Searching for monkeys in Cyberspace

Live Search CashBack

clock May 21, 2008 13:03 by author offbeatmammal

LiveSearch_CashBack The search engine wars are heating up with shopping a prime mover … why advertise or try to get your search results higher if you don’t want to promote something after all.

Apart from helping us find things search hasn’t traditionally been a very “giving” process. The search engine providers, advertisers and folks creating pages to serve us click-through's are the ones making all the money.

Now that’s set to change with the introduction of Live Search CashBack. The idea is simple… you look for something you’re interested in and… you have the option of buying it from someone who will put money back into your pocket (via PayPal, bank transfer or check) just for shopping with them. Everyone gets part of the reward, advertisers get more customers, users get value, Live gets more search and everyone is happy.

The service was announced at Advance08 and has already received some positive reactions.

I had a quick play for the first time today… sign-up is quick and simple, and the process fairly straight forward. Give it a try…

The Robots are coming

clock April 24, 2008 20:10 by author offbeatmammal

So, your plans for world domination didn’t quite go as you hoped. You clone army didn’t stand up to repeated photo-copying and so it’s back to the drawing board.

Rather than mope around in your hidden lair of darkness (or your bedroom) why not get back into the fray… but this time you could focus your efforts on creating a virtual army of smart robots to do battle – or at least compete in a series of challenges to determine the winner.

While most mad scientists have to assemble their robots from a scrap-yard of parts using plans downloaded from some of the weirder parts of the internet you have an advantage…


You only have to develop the control package for the robot which will compete inside a virtual environment. To get started you’ll need to install and set up the Microsoft Robotics Studio (a free add-on that works with trial and express versions of Visual Studio) and you can develop using your favorite .Net language. Once tested and ready to rumble you upload the Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008 playback file (.PLB) and some supporting documentation and … may the best robot win!

Vista sidebar gadgets and embeddable BotCards will let you stake out a claim and keep track of your progress – but if you do well and are one of the finalists… well, you’ll just have to read the clues from the RoboChamps League Commissioner to find out…

Why don’t we do more adverts like this?

clock April 16, 2008 19:06 by author offbeatmammal

I recently bought a Zune and I’m surprised how pleased I am with it. I guess I shouldn’t be, but after being an iPod user for some years and listening to the haters it was easy to pick on the flaws.

Then I got one and now I don’t think I’ll go back. It works really well, the audio quality is great and I prefer the Zune Marketplace and ZunePass to the alternatives.

I found this advert for the Zune (the original from Digital Kitchen is here, but requires QuickTime)… Most of the Microsoft adverts on TV don’t move me (and don’t get me started on the “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” ads) but if we could get Digital Kitchen to cook up some more like this I’d be a fan!

Live Maps updated

clock April 11, 2008 11:20 by author offbeatmammal

Live Maps updated I’m a fan of Live Maps – since getting to the US I’ve used them a lot to find my way around strange cities (even used them to get a look of my office before I went for interview!)

There is always work going on with the Virtual Earth team to improve the quality of the product and they’ve just rolled out another release.

This update is much bigger release than originally planned – it includes three full sprints of development (the milestones used by the team). As always the changes visible in the user interface only scratch the surface of the dozens of improvements across the application tiers including Geocoding enhancements, browser compatibility (Safari and IE8), parsing improvements, reverse geocoding, printing improvements, integration with GPS devices, Map Cruncher integration, 1-click “party” directions and tons more.

For sites that host their own functionality on top of Live Maps the team have also released an upgrade of the Map Control to version 6.1 for developers.

Get the full scoop on the update on from the Virtual Earth blog.

Vista and Outlook

clock March 18, 2008 18:13 by author offbeatmammal

outlook_vistaI've noticed that when I restart Vista I sometimes get a dialogue "The data file .... was not closed properly." when I fired up Outlook again.

It was driving me slowly mad (or actually driving me to use those extra 2 minutes to grab one more coffee!) but... I've found a solution... and it's really simple.

All you have to do is make sure Outlook has an open window - ie it's not minimized - when you hit shutdown or restart.

It appears that if Outlook isn't an active window then Vista is a little aggressive in shutting down and if Outlook doesn't respond quick enough then it just gets closed.

Now obviously this doesn't solve the problem of a crash, power cut or other hard stop, but when you're in control it's easy enough to work around.

I'm going to hunt to see if I can find a way to make Vista a little less understanding about Outlooks obsessive need to tidy up ;)

If you were waiting for Vista SP1.... wait no longer

clock March 18, 2008 10:48 by author offbeatmammal

It's official... Vista SP1 is now available in the wild, and trust me - you'd be mad not to!

I've been using Vista SP1 through various earlier incarnations and I've noticed improvements in performance and stability in each incremental build.

I'm running it already on both my day-to-day Vaio laptop and my UMPC. Tonight I'll kick off an update on my daughters desktop machine.

Now the waiting starts for SP2 (and Windows 7)! But for those who never install v1 of anything.... it's time to give Vista a try

Into the MIX

clock March 16, 2008 22:09 by author offbeatmammal

ScottGu_MIX08 ... or why Scott Guthrie was playing with his balls on stage!

Things have been rather quiet here the last few weeks as I've been very focused on some of the incredibly cool stuff we couldn't talk about until MIX08 so I had to contain my enthusiasm.

Much like last year at MIX07 I worked with some amazing partners to help provide some of the demos that Scott was able to showcase in his keynote. I still find it pretty amazing to be involved in such a great event and have a chance to work behind the scenes to make at least some of the magic come to life. You can see all of the action of the day1 keynote on the VisitMIX site but here's the back story for some of the demos...

So... enough of that. What was I involved in....

IE8 with Dean Hackamovitch

Although the rumor mill knew we would be showing IE8 at MIX I don't think anyone had guessed that we'd actually be making bits available, along with developer documentation on how to take advantage of some of the new features. I've been playing with IE8 through some of it's very early stages now and have to say I wish in my previous job I'd had the ability to use features like WebSlices. Luckily in my new job I was able to work with the team to help implement them on (yes, they're live. Install IE8 and go try it out) - for some more information check out the video on VisitMIX.

Hard Rock - Deep Zoom gets a work out.

HardRockMemo I've worked with the fine folks from Vertigo before on the Slide.Show project (one of the top downloads on Codeplex if you want a great Slideshow app for your site - there's even a plugin for this blog engine, and others, available.) so it was great to get the gang together again to work on a project that would really demonstrate the capabilities of Deep Zoom - the Silverlight implementation of the Seadragon technology.

Working with the folks at Hard Rock to expose just the tip of their memorabilia collection was an awesome experience - check out the results of all the hard work at the live Memorabilia site. Having a chance to visit the World Headquarters of Hard Rock, have a look around their warehouse and check out their flagship restaurant in Orlando was icing on the cake (thanks guys - you rock!)

Sean Dee (Hard Rock CMO) and Scott Stanfield (Vertigo CEO) delivered a great presentation and the bonus at the end was that the site went live at the end of their demo.

Mix Keynote: Hard Rock Demo

VisitMIX hosted a great interview with the team to give you a clue how they put it all together and you can check it out here and for a much more in-depth dive into how the technology can be put to use the team even ran a session afterwards.

Aston Martin - design delivers

AstonMartin Nestled in the heart of the English countryside is one of the most revered names in the automotive world. Recently branching out after several years as part of Ford they are pushing innovation along with their existing design and engineering focus, and we were lucky enough to be able to give folks a sneak preview into their thinking this year at MIX.

Marek Reishman (Design Director from Aston Martin) and Paul Bishop (Managing Director of Splendid) treated us to a three part insight into a possible future - a new way of configuring your dream car on the web (using 3D models in Silverlight to navigate around a car and Deep Zoom to step inside it); a dealer experience using XNA and WPF (and an ultra portable PC) to work through the millions of possible combinations, and allow a customer to see their chosen vehicle in amazing detail before placing an order. The final part of the demo was a video clip showing the in-car systems managed by a central embedded Windows device - telemetry monitoring, phone and GPS navigation.

Aston Martin MIX08 Keynote

Nishant did a great interview with Marek and Paul (as well as reminding me in the run up to MIX that we do care about designers!)

Having a chance to go to Gaydon in the UK and see the home of Aston Martin was an amazing experience... now I just have to work out how to save the money to get one of my own ;)

Cirque du Soleil - HR is a real juggling act

CirqueDuSoleil One of the challenges of MIX has been the way the web hogs all the design glory. No-one talks about the same problems faced by designers and developers working within a corporate environment on Line of Business (LOB) apps because it lacks a certain.... sparkle.

Well, Cirque du Soleil understand sparkle, and they really understand the challenges of LOB applications - they maintain a huge catalogue of performers, and making sure there is quality data available is a real task.

Krista Monson (Head of Casting, Resident Shows America) came on stage (with a suitably theatrical flair!) and showed what can happen when a LOB app meets design head on and sits on top of the latest Microsoft technologies (WPF, TabletPC, SQL Server and Sync Framework, and of course Silverlight)

For me the highlight of MIX had to be Krista asking Scott some cheeky questions... and trying to juggle on stage (and yes, we do have the video recorded live from the stage!)

Cirque MIX08 Keynote

Check the weather on your phone

Weatherbug Silverlight is establishing itself as a player on the web - Windows and OSX are the start of a cross platform story that Moonlight is helping round out on Linux. At MIX08 it was great to be able to announce that not only was Silverlight coming to Windows Mobile it was also going to be supported on the Nokia S60 devices.

We've already done some work with Weatherbug using Silverlight 1.0 so it was great to work with them on the next generation and the next platform for Silverlight. Using the same tools and techniques as for the desktop browser they were able to develop a really cool mobile app in just a few weeks.

WeatherBug MIX08 Keynote

Check out the interview with Tamir on VisitMIX to find out about their experiences and make sure you're ready when the bits become available.

Looking forward to MIX09

I had a great run up to MIX08 but we're not done yet. We've set the bar high for MIX09 back at the Venetian March 19th to 20th! Hope to see you there... keep an eye on VisitMIX for updates.

Thank you Windows Home Server

clock February 25, 2008 22:13 by author offbeatmammal

WHS For the last few weeks I've had the occasional warning from my DIY Windows Home Server that one of the drive wasn't 100% stable. It would work fine then... just stop. SMART said it was fine when I'd restart but...

Then on Sunday it died and wouldn't restart, so a quick trip to Frys for a new drive, whip off the case, stick in the new drive (replacing the cables as well just to be sure).

Powered it all up. Let it balance storage and... good as new, no files lost (though it did have to delete some backups as there wasn't enough space on the single drive to store everything) but way better than a crash and burn.

Now I might get an extra PCI SATA card and add a couple more drives...

MIX08 is coming...

clock February 13, 2008 22:21 by author OffBeatMammal

It's really frustrating at the moment as almost everything I'm working on relates to MIX08 coming March 5-7 in Las Vegas.... and I don't want to spoil any of the surprises!

So all the really cool stuff that's keeping me busy in the office and on the road at the moment has to stay under wraps.

Come March 10th though you'll have read all about it on VisitMIX and all I'll need to do it link to it ;)

As well as my stuff (which of course I'm excited by!) I'm looking forward to dropping in on Franks panel - "Web 2.0 and beyond - what is the business reality" and some other sessions.

If you're coming to MIX look me up.... but not until day 2 when all my stuff has been presented ;)

Step into the shadow

clock January 9, 2008 22:02 by author OffBeatMammal

Shadow It only feels like minutes ago I was writing that I was looking for a new phone. Then today my Wizard started turning itself off every 10 minutes. Opened it up and noticed the battery was a little warped and probably about to turn into a lump of toxic goo - not sometime I wanted in my pocket, or on a plane with me tomorrow.

So, on the way home I popped into my local T-Mobile store and (thanks mostly to FrankArrs glowing recommendation) picked up a shiny new sage Shadow.

It's very strange not having a touch screen after all these years, and not only is there no "full" keyboard the letters are not arranged as on a normal phone but spaced out over the 20 keys ... so I'm having to re-learn the old T9 style tapping out of emails as well.

That said, it took maybe 20 mins once I got home to get the phone set up, connecting to the WiFi at home, syncing with Exchange, GMail and my Live account.

I then turned to the AllShadow site for some background reading which pointed me at the modaco forums for some more hard core tweaks. TinyTwitter was the first app loaded (expect to see some funny tweets from me until I get used to the keyboard). The best bit was having a conversation with one of the folks responsible for the Neo interface - every day I'm reminded just how many smart people I'm lucky enough to work with.

The coming days are going to be a learning experience. Like any new toy I don't expect to be proficient straight away, but I think this is going to be something I become very happy with in a week.

Going back to my wish list the camera is lower spec that I'd like, there's no GPS and music means I'll need to buy a Micro-SD card and an adapter if I want a 3.5mm jack for headphones... but bang for the buck it's one sweet little phone...

Of course, much as I like the interface I'll have to try PointUI out on it now ;)



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