how it is when you are trying to demo the latest and greatest bits: the fact that you are demoing on Thursday vs. Tuesday can be the difference between being ready vs. not.

In Proudly Serving I came up with a taxonomy of demos, from Type 1 (demo on a stable product) to Types 2 and 3 (demos on increasingly shaky products that will crash if you press the wrong button) to Type 4 (an app whose only purpose is the demo, separate from the real codebase). In this case we had a legitimate Type 1 demo, but even in that case getting it set up can be tricky.

Anyway, we wanted to be able to show the demo in the Track Lounge as well, so after the talk on Thursday I grabbed Vivek to get it set up.

The only machine I had to demo was my laptop, which is 2 years old and not super high-powered (only 512 MB of memory). The demo was in a Virtual PC image that was 2 gigabytes. So the first thing we had to do was walk over to the Exchange booth in the Product Pavilion (an area in the back of the PDC where various Microsoft groups were showing their stuff) and get the VPC image. This was right in the middle of the show. "Excuse us, can we plug a cable into your hub and copy this 2 gig file off your server? Great. And since my laptop is low on power, can I also plug in to your power strip? Cool. Oh, and then can we stand here for 5 minutes while it copies? Excellent!" We weren't complete street urchins (we were both wearing our nice Microsoft blue shirts) but it still looked strange.

Finally the bits copied. Next we went back to the Track Lounge where it occurred to me that I didn't have Virtual PC installed on my laptop. Of course I could copy it off the Microsoft corporate network, but I had to connect first. The Track Lounge booths had some Ethernet connections (to bypass the somewhat-shaky wireless network) but I also needed a cardkey and a key reader. My cardkey was in my hotel room and the PCCard reader in my laptop as always been flaky. Luckily I was able to get his cardkey from Vivek and a reader from Jeff (another Monader in the booth) and download the ~25 meg Virtual PC setup.

Now I had it all set up...of course it took 15 minutes to boot in VPC, but it worked fine. Vivek had the admin password for the VPC image written down on a piece of paper, but there was some confusion about one of the characters (one of those "Is it a capital S or a 5?" things). Turns out it was set to auto-logon so I didn't worry too much. Until 15 minutes of inactivity went by and it automatically locked itself. I futzed around with various combinations of S and 5 in the password and couldn't get it right.

So, I set off back to the Product Pavilion where an hour before I had copied the bits at Exchange's booth...and discovered that the entire Pavilion was in the process of being torn down and there were no Exchange people to be seen, just somebody from the show staff coiling up the power cables of the machines. $#@!&?? I had a flashback to an incident about 10 years ago (actually almost exactly 10 years ago)...when I first transferred to Softimage they put us up in this apartment building nearby called La Cite. One day I got the parking garage level wrong and when I emerged from the elevator I saw the whole floor fenced off, construction equipment and dust everywhere...of course I panicked and concocted some scenario where the construction crews had moved in that day and towed the car away...made no sense, but I went running off to the security guy, who drove me around in his golf cart until I found the car, safe and sound on a different level.

Now I had to find someone who knew the password. Luckily I saw Vivek sitting in the Data and Systems Track Lounge, and he was able to point me to the person who knew the password. Which it turns out was really close to what I had, but far enough that I never would have gotten it by trial and error.

Then I went back and unlocked the VPC computer and the demo worked great. The end.

Posted by AdamBa at September 20, 2005 11:07 AM

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Thanks for all the extra work to get these demos working. For what it's worth, it could get me to like Exchange!

Posted by: Thomas Lee at September 21, 2005 01:03 AM

One thing I forgot to mention is that as Vivek and I were walking from the Product Pavilion back to the Track Lounge, we ran into the Channel 9 team orchestrating a t-shirt handout/riot. So of course I had to spend 5 minutes there tracking down an "I'm Blogging This" t-shirt (while Vivek waited with a slightly puzzled look on his face).

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at September 24, 2005 12:55 PM