Go check out Windows Vista's Media Center Not Ready for Prime Time by Paul Thurrott (courtesy of Ian Dixon).

Sometimes it's not fun to beta test because of all the variables, and hardware driver issues (which seem to be the majority or root cause of Paul's bad experience with Beta 2) can make an otherwise great beta release painful.

Paul, this is an open invitation to contact me any time to get this stuff figured out -- there is no reason you need to 'go this alone' when there are resources standing by to assist.

But I did find at least one encouraging tidbit in his comments. Back in October 2005, Paul had this to say about our new horizontal navigation model...

"Instead of the simplicity and beauty, we get ... ah... a jumbled mess of album art, arranged horizontally, not vertically."

It seems to be growing on him, for now he says...

"Much of what's changed in Media Center Vista is quite good. For example, the UI is now oriented to widescreen displays such as the HDTV to which my Media Center PC is connected, and content takes advantage of this horizontal real estate by moving left to right visually, instead of up and down in a text list, as in previous Media Center versions."

Our new UI seems to be growing on him. Yay!

Categories: Media Center | Windows Vista | Comments [9] | # | Posted on Thursday, June 29, 2006 5:49:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

I returned home from Tokyo this morning to find my latest issue of American Photo waiting on me. On pages 15 and 18 is the work and interview of Jill Greenberg featured as the most controversial photo exhibition of the year. I agree with Thomas on this one (see Jill Greenberg is a Sick Woman Who Should Be Arrested and Charged With Child Abuse and More Thoughts on the Jill Greenberg Controversy). I remained silent on this topic UNTIL I read the article in American Photo -- the quotes attributed to Mrs. Greenberg were saddening to me, at the very least.

Here are the quotes by Mrs. Greenberg in the article I found to be disturbing, and why...

"Maybe getting kids to cry isn't the nicest thing to do, but I'm not causing anyone permanent psychological damage."

My wife is a child psychologist with a specialization in child development, and I have learned from her some of the most formative years of a childs life are between the ages of 1-6. Does Mrs. Greenberg have the expertise to know whether or not she is crossing a boundary with these children? Nothing in her official website bio indicates she does.

"Kid models aren't very expensive -- not as expensive as monkeys, for example."

It seems to me it boils down to maximizing profit for Mrs. Greenberg, regardless of the consequences or moral obligations she has to her subjects. I don't believe it's right to provoke animals in this manner, much less children, for the sake of making a buck. This dehumanizing of the children -- making them merely a commodity -- is sickening.

"Some would just cry for no reason -- my daughter did that; she didn't like standing on the apple box I used for a platform because it was a little wobbly."

Mrs. Greenberg, your child was not crying for no reason. She was crying because you put her in a position where she felt unsafe. This hit a particular nerve for me. We have professional pictures (by Karen Goforth) of our two children at six months old sitting on a turtle stool built by my grandfather. The stool is not wobbly -- it sits about three inches high, has a very wide base and therefore a low center of gravity.

Both children had learned to sit up unaided for 1-2 weeks before the pics were taken, so were naturally still a bit wobbly themselves at the time the pictures were taken. Because of this, I was mere inches away during the session, just out of camera range or within the periphery of the frame edges. The minute my children became the least bit distressed or started to sway a little bit I scooped them up and ended the session. Granted, my goals were very different from Mrs. Greenberg -- we wanted happy, smiling pictures.

I can't imagine intentionally making my child uncomfortable or unsafe to provoke them to tears. I'm baffled as to why Mrs. Greenberg as a mother would do so to her own children, much less those of friends or complete strangers.

"At the end of the day I was not in a good mood. I don't like making little kids cry."

Earlier in the article Mrs. Greenberg states she photographed 'around 35' children in groups of '12 or so for one day'. If she dislikes provoking children in this manner, why did she do it for approximately 3 days (35 children divided by 12 per day)...? The actions in this case seem to speak much louder than the words.

"The emotion you see is just so compelling, yet they're beautiful at the same time. That was one of the things that interested me about the project -- the strength and beauty of the images as images."

These images are not beautiful, nor do they depict any sort of beauty. To attribute any sort of beauty to these images is shameful in the least, and speaks volumes about the distorted perspective of the viewer.

"I also thought they made a kind of political statement about the current state of anxiety a lot of people are in about the future of the country. Sometimes I just feel like crying about the way things are going."

The pictures by Mrs. Greenberg might be indicative of psychological projection. I'm not a psychologist, but I remember enough from my undergraduate studies in psychology to recognize the behavior. There are many, many ways to constructively deal with a negative personal outlook of our culture, political or socioeconomic environment without involving children, or causing a negative impact to their lives. Talking with a friend or spouse is a good start, and much more healthier than imposing our unhappiness upon the precious little ones in our lives.

As a result of their feature of Mrs. Greenberg I'm canceling my subscription to American Photo. I hope in the future they will decline to feature children in their magazine in this manner. There are many, many other controversial photo exhibitions they could choose to highlight which do not resort to exploiting minors.

Categories: Photography | Comments [5] | # | Posted on Sunday, June 25, 2006 2:31:11 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

I'm going to present to 60+ Windows Media Center developer type folks near the Microsoft offices in Shinjuku. It's the Mix06 presentation on steroids done in 10 sessions over 2 days. I don't speak any Japanese, plus I'll have a mix of jet lag + time difference (Tokyo is 8 hours behind Redmond, but a day ahead due to the international date line -- yeah, it's confusing to me as well). Luckily, the Japanese folks are very gracious.

My first trip to Japan involved fugu. My second trip involved basashi (raw horse) along with a lot of other sushi, including whale and many, many items which I didn't recognize by name or sight. I had some of the best Kobe beef ever last time as well (I'm a huge fan, and it balanced out the basashi quite nicely). This is my third trip, and I'm willing to bet my hosts will want to take me towards even more exotic foodstuffs. I'm willing to try anything -- once. :-)

So, what am I taking to keep me company on the 10+ hour flight...?

Toshiba Portege M200 Tablet PC with movies from a legit download provider. I'm a first time user of this particular service so I'm anxious to see how well it works and the quality of the content. I've temporarily restored it to Windows XP so I can test out the solution (which doesn't yet work on Windows Vista). It's also the backup PowerPoint machine in case the next item starts to balk at all the beta software. As soon as I get back, it gets yet another recent build of Windows Vista.

HP Pavilion zd8000 running Windows Vista Beta 2 (5384). This puppy is the 17" widescreen model so it sucks a ton of juice -- not sure if the airplane system can handle the pull -- if not, its battery will be short lived. Still, should be able to crank out a few more MCML samples -- I just got one to work tonight where a 720p WMVHD was twirling and spinning all around -- with nary a glitch, no matter how fast the keyframes! This is the main demo machine, the same one which worked so well at Mix06.

Creative Zen Micro -- I've tried a couple of times to get it to sync with Urge to no avail, and that's got me just a tad bummed. There were a couple of new albums I wanted to check out. Still, it's got plenty of content on there to not listen to anything twice over or back. I can play with Urge a bit more when I return.

Sony Playstation Portable -- David Fleischman (Dude. Blog. Now.) now has me hooked on Syphon Filter. Plus, I've copied some recorded TV (the PSP has a GORGEOUS 16:9 screen -- just perfect for downsampled high definition DVR-MS). Oh, the Portable Media Center is staying here with the fam while I travel -- they won't let me take all of the toys these days.

Seagate 100 GB USB 2.0 Portable Hard Drive -- Primarily for backup, this really small, USB powered drive has (almost) become my favorite peripheral -- Once the HP battery gives up the ghost I can keep coding on the Tablet without missing much of a beat.

Well, it's now around 6:00 PM today (weird) in Tokyo. I've spent the last couple of days attempting to acclimate to the local time so I'm not sucking wind so much during the presentations. This blog post was my last attempt to keep sleep staved off -- but now I'm pretty finished, so off to bed before the afternoon flight tomorrow.

Categories: Media Center Application Design | Tokyo | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Tuesday, June 20, 2006 10:13:35 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Mini-Microsoft has gone on sabbatical (although not really) and Robert Scoble has left for a startup. Who is left around to carry the torch...? Well, let me take a moment, walk a few blocks and hold it up.

Today's announcement by Bill Gates was all about making a safe, zero risk, predictable move.


During the press conference every Microsoft employee got an email today from Steve Ballmer. Unfortunately, I read it after reading Guy Kawasaki's The Top Sixteen Lies of CEOs and quite frankly Steve's words ring hollow. I think Steve has good intentions -- but the stock price is speaking way louder at the moment. I also think he has PR folks helping him a bit too much.

Friendly piece of advice for him: Steve, stop by any cafeteria in any given building each day and each lunch with a group of 3 or 4 Joe or Jane Microsofties and engage them in conversation. If you do, people will begin to believe in the magic again.

Anywho, here are the sort of announcements which would have made a favorable impression on me...

1) BillG is coming back full time to lead us through the current / next round of competitive pressures.

Let's face it, Sergey and Larry probably smell blood in the water right now. I'm not sure the competitive tenacity, desire or hunger to win is present in the resultant executive team lineup announced today (nothing really changed now, or in two years: it's still status quo). It's clearly in Bill's DNA to compete -- and we need that now more than ever.

2) J Allard has assumed the role of Chief Software Architect.

Please, please -- anyone closer to 40 as a CxO would be nice. Do the math on the average age of our executive team and cringe. Yes, with age comes wisdom -- but sometimes a tendency to think you've got it all figured out (I'm learning this on a nearly daily basis these days). IBM never planned to be supplanted by the young, upstart Microsoft.

3) Microsoft will be broken up into multiple companies.

It doesn't matter how you slice or dice it -- any company with 70,000 employees is going to have way more chiefs than indians. Don't split it as the courts wanted to with Windows as one company and Office as another. Split it up into granular pieces with the explicit goal of having them compete with each other. Fork the code after we ship Windows Vista and carve out competitive landscapes (where the Windows designed for small businesses can start chipping away at the Windows designed for medium sized businesses, and vice versa, as but one example). Instead of acquisitions, let's have some spinoffs.

4) Windows Vista will be available for Holiday 2006.

Yeah, I know, this one is a long shot. But this kind of 'all hands on deck' whereby the entire company is invested in accelerating (not delaying) the shipment of Windows Vista could be catalyzing. Getting everyone to drop everything for the next month and concentrate on nothing but Windows Vista would send a clear message we mean business.

So where does all of this leave me professionally...?

Honestly, I'm not really sure at the moment. I'm pretty sure I'm still going to stick around. I believe there is still enough time and strength to pull us out of the morass, turn the ship around and head us in the right direction.

Of this I'm sure: If it's to be, it has to start with me.

Categories: Microsoft | Comments [2] | # | Posted on Friday, June 16, 2006 8:00:47 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Pixels, Megapixels, and Desktop Resolutions points me to a wikipedia entry on desktop resolutions. One of the things that most excites me about MCML is it enables your designed-for-10' experience to work on all of these resolutions without explicitly needing to code for any of them.

Categories: Media Center Application Design | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Monday, June 5, 2006 10:04:38 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

With lot's of great pictures of the user interface...

Review: http://blogs.zdnet.com/Bott/index.php?p=71

Picture Gallery: http://blogs.zdnet.com/Bott/?page_id=70

Definitely worth your time to read. I ribbed him about coining the phrase 'Blue Screen of DRM'. :-)

Categories: Media Center | Windows Vista | Comments [0] | # | Posted on Friday, June 2, 2006 7:35:53 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   
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