Monthly Archives: April 2008

Neat Microsoft Presenter Mouse 8000 packaging

If you thought the Windows Vista or Office 2007 packaging was fancy, then check out this awesome re-usable packaging for the Microsoft Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000. Some people have complained it is difficult to open, but I think it’s innovativeness makes up for it. The product name however falls on the opposite side of creativity scale.

Packaging

At first look it might appear to be just another transparent plastic shell, but then…

Packaging

It rotates. So theoretically if you were at a retail shop, you could easily take a look all around the mouse without removing the packaging. It makes more sense for this mouse in particular because of the presentation buttons at the bottom.

Wheeee

Of course you could also do this.

Cut here

On the back, it has these two tabs which helps you cut away the packaging.

Or not

Unfortunately the result is still an ugly mess of sharp plastic edges and ripped cardboard.

Carrying case

The reusable part of the packaging is actually the clam-shell hard casing which spun around. The case also fits the USB/Bluetooth receiver at the bottom.

Batteries

The battery compartment is actually very cunningly hidden under the casing which you access by clicking the Microsoft Laser logo which pops open a panel below it. It’s all very secret-agent like.

Laser pointer

Speaking of secret agents, there’s also a built in laser pointer which is not the biggest or strongest in the world, but certainly would be practical in a presentation.

Over the next couple of weeks I have a few presentations to do so I’ll certainly be road-testing this mice out. But as for what it is now, a wireless Bluetooth mouse, it certainly is one of the lightest and most comfortable I’ve seen and used.

Microsoft Research video shows off next-generation Windows desktop search?

A recently produced Microsoft Research promotional video (via Bernard Oh) decorated with various snippets of new and upcoming research projects caught my eye when images of a Windows Vista-like search interface flashed for split seconds. Curious like a cat, I sourced a high-resolution copy of the video to take a closer look.

Even though the focal blur effect is quite ridiculous, you can make out enough visual elements to identify the Aero interface window frame and the address bar. The gray bar below that appears to be some sort of time/date filter with only enough clarity to make out “Last Month”, “This Year” and “Last Year”.

The files in the first screenshot appear stacked by file type, but not the file type you might be familiar with. Folders and programs also appear as a stack, and there are also stacks with multiple types (ex. feed & communication, picture & communication). I can only assume these are feeds or emails with pictures embedded inside them. And unlike the stacks in Windows Vista, these have icons which represent the file types instead of identical blue panels.

The second screenshot shows off the address bar with the search “place” expanded. The list includes “My Computer” and a network share called “MSW” but also external “places” such as Amazon or YouTube. In this screenshot is also a right pane which appear to list the specific files inside a particular stack. The picture stack appears selected, thus a list of PNGs appear.

The third screenshot shows off a very subtle preview overlay when you hover over these stacks. Whilst the picture doesn’t do it justice, the individual previews actually fade in and appear in the “deck” and moves down the deck until it eventually fades out.

In conclusion, I really don’t know what to make of this except it is super exciting. Bearing in mind Microsoft Research contributed to the Windows Vista desktop search functionality, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if these are ideas or prototypes for the next generation search interface. But to play devil’s advocate, this is Microsoft Research after all.

You can find the full video below and the shots above are from captured from timecode 1:36min or -3:04min.

Microsoft releases first Windows Vista Feature Pack

So I guess this is what you call teaching an old dog new tricks. A couple of days ago Microsoft released a new update for Windows Vista that adds additional wireless support and functionality to the operating system through a “feature pack”. Specifically it adds support for Bluetooth 2.1, a new “Unified Pairing” interface as well as “Windows Connect Now” updates and can only be installed on Vista SP1.

This is interesting to me not because any of the features above, but because up until now, the client version of Windows has never had “feature packs”. We have hotfixes, security patches, service packs and rollups, but not feature packs. What are they?

Upon a little investigation (Google Search, first search), it’s apparent feature packs are quite abundant for Windows Server. To be exact, there are 16 feature packs for Windows Server 2003 which adds a variety of functionality to the server. In essence, they provide new features to an existing operating system as a standalone update. Someone smarter than me might have came to that conclusion just by looking at the name and I envy you.

Nevertheless I ponder if this is just a one-off solution or a sign of things to come. Traditionally these sort of updates would have been included in service packs, probably because they don’t want users waking up one day finding all sorts of major changes have been silently installed via the automatic update systems. On the other hand, service packs are becoming less frequent and that results in new technology support to fall behind between (long) Windows releases.

This update in particular in itself is something out-of-the-ordinary. For example I’ve never known a Windows update (standalone or automatic) in the past to change user interface, maybe even as far as to say it’s not “allowed”.

As a geek who lives on the bleeding edge of technology, this is exciting for Windows. How much of a role will feature packs play? We’ll have to wait and see I guess.

Update: The Microsoft terminology page describes feature packs as “new product functionality that is first distributed outside the context of a product release and that is typically included in the next full product release.”

Update2: Microsoft has said it will not distribute this update over Windows Update, and will only be available via OEMs.

Pictures of new and updated Surface demo apps

On top of the Grand Piano and Firefly game they’ve already released, it appears the Microsoft Surface team have been hard at work developing even more sample applications as well as updates to existing applications for the Surface.

I found these photos taken by Jean-Luc David, a Microsoft Canada employee who I presume was visiting the Redmond campus last week and had a chance to play with the Surface with some of these new applications loaded. Here’s a couple highlights.

You probably would have seen the rockpool water-ripple demo already, I could be wrong but this looks different and far better than the original. The most obvious difference is that rocks are no longer multi-colored and show more detail.

The photo application now appears to support categories and labels.

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Internal Vista SP1 promo: “Rockin’ Our Sales”

Internal Microsoft videos just aren’t what they used to be with Utopian technologies and eye-candy special effects. This internal promotional video for Windows Vista Service Pack 1 was apparently ‘leaked‘ by an unflattered employee who bluntly called it “stupid”. For those who doubt it’s authenticity (and I don’t blame you), Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s Chief Operating Officer makes a pretty short but lasting appearance. (via Channel9 forums).

Update: CNET’s Charles Cooper claims the video is a spoof and I wouldn’t dispute that (but others have been saying its not a spoof), but regardless Microsoft spoofs have been in the past funnier and more blunt, for example the oPhone and redesigning the iPod packaging. This misses the mark.

Microsoft patent reveals wearable mouse design

With all the advancements in optical and laser technologies, the mice works great on most practical surfaces but as soon as you lift it off the surface it degrades to a very bulky clicking device. If you’ve ever leaned right back on your seat or lounged on a very soft couch and tried to use a mouse to surf the web, you’d probably be familiar with the strain on your arms or back. It’s not easy or comfortable.

To help solve this problem, Craig Ranta, Steven Bathiche and Monique Chatterjee from Microsoft came up with a very cool “wearable pointing device” that looks somewhat like a hybrid between the gloves in Minority Report and the Nintendo Wiimote. Their patent filed in October 2006 was just recently published.

Besides looking pretty cool, the design actually takes into account a lot of practicality which leads me to believe this is something more than a fancy research demo. For example by wearing the device it does not prevent you from doing other tasks such as typing on a keyboard. The cursor movements are activated by a “switch” (110) that can be activated by closing your hands, grasping the device like a joystick, and then turning the yaw and pitch to control the X and Y positions respectively. There are also left (114) and right click (116) buttons which can be pressed by the thumb.

The patent actually goes into a lot of technicalities even as far as to name the specific gyroscope modules that can be used, Analog Devices’ ADXRS150 for those of you playing at home, which leads me to guess they might have a working prototype somewhere.

Whilst this is certainly not the first wearable mouse invented, this particular implementation seems practical enough for mainstream users and not to mention Microsoft Hardware has a pretty solid history of building nice peripherals. I wonder if they have one available for review.