Jul 082006

Toronto was sunny, warm, and surprisingly windy – perfect weather!  Highly recommended over Toronto’s November offerings.

I had a day to kill between TechEd and the TDUG meeting Monday night, so Bruce McGee took me over to Toronto’s Pacific Mall to cruise for cool greymarket gadgets, unfamiliar anime titles, and big-name DVDs of dubious origin. Oh! And don’t forget the walnut cakes!  It’s like a two story indoor flea market with hardside booths and a food court, only larger.  I imagine Toronto has one of the largest populations of Pacific Rim people in North America, and Pacific Mall is where they (and we) go to get a taste of the old country.

On my first visit to Pacific Mall a few Novembers ago, I picked up an 8 DVD collection of Miazaki films.  All of them were outstanding (with English subtitles), but I’m only now figuring out what some of the films’ English names are!  I really ought to get started on those Japanese lessons someday…

Bruce and I didn’t buy anything (besides food) on this trip, but we certainly talked a lot.  Not much about software, oddly enough – mostly about high temperature flux chemistry (aka ceramic glazing) and various techniques of working and forming titanium. I think Bruce asked the innocent question of what I thought about when I wasn’t coding, and, well, there went the afternoon!  What a coupla geeks – walking around in a bona-fide gadget mecca talking animatedly (don’t forget the hand gestures – gotta use the hands) about cone 10 zinc crystalization, oxidizing and reduction atmospheres, Delphi’s future in an evolving market, sintering and powder metalurgy, and the explosive potential of titanium powder in oxygen at about 900C.  Then we met Bruce’s lovely Anka for an awesome Greek dinner at Pan’s.

Somewhere along the line during dinner, Bruce’s face clouded over and he asked, carefully “You’re going to be talking about Internet services tomorrow, right?”


“So… you’re probably going to need an Internet connection?”

“Uh, ya.  Bigtime.”

“Ah.  This could be a problem…”

The North York branch of the Toronto Library is an impressive 5 stories of books, meeting rooms, an auditorium, and dozens of computer terminals providing free Internet access to all.  What the North York Library doesn’t have is a functioning Ethernet port in its meeting rooms, or wireless access for library visitors.

I checked the library meeting room the next day for network connectivity (nada), then went down the list of viable options for the meeting that night.  The hotel had meeting rooms available, and with wireless coverage, so that was at least a (pricey) backup plan.  The terminals in the library had working Ethernet, so perhaps I could hijack one of their static IP addresses for an hour?  Or run a cat-5 extension into the meeting room?  Alas, the library terminals were locked down rather impressively against tampering.  Oh, the injustice!  It’s as if they were afraid someone would dismantle their network!  (er..)

So, with less than 30 minutes left before meeting time, I committed to plan B – the hotel meeting room.

“I’d like to take that meeting room I talked to the day manager about.”

“Sorry, we have no meeting rooms available.  The day manager was mistaken.  All our meeting rooms are set up for meetings very early tomorrow morning.  No meeting rooms.”


Fortunately, while I was attempting multiple counts of Ethernet burglary at the library and considering at least one count of assault at the hotel, Bruce was scouring the TDUG membership for ideas and options.  He found our hero of the day – Rob Windsor generously offered the use of his cellphone as a modem to get Internet access in the meeting room.  Hazzah!

“Ok, it’s all set.  The cellphone is in pairing mode – it should show up on your laptop’s bluetooth network list now.”

“Uh… bluetooth?”  <smack forehead>  My bluetooth USB dongle was in my other bag, back in California.  “Can’t I just connect to it with a USB cable?”

“No, this phone doesn’t have a USB cable connector.” <double smack>

So, Rob also loaned me his laptop, which was already paired with his cellphone.  Whew!

After all that preflight drama, the Windows live talk went off quite well.  The services and gadgets ran fine after the initial page load and cache fill (loaded prior to the meeting). One or two of the Atlas runtime scripts are pretty hefty, but once they’re in the cache you’re good to go.  Virtual Earth’s image tiles were the most painful of the lot over a low-speed (33k?) modem connection.  I’m beginning to wonder if the image tiles are cached at all.  The good news is I had plenty of time to talk about a point while the point crept onto the screen tile by tile behind me!

The turnout was good – about 30 people, almost double their typical meeting headcount.  Bruce said he didn’t recognize a few faces in the crowd, and some that he did recognize he hadn’t seen in years!  Follow-up questions were good and on-track, and many seemed surprised / pleased with the technical depth of the material.

Many thanks to Rob for the use of his equipment and depletion of his cellular download quota, and many thanks to Bruce and Anka for their hospitality over the weekend!  I look forward to my next visit when I’m out your way again.

p.s.  If the North York Library administration is open to having free public wireless access points installed in their library, I’m sure that between TDUG and myself the equipment and installation expertise could be found.

Originally published on my MSDN blog.