Yes, the BBC got my attention with that headline too. Here's the official press release. This is the launch of XNA Framework, a custom implementation of the .NET Compact Framework for game development.
Dan Fernadez has a great summary and a great collection of links on his blog. The talk is all about C# express, there is a tantalizing comment that "Since the XNA Framework is a set of managed code libraries, you can use any managed .NET Framework language." ... It opens up the rather odd possibility that you can write for the X-box in CoBOL ????
It seems like today might be a day of links, so here's a Bonus Link: After trying out VB express with some enthusiasm, I was going to write about about how it's a great time for the hobbyist programmer - but Dan's written that one too.
Tagged as Microsoft Xbox XNA
Several of my recent blog posts have been made with a new Microsoft tool. Writer is branded as part of Windows live but it supports a range of blogging plaforms. It is can't do as much as Word 2007 with the blog post template and there are times times when I prefer to use an all purpose tool (like word). There are also times when something simpler and designed for the task seems more elegant. And that's the niche writer fills.
If you keep a blog of your own, check it out
Tagged as Microsoft Windows writer
Back when beta 2 came out I read Scot Finnie's article on ComputerWorld "20 things you won't like about Windows Vista ". I was shocked: with a whole new operating system to aim at he came up with 20 really lame things. I took it as a sign that we'd done really well when 5th place went to "Faulty assumption on the Start Menu.". I don't normally single out people for whining and sarcasm but this stuck in my memory.
In its supreme state of being, Microsoft knows precisely what's best for you. It knows that because its well-implemented new Sleep mode uses very little electricity and also takes only two or three seconds to either shut down or restart, you want to use this mode to "turn off" your computer, whether you realize it or not. It wants to teach you about what's best. It wants to make it harder for you to make a mistake. That's why it crafted the Shutdown area at the lower right-hand corner of the Start menu to make the large red Sleep button and the large blue Lock buttons very prominent. Meanwhile, the button that offers a pop-up menu with options like Switch User, Log Off, Restart and Shutdown is a teeny-tiny little arrow hanging off the edge of the Start menu. They know you'll find it there, but they're making it just a little harder for you to access by making the surface area so small that it's harder to click. So long as Microsoft gets you to do what it wants you to do, it doesn't matter that it's torturing the user experience in the process.
I like to have the power button hibernate the machine, and have it go to sleep if I just close the lid, but with my recent update I found they were both doing the same thing. It took a moment to find it under, Power options in control panel, and click change plan settings, then Change Advanced Power Settings,
you can change a whole range of settings, including changing the default on the start menu. This can be controlled using group policy like the other power settings. If you don't like the default in the beta then give us feedback. If you don't like the default when we ship, now you know what to do to change it.
Tagged as Microsoft Windows Vista
Eileen wrote Recently "Companies are still in the dark about Real Time Communications, some people view it as a waste of time and an invasion into their work time. "
You can get a 14 day free trial of live meeting and this video shows where we're going with RTC - personally I can't wait for roundtable..
I've averaged an intercontintal flight every 6 weeks for the last year and half. Most of that was when I worked in MCS and my time was billed out at £200 per hour. Between the departure terminal and the flight I might use my laptop for 10 hours on a flight; I've answered key mails from my phone while waiting to board the aircraft. Deny me those, and the cost of lost work runs into thousands is more than the price of the air ticket.
Microsft travel advice says "There is a significant risk checked laptops without special transport cases will be damaged in transit". The big suitcase that came with me on my last trip bears scars from baggage handling staff - and I fly mostly from the airport known as Theifrow. If my laptop or Cameras have to go in the hold that makes a stressful process worse. And I can't even put my headphones on and escape into my own private bubble.
I hope things get back to normal soon, because I sure don't want to fly as things are.
Update: August 16th, things are moving back towards sanity and laptops are allowed on planes again. But British Airways alone thinks it has lost 10,000 bags some containing people's car and house keys. Half of which have been reunited with their owners. How many laptops an cameras are missing presumed stolen (and uninsured) is anyone's guess.
I mentioned a few days ago that the Windows Media Player in Vista no-longer supports my smartphone. Here is the response I got back from the product team
The [driver on the phone had ] “legacy” mode for versions of CE WMP older than [wmp10] and up-to-date syncable capabilities for versions [wmp10] and later. We had to abandon legacy device drivers due to ongoing incompatibilities and lack of support from the manufacturers of other devices which used this driver model... ... we’re sorry about the timing, several contacts with various vendors needed to be completed, which kept us from completing this work prior to beta 2.
I know there was an update available from Orange to move the C500 from WMP 9 to WMP10. Looks like if I'm going to keep the phone for any length of time I'm going have to get that installed. Of course I'm hoping for an upgrade (which will, no doubt kick of a bunch of upgrades). But I'm not holding my breath.
I also mentioned the issue with Scheduling and defrag I said there that the fix was to change the scheduling options, I've heard back from the product team are lookin at having a scheduled defrag "back off" if it notices user activity which is a smarter thing to do. We'll have to wait and see if that is what finally happens.
I mentioned recently that Windows Vista has some new features in Task Manager, and showed the resource manager tool. Task manager has some extra columns which it can show, one of which is the command line used to start an application.
I've also mentioned the eccentric behaviour of the screen drivers for the my Toshiba. This means that I have to go to display settings rather more often than I would like, and it's more clicks to get there than it was with XP. I happened to have task manager open displaying the command lines when I opened display settings, and saw that I was running "C:\Windows\System32\rundll32.exe shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL desk.cpl,settings,@settings" A-HA ! I thought, I'll copy that into a short cut (sadly there's no cut and paste, and found out the hardway that the parameters are case sensitive). I also mentioned that the Quick launch toolbar automatically provides short cut kets, so now [Window]& gives me display settings.
A few oddments that I wanted to blog: technical content, it will resume shortly.
(1) Spam (occasionally) works. I posted in how not to be read things you should do to make sure people don't read you. I don't think the person who mailed me a link to a marine life video had read that, but choosing a targeted alias and giving two sentences explanation of the campaign for more marine reserves in UK meant I watched the video, signed the petition and passed the message on.
(2) You can learn from places you'd never expect. Back in 2004 "Belle De Jour - the diary of a London Call Girl" won the Guardian Newspaper's blog of the year award. Belle's mixture of poetic phrasing and sex won her a book deal but her identity remains a closely guarded secret. I'm might be sailing close to the wind by linking to or even mentioning a whore's blog, but this recent post of hers is great potted guide to the human side of security.
(3) Some people may never get "new media". One of my favorite lines for the TV series "Yes, Prime Minister" was when talking about some issue or other the Prime Minister says "This could be my Falkland Islands !" and his chief civil servant, Sir Humphry replies "Yes, Prime Minister. And you could be General Galtieri" I always think of this when I watch daft battles unfold on the Internet. And Microsoft is not immune to getting involved in these. Somehow in the "Mike Rowe soft" case we managed to come out ahead, but we didn't deserve to. But here are 3 examples of people who've come off worse.
Shortly after I started this job, it clicked that people want to do business with organizations they feel some connection with. That's part of what blogging at Microsoft is about. Then I read the "warren-kremer-paino Vs the Maine Blogger" story. I'd never heard of US advertising agency Warren Kremer Paino, but the precis was they moved to sue a blogger called Lance Dutson because they didn't like his take on their work for the state of Maine; dozens of bloggers from Scoble downwards got involved in the story, which ended with them backing down. Any prospective customer who searches for them now will find a host of negative items. It doesn't help people feel a sense of connection.
Last week I heard the story of Yell.com vs Yellow Wikis. The BBC reported lawyers acting for Yell threatened Wiki site saying it was "plainly purporting to be associated with our client" and that the firm's intellectual property was under threat". To most viewers Yell and the Yellow wikis appear to have nothing in common apart from providing listings and the colour yellow. No one pointed out to Yell that looking like a bully is bad for business - people don't want to connect with you, and that's worse than the existance of another yellow site.
Latest to point the PR pistol at their own foot is one Gina Ford. Ms Ford's lawyers wrote to the site Mumsnet beginning "We act for Ms Gina Ford, the world famous author and expert on baby care." which suggests that she takes her self pretty seriously. But reading that she objects to 'a posting timed at 12:36:34 on 21st July 2006, attributed to ‘morningpaper’, [which] says our client “straps babies to rockets and fires them into south Lebanon” - it seems to me such an accusation is so outlandish that it must be beyond the scope of defamation.
My solicitors wouldn't call me "World Famous" but I know a bit about the Internet, and I'll offer Gina Ford some advice, expert to expert. Working for Microsoft I know what Warren Kremer Paino should have known, and if you're quick you'll learn. When your work is out in the open people will criticize - whether the work is software, advertisements or a book. Not all criticism is fair, or justified, or accurate, and some is just plain nasty. The fair needs be accepted gracefully, the inaccurate needs a response and the nasty needs to be ignored. Ms Ford may have hired top legal experts, but the best advice have been "Go home, look at your royalty figures and forget all about it", win or lose or withdraw, legal action will damage you. If you win and close down a site where people dislike you, more people will dislike you and they will find somewhere to say so. There is a old saying. "The Internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it", you can't control what's said about you, Gina, and you need to understand what happens if you try: look at what people have are posted to your book reviews on Amazon this week , the Video BBC is posting about you or ITV (under the headline Baby Guru's Web Tantrum), or The Telegraph or Daily Mail (similar headline to ITVwill you sue them ?) do an ego-search on yourself on technorati (or Windows Live news, or Google news) and see what people are saying about you or about the story .
THERE IS A MESSAGE HERE: "treats censorship as damage and routes around it" was the 1980s and 1990s. WEB 2.0 recognizes an attack and fights back.
Oh, and the other message here. When a story about you is turning into a train wreck, don't let people read in The Times [THE TIMES !] that "Neither Ms Ford, her lawyers nor her publisher, Random House, returned e-mails or calls seeking comment."
Update This link has some very good legal information on the story, and links through to the latest from mumsnet which contains an appology from the "Rockets to Lebanon" poster which had me crying with laughter.
Tagged as Free Speech mumsnet Gina Ford Censorship
One of the things I tried ages ago was pressing the Window key and each other key on the keyboard. Call me strange if you like.
Under build 5472 of Vista on my Toshiba I got clumsy and hit [Window] [Pause] (they're next to each other). It opens the Windows system-properties dialog. That got me to experiment with some other combinations. [Window]  , [Window]  , [Window]  , etc open the first, second, third items on the Windows quick launch toolbar.
Now I've got to go back to XP and see if it was there all along.
The fact that Eileen has just blogged about something very similar shows the serendipity fairy has been busy again.
I clean forgot to blog about this on my return from tech-ready. I blame the jetlag...
Last year I helped with the work around the release of the Live Communications Server Exam - I mentioned this exam a while back, and thankfully I passed the beta so I've reached a total of 40 MCP exams, all passed first time. I picked up an award from the LCS product group while I was out there which was a nice surprise. I also picked up 10 Vouchers for the Exam to give away to people in Europe, Middle East and Africa. If you're in Asia, Pacific or the Americas sorry, but I hope to have news of people doing the same thing in your areas soon.
The Vouchers are valid worldwide, for Prometric or Vue, are valid until May 2007 but won't work with any other exam. There are two steps to get one.
For fun, mail me a copy of your LCS exam score whether you use the voucher or not. I've got a range of LCS goodies, and on the last day of September I'll draw send something to the highest scorer and another to the one drawn at random. Entries from Europe, Middle East and Africa only please (and no Microsoft internal people), send them to James O'Neill, Microsoft Campus, Thames Valley Park, Reading, RG6 1WG - United Kingdom.
Tagged as Microsoft
Live Communications Server
One of the things that is new to Windows Vista is the Scheduling service. Out has gone the old AT service and in has a come a new Task engine with more features than you can shake a stick at.
In the current Beta builds of Vista there are still a few things we need to get right as I found out this morning. I mentioned resource monitor last week. I also mentioned the eccentricities of my Toshiba M3 and its screen driver - one of which is its tendency not to turn the screen back on when resuming from sleep, forcing me to use Hibernate for the time being. The Toshiba has what I refer to as an audible processor utilization indicator - otherwise known as a variable speed fan which responds to the processor speed. This morning, the fan sounded like a jet aircraft, and everything in Windows was sluggish - with my disk light stuck on. So I headed over to resource monitor to try to find out what was happening. A process named DfrgNtfs.exe had a huge and climbing number of read and write operations against its name, and was had the highest average CPU use of anything on the system. Hmmm. My disk was defragging - on a Monday morning.
One thing I miss in Vista is the information you get while running a manual disk defrag. Gone is the "technicolor barcode" of Windows XP and you get no information while the process is running. The reason for this is that defrag now runs as scheduled task. This is a Good Thing. But why was mine running at 9:00 on a Monday morning ? I needed to look at the task.
It became pretty obvious what was happening. I said the task engine has more features than you can shake a stick at, and these are spread over 6 tabs. General gives the task a name, the account it should run under, and says whether a user has to be logged on for it to run. History gives entries in the event log about this task. Triggers says when the task runs, when a user logs on, when the machine boots, when the machine goes idle, when the remote or local user connects or disconnects, when the machine is locked or unlocked, when a specific event is written to the event log, or on a timer. Defrag is set to run on a timer weekly at 1:00 AM every Monday. At 1:00 AM this morning my computer was in a hibernated state. Actions, specifies the program to run, e-mail to send, or message to display. Conditions tells the task if it can wake the computer up to run Settings specifies if a task is run after missing its start time, when to kill it if it takes to long, and if it should be restarted if it fails. Defrag does start if it misses it's scheduled time
So: 1:00AM Monday passed with the system hibernated, and the next chance it got the task scheduler launched the task; the net effect is that if your system is shut down or hibernated over the weekend, performance on Monday morning is going to suffer. I think, the optimum settings are to run defrag Every night, and to wake from sleep to run it, but not to run it if the scheduled time is missed - because when you start your PC you want to work on it.
Some complaints about Microsoft are valid, Some aren't.
Anyone can get Microsoft Beta software. Developer ? Sign up for MSDN. IT Pro ? Sign up for TechNet. The new TechNet direct is a bargain. It gives you all the software and information you need for less than cost of two support incidents, and then throws in two free support Incidents.
The Windows team had a budget for distributing Windows Vista betas. There was a fixed number of "open" downloads and after that they turned the tap off. With an OS you want people to test it on a wide range of hardware and you make it available to testers years ahead of schedule. I ran Windows "Chicago" from mid 1994 before it was called Windows 95. At that time I was running a small Microsoft partner company, we got MSDN, Technet, partner mailings, training mailings. What we didn't get was an early look at office 95.
Times move on. The Office 2007 team wanted 500,000 downloads of office. They didn't turn the tap off. They kept going. They got 3 Million downloads - that's about one Peta-byte of transfers, which takes serious hosting and bandwidth. Did they stop then ? No, they said for a nominal charge people can still download it. And people complained. Next time guys, turn the tap off.
But here's a promise, if anyone can give me valid reasons why
Tagged as Microsoft Office 2007
One of the best sessions I went to at Tech-Ready last week was one which didn't deliver what it advertised. Billed as "Anti-Malware technologies in Windows Vista" it morphed into a tour of what we we're doing in this area. What surprised me was that I couldn't have mapped out all of the following ... What is the difference between Defender the Malicious software removal tool (I have to hyphenate that, so it is clear whether it is the tool or the software which is Malicious.)
Here is a Summary which I hope you'll find useful - the products, how they are distributed, whether they are real-time or after the fact, what they act against.
Tagged as Microsoft Malware
Like Darren I've updated from to build 5472 of Windows Vista and I've also updated to the "Tech Refresh" build of office 2007. These interim builds can be "two steps forward, one step back" - 5456 was faster than the Beta 2 build (5384) but some things that had worked before were broken.
5472 is showing more speed still, some little improvements in fit and finish (polish to Icons, new screen saver, some wrong fonts fixed. The implementation of Info-cards has become Windows CardSpace , Windows Collaboration is now Windows Meeting Space ). And some of the things that broke between 5384 and 5456 are working again.
Working, then Broken then Fixed,
On that last point try the following to see if you're affected. Start the Resource Monitor - either from the performance tab in Task manager, or from Reliability and Performance Console on the Start Menu. You should see something like this.
I think that in "Balanced" power plan the Maximum frequency for the CPU is never 100% - but that it should be when running on mains power. I haven't found a way to persuade this power plan to give me full CPU speed, so I've changed to High Performance.