Archive for June 2009
Speaking about this data centre back in November 2007 Microsoft’sVice President of the EMEA Online Services Group, John Mangelaars said:
- “This is the first mega data centre deployment outside the US
specifically targeted for the growth and performance of Windows Live
services” (Microsoft Confirms Dublin Data Center Plans)
Well that all sounds like good news. Over the past few months I’ve found myself getting more and more frustrated with page load times on Windows Live which seem, to me, to be getting worse and they wre never particularly speedy in the first place. The login process at http://login.live.com is particularly troublesome which often takes 4 or 5 seconds (an age in internet time) and which, in the worst of cases, sometimes ends up in what I can only describe as an infinite loop of page redirects.
Here’s hoping that we in Europe see a marked improvement in Windows Live services after this new data centre comes into operation tomorrow.
Yesterday Microsoft released Hohm, a service intended to help you monitor your energy usage at home. This is of particular interest to me because I was recently involved in a brainstorming session at work where we were trying to come up with some ideas about services we could provide as part of the forthcoming smart metering initiative that is soon to envelop the UK.
Unfortunately I wasn’t directly involved in the work that followed but I’m glad to say that some of my colleagues (in conjunction with Microsoft UK as it happens),, managed to put together an impressive proof-of-concept that was showcased at the Smart Metering 2009 UK & Ireland conference.
Here’s some of the mock-ups that they showed:
Pretty nice huh? This is how we at EMC Conchango envisage data visualisation in the home is going to progress in the future and you can read more about it on Julian Harris’ blog entry Your energy use in the eco age of thrift: smart meters, the smart grid and home automation. In it Julian asks:
Is a standard statement that says something like, ‘832 units used’ that arrives every 3 months a satisfactory relationship for an energy company to have with its customers?
Judge for yourself!
I recently wrote a blog post entitled Whatever happened to Live Clipboard? where I remarked that the blog posts that Ray Ozzie wrote soon after joining Microsoft had disappeared from view. Well as luck would have it I have since rediscovered these blog posts in Google Reader which still has them cached. There are six blog posts in total, all of them written sometime around the end of 2005/beginning of 2006.
I figured people may be interested in Ray’s thoughts during those early fledgling days at Microsoft and hence have made these six posts available on my Skydrive at Ray Ozzie’s Spaces blog posts. They make for very interesting reading especially given what we now know about Live Mesh and various other initiatives that have sprouted up under his stewardship.
I have picked out some choice quotes from those blog posts for those of you who don’t want to trawl through all six of them
“A couple of weeks ago, Bill and I brought life to a new initiative that, over the course of the months and years ahead, will catalyze and deliver a number of things that I’m very excited about. At that event, I said that unlike many other stealth projects I’ve/we’ve done, in this case many of our plans and offerings will evolve progressively and in the open, shaped in good measure by a dialog with you.” – This sounds like the forerunner of Live Mesh.
“I’ll be tracking the conversation by watching inbound links, rather than by enabling comments on the site. The "link mesh of conversation" is a key distinguishing characteristic of this medium” – Sadly Ray didn’t believe in the “link mesh of conversation” enough to keep the blog going but I reckon this will be the first time he used the word “mesh” publicly.
“As an industry, we have simply not designed our calendaring and directory software and services for this “mesh” model. The websites, services and servers we build seem to all want to be the “owner” and “publisher”; it’s really inconsistent with the model that made email so successful, and the loosely-coupled nature of the web.”
“Shortly after I started at Microsoft, I had the opportunity to meet with the people behind Exchange, Outlook, MSN, Windows Mobile, Messenger, Communicator, and more. We brainstormed about this “meshed world” and how we might best serve it – a world where each of these products and others’ products could both manage these objects and synchronize each others’ changes. We thought about how we might prototype such a thing as rapidly as possible – to get the underpinnings of data synchronization working so that we could spend time working on the user experience aspects of the problem – a much better place to spend time than doing plumbing.” – the conversations that foresaw the development of FeedSync
“look forward to using more and more Windows Mobile devices. Months ago I pulled the plug on my blackberry and went cold turkey to an HTC Typhoon-class device. A great device that is much more useful for triaging email than I’d imagined, but I really do need a thumb keyboard. As of last week I’m now using/testing the upcoming Treo 700w, and it’s great! The pipeline of cool devices about to emerge is stunning, and the software platform incomparable.” I wonder if “stunning” and “incomparable” are still in Ray’s Windows Mobile lexicon these days?
“what was the most fundamental technology enabling “mash-ups” of desktop applications? The clipboard. And a set of common clipboard data formats.”
“But each site is still in many ways like a standalone application. Data inside of one site is contained within a silo. Sure, we can cut and paste text string fragments from here to there, but the excitement on the web these days is all about “structured data” such as Contacts and Profiles, Events and Calendars, and Shopping Carts and Receipts, etc. And in most cases, the structured form of this data, which could be externalized as an XML item or a microformat, generally isn’t. It’s trapped inside the page, relegated to a pretty rendering.
So, where’s the clipboard of the web? Where’s the user model that would enable a user to copy and paste structured information from one website to another? Where’s the user model that would enable a user to copy and paste structured information from a website to an application running on a PC or other kind of device, or vice-versa? And finally, where’s the user model that would enable a user to “wire the web”, by enabling publish-and-subscribe scenarios web-to-web, or web-to-PC?” – Ray spent a lot of time in these blog posts talking about Live Clipboard and I still consider it to be a great shame that the technology has not taken off.
Comments are welcome!
In July 2008 I published a blog post entitled Is a Microsoft 3D virtual world closer than we think? where I speculated about Microsoft possibly using Virtual Earth’s 3D abilities to build a Second Life competitor, I also supplied some links to reinforce the speculation not least to a comment from 3DVia developer Matt Baron who said:
"Microsoft and Google are taking a different approach [from that of Second Life] to the virtual world with their Virtual Earth and Google Earth products. First they are building the real world, and step by step they are coming closer to a fully immersive environment"
Liveside picked up on it too although the aforementioned Mr Baron replied to that post with the following comment that, in my opinion, contradicted what he had said earlier:
“How quickly misinformation spreads. My comment on Robert Scoble’s blog was pure conjecture and I have no inside knowledge of MS’s strategy in this arena.”
Today nearly a year on there hasn’t been in any new moves from Microsoft in the 3D arena but the lack of news has not dampened my conviction that they are planning something big in the not too distant future and I have since seen further “evidence” that only serves to heighten the intrigue. Namely:
3D world construction demonstration
Microsoft’s Chief Research Officer, Craig Mundie, gave a talk at Microsoft’s financial analysts meeting on 24th July 2008 (webcast available here) where he supplied the following choice quote :
“…what it does is it actually moves me into a 3-D world. And this world is something that Ray Ozzie and I, when we have talked about this, call first life. Many of you may be familiar with this second life idea where people are building a wholly synthetic world on the Web, but very few people really have an appetite to help build a synthetic world and then have avatars and other things in that environment. And it’s already begun to taper off a little bit.
We think that the idea of first life, where there’s a mirror world of 3-D that everybody can participate in constructing and maintaining and which gives us a navigational metaphor that’s completely consistent with the world we already live in would allow many more people to get into this environment and operate there.”
What follows is a stunning demo of a 3D world that has been constructed both from 2D photos (in much the same way as Photosynth does today but with much much smoother transitions and finer detail) and 3D software-built models in a manner that really does mirror the real world. The demo starts at approximately 19 minutes and is well worth a watch. (Incidentally I find Craig Mundie to be a very engaging speaker and when he’s showing off future-gazing stuff like this its well worth taking an hour or so out of your day to check out the full video.)
Chris Pendleton at mix
Virtual Earth Evangelist Chris Pendleton gave a talk at MIX09 (which I attended) about the new Silverlight map control and during QnA at the end of the session someone asked about where Birds Eye view was in the Silverlight map control to which Chris answered “We didn’t add it – we’ve got some other plans for that”. When quizzed further about 3D in the Silverlight map control Chris replied, very coyly, “We’re working on something…something big! Can’t tell you what!”. Make of that what you will. Go see the video at http://videos.visitmix.com/MIX09/T34F and fast forward to about 62 minutes to hear this little discussion.
Sneak peeks at 3D modelling using Aerial Photos
Long Zheng has posted a photo from a talk given by Virtual Earth team member Chris Sampson that appear to show how they are combining aerial photos with 3D models to provide near-photorealistic images of 3D objects such as buildings:
Also consider that in February 2008 Microsoft announced that they had acquired Caligari, a company that makes a 3D modelling program and they also have an ongoing partnership with 3DVia who produce a tool that allows one to build their own 3D model of an object and its clear that Microsoft are planning some big moves in the arena of 3D. If anyone has any more specific information than what I have here then I’d love to hear about it!
Did you know that there is a limit to the number of people that one can have in their Windows Live network? I always assumed that there was a limit but I’d never noticed it having to be enforced anywhere. Not until I tried to invite the SkyDrive team and I received the following message:
“Your invitations have been sent to 0 people. We couldn’t send invitations to these people because they’ve reached the limit in the number of people they can have in their network.”
Given that, I find it strange that Windows Live actually suggested to me that I should add the SkyDrive team as a network contact:
Why is Windows Live suggesting contacts to me that it is impossible for me to add? That feature needs a little work methinks!
[This blog post was originally published on my work blog at http://blogs.conchango.com/jamiethomson/archive/2009/05/27/whatever-happened-to-live-clipboard.aspx and I thought I would publish it here because it might be of interest to readers of this blog also]
Anyone out there remember Live Clipboard? It was a very interesting incubation technology that came out of Microsoft’s Live Labs group way back in 2006 (I think) and how now been open sourced under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. It was also backed from way up on high – Ray Ozzie (now Chief Software Architect at Microsoft and also the guy who took over from Bill Gates) was its chief backer. Live Clipboard was in fact one of the few technologies that Ray blogged about on his, now defunct, MSN Spaces blog but sadly that blog post is no longer available.
So, what was Live Clipboard? From the site itself:
In other words, it is copy and paste for the web. You may think we already have that; after all, I can copy and paste some text from a text box on one page into a text box on another web page; but that isn’t really what this is about. Live Clipboard used XML markup to describe the data that was being copied thus if that XML was a well-known representation of the data (e.g. a microformat) then the receiving website could act upon that data accordingly. The canonical example is the one given at http://www.liveclipboard.org/:
“Let’s say you have two sites both of which understand calendar data. I want to move an appointment from one site to another. With Live Clipboard, there is now an icon on each site, next to each piece of data that can be transported. Bring site A to the front, click on the icon and choose Copy, then bring site B to the front, click on the icon and choose Paste.“
Its not hard to envisage many other uses for such a technology, http://microformats.org has a number of fledgling microformat specifications that could all benefit from Live Clipboard:
A number of large organisations have started to support Microformats most notably Google who recently announced that Googlebot would start seeking out Microformats and Microsoft themselves who have released Oomph, a microformats toolkit. Given that the use of microformats is now taking off I’m surprised that Live Clipboard hasn’t been heard of in such a long time. Here’s hoping that changes soon because it sounds like a very useful technology and to a fella like me whose primary interest is data integration anything that uses well-known standards as a method of doing that is worthy of attention.
Does anyone out there have any information to share about Live Clipboard?
UPDATE: Ray is well known for inviting people to contact him so I did that and asked him what had happened to Live Clipboard. Paraphrasing his reply: “even though there was initial interest, once it was open sourced there was a lack of take-up within the wider web developer community.” Shame!