Thursday, November 30, 2006
Scott Hanselman's Computer Zen - Set up your system to use Microsoft's public Symbol Server and other goodies


It won't be speedy, but when you need it you need it, include when you're debugging random crashes and hangs at home: Scott Hanselman's Computer Zen - Set up your system to use Microsoft's public Symbol Server .

Scott also has a post on mini-apps: Scott Hanselman's Computer Zen - PortableApps Suite 1.0 Released - now that I'm loading reference and tool-chest materials on to various USB drives, apps that can just be run (imagine that) are awesome to have ready to go.

A video about using SysInternal tools: Scott Hanselman's Computer Zen - DNRTV - Sysinternals Tools.

Getting ahold of EXIF information that comes with the digital pictures you take: Scott Hanselman's Computer Zen - Accessing EXIF Photo Data from JPEGs with PowerShell - hmm, now I'll just have to see if there's an easy way to modify the same (e.g., for taking a GPS track at the same time and updating the GPS loc in the EXIF header).

Hunting For a Reliable Video Encoder - TMPG Inc. :TMPGEnc 4.0 XPress


I'm on the hunt for a reliable video encoder. For use in transecoding and for use in ripping / encoding, probably into WMV, for watching later either on my LinkSys networked media player or on the 360. There are a lot of products out there right now, mostly chasing after the iPod / PSP market. One to check out later: TMPG Inc. :TMPGEnc 4.0 XPress .

I used PSPVideo9 a while back to take some Star Trek episodes I had on DVD with me on a trip to watch on my PSP. It wasn't hard, but it was hit and miss: sometimes it would encode fine, sometimes it would be un-proper and skip and be out of sync.

Worse comes to worse, I break out Premier Elements, but that's quite the big gun for just encoding an existing video stream w/ zero editing.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Windows of Choice - Best Microsoft Video Ever!


I love this video! It was shown... I guess three years ago during the Microsoft Company Meeting (we do lots of great internal parodies that don't see the light of day - so, this video might have a short life). Anyway, it's a wonderful parody of Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice" music video by Spike Jonze.

If I know you and for some reason the below doesn't work because you need a MSN soapbox invite, drop me a note and I'll send you an invite to join.

Video: windows of choice


Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Want it: Lenovo's T60 goes widescreen for the suits

I use a ThinkPad for my home laptop. Lenovo has continued the high-level of quality associated with the ThinkPad line. Sometime next year I'm going to seriously consider moving to a new laptop and the T60 line is at the top of my list right now.

More: Lenovo's T60 goes widescreen for the suits - Engadget

Monday, November 27, 2006
The Fellow Who Could Have Bought a PS3


Here's an interesting story that would bug the hell out of me if I worked for Sony: The Older Gamers Paradise - 2old2play - The Day I Walked Out On the PS3.

For most people not caught up in the hype, it's turning into a two-console comparison for 2006: Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii. Hell, you can buy both for the money you'd spend on a PS3. Xbox got game. Nintendo got Wiiii.

Calendar year 2007 might shape up to be different, but right now I'd say the winner is 360, followed by Wii, and then followed up by the Paris-Hiltonesque PS3.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006
Quote: This + the-mess-that-is-XSD spell the doom of XML.


Okay, I've ranted about HTML and XForms and XSD before. DerekDB puts in a much more authoritative view in this post: only this, and nothing more: XQuery... worse late than never - authoritative simply because Derek knows the deep dark implementation details to this kind of XML work.

I've only been a client of MSXML.

Snippet that jumps out at me:

I honestly think we would be better without XQuery. Let the vendors think for themselves and see what customers actually use. XQuery is a standard looking for a use, which is backward and guaranteed to produce a problematic result.

I sat through an MSDN presentation on XQuery a while back. Lots of WTF was going through my mind, emphasis a lot on the F, as I looked at the syntax and the non-returning return statement. Non-intuitive and inelegant and not the way I think as a developer dealing with data.

It just didn't seem to be created by someone actually in the trenches needing to get some practical work done to make money and to make customers and partners pleased.

I can only hope and pray we don't make the mistake of implementing this.

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Sundance Winner ‘The Corporation’ Released for Free on BitTorrent at Torrentfreak


Now this is interesting: Sundance Winner ‘The Corporation’ Released for Free on BitTorrent at Torrentfreak.

We watched this as part of our Netflix queue recently. Is this free torrent a game changer? Will more film-makers, the rare ones that own rights to their film, release a version like this in the wild? Or at least additional materials or podcast commentary to be listened to with the film.

Perhaps it's more relevant for message films: you have a strong message you're interested in getting out there and gaining traction and discussion. Free is a good delivery mechanism. With more networked devices and portable devices able to play video, the opportunity abounds for the - at least affluent members of our society - to see your film / video.

Furthermore, this serves as another step to legitimatize torrents. And DivX. Hmm.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006
How About a Pre-Download for the Xbox 360 Video Marketplace?


Downloading video still strains the series of tubes hooked up to our homes, let alone any wireless connections. I'm really excited about the addition of the video marketplace to the Xbox 360 (Video Marketplace now live - Major Nelson ) but the breaker is going to be antici... ... ...pation to get the download there. HD video ain't small, no matter what kind of magic the fantastic WMV codec might be able to do.

How about a pre-download?

Well, what I mean is a download. But one that hasn't been officially paid for and unlocked yet.

Ideally, it would be a feature of the 360. I mark some upcoming titles I'm interested in, either through the blade interface or via another portal, and the 360 would begin the download when possible (and it would be great if it could be part of a mesh, but that's another bag of worms). A poor man's DVR (a poor man that can afford a high-def video game console, that is).

Or you could have Windows Media Player 11 do it as an add-in. One night you log on to your 360, find out that the new content has been pre-downloaded for you, would you like to buy it and play it now?

Instant gratification! With, you know, some planning.

You could imagine giving the 360 a pointer to your Netflix queue RSS feed or your IMDB favorites. It could look through it and note that it could go ahead and pre-download some of those items for you to watch in between getting your disks delivered (because baby, if you're getting HD-DVD, you're going to be waiting between disks).

Anyway. The Video Marketplace is a great step. I hope they add something later to help make the download process at least *seem* faster so that you're inclined to surrender the points.

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O'Reilly Radar - State of the Computer Book Market, Q306, Part 2


Tim O'Reilly has an intersting view of the computer book market from several different points of view: O'Reilly Radar > State of the Computer Book Market, Q306, Part 2

An interesting bit for me looking at computer languages:

Tim doesn't mention it, but C/C++ is down 23%. As someone who prefers to program close to the machine, the explosion in high-level language use is pretty disturbing. No doubt those languages are allowing great productivity in quick, easy deployments, but in order to do your best job and get the best most elegant most performant code, you need to have a foundation in C/C++.

Of course, if I sold servers and memory, I wouldn't say a peep.

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Presentation Zen: Where can you find good images?


I saved this old link in my Bloglines clipping folder: Presentation Zen: Where can you find good images?

Here's a snippet:

Free (but not bad)
(1) Morgue File
Providing " image reference material for use in all creative pursuits.
(2) Flickr's Creative Commons pool
Search the myriad photos people are sharing on flickr by the type of CC license.
(3) Image*After
From their site: "Image*After is a large online free photo collection. You can download and use any image or texture...and use it in your own work, either personal or commercial."
(4) Stock.xchng
Close to 200,000 photos. Some gems in there if you look. Some are free, some require buying credits.
(5) Everystockphoto. Indexing over 283,000 free photos. Very Nice - indexes the other sites!
(6) Studio.25: Digital Resource Bank.
(7) Freepixels. About 2000 photos. meh.
(8) The Photoshop tutorial blog. This cool blog has a laundry list of free photo sites.
(9) Robin Good has a good page dedicated to helping you find good images. FANTASTIC list of links.

Fonts (free or cheap)
(1) 1001 A lot of free fonts. You get what you pay for, but many are pretty good. Find by most popular, highest rated. Articles, message board, etc.
(2) 4000 fonts for $9.95 (download).
(3) iFree. This Australian site links to free stuff in Australia and worldwide, like fonts, freeware, etc.
(4) Indezine on fonts. There are so many font sites out there, I trust the folks at Indezine to narrow it down. They list about ten.
(5) Database of about 3000 free fonts.

Licensing the 2007 Microsoft Office User Interface


I've been wondering how this would work out: Jensen Harris: An Office User Interface Blog : Licensing the 2007 Microsoft Office User Interface.

Microsoft has indeed invested lots of time and effort in creating new and - brace yourself - innovative user-interface design concepts. All you have to do is sit through some design meetings, specification reviews, use the early versions and see them evolve to ship quality to appreciate the person-years it goes into just creating new features and their associated interfaces.

In the back of my mind has always been, "How long until someone rips this off?" and benefits from the R&D-NW.

So, personally, I'm grateful to see this qualification in licensing the 2007 Microsoft Office User Interface:

There's only one limitation: if you are building a program which directly competes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, or Access (the Microsoft applications with the new UI), you can't obtain the royalty-free license.

Why this exclusion?

Microsoft spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the research, design, and development of the new Office user interface.

We're allowing developers to license this intellectual property and take advantage of these advances in user interface design without any fee whatsoever.

But we want to preserve the innovation for Microsoft's productivity applications that are already using the new UI.

Excellent. A wonderful compromise to share lots and lots of hardwork and design and yet protect our assets. It's bulging with common sense.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006
PlayStation 3 Initial Launch Woes


The Xbox 360 had struggles on its launch (mostly, not being enough 360s + the ring of fire). The PlayStation 3 is hitting some woes, too:

The New York Times article is the most damning of the PS3. There have also been reports of the PS3 crapping out just like the early Xbox 360s with the ring of fire (I have an early generation 360 so I'm always keeping an eye on it).

There have been backwards compatibility problems with the PS2 games, too. I'm not throwing too many stones on that point given that the 360 is only partially compatible with first generation Xbox games - though of course the PS3 was sold as being 100% backwards compatible.

Now, I'm not anti-Sony. I own a PSP. I really like my PSP, but I don't tend to play it that much. I appreciate the software design and the system software updates, mostly. I use it for watching movies while traveling more than anything. And I love Lumines. I just wish more interesting games had come out for it.

This has been a huge gamble for Sony. Sony is on the top end, with Blu-Ray and mega-features. The 360 is in the middle, chugging along. And Nintendo's Wii is happily sneaking in on the bottom. If the Wii is anything like the DS (got one of those, too) it's going to be kicking some serious retail butt. Along with the PS2. I think the PS2 will keep going for a while given the great game base.

If the PS3 ends up being a super-success then it will be a true case-study of chutzpah cubed. It will be fascinating to follow and see how the business story ends up.


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Unexpected Design Consequences - Wii Flying Controllers!


Engadget has two stories about "Enthusiastic Nintendo Wii Play + Broken Controller Strap = Busted TV Screen via Flying Controller":

My first reaction upon reading the second story is parents finding out their TV is at risk from Wii play and, ala Red Ryder BB guns in A Christmas Story, when confronted with enthusiastic kids asking for a Wii for Christmas, they'll respond with, "No way! You'll put your TV screen out with that thing!"

Lots of people have been praising the Wii controller design for making it fun again to play a video game, versus just being twitchy good at squeezing all the right triggers and bumpers and buttons and pushing thumbsticks at just the right time. No one thought about straps breaking and remotes flying through the air. Maybe the TV will be missed, but then something even more worse might be the impact zone.

If this is a problem, it will be interesting to see how Nintendo deals with it. How would you fix the issue? Immediate strap redesign and free updates for all remotes? Or simply a re-education campaign on how best to use your remote and please don't let go of it.

I hope they quickly fix it. I personally am routing for the Wii, though I'm sticking with my Xbox 360. Getting an innovative, simple way to interact with a console is important to opening up play to more than just the twitchy pros. And getting us a step closer to Snow Crash.

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Friday, November 17, 2006
V for Vendetta, HD-DVD for... ?


Slow delivery, it would seem.

First of all, great props to Netflix for carrying HD-DVD and the other format for no additional charge. I recently got that Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive at the Microsoft Company Store and immediately switched my Netflix account over to HD-DVD. Not only did they make HD-DVD the default format for movies added to my queue (when available), but they also offered to switch over all movies in my current queue that were available in HD-DVD. Nice. Thank you.

So I then managed my queue to put a couple of HD-DVD flicks to the top, including V for Vendetta. I dropped my most recent DVD back and got excited to consider having an HD-DVD to watch this weekend.


Not so fast. While Netflix has nearly two-day turn-around (mail in old flick on Monday, receive next flick on Wednesday) for DVD, HD-DVD is not so lucky at this stage of the game. Rather than having "V" from lovely Tacoma, my "V" is coming from Salt Lake. Hopefully by Tuesday. I'm not sure if it's quite a Thanksgiving kind of movie...

So. Netflix + HD-DVD = Strategic Planning. I'll have to watch a few HD-DVDs to let the quality sink in and convince myself that it is the only way to go from here-on. Otherwise, if I really want to see that new flick, I might go DVD.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Whoa - MapCruncher and Virtual Earth 3D


I've got to figure out how to get a nice topo map of an area we do a hike on, map our GPS track, and then throw it into Virtual Earth 3D: Windows Live Local / Virtual Earth: MapCruncher and Virtual Earth 3D . Awesome.

Additional: Windows Live Local - Virtual Earth MapCruncher now supported in Virtual Earth map Control

And it sounds like ^Q does some magic while in VE 3D: Windows Live Local - Virtual Earth First First Person Shopper

Monday, November 13, 2006
Borg America - Icuiti unveils AV230 head-mounted display - Engadget


This has to be the next step in the Borgification of America: Icuiti unveils AV230 head-mounted display - Engadget .

Five years ago, I would have thought it a geek-boy's bad dream to conjecture that people would be walking around in public with blue-blinking devices hanging off of one ear as they carried on a conversation in public with seemingly no-one but themself. And people just leave that BlueTooth headset on as they do their shopping or going about in life. From what I've seen in Redmond, it cuts across age and gender.

The next step is probably everyone having a set of heads-up displays. Look, we all know that our mobile phones and PDAs have a screen that's just too small. There comes a time when we want something bigger. Now, it could project an image and use the camera phone to watch us (e.g., type on a virtual keyboard or pad of somesort) but it's going to be a lot better if we can have a 44-inch projection floating in front of us.

Which means soon people will be walking around with some cool visor looking thing, talking on the phone or listening to their tunes. Or worse, driving while watching a movie.

I want one of these, but then I'm sure I wouldn't use it more than a few times a week. If I traveled a lot I'd certainly get one to watch videos or play games. Now, I'd love for it to be hooked up to a transparent GPS feed, so that as I looked around I could see a topo-layout of my property or property lines or, you know, directions and such. That would be far more advanced. I'm sure the future is a two-way visor that both scans what you're looking at and then feeds back video + augementation.

Anyway. Prepare your apps to run both on the small screen and the large screen. Borgs away!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006
.NET 3.0 / WinFX is on the prowl


From Chris Sells: .NET Framework 3.0 (aka WinFX) Has Shipped!

I've got a Vista machine loaded up at work to start digging in to do some prototyping. 

In Case of Emergency: Sysinternals Suite


One nice big (well, 8MB, and I guess that's not really *big* anymore) download for all the SysInternals tools: Sysinternals Suite .

Obviously some of the best tools in the world. Now the onesy-twosy downloading on a tool-by-tool basis can be completely skipped.

I'm also interested in discovery non-techie uses for the tools. For instance, I read recently that one person uses the file monitor tool to watch and log all the files that he works on during the day and then maps that back into billable hours for the appropriate client. Hmm! Sort of a poor-man's journalling feature.


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Monday, November 06, 2006
Microsoft now in 3D! Yeah baby!


Goodness, I'm becoming a PR flack: Microsoft Adds 3-D City Models to Live Search: Microsoft Virtual Earth platform powers Live Search and provides a more immersive mapping experience for consumers, enterprises and developers.

Of all the groups I'd be excited to work for in Microsoft, the Virtual Earth team is on the top of the list. I was lucky enough to see a preview of the 3D work a few weeks back and I'm Super-Excited(tm) that it's out so that I can play with it more at home and see what the programming interface is like.

One thing Stephen did during that demo was plug in an Xbox-360 controller to his PC and just zoom around Washington State with the joystick. Very Nice.

Some interesting points of view:


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We Are Done Daddy Done - 2007 Microsoft Office System Is Golden


The press release says a lot: 2007 Microsoft Office System Is Golden: 2007 Office system released to manufacturers; the company looks ahead to worldwide business availability.

We had the ship party Friday afternoon. Before the ship party, we had sign-off. Each team was called on to confirm that they were done and to sign-off for their product. John and I signed for InfoPath and then we all watched the button being pushed that resulted in the golden bits being pushed to manufacturing.

Congratulations Everyone!

Friday, November 03, 2006
New Virtual Earth Control Released... or, Almost Released?


In the post Windows Live Local / Virtual Earth: MapCruncher now supported in Virtual Earth map Control V4 of the Virtual Earth control is mentioned. Off of the SDK I see 3.1 discussed. Is it out yet? Or is this all to be aligned with the 11/07/06 update on the horizon.

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Windows Live Local - The Next Dimension in Search - November 7th


Be sure to set a reminder on your calendar to check out on November 7th. Something good is brewing! The teaser currently reads:

Coming Nov. 7, the next dimension in search!

3 days : 10 hrs : 25 mins : 46 secs

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Reinventing HTML Again and XForms Commentary


Nick at work sent a link to an article that is a follow-up on Tim Berners-Lee rebooting of the HTML standards process. The interesting bit is some commentary from Ryan Paul (my emphasis below):

There are also doubts about W3C's ability to create a usable forms standard. Tim Berners-Lee claims that there "are many implementations and users of XForms." As a developer with first-hand XForms experience, I have to say that the word "broken" best characterizes the standard. Although the concept looks great on paper, it just doesn't work for real-world projects. No widely used browser supports the standard by default, and free XForms plug-ins available for Internet Explorer and Firefox are so incomplete that they can't be used for anything other than experimentation. The standard itself also has considerable failings, and some server-side XForms implementors have actually deviated from the standard and invented new elements to work around the holes. Based on my own experience, I think that better support for automated validation control and XML serialization in XUL (Mozilla's XML-based interface development language) would be far more effective than XForms.

In my opinion, XForms failed as a standard because it wasn't developed with implementation in mind and it didn't have early support from browser developers. The W3C has clearly learned from the experience, and Tim Berners-Lee hopes that the new HTML working group will avoid those pitfalls: "Some things are very clear. It is really important to have real developers on the ground involved with the development of HTML. It is also really important to have browser makers intimately involved and committed," writes Berners-Lee. If the working group addresses the most pressing concerns that impact web developers and Internet users, the organization could regain relevance and bring credibility back to the web standards process.

Right on. Now, I'll admit I'm biased because I work on Microsoft InfoPath which is an XML forms editor down to its very core and most often compared against XForms (which... doesn't really seem to exist as a competitor but, hey, it's a standard).

Note, however, that InfoPath is built upon a foundation of web standards: XML, XSLT, HTML, and XSD. The last one is the bitter pill. XSD represents to me the shift from useful standards to over-intellectualized "who in the world understands all this?" - let alone dealing with vendor implementations + subtle differences. You can design an XSD schema by hand that is pure and correct but the various implementations of XSD validators will choke on, or at least not all agree upon.

But anyway, InfoPath is built on W3C standards. I've been thinking as of late the last time I remember TimBL bringing down the hammer: it was for XML namespaces. He more or least knocked some heads together and told people they had to do better.

XForms is a failed standard. You read it and your inner geek says, "Man, I don't know... sure seems  like there are a bunch of carts in front of the horse here. Can we go back to the begining and work on this?" XForms should be abandoned and replaced with something that organically makes sense and that IE and other browsers are capable of implementing well - and motivated to do so.

This would send an excellent message about how not to do things.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006
Congrats to Blake Ross (The Firefox Kid?) on Launching Parakey


IEEE Spectrum has an article on Parakey, recently made public and driven by Blake Ross, one of the key people behind Firefox and, it would seem, on his way to reaching the Geek-Cover-Boy equivalent of Barak Obama.

Parakey would seem to rely on creating a local webserver on the user's machine to help manage their private and public information, all through the user's web browser. Long ago, Dave Winer (sorry to put Blake and Dave together in one article, but, here we go) asked: what happens when you start running the web server locally on the user's machine? What scenarios are opened up?

Userland's Frontier ran a web server on your local machine to help manage your incoming RSS feeds and the blog you where managing. My issue with Frontier is that the data was not roamed and not in the cloud (I really wanted to at least be able to FTP my blog database onto my web server). I use about four or five different computers in one day. I really needed that remoting ability and not have everything bound on one machine.

There is a public-facing component to Parakey. Hopefully it, and the other inspired projects coming after it, do provide a way for me to easily roam and replicate and sychronize my personal data to the other machines I run on.

Blake Ross - Dave Winer - Parakey

Eric Richards' place of techno (as in technology) happiness, rants, and corporate love. I work in Microsoft Office as a development lead.

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Disclaimer: The postings (and comments) here represent personal point of views and in no way represent the point of view or official opinions of my employer (Microsoft Corporation). The postings here are provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights. And if you're reading this blog, you're not only incredibly discerning, you're also knee-weakening good looking.

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