Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, words and deeds

Archive for April 2008

Monster Mesh

with one comment

Live Mesh was released to some of the general public seven days ago and luckily I was able to get an invite. I know there has been many many comments on the web passing opinion on Live Mesh thus far so one more can’t hurt can it?  Hence this blog entry, although perhaps I can offer a slightly different perspective.

 

Foldershare

The first question I asked myself when I saw Live Mesh was "What now becomes of Foldershare?" Prior to Live Mesh’s release I was assuming that there would be a heavy tie-in with Foldershare ("Foldershare would seem to dovetail quite nicely with [Live Mesh]") but I was very wrong about that. Now I find myself asking what happens to Foldershare and, moreover, why did Microsoft buy it? I’m guessing that they bought it for the skills of the Foldershare staff and the established customer base which they will now hope will migrate over to Live Mesh. I expect Foldershare to die a slow death eventually. This would explain why the recent release of Foldershare didn’t support login with Live ID – that would be stepping too far into Mesh’s territory.

 

Skydrive

Is Skydrive going to die as well? I suspect not. For now, Skydrive has two important features that Mesh does not have:

  • The ability to share a file with any anonymous person on the internet
  • The ability to link to a file with a URL (OK, under the covers Mesh has this because every object is a RESTful resource but it is not exposed to the general user)

For those reasons Skydrive still has an important role to play. I suspect that synchronisation between Skydrive and Mesh will occur at some point.

 

Windows Live Groups

I was very excited by the words of Mike Zintel over on the Live Mesh blog:

Live Mesh provides the building blocks to support the notion of groups, or communities (member lists) of people associated with a mesh object. These lists are managed via the simple email-web confirmation exchange that is popular on the web. Member lists provide both a simple permission model and a natural scoping for the collaboration features of Mesh. The basic group mechanism can be trivially extended to add entities such as organizations to participate (in an assigned “role”).  Similarly, you might invite a SpellChecker bot into a group.

By mention of a bot its very clear that Mike is talking about forming groups of Windows Live IDs (bots are identified by Windows Live IDs). Hey, that sounds very much like my Active Directory In The Cloud idea that I keep banging on about. Defining groups of users and assigning permissions to those groups is an immensely powerful paradigm and even more so when you consider the propensity for collaboration that Mesh will inherently foster. I believe that this is what Windows Live Groups will bring rather than being a like-for-like replacement for MSN Groups and am really looking forward to finding out if I am right.

 

The future platform

As we all move to a more web-centric world Mesh is a portent of things to come from Microsoft. They seem to have realised that in order to compete in the future they need to do more than rely on the cash cow tag team of Windows and Office, and Live Mesh will be the platform for this web-centric world. As applications move into the cloud the operating system moves back to what it was always meant to be, software that manages your hardware rather than app-ridden, feature-heavy bloatware. Operating systems are going to get more and more commoditised hence I hereby re-assert my belief that Windows will, one day, be free.

 

Making Money

How are Microsoft going to make money off this thing? The simple answer at this point in time would seem to be "Advertising" about which I asked on the Live Mesh forum the other day:

  • When Live Mesh gets released will it contain advertisements?

The unsurprisingly non-committal answer was:

  • Business terms for the platform are still being determined; we will provide additional information as we approach a beta release.

Don’t be surprised to see ads appear on Mesh when it gets released in some way shape or form. This would prove to be a huge money spinner because the amount of time spent with eyeballs on Mesh will be much longer than on, say, a page of search engine results. As VP of Windows Live Platform, Blake Irving, said last summer search accounts for only about 5% of what people do on the web. I’ll stick my neck out here and say that in, ooo… let’s say, four years from today Microsoft will be making more from online advertising than anyone else and Mesh will be the driver for that.

[Actually these interviews with Blake Irving are well worth watching now because its clear that Mesh is the realisation of a lot of what he is talking about. He even talks about Mesh in video 2 without actually putting a name on it]

 

Applications

Its been stated all over the internet to anyone who’ll listen; Mesh isn’t a product, its a platform and I’m excited to see what applications people are going to build on this in the near future. I wonder whether we will see traditional desktop apps such as Office deployed upon it – I suspect that one day we will.

Here are some ideas that could be realised by leveraging Mesh:

  • The ability to always have any-time access to your banking transaction history along with the ability to set up personal alerts for possible fraudulent activity is detected
  • Monitor your utility (i.e. gas, electricity, water) bills and energy consumption in real-time
  • You may have seen those huge iPod vending machines that are now appearing in various airports around the world. Well instead of the flogging of tangible devices, imagine the ability to approach a digital kiosk in a similar fashion and purchase digital content (e.g. songs or films), save that content to your Mesh, and have it automatically sync to your mp3 player when you get home and plug-in. Or even better, immediately sync to your mobile phone over the airwaves.
  • Know about breaking news stories as and when they happen regardless of which device you are on

Those are just some ideas that allude to the potential of this sync platform. I’m sure there are plenty of killer apps that nobody has thought of yet.

If you want to get some idea of where Microsoft want to go with applications on Mesh then Ori Amiga’s video "Programming the Mesh" is essential viewing.

 

Live Mesh forum

Don’t forget that if you have questions about Mesh or feature requests the place to go is the Live Mesh forum.

 

-Jamie

Written by Jamiet

April 29, 2008 at 9:13 pm

Posted in Live Mesh

Sometimes I’m proud to be British….

with 2 comments

…but then I read stuff like this and it brings me down to earth with a bump.

I didn’t want a cabinet. I wanted a cab, innit?

It had four wheels and cost a lot of money but, sadly for one impatient teenager, the similarity ended there.

A teenager was greeted by a display cabinet instead of a taxi because her ‘Ali G-style’ slang confused a series of phone operators.

The girl hurriedly dialled directory inq­uiries to book a taxi from her home in London to Bristol airport, using the cockney rhyming slang Joe Baxi.

[Read more]

 

Without wanting to sound too much like my dad….why don’t people talk properly these days?

<Sigh…>

Written by Jamiet

April 29, 2008 at 7:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

How did my Mesh predictions go?

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Six or seven weeks ago I wrote a blog entry entitled Speculating about Horizon where I made some wild predictions about what would constitute Horizon (aka Live mesh) when it got released. Let’s see how I did:

  • "Given that Ray Ozzie talked about a way of connecting all of your PCs I’m wondering if Horizon will incorporate some sort of web-based remote access to your various PCs, a little bit like GoToMyPC.com, maybe through the form of a web-based RDP client. Terminal Services for the masses if you will."
    Yep, I was correct about this. And RDP is indeed the underlying technology that is allowing it.

     

  • "Horizon seems to promise anytime access to your personal data hence I am wondering if Skydrive synchronisation will be incorporated into Foldershare. I hope so."
    Mesh does indeed promise anytime access to your data however they seem to have built another platform for this rather than leveraging what Skydrive and Foldershare provide. Certainly there is no syncronisation between Skydrive and Foldershare at this point in time.

     

  • "Windows Live Favorites already allows us to synchronise our web favorites to the cloud and across different PCs so I would assume that there would be some sort of interface to view those Favorites from within Horizon as well. And why stop at Favorites? Why not make ALL of your desktop settings such as menubar setup, IE and Windows security settings, and word lists sync across all computers as well."
    I still believe that this will happen, and I have definitely heard talk over the past few days about Favorites synchronisation, but there is no word on this as yet. I’ll stick my neck out and say synchronising your Windows settings from one machine to another will be a big theme of Windows 7 and Live Mesh is going to be the enabler. 

     

  • "Microsoft make money from building software that acts as a platform so I would assume that Horizon will also be a platform of sorts. In other words I would expect that there will be a way for 3rd party vendors to build Horizon add-ins; for example, Salesforce might provide an add-in to display your sales leads on Horizon. Of course, in the web world add-ins are known as "widgets" or "gadgets" so Microsoft are going to have to make a much better stab at this than the largely ignored Live.com and Live Gallery. "
    I was definitely correct about the platform bit; it seems that not a single Live Mesh presentation or video goes by without them mentioning "Microsoft is a platform company and Mesh is a new platform". A platform for what though? Well Microsoft have not been shy about saying that 3rd parties will be able to build applications for Live Mesh and I have no qualms about saying that this will be a bigger better version of Facebook apps. Of course there will be the usual anti-Microsoft tirades about Facebook getting there first but that will miss the important point about Mesh – that those apps will run offline as well.

     

  • "Horizon" is the brand name for Windows Live wave 3.
    No. I was wrong about this.

     

  • "Feedsync is going to be the standard that powers Horizon."
    Yes, I was right about this although I can’t claim too much credit given that they had all but announced it anyway.

 

So, yeah, in many ways I was pretty close but most of it was pretty obvious anyway. I’ll have more to say about Live Mesh in the next few days.

-Jamie

Written by Jamiet

April 27, 2008 at 5:41 pm

Posted in Live Mesh

Newsgroups -v- Forums

with 3 comments

I was at the Microsoft MVP Summit last week in Redmond Washington where I attended an open discussion regarding the future of Microsoft’s various online support communities. I was looking forward to the session because as an MVP I have a vested interest in communities but to my disappointment the discussion descended into the age old, and very pointless, argument about newsgroups or web forums. Why is it pointless? Because there are very clearly two polarised opinions here and hence these discussions never reach any conclusion.

A similar discussion occurred today on the Live Mesh forum and I couldn’t help but get embroiled. I am an unashamed fan of web forums as opposed to NNTP newsgroups and I spelt out why very clearly in a bulleted list. I find that I’m involved in this discussion quite often and hence I thought I’d record this list up here for prosperity so that I could refer to it the next I get into this debate. So, below is what I said in that discussion, near word-for-word:

The reasons I prefer forums are:

  1. Accessible without client software (except a browser – which is ubiquitous)
  2. Each thread/post/etc… becomes a resource. In other words, something addressable with a URL. That, for me, is a HUGE thing and is the primary reason why I prefer forums. I believe Google Groups may enable something similar but I believe there is less value in linking to a copy of a resource rather than the resource itself.
  3. I’m an interface junkie – rich interfaces I like
  4. Better tracking abilities for Microsoft employees. I have an anecdote to share regarding how useful this can be – maybe I’ll save it for a later day.
  5. Forum member reputation. Some see this as a pointless and intrusive feature but I like it. If I’m new on a forum then its a guide as to how useful the answer might be. More information is, to me, a good thing.
  6. I can setup notifications for when someone replies to a thread. i.e. If I choose to I can get content pushed to me rather than having to pull it.
  7. The Live Mesh forum (just like the ones where I earn my MVP stripes) has the ability to insert and therefore highlight/format code. I consider that to be a good thing. I’m sure anyone that used to code in text editors as opposed to Visual Studio can’t deny that code formatting is a good thing.
  8. Instant indication of when a thread was posted e.g. "artfudd 1 hours 31 minutes ago". Again, more information – good thing.
  9. I have the option to embed hyperlinks rather than having to post a whole URL that doesn’t become a hyperlink in some NNTP readers
  10. Thread summary on [the Live Mesh forum] is useful. Again – more information.
  11. I can delete/edit posts which I don’t think I can with NNTP (I stand to be corrected)
  12. Those edits can be commented upon in some forums – again, more information.
  13. Correct answers can be marked as such. This may seem inconsequential but I know that it is HUGE for people in Microsoft (I know because I’ve spoken to them) because they can track ratio of questions to correct answer, and trend those stats over time,  and stuff like that.
  14. I can search for threads that have certain attributes. e.g. On the forum where I earn my MVP stripes I can go and retrieve all threads that haven’t yet been marked as answered. This saves me time because I don’t have to read threads that have already been answered.
  15. Forums can be arranged hierarchically. I don’t think that’s true of NNTP (I stand to be corrected)
  16. Some forums show presence. i.e. I can see if a person who posted a thread is online or not. This will be leveraged greatly in the near future I’m sure – it isn’t happening yet.
  17. I’m a heavy RSS reader so RSS feeds are a plus for me.
  18. I read forums and newsgroups on multiple machines. If I read a thread on one machine that won’t be reflected on another machine, instead that thread will get marked as "unread" which is not the case.

Is that enough? I could type more but my fingers are hurting :)

Of course, the massive downside is no offline capability but that doesn’t bother me too much.

Of course, the ideal solution would be something that syncs between both. There’s that magic word again – sync. What’s Live mesh? its a sync platform. I hope that the Live Mesh platform can provide a good solution in this space.

Its a matter of opinion. I’m not saying I’m right. I just happen to prefer forums.

[I've also posted this as a lista.]

What say you? Are you in a position to compare NNTP versus web forums? What do you prefer?

-Jamie

Written by Jamiet

April 24, 2008 at 9:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

More Spaces spam

with 3 comments

This is what I was greeted with when I logged onto my Spaces home page this morning:

image

7 spam messages from the same "person" in the space of 3 hours. When the hell are Microsoft going to do something about this? We deserve to be told!

Grrr…

-Jamie

Written by Jamiet

April 24, 2008 at 8:48 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Live Mesh titbit

with 2 comments

Mesh doesn’t support drag and drop to the cloud. Yet.

image

 

Oh, sorry, did I forget to say? Yes, I’ve got access to Live Mesh. Am I gloating? You betcha!

Lots more to come. I promise.

Written by Jamiet

April 23, 2008 at 11:53 pm

Posted in Live Mesh

Spaces Categories….can it get any worse?

with 4 comments

Five days ago I whined about Live Spaces’ very very poor support for blog tagging, preferring to implement blog categories instead. As is the norm I didn’t get any response to my submission on http://feedback.live.com requesting blog tagging be implemented so I figured I would go through all my existing posts and put them into categories instead. Big mistake.

I’ve been through and created 14 categories so far, you can see them here:

image

I wanted to create a new category called "RDF" for my blog entry FOAF from November 2007. Live Spaces wouldn’t let me do that though, oh no. The option to create a new category is grayed out.

image

I don’t actually know why but I’m guessing that I have reached my full quota of categories. Not only that but my category list contains a load of categories that were pre-populated but(and this makes me REALLY angry) I don’t have a way of getting rid of them:

image

 

So, let’s review. Live Spaces doesn’t support a basic feature of nearly every blogging engine on the planet so I have to use their wholly inferior feature instead. That feature contains limits that I’m not even told about. And I can’t remove the categories that were created for me and am not using.

Words fail me quite frankly and constructive criticism is not something I feel like providing right now. This is diabolical.

 

Is anyone reading from the Live Spaces team? I hope so because I’m sick of posting stuff to http://feedback.live.com and not getting a response.

Change this. Change it now.

 

-Jamie

Written by Jamiet

April 14, 2008 at 4:41 pm

Posted in Live Spaces

Windows Live takes a 180degree about turn with APP adoption

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[This blog entry might be a bit techie. Bear with me.]
 
Take a read of the following two quotes:
"…we [Microsoft] couldn’t figure out how to use APP without putting an unacceptable implementation and performance burden on both our customers and ourselves. So we felt we had no other option [but to invent Web3S]. But Web3S is a tactical not a strategic choice. If it turns out there is a better option then we’ll adopt it." – Taken from APP and Dare, The Sitting Duck by Yaron Goland, 15th June 2007
 
"Microsoft is making a large investment in unifying our developer platform protocols for services on the open, standards-based Atom format (RFC 4287) and the Atom Publishing Protocol " – Taken from David Treadwell on New and Updated Windows Live Platform Services, 27th February 2008 
N.B. APP stands for Atom Publishing Protocol
 
So back in June Microsoft said a resounding "No" to APP yet just over 8 months later they decide that actually yes, APP is the basket into which all their eggs are being placed. I have nothing against people changing their minds about decisions like this, I do it all the time in my day job, but at the time of writing that hasn’t really been any explanation as to the rationale for that decision nor what pains the Windows Live team went through in making it. I keep hoping that Yaron will elucidate on this but he hasn’t done as yet.
 
I have said before that protocol standardisation is a good thing but I can’t help but be perturbed by some of the issues that Yaron raised in his blog entry, mainly around the use of optimistic concurrency when merging data. The problem scenario that Yaron describes (where 2 updates to the same entity can result in an erroneous race condition) is a very real one and I would like to know how the Windows Live folks are going to prevent that problem from occuring.
 
Here’s hoping!
 
-Jamie

Written by Jamiet

April 14, 2008 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Windows Live

Live Maps: Extra

with 2 comments

After playing with the new Live Maps for a few days I’ve found a rather nice new feature regarding Birds Eye. When you switch from 2D viewing to Birds Eye there is a momentary pause during which a small rectangle zooms in on the area that will be shown by the Birds Eye photo. Check it out in this following 14 second video where I use Birds Eye view to take a look at Lords, the home of Cricket.

Pretty cool eh? Its small things like this that can sometimes make all the difference.

 

I’m also pretty impressed with the GeoRSS features where you can subscribe to an RSS feed of geo-tagged content in an area defined by what is displayed on Live Maps at the current time. Here is one such RSS feed:

http://maps.live.com/GeoCommunity.asjx?action=retrieverss&mkt=en-us&ss=&bbox=-0.1910871614377681,51.5183947514826,-0.14293614520241687,51.53817859555869&startindex=0&order=date

I’ve  highlighted the part of the URL that defines the rectangular area for which the feed should include content. What I think would be really cool would be, instead of defining a rectangle, I get to define a polygon for which content should be returned. That way I could draw a polygon defining my home town (Sunbury-on-Thames) like so:

image

and only see content for Sunbury-on-Thames. That would be very cool and hence led me to submit the following to Live Maps feedback:

The GeoRSS feature recently released allows me to define a rectangle for which to return content. Pretty useful stuff.

What I’d prefer is the ability to draw a polygon using the existing ‘Mark an area on the map feature’ and return content that appears in that polygon. Thus, I could subscribe to a feed that only returns content for my home town.

[Also added to my feedback lista.]

 

What else? Oh yeah, whilst drawing the shape that you see on the screenshot immediately above I noticed that you can now return to a previously created polygon and either move the points that define it, delete them, or create new ones. Check it out:

I’m not sure if that came with this release but I’ve never noticed it before so am going to assume that it did! Pretty cool anyway and very useful!

 

Have you spotted anything else that hasn’t been reported as yet?

-Jamie

Written by Jamiet

April 13, 2008 at 6:52 pm

Posted in Live Maps

Live Maps update is here

with 5 comments

OK, ignore my last entry, the real info is herein.

1. New search bar

image 

Finally Live Maps now has a single search box for whatever you want to find and it is much simpler than the last one. Scoble will be so happy.

2. Favourite collections

image

You can now save your favourite public collections for easy retrieval later. Great to see this being moved into Live Maps proper.

 

3. More 3D Tour Options

image

We now have new options for 3D tours including something I asked for, the ability to display photos from my collection when recording a 3D tour. Good news.

 

4. The ‘Share’ options dialog box has changed appearance

image

5. Birds Eye indicator

Whenever you happen to be browsing an area that has Birds Eye imagery you now get a more visual indication about it

image

 

6. Mapcruncher maps can now be added to a collection and thus added to a 3D tour

image

 

7. Collections can now be exported as KML, GPX or GeoRSS feeds

image

8. Send collections to a GPS device

image

This is for all those people that have signed up with MSN Direct.

 

9. New version of the Virtual Earth 3D control

image

and Liverpool appears on the installer

image

 

 

 

 

That’s all that I could find for now. Its a very quick and dirty list and I’m sure there’ll be something more complete on the VE blog very soon

-Jamie

Written by Jamiet

April 11, 2008 at 12:05 am

Posted in Live Maps

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