Windows Live Writer for blogging

I’m giving Live Writer (beta) a go right now to create entries on my WordPress account.

The immediate upsides observed:

  • Much better editor – just having more space feels better
  • Spelling checking
  • Quicker to launch
  • Inserting a link is much easier
  • Has some extensibility

The immediate downsides observed:

  • Can’t add more categories directly
  • Not MDI so each New brings up a new window
  • Inserting a link still requires me to type or paste in the link – it would be better if it launches a small browser window (optionally) that it would take the link from

It would be good if I could also directly link to the stats and comments pages or have that in the UI.  I haven’t looked at the extensibility yet, but I probably will if I stay comfortable in the UI.

Microsoft Zune Announcement Coming Today…

According to Engadget there will be some kind of Zune announcement today.

I have one.  It lives in its box.  I had business reasons for getting one (and the accessories) which I haven’t had time to dig into yet – the lack of an SDK plays into that.

Let’s see what happens later 🙂

UPDATE:  The rumours are that a meeting occured, but nothing seems to have been announced and it’s now 20:40 in Washington…  There’s a lot of rumours about a Zune 2.0 device or a flash-memory-based device.  Whatever it is, it would that adding Silverlight 1.1 would be a killer move – it would mean the ability to create games and RIA (through a proper wifi connection) on the device; being able to do that on a 1.0 device would be a fantastic move but I don’t know if the processor or flash-rom size is up to it.  Some kind of SDK could do a lot to rally developer support.

Silverlight: oh yes it is; oh no it isn’t – a Flash competitor

There’s a lot of denial both from Microsoft and others about Silverlight being a Flash-competitor.

I’ve been watching the session videos from sessions.visitmix.com in the last few days. In one of the videos they show a survey that Microsoft commissioned that very specifically asked about future usage of Silverlight vs. Flash. The presenter made various comments about Flash TCO being much higher, etc.

I think it would very naive to think that Microsoft was not targeting upcoming designers and existing designers. The fact that Expression is pushed out now with XAML support (with a 2.0 version already in preview) ahead of XAML support in Visual Studio says a lot.

Movie Review: Spiderman 3

It’s 01:30, and I just got back from watching the 10:30 show of Spiderman 3.

Here are my no-plot-spoiler (though it’s hard not to know the plot if you’ve seen all the entertainment shows fighting for their 10 second exclusives) comments:

  • Plenty of action
  • Scary bits that warrant the PG (or 12A in UK)
  • Sam Raimi still can’t pace romance scenes (and they make crappy endings for these movies) – the audience giggled or groaned in all the emotional pieces, but what the hell – it’s an action/comic movie – at least there’s plenty of action padding it
  • Tobey Maguire grinned far too much for contrast effect in the first part of the movie, but he still fits the part well and did show more versatility
  • For all the money spent, some of the tumbling scenes had poor lighting on the computer graphics such that the characters didn’t blend in correctly
  • J K Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson got the best laughs though the last Chris Tucker line in the trailer for Rush Hour 3 got a far better audience laugh
  • The movie could have been shorter
  • Don’t expect true-to-comic storylines
  • If there’s a forth one then make it an original bad guy (not from the comics); bring in a fresh director, no matter what Kirsten (at least I wasn’t grinning all the time) Dunst said in an interview; spidey could do with a better love-interest; in fact let’s lose the Joey Potter/Lana Lang efforts shall we?
  • Keep Tobey Maguire for financial and character continunity reasons; make him cockier still but not a grinning idiot
  • It was still a good spidey movie

Make cash from your Silverlight work with ad revenue share

In the Scott Guthrie video interview by Robert Scoble for PodTech, Scott very specifically says that there will be an ad revenue share opportunity for those using Silverlight through the currently free (with limit) and in beta Silverlight Streaming service.

Those making compelling and original casual gaming experiences may find this a great way to go.

I wonder what kind of control will be offered on the kind of advertising offered.

Many Silverlight opportunities – a good problem to have?

Scott Guthrie mentioned is his recent video interview with Robert Scoble for PodTech, that having many Silverlight opportunities, is a good problem to have.

I’d like to briefly examine whether that’s really true with a few questions:
How many really differentiatable opportunities are there really?

  • Doing another YouTube but with Silverlight doesn’t seem like a viable opportunity
  • Perhaps doing casual gaming – which really requires original gaming to be exclusive to Silverlight for a while
  • There’s rich ebook or ecomic reading of course
  • And there’s widgets in general and the market that could be created for re-use in other sites
  • I wonder if Silverlight stuff will make it into Windows Sidebar gadgets
  • Perhaps Silverlight opportunities are more to do with spreading rather than original concepts or content

Are the ways to use the technology somewhat overwhelming?
With so many languages on offer, and many people still learning about WPF, there’s almost a mental breakdown with the excitement. It’s a technology without an application – without clear thinking it make be difficult to find a real value adding application, so perhaps it’s just easiest to go with something fun to begin with. I haven’t looked at the documentation yet, but I can tell you that some of the .NET 3.0 documentation had some really bad errors in it.

Is the technology available to even enable the opportunities?
In the interview Scott casually and repeatedly uses phrases like “we shipped”. Well actually Scott, you “announced” technologies, and you “delivered” alpha and beta bits, and you gave no timetable for for 1.1 – possibly because that would give away the launch timeframe for Visual Studio Orcas too. Even with go-live licenses, seriously stable and commercial ventures may struggle surface due to the fear on relying on Microsoft deliverables, especially up to a xmas season. So I wouldn’t call it a good problem, more of a frustrating one that makes it difficult to make business investment decisions around.

I’m saying that cool doesn’t necessarily equal good business opportunities, and even if it does, there’s an overwhelming scramble to pick a direction. Nevertheless, there are still cool things about the technology and my thoughts on the underlying Microsoft domination strategy (even if it’s a win-win for many).

Blinded by Silverlight – the real technology/strategy reveal at Mix07

The about page on the mix website stated:

Exciting new Web experiences with the still-secret “Technology X”

WPF/E and its new branding of Silverlight were announced before the conference, so this secret had to be something else. Silverlight 1.0 is what we already knew. Let’s not underestimate it though – it brings all the XAML/WPF whizzy stuff that is the Flash competitor in 1.0 – it allows a lot of Flash ActionScript type developers and other javascript fans to do cool stuff and consider Microsoft.

The technology in Silverlight 1.1 was in fact the secret (as Microsoft has confirmed) – a full .NET engine (with a subset of the 3.5 .NET framework) embedded allowing all the .NET languages (and dev tools) to run cross-platform in a browser. The dynamic language runtime part also enables 4 scriptable languages to work in there along with C# and VB.NET.

But this, I believe, is just the start of a potentially brilliant strategy for Microsoft, as I’ll now explain.

Bringing .NET (and scriptable .NET) to multiple browsers and multiple operating systems is a huge deal. It really does mean that all the investments that people have made in .NET, can be leveraged in many many ways. There’s a reason that 1.1 is 4.24MB compared to the 1.34MB for 1.0. That’s an army many times bigger than ActionScripters with Expression tools providing a way to use existing Designer talents with WPF/Silverlight. Finding ActionScripters for projects is VERY hard – you can more easily find people that can do VB.NET, C#, JavaScript, not to mention being able to use people that can do IronPython or IronRuby – that’s 6 times more languages that can be used!

Silverlight 1.1 is really the hosting of this stuff in a browser with the VC1/media decoding. So if Silverlight is thought of as a subset of .NET 3.5 in a browser that brings Microsoft technology and tools to many browser and platforms (that’s going from windows apps into cross-everything in a browser) – a bridge to other platforms if you will, what happens if you reverse that once you’ve bridged the platform/browser gap, i.e. just have a plain executable application host on a Mac, Linux, etc, even without re-inflating the framework? Now you can potentially develop on Windows in .NET to create full (rich and connected enough) applications on the Mac and Linux (once this runtime is ported to that). You can even do the development on a Mac in a text editor (including in a browser as demo’d).

Microsoft is all about selling copies of Windows (and Office). If you can’t keep Mac and Linux away, then the next best thing is to bring Windows onto Mac and Linux. However, you can’t sell a Windows licenses that way, but you can get people to use technology that easily hooks up to Windows Live or MSN services that you do get revenue from!!!

So the real technology/strategy that I see Microsoft following:

  • Phase 1 – win over Adobe/Flash developers with SilverLight 1.0, bring Microsoft technology to the Mac and make Microsoft look cool. Provide Expression tools to bring the designers across since often there’s a lot of graphics with a small amount of scripting, vs. the other way around.
  • Phase 2 – bridge the divide by bringing .NET development onto Mac and Linux platforms with an army of existing developers that smothers ActionScripters, enabling users to become Windows Live services users – you did notice that Microsoft is ‘opening up’ their Live service APIs right?
  • Phase 2.5 – All those people that like non-Microsoft languages that were stuck on the server (and often, not a Microsoft server) – get them to love Microsoft now that their favourite dynamic scriptable language can now be used to build _client_ applications on multiple platforms…
  • Phase 3 – once across the bridge (cross-browser leads to true cross-platform), expand the hosting to enable rich .NET installed application development on other platforms making Microsoft technology and Windows Live services an indispensible part of the Mac and Linux experience too!

It’s bold, trojan-esque and both developers and users will lap it up.

If this isn’t the strategy, then it should be!

Silverlight WAS the whole keynote practically, and there’s been coverage of very little else (except about DLR) out of Mix. Nothing about Xbox-Windows links for Xbox Live from Robbie Bach (just a snooze-athon discussion and some iffy demos). Nothing about Live ID CardSpace cards or opening up Live ID to web site publishers like Passport.

This technology is the sleeper slow-release hit of Mix07. They didn’t even officially say this was the secret Technology X listed on the about page.

If what I’ve said is Ray Ozzie’s undeclared strategy, then he is indeed doing a fantastic job (despite his apparent lack of blogging and public comments). If it wasn’t his strategy then either he should make it the strategy or let it just fall into place as I believe it will – either way he’ll look like a genius…

We are living in a Microsoft world again…

Be sure to check out my other mix07 coverage.

New Microsoft CLR/DLR celebrities are born in Jim Hugunin & John Lam

For those watching Channel 9 in the last year you’ll likely be familiar with Anders Hejlsberg, the C# language guru (as well as being the nicer than pie and clever as hell Danish import) who has been seen explaining LINQ and related language technologies.

At Mix07, Jim Hugunin will most likely be receiving lots of hugs from developers for his work on, and demonstration of, the Dynamic Language Runtime – extension to the core DLR to allow for C#, VB.NET, IronPython, IronRuby, JavaScript and VBx to all work as scripting languages calling each other and running on .NET. Keep up to date with the latest DLR announcement on his blog. I’ll just forget that he’s a Python guy ;).

His collague, John Lam (Ruby guy) has a Channel 9 video about this stuff.

The two of them did a great session a Mix07 which was recorded.

Silverlight reveals Visual Basic 10 or VBx – going dynamic

The poster for Silverlight mentions support for VB.net and a language called VBx.

VBx stands for VB10 as it turns out, and it will become a dynamic language that you can script with and will run anywhere that the new Dynamic Language Runtime will run, say on a Mac as well as Windows. The bad news (which is predictable these days) is that it’s not in the Silverlight 1.1 alpha, and is planned to be in a Visual Studio release after Orcas, so it’s ‘just’ VB.NET and C# support for 1.1, although there may be the new .NET DLR-integrated/interoperable versions of JavaScript, IronRuby and IronPython in there. In Silverlight, all these languages act as the control logic for WPF-subset UI.

Get the the more official details.

Check out this Mix07 session that includes a demo of VBx from about 21:30, building using a text editor on a Mac.