Windows Live Writer Beta 2 For Blogging

It now has (amongst other things):

  • Inline spell checking
  • Direct link to blog management web page
  • Direct link to blog stats web page
  • Easier to link to previous posts
  • Can add categories

Those last three work with WordPress at least.

So I’m happy that the features release match many of the ones I was looking for.  Now if it could have an MDI interface…

Check it out.  Note that is not pointing to the new stuff for some reason.


Microsoft Surface: Over-Due, Over-Priced, Over-Done, Over-Hyped, Totally Unavailable

It’s this year’s Origami and years from surfacing.

I’m sorry, but I’m simply not going to get on the wow bandwagon.  I’ve even had an IM debate with a friend already this morning.

The fact is that there really isn’t any NEW innovation in this, where NEW means “wow I had absolutely no idea this could be done today” or “this wasn’t available a year ago”.

I’m a Microsoft fanboy most of the time, but the answer to the following questions are all “no” so I’m just going to find myself bored and at the same time amused at all the hype that’s going to come out of this.

  • Can I have one today?
  • Does it cost the same as a computer + projector + sensors + table or even close?
  • Can I get it the way I want it in terms of colour, size, form factor?
  • Can I use my existing computer with it – like dock my tablet into the side and so just purchase the table/projector/sensor combo and install some software?
  • Does it have an intuitive interface?  Easy to learn yes; immediately intuitive, no – completely breaks UI standards with different apps having different drag semantics.
  • Is this the first time Microsoft has shown this technology?
  • Can I get one this time next year for the same price?
  • Can I get the runtime and build my own?
  • Is there an SDK?
  • Does my credit card or other existing devices work with it directly?
  • Is there a consumer-friendly kit for making my existing devices readable for placement on the surface?
  • Can consumers get one at a reasonable price with three years?

Do I want one today as my coffee table?  YES, if there’s an SDK.


I could play space invaders on a coin-op machine in a pub about two decades ago.  Why did this take so long?  Microsoft admits starting on this in 2001 – why did it take until now?  If anyone is thinking “But… <insert whizzing technology> wasn’t available….”, stop right there and think if you are acting on blustering belief or considered application.  Even on the 1990s space invader table, you could have had useful applications with that level of graphics.  Considering Microsoft did Zune and Xbox so fast, and everyone up to Bill Gates authorised a team, what took so long?!  I’m not saying it could have been done back then, though I could have justified US$10K at that point – more like 2000 perhaps.  Actually, those paying attention know that Bill Gates has shown this kind of technology already, and it was a while ago, so why is everyone acting like bread could only be sliced today?  Calm down!


Apparently these devices will cost $5K to $10K US and the END of 2007?  Why?!  Makes it sound awfully delicate to put one in a restaurant if it costs that much to replace.  Does everything in the furniture market have to be so over-priced and unavailable?


Many people aren’t quite as fixated on technology stuff as some of us, so this all looks so cool, but it has been demo’d prominately by Bill Gates before.  It feels overdone because it has been on the cards for such a long time and this announcement (mostly consisting of consumer experiences) carries zero promise of availability to consumers and an extremely low chance of a consumer getting to interact with one.

It’s not surprising that all the sophisticated demoes are for brands that have the money to invest in these things: casinos and telcos.

Everyone is so into this that they fail to notice that the demos are done by people that have been using it for a long time and have learnt the drag semantics.  The demos are so far baked that they all have their differing ideas for what dragging does and how the UI goes.  WPF can be used to break years of Windows UI consistency, and this new UI is a whole new UI that screaming excitement but hasn’t been given to anyone to really standardise or play with.


Oooo, Ahhhh, so when can even a developer get one at a reasonable price?  Is news really that slow, and everyone really that bored that they think this is really that innovative? 

“How can you say… or not be excited by…” – because I already asked myself the questions above, the first time I saw a Microsoft demo of the technology months ago.  Everyone seems to be acting like a kid in a candy store, but they haven’t yet realised that all the candy is made of promotional cut outs, because someone hasn’t yet finished developing the candy and their pocket money wont be able to afford this kind of candy for quite some time.

If it’s that innovative, then why does it take companies with deep pockets to get it rolling and drive the price down?

So why has it been announced today?  Well, I’d guess it’s probably because it has been incubated for 6 years, and it would almost be embarrasing not to announce something, especially after Bill demo’d it a while ago already, plus the reality that if some money isn’t made back on the work, it will just end up getting dropped or developed at a cheaper cost by a start-up or hobbyist somewhere (if there’s isn’t one already doing it?)

Of course, all hype (good or bad) adds to the discussion, so even if you don’t agree with anything I’ve said, it will create the opportunity for more people to talk about Microsoft Surface (which is currently 1000s of fathoms far from surfacing).  I haven’t included a single link in here, because it’s all over the Web today and it certainly doesn’t need any help from me 🙂

Engadget /verbose

In a previous post I discussed how Engadget appears to be getting more verbose with its posts, making it slower to skim through, and less effecient for obtaining useful information.

This was an observational hunch, until now…

Today, Yuvi has posted a detailed analysis of Engadget from the beginning of Engadget’s existance, and guess what I found…

That’s growing as well. The average number of words per post is now 160, up from just a 100 in May 2004. More words, more posts, more people, more news.

Could that be 60% more verbosity?  Along with an increase of about 25% in the average number of posts per day, that’s twice as much information to read through from when they started, with 37.5%+ of post content being potentially redundant.

Bullet points!

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Don’t go into this POTC movie expecting to see a lot of Jack Sparrow humour, or in fact any of the chaos-driven outlandishness, wit and funny out-smarting/lucking that made for great entertainment in the first two.  There are a few laughs, but a whole load more action this time around.

Expect a swashbuckler of an action movie with lots of complex allegiance switching.  Expect to be totally lost if you have not seen the first two movies or have forgotten most of the plot.

If you put those two paragraphs together, you may like me, be a bit disappointed that you have to watch 2 hours and 48 minutes, waiting for Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) to do something really humourous again, instead of overusing one particular special effect on his character.  On the subject of special effects; it’s very easy to take them for granted in this movie, because none of the main characters have any cool magical attributes so no new crews of supernatural monsters – Caption Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) doesn’t even turn into a skeleton in the moon light anymore and just “arghhh”s a lot when he talks.  No real scary creatures or a spector of supernatural mystery.  The one big character reveal isn’t very well hidden.

Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) wins on character acting.  Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) was a wasted character as were the other pirate lords – they served as follow-on obedient merry-go-round stereotype humour figures.  Keith Richards‘ involvement was over-hyped.  There’s just one line in the movie that confirms his connection to Jack Sparrow, though you’d have had to miss a lot of TV to not know what the connection is.

If you blink, you will miss some of the single lines that explain the plot (which can be hard amongst all the sound effects), that is, if you even care about keeping track of it by the second hour rather than just watching the action.  With a movie this long (are typically shot out of order) isn’t not surprising that the love tale between Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) held little magic until the end – and be sure to wait until the end of the credits. 

There’s one character from the previous movies that does die in a last minute heroic way.

This review is probably as much relatively longer than other reviews I’ve done, as the movie was, compared to what it could have been (and that sentence was probably just a little less complex than the movie plot), and I’ve picked out quite a few of what I believe to be disappointments in the movie.  However, I’m waiting for CNN to post the movie earning for the weekend (a long weekend in the US) to see if it’s beaten any of Spidey 3’s recent records.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

UPDATE: According to CNN, it broke the US Memorial Day weekend record, but not the Spidey 3 record.

Despite all I’ve said, this was a highly anticipated movie, likely appearling to a wider audience and it did deliver high entertainment/action value for money.  It is a Jerry Bruckheimer movie with the all-out intensity and heroes-win(ish)-by-incredulity finale that you’d expect – though not quite dumb enough luck to make it Jack-Sparrow-amusing.

Movie Review: Shrek The Third

Shrek the Third is not surprisingly the third of the Shrek movies.

It has plenty of gags and is reasonably entertaining, however (as with many 3rd movies) it’s lacking in a few ways:

  • There really aren’t any new characters worth speaking of.  Fortunately it’s easy to not notice that it is Justin Timerlake playing the main additional character.
  • The old characters are getting a little weary and Mike Myers sounds very despondant throughout most of the movie, and the reason for the fear his character gets, is not really explained.  The finale is lackluster compared to previous endings.
  • The fairy god mother is not in this movie and her son makes an insubstantial villan.
  • A lot of the gags were shown in the previews.  The best scene for me is still the one where Pinocchio is trying not to lie.  This was shown in early previews, but was fortunately held out of more recent ones.

A reasonable end to a now tired trilogy.

2 months and 80 entries of Blog fun…

Having been a blog reader for a few years, in the industry for 15 years, and a developer for 25 years, I finally decided to jump in to blogging 2 months ago.  This is my 80th post – woohoo.

A few things I’ve learnt in that 80 days…

1 If you want people to find your blog by searching with IT terms:

  • Post about the news at a specific event
  • Post several posts about the subject over the course of the day – and of course make them useful – this seems to be a good way to stay fresh on something like Technorati
  • Post a summary of highlights as soon as you can, aswell at the end of the event, including links to other people that have written about the event
  • Be sure to use a variety of tags
  • In each post for the day, put the link to your posts with that tag (or to your blog) to encourage readers to read your other posts (which will provide them access to posts you have not yet even written at that point!)
  • Posting from lunch time ET to early evening PT seems to get the most traction
  • Post in the comments of other people who are talking about the event – don’t be shy about including explit URLs if you have written something useful

2 Mutual linking is appreciated by practically everyone.  Referral tacking is bloody useful.

3 Use a rich desktop tool to blog, rather than a web interface which is usually contraining to some extent.

4 Reply to comments.  It is a pity that there’s no good unversal way to be notified of specific replies to one’s comments in the blogosphere.

5 Keep a ‘notepad’ of blogging ideas, because they can be easy to forget and it’s easy to run dry of ideas sometimes.

So with that said, here are some of the posts I’m thinking about soon:

  • The hidden cool kernel features of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008
  • Microsoft’s Universal Communication platform and gadgets
  • Does outsourcing to India work?
  • Popfly alpha review (now that I have a login)
  • If there’s something you’d like me to (attempt to) do a post on, put a comment on this post, and I’ll give it some thought.

WinHEC: Microsoft’s last 32-bit Server – 64-bit only from now on…

A WinHEC this week, Microsoft (confusingly at times) made comments about the future of 32-bit operating systems.

It seems that Windows Server 2008 (previously code-named “Longhorn”) will be the last server OS to come in 32-bit editions (as well as the new 64-bit editions).  In fact, even the R2 (due 2009/2010) may be 64-bit only.

There was some confusion over an announcement that made it sound like Vista will be the last 32-bit OS for the desktop, but this was apparently clarified – they were not saying that.  That doesn’t mean it wont happen of course…

Many desktop computers bought in the last year or two may actually be 64-bit capable, but still have the 32-bit edition of XP or Vista on them, but even 4 years from now, introducing a new OS that wont run on 32-bit machines bought today would likely be a mistake, especially since so many drivers aren’t available for 64-bit.  The average developer –  the early adopting supporter and promoter – can’t be relied upon to promote 64-bit since many developer tools aren’t natively supported.

Anyway, back to servers…

Unless you’re a financial, insurance or communications company rich in cash, a change to 64-bit servers is the kind of change you may consider at the end of a leasing period, so it may take 3 years for adoption to trickle through.

The switch to 64-bit will likely occur an a role-priority basis, probably with mail and database servers first: Exchange Server 2007 already requires a 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2003.  I’m curious to learn if this has stalled take-up of the product.  This also doesn’t help customer-adoption of Microsoft’s Unified Communication strategy I imagine (see my upcoming post on that). 

I can see domain controllers moving up last unless an organisation can make significant WAN-based Active Directory replication gains to be made from the new features in 2008.

Windows Server 2008 also does away with separate builds for single and multi-processor.  Apparently the optimisations for single processor aren’t worth it anymore.

Going 64-bit, breaks the 4GB directly addressable space barrier.  The need to go 64-bit can also be simply related to the population of the planet (which is estimated at over 6 billion, over the 4 billion that 32-bits can represent), pushing the need for larger databases and identifiers.  The same can be said about IPv4 addresses (and they can’t even use the whole range).

If you are thinking about buying new server equipment this year, you may want to think about at least getting 64-bit capable machines.

Microsoft’s Mobile World Strategy at WinHEC

In his WinHEC keynote (at 07:00), Craig Mundie (Microsoft’s Cheif Research and Strategy Officer) talked about the fact that in ‘ermerging market’ countries, the main computer that millions do have, is a mobile phone.

He showed a video of a Windows Mobile phone playing audio and allowing illiterate individuals to seek services through icon choices, e.g. getting help dealing with a child’s medical symptoms.

Note that he talked about ’emerging market’ countries, rather than ‘developing’ countries, but I still don’t think it’s realistic to think that hoardes of people can afford a Windows Mobile phone but are still illiterate, so goverment or remote funding would likely be required.  In fact, he illustrated (with a pyramid) a view of the richest 1 billion people (that have computers), the 2 billion that has limited disposable incoming, and the 3 billion that do need government or agency sponsored programs, all under the umbrella of something called “Microsoft Unlimited Potential” (complete with local and slogan).

Craig’s keynote was quite dry and there wasn’t really anything too novel or far future-looking from Microsoft Research; in fact the first half of his speech was mostly about application and strategy.

While there was talk about medical assistance for other markets, this keynote really seemed like Microsoft airing it’s idea for how it can get to the 2 billion (who largely have mobile phones that are not Windows-based, but were having an interoperable Windows-based device could bring new activities) and the 3 billion where perhaps medical needs could justify getting a Windows-based phone in were there is still the opportunity to compete from a fresh start.

Remember, while this may sound like a cynical view, Microsoft is a publically traded company looking to increase stock price which often means growing its market reach, and Craig is the Strategy guy.  While it would have made for a cooler keynote, we aren’t ready for Windows SpaceCraft edition yet, especially when it’s proving so hard for Microsoft to penetrate into the automobile market (but I wish they would).

UMPC and Tablet PC mobile goodness at WinHEC

For some reason, whenever Microsoft launches a new wave of non-PC form factors, it’s websites do a terrible job of pointing to the available hardware and how to buy one.  The sites are seldom updated with the latest hardware as it’s released.

Take for example Pocket PC Phone devices.  Go to Microsoft browsing site.  If you live in the US, you are immediately limited, largely because you are presented with what the carriers carry.  I buy most of mine through Expansys which can get me pretty much any device from Europe (where there’s always more choice) and yet the Microsoft sites seem to dutifully segment customers in a way that effectively limits choice to the uninformed.  HTC isn’t listed as a brand, and yet not only are they the original manufacturer for a huge proportion of carrier-badged Windows Mobile device, but they do sell their own brand – browse for HTC at Expansys and pick the appropriate country.

Back to the UMPC.  Take a look at the Microsoft UMPC site – click on the Hardware link at the bottom of the left-hand list.  You get to see just two devices and they are from the earlier round!

So here are some of the new devices that Bill Gates showed during the WinHEC keynote – see around 11:40 (video) and 13:00 (on stage) into his keynote video)

  • Fujitsu FMV-U8240
  • HTC Shift
  • Samsung Q1 Ultra (which is a horrible name since the previous one was just the Samsung Q1 and Ultra is the first world of UMPC so you’ll likely see the old model mixed into the results if you search for the new model)

These devices have varying availability.  On the surface, I’m inclined to look at the Shift because of the keyboard versatility and I’ve had plenty of HTC devices.  I also have a Fujitsu Tablet PC however, and that’s lasted quite nicely.  The Samsung Q1 was not cheap and I’m not sure about the split thumbing keypad – althrough it may actually be the most practical.  Having HSPDA built in, may also be a great plus.

You’ll probably want to consider things like:

  • Does it run Vista Aero?
  • Does it have built in 3/3.5G?
  • What Wifi spec does it have?
  • How long does the battery last?
  • How big is the screen and what resolution is it?

Bear in mind that none of these devices is likely to be that much cheaper than a regular notebook.

A number of new Tablet PCs were also shown on stage and in video.  I recall seeing the Gateway E-155c and E-295c.  There was also an official-sounding video from Dell posted yesterday to confirm rumours that they will have a Tablet PC coming later this year (but no specs). 

In a new Tablet PC I’m looking for these things (in no particular order):

  • Windows Vista with Aero
  • Convertible
  • Windows SideShow (which may be difficult wiring-wise with the convertible hinge)Widescreen
  • LED-backlit
  • Windows ReadyDrive-capable HDD
  • 6+ hours of battery life with standby swap capability
  • Pen and touch interface

I’m beginning to wonder if a UMPC would do it for me at home, rather than a full-blown tablet.

Tablet PC needs to push into the mainstream such that all notebooks at least have the pen and touch digitizers (and the stylus) – this isn’t as easy as it sounds though.

UMPC seems to be stepping up with specs, but battery life and price is still not there on the 2nd generation.  I think they do make a great round-the-house ad-hoc computer with the full power of Windows.