Monthly Archives: May 2007

Seadragon and Photosynth demo at TED2007

TED ConferenceIf you’ve never heard of the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference, then you haven’t seen anything. It’s the equivalent of 100 Steve Jobs keynotes compressed into one conference (without the “Boom!”s) – if you’re interested in the topic, it won’t disappoint. The name doesn’t really catch on as a hip technology conference, but every year, some of the brightest and most entertaining minds come together to talk about how great and grim our world is. Check out this 7-min awe-inspiring documentary about TED.

Best of all, it is probably the only conference in the world which offers the best talks available online in fairly high resolution within a reasonable time after the people who’s paid thousands of dollars to see live (Rupert Murdoch, Al Gore, Bill Gates), all under Creative Commons, showing that this isn’t just a conference of smart people, but also a conference hosted by smart people.

Today Natasha from TED kindly contacted me about a new presentation which has just been published concerning Microsoft. It is of course the “Photosynth demo” by its architect, Blaise Aguera y Arcas. This was recorded quite recently, only in March, and contains probably one of the better demos of Seadragon and Photosynth – more screen action than talking. Although indirectly, Blaise also showed off Flickr-integration in Photosynth – fetching geographically-relevant photos real-time from Flickr, proving it can be done in a practical manner. That will be a killer app.

If you like what you see, then I urge you to check out some of the other talks available on the site. Some of my favorites include: Ze Frank’s comedy act, Sergey and Larry’s Google talk, Seth Godin’s sliced bread, Hans Rosling’s mind-blowing statistics, Savage-Rumbaugh’s apes that play Pac-Man, and one that will probably make you weep, James Nachtwey’s photo-story about the world.

Download the full Segoe font collection, official Microsoft branding typeface

SegoeThe official Microsoft branding typeface, Segoe, is a beautiful and elegant font. It’s used in almost every Microsoft branding campaign ranging from posters to logos, most notably Windows Vista. And for that reason, it’s not a font you can exactly download from any fonts website. However, if you do happen to have it through one way or another, you will cherish it. It works great as a Helvetica substitute, and even looks extremely sharp even in small font sizes due to the ClearType enhancements. And there’s no better if you need to create a fake Microsoft logo.

To note, this is not just Segoe UI which comes with Vista or Office 2007. Segoe UI is just one of the many subsets in the Segoe family which make up the collection. This is that collection.

Out of pure luck, Microsoft has actually let such a prized possession slip out of its internal archives and onto the public internet. A few weeks ago, Microsoft silently uploaded an ambiguous downloadable titled “Print Ad for Microsoft Dynamics Business Management Solutions Brief Description“. It would have sounded pretty innocent to the normal Microsoft.com user, but it was highly contagious for a sleuth like myself. And I was right, there it was in its full-fidelity and form, all 14 font files that make up the Segoe family.

Segoe fontsBut that’s not all. Apart from all possible combinations of condensed, semibold and light type variations, there are also PostScript (Type-1) versions and believe it or not, Mac versions. And to top it off, it also comes with the much adored license agreement spelled “licnese.txt”. In which it states,

Microsoft grants you a personal, nonexclusive, non-transferable, royalty-free license to install and use the Software solely for the purpose of creating materials requested by Microsoft and in accordance with the specification(s) provide to you by Microsoft. By way of example only, such materials may include printed material (such as advertising, packaging, promotional material, and manuals), form material (such as templates and style sheets), online graphic material (such as bitmapped text, bitmapped logos and Macromedia Flash animations), and broadcast material (such as television advertising).

You may install and use the Software on an unlimited number of computers as long as all such computers are either owned or controlled by you.

NO RENTAL/TRANSFER. You may not rent, lease, lend, or otherwise transfer the Software.

A rather straight-forward and lenient EULA by any legal standards. I’ll leave you to interpret what “creating materials requested by Microsoft” means. But since I cannot transfer you the “software” in a direct manner, you will have to download the full 24MB pile of ‘stuff’ that the Segoe fonts are wedged between.

Once you have extracted the ZIP, you can find the TrueType fonts in the “BDM_Q107_LeadGen_AD\High Resolution\Fonts\Windows_Fonts\Segoe_PC\Segoe_TT_PC” directory. Copy and install the fonts and you’re all set.

Don’t ask me how I found this, just grab it quickly. You never know when the A-Team (Microsoft Legal Council) will blow it out of existence.

Update: The A-Team has struck again. They’re no fun. :(

More hidden details on Microsoft Surface website: prior origins, unannounced road show and tech specs

Microsoft Surface websiteThe freshly baked Microsoft Surface website is certainly full of gems. Upon investigation, not only does it contain a picture of a in-development version of the website with mentions of the “Milan Media Player”, but also some hidden content and sections yet to be published. By looking at the website XML configurations file, we can find a few details that has been commented out for later release.

For example, in the “Origins” page XML file, two years have been commented out from the history of the Surface project. I don’t know why they would want to discredit Bill Buxton, but here is what had been written.

Bill Buxton research in 1985Bill Buxton research in 1995

In 1985, Microsoft researcher Bill Buxton develops a multi-touch tablet with the Input Research Group at the University of Toronto. The device is capable of sensing an arbitrary number of simultaneous touch inputs, reporting both location and degree of touch for each. Buxton also publishes the paper “A Multi-Touch Three Dimensional Touch-Sensitive Tablet”—the first comprehensive look at multi-touch systems.

In 1995, Microsoft researcher Bill Buxton develops a multi-handed interactive tabletop surface with the Input Research Group at the University of Toronto. The device, “the interactive desk,” was a three-foot diagonal drafting table–like surface capable of sensing high-resolution input by using a stylus in one hand and simultaneously optically sensing (using a video camera) the pose and position of the other hand on the surface, so as to enable it to manipulate graphical objects with the other.

Among other things in the config.xml, there are also notable sections commented out including “Milan Locations” – presumably where you can see the Surface in-use, “Road Show Calendar” – Microsoft might be touring the Surface demo across the United States, and as well as the much anticipated “Tech Specs” – self explanatory.

None of this to-be-revealed content has actually been uploaded to the server, so don’t bother looking. But hold your breath until at least tomorrow where Bill Gates is most definitely going to be talking about the Surface.

Update: Comments in the XML file has now been removed, but I have backups. 😀

Microsoft Surface wallpaper and hidden image on website hints at multi-touch Zune release on Nov 14?

Microsoft SurfaceSo the wraps have been taken off Microsoft Surface, a tabletop computer that’s the result of countless years of research papers and project codenames (TouchLight, PlayAnywhere, PlayTogether, PlayTable, Milan) all stuffed inside a 30-inch silver box. Whilst not exactly as portable as the iPhone (carry case sold separately), the Surface features an almost identical multi-touch technology as many other Minority Report inspired research projects – once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen it all. I don’t have much else to say about it, so just check out the official website, press release and two-or-so blogs who picked up the story.

However I did uncover a cool background image featured in the Flash website which makes a great wallpaper. Spent roughly 30 minutes cleaning up the horrendous JPEG compression that someone thought might have saved some bandwidth (pfft, bandwidth), stuck a logo on it and called it a day. Wow, special thanks to Mickey Slater (who designed the site) for providing an uncompressed version. Looks pretty sick.

But whilst digging around the Flash file, I also found a piece of image leftover from the project’s development process that either holds some relevance or I’m just over-reacting to mindless filler-text. Nevertheless, I thought I should share it.

Milan website image

What’s interesting here are the differences between this mock-up and the actual press page that’s currently on the live website. First of all, the media image placeholders have been replaced with better images – trivial and not significant. But on the second line, all of the executives have been replaced from the directors in the Entertainment division to leaders of the Surface team itself – J. Allard included. Wonder why.

But the most interesting are the sample “press releases”. November 14 seems to be a date of significance, but if you read the third release, “Microsoft’s New Milan Media Player on Store Shelves on Nov 14”, it becomes fascinating. Milan being the codename for “Surface”, it would be not far-fetched to assume a “Milan Media Player” is a portable media device which has multi-touch capabilities, which brings me to the Zune. The Zune, which is now due for a second revision pops to my mind. And out of pure coincidence, November 14 is also the date of the Zune launch in 2006. Announcing a multi-touch 2nd generation Zune on the first anniversary sounds like a good pretty good plan to me.

Update: How could I forget to credit Mary Jo for accurately reporting on this almost five days ago! She lives up to her reputation.

Dell creates piss-poor comparison between XP and Vista, expects people to buy it

Dell - Can you see it?I can see why Vista isn’t selling well with crap like this.

Last month, there was a bit of a backlash against Windows Vista when Dell reintroduced XP back to its product offerings across a range of home and business systems. Even though I strongly advise against gamers upgrading to Vista on their current system, but I don’t quite understand why anyone would want to pay good money for second-rate technology on a brand new system. They’re only going to have to pay even more money in half-a-year’s time when all drivers are well and good. But today, I came across something on Dell.com that might have explained this.

I was actually looking around for the new Ubuntu offerings when I stumbled across this promotional video titled “Vista vs. XP“. I was expecting to see flying-buzzwords and all sorts of hype-generating effects that would have wow-ed the customer into getting Vista as soon as possible, but it turns out to be a piss-poor attempt at explaining what an operating system is with a corny script and unspectacular demos. Have a look at the video to see what I mean.

A list of things that bugged me:

  • “Can you see it?” – Who at Dell came up with this crap? Microsoft obviously didn’t. And what’s with the face expression that looks like he wants to murder someone when he says it?
  • “Many of you won’t be able to run Vista on your current system specs” – What a great way to get people excited by telling them how incompetent their computer systems are.
  • Tina Riquelmy, the “Vista Expert” – You would assume a “Vista Expert” might be someone from Microsoft or an Microsoft evangelist who really knows the guts of Vista, but it turns out Tina is actually a Senior Product Manager at Dell. What’s with her voice? It gets quieter and quieter. At least find someone who’s a little more energetic.
  • “Phenomenally different than any operating system you’ve ever used”. So let’s rename an album in real-time. (1:30) – Dell decided to showcase the phenomenally different digital music experience that is in Vista by showing a 15-second clip of “how-to” rename your music albums.
  • A security scan that freezes on the first file (2:35) – A bit of a trivial thing, but at least record a demo when software works as it should. Windows Defender stuck at scanning the first file for is not a good demo.

To say that was disappointing is an over-statement. I can’t imagine any average consumer to want to buy Vista after seeing that. With all $500million dollars poured into marketing Vista, some of Microsoft’s biggest partners still fail to create a campaign even on the borderline of Apple’s Get-a-Mac ads.