I want to start by thanking everyone who came out last night and attended the Chicago Cloud User Group and the Chicago .NET Users Group. The attendance was great and the room was packed! I also want to thank Microsoft for providing the space and the local Microsoft DPE guys (Dave Bost) that stayed late to give us access to the facility. Lastly, I want to thank last night’s sponsor, Avanade. The great companies who sponsor events like this make it possible for us to enjoy great food and drinks, and last night’s pizza was great!
Adam Hoffman (stratospher.es) and I really enjoyed presenting Rock, Paper, Azure last night. This is an exciting topic because it’s a lot of fun, while making use of really cool, emerging technology, like the Microsoft Cloud, Windows Azure. Like I mentioned last night, as a Windows Azure MVP and as someone who runs a consultancy (responsiveX) that works with really cool customers building web, mobile and traditional client applications on Windows Azure, I’m a big fan of Windows Azure.
The Rock, Paper, Azure, Re-launch Your Coding Strategy contest is going on until January 25th. This means you have two more opportunities to be one of the lucky $50 BestBuy gift card winners and you have two weeks to get into the Top 10 to win a Surface, XBOX 360 or $150 BestBuy gift card. Get a bot into the contest by tomorrow, Friday, January 18th at 1pm CT and you will have a chance to be one of the five (5) randomly selected winners to receive a $50 BestBuy gift card. It doesn’t have to be a great, winning bot either, you just need to have a bot in the contest. You will get another shot at another $50 BestBuy gift card on Friday, January 25th at 1pm CT. Make a competitive, intelligent bot that gets into the Top 10, and you will have a shot at the Surface, XBOX 360 and a $150 BestBuy gift card.
To get started with Rock, Paper, Azure, you will need to do the following:
- Setup a Windows Azure Subscription. You can get a FREE 90 Day Trial at http://aka.ms/Azure90DayTrial
- Download the Windows Azure SDK and Tools at http://aka.ms/AzureSDK
- Download the Rock, Paper, Azure code at http://www.rockpaperazure.com/getstarted.aspx
- Upload BotLab to your Windows Azure service, browse to it, and set your password
- Create a profile on the Rock, Paper, Azure site at http://www.rockpaperazure.com
- Code your Bot
- Upload your Bot to your BotLab
- Submit your Bot to the contest
Along with the chance to win some great prizes, this contest is a lot of fun. It’s fun to try to create logic that anticipates your opponent’s next move and then beats him or her to the punch. That is the strategy of building a winning bot. If you have a few minutes to watch a couple of videos from YouTube, these are a couple of great examples of this strategy.
Once you get your bot into the competition, the next step is to tweak your logic to get into the Top 10 or maybe to the top, if you view second place as the first loser. In 1999, Darse Billings organized The First International RoShamBo Programming Competition. In this competition, Dan Egnor created a bot that crushed the competition based on the strategy of anticipating your opponents’ next move and staying a step ahead. He called his algorithm and strategy IoCaine Powder, based on the scene above from “The Princess Bride”. You can learn more about his strategy and download source code for IoCaine Powder to help you get started at http://ofb.net/~egnor/iocaine.html. IoCaine Power is a great way to learn about and consider more complex strategies.
DUE TO THE COMPETITIVE NATURE OF ROCK, PAPER, AZURE, AND THE HUMAN NATURE THAT DRIVES US TO WIN, ROCK, PAPER, AZURE CAN BE VERY ADDICTIVE AND YOU MIGHT SPEND LOTS OF LATE NIGHTS BUILDING ROCK, PAPER, AZURE BOTS.
One of the things that I failed to suggest last night was to use source control. I discovered the hard way, early on in the contest, that source control is extremely valuable. Imagine having a bot that is performing OK in the contest, and in an attempt to make it better, you make some changes that cause your bot’s ranking to fall like a rock. And then you can’t remember exactly what you changed to get back to your previous bot. This is where source control comes in really handy. If you don’t have a good source control solution available to you, you can check out Team Foundation Service at http://tfs.visualstudio.com and signup for a free account.
If you would like the presentation from last night, you can get it here.
If you are really good, you might be able to build a bot that can’t be beaten like this one.
Good luck with the contest and I hope you WIN BIG!