Monthly Archives: February 2011

Relaunching the new “Here’s an idea”

I love a good idea. What I love more is sharing and talking about ideas with friends. What I’ve found though is that doing that is actually very hard.

Twitter although simple is too short. Emails although ubiquitous are too complex. Instant messaging although convenient is too narrow. Facebook although social is too broad. And so on.

Since my original attempt at a solution didn’t work out so well, I decided to take a whole new direction with a new version which sparked in my head last night. This new version of Here’s an idea only took a day to put together, not because I’m some sort of wizard in disguise, but because it’s simple to the core, the way it should be.

Drawing inspiration from photo sharing websites, GitHub Gist, Reddit and Notepad, the new site is designed to be an easy, fast and private way to share ideas, thoughts, or anything that fits in a text field. And if you choose to share it, the page serves as a central point of feedback.

I look forward to hearing what people think of it.

Microsoft explores hybrid maps with embedded street-side images

Whilst I’ve completely given up on the new design of Bing Maps (expert testimonial one and two), Microsoft deserves credit for some interesting mapping innovations like Street Slide. A recent patent applications reveals yet another interesting spin on street-level imagery that might make them far easier to explore.

As mapping has evolved, satellite imagery has become a common tool to identify structures of a unfamiliar places, however unless your common method of transport is flight, looking at buildings from the top is not the best representation what you might see when traveling. More recently, street-side imagery like Google Street View has become far more relevant, however they are harder to navigate in larger areas.

As per usual, Microsoft’s idea combines the best of both.

In the most basic sense, it projects street-side imagery besides both sides of street markings on a traditional map. Add this to your ever-growing list of “why didn’t I think of that”.

Combined with some post-processing on the street-side imagery to remove the sky and roads using 3D spatial data of just the buildings, you’re left with a clean projection of how the sides of a street would look laid out besides it on the map.

Although I don’t think this solution will replace either satellite imagery or street-views, but it offers a good middle-ground between the two extremes. Until then you’ll have to drag that yellow guy around a bit longer.

Microsoft patent reveals fast-boot dual-boot hybrid

A couple of years ago, various laptop manufacturers began implementing “instant-on” solutions to their mobile PCs with lite variations of Linux for a fast boot experience. Although it didn’t catch on very well, Microsoft took the idea to the next level with a hypervisor-enabled fast-boot dual-boot solution that makes much more sense.

The patent application, “FAST BOOTING A COMPUTING DEVICE TO A SPECIALIZED EXPERIENCE” outlines a boot process involving a general operating system like Windows alongside many special purpose operating systems that boots much more quickly to provide “appliance-like behavior” such as viewing entertainment content (TV, music, DVD).

Up until now it might just sound like a traditional dual-boot scenario, but since operating systems are running on top of a hypervisor, Microsoft proposes that after the user is launched into the specialized OS, the general purpose OS would actually start loading in the background too. Furthermore, once the two are running side by side, the system may automatically and seamlessly transition the user to the general OS.

The end result is instant gratification from a fast-boot experience, at the same time, the flexibility to do more without compromise. Win win.

Personally I think this could be a great practical application of hypervisor technology, especially Microsoft’s Hyper-V, in the consumer operating system space. Since boot time is a huge advantage of embedded devices over a PC, together with all the investments Microsoft has made in componentizing Windows like Media Center, it’s highly likely we’ll see this implemented sooner than later.

Update: Manan Kakkar has more evidence to suggest that this feature may even be a part of Windows 8 as “Direct experience”.

Microsoft fixes international transaction fees on Windows Phone 7 purchases (Australia)

Good news for Australian Windows Phone 7 users (and other regional markets around the world), Microsoft has finally fixed the international transaction fee issue some users have experienced with credit card purchases of applications and games from the WP7 marketplace.

As suspected, the root cause was that Microsoft didn’t have payment processing facilities in a number of regional markets around the world to handle credit card transactions locally. In Australia’s case, these transactions were previously processed in Microsoft’s Asia Pacific hub, Singapore. Instead, now they are processed in Sydney as “MICROSOFT *WIN PHONE NORTH RYDE”.

Even though I have to point out oddly the problem was not experienced by every Australian user, some combination of bank accounts and credit card issuers resulted in an international transaction fee for every purchase transaction – a severe financial penalty when transactions are small but many for a mobile marketplace.

Due to the third-party and international nature of the issue, I applaud the Windows Phone 7 team to look into it and addressing it as quickly as they did. The Zune team could learn a lesson or two.