Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Testing out Windows Live Writer

Windows Live Writer is a fairly new tool for publishing to blogs from a desktop application versus the web. Probably nothing new and groundbreaking, but it seems to offer easier editing and insertion capabilities than Blogger where my blog is hosted.

You can insert maps:

Map image


Pictures easily:

MIX 08 Bag

With different effects:

Virgin America likes purple

and even tables:

Header 1 Header2
Live Writer Is Fun


Now to see if those images I entered automatically get upload when I click Publish.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Dance of Dragons has cover art!

This is so exciting - it has been around 3 or 4 years since A Feast for Crows came out and George R. R. Martin has been taking his precious time writing A Dance of Dragons. Check out the cover art for the American version that was just released and click through to the original story from George's blog below:

George R R Martins Blog

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Microsoft Surface: Paying a Bill Demo

This demo of the Surface resonates a lot with me and I hope a few of my friends (Sean and Frank) read this because they will probably get a kick out of it. I am convinced there are two kinds of people in the world: cash people and credit people. The cash people always have cash on them and almost always pay in cash. The credit people are always throwing their card down at dinner or at the bar.

I am a credit person. It's not because I don't have cash or the money, but because I like being able to track what I am spending - how much on gas, how much on dining, nights at the bars, etc. Not that I ever do anything with these statistics, but its nice to have a loose handle on the monthly budget. Anyhow for some reason I am one of the few credit types in my group and it a running joke now that I will put "The Difference on the Card". We even created an acronym for it - DOC. "Hey Matt, you going to DOC". Yeah its like that. Which is why the little demo below is so interesting to me because it makes paying a dinner or bill with your credit card really easy and even fun.

Check it out. Hey Frank and Sean - we are only going to go bars that have this setup in the future ;) ...

Microsot Surface: Wine Demo

While at the MIX Conference, there was an area called the Sandbox where you could go and tinker with a bunch of Microsoft technologies and see demo's of Windows Mobile 6 and the MIcrosoft Surface. I hung out around the Surface mostly and watched them go through most of the sample applications. This one is a Wine Demo showing how a wine list could eventually be browsed in the future.

Bad Design: Comcast's DVR

Comcasts DVR solution is a steaming pile. I have had a few of them in the past five years and each one, rather than getting better, is seemingly worse in some respect. I now just live with it. The usability of the on screen display is horrible - that I can somewhat understand (not that I am happy about it), because it was probably the next to last thing Comcast thought about - they just wanted get their product out the door so they could begin their market takeover.

The piece that disappoints the most though is the hardware itself. The remote and the actual DVR unit do not communicate well at all. I will hit the Menu button and 10 seconds later it will load up. But since I am impatient I hit the menu button four more times in that 10 seconds. These presses are queued up and the menu loads and closes four times. Channel surfing is just as bad. Sometimes it takes the input from the remote right away, other times there is a huge delay and as the button presses get queued up, you end up overshooting the channel you want.

The DVR fast forward and pause functionality is hurt because of this as well. How many times have I overshot the end of a commercial break by over two minutes because the damn remote won't accept the play input.

Comcast needs to put some serious effort in the quality of the hardware they are delivering as well as the embedded software solution that runs it. They should open this up to 3rd parties and let consumers choose what DVR software to use. I would pay for a 3rd party solution that works then use the current offering - that said I give Comcast so much money a month just so I can get HD, that their solution should be more than sufficient.

Anyway, rant over, going to go watch some TV now...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

MIX '08 - Steve Ballmer Keynote

So there are actually two keynotes at MIX. The second one just ended and it was a very candid, and eye-opening (for me) Q and A of Steve Ballmer by Guy Kawasaki. I personally didn't know who Guy was prior to the event, but after a few minutes of their quick banter back and forth your quickly learned that Guy worked out Apple at one point and Steve didn't hire him back in the mid 80s to work at Microsoft.

This was all delivered in some machine guy style, friendly barbs back and forth at each other which Guy continued in a humorous way throughout the hour long session.

Nothing was off limits as Guy asked "What is up with Vista", why Steve didn't have a MacBook Air (which he "fake" stomped and crushed Guys).

Steve Ballmer comes off as a very approachable, funny, self-deprecating individual. At one point during the attendee QA he got up and pumped his fist in the air with a wicked grin on his face yelling "Web developers, web developers, web developers". This sent everyone into a roar of applause.

Not much was learned, but it was very cool to see Microsoft's head honcho speaking candidly on a variety of topics from Silverlight, to the Yahoo takeover, Xbox, social networks and more. If some of his evasive answers are to be taken at face value, 2008 seems to have more suprises in store for the end user and developer. More tidbits about this keynote later (and I need to finish up my other keynote post).

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

MIX '08: Conference Keynote - Part 1

I am currently at the MIX '08 Conference at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. The Keynote just ended here it is in summary form. I am skipping over a lot of stuff that wasn't entirely interesting or related to why I am here but here are the tidbits:

Ray Ozzie (Chief Software Architect of Microsoft) came out and rambled on about a bunch of stuff for 30 minutes. He focused on Microsoft's long term vision of how software and services and computing "in the cloud" will all come together. He brought up his three "C's": Content, Commerce, and Community with extra emphasis on the latter with respect to how the other two have been shaped.

The three principles which Microsoft is reaching toward are the 1) Web as a hub, 2) Business and the power of choice to embrace the "cloud" and 3) Compentization across the cloud to services and other devices.

He stated that in five years, the code that developers (as he points out to a group of designers and developers) will be writing will be fundamentally transformed by the cloud.

Next were the 5 major groups which I am mostly going to skip over, but it came down to "Connected Services", "Connected Devices", "Connected Business", "Connected Entertainment", and "Connected Development". Notice a theme ;)...

He alluded to a preview of a new way to connect PCs that they have been working on that will be previewable soon. He seemed to imply a way to dynamically manage multiple PCs from the internet for the end consumer.

Connected Entertainment was about managing all of your entertainment from one place and viewing/playing it everywhere. Think movies on XBox Live and the Zune - same with games and music. Those examples aren't what he said specifically, but what I took away as possible in the future.

Finally, after more 30,000 foot level talk about where we are going, Scott Guthrie was introduced to talk about "Great User Experiences". This is where the keynote became much more interesting and there was still 2 hours to go!

The four facets of Scott's presentation were:

  • Web

  • Media

  • RIA (Rich Internet/Interactive Applications)

  • Mobile


New technologies for ASP.Net were announced for later in 2008: ASP.Net MVC (Model View Control, AJAX, and Dynamic Data). All to aid in making data driven, rich interactive websites easier to develop. Scott wasn't on long before he brought out Dean Hachamovitch (sp) to talk about Internet Explorer 8. Dean sported a shirt that said eight but the "e" was an internet explorer logo.

After some slightly humorous jokes about how developers cannot count passed three, Dean decided to focus in on eight areas of IE 8 - CSS 2.1 Support, CSS Certification, HTML 5, a few more I don't remember and the more exciting ones (for me since I don't really do web development) were the end user features of IE 8:

  • WebSlices

  • Activities

WebSlices enables Developers via an OpenSpecification format provided by Microsoft to allow the end user to track a "slice" of a website. The real example showed was an eBay auction. Dean, pulled an auction item - for a camera lens - into a web slice and placed this in the toolbar of IE 8. When interacting with the slice, the auction item information for the camera was displayed, in real-time, showing exactly what the eBay site would display.

Next was an example of Facebook used to track the status updates of your friends. Think of it as little pieces of Google Gadgets (or Live Gadgets) that can be added to the IE Application window, except now web developers can add this granular control to pieces of websites themselves. Pretty cool.

The next item was Activities which is sort of like the new contextual panel that shows up when you highlight text in Word. Highlight an address, click the activity button, and boom a map from live maps comes up. Highlight a product name, select the eBay activity and you are quickly looking at any auctions that match. Creating activities is simple for developers to do via another Open Specification that Microsoft has developed. The mapping one alone will save me countless clicks of highlighting an address, copying it, opening a new tab, accessing google maps, and pasting it in. Now the map opens in its own little window, in the context of the current selection - it demo'd quite well and hopefully the real deal is as good.

The last bit was an announcement that IE 8 Beta would be released to the development community.

With that, Scott came back on to show off some more stuff. Notably, Silverlight 2 Beta 1 is available today. Skipping over some info on Adaptive Streaming in Silverlight 2 and also an annoucnement to partner with MoveNetworks ...

... More coming soon. I am off to my first MIX Session! I have pictures and stuff I want to inline into these posts later but I forgot my camera download cable at home so that will have to wait.

Zune Card