Monthly Archives: August 2007

Vista screensaver inspired WMP visualizations, “Psychedelia Visualization Pack”

Correct me if I’m wrong but I think it’s been at least two Windows releases since any new or updated Windows Media Player visualizations. Sure, what comes in the box are still visualizations by definition, but I couldn’t consider any of them eye-candy. Recently, a new visualization pack made by two Microsoft employees in their spare time is worth checking out.

Psychedelia Visualization Pack - Ribbons

Stephen Coy, the designer of the Windows Vista screensavers and Tim Cowley, a software engineer on the Office team have come together to release a visualizations pack for Windows Media Player called “Psychedeliatwo years in the making. But don’t worry, no LSD drugs involved.

As a requirement to run these visualizations, you will need a graphics card that supports at least shader model 2.0 (most DirectX 9 graphics cards will), which might seem like a high requirement for visualizers, but how else are you suppose to create visual magic right?

Included in the single package are 7 visualizations with over 40 variations in total, including

  • Album Art 3D – 3D cubes with the album art of the song you’re currently playing
  • Bubbles – inspired by the Bubbles Vista screensavers also featuring the album art
  • Distortion – distorts the album art in a 3D waveform
  • Hypnobloom – hypnotic checkered purple rings
  • Ribbons – inspired by the Mystify and Ribbons Vista screensavers (as seen above)
  • Gigertron 3D – 3D layered visualizer bars
  • up cuber – a pigment arrangement of 3D hexagon cubes

I’ve never been a big fan of visualizers before but I’m hooked onto “Ribbons”. If you’re looking for some awesome WMP visualizers or something to match your Vista screensavers, then give Psychedelia a try. It’s a reasonably light download at 5MB but best of all it’s free!

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My name is Windows Vista Service Pack 1

Hello, my name is Windows Vista Service Pack 1

Surprise! Pop some balloons and whack some Pinatas because today is Windows Vista Service Pack 1’s coming-out party. The party started a little earlier than scheduled but nevertheless it is now in full force, and you’re all invited! Do you want to meet him? Know when he’s coming around to your place? And why is he so cool? Then check out the word who got in the party early.

Service Pack 1 is currently scheduled to tour select users, MSDN/TechNet subscribers and the general public within the next few weeks, “later”, and first-quarter 2008 respectively. I heard he’s quite the handyman.

Microsoft shuts down popular Windows patching package, AutoPatcher

AutoPatcherMicrosoft Legal defies logic today by forcibly removing a free and trustworthy software package which makes updating Windows more convenient and accessible.

AutoPatcher, for those who don’t know, was an impressive Windows community project that combined publically available Windows hotfixes and security updates each month to form a single package that could either be installed in a batch or burned on to an CD. To those who regularly format their computers or fix other people’s computers (for which I share you pain), AutoPatcher not only saves bandwidth but precious time downloading each individual update from Windows Update.

AutoPatcher screenshotIt is not hard to imagine AutoPatcher violated some clause in some terms of service somewhere, but why Microsoft would act on it, and act on it now is unbelievable. If AutoPatcher could be as “malicious” as Microsoft suggests, then why haven’t they acted on it sooner?

AutoPatcher has been an extremely active project since 2003, distributed somewhat 40,000 copies monthly over just the official download mirrors, not counting other popular sources such as Bittorent and even leading PC magazines worldwide. I might even go as far as to say some people depend on it.

The Microsoft official quoted on Neowin argues because Windows Update is more accessible now in other browsers like Firefox, AutoPatcher is more of a security concern. Did they forget AutoPatcher patches Windows? And what about those users who don’t have a fast-speed internet connection? Or maybe even no internet connection at all? Should those people visit the library each week to just keep their Windows up-to-date?

Windows UpdateReasoning aside, AutoPatcher could well sidestep the legal roadblock by a simple but unproductive workaround. Microsoft argues updates should only be downloaded from the official Microsoft servers to prevent third-party modification, therefore AutoPatcher could instead of pre-bundling the updates, just fetch the updates from Microsoft’s own servers (HTTP downloads) to form a similar package on the user’s own computers at runtime. Might take a bit longer, but you can end up with the same package. As far as I know, you’re still allowed to archive Windows updates, thankfully.

As Microsoft continues to play down the importance of service packs in favor of Windows Update, the ability to collate and backup updates will be come more useful than ever. For that reason, I hope AutoPatcher, or a new project, will solve the problem without attracting the hounds.

Microsoft “Ohana” conceptual interface images

OhanaIt’s pretty much official now that the Microsoft “Ohana” project was either halted or canceled sometime last year. That’s a shame because you don’t need to be a curator to admire the gorgeous CD sleeves, branding posters and now concept designs for this potentially revolutionary family-networking product and service.

Someone at Microsoft has kindly informed me that you only needed to look a step further to find some extremely insightful “Ohana” interface designs in the same SectionSeven portfolio. I must admit I’ve seen these before, but it had never occurred to me this was “Ohana”. If I were conscious at the time, the picture of a house should have given it away.

Microsoft “Ohana” concept interface design

The portfolio description indicates the interfaces on the left are “Microsoft demo screens. Interface and vector demo environment.” and icons on the right are “Icon style study. Vector icons with customizable styles.” Whilst the buddy icons are simply gorgeous, all the revealing details are in the equally gorgeous interface mockups.

The Sims 2At first, the interface might remind you of a well-made Flash game, but when you start putting the pieces together, it becomes somewhat of a The Sims, Twitter and Facebook mashup. More precisely, I am told the screens demonstrate the family calendaring feature. Apart from showing where each family member is in relative to the home, and the local city region, there is also a very prominent timeline which can only be the family schedule.

“Ohana” also seems to keep family members aware of what other family members are doing through status messages, similar to those of “Twitter”. For example, “Dad is at work” and “Dad checks his schedule at his downtown office”. However I can’t imagine why anyone would write about themselves in the third person like that, so maybe I’m interpreting this feature incorrectly.

Last but not least, there also appears to be a messaging system in “Ohana” where one member asked for a “ride to the soccer game” and another responding to “pick you up soon”.

I’m sure these two concepts are not all “Ohana” would have offered if it were a complete service, but I’m intrigued by the idea of a family-(social)-networking tool. With the (imminent) success of Windows Home Server, hopefully Microsoft will pay more attention to the consumer software business.

MISSING: Vista Ultimate Language Packs

Update: Language Packs has been found in a dark alleyway. World order restored. Technical glitch to blame.

If you thought the Ultimate Extras situation couldn’t get any worse, then you have much to learn young Jedi, because rock bottom is only an illusion. It appears that what was left of the Ultimate Extras16 language packs (I know, they are counted as extras) – have now been sucked into the void of unknown. Fan, just som jag ville ha min Vista på svenska ja!

Vista Ultimate Extras Language Packs Missing - “Have you seen”

Whether this is a widespread technical glitch or intentional symptom as a result of upgrades to the backend in preparations for more and better Ultimate Extras remains to be speculated. Even if all my money’s on a technical glitch, there is still a quantum chance the Ultimate Extras team will deliver on their latest promise to ship the final version of DreamScenes and the remaining 20 Language Packs before the “end of summer” (September).

However for those of you who are in need of their language “fix”, a Channel9 member has kindly posted the language pack download links directly from the Windows Update servers. Arigatou!

I work for you. You’re paranoid.

This image is an excerpt from Microsoft senior security strategist Steve Riley‘s “It’s 11:00 PM—Do You Know Where Your Data Is?” presentation at TechEd New Zealand. If you haven’t seen Steve present before, then this should give you a good idea of his style presentation.

iworkforyou.jpg

I work for you. You’re paranoid.
You want me to update a document, but you’re terrified I will “steal” the information in that document somehow.
You secured your data against someone copying the contents. You don’t want it printed, so you’ve taken away my printer.
You’ve disabled the CD-Writer and the Floppy Disk drive.
You block USB pen-drives from being installed.
I’ve just taken a photograph of my screen, with your secret document open on the desktop.
Your move.

Unfortunately Steve doesn’t have a solution to this problem, yet.