Channel 9 Jim Hogg: Phoenix Framework Interview Writeup

Posted May 3, 2006 by channel9hawk
Categories: Channel9 Interview Writeup

Great conversation. A nice “going deep” series on a topic I am barely familiar with. I liked the white boarding exercise as it clearly explained the concepts. Charles asked great questions and engaged in a interesting way on a whole range of topics. Good steady video, great sound quality. On a scale of 1-5 niners I’ll give this one a 5. Good job Channel 9.

List of Questions
Question1) What is the phoenix framework? 1:15
Question 2) What does the front end do to hand off to the back end? 2:37
Question 3) Is phoenix readily available today? 6:53
Question 4) Can we dig in to the modularized backend structure, how is it architected? 8:08
Question 5) Could you put a static analysis tool on this? 12:40
Question 6) Is there an API on this, what is that all about? 14:15
Question 7) Where do you think phoenix will be when you ship? 23:34
Question 8 ) You can’t optimize the JIT today, can you? 23:52
Question 9) what’s the response and feedback been? 31:17
Question 10) Are they’re any challenges with multicores? 35:00
Question 11) Question about how long he’s been at Microsoft. 41:21

Detailed write up:
Charles does another stellar going deep video.
The video begins with a discussion about the phoenix framework.
Question1) What is the phoenix framework? 1:15
Jim Hogg mentions that the phoenix framework has been in development for 4 years. That’s a long time for a product that so far has zero ROI.
The phoenix framework is used for building compilers.
The phoenix framework is analogous to the .net framework in that many developers view .net as the framework they use to write applications, only difference is the phoenix framework is what developers would use to write compilers. Upon just hearing that I’m getting excited to learn more.
Charles makes a great point about the situation where potentially you’d want to create your own language and in that case you’d need to create your very own compiler. On a side note, who actually wants to create their own languages, I know these people are out there, but I just want to know why they like doing it, isn’t C# enough for you?
Hogg goes on to explain that compilers have a front end and back end. I learning more about compiler architecture and I haven’t even made it through the first 5 minutes.
The front end takes the front end language like C++ and turns it into an intermediate language.
The backend takes the intermediate language does a bunch of analysis in light of what platform its targeting….X86, Itainium, 64bit chips and it performs optimizations. Cool cool stuff.
Question 2) What does the front end do to hand off to the back end? 2:37
Managed languages produce assemblies which contain MSIL and data structures called metadata.
Native C++ produces an intermediate form that is handed off to the backend.
The phoenix platform primarily is focused on the back end. It focuses on optimizations and analysis.
Apparently the front end compiler is known as C1 or C1xx which is the C++ compiler. I know very little about C++. And even less about C so this is all Greek to me.
The backend is called C2 and today’s technology is based on 10 year old technology. The phoenix technology replaces C2.
The phoenix technology allows for more granular analysis and optimizations.
The phoenix technology allows for extensible plug in optimizations.
Question 3) Is phoenix readily available today? 6:53
There is a version called the RDK or Research Development Kit that is being shipped every 6 months. It’s available for academics. It’s a free download – very cool.
Question 4) Can we dig in to the modularized backend structure, how is it architected? 8:08
Whiteboarding 8:37 you have to watch this part. Hogg give’s great explanation and his drawing on the whiteboard is amazing.
Question 5) Could you put a static analysis tool on this? 12:40
Yes. And this works with enterprise framework and the /analyze switch and prefast.
Question 6) Is there an API on this, what is that all about? 14:15
Everything that sits inside of phoenix has API which allows programmers to alter any part of it. An example of this are the plugins.
The plugins are managed. Well in fact phoenix is built in C++, but it can compile both managed and unmanaged.
Plugins can be as simple as 15 lines of code.
Charles makes the joke that the team has been working on the framework for 12 years.
It was originally dreamt out of MSR.
Many of the tools are coming out of research.
Bit field instructions.
Post JIT morph and modified IL and metadata with the Microsoft .net Framework.
Discussion about what an intern did with aspect orientated programming 22.45
Question 7) Where do you think phoenix will be when you ship? 23:34
Discussion of the SCRUM and AGILE process there using: 23:36.
Apparently there are 30 developers.
They have ambition plans to build the entire windows OS using phoenix. Wow! Wow! Wow! They can already do that today, but they want to do that and turn on more and more optimizations and do it with 64bit architectures.
Discussion about code security.
Question 8 ) You can’t optimize the JIT today, can you? 23:52
Answer no. You wouldn’t want too.
If you want to build a plug in for an optimization you need to be a really skilled engineer.
Phoenix opens up the previously closed black box compilers.
Question 9) what’s the response and feedback been? 31:17
About 200 downloads and there in the second year of the RFP process. They’re actively giving out grants for research based on phoenix.
The cooler part about the front end optimizations are that they are basically platform independent. It only takes 3 months to build the framework for a new chip architecture. Without phoenix it took a massive investment to move to new compilers for itainium.
Question 10) Are they’re any challenges with multicores? 35:00
Yes they are building optimizations and building frameworks. They want to make it automatic. They’ve had limited success.
Discussion around locks and concurrency.
Question 11) Question about how long he’s been at Microsoft. 41:21
He’s been at phoenix for 2 years, before that he was with the CLR team. Why Microsoft- answer because you get to work with really awesome and talented developers.
Last 4 minutes are basically a waste of time.


Channel9: The Betsy Aoki Interview

Posted May 2, 2006 by channel9hawk
Categories: Channel9 Interview Writeup

The Channel9 Betsy Aoki interview is really good. Here's my write up of the interview. 

She begins the interview talking about Scott Hanselman, (Hansel Minutes) and the RD program.

Charles asks about community and uses “”air quotes.

Betsy talks about the history of Got Dot Net and BlogX by Chris Anderson.It’s amazing that the blogs had to be created by hand. Betsy talks about the progress of blogs from .Text to Community Server.

She mentions the super secret blog policy that Microsoft has and she discloses the “Blog Smart” tagline.

Charles asks a great question. Why is blogging important, and then asks the best question I’ve heard so far on Channel9, “who cares what Robert Scoble has to say?”
Betsy remains calm and then says she’s questions the sanity of the people who read her blog. Well betsy I read your blog, and I’m just your average joe.
Betsy goes on to give the standard answer to why blogs are important: the one to one connect, the person to person feedback. No offense to Betsy but I’ve heard that answer about a million times in a million different ways from about every Microsoft employee I’ve ever spoken with. I want to hear a much more interesting and compelling answer to the question of why blogs matter. Something apocalyptic or earth shatteringly impressive, but I digress.

As is classic Channel 9 we see Betsy login to her Machine…tsk tsk Betsy….your running Windows XP….where’s the Vista love?

 Shockingly Betsy appears to have a thing for Scott Hanselman(she claims he’s the reason she works late nights, and wrote the blue song for Got Dot Net—anyone know where I can get a copy of that?) as she get’s to stare at him everyday as his picture is emblazoned as her desktop wallpaper.

She mentions that Scott get’s her motivated, well whatever it takes!Just in passing, man her login process for Windows XP takes forever. One funny part of the video is at (7:18) when the camera zooms in to show Betsy’s hair after she just mentioned that she’s dyes her hair purple so that it doesn’t go gray….

Charles returning to serious topics asks Betsy why she joined Microsoft (8:05). A good question. And in response Betsy has a great answer. She joined the company because she was part of the left wing, communist bent Media as a newspaper reporter and was burnt out but swore he next job title would have “Web” in it. Low and behold she ended up at the Seattle times.

She started the local Seattle chapter of Web Girls(anyone know anything more about this?).  3000 members, wow!

She talks about the experience of women with dealing with technical men. Very interesting insights (11:43).

She talks about how recruiters really targeted the members, and she talks about how in interviews she would mention how Web girls was something she created that was bigger than just herself.

At 13:02 there appears to have been an edit. Grrr….editing.

At 13:20 Charles answers a great question about what WM_IN series focuses on, and how not every women interview on channel 9 falls into that category. 

An interesting conversation ensues at 13:40 about why so many men (and so few women) are drawn into technology. Great conversation, the real highlight of the video.

Betsy gives her on honest thoughts something about how the web technologies were the “gateway drug” to the other technologies.

Betsy makes a snide comment about how girls find technology boring and that girls think you have to lock yourself into a closet and eat gram crackers(14:30)….I like my closet and gram crackers very much… I’m not over weight, my girl friend doesn’t consider me boring and I’m freaking sexy.

Betsy makes a really great insight into how Girls aren’t being directed into places where they feel validated for being smart…I totally agree with her…I blame our educational systems and it is a crime.

Betsy admits to not being a coder(17:01)…which is perfectly fine..Betsy rocks in my book. However, I wish that Channel9’s WM_IN series would talk with a women who is a hard core corer….that would be cool…and in my arguments with co-workers about the issue I could point them to that video. Sigh…

Charles makes a great point about being “genuinely interested in the technical side of things”. Amen Charles…Amen.

Charles does  ask a kind of stupid question about who makes up stereotypes. Umm…Charles. They’re STEROTYPES…no-one makes them up…It society as a whole that creates them.

Charles makes a shocking statement that the majority of Microsoft employees don’t write code.

  <Rant> What shocks me is that 10 years ago the majority of employees did write code and look at what they created..Dos. NT. Windows 95…look at the Vista mess today. </Rant>

Charles then doubles back(19:25) and then asks how to do we get more women in technology. I think this is the main premise of the WM_IN series but I digress. Betsy gives an honest answer of giving women more exposure on both Channel 9 and at technical conferences.  I agree with her to a point, I hate how technical developer manuals are now being rewritten as all the programmer examples are women.

At 23:00, Betsy talks about the challenge for women of the work life balance and having a family.

At 25:00 Charles asks Jennifer who’s doing the camera work to ask some questions. (Seems like it would have been get

Another apparent edit occurs at (25: 30)…..grr.

The video goes way downhill at 25:40. Talking about poetry.(seems like the interview/conversation should have finished)

Jenifer asks a great question about whether Betsy and GotDotNet were threatened by Channel9. 26:45.

I like how Charles almost “yells” about the issue of whether threats within corporations. Great great moment!

Betsy  gives a great answer.

Another blatant edit occurs at (28:17), grrr…..

Jennifer asks a question about what happens when people aren’t nice to Betsy when she blogs. Betsy admits she may not like you if your mean to her.

At 29:20 Betsy talks about a blog post where she mentioned the ugliness of the MSDN buildings carpet…and the video looks at the carpet…sigh pointless.

AT 30:46 Betsy mentions her fan club. I think I’m a member….hehehe.

The remaining 3 minutes of video are about the “Blog Smart” policy and who can have a blog at

Did anyone else notice the Channel9 guy on her desk?

Overall Summary,
 A good conversation, I don’t know if watching all 33 minutes is worth it, but Betsy is a really great person to get to know. Having 3 edits to the video is disappointing; I’ve come to expect Channel9 videos not to have any edits. Overall on a scale of 1-5 nine guys I’d give this interview a solid 3. The questions are good, Betsy is lively and interesting, but having 3 edits, and the last 8 minutes of the video, killed its potential to be rated higher.