Microsoft Student Insider Training Day 2: The first day at Microsoft Part 2

Welcome back to my series of posts from my Microsoft Student Insider Training trip to the Microsoft campus in Redmond.  This is part 2 of 3 from Day 2, so lets pick up right where we left off!  Read about Day 1 and Day 2 part 1 if you haven’t already.

After the legal discussion, we broke for lunch back at the Commons.  This time, I got to explore the commons and all the various different food stations it has to offer, from seafood to pizza, if you want it, they probably have it.  The variety of food you can get there really is amazing.  What really amazed me is that it is not just food, but there are cell phone stores from a couple of carriers, a bank and even a bike shop in the Commons area so Microsoft employees can get their bike worked on or make changes to their wireless carrier while they are at lunch.  During each of our visits to the commons, we had various Microsoft employees come and eat with us and talk to us about everything from the products that they work on to the health benefits that Microsoft offers their employees.  Unfortunately I don’t recall the names of everybody we met with over lunch but it was great talking with them and learning about what they do and what Microsoft does for its employees and how much they love the company for it.

After lunch, we split up and got to meet with people from various teams throughout Microsoft for most of the afternoon.  First, I got to meet with Mark Hopkins and Luis Cabrera-Cordon who work on the Microsoft Surface team.  We got to spend close to a half an hour playing with Surface (something I have done on a couple of other occasions but only to a small extent) and learning about how it works, Microsoft’s vision for the product, what powers it, how they test it and how crazy expensive it is($12,500 for just the unit, $15000 for a developer unit according to wikipedia which is a little higher than I believe we were told but in the same ballpark).   It is amazing what the Surface tables can do.  It uses 5 IR cameras to detect whatever is touching the table and uses special tags, kind of like a bar code to bring up information about something.  This was demonstrated to us with business cards where the card was placed on the Surface and the persons information was read from the tag and brought up on the table.  We were shown all kinds of really cool things and I have a video of most of it which I will try to get posted soon so you guys can see just how cool the device is.  After we finished learning about and playing with the Surface, I headed to yet another building (pretty much everything was in a different building.  It is amazing just how many buildings that Microsoft has) to meet Dan Fernandez (blog) and Brian Keller (blog) from Channel 9.  They had planned for me to be on This Week in Channel 9 but unfortunately that wasn’t communicated to whoever planned our schedule and because I had to be at the Scott Hanselman (blog) presentation, I never got to take advantage of that opportunity.  I did get to check out the Channel 9 studios however and the equipment in there is amazing.  From some awesome lighting to all of the recording equipment, it was everything I could do to keep from drooling and trying to sneak out with some equipment to spice up the Global Geek News Podcast.  Someday I hope to make it back so that I can be on one of the Channel 9 shows but who knows when that day will come.

Like I mentioned, my next stop was a meeting with Scott Hanselman in yet another building where I met back up with the other insiders.  At the time, I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was to meet Scott.  Apparently in the developers/Microsoft employee circles, he is a bit of an all star in the company and even has a great podcast.  Apparently he works in another state and rarely makes it to the Microsoft main campus so the fact that we could steal an hour of his time is a big deal or so I am told.  The meeting with Scott was a lot of fun as he is a barrel of laughs.  He spent the hour talking to us about parallel computing and showing us just how efficient it is.  He showed us some code that blew my mind (I haven’t done any parallel programming in all of my years as a programmer).  He showed us code for doing parallel queries to a SQL database and demonstrated just how much faster it is when you take advantage of the multiple cores on today’s processors.  I was quite impressed to say the least.   Speaking of numbers, after our meeting with Scott, I got to go visit with Josh Carroll.

Josh Carroll works on the Telemetry team.  Never heard of the Telemetry team?  Neither had I, but I quickly found out just how important the team was at for various products at Microsoft.  The telemetry team is responsible for the automatically collected data such as crash information and details sent through the feedback tool and such and relays the data back to the teams in charge of the various products so that they can fix bugs and see how users are trying to use the software for future improvements.  The information that they interpret and pass on to the product teams played a large part in how great Windows 7 is.  For a little more on the team and how the information they gathered was used to shape the final release of Windows 7, I highly recommend checking out this article at Ars Technica.  Anyway, the meeting with Josh went great and it gave me some great insight into what happens when users send those crash reports to Microsoft when something goes wrong.  I have always been one to submit my crash reports whenever I have them but never realized that they were really being used much until now.  Thanks to this meeting, whenever somebody asks if they should submit crash reports, I always make sure to tell them to do it because it can make a big difference in future patches and releases.

I will cut off part 2 of day 2 right here.  Stay tuned for the final part of Day 2, our night activities, which should be up within the next 24 hours and then we will be on to the most exciting day, Day 3 which includes my appearance on 1 vs 100 Live!