The Windows Runtime

After nearly 2 years of not being able to tell anyone what I was working on – or even the name of the team I was on! – //build is finally here and the Windows 8 developer preview is finally out there in the open for everyone to start building applications for. You have NO idea how hard it’s been for me to keep my mouth shut and blog quiet about this!

I am a program manager on the Runtime Experience team, one of many teams in the Windows division building Windows 8. Our team is responsible for building the underlying infrastructure that powers the Windows Runtime (or WinRT for short). In particular, I work on the WinRT metadata infrastructure. I also work closely with our partners in Developer Division that use the metadata to project WinRT APIs into multiple languages.

In a nutshell, WinRT is the new API surface area for Metro style apps in Windows 8. WinRT APIs are available across multiple languages – C#, Visual Basic, C++ and JavaScript – enabling developers to build Metro style apps using the language and frameworks they are most familiar with. Much, much more info is available on the new Windows Dev Center.

In addition to the developer preview docs for WinRT, there are several sessions at //build focusing on WinRT – what it is, how it works under the covers, and how you use it from the various languages. Here’s a handy list of all the //build sessions you should check out if you want to know more about WinRT:

As I write this, not all the sessions have been delivered and none of them are available online yet. But they should all be online within a couple of days. Also, you can also get more information as well as ask questions over at the Windows Dev Center Forums. Our dev manager has already been very busy answering questions!

I am so excited that you can finally see what we’ve been working on and I can wait to see what you build with Windows 8!

Weakly Typed Dynamic Languages and Natural Selection

I’m not reading much in the way of blogs or twitter these days – way to heads down in my new job for that right now. But I did see Scott Hanselman’s post on method overloading and dynamic types and Ted Neward’s follow-on post static-typing fundamentalism. Even though I’ve moved on from the IronPython team, dynamic typing is a topic that’s still near and dear to my heart so I can’t resist throwing in my 2¢.

First off, I agree 100% with Ted’s post – though not the over-the-top mocking tone. These static > dynamic flame bait comments are so tired that they’ve literally become cliché. I agree with Ted’s points, but by answering fire with fire he’s just perpetuating the flame war that he claims to be so tired of. I really am tired of it, so I’m not going to bother to address any of the original anti-dynamic typing faux-arguments (fauxguments?) nor Ted’s artful and devastatingly mocking takedown of them.

But I do have a question for any static-typing fundamentalists in the audience: if static typing is so much better than dynamic typing, then how come dynamically typed languages are so popular? Doesn’t natural selection apply to type systems?

Those aren’t rhetorical questions. Building software takes time and effort. While developers often donate time and effort to projects (see: open source) typically they work for money. That money has to come from somewhere – usually it comes from someone who needs the software built for some business reason. And the people footing the bill for software construction demand the highest return on investment they can get.

If dynamic typing or VARIANT (which is actually weak not dynamic typing, but I digress) really did create “horrific devastation”, wouldn’t that have caused a negative feedback loop where the business people who actually foot the bills for creating software became wary and untrusting of using VB as the language of choice for their projects in favor of strong and statically typed languages that helped developers “make good choices”?

Yet the opposite happened. VB was the most popular programming language in the world for the better part of a decade. And while VB’s reign at the top is over, I’d argue that these days the most popular programming languages are PHP and JavaScript, both of which are weakly typed dynamic languages too.

Now clearly, popular != better. However, static-typing fundamentalism isn’t an argument about which way is “better” so much as an argument about which way is “worthy”. But how can you argue that you’re approach is the only worthy path when the opposite approach has been so successful? Remember, one developer’s “horrific devastation” might be another businessman’s “successful project because it helped me enter a new market faster than my competitors”.

DevHawk World Tour FY2010

As I’ve done the past two years, here’s a list of all the places I’m going in the next fiscal year. Traditionally, I’ve done this post by calendar year, but all MSFT planning is done by FY and so invariably I miss events early in the calendar year but late in the fiscal (like PyCon last year). I’ll be updating this post periodically as I get tapped for more presentations. There are several other conferences I’m considering, submitting sessions for, in discussions with, but these are the ones that are confirmed.


Danish University Tour, Sept 7-11
My FY10 travels first take me to Copenhagen, where I was invited by the local subsidiary to present at four different universities in a single week. Don’t know how much sightseeing I’ll get done, but I’ll sure be talking a lot. My host Martin Esmann writes for Danish ComputerWorld and has a post (in Danish) about my visit. Personally, I am just excited about being featured in something called “”! 😄 Actually, Stud here means “Student” not “slender, upright members of wood” or any other definition of the term “stud”.

I’ll be visiting Aalborg University, Aarhus University, University of Southern Denmark and University of Copehhagen as well as delivering a TechTalk at the Microsoft Development Center Copenhagen, which is Microsoft’s biggest development center in Europe. I’ll primarily be delivering my Iron Languages introductory talk “Pumping Iron”, but there’s also some interest in language development on the DLR so I’ll be talking on that topic as well.

patterns & practices Summit Redmond 2009, Oct 12-16
This will be my third p&p Summit in a row and fourth in five years. This year, I’m doing a talk called “Not Everything is a new Nail() : How Languages Influence Design”. I was supposed to deliver this talk last year, but got side track with my day job and ended up talking about IronPython instead. Keith has made it VERY clear he doesn’t want another last minute substitution again this year.

Turing award winner Alan Perlis is credited with saying ‘A language that doesn’t affect the way you think about programming is not worth knowing.’ Yet, most programmers rarely venture outside of the comfort zone of statically-typed object-oriented languages. Our heavy use of object-oriented languages influences our thinking to the point that we can?t see alternative approaches at all. This isn?t to say the object-oriented languages are bad, but as is typical in most things, there is no one ‘best’ way for all situations. In this talk, VS Languages PM Harry Pierson will look at a given software development scenario from both the object-oriented and functional perspectives, in order to see how much on an influence language really has on our engineering efforts.


Tech·Ed Europe 2009, Nov 9-13
I knew I was going to be updating this post over time, but I didn’t expect to have to update it so soon! Literally the day after I posted this, I got the speaker invite for Tech·Ed Europe 2009. My session hasn’t been posted yet, but this is the abstract we submitted:

Dynamic Languages on the Microsoft .NET Framework
The Dynamic Language Runtime (DLR) adds a shared dynamic type system, a standard hosting model, and support for generating fast dynamic code to the CLR. IronPython and IronRuby are Microsoft’s dynamic language implementations on .NET. In this talk, we’ll show you how to interactively create great .NET applications using dynamic languages. You’ll walk away knowing why dynamic languages deserve a spot in your toolbox!

It’s kind of generic, but given that most of the audience probably hasn’t seen IronPython or IronRuby, having broad latitude in my presentation topic is a good thing. I’ll probably deliver a variant of my standard “Pumping Iron” talk like I’m doing in Denmark. I delivered it recently at an internal event with Jimmy, so there’s lots more IronRuby content than there used to be.

The only bummer about doing Tech·Ed Europe is that I’m only doing one measly talk. I’m asking around – I’d love to do a .NET user group or university talk while I’m in town. Any takers?

Find out what's

Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2009, Nov 17-19
Update: Tech·Ed Europe and PDC are on back-to-back weeks this year so we’ll be sending a teammate-to-be-determined to PDC in my stead. My family is very pleased I won’t be gone for two weeks straight.

Last year, I was on the content team for PDC. This year, that PITA responsibility belongs to someone else so I might actually get real work done in the four weeks leading up to PDC. My team will tell you, last year PDC sucked up 100% of my time for a month as we were driving towards our 2.0 release.

Technically, I haven’t had a talk for PDC accepted yet. But I submitted three and two are looking good (though I assume only one will make it to the actual show) so I thought I’d just go ahead and include it on this post. If/when my talks get accepted, I’ll post links and abstracts. Also, if one of my PDC talks is accepted, I’ll probably submit a talk for SoCal Code Camp as well.

pycon logo

PyCon 2010, Feb 19-21
This will also be my third PyCon in a row, though PyCon last year was a bit of a whirlwind since I had literally just joined the IronPython team. I finally feel like I might have something interesting to present at PyCon this year. Last year Dino and Jim handled the presentation duties from our team (with Michael Foord and Jonathan Hartley delivering a tutorial and Sarah Sutkiewicz speaking on FePy). We already have one announcement that I think is pretty significant lined up and might have a second depending on how hard I can push LCA and management between now and then. Talk proposals are due October 1st, so any suggestions would be appreciated!

VB Dev Lead Position Open

In case you’re job hunting, the VB team has a position open for a dev lead:

The Visual Basic team has a long history of delivering great value to our customers, and we are continuing that in the Dev10 release of Visual Studio. We’re looking for a Development Lead to help guide these efforts as well as shape future versions of the compiler.

The Visual Studio Languages group (VSL) develops VB, C#, F#, IronPython and IronRuby. As a member of this product unit, you’ll have the opportunity to work with others developing compilers and IDEs targeting the .NET runtime. You’ll benefit from their experience and contribute best practices and methodologies of your own. In VSL, developers work closely with their QA team, and we are committed to delivering the best value for our customers at very high quality.

As a Development Lead on the Visual Basic compiler, you’ll be the hand at the tiller of VB.NET compiler development. Specifically, you will:

  • Manage the day-to-day duties of the compiler and runtime development team, ensuring on-schedule delivery of high quality components.
  • Help chart the direction the compiler team takes by prioritizing efforts in coordination with your counterparts in QA and PM.
  • Contribute to the design of the Visual Basic programming language.
  • Mentor your team of developers to continue their career growth.
  • Help shape the engineering environment and procedures in Visual Studio Languages.
  • Work closely with the IDE team to help them provide a top notch editing and debugging experience.

To be successful, you’ll need the following:

  • A demonstrated aptitude for managing a team of high-caliber developers.
  • Excellent communication, collaboration and negotiation skills and the ability to drive open issues to closure.
  • Strong architectural sense and a working knowledge of the fundamentals of compiler design.
  • Passion for delivering customer solutions and quality software in general.
  • Working knowledge of the managed runtime environment is a strong plus.

Register now for Lang.NET Symposium 2009

We’re now accepting registrations and talk proposals for the 2009 Lang.NET Symposium, which will be held on the Microsoft campus April 14th-16th.

For those who aren’t familiar with this event, the Lang.NET Symposium is an opportunity for programming language designers and researchers from industry and academia to get together and basically geek out for two and a half days. And it’s not just Microsoft language wonks like Anders Hejlsberg or platform wonks like Don Box. For example, last year we had Dan Ingalls from Sun, Gilad Bracha from Cadence, John Rose from OpenJDK and Wez Furlong from the PHP Project among many others.

If you’re curious about the kind of talks we typically have at Lang.NET, the talks from 2006 and 2008 are available online.

I’ve attended both previous Lang.NET Symposiums and spoke at last year’s event, but this will be my first as a part of the team driving the event itself. We’ve expanded a little this year, though we’re still a small conference so the signal-to-noise ratio should still be very high. We barely fit in the Platform Lab last year, so we moved this year’s event to Microsoft Research’s sweet new building #99.

This year, we’re very excited to be joined at the hip with Chris Sells’ DSL Developers Conference. Those guys over in CSD are working on some cool language stuff of their own, so it just made sense to hold the two events in the same space, one right after the other. Note, registration for each event is separate. You’re welcome to attend both – we’d love it if you did – just make sure you register for both.

As in the past, there is no cost to attend Lang.NET. You get yourself here and find place to stay and we’ll take care of the content, meals and beers in the evening. Just make sure you let us know you’re coming and what, if anything, you’re interested in getting up and talking about by registering at the Lang.NET Symposium website.