Archive for July, 2008

Now This Is Cool – First Video of Microsoft Multi-Touch Sphere ‘Surfaces’

I first heard of this a few months ago when rumors of such a device first surfaced. Based on the same technology as the Surface multi-touch table, the Sphere allows users to interact with content on, well, basically a huge crystal ball. Cool. I’m especially a fan of the globe application and the 360° camera. The latter will be especially popular with security stations (imagine a 360° camera on the ceiling in the center of a room, and then the entire room being recreated on the Sphere.)

Check it out for yourself, more details to come as microsoft releases them.

[Via Engadget]

Asus Eee PC defeats MacBook, Taking Over Notebook Sales Charts

Asus Eee PCs are selling like hotcakes on, according to their PC Hardware Bestseller list. This list has been long dominated by the MacBook. The Eee PC 901, with it’s 12 GB SSD, 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor, and Windows XP, appears to have hit the sweet spot.

I for one am fascinated by this “NetBook” phenomenon. Their size is great, but their battery life is nothing special. They’re great at browsing the web, emailing and chatting, and general word processing, but clearly don’t have nearly enough power for me to run Visual Studio. I think I might buy one for my mom (she’s getting tired of sharing a computer with my dad!).


UPDATE: Apple fanboys rejoice, the MacBook is back on top. But all laptops are completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of Eee PCs on the charts!

Windows Media SideShow Gadgets – Now on Windows Mobile!

Not too long ago (7/3/2008) Microsoft released the “Windows SideShow for Windows Mobile Developer Preview”. This software allows you to connect via Bluetooth to a SideShow-enabled Windows Vista PC to access all sorts of features on your Windows Mobile device. This includes mail apps, picture displays, system performance monitors, and my personal favorite, remote controls for Office PowerPoint, Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center!

The Media Player and Media Center remotes are very similar. The true greatness of these gadgets come in their functionality, although they are lacking (especially the Media Player gadget) in UI. Too much of the interaction with the gadget is through Windows Mobile menus, and not pretty buttons in the gadget itself. But considering they are betas, and Microsoft seems to be focusing on functionality and reliability and not yet UI, they are very impressive. (Although I’m pretty sure if Microsoft really wanted to they could have one of the resident über-geniuses whip up a pretty GUI for it by tomorrow. I mean, we talking about swapping a couple dozen menu items with graphical buttons instead…almost makes me think they are intentionally leaving the UI bare so as not to infringe upon partner companies building SideShow remotes.)

You can browse all of your media libraries, change the current playing selection or add items to the queue, view the TV listings, and change radio stations, all though these gadgets! Amazing.

Here’s some screen shots of the Media Center gadgets:

You can download the installation files for SideShow for Windows Mobile here, and download the Windows Media Center SideShow gadget from Microsoft Connect (you’ll need a Windows Live/Hotmail login).

The Office PowerPoint Remote and a Windows Mobile device is probably the best PowerPoint remote available. No other remote I know of let’s you control not only flipping slides forwards and backwards, but see the slide you are looking at, it’s notes, and the next slide in the queue all on one screen. Simply amazing.

Grab the Office PowerPoint Remote on the Windows Live Gallery.

1 Trillion and Counting…only 3.3 years until Google’s Index Reaches Infinity

OK so I’m kidding about the infinity thing, but this I’m not: a couple of Google search engineers announced today that Google’s search index had reached a historic milestone: 1,000,000,000,000 (trillion) unique URLs on the web!

We’ve known it for a long time: the web is big. The first Google index in 1998 already had 26 million pages, and by 2000 the Google index reached the one billion mark. Over the last eight years, we’ve seen a lot of big numbers about how much content is really out there. Recently, even our search engineers stopped in awe about just how big the web is these days — when our systems that process links on the web to find new content hit a milestone: 1 trillion (as in 1,000,000,000,000) unique URLs on the web at once!

What I find really cool, is that their massive supercomputer is able to index all of this content, 1 trillion pages and new additions, nearly continuosly:

To keep up with this volume of information, our systems have come a long way since the first set of web data Google processed to answer queries. Back then, we did everything in batches: one workstation could compute the PageRank graph on 26 million pages in a couple of hours, and that set of pages would be used as Google’s index for a fixed period of time. Today, Google downloads the web continuously, collecting updated page information and re-processing the entire web-link graph several times per day. This graph of one trillion URLs is similar to a map made up of one trillion intersections. So multiple times every day, we do the computational equivalent of fully exploring every intersection of every road in the United States. Except it’d be a map about 50,000 times as big as the U.S., with 50,000 times as many roads and intersections.

As you can see, our distributed infrastructure allows applications to efficiently traverse a link graph with many trillions of connections, or quickly sort petabytes of data, just to prepare to answer the most important question: your next Google search.

I am surprised by that number. I figured maybe in a couple years…but wow. I don’t know about you, but my money says Googlenet is already more powerful than Skynet.

Read more on the Google Blog.

Famed NASA Astronaut Claims Confirms Extraterrestials Exist – And Visit Us

This has nothing to do with software development, but it is too good to resist. Former NASA Astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell has said in a radio interview that we have been visited by aliens and Roswell was real. (Full disclosure: I personally have complete confidence that not only do aliens exist, they visit us regularly, probably to the point of having formal diplomatic relations with at least the US government. But it is always nice to hear someone of Dr. Mitchell’s stature agree with me!) Here’s a snippet from the article:

Chillingly, he claimed our technology is “not nearly as sophisticated” as theirs and “had they been hostile”, he warned “we would be been gone by now”.

Dr Mitchell, along with with Apollo 14 commander Alan Shepard, holds the record for the longest ever moon walk, at nine hours and 17 minutes following their 1971 mission.

“I happen to have been privileged enough to be in on the fact that we’ve been visited on this planet and the UFO phenomena is real,” Dr Mitchell said.

“It’s been well covered up by all our governments for the last 60 years or so, but slowly it’s leaked out and some of us have been privileged to have been briefed on some of it.

“I’ve been in military and intelligence circles, who know that beneath the surface of what has been public knowledge, yes – we have been visited. Reading the papers recently, it’s been happening quite a bit.”

Read the whole story and listen to the interview at the Daily Telegraph…

Tracing the Stack in SharePoint

As a SharePoint developer used to working with pure .Net, the first thing that I had to get adjusted to was SharePoint’s error handling and general debugging. Error messages, when they say anything other than a generic “error has occurred” message, are often irrelevant to the actual error that’s occurring.

Worse, the sharepoint logs are OVERLOADED with entries (I’ve seen SharePoint write over 100 log entries in a second) making it very very hard to find the entries that actually contain an error (this is why someone long ago invented the “log viewer”).

Add to that there is no switch in place in Central Administration to enable detailed errors, it instead requires manual modifications of the web.config file. So if you’d like to be able to see the stack trace of the error that is occurring, open the web.config file of your Central Administration site (or a different site if you so choose, located in C:\Inetpub\wwwroot\wss\VirtualDirectories\YourSitePort) and edit the following entries to turn off Custom Errors and enable the Call Stack:

    <customErrors mode="on" />

Should say…

    <customErrors mode="off" />


    <SafeMode MaxControls="50" CallStack="false" />
Should say…
    <SafeMode MaxControls="50" CallStack="true" />

If you are debugging a production system, you can instead set the “customErrors” mode to “remoteOnly”, this will allow the stack trace to be shown on the server’s browser, but not on any remote computers.

I guess we can chalk this lack of easy to use error handling on to the list of SharePoint “oversights” on Microsoft’s part (along with the lack of a x64 SDK, the SPTimer bug that often can’t queue more than 15 items correctly, and the fact that their paid SharePoint support line is usually unable to actually, you know, support anyone. At least we got our money back!)

Dreaming of Printing My Own Gadgets…

Today I got a new Sprint Mogul (PPC-6800). I was watching the LCDs blink, and it hit me really deep: I can’t wait for the day 3D printers have matured to the point where they can print the case, circuit boards, and chips, and maybe even the batteries and screens themselves, so that I can make my own portable electronics. Not to say that what’s out there isn’t impressive, or that we aren’t moving in the right direction as a whole, but I can think of many people and researchers that could use their own, uniquely functional, gadget design.

In the meantime, here are some companies leading the charge:

Continue reading ‘Dreaming of Printing My Own Gadgets…’