Searching for monkeys in Cyberspace

Parallels - not very clever

clock May 6, 2007 00:39 by author OffBeatMammal

I've been using a couple of MacbookPros recently, one with Vista installed under Boot Camp and one with it installed under Parallels so I could access it from OSX.

To try and get the best of both worlds I tried to install Parallels on the Boot Camp machine to get it to work with the Boot Camp partition....

No luck getting it worked (the option was un-selectable) to I emailed Parallels support to see if it was an option.

I'd hoped for a work-around, or at least a "coming soon" update.

What I got was less helpful:

Thank you for contacting Parallels support.
Sorry, but we won't provide Vista support with Boot Camp.
Best regards, Sxxxx Rxxxxx.

Pretty sad really. It means I've either got to use an extra Vista licence and run two versions on the machine (with all the associated trouble of remembering what's installed where) or go for one of the two compromises - either have to reboot every time I want to use OSX (and not be able to run and test an IIS hosted Silverlight application in Safari) or only run from Parallels and put up with the performance hit (what's the point of having two cores and only being able to use one of them most of the time)

Now I don't know if the problem with getting this to work lies with Parallels, Apple or Microsoft but it strikes me as being in the interest of at least the first two (and probably Microsoft as well) to get it working.... currently there's no compelling reason to buy a Macbook Pro for me when Toshiba, Lenovo, Dell etc all have better value hardware. That in turn means I don't buy a Parallels licence or get good exposure to OSX

So it looks like, for the time being at least, it's back to using my Vaio for Vista and my rather old (RevA 877Mhz 12") Powerbook for OSX testing.

WPF/E no more. Welcome Silverlight

clock April 16, 2007 17:33 by author OffBeatMammal

After lurking in the shadow of it's codename for several months Silverlight has finally been announced and folks are talking about it.

So, what is it?

Microsoft® Silverlight™ is a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering the next generation of media experiences and rich interactive applications (RIAs) for the Web.

Since joining Microsoft most of what I've been doing has been related to Silverlight - learning it, talking to customers about it, and helping to prepare material for the NAB and MIX launches .... it's very exciting, and we've only seen the very beginnings of what's in store!

Microsoft playing well with others

clock March 27, 2007 05:06 by author OffBeatMammal

When you hear the words web2.0, mashup, plays well with others, pragmatic* and agnostic you don't often think of Microsoft.

Well perhaps you should.

ReadySteadyMashup is going to challenge peoples perceptions in a very hands on and interactive way. And you can be a part of it.

Come up with an interesting challenge to mashup at least one Microsoft technology with an existing Web2.0 service or bleeding edge technology (Apollo, Google Maps, Flickr - you name it)... or better yet dive in with your coding hat on and make an idea work... each challenge will last 30 days and Scott is hoping to have some cool prizes for cool results...

Now I'm going to have to either get creative, or amp up my h@x0r skillz if I want a chance (though I'm probably not eligible for prizes I might try to round up some more folks to play)

*Pragmatic: See Michael Coates.

Expression at MIX07

clock March 20, 2007 20:19 by author OffBeatMammal

Visit MIXSo, you already know that we're giving copies of Vista Ultimate to MIX07 attendees, and of course you'll get a chance to hear from both Microsoft folks and people from the real world about how the UX game is hotting up and delivering real benefits to developers, users and everyone else in the ecosystem.

What you might not be aware of is the other half of the equation.... while we support developers with WPF/E, and (of course) Visual Studio we also have tools aimed at designers

Expression Studio includes Expression Web, Expression Blend™, Expression Design and Expression Media. Whether you are designing standards-based web sites, creating rich user experiences on the desktop, or managing digital assets and content, the professional design tools and innovative technologies in Expression give you the flexibility and freedom to bring your vision to reality.

To reflect Microsoft's belief that Design is an essential part of the development process, all MIX07 attendees will receive a Commemorative Edition of Expression Studio, complete with the first version of Expression Studio and one-of-a-kind artwork (in addition to a copy of Windows Vista Ultimate!).

Check out for more details right now... tickets are going fast.

I hope to see you there....

RIA frameworks as gaming consoles

clock March 19, 2007 23:44 by author OffBeatMammal

I've been trying to get my head around the three most interesting players on the Rich Internet Application front, and in a conversation today a really good analogy surfaced. Compare them to game consoles.

So, who are the players:

First comes XulRunner from the Mozilla foundation. This often overlooked environment is ticking along quite quietly but gaining quite a following out there. Unlike it's two main competitors it's actually got some real world applications built with it (even though, like the other two it won't be at a production release until the end of the year). Open and fairly approachable it's got a lot going for it.

Next if Apollo from Adobe. This all singing, all dancing behemoth builds on the underpinnings and learnings of Flash, ColdFusion, Flex and Photoshop. Sadly it's legacy may make it rather hard (and expensive) to develop with.

Third contender in the ring is WPF/E (Codename) from Microsoft. Surprisingly given it's parents track record this is probably the easiest of the three to get started with. Cross browser and platform support, an open object model that's addressable from Javascript in the browser (it's as easy to work with as the basic browser DOM) and an XML based vector markup language (XAML) that shares a lot of heritage and maturity from it's Windows only cousin WPF.

Just discovered a fourth entrant worth having a look at. Dekoh is a Java ased platform supporting everything from JSP to ASP.NET to Flash on Windows, OSX and Linux. It's free and Open Source.

So ... what consoles do these guys match up to, and why (and I expect the fanbois to abuse me over some of these) .

XulRunner has to be a Wii - it's lightweight but surprisingly powerful and a real underground hit because of its no-nonsense all-round solid performance.

Apollo is, IMO, the PS3 of the space. It will probably look great but it's expensive and some would say over-engineered. The barriers to entry (from a developer perspective) are high and the legacy of some of its components (Flex for instance) raise some questions about how much fun it's going to be.

WPF/E is, almost by default, the Xbox360. Popular, great capabilities, fairly approachable (eg with the arrival of XNA the Xbox became the most open of the consoles. In a similar manner the open XAML based model of WPF/E makes development easy).

Dekoh is harder to pick a platform to compare it to but I think given the portability and wide range of options but I think it's closest match is to the DS Lite. Fairly frill and pretension free but ballsy enough to do well in the game..

Oh okay, so maybe there's a fifth but Java, like the Atari 2600, while ground breaking at the time is no longer state of the art or fun to develop for.

Wonder what RIA platforms would be if they were cars....

I made a Gadget!

clock March 1, 2007 08:18 by author OffBeatMammal

As part of the learning curve in my new gig I decided this week to build a gadget.

So in between everything else I've got on my plate at the moment I picked a collection of buzzwords and technologies and decided to wrap them all up into one gadget.


  • it's a Vista Sidebar gadget
  • It consumes an RSS feed (defaults to the Technorati WPF/E feed but you can over-ride that)
  • It uses Ajax functionality (okay, the xmlhttp object) to periodically refresh the feed
  • It's primary display technology is WPF/E (so you'll need the WPF/E runtime installed)
  • It's got a flyout (that closes automatically after 6 seconds)
  • It works docked and un-docked

It's not very pretty (I'm not a designer after all!) but it was an interesting first experiment. There's still a bunch of rough edges and further tweaks that it needs when I have the time:

  • Some mouse-over effects on the title list
  • Use WPF/E to display the flyout content
  • Allow the refresh time to be customized
  • Allow the number of items returned to be customized (at the moment displays everything it gets)
  • Make it look prettier!

As a learning exercise it was great. Combining WPF/E and Gadget technology is pretty much a no-brainer (WPF/E at the moment can only access items in the Gadget file, no external assets) - there's nothing mysterious in gadget building... it's just HTML, JavaScript (with a few extra properties to control the gadget settings and layout) and one XML file to define the assets.

Oh, and you can download it from here if you want to have a play...

WPF/E delivered from an Ad Server

clock January 18, 2007 05:59 by author OffBeatMammal

The third little challenge in my self-set WPF/E niche was to see if it was possible to deliver an all-singing all-dancing WPF/E experience from an ad server to a page that had no WPF/E code in it at all.

Well, this turned out to be a little harder than the earlier video re-sizer and overlay samples but again like both it turns out that WPF/E is really fun to work with - doesn't matter if you're hacking code in Notepad or working in a full Visual Studio environment (and don't forget the free Visual Studio Express) it's quick and easy.

Remember, this is only the first technology preview of WPF/E with a lot more goodness to come! More functionality, performance, stability will only make these things easier.

If you want to see this (and the other samples) full screen you can open them in their own window.

Ad Serving and WPF/E

clock January 11, 2007 00:55 by author OffBeatMammal

After the fun I've had on the (still evolving) WPF/E In Page Video Resizer I thought I'd tackle another fun project - serving dynamically generated XAML (as though from an Ad Server) and having it play nice with the underlying target page.

At the moment it's in very early stages - it's based on certain assumptions around what the target site is happy to do (add a couple of lines of JavaScript and one event to the XAML object where they want the ad to appear... not too bad as things go)

Anyway, rather than talk about it too much... here's the sample for you to play with:

WPF/E - resizable in-page video player

clock January 7, 2007 03:46 by author OffBeatMammal

With everyone in the office getting all excited about WPF/E I thought I'd give it a try. I got Visual Studio and the SDK all installed on my machine (see here and here for some handy hints on getting started) and wondered what to build...

Bearing in mind I have no artistic talents, and I didn't want to get bogged down on something too complicated I thought I'd pick on something that would have been pretty hard with earlier technologies.... dynamically resizing a video while it's playing embedded in a page (so all the content re-flows properly and everything looks cool.

Hopefully the sample below will work (or you can click to see it full-screen) if you don't see a video appear in the top right hand corner then you may need to install the WPF/E runtime.

What amazed me about this wasn't the first time I saw the video playing in the browser, or the fact I could resize it without it missing a beat... it was the fact that from clicking "Project | Create" in Visual Studio to uploading the sample here took about 2 hours (and I was half watching a movie on the TV at the same time!)

In fact, probably the single hardest thing was tidying up the JavaScript for Firefox! I've not had a chance to test this on OSX yet (my PowerBook is still in a container somewhere!) so I'd love some feedback from the Mac world...

If anyone wants the code just let me know and I'm happy to share... at the moment it's very ugly and probably not a good example of a "how to" with WPF/E (especially given my position on the learning curve and the amount of time I actually dedicated to this) - if I get it tided up (and work out why it's a bit jerky in FF) I will attach it here. But I think there will be a bit of RTFM first ;)

Mix07 - Registrations now open

clock January 4, 2007 00:30 by author OffBeatMammal

Microsoft is hosting a 72-hour conversation, and you're invited.

MIX07 :: April 30 — May 2nd, The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas

MIX is Microsoft’s conference for Web designers, developers and decision-makers who make their living at the forefront of the consumer Web. Join the conversation with Microsoft and others on how to harness the latest technologies, unlock new revenue opportunities, reduce development costs and improve customer experience. MIX is for cutting-edge Web professionals designing and building next-generation experiences.

Registration is now open, and if you sign up before March 15 2007 there is a 15% discount. You could even get there for FREE - Check out the IE7 AddOn Content (but be quick!)

Following on from it's debut in 2006, MIX will continue to explore how to build more interactive and responsive experiences that take full advantage of the capabilities of the Web. MIX will also be an opportunity to dive deeper into Microsoft’s Web technology offerings and discover ways to create more dynamic customer connections that take user experience to the next level.

If you're serious about developing for the future (be it Ajax, Rich Internet Applications or just delivering compelling content) is there anywhere you'd rather be?



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