Monthly Archives: November 2008

From Microsoft patent to Windows reality: “X-ray browsing”, circa 2005; Aero Peek, circa 2008.

Well this was a long “I told you so” in the making. Reader “rm20010” recently commented on a blog post from mine from two years ago, and as curious as I was I decided to check out how in any way it could be relevant. It turns out to be quite interesting indeed.

In December 06 I had found this Microsoft patent from January 2005 by the old Longhorn/Vista designers (Don Lindsay & Hillel Cooperman). Today a variation of what that patent had described (as a way of managing windows) is what we has been realized in the “Aero Peek” feature of Windows 7.

If nothing else, this is a pretty good example of just how long it takes an idea from incubation to reach market and maybe an indication of just how many Longhorn-era innovations (and innovators) were ahead of their time.

Students, help Channel8 build the ultimate Media Center PC and win a chance to keep it

Now seems to be an awfully good time to be a student. If the HP Magic Giveaway has got your heart pumping for some high-stake freebies and you’re currently enrolled in a higher education (college, university or technical school) institution, then Max Zuckerman from Microsoft’s student Channel8 community has an offer for you.

The competition, now in its second year, involves Max putting together a killer PC system (this year a Media Center) with components suggested (and sometimes disputed) by the community. The selfless guy then gives the finished system to one lucky random winner from the pool of users who contributed at least a comment. Not bad since all you do is suggest the most expensive components you can find. Microsoft’s paying right?

So far they’ve picked a case, CPU and motherboard. Currently discussing memory.

Students from any country can participate. Head over to the Channel8 site for more details.

HP Magic Giveaway contest schedule

Starting from today, three of the fifty participating blogs will be accepting entries for the jaw-dropping HP and Microsoft $6000 Magic Giveaway contest. This is not your average mousepad and a sticker giveaway, the prizepool includes a multi-touch PC, two laptops, a netbook, a printer, a media server and software. Suffice to say if you win this, it will make your Christmas and hopefully others around you too.

For the best chances of winning, make sure you visit each of the fifty blogs during their 7-day contest period. To make it easy for you to follow along, here are dates of all the blogs in fancy Google Calendar form and downloadable ICS format.

The competition on this site starts on Tuesday, December 2nd.

Direct3D WARP10 to enable you to play DX10 Crysis using software renderer only, albeit slowly

Direct3D backwards compatibility has always been “you get what your graphics cards run”. For example, Crysis may be a Direct3D 10 game, but if you only have a Direct3D 9-level graphics card, it might only make your jaws open instead of hitting the floor. But that’s all going to change comes Windows 7.

Simply put, in Windows 7, you will experience the same graphics fidelity and detail whether you have a Direct3D 9-level graphics card or even no graphics card. The magic fairy dust which makes this possible is called Direct3D 10Level9 and Direct3D WARP10 respectively.

Direct3D 10Level9 is exactly what the name describes, it allows you to run Direct3D 10 applications on Direct3D 9 hardware with the same visual output but at the cost of performance penalties compared to running on native Direct3D 10 hardware. On the other hand, if your graphics functionality or partially or wholly non-existent either by design (I’m looking at you Intel) or due to anomalies (graphics driver), that’s where WARP10 comes into play.

WARP which stands for Windows Advanced Rasterization Platform is a complete implementation of Direct3D 10 in software form – that is using only the CPU. It’s even capable of anti-aliasing up to 8xMSAA and anisotropic filtering. What’s amazing is that it is parity with the output of a native Direct3D 10 device. The MSDN article describes “the majority of the images appear almost identical between hardware and WARP10, where small differences sometimes occur we find they are within the tolerances defined by the Direct3D 10 specification.”

The question every one of us is asking is of course, so how well does it run. And the MSDN article answers with no other than our good friend Crysis. So this is the benchmark results of WARP10 running 800×600 with lowest quality settings.

And compared to graphics cards…

Now before you laugh so hard you cry, remember in the WARP10 scenario the CPU is not only rendering the game now but also continuing to process everything else that it originally had to process with a graphics card. Taking that into consideration, I applaud it for even running at all. Remember this is Crysis.

If you’re gamer, obviously this is not plausible and the developers agree. “We don’t see WARP10 as a replacement for graphics hardware, particularly as reasonably performing low end Direct3D 10 discrete hardware is now available for under $25. The goal of WARP10 was to allow applications to target Direct3D 10 level hardware without having significantly different code paths or testing requirements when running on hardware or when running in software.”

Personally, I’m just glad the DirectX team is taking a positive turn for Direct3D backwards compatibility. Instead of just plainly not supporting older hardware, offering some alternatives to achieve the same visual result,.which after all the goal of Direct3D. Now who’s up for some Crysis slideshows?

Update: This should once and for all end the debate, “but can it run Crysis?” Yes. Everything can.

Update 2: Some examples outside of hardcore FPS games where this might be useful include: 3D CAD applications, casual games, simulations, debugging 3D applications and medical applications.

Win $6000 of HP goodies in the Magic Giveaway: hold your horses, competition starts soon

How would you like to see six grands worth of state-of-the-art desktop computer, notebooks (not one but two), netbook, digital media receiver, multifunction printer, softwares and movie under your Christmas tree? Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I think this is as good a reason as any to accept presents. And did I mention you have fifty chances of winning?

So what does $6000 get you?

The competition starts soon and more details on how you can enter at this site will follow, but I just want to say for today I have the utmost respect for HP and Microsoft, who under less than ideal economic situations is going to make this holiday season a memorable one for at least 50 people, their friends and family.

Times like this I wish I could enter my own competition, but fortunately for everyone else you’re all eligible.

Flickr Search Connectr for Windows 7 Search Federation

As I had promised yesterday in my little teaser, today (again at 2AM), I’m announcing the availability of “Flickr Search Connectr” for Windows 7. If you have a copy of Windows 7 and the tubes aren’t blocked, I encourage you to try it for yourself.

So what is this voodoo you might be asking? Well this is actually a combination of two components, both carefully put together in a couple of hours by amateur programmer yours truly. The first is an OpenSearch Description File generator (also known as the “Search Connector” in Windows 7) and the second is a Flickr web service. Combined, they allow you to search and access images on Flickr right in the Windows 7 Explorer using the new “Search Federation” platform.

Please note, because I’ve implemented a man-in-the-middle solution, it carries obvious performance penalties and as such please be patient when waiting for the results to load.

What federated search is about is the ability to search remote file repositories on the local network or web. In Windows 7, this feature is implemented natively in the shell. And because Microsoft is the evil monopoly it is, it’s implemented using open standards OpenSearch and RSS2 so it’s simple for developers to take advantage of.

As a theory as to why not many people are excited about this, the example Microsoft used to promote this feature (on their website and at PDC08) was searching an online Sharepoint server. Practical, but not cool at all. It may be an enterprise feature by design, but I think it has legs as a consumer feature too which is why I built this Flickr as a proof-of-concept.

If you want to know what makes searching within the shell cool, it means you’re interacting directly with the file. It’s a little clunky in the M3 Build 6801, but even still you can double click a picture to open it in larger view or set it as your background.

Now imagine the possibilities. Searching the files on your remote Windows Home Server, searching your documents on Google Docs, finding music on Pandora, finding videos on YouTube, finding PDFs from your library. Basically anywhere with a repository of files.

I look forward to the full MSDN documentation (no documentation now) to outline what this platform can do. Also can’t wait to see what other and more talented programmer can mash-up and most of all, which first parties will be first (pun) to support this powerful platform.