Archive for the ‘NxtGenUG’ Category

DDD9 Session rerun

20 Feb

Thank you to all of those of you who have asked for a repeat of the DDD9 session I did in January on Home Automation.

Due to popular demand, and the availability of the Fire Brigade, I’ll be repeating – with a few minors changes – at NxtGen Coventry in April. You can register for the event here


Catch up Post – Last months Activity

16 Apr

I havent updated my blog for a while, so I thought I’d post an entry telling you all what I’ve been up to for the past month..

Having spent some time with the Microsoft Sync Framework, I did a talk on getting started with the Sync Framework. Covering how it works, how to get started and some best practices and workarounds. Basically enough to start using it.

I’ve had some encouraging feedback from people saying that they are now investigating using it in some real projects, as well as 5 new projects that are using it for real now.

I did this talk, with variations (you learn what works and what doesnt, based on feedback and peoples questions) 4 times for NxtGenUG, in Oxford, Southampton and Coventry. And again when our scheduled speaker cancelled at the last minute in Cambridge.

With Coventry being my ‘Local’ NxtGen, I decided that, as this session included demos, the audience needed some protection from the demo gods.. Robert Minchin, one of the Oxford Coordinators, took this literally 😉

To read more about the event, visit this event page on NxtGenUG.

It was good to see this level of interest, and nice to meet a larger section of our members in the flesh. Thanks for coming and saying hello guys and girls…

I also did a Media Center presentation for VBUG, Bracknell at the last minute. (By last minute I mean I didnt know I was doing it until that morning!). The speaker had cancelled, Tim Leung asked for help, and I’m happy that I was able to oblige.


Bing in the wild

19 Aug
Following on from some posts that Ian Moulster did showing Bing stickers on different vehicles, and the aquasition of some Bing swag imported especially for NxtGenUG from the US.

Some of you may know that NxtGenUG holds some of its meetings at Coventry Flying School, and some of you may know that I have an interest in flying. So, trying to combine these two passions, I ventured into the hanger and took these pictures..

Finally, I spotted the sit on lawn mower in the corner of the hanger. On closer inspection, and on lifting the bonnet, I found this..


Live 2 Code – Code 2 Live – Swagilly Fortunes

16 Jun


As one of the founders of the NxtGen user group, myself and the other two reprobates, Rich and Dave, realised that after spending a whole day listening to presenters talk about the latest technology, there’s only so much information that the human brain can absorb. I felt that some light relief was needed at the end of the day. So, Swaggily Fortunes was born.

Since its first outing at NxtGens’ Fest 07 at Reading, its appeared 4 times since, including at TechEd Barcelona. We still receive requests to run it at various events.

So, what is it? I’m sure you remember Family Fortunes on ITV, (even if you don’t want to admit to it!) Well this is my take on this game show.

There are 2 teams and one member of each team steps up to a table, then the quizmaster asks question and whoever buzzes first gets to answer, if they get it right the whole team gets to come up with answers. Each correct answer earns their team some points. Get it wrong, and you lose a life. Lose 3 lives and the other team wins.

So, whats the technical makeup of this? Well, first there’s the question master. In Swaggily Fortunes thats Microsoft Anna. She reads the question out each time, and waits for the buzzer.

Theres some hardware involved as well, the buzzers. They are big red buttons mounted on plastic boxes connected via some howngrown electronics to a usb port, where they are recognised by Vista as a HID (Human Interface Device)

The input from the buzzers is dealt with by DirectX, Direct Input to be precise. This scans the game controller ports looking for which button is pressed first.

When one is, the WPF code runs an animation to show which team pressed and well as playing the obligatory buzzing sound.Theres 2 screens that make up this application.

 The first is want the audience sees, the main game screen. This is a WPF application that shows the question in play, the answers given and the lives lost down the side.

The second screen, which is where I run the game from, appears on the Laptops own screen, whereas the main screen is put out to the projector using some .NET code to detect the presence of the number of monitors and allocates the right thing to the right display.

From the control screen, I can allow people to test their buzzers, choose the question, change which team is playing, although this is automatically selected. If the teams take too long to answer, I can also play a tick tock sound to tell them to hurry up.

So, if you hear that Swagilly Fortunes is playing at an event near you then come and say hello!


NxtGenUG Open a new region in Southampton!

21 Sep
Then there were 5!
Two months, two new regions, first Cambridge now Southampton. Yes, the Next Generation User Group (NxtGenUG) is expanding (again) and this time they’re heading South. The latest and warmest region of NxtGenUG is Southampton. The region is being organised and run by John McLoughlin and Rick Allen two local guys who have sourced a venue, projector, screen, pizza, swag and speakers all on their ownsome – all that a User Group needs or could ask for!
As ever when a new NxtGenUG region opens they insist on having a ‘Launch’ extravaganza, and this one is no different! The event will be held on 18th October 2007 at St Andrew’s Hall, Southampton. The main speaker for the evening is top UK Community speaker Guy Smith-Ferrier speaking on Astoria and there will be a SQL Nugget from Dave ‘Readyboost’ McMahon. Pizza and Swag will be present also in abundance. All the details of the meeting are at, and you can register for the event as always through the NxtGenUG website. Don’t miss out on this event which kicks off at 6.30pm and finishes at 9.00pm, as there is only ONE launch meeting after all.
NxtGenUG are a User Group focused on current and future technologies and provide monthly meetings in Birmingham, Cambridge, Coventry, Oxford and Southampton. They love technology, chatting, pizza, swag, Halo 3 (well Richie Costall does) and having a laugh. If you’re in one area, get along to one of their meetings and get involved in the UK Community, its well worth it socially and professionally!

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NxtGenUG get to Cambridge!

20 Aug
The Boyz from NxtGenUG are really excited to announce the opening of a brand new NxtGenUG region – this time in Cambridge. So now Developers from the flatlands of East Anglia can gather together to learn, chat, eat Pizza and get ‘swagged’ in the ‘NxtGenUG Way’ along with their counterparts in Birmingham, Coventry and Oxford. The region will be run by Chris Hay and Allister Frost who live and work in the area. Chris and Allister have put in a great deal of effort to get the region off of the ground including securing a fantastic venue, courtesy of non-other than Microsoft Research Cambridge!
The ‘Launch’ meeting will be held at Microsoft Research on Tuesday 18th September 2007 and will feature Mike Ormond speaking on Silverlight Microsoft’s new Rich Web Application Development Platform. They’ll also have a speaker from Microsoft Research covering the fascinating new subject of F#, watch out for details! Finally Rich, Dave and John will be there to do something or other, probably involving ‘swag’ (tut). Anybody is welcome to attend the meeting whether they are a NxtGenUG member or not. Just go to the NxtGenUG site at, register for FREE and book your place!

The evening starts at 06.30pm and ends at 09.00pm.

As with other NxtGenUG regions details of events at Cambridge will be available at, and we know that Chris and Allister have a bunch of great sessions planned for Cambridge over the coming months.
Also check out the NxtGenUG site for Articles, ‘Radio Style’ Podcasts, Interviews, News Items, Competitions, details of membership and much more at


Now on Channel 9

24 May

Back in January, NxtGenUG held a meeting inside a cargo plane at Midland Air Museum. Now, exactly why we did this has become lost in the mists of time but Channel 9 got to here about it and Charles turned up with his video camera to capture the event.

I had forgotten about it for a while, but on Tuesday night while driving home from work It popped back into my mind, you know one of those ‘I wonder what happened to…’ thoughts.

Spookily, Richard Costall contacted me that night to point out the videos were up on Channel 9! Wow, the power of thought. I’m now concentrating really hard on the lottery numbers for this weekend ;-0)

In the meantime here are the videos. Enjoy.


Out Performed!

27 Feb

Okay, Okay, so the NxtGen EVO launch is the spectacle that become NxtGen normal. Okay, so Alun Rodgers transport rules, well, rules. Okay so I came last. I dont really care when you are out performed by the one man singing techie that is THE Dave Mahmon doing the ReadyBoost song live on stage. Just dont tell him I said so, his ego is big enough! Read more about what went on here.


Making Movies

26 Feb

Over the weekend, put together a few videos for a NxtGenUG presentation on Monday. I reached for my trusty Camtasia and it didnt work under Vista!

After some hunting around, I found this posting to a Beta version of Camtasia that does work. being a beta, theres a few issues, such as the screen quality suddenly dropping for a few seconds, or audio being recorded very quietly on occasions, but overall it got me sorted.

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Begging for money

23 Feb

On Monday, 26th February, I’m doing a set of 6 90-second presentations to ‘sell’ some of the best new features of Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange as part of the NxtGenUG EVO launch.

The idea is to compete with Richard Costall, Dav Mcmahon and Alun Rodgers for play money, Dragons Den style!

You can

NxtGen launches are usually something special and this event is lining up to carry on with the same trend.