Archive for March 2007

My Mix’07 Wishlist

March 27, 2007

by Don Burnett

 

Here’s my wishlist for Mix’07 coming up in a few months.. Please note these are my hopes, not anything I have heard officially or unofficially. This is just a wish list, let’s see how many comes true. Again I haven’t heard of any of this offically

 

  1. Microsoft Dot Net Framework 3.5 announced
    1. DataGrid with Xaml Databinding support, and other winform equivalents that are missing, etc..
    2. Support for WPF XBAPs in Mozilla FireFox
    3. Improved WCF integration with XAML
  2. WPF/E improvements
    1. Databinding in XAML
    2. more winform equivalent controls
    3. Text and input controls
    4. 3D support (software only on the Mac)
  3. Expression Blend
    1. Improved WPF/E Support
    2. Interfacing changes more themeability in the interface
    3. Better Visual Studio WPF designer integration
    4. Enhanced WCF and webservices support in the designer (open a web service and directly databind in Blend Designer)
  4. Expression Media
    1. Gold 1.0 product
  5. Expression Designer
    1. Features missing from the Original Expression product aimed at artists for deisgn work comes back to the new interface..
    2. More WPF/E XAML function on the export..
    3. HD photosupport
    4. onionskinning and animation
  6. Expression Web
    1. WPF/E support plug-in, no more going to the SDK for aghost etc..
    2. A rich media plug-in that handles flash, etc.
    3. Customizable toolbox (ASP.NET controls available that aren’t in your GAC) and automatic recognition of user-installed ones (like Visual Studio’s VWD)
    4. Expression Web  gets a new UI, more in line with Blend and the other expression application.

Okay these are just wishes but I wonder how many of them will come true. I know a lot of people who use the toolsets now are clamoring for this functionality.. I hope we at least see a couple of these items hit reality soon..

Apple TV makes it’s debut

March 26, 2007

by Don Burnett

Well AppleTV has made it’s debut and shortly after in a moment of internet mayhem and DMCA occlusion the boot screen animation and most of the graphics made their way to the internet on various websites. Which since a ZDNET blog post have now disappeared. Gotta give those Apple guys credit for plugging up the holes instantly.

However that hasn’t stopped Unix hackers who have already put up and AppleTV Hack Site. Some of the functionality is nice, someone has already described how to boot the OS from a USB key. Other things include booting an apache web server and enabling remote desktop.

If you want to know more PC Magazine has a review of it.. There were several points I didn’t agree with however..

 

  1. that Xbox Live has less content available. Sometimes less is more, I think the offerings Microsoft has up there are very strategic and winners. Also, the resolution (at least on my X-box 360) is better for content playback.
  2. AppleTV doesn’t play NFL 2K7 or Dance, Dance Revolution: Universe at the moment. Although some enterprising hacker will no doubt port SDL to it and a bunch of unix/linux games.
  3. Their method of communication with the PC or Mac looks possibly  like “infringement” to me. You have to type in a 5 digit number to connect the two. Considering that this is an Apple product I thought they’d make this more plug-n-play. That isn’t the easiest setup for streaming. Apple could have done better and made you not think about it. Instead it’s a copy from the Microsoft Media Center Extender Playbook. This stuff should link up by just recognizing the device out there and asking if it wants to connect.
  4. I miss dvr functionality. I think that should have been a feature from the beginning. I wonder what enterprising hacker will put the TiVO software on this system and enable TiVO playback first..

 

I really look at this and wonder what the cable company is thinking about this product. Apple basically has their own “Pay Per View” box now for $300 on conceivably every TV in America, and besides the monthly broadband fee they aren’t getting their usual monopoly cut.  Because of the ease of use factor I predict that the cable companies will be the next to try to partner with Apple.

Verizon already has entered the IP based streaming tv market with their FiOS product that streams television over broadband for a cheaper $42.99 a month and you get over 200 channels. Sounds like a great deal, they don’t seem to have caught onto the new nifty jargon that Apple is using yet because their ads mention “cable boxes” and other terms to make it sound just like digital cable tv which they are selling against.

Quick Note of Thanks to The Blend Team

March 21, 2007

by Don Burnett

Wow, I have heard that things have changed at Microsoft for the better but you only have to see it in action to be totally amazed at the quality of service and support they are giving us users.

I’d just like to thank some folks from the Expression Blend team for being ultra responsive to a comment I made about a problem with the Expression Blend RC..

Anand Thakker, Adam Ulrich,  and Unni Ravindranathan

Replied and responded very quickly to make sure the issue I commented on was documented, and resolved almost immediately. It just really goes to show what great people Microsoft has working for them and the great customer commitment they have and their dedication to making a great product even better.

Thanks guys and I hope others at Microsoft see the quality of service, support and work you are doing. I hope it inspires others to match your dedication and work ethic. You have truly inspired my own to greater responsiveness.

In the Wake of Adobe Announcements

March 21, 2007

by Don Burnett

CS3 Disappointment

Well it’s been an exciting week for Adobe announcements. I was looking forward to the Creative Suite 3 announcements. I was a little disappointed when Adobe offered a beta copy only to people who have CS2 right now. It’s obvious they are only concerned with keeping their current customers and promoting it to those using CS2 now. This is a little short sighted because I know tons of people who have and still use older versions of Photoshop and have never updated to any of the CS products. You might find this shocking but I know artists who have been using Photoshop since version 4.x and they still only use version 6.0 or 7.0.

Why is this? Most like the UI in the older versions and know how to use it and just do not want to update to changed UI. When I ask these people why they still use old software versions. I hear things like “they just changed the UI, and there has been no serious functionality changes that I would use in anything newer that they have offered.”

So, when I decided to evaluate Photoshop CS3 with the two day non-registered evaluation, I spent time looking at why I might buy this version of Photoshop based on these comments.

I did a direct feature comparision from Version 7.0 to CS3 and here’s what I found. Let’s say they are still very much the same product. There is improved animation/video support and better support for digital photography, but really I am not seeing that much in the way of changes to Photoshop or how it works.

Maybe it’s the old story don’t argue with success, but I wouldn’t mind seeing new features and functionality and new ways of working with layers and filters, in more inspiring realtime ways.

One of the things, I, for instance like about the new Microsoft Office is that when you see some feature it gives you an animated example of how something will change and changes can happen in realtime including realtime undos. I don’t understand why Photoshop doesn’t do this in a more realtime way, as CPU power is there to allow for these things. Also support of graphics cards with GPUs to improve rendering times should be there (not just multiple CPU and core support).

I may be old fashioned here, but, I did not see anything cutting edge or new here or something that was new that wasn’t being done somewhere else in another program already. I guess for the price, I expect more (especially with free gems out there like Paint.Net which runs all as managed code and is available for free and has full HD Photo support).

You may ask why mess with success? Well considering it’s 2007 I think Adobe should go back and take a fresh look at Photoshop and creating an interface and featureset implementation that is worthy of a 2007 product launch. Photoshop is a grand old program now and very mature, but is beginning to look a little aged. I challenge Adobe in the next version to start totally from scratch, redesign Photoshop’s interface add more realtime features and feedback and make it the program it deserves to be.

This has been my main beef with Macromedia studio apps, is they are beginning to have to much legacy bloat still on their coat tails. I got tired of Dreamweaver updates when all they did was change the UI, but not add new features like ASP.NET 2.0 support even years after it was released.

It’s not enough to rework the interface a little bit (just enough to issue a new beginners book or training system) and not give new function and features.

I honestly can’t see a good reason to buy CS3 as a new user of it, but maybe they are only interested in keeping their base.  I am sure I’ll end up working yet another company however that will buy it because it’s a “standard” and require use of it. Even though for everyday use there are other less expensive products that are on par with it.

My message to Adobe: Sometimes folks who set standards need to really go back and remember why things they did in the past became a standard ( with revolutionary feature set). Adobe you need to go back and find that innovation again. Take a risk, re-invent things and how they work. It’s time. You won’t loose base if you can make it easier and more functional and more instantaneous and realtime.

APOLLO

Okay after having said that about CS3, I am happy to report I love the alpha of the Apollo runtime. I love that it’s cross platform and you can integrate all those Flash, Flex, and HTML functionality into a real Rich Internet Application as a full cross-platform application that works on the Mac and PC. I wish they had also added Linux support, but maybe that will still happen.

Apollo applications are great, small and do some incredible things. I was really excited about one of the sample applications called maptacular that integrates an HTML application (Google maps) in a mashup with VCARDs in a full desktop application.

Apollo is very very cool.

I do have some reservations about the development environment. I have never been a fan of Eclipse (a now open source IDE, which was based on an old IBM IDE). I would very much like to see Adobe open Apollo and Flex development to other IDEs. If they did this I would be more likely to embrace it more wholeheartedly. You might ask why I feel this way. Well it’s mostly not so great experiences with Eclipse in the past and the fact that it’s very Java centric. Adobe might find that there are more than a few developers who feel this way. The SDK certainly can be used elsewhere, so why not extend and embrace or create their own.

Will I be using Apollo very much? I am not sure, it’s certainly cool technology. Most of my time is spent in Microsoft development environments these days, and with WPF I don’t have to have a runtime installed to create an XML markup based UI that just runs in Windows environments.

To OZ and back…

I have heard there are several developers working on MXML to XAML and XAML to MXML markup translators to make markup more transportable between these environments. I am looking forward to seeing betas come out because I think this will make everything a more connected world. I hear these will include webservices and data access support too. Mighty cool huh?

WPF/E with ASP.NET Integration

March 19, 2007

by Don Burnett

 

I spoke before about how I believe that WPF/E was a “right sized” plug-in and does just enough. Further proof of this showing up everyday. Integration gives us some really amazing capabilities, so let’s get down to it and look at some ways you can use WPF/E with ASP.NET..

 

The first one comes from Mike Harsh’s own blog. Way back in December he published the first WPF/E server control in ASP.NET. This lets you embed WPF/E and XAML anywhere in the page and it comes with a very cool WYSIWYG designer to make it all easier.

 

 

The next one and it’s most promising comes from Bryant Likes over at the bryantlikes blog. His entry (and thanks for the mention by the way), shows us how to go about creating ASP.NET server controls to generate XAML on the page. What’s neat about this is it completely dispells yet another one of those myths that you can’t have WPF/E and input controls simultaneously.

In fact Bryant has also dispelled the databinding myth many times over as well with his article on simulating datagrids in WPF/E. His samples are very straightforward and there is great detail.

These are must-reads and must-snag code for anyone doing anything serious with WPF/E development. I have subscribed to his blog and recommend you do so as well.

Integration makes everything possible, and very much not a necessary “build-in” like other presentation layer systems and controls.

Anyway if you aren’t subscribing to these guys blogs and you are doing WPF/E work you are missing out. Thanks for proving the point I was making and showing us how to improve and make some really cool extended integrated XAML enabled controls for ASP.NET.

The Good the Bad and The Ugly: Blend RC

March 17, 2007

by Donald Burnett

Well Microsoft quietly with not much announcement placed the Blend Release Candidate up on Microsoft.com/Expression for download this week. And with it were a few very cool suprises.

 

This is not a full review by me by any means but a cursory examination of new things that you might not know was there..

 

New Items:

  • New Samples for Blend (advanced ones)
    • Animation Studio – A sketchpad dream application with a light table and onion skinning. This takes me back to the old Amiga Days with Disney’s Animation Studio, but instead of being a sketchpad app they show you how to make the application with this sample, including a simple design surface.
    • A 3D Viewer – a full 3D viewer that gives you a sample of a car design (right out of Tron) that you can zoom around with the camera and see different details and lighting. What’s cool is that this requires little if any managed code (C# or VB) to do, it’s ALL XAML.
    • The Video Shelf  – This sample is very neat and shows you how to map video (the media element) on different 3D objects, in this case books on a shelf.
    • PhotoBook – This one show you how to do the famous page curl and map images onto a 3d book. This has already been made famous by a UK Library’s use of this to show off illuminated manuscripts that are to frail for real people to touch anymore.
    • The Grand Piano- Turns your keyboard into a 3d grand piano, now with the ability to load and save songs (like a player piano)
    • Color Swatch- This last sample an interior designer is going to love it starts out with color swatches (like those Pantone brand color charts we all know and love) and gives you an interior design that you can re-color. You can re-color walls frames, the floor, a bathtub and towels even.

 

This version of Blend is a lot more snappy things don’t seem to take as long to compile, the interface seems snappier (maybe all the debug code gone makes that big a difference). The asset library seems particularly more snappy with custom controls, the asset library and everything coming up way more quickly.

For whatever reason when I open one of the code-behind files like C# it opens up in notepad instead of waiting for Visual Studio 2005 to open it, (VS 2005 requiring User Account Control permission to open up) and when it opens the first time it’s missing the project files. This whole thing has been kinda screwy since I did the Visual Studio 2005 for Vista update anyway. And before anybody asks, yes I do have the options/event handlers set correctly with the application.

Whatever they do, they need to look at this and fix it before final. It’s an annoyance to have to open visual studio and open the project separately.  I know this is an issue with user account control which prompts me for visual studio 2005 to open. If it is already open it tries to open a second instance of the application and still doesn’t open the project.  I would also mention that this is a fresh install of Blend with all the latest Visual Studio updates. I really haven’t been happy with Blend’s Visual Studio integration since the December CTP with the old interface.

I haven’t tried this with Visual Studio “Orcas” but I want to work with release product whenever possible so I probably won’t for a while.

Either way it’s obvious a whole lot of work has been done, I do hope someone checks how integration with Visual Studio 2005 works with Vista, and Blend. This is a really big issue with me. I haven’t turned UAC off to see if it’s an issue with it or not. This doesn’t happen on older Vista RTM installs I have on other computers just new fresh installs on the latest computer, so it might have gotten missed some how.

IdentityMine Does It Again!

March 16, 2007

by Don Burnett

 

Well my normal stumbling around the web has uncovered yet another GEM of a product from IdentityMine. They are quickly becoming one of the premiere “WPF” application development houses.  They will be presenting at Mix07 and I am looking forward to hearing more about what they are up to.

 

Okay so, you work in a firm doing work in WPF or WPF/E and you want to communicate a snippet or graphic over loose XAML to another team member whether it be a developer on the developer side or another artist on your design staff, or even your boss for approval.

So what do you do? Send an email perhaps, but most of the time it’s not an official “sign-off” so you just need to let the person preview your work quickly.

What is the answer to this? Well we already know that most folks on the artside like to work with “loose” XAML files just as a lot of HTML developers still use notepad.exe which gave way to htmlpad and some other alternatives. Sometimes you want to work with the XAML but don’t want to open a large application like Blend.. So, for a while now there has been XAMLPad which is a small footprint notepad for creating XAML..

XAMLPad and it’s varients are great and all but sometimes you need that team collaboration experience (especially with WPF/E) where you are working with a number of different types of developers.

The folks at IdentityMine has came up with a solution for this. It’s called CHATBlender. It’s an add-in for MSN Messenger that lets you work in XAML and preview it while chatting with another team member and you can paste the XAML right to them for viewing and editing. This is a great collaboration tool. You should check it out and you can download it HERE!