Monthly Archives: December 2006

Formal apology to Barbara Bowman

Barbara BowmanI made several mistakes on the Wednesday, 27th of December 2006. One of which included accusing Barb Bowman of receiving an Acer Ferrari 5000 laptop from Microsoft and AMD. Later, I recognized I had made a mistake.

It’s true, I misunderstood information and did not verify my facts. Barb Bowman did not receive her Ferrari laptop computer from Microsoft. She did however receive it from AMD, but in a separate deal unrelated to the Microsoft review PC program. The machine she did receive from Microsoft as part of the review program was the Velocity Micro Media Center, which she fully disclosed in her post.

Since, she has received numerous threatening emails and comments on her blog as a result of my inaccurate information. I have caused her grief and other intangible losses which I cannot restore. Therefore, I’d like to make a public apology to her to reach out to those who’s made accusations against her based on incorrect information.

On the topic of threatening emails, I’m also the lucky recipients of many. Apparently, I’ve compromised my editorial integrity and objectivity, which I’ve never felt I had. You should probably stop reading this blog now.

X-ray browsing: an alternative to Flip 3D?

The following article is based on a patent application currently under review. It discloses information and/or concepts which may or may not be actually implemented in future products. Parental guidance for ignorant readers is advised.

Windows Vista Flip 3DWindows Vista brings a feature we all love to show off, Flip 3D. A new way to organize and sort windows through a 3D interface resembling much to a ferris wheel. Whether or not it actually increase productivity requires more public feedback or even scientific testing, but it’s pretty at least. However in a patent application filed during January 2005, and only made publically available today, it reveals a windows navigation concept appropriate named “x-ray browsing” which might have been many of the alternatives under consideration for a feature like Flip 3D.

Simply put, it makes windows transparent. I know what you’re thinking, transparent windows, that’s nothing new. Well you’re right, and this patent specifically states that “most existing operating systems have functionality to control the opacities of windows and third party software exists that allows users to manually change the opacity of a single window.” (Ex. Martin’s Transparent Windows app). This patent isn’t about making windows transparent, it’s about a new way of navigating windows.

“Window selection interfaces have been proposed to minimize the necessity to sort through the various open windows.” Currently, we have many forms of windows navigation. On Windows, there was the Alt-Tab, taskbar buttons and even the task manager list. In Mac OS X, there was the Apple-Tab, the Dock and now Expose. Whilst Expose is great because it exposes all window simultaneously, however shrinking windows to all fit on the desktop would prohibit users from viewing fine details in each window which might be relevant to choose a specific window.

There is therefore a need for a method to allow users to quickly scan through open windows one at a time. According to one aspect of the invention, all but one of the open windows is made transparent. The remaining window, which is in focus, is made opaque and therefore clearly visible. In response, to a command, windows can be navigated through where each input causes a window previously not in focus to be in focus and become opaque, and causes the window in focus at the time of the command to become transparent. Thus, at all times during navigation, a single window is opaque and the other windows are transparent. This can be referred to as x-ray browsing.

xray-2a.gif

“FIG. 2A illustrates a display screen 200 with multiple open windows overlapping each other.” This is the standard windows view. Windows overlapping windows. You can find it in ever graphical operating system.

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Microsoft hands out Ferrari’s to bloggers

Free Acer Ferrari 5000 from Microsoft

Microsoft together with AMD gave out some timely Christmas presents (which are officially review PCs) to a bunch of bloggers this year. Brandon LeBlanc got one, Scott Beale got one, Mauricio Freitas got one, Mitch Denny got one, Zen.Heavengames got one, Barb Bowman got a media center, plus many other bloggers who has yet to receive it during the Christmas rush. They seem to have covered everyone from A-list to Z-list, a first in the industry with such a valuable gift, kudos for thinking about the little guys.

Some people got Ferrari 1000s, others got 5000s (Some got Media Centers even). The following specs are from the Ferrari 5000.

The machine looks just as good as it specs. As part of Acer’s Ferrari designer computing range, the carbon-fiber case is styled with a slick threaded finish with genuine Ferrari badging and color strips. Just like the racing counterpart, this machine has grunt. It sports an AMD Turion 64 X2 dual-core 2ghz CPU, 2GB of DDR2-667 RAM, AMD-ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 on a 15.4″ widescreen. It also has a 160GB SATA drive, HD-DVD reader and burner as well as a 1.3mp camera. Full specifications available at the Acer website.

Assuming it doesn’t use Sony batteries, this laptop blows everything out of the water. It retails for a hot $2,299. But if you write about Microsoft, they might even give you one for free. Is it ethical? Probably not. Is it worth something to hard-working sweat and tears bloggers? Hell yeah.

I don’t see the Free Software Foundation handing out any Ferrari’s. :P

Update: Robert Scoble also picked up the story, comparing this to PayPerPost. Although I think PayPerPost is about profiting, whilst this is about rewarding. Even though the outcome might be the same.

Update 2: Dan Warne from APCMag has a different perspective on this issue, he thinks this is highly inappropriate and immoral. Could this act of generosity turn upside-down into a PR disaster?

Update 3: Just something for everyone to keep in mind. Remember bloggers are given a choice which includes giving the machine back when they’re done with it. Keeping the unit is a decision made solely by the bloggers receiving the computers.

Update 4: Looks like I’ve stirred up the waters a bit, so here’s some of my opinions and clarifcations.

  • Slashdot has labelled this a “bribe”. However unlike what they have claimed, these were not gifts. As it may happen to coincide with Christmas, it is important to note Windows Vista is launching in 30 days. It is nothing more than just good timing and coincidence.

    I, however, wrote these as “Christmas presents”, only because it happens to coincide with Christmas. Officially, these were review PCs with the the options at upon completion of review to either send back to Microsoft, give away or keep indefinitely. This choice is solely at the discretion of bloggers.

  • Some people have accused my good friend Brandon LeBlanc of accepting the Ferrari without disclosure. Whilst it is true he did not disclose he received the machine from Microsoft in his original post, he had always intenteded to disclose in his review article in the near future. I think nothing less if not more of him for admitting his mistake.

    Bloggers like Brandon put a lot of hard work into their blogs and most of the time receive little or no reimbursement for their highly valuable work. I wouldn’t think it would be inappropriate at all, in fact only fair that these bloggers deserve to keep these machines as ‘rewards’.

  • I, myself, am receiving a machine also. It hasn’t arrived yet, possibly Friday. Unlike what Tech.Blorge quotes, it is not a Ferrari, but is apparently a Velocity Micro Media Center PC.

    I intend to accept it, open it, and drool at it. Without having a TV or monitor with me, it would be kind of hard for me to use it. As David Flynn suggested, I’m considering giving it away through a contest or charity auction. But I’m also in need of an upgrade, so don’t bet on it.

  • Aaron Coldiron, who was responsible for handling these machines at Microsoft, responds in a comment below.

Update 5: These machines were sent for review and reviewed they shall. Brandon LeBlanc is one of the first with an actual review of the machine (Ferrari 5000). It’s a beast without the beasty size.

Update 6: Mitch Denny (who received a Ferrari 1000 and disclosed it) has posted an excellent excellent post collecting all of the discussions including articles from both sides of the fence on this topic.

Update 8: Journalist writer and blogger Ed Bott thinks the whole moral debate is unnecessary. “Everyone in the community wins when that person gets the chance to play with new technology.” He got a Ferrari 5000, and might auction it off for charity.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by no one. Because no one cares about Long.

Off the grid till CES

Days away from attending the biggest electronics show, I’m being stripped from one of the most basic of technologies, internet access. Due to family reasons, I’m moving to Hastings, a rural town 50km away from where I live at the moment and almost 100km away from the Melbourne international airport. It also happens to be Christmas, when everyone has an excuse not to work. The only internet option is ADSL, which optimistically speaking, can only be connected in weeks.

That means I’m going to be stuck with local library internet access. You’re limited to 1 hour a day and only Internet Explorer 6. Oh it’s going to be an agonizing week until CES.

Speaking about CES, if you would like to meet up, please send me an email (which might hopefully be read). But otherwise, I’m going to be at the Microsoft Vista Lab, Bloghaus and the Microsoft viral campaigns. Spot the asian guy!

Happy holidays and happy new year! Thank you for reading and supporting me this year. :)

Update: I’ve found myself an unsecured WiFi access point. Together with a free VPN solution called Hotspot Shield from Anchorfree, I’m going to be using this until ADSL gets connected. It’s not so bad after all.

Stop Digital Amnesia: ‘Quattro’ Home Server viral campaign?

Stop Digital Amnesia

Another day, another Microsoft viral campaign. This time, The fake Center for Digital Amnesia Awareness has launched an online campaign called “Stop Digital Amnesia” (via Furrygoat) – a medical-like project discussing the problems and solution for a made-up disorder called “digital amnesia”.

According to this very fake professor, “digital amnesia” refers not only to lack of storage capacities, but “isolated devices compounded by digital protection deficiencies.” The solution? Sharing. “Access throughout the home and increased connectively with loved one, combined with daily backups, these steps can prevent or even reverse digital memory loss.”

This of course brings to mind, the ‘Quattro’ Home Server, a concept that has been known since 2005. The most obvious connection between “Stop Digital Amnesia” and ‘Quattro’ is the mention of home connectivity. One would assume ‘Quattro’ will either enable or enhance home connectivity from computers to computers and even devices. By bringing together NAS storage with media control capabilities, it would also solve the problem of isolated devices such as TVs which would have previous had no right to access DRMed or otherwise copyrighted content available on Media Centers and desktops, to have managed access to media content on a centralized server store. Automatic daily backups is also another possibility, where ‘Quattro’ fetches predefined files and directories from computers on the network, and makes an image backup for safekeeping.

If you think hard about ‘Quattro’, which might be hard at this time of year, then a server opens up possibilities in many areas beyond media and file sharing. Microsoft has demonstrated with a server, you can enable unified management and control of services such as security (ex. Forefront) and communications (ex. Exchange Server). This could leverage many powerful enterprise tools such as web & voice-access emails, network-wide security protection and even internal patch redistribution to the home. It could make home IT management as simple as plug’n’go.

However, if it isn’t ‘Quattro’, than it could also be Windows Live Drive. However with specific mentions of home connectivity, I highly doubt it.

Stop Digital Amnesia
“A cure in Vegas, baby!” CES Central Hall, Sunday January 7th. I’ll be there!

Vanishing Point @ Bellagio

Vanishing Point Game @ Bellagio Fountains
Photo credit: stock.xchng faltered

vanishingpoint.comSome of you may have been following The Vanishing Point alternative-reality-game that was originally revealed on the Internet Explorer MSDN Team blog on Saturday the 23rd of December. If you’ve been living under an inflatable rock (like myself), then the community at Neowin has an extremely resourceful forum topic that will help you catch up on all the solved mysteries and mysteries yet to solve.

If one thing’s for certain, then The Vanishing Point is a viral marketing campaign created by 42Entertainment, the same people who were behind the hugely successful “ilovebees” viral campaign for the launch of Halo 2. This time however, the puzzles are a lot harder and no one knows what the viral campaign is for.

Several clues and wild guesses based on successful attempts at solving puzzles included:

  • Antepenultimate – “high-end laptops, gaming computers, media centers, software, gaming consoles, media players, and games”. Somewhat too obvious for an ARG.
  • Zenith – “Fewer than a thousand people have ever been there to see the ultimate vista.” Some people suggested a trip to space, but space travel has been merely limited to fewer than a hundred people. But ‘ultimate vista’ suggests a sightseeing and travel prize.

And if you watch the YouTube video (original video removed, reuploaded to this link), assuming everything has been crafted to the last strand of hair on her head, she promises to “make someone famous around the world”.

“We’ve started, and there’s no turning back.” Everything will be revealed at Bellagio Fountains, Las Vegas on Monday January 8th at 6:30pm. “I promise you, it will be timeless.” I’ll be there.