Monthly Archives: July 2006

Microsoft.com preview blocking non-IE browsers?

Lately there has been a lot of outrage in the Firefox community over the public preview of the new Microsoft.com homepage set for public release at the end of 2006/2007. The general consensus has been that Microsoft is only focused on Internet Explorer users and is not supporting any third-party browsers like Firefox or Opera. However, this is definitely not true. Anyone who did a little deeper research would have found the design supports browsers across the board, not just Internet Explorer.

Click to view Quicktime movie

As you can see, through a simple spoof of the user-agent in Firefox, the design actually works. Apart from the popout window bug, which isn’t hard to fix, it proves Microsoft is just as dedicated to ensuring the design will work on as many browsers as possible. I’ve also been told it works in Opera just as well.

Some people even go to the extent to argue Microsoft is forcing users with Firefox or Opera to the current design because they want to promote Internet Explorer’s superiority, but everyone is overlooking the obvious reason behind all this. This is clearly a beta, a work in progress. This redesign isn’t mass-marketed at the public because not enough development and testing has been achieved. The ‘popout window’ bug is good example of why Microsoft wouldn’t have wanted Firefox users to access the site, because not displaying the site is arguably much better than a displaying a broken site.

Missed opportunity

Have a look at the following pictures, see if you notice anything special. They get closer sequentially.

flickr1.jpgflickr2.jpgflickr3.jpg

That’s right. It was small wasn’t it. And in-case you missed it, it was this small icon icon_has_comment.gif. Sneaky little bugger.

So what’s so special about it? Well in this case, a certain amount of money. Because some creative agency decided to contact me through Flickr’s fantastic photoset comments, I was totally unaware of their attempts. Mind you, that was four months ago. Only today, did I notice a small, ambiguous and uncolored icon in one of my photosets. First I thought it was something embedded in my photo, but when I hovered over it, I discovered the wonderful (but hidden) worlds of photoset comments.

I received no email notifications through either FlickrMail or my subscribed email account. Because Flickr likes to send me bundles of emails when someone adds me to their friends list, but not when I have a potential monetary reward.

Nevertheless, I gave the design agency a call this evening and asked to speak to Sam Morel. Just out of curiosity’s sake to inquire about which photo he was interested in. The receptionist took my message and forwarded it on. I hope to speak to Sam soon.

Update: I haven’t heard from Sam in a week. I guess he is no longer interested.

e=EUReKA

EUReKA

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing
So is a lot
— Albert Einstein (e=mc²)

EUReKA is the newest smash-hit science fiction drama in the US. It generated the biggest ratings in Sci Fi channel’s 14 year history. Apart from its witty dialogs, lovable characters and secretive plot, EUReKA integrates the mysteries of Area 51, X-Files and Lost in a neat Smallville-like township that is full of scientific geniuses who’s been responsible for every scientific invention in the last 50 years. They claim global warming was an accident.

Nestled in the Pacific Northwest, Eureka is a seemingly ordinary town whose residents lead ordinary lives … at least to the naked eye. Shrouded in secrecy, the picturesque hamlet is actually a community of scientific geniuses assembled by the government to conduct top-secret research.

From unrequited love to professional jealousy, from addiction to depression, the problems of Eureka’s townsfolk stem from life’s myriad of everyday challenges. But with the population’s unique talents, troubled psyches and limitless resources, these small-town concerns have a way of becoming big-time problems. It is at that intersection, where human frailty and super-science collide, that Eureka begins….

You can watch the full 2-hour pilot episode free at SciFi.com

One soundtrack, two movies.

Steve JablonskyFlyboysThe Island

This is the first time I’ve come across an originally composed soundtrack originally made for one movie, being used again for another movie with a different director, producer, sound department and production company.

“My Name is Lincoln” by Steve Jablonsky from The Island soundtrack is one of the best soundtrack scores I’ve ever heard. I was surprised today when I heard it again on the Flyboys trailer.

Often songs used in blockbuster movies does not get reused for another movie in such short periods of time, especially originally composed soundtracks. Nevertheless even if the title is totally irrelevant to the Flyboys movie, it is a great piece of soundtrack that fits the mood of Flyboys quite well. I certainly do hope it makes it into the final music score!

Demoing @ Student Day (Tech.Ed) 2006

I’m more than honored to be invited by Bernard Oh to go to Microsoft’s TechEd Australia 2006 conference this year and help Frank Arrigo showcase Windows Vista Office 2007 to a group of ~800 university students on Tech.Ed Student Day.

This is going to be an extraordinary experience as I’ll be meeting some of the Microsoft Student Ambassadors around the country, having a look around TechEd and screencasting live to an audience the size I’ve never stood infront of. It would also be a great opportunity to meet some of the Australian technology bloggers and evangelists that I’ve come across in my short blogging career.

You can catch me play with Windows Vista Office 2007 on August 22nd, TechEd student day, as well as throughout the TechEd conference from the 23rd to 25th in the Sydney Convention Centre.

Update: I’ve been told I’m actually demoing Office 2007, not Windows Vista.

If you’re in Sydney and would like to attend Tech.Ed Student Day, register for your free ticket at the official Tech.Ed registration page.

Dude, where’s my Aero Diamond?

AeroEver since its first public appearance in an ATI presentation slide back in 2004, Aero Diamond has been the gossip of many Vista communities. It has led to many rumors surrounding its existence; some believe it has been canceled, some believe it is a secret Vista theme in development, some believe it is a vector version of Aero Glass and some believe it is just the codename for the Media Center UI. With Vista launching right around the corner, what is rap on this mysterious UX (user experience) project?

What is it?

At first, Aero Diamond was believed to be the codename for the visual style theme for Windows Vista Media Center Edition. However since both Media Centre and Tablet PC were later integrated into Windows Vista as extensions (as opposed to versions), it would be inconsistent for Microsoft to create an individual theme for Media Center alone.

Later, another speculation arose from several Microsoft published documents detailing the different tiers of the Aero experience, one of which was labeled “Aero Diamond”. Aero Diamond was suppose to offer a better user experience compared the now prominent Aero Glass experience, although since no visual imagery of it has been ever released, no one knows what it aimed to achieve or may have looked like.

XP and Luna

There has been a lot of comparisons made between Aero Diamond and Luna as evidence to suggest it is possible for Microsoft to be secretly developing a theme for Vista. During the development of Windows XP, a ‘cover-up’ theme (we now know as Watercolor) was used in the beta testing phase. This theme was believed by many to be the final XP theme. And only in the last few public betas did Microsoft reveal the Luna theme to the public.

The ‘Luna story’ is significant because it shows Microsoft’s ability and tactics to secretively develop an alternative visual style without public awareness, changing user experience or delaying development schedules. Many argue this tactic can be also applied to Aero Diamond, as a theme currently in development and secrecy limited to only the few people designing it.

Whilst it is easy to apply the Luna story to Aero Diamond, there is one significant factor that it does not take into consideration. During the development XP, the public was unaware of any other themes in development and thus did not speculate or question Microsoft on the matter. However this time around, the public is aware and questions Microsoft about it, and time after time, official Microsoft sources has confirmed Aero Diamond has been vaporised. Whether or not these official sources are telling the truth or trying to redirect attention remains another question.

The Vista UX

The future of Aero Diamond looks bleak. It will be highly unlikely for Aero Diamond to make an appearance in Windows Vista. With so much effort being put into Aero Glass, even if Aero Diamond was being worked on, the development schedule will not accommodate for the public testing of Aero Diamond if Vista is still slated for release in January 2007. Having said that, there is still hope. The initiative to create a ‘better’ user experience in the first place will continue even if the visual style has been abolished. And since we’re still in the beta phase, Aero Glass can still change. With already some of those changes taking place, Aero Glass itself can transform into an extremely polished and usable visual style.

I have no doubts that Microsoft is ‘design-capable’. Microsoft Design proves it. This team of talented designers has created some very appealing user experiences such as those found in Office 2007, Windows Live, XBOX 360 and even Microsoft Hardwares. With all the constraints and technical limitations placed around them, I am confident that Aero Glass and the whole Windows Vista user experience will match or even supersede today’s UX standards.