Archive for January 2007

Expression Session07: Chicago

January 27, 2007

This week I traveled to Chicago to hear Microsoft design experts talk about Microsoft’s new set of tools called collectively Expression Studio.

Products include:

  • Expression Design
  • Expression Blend
  • Expression Web
  • Expression Media

 

For the first time in many years it looks like Microsoft looks like with this new product line the company has realized the importance “design” plays in the development process. The new tools give designers and programmers the ability to create and enhance the user experience, allowing designers and programmers to work in a more tightly integrated manner while giving ultimate flexibility in the process.

 

Expression Design

This product has been enhanced with a new user interface that makes it very easy to use. It features both bitmap image and vector support and can export imagery to Microsoft’s XML-Based  XAML language. Expression wasn’t originally an in-house product but was originally done by a company called Creature House. The product has been refocused with a new UI and new feature set that really compliments the design “process” and still offers much flexibility. Adobe if you are reading, look out, I don’t think after seeing this I will be using Illustrator much (or even Photoshop), because this really rocks.

Expression Blend (Formerly Interactive Designer)

This program also has had an extreme makeover and features an interface that is refocused on the process. This product lets you take art and other assets (video audio) and design user interaction. You can create timelines, add buttons, click events and all the stuff you’d do with an authoring tool. While this product isn’t quite Like Adobe flash, it does let you design and author full applications for the web or as a stand alone windows program. It’s animation and media support is only rivaled by Adobe’s Flash, and while it’s not a direct competitor for Flash, it’s got my vote for creating applications with an enhanced user experience.

Expression Media

While I haven’t had much experience with this product yet, it’s purpose is media asset cataloging and administration. It seems like a very fine product. When I first saw it I wondered if it was actually Apple’s iPhoto.

 

One Ring to Rule Them All

One of the nice perks for coming to the rollout was that they are mailing us a copy of the entire studio product. Considering the cost savings, I just want to tip my hat to Microsoft and say thank you.

The event was well planned and orchestrated. Microsoft brought in many experts and well known folks in for their presentations. One of the highlights for me was a roundtable discussion on the business value of design, with people from Thirteen23.com and IdentityMine.. They talked about the value these products give and how they influence the process. It was also nice to meet the “GodFather of CSS” who was out talking about Microsoft’s new commitment to web standards with it’s new Expression Web tool. Again Adobe, watchout this product is gonna steal marketshare from your Dreamweaver product.

This conference really marked a drastic direction change for Microsoft and really underscored the change in how they view design at the company. I am very pleased with the new products and direction.

 

WA-POOF-EE (or how not to say “W-P-F /E”)

ExpressionSession afforded us the opportunity to meet a bunch of the Microsoft folks and got a talk about WPF applications versus WPF/E. Basically a WPF app can run locally or online and can be stand alone or browser-hosted.

WPFE is their cross platform solution. While at the moment it doesn’t support 3D graphics, most everything else including video is supported in terms of UI and XAML. The language it works in isn’t C# or VB.net, it’s Javascript and the exciting part is you can mix it with just about any other internet technology. Also, you can view WPF/E applications on other browsers including Apple’s Safari Browser for OS/X.

All in a Golden Afternoon..

The afternoon breakout sessions were great. I attended the one on creating a WPF application. It delved into an app from a snowboarding company and how they added 3d and support for a GPS right to an application, including 3d modeling of a ski mountain and a snowboarder’s path. Though the conference was aimed at Designers, the demo was just technical enough to be understandable, quite perfect mix of coding and design.

The next presentation I attended was about making the business case for using these new technologies. It ended up being a roundtable discussion on both making the case and pitfalls and highpoints of the whole process and how to best integrate design into the mix. The guys from Thirteen23 Design made some very effective points about the design process and how to best integrate into the process.

After that I saw a presentation by “the God Father of CSS” who spent time talking about Microsoft’s shift to supporting web standards with all of their new products. A lot of developers and designers have had misconceptions about Microsoft’s past web products because they didn’t follow “new” standards for markup. Microsoft took a long time between web browser and web markup products until they were unified with the industry before updating. Now we have some very unified standards and products that work with them finally.

Expression Web

What can I say about it I love it, in fact I love the entire Expression product line. When I told folks I was going to the conference, people told me oh I am waiting until it shows up on my regular “MSDN” shipment. Well honestly Microsoft considers this a “Design Tool” as as far as I know not shipping this as a “programming tool”. It’s a new market for Microsoft and they are doing a “studio” product much in competition with other “studio” products like Adobe’s studio product. There has been criticism because MSDN subscribers feel they have a right to “EVERYTHING” because of their universal subscription. Well honestly, they still do every programming tool. The expression tools are really “DESIGN” tools.. Adobe would make you purchase them so why shouldn’t Microsoft. Designers are usually separate from programming staffs.

Expression Web competes well against Dreamweaver. Expression Web also has some very unique features for XML and database support and CSS. I like the feel of it and have decided to stop using Dreamweaver for projects and move to Microsoft’s standards based approach.

Reasons I am switching from Dreamweaver:

  1. The user interface doesn’t change every year (so far at least)
  2. CSS selectors are more intuitive
  3. XML data support is head over heels better
  4. I am tired of the Adobe upgrade path (yearly costs with minimal improvements).
  5. Better ASP.NET support (fully supports ASP.NET 2.0 server support, which the last 3 dreamweaver updates have failed to do).
  6. WYSIWYG margining controls that rock.
  7. Everything is standards based.

What Supervillain am I?

January 18, 2007

If I were a supervillian I’d be..

Your results:
You are Apocalypse

Apocalypse
93%
Green Goblin
90%
Catwoman
88%
Dr. Doom
83%
Mystique
82%
Kingpin
73%
Juggernaut
70%
Riddler
70%
Magneto
69%
Venom
68%
Lex Luthor
63%
Dark Phoenix
61%
The Joker
55%
Two-Face
50%
Mr. Freeze
42%
Poison Ivy
40%
You believe in survival of the fittest and you believe that you are the fittest.

Click here to take the Super Villain Personality Test

Just call me CK…

January 18, 2007

Your results:
You are Superman

Superman
100%
Batman
90%
Supergirl
70%
Spider-Man
60%
Wonder Woman
55%
Robin
55%
Hulk
40%
Iron Man
40%
The Flash
35%
Catwoman
25%
Green Lantern
20%
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

Reactions to Today’s Apple Keynote Announcements and the Year of the SetTop Box

January 9, 2007

Well I am always glad to see a company move forward with technology, but it seems to me that these latest set of announcements of Apple products (The iPhone and AppleTV) seem more evolutionary than revolutionary. Let’s examine these two products and their touted features and compare them to other existing products on the market already..

iPhone

Okay we all knew this was coming the merger of the iPod and the phone..

Key Benefits:

  • phone
  • mail
  • web
  • widescreen ipod

Phone- Lets see sync contacts with my PC, Mail- Check my email, web- web browser, widescreen ipod- for playing MP3s and video.. Gosh this amazing sounds like a Microsoft SmartPhone, now who’s taking who’s concepts..

Will this benefit me to buy one of these.. Maybe if I already own an iPod and don’t want to carry around the phone. However all of this functionality has already been done elsewhere in any other number of devices..

 

Most all of these and there are plenty more models do everything that iPhone does

Phone Over regular cellular networks and VOIP over wifi and include blue tooth functionality…

All have email over the web or through outlook, all have a web browser

Can playback Video and Audio content available through windows media stores and a number of third parties.

 

Expected price of iPhone (hold onto your wallets), $499 and $599.. I bought my Windows Mobile smartphone (with a smaller screen) for $120 and it does all this. Will I be buying one of these just to download iTunes content probably not for that reason. One reason I might is Apple announced the phone is based on OSX, which might be reason to consider if it’s a fully functional MacOS.. I am sure all the Apple Tech Geeks out there will consider this new and revolutionary. Maybe they are behind the times…

 

AppleTV

Repeat after me “Windows Media Center Extender” or XBOX 360…  Again not a revolutionary new product, I have been able to stream video content to my HDTV for over a year now, I record TV using my Windows Media Center PC, then with a Media Center Extender over my 802.11g wireless network can select a program, and stream it back.

I can select and record programming and store it for later playback, watch TV shows that are downloadable wirelessly store it to the PC or the hard drive on my XBOX 360.

Using either Xbox 360 Live MarketPlace, or the Media Center Extender functionality I can do everything that I could do on one of these $300 devices.. I see no reason to buy one of these unless you are locked into the format of content from  Apple’s iTunes. The formats aren’t as flexible and as open. I just really see no reason to buy one of these..

I was suprised when I got the xbox 360 this holiday season and found not just the Media Center extension capability but also an online store for video and audio with all of the major networks with downloadable HD content available for download right to the 360’s hard drive. I can download shows like CSI:Miami and Justice League and watch them at my leasure, without having to have a Microsoft media center computer. Plus I have a kick-butt gaming system with lots of content that I can play online with others. Also, there is an add-on HD DVD player so if I want any high-def content not available on the service I can go out at buy it for around $200 extra. Cheaper than a blu-ray disc that’s for sure.

If you already have a media center computer and don’t think you need xbox 360 you can also buy just a media center extender. Linksys offers one of these products. It’s wireless and hooks into your TV..

 

The year of the SetTop Box

It’s obvious that the future of television programming is On-Demand programming. You use your broadband connection to download and stream content to your display device and make it available for storage on your pc. People have been asking this of the cable companies for years. The cable company prefers to stream the content on a schedule you don’t set..

That means that companies like Apple, and Microsoft have to find another way to compete with them for your media content. You might not want to buy a PC device to watch movies and programming, but you might spend $300 on a device like an AppleTV or an X-box 360, or AT&T Homezone Device…

Why would you want to buy a set-top box, well they want to sell you the content service, but also most of them work like a Jukebox, you can stream media between floors to multiple devices, over wireless making it only necessary to keep your video and audio and media in one place..

This can be an advantage that helps families to better control the content and media that is available to children and it will save time an money over sneakering dvds and cd’s between floors and avoid things like media damage…

All in all we have some really cool things ahead from a lot of very innovative companies. I hear the idea of a HOME NETWORK server OS is on the horizon as well.. If this happens we will be living in the home of the future very soon…

My XBOX Live Gamer Tag

January 7, 2007

Put your gamertag here too.

My XBOX Live Gamer Tag

January 7, 2007

Put your gamertag here too.

My XBOX Live Gamer Tag

January 7, 2007

http://gamercard.xbox.com/DonnyEMU.card