Monthly Archives: August 2009

Cool Windows 7 application that controls monitor backlight using ordinary webcam

Code 7 Contest BLUntrl

If you have a webcam attached to your desktop computer then there’s a good chance it’s either sitting around gathering dust or taking hourly pictures of your uneventful window. One way or another, getting any value out of it when you’re not video chatting would be a nice bonus. Now with Windows 7’s Sensors API and a neat application, not only could it be productive but your eyes might thank you for it.

One of the more interesting entries into the Windows 7 “Code 7 Contest” is an application called “BLUntrl”. This conceptually simple but highly practical application lets you do on your desktop what newer model laptops also do – automatic backlight control.

However since desktops don’t have ambient light sensors built-in, this application turns your webcam into one through the “magic of software” and then hooks into the native Windows 7 Sensors API and the monitor configuration APIs to adjust the backlight of all your attached monitors for optimal brightness, according to ambient lighting conditions.

Anyone who use a computer near a window can easily testify how much lighting conditions can change and affect the readability of monitors. Also, night owls like myself will also know just how glaring a brightened monitor can be in a dark room. In both cases, adjusting the brightness can help.

In the accompanying video submitted by the developer he also suggests building in a feature that can detect motion using the webcams which perhaps could be used to intuitively suspend the monitors if the user leaves the desk.

[flv:code7_BLUntrl.flv 500 375]

The Code 7 Contest ends October 10. Good luck “sonic”.

Online gambling site Paddy Power taking bets for racial diversity of Office 2010 advertising

msstockphotoUp and until now I’ve avoided promoting online gambling services and would discourage people from participating, but I’m making an exception for this one.

If you thought the recent Microsoft racial diversity photograph manipulation kerfuffle couldn’t get anymore ridiculous, then why not get out your wallet and bet on it.

One particularly clever gambling site, Paddy Power, is jumping on the advertising racial diversity issue by hosting a light-hearted bet on the racial mix of future Microsoft’s advertising campaigns for the upcoming Office 2010 product.



[Dublin, Ireland] Following the recent controversy surrounding an advertisement on Microsoft’s Polish website where they superimposed the head of a white man on a Afro-American man’s body, Irish bookmaking outfit Paddy Power are taking bets on the race of those who front up Microsoft’s forthcoming major global advertising campaign for the launch of MS Office 2010.

According to Paddy Power a racially diverse mix of white, Afro-American and Asian actors/models is the most likely option and is the bookies 11/10 favourite. A white and Afro-American double act is the 9/4 second favourite with white only at 4/1 and Afro-American only at 6/1

Paddy Power said “This gaffe must have resulted in plenty of red faces in Microsoft but I’m sure that when it comes to the launch Office 2010 they will be ultra careful not be offend anyone”

Race of those who appear in MS Office 2010 global print advertising launch campaign

11/10     White, Afro-American and Asian
9/4       White and Afro-American
4/1       White only
6/1       Afro-American only
8/1       Asian only
10/1      Afro-American & Asian
12/1      White and Asian

All prices remain subject to fluctuation.

Microsoft Australia’s “Ten Grand is Buried Here” treasure hunt is over, prize claimed


The Microsoft Australia competition “Ten Grand is Buried Here” which stirred some up a little bit of controversy just a little over two months ago has just come to an end earlier this week with at least one person who claimed the $10,000 prize on a hidden website. Whilst a winner has not yet been formally announced, it’s believed that user “puppydog4l1f3” on the Australian Whirlpool forums was first to claim the prize. The winner is Gavin Ballard of Brunswick East, Victoria.

The marketing agency behind the competition on behalf of Microsoft Australia, Wunderman Australia, wrote on the competition’s Twitter page,

“Congratulations to all who played. We hope you enjoyed the thrill of the hunt and that your brains don’t hurt so much from the last 2 months. This game was designed to create excitement and fun on the internet by doing something new and different, thanks to Internet Explorer 8.”

Now that the competition is over, it can be revealed that the hidden website was – a nod to the features of Internet Explorer 8. And if figuring out the address wasn’t enough, one would also had to figure out the password which is now known to be “courval”.

Although you might have missed out on the ten grand, if you’re still interested in the puzzle, I’ve cached a list of all the clues (plus some future clues) and their respective answers in a PDF document. Be careful though, reading it may make your head explode.

The Real Live Search – Bing API experiment


Wouldn’t it be cool if search engines were as fast as you could type and actually showed you results as-you-type? As I found out this evening with jQuery in one hand and JSON in another, not only is it possible but turns out to be just as cool as I imagined.

Inspired by the realtime-ness of Google Wave, I wanted to build a prototype search engine that did away with a search button and page loads. Instead, search queries are sent character-by-character to the lightning fast Bing AJAX APIs which returned JSON results easily processed and formatted by Javascript on the page. The UI experience is driven solely by the browser.

The result is a truly “live” search experience which I’ve cunningly dubbed “The Real Live Search” as tribute to the former Microsoft search engine. I invite everyone to give it a quick whirl, but please bear in mind it’s only a couple hour’s work and may bite if prodded the wrong way.

Scenic Ribbon UI framework to be backported to Vista with “Windows 7 Client Platform Update”


They don’t call Microsoft the platforms company for nothing. Thanks to a tip from reader Boldizsár, some developer documentation on MSDN is indicating Microsoft will indeed be backporting the new Scenic Ribbon UI framework introduced in Windows 7 to its misunderstood predecessor, Windows Vista (and Windows Server 2008).

Further information posted by a Microsoft employee in the MSDN forums reveals however a rather non-intuitive implementation of how the backport will be delivered to users. Instead of a simple redistributable resource file or runtime developers can bundle with their application package as one might expect, a “Windows 7 interoperability pack” creatively dubbed the “Windows 7 Client Platform Update” will be made available via Windows Update by October. This “recommended” update will then have to be installed manually by the user or silently triggered by the application setup to be applied.

Although the decision to backport Scenic Ribbon might come as somewhat of a surprise, it does make sense for Microsoft to quickly broaden support for its new frameworks rather than driving developers to adopt premature technologies that only become mainstream a release or two later.

If you’re a developer and have been holding back on adopting Scenic Ribbon in your application for this very reason, let this be the green light to Ribbon-away. That is of course if you’re willing to give up some XP users, but I say they don’t deserve it.

Windows Mobile takes shot at Apple App Store rejections


The competition between the Windows Marketplace for Mobile and the Apple App Store is heating up as Microsoft appears to have pulled a small punch at Apple and the controversy surrounding the rejection of applications in the iPhone App Store.

During the second and latest video to be released for the Windows Mobile Race to Market Challenge dubbed “The Race”, a scene appears in which a stick-figure developer walks into what is clearly to be interpreted as an “application store” only to have the pretentious-looking store staff (standing infront of a shelf full of other applications) reject his shiny new application.

If that wasn’t obvious enough, on top of all this the voiceover can be heard saying “If you want your app to do well, you’ve got to set it up for success. That means learning from experience, knowing when you could do better.” (emphasis added).

Whilst competition is always a good thing, I do find it somewhat hypocritical of Microsoft to highlight this when they know very well they could face the same criticism for disproving applications in the Windows Marketplace for Mobile.

And if it’s any indication of what’s to come, I’ve come across internal Microsoft documents that shows an outright ban on turn-by-turn navigation applications in the Marketplace. (Of course Windows Mobile has the advantage of being able to load applications via other methods). Update: A Microsoft representative has assured me turn-by-turn GPS navigation applications are not prohibited, contrary to the internal documentation.

It would be all too ironic and not entirely inconceivable to see Microsoft falling down the same rabbit hole which they’ve so prominently pointed out.

The original video is embedded below for your convenience.