Archive for February 2008
Although this news is a little old (announced last week) – it’s hard not to get really excited by the new developments happening over in the Silverlight camp at Microsoft for the upcoming Beta 1 release of Silverlight 2.0. (which I believe is being scheduled for launch at Mix ’08 next week).
Silverlight 2.0 (formerly known as Silverlight 1.1) is essentially the cross platform technology trying to give Flash a run for it’s money in the RIA space – but leverages the ‘developer’ focused tools, technologies and audience that Microsoft has by using .NET and XAML – which in turn means you get great tools like Visual Studio 2008 to work with coupled with design tools like Expression Blend (which are starting to take shape – although still quite a way to go there).
While a lot of ‘designers’ out there will just say Microsoft are simply playing ‘catch up’ with Adobe – I think Adobe never quite understood the whole ‘developer IDE’ thing (and I know I was pretty put off Flash everytime I had to do any project work involving more than 10 lines of code – as the ActionScript etc experience is really quite disturbing for anyone spoilt by Visual Studio – or just about any other Developer IDE such as Borland’s, Eclipse etc etc).
What’s so good about Silverlight 2.0 – didn’t 1.0 tank?
While Silverlight 1.0 didn’t get a lot of traction against Flash last year (and the fact that most of the Microsoft sites still use Flash instead of Silverlight is proof of that) – it was a great ‘start’ and a sign of MS moving forward from WPF/.NETv3 (which ‘sported’ a pretty buggy, incompatible and clunky runtime platform – and made it pretty unusable/un-deployable in the vast majority of scenarios). After WPF - Silverlight 1.0 came back – reduced the feature set (substantially) – but offered a mean/lean runtime which was (sortof) cross platform – and actually made it a serious contender in the RIA space.
- controls, controls, controls… (with SL 1.0 you had to reinvent the wheel from primatives – ie. not even a scroller, listbox or flow layout panel was provided)
- reduced cross domain security restrictions (SL 1.0 was massively restrictive in that everything had to come from the same domain- which was I guess a great big misunderstanding of how Web 2.0 actually worked.) – and true support for a raft of commonly used webservice models and even socket support.
- Styles, Templating and more. (aka. Some of the great features that made initially WPF a fantastic ‘specification’ are back – and this time *hopefully* they don’t perform like a bucket-of-crap).
Although not directly mentioned – I really do hope some of these other things get improved/sorted (either for this BETA 1 release or at least for the full release) :
- Full 64 bit compatibility (ie. so we can use Silverlight in 64bit containers – ie. Vista Sidebar and Vista on 64bit machines). Same goes for Windows CE and other mobile platforms – which is really a must to sway people away from Flash.
- Full Key Focus/Handling behavior (and x 2 for full screen mode) – so Remote Controls + 10 foot can be properly supported too.
- Support for more Video codecs + IPTV protocols (SL 1.0 was WMV only). Moving forward – for any video playback technology to be treated seriously – support for codecs like H264, MPEG2/MPEG4 is an absolute must (DVR-MS, Divx/XVid etc would be nice too). I think Flash can do all (or some of) this already.
- Protection of IP (thats NOT just DRM on Video/Audio). Hopefully there’s some serious thought given to how BOTH developers and content owners can protect their assets when deploying them via Silverlight 2.0 (as obfuscators etc are somewhat less useful the smaller the codebase). Silverlight 1.0 didn’t offer any form of protection whatsoever (except for dynamic XAML being generated by a back-end server) – so developers were essentially serving up their IP on a silver platter (to anyone who wanted to take a look).
Why I (personally) am excited about what I see coming with 2.0…
While it’s still early days – the really great thing about Silverlight is that it’s a sign the team (and thinking) behind it are :
- Adapting : Moving forward and adding the features that the market wants.. (In a very short time frame / release cycle as well..). We don’t need to ‘wait until Windows 7′ etc etc to get the new goodies.
- Doing (not just ‘listening’) : v1.1 wasn’t going to win them too many new friends – so they took a good look at themselves, canned 1.1 – and focused on 2.0 which incorporated a what a lot of developers were asking for.
- Talking + Showing : Even though the BETA hasn’t been launched yet (if you exclude SL 1.1 Beta – which has been around for 12 months now) – guys like Scott Guthrie are out there telling the market what’s to come – and there’s that element of transparency going on all the way with Silverlight (by screenshots and feature lists being detailed before it’s even available to developers).
And the winner will be..(not the public just yet) ?
So – it’s going to be an interesting time over the next couple of years in the world of Web 2.0/3.0/RIA/IPTV etc. Microsoft are currently really suffering from the ‘self inflicted’ fragmentation caused by offering a lot of different developer platforms to the public – Silverlight for the Web, WPF + WinForms for desktops, CF.NET + XHTML for Mobiles, XNA for XBox360 + Zune, MCPL for MediaCenter – and the list goes on and on (and most of these are reliant on Windows being used for the development and proprietary devices/platforms being used for the runtime).
There’s simply no unifying technology (other than .NET) in the Microsoft camp just yet – so makes it quite a poor value proposition for companies who want to invest in this new world. (and want some reuse across platforms with their investment)
In this respect – companies like Adobe and Apple are clearly winning – and via their ‘lack of options’ on offer – they are making the choices a lot simpler and clearer for both companies and consumers.
Hopefully technologies like Silverlight 2 (which are more developer friendly) can make it’s mark and get some inroads on Flash. (and it’s looking like the best bet so far out of all the Microsoft technologies on offer). All we need now is a release date for the full version (which is the real date when it can start to make this traction).
I know it’s an age old problem – but my blog has been severely targeted of late by spammers leaving their crap as comments.
Unfortunately – the Spaces system/team doesn’t seem to be doing anything to prevent this from happening (even though it seems to the same 3 or 4 people repeatedly leaving the same stupid messages) – and to make things even more difficult – it takes about 3-4 clicks to get to the point where I can actually start to delete the unwanted comments from a single post. (and have to to do that ‘per post’ – rather than being able to go to one place and delete all the unwanted comments across posts).
There doesn’t seem to be any ‘moderated’ comment system on Spaces – and the only option seems to be either to not allow comments – or prevent anonymous comments (which won’t work either as these spammers seem to actually have ‘hidden’ spaces accounts/profiles). None of the common options provided on other blogging systems – such as typing in ‘the code’ (where an image is displayed containing rendered letters/numbers) seem to be offered either – and combined with developer SDK’s – make it really too easy for people to abuse the system.
Just to top it off – the spaces terms/conditions also states that I as a blog writer am ‘responsible’ for anything posted in the comments section- which is really ludicrous given it’s their own security holes and lack of implementation of what is standard on other blog systems that’s allowing this to happen in the first place.
If I can find the time I will (try to) send an email to the spaces team explaining these problems – and how every other blogging system has dealt with it. (but given previous experience of having my blog delisted for the wrong reasons and then not being able to get it reinstated via leaving comments to the team – without pulling MVP strings – this might be a real waste of time).
I’m yet to find any 3rd party tools to assist with this spam removal (hopefully there’s something out there). If I have to go to the effort of making my own tool (or trying to raise a response from a automated reply system here) – I might as well use that effort to move my space to another system (or host it myself).
Anyone with a spaces blog with any good ideas?
via Missing Remote : Toshiba Announces Discontinuation of HD DVD Businesses
As per this article – the main backer of the HD-DVD format Toshiba has officially pronounced the format dead – and will immediately wind down shipments of players/recorders (and start carving up some of the IP created for other future technologies.)
Although there was only ever going to be one winner out of the BluRay vs HDDVD format war – I think this is a real pity for consumers – as I always preferred what HDDVD had to offer in terms of affordability (much cheaper recordable media) , extensibility (XML based interactivity layer instead of reliance on Java) plus the intention to allow for managed copies.
A bunch of early adopters who invested in the format already (either via purchasing the Toshiba players, the cheaper XBox360 addin drive, or the movies themselves) are going to be pretty disappointed. (and will be stacking these up near their Laser discs)…
I’m really happy to see the positive (and actual) steps being taken by the new Rudd (Labour) government today to finally apologize – and officially acknowledge to the Aboriginal people of Australia the immense wrong that was done to them.
The recently ousted Liberal government’s 10 year refusal to say ‘Sorry’ has been one of many embarrassing things of late – where I sometimes feel ‘ashamed’ to be an Australian (along with the involvement in the Iraq invasion, the refusal to agree to environmental pacts like Kyoto – and the appalling treatment of asylum seekers and political refugees).
If you’re a reader from overseas (and have never heard of this matter before) – for some more information – please see this article from news.com.au - Kevin Rudd Apologises to Stolen Generations
(the caption below from their front page sums it up quite well.)
" Sorry … Kevin Rudd has apologised for the "profound grief, suffering and loss" inflicted on generations of indigenous Australians"
Also for some more context – an award winning movie called Rabit Proof Fence (made in 2002) touches on some of what went on (from the perspective of 3 young aboriginal children) – and might be available in your country. (and worth a watch to understand just how shocking the treatment of Aboriginals was in the past – and most shockingly occurred right up until about 25 years ago).
Hopefully – it’s a sign of good/better things to come in Australia – and that we didn’t trade-off our economy – to get this privilege (by voting Labour in – who are not known to be the best at managing the financial state of the country).
The direct URL for this subforum is at : http://www.xpmediacentre.com.au/community/big-screen-software/
The main idea of setting this subforum up – is to allow a discussion area for end users (and new users) to come in and provide feedback, ask questions and interact with me (and other community users) on the product range in general. (and I may even do some special promotions/offers/competitions for xpmediacentre.com.au users sometime in the future via this forum).
I’m really grateful for what Mike has provided – and hope this can also give users a more direct channel of communication/reply with myself (and other users) – and help continue shape the Big Screen Products to be better than ever – via their passion and great ideas (and the direct emails users have sent me – and previous discussions on this site on v1 products has played a huge part in driving the v2 products released over past couple of weeks – so here’s proof already that it’s been and continue to be worthwhile participating! And my thanks to everyone who did contribute).
Mike imported some of the previous threads/discussions to get things rolling (from the existing Vista Plugins & Addons section) – some of which became a little heated/passionate – myself a prime offender (and to be expected – since after all – we all love+hate our Media Centers – and the addins we either make or use – so some of these threads may not be for the feint hearted).
I’m going to also fix up the bigscreenglobal.com website (in some of the support/faq sections) + this blog over the weekend – to point at this new subforum – so please patient on that.
Also – a couple of quick items of interest (if you are a Big Screen User) – while I’m still in the middle of this ‘support’ migration :
Be sure to also check out some late breaking Big Screen Weather v2 support notes - if you were affected by the missing forecast data over past few days – if you were from one of Seattle, Salem, Olympia or Portland (which has now been fixed) – /or/ you are a European user that uses commas ‘,’ instead of periods ‘.’ for your Decimal Symbols (which I believe is the case for Finland and Belgium) – and results in most of the onscreen values being multiplied by x10. Support notes like this will most likely be migrated (or noted in one spot) on this new subforum as well (I’m still deciding on best placement of this sort of dynamic information).
Also note - the Discount Code offered in this post is also due to be removed (and disabled online) in about 24 hours (as mentioned – this was only being made available for 3-4 days to help test the new payment system – and things have run ultra smoothly so far without issues/errors) – so if you want to take up this extra special offer - there’s not much time left. (although some other great MediaCenter sites such as thedigitallifestyle.com (+ MediaCenter Show Podcast) may be offering something along these lines soon (or even now.. 8)… keep an eye out there as well).
After a few hiccups this week (which I’m assured won’t happen again) – I’m happy to announce that the http://bigscreenglobal.com online payment system (and activation services) – are now live – and accessible to the general public!.
This means that you can purchase the "Big Screen v2" products right now (if you so desire) - otherwise as per past few days/weeks – and you’re also welcome (and very much encouraged) to give them a test run for 30 days first (just to make sure you’re 100% happy/comfortable with it)!
The currently available titles (more to come over next few weeks/months) – include :
Big Screen Photos v2 (USD$24.95 for full/unlimited version)
– instant access to hundreds of millions of online photos from Yahoo!® flickr™ – via your remote control.
Big Screen Weather v2 (USD$19.95 for full unlocked version with 2 yr data subscription).
- latest global weather observations, forecasts (3-7 day), imagery and loads more – with fast/efficient startup/download.
Please also note these products are 32 + 64 bit Vista Media Center compatible (no one is excluded!) – and is tested/working and optimized for not only XBox360 extenders - but also compliant with the new PIKA 2.0 extenders (and auto detects models from Linksys, D-Link etc)..
Please note that – in order to purchase a product – you will need to first sign up for a free account on bigscreenglobal.com (this is mainly to ensure we can contact you – if any problems occur in payments – or if we need to inform you about any product updates etc). Note that the signup process requires that we have a valid email address - (that can be confirmed via us issuing your initial password there) – a first name / country (you can make something up if you feel paranoid about us knowing how to ‘address you’ in the emails… ie. your welcome to call yourself ‘fffdsfkjhdf’ and say you’re from Antarctica if you so desire).
Please note – that for your safety/security (and our ‘legal peace of mind’) – the bigscreenglobal.com system does not receive or record your credit card or paypal account details – (and is handled solely by Paypal). We do however receive a notification (while you’re still on the paypal site – and funds have been confirmed) – where your serial number will be issued/upsized – and appropriate emails sent out to your registered address. As per above – Invoicing details etc – are sent via Paypal (and if you do have a Paypal account – which is not actually required – you can view the purchase details at a later date via the Paypal account management features on their site).
Once you have registered – you can start the ‘Purchase Wizard’ by clicking the icon – and going to the appropriate purchase page (here for Big Screen Weather v2 or here for Big Screen Photos v2). After you receive the confirmation page (which shows you the final price / allows for discount codes / and displays additional/important information) – you will then be taken accross to Paypal to complete the payment
For those of you who have already download/installed a trial version (or do so in future) – you can actually upsize/pay for the ‘existing serial number’ to be unlocked – and then using the inbuilt ‘reverify/reactive function’ (built into Big Screen v2 Media Center addins – inside the actual 10 foot UI) – you can unlock your existing installed version. (nice and easy!).. This also works if you’re trial version has expired (so you can decide at a much later date to upsize / unlock the existing installed version if you haven’t removed it yet – or still have your existing download/serial number saved locally).
Please also note (as highlighted on purchase page/site) – there’s still some crossing of t’s and and dotting of i’s to do with some of the content/support literature on the site (and of course the products + site will always be a ‘work in progress’). Given the Web 2.0/3.0? nature of these products (and reliance on numerous ‘moving targets’ such as 3rd party webservices / feeds etc) – the products offer a huge amount of functionality to offset any issues (so it’s never intended they will be 100% working at all times – but rather 80%-99% operational – with features being improved with free/incremental updates as time progresses).
Anyhow – please enjoy – and again – I highly recommend you take the products for a 30 day spin to ensure you like them. (and appreciate the amount of work/effort that’s gone into them – and the very low prices they are offered at!).
As per Ian Dixon’s Post (Media Center Show/ TheDigitalLifestyle.com) the 2007 Media Center show awards are going to be streamed LIVE on ustream.tv at on Wednesday 6th 8pm GMT (12pm PST). This will be the first Live Awards show that Ian’s done (normally the podcasts are pre-recorded – although he’s recently had some video’s go out live in this manner) – and it’s a really great idea! (and hope to see more content done like this).
Hopefully Ian’s not going to be involving any "small children or animals" – given the live nature of the show (although I hear some developers and the like might make an appearance – so ‘expect the unexpected’… ).
Please see this link below for more information…
For any Australian + New Zealand listeners/readers – this is somewhere between 4-9am Thursday (7th) Morning (depending on where you live – given the vast distances… and I think it’s maybe around 7-8am for Melbournians + Sydneysiders..) – as unfortunately Ian has to cater for everyone across the globe…(and us poor deprived Australians are only a small % of listeners)…. However I’m sure if Ian can make it at a more ‘Australian friendly’ time next year – we might be able to ‘rustle up’ some ‘cricket’ coaching for his fellow countrymen in return… 8)
*** UPDATE ************************************************************************************
Services seem to have been resumed to bigscreenglobal.com (and has been stable for at last past 1.5 hrs) – so hopefully everything is fixed (am yet to receive confirmation that It’s not on a backup link). Please also note that the US National Weather Service also appears to be suffering from some issues today – potentially from same root cause (and few of the US forecasts – such as ‘Seattle’ – don’t currently have forecast data) – so please be patient there – or select a nearby city until the data is returned to normal (as it appears only a small % of the US locations have been affected by this).
For anyone trying to access the bigscreenglobal.com and/or mobilewares.net websites today (or trying to use the Big Screen Weather v2 product) – there’s been an almost a continuous outage for past 12 hours (with small patches of uptime) – and I’m ‘told’ may continue for a few more hours yet. I do apologize for this – however unfortunately it’s completely beyond my control from all the way ‘down under’ ..
This is without doubt the longest downtime I’ve seen in 6 years with hosting at this company (Brinkster.com – a very large/well known webhost providor) – so I imagine it’s currently affecting 100,000′s of sites at the moment. (so at least I’m not alone). I’m told that the cause is that their Phoenix hosting facility (where these sites live) is serviced by a backbone providor ‘Level 3′ – which is where the problem lies – and is trying to fix this issue (and are switching traffic on/off backup links in the meantime – hence the sparodic bursts of the site working). In the past – the odd website outages I’ve experienced have generally lasted at most 5-10 minutes or so (and worst case scenarios I’ve had to contact Brinkster tech support and get them to reboot a server/router etc to fix the issues).
So please be patient if you are trying to signup for accounts/access the site or are trying to use Big Screen Weather 2 – or ‘activate’ any of the v2 products. (and is just rotten timing for me and users with the new brand/domain/product launch over the past few days). Luckily I didn’t yet flick the ‘on’ switch for payments / and the various online ad/banner campaigns were not yet active (and due to start over next few days).
The good news however is that the live payment system is ready (which uses Paypal Merchant Services - to ensure security + safety of payments) – and some last minute testing was finalized yesterday (just a few hours shy of the outages). As soon as I can confirm that the Backbone problems are fixed (and temporary routes are no longer in place) – I will be enabling payments – and will offer a temporary ‘Discount’ code on this blog for Weather v2 and Photos v2 for those of you who are ‘ready to make a purchase’ – and brave enough to ‘crash test’ the payment system. (and provide any feedback on the payment process in general). So keep your eye out here for the code (which will be active for a 2-3 day window).
Also .. luckily – it appears that email services for these sites are ‘mostly’ in tact (albeit some delays might occur in sending) – and am not sure if this is due to them running from a different facility / or priority being given to emails over web services (with the limited backup links being used)… Also – luckily I still have this blog here (on Live! Spaces – not connected to my actual websites) – to notify/inform everyone what is going on… <phew>..
Over the next few weeks – one thing I’m going to be looking at – is ways to make some of these online services redundant (such as the Weather2 backend and activation services) – so the products are able to switch over to alternative servers/domains if problems like this ever exist in the future.