Boston – Cambridge

Saturday, October 8th, 2011 @ %I:%M %p | Life, Technology
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Photo gallery

Last weekend I was in Boston: an Azure bootcamp event at Microsoft’s R&D center in Cambridge. It took two attempts to get there: our flight Thursday afternoon got canceled and so instead we flew over early Friday morning.

I had been playing with Azure (Microsoft’s cloud computing platform) for a few weeks and this event was a good opportunity to boost that learning effort, hear from other developers what they’re doing with it. The trip proved itself worthwhile within the first half hour with Bill Wilder simplifying the distinction between web roles and worker roles down to one sentence: “a web role is a worker role with IIS enabled”. That’s it. Many of the Azure books manage to fill many a confusing chapter trying to explain the purpose of each.

Some areas of Azure are very impressive: the behind the scenes replication of data for example. Some areas need improvement. Diagnostics for one. The pricing model especially is way too complex. It’s very hard to understand what your real costs are going to be. Some areas are intriguing. The pricing and limitations of SQL Azure versus Azure Table Services: Microsoft seems to want you to use table services where and when you can, and SQL Azure only when you really have to. I suspect their reasoning is somewhat similar to Google with GAE and BigTable: the ability to do optimizations behind the curtain.

Friday evening Mark and I had dinner at Villa Francesca, a very nice Italian seafood restaurant in North End. Together with the dinner with Rich the next evening at Blue Room in Cambridge it made me think whether it is time to move back to a real city. I like living in Rochester (or Webster to be precise) but the culinary scene is not the same…

Originally Rich and I planned to have dinner on Thursday. Saturday evening I had hoped to meet up with several of my fellow Sun alumni but that didn’t come together. I sent out an email invite a few days before. I do this as well during visits back to Amsterdam and California: proposing an evening and checking who’s available. This always works out in those two locations but here it failed miserably. Not one positive response, just two declines. I am quite disappointed about that. However, in the end still had a great evening. As I didn’t make it to Boston until Friday morning, Rich and I moved our dinner to the Saturday evening.

My flight Sunday wasn’t until 5pm so I had much of the day to be a tourist. From the hotel I first walked over to MIT’s campus near Cambridge Center. Lovely new architecture. From there back to Charles river, across Longfellow Bridge zigzagging through the little streets until I came to Boston Common. From there down State Street down to the wharf admiring the old stores converted into beautiful apartments. Then zigzagging through North End back past the Museum of Science to Cambridge and the hotel. With stops at Starbucks and Boston Beerworks as needed. The photographic proceeds of the hike are in the gallery.

At the airport I learned that the flight back to Rochester was delayed. I checked the FlightTrack app on my iPhone: this flight gets canceled 17% of the time. That’s high. Hmmm. US Airways pushes back the departure time at 20 minute intervals. I hate that. It locks you down at the gate. In the end we boarded two hours late. I much prefer that they tell me straightaway that the delay will be that. Then I can go do something: have a drink, have dinner, or just leisurely wander about. Back in Rochester it was much colder than in Boston, making searching for sweater and rain jacket the first order of business.

 

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