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Monday, March 31, 2008

Flash Takes Down Vista in the PWN2OWN Contest

By Don Burnett

Well, well, Flash just keeps making news..  According to  ZDNET the offending Application that brought down the Vista Machine in the big hacking contest was none other than Adobe's own Flash product. To be fair it could have been some other product just as easily as Flash, but this isn't the first ZDNET story about problems with the Flash plug-in. I blogged earlier about another ZDNET blogger having trouble with Flash...

It's scary when you hear about these 0 day exploits, especially on a plug-in like Flash which supposedly is installed on 98 % of the browsers out there.. It's a very naked and vulnerable feeling when someone can take over a machine, and in this case many more due to the ubiquity of the plug-in. I have said it before Adobe and Microsoft should work closer to eliminate these kinds of problems.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Interesting Tidbits from Jeffrey Jones Windows Vista One Year Vulnerability Report

By Don Burnett

I seem to have ruffled the feathers of a lot of Mac folks, with some statistics and suggestions that Vista was a lot more secure than Mac OS X (10.4) and Windows XP.. People are offended apparently at the number of days it took to hack a MacBook Air (two days)..

Here are some statistics from Jeffrey Jones Report. I suggest you sit down and read the entire report. You will see that this isn't political, but a fair and honest assessment. It's just tracking of the numbers of patches/vulnerabilities and what actually happened. You can download it right HERE...


Note: This is all from Mr. Jones report and I am quoting it all here...


vulnerabilities1 "

... "

vulnerabilities2 "

I suggest you read the entire report for yourself.. Numbers are reality, and all the Mac Fanatics in the world can't change the reality of these numbers, or any amount of spin from the "Steve Meister"... This is what happened with each of these systems/platforms.. You can't argue with numbers. Take that.. Mac-vs-PC television ads..


Nova Light Brings 3D Animation to Silverlight

by Don Burnett

Well last time I saw someone trying to do 3D in Silverlight, it was in wire frame, and didn't look so great, so you can imagine my surprise when I checked Kosh Land ( and saw a 3D viewer running non-hardware accelerated 3D with animating and moving in real time around the viewer world and getting over 20 frames per second on my Core 2 Duo 64-bit laptop. It looks really cool and worth the trip over there to take a look..



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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Vista or Mac or XP is one less secure than the other?

by Don Burnett

It's been an interesting week... For months I have heard from Mac owners that the Mac OSX was more secure than Vista and you don't even need virus or malware protection... Now I have known this is not true, but those "anti-PC" Apple ads keep touting OS X and trashing Vista's security enhancements and the PC in general. I guess the news this week pretty much proved that wrong..


Evidence One: LinuxWorld/IDG News Service

Quote: " It may be the quickest $10,000 Charlie Miller ever earned. He took the first of three laptop computers -- and a $10,000 cash prize -- Thursday after breaking into a MacBook Air at the CanSecWest Applied Security conference's PWN 2 OWN hacking contest."


Evidence Two: ComputerWorld

Quote: " March 27, 2008 (IDG News Service) Apple's teasing commercials that imply its software is safer than Microsoft's may not quite match the facts, according to new research revealed at the Black Hat conference on Thursday. Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology looked at how many times over the past six years the two vendors were able to have a patch available on the day a vulnerability became publicly known, which they call the 0day (zero-day) patch rate.  They analyzed 658 vulnerabilities affecting Microsoft products and 738 affecting Apple. They looked at only high- and medium-risk bugs, according to the classification used by the National Vulnerability Database, said Stefan Frei, one of the researchers involved in the study."


Evidence Three: CSO Security and Risk Blog: Jeff Jones (Security by the Numbers)

Quote: " The results of the analysis show that Windows Vista continues to show a trend of fewer vulnerabilities at the one year mark compared to its predecessor product Windows XP (which did not benefit from the SDL).  If you are interested in how it did compared with Red Hat, Ubuntu and Apple Mac OS X, you'll need to download the full report. If you share the opinion that Windows and applications ported to Windows get a higher level of researcher scrutiny than other OSes, then the 6-month results are even more positive.  If you don't share that opinion, then they still stand on their own ..."

According to his report, Vista was more Secure than OS X (10.4) or Windows XP.. These are great reads for those who are still on XP or have "switched" to Apple OS X machines..

Evidence Four: computerworld: Julia King

Quote: " Mac switch revisited: An enterprise PC shop's move to Apple isn't as easy as expected...Auto Warehousing Co.'s switch from PCs to Macs is proving more painful than expected."

Even though this company has been committed to moving to be a Mac based enterprise, the story really details differences and extra costs...

Summary: My read on all of this: no one operating system is really secure at best the OS can do things to minimize these things.. As I understand it, there are over 200 vulnerabilities still un-patched on OSX.. I look forward to seeing these numbers go down over the years to come. It looks like some of these companies are finally "getting it" with regards to the importance of secure systems..

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Flash Reliability- ZDNET Exposes Problems that are less than anomylous..

by Don Burnett

EDIT: Please note some people will see this as me attacking Flash, if you read through it with an open mind you will notice that I am not. I use Flash myself and like the plug-in. I just want to know if there really is truly a reliability issue here and trying prompt to see if Adobe will talk about their process for feedback and how they work to address issues with customers.

Don't think of this as an "Attack" believe me, if I were I'd have more juicy things to say.


Original Posting:

Over at ZDNET, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes has a great story that exposes some issues with Flash Player. Before a ton of Adobe Evangelists jump my blog here, let me say I am not attacking Flash here, I want Adobe to address these reliability issues. With a product as important as Flash Player is and the number of machines out there running it (some say it's about 98%) this could be an important issue and if Flash is crashing as much as we think it might be, that could account for a lot of problems people don't really see or know about.

Adrian does a blog for ZDNET, and his most recent discourse is about looking at 3 months worth of reliability data gathered by Vista x64's Reliability monitor. One of the problems it exposed was Flash kept crashing his machine or at least his browser. I have to say this wasn't a shock with me, I have Flash installed myself because it has happened with me to on a regular basis. This is not the only community that I keep up with. I own a Mac Mini computer, and the other day I was reading on another ZDNET blog, one of the Mac ones that the OSX version of Flash has the same sort of problems. This was something that I noted during a posting on whether Flash should come to the iPhone or not. The Blog writer and readers started tag-teaming against Adobe because they felt Flash crashed to much. The reader reply (an IT guy) stated that he wasn't recommending Flash be installed on the OSX machines that he administrated because of reliability issues and crashes.

I admit I don't do a lot with Flash these days except view content, but considering the fact that I am hearing so much in the way of community backlash about this, it would seem like Adobe with all it's great resources, should be working harder to identify these problems. Someone was talking with me the other day about this at a Mac user group and of course he was exaggerating, but he asked the question that "boy wouldn't it be funny if we found out 1/3 to a half of all the computer crashes over the Internet were from Faulty Flash Player installs ? ".

I really hope that's not the case but I wonder if Adobe has a reporting customer feedback mechanism in the Flash player that identifies this stuff and brings it back to them. I also wonder if they are doing anything about it.. When CS3 came out Adobe was very anti x64 Windows support, but I hear this happens on other OSes and 32-bit Windows (including XP). I am really wondering what kind of things they do to fix errors and find out about them, etc.

Maybe, someone from Adobe will be nice enough to comment on these issues and the crashing issues (or at least acknowledge it). At least with Microsoft stuff (and other vendors) most now have a "customer improvement program" that tracks reliability and crashing and logs and reports errors back. I'd like to see Flash have this too.. It also could be poorly written Flash content out on the Internet causing this as well (something well beyond Adobe's control).

Of course most people see IE 7 crashed and they don't look further than to blame Microsoft.. It's nice that you can at least with Vista find out these things.. Any insight into this Adobe? Of course you will probably minimize the crashing thing being a problem, but I am keeping a list of these issues when I see someone on the Internet writing about these kinds of problems, so I can revisit this with you folks..

Monday, March 24, 2008

Microsoft Releases Expression Professional Subscription

by Don Burnett

Microsoft has released the Expression Professional Subscription program. The package gives you the following products..


  • Expression Studio
  • Visual Studio Standard Edition
  • Office Standard Edition
  • Office Visio Professional
  • Windows XP
  • Windows Vista Business Edition
  • Virtual PC
  • Pre-configured virtualized server environments..


COST: The Expression Professional Subscription will be available for purchase in the first half of 2008 for US$999 ERP.

REVIEW: There are a few "gotchas" here that you need to know about, but this is a great value proposition for your designers..

Okay let's talk about the what you gets and the why's...

Expression Studio- (Does this include updates to 2.0 and later if they are released in your subscription year? I'd expect so but don't quote me on that.)

Visual Studio Standard- Because you probably need to get into it even if you don't code in it so you can share projects.. (Looks like no version control with this package, that question is still up in the air?).

Office Visio Professional- This is a great tool for diagramming things including work flows and processes.. I believe there is a 3rd party XAML exporter for it already. This is a great tool that most interaction designers use already.

Windows XP- No doubt for backward compatibility testing. Remember WPF and Silverlight applications run on XP, it just doesn't have any hardware acceleration for XP's graphics.

Windows Vista Business Edition- Now this is a little confusing to me as to why they included the Business SKU of Vista. There are several things missing from it as a designer that you'll want, including MPEG-2 dvd playback. There is no MEDIA CENTER functions built into this version and it doesn't playback all compressed data types like Mpeg-2..

With this edition you'll have to buy this separately from 3rd party vendors. Vista Business is not the best solution because it limits the playable/encode capable datatypes without buying more encoding software.

Also if you are developing a XAML based Media Center application here you are out of luck because it comes with NO built-in Media Center. You'll have to upgrade to ultimate anyway.

Virtual PC- Again some people use this but I hear it has some issues with WPF 3D. I know some agency folks who have Macs who run a virtual Windows PC, but this is not what this is. It's virtual PC for the PC. Which lets you create "separate" virtual environments to work from and test with. They are supposed to include pre-made images to get you working and testing.  It's very obvious that one of the developer guys decided on this addition to the subscription. I am not sure if developers really understand how designers test things including designs, even at Microsoft.

Last time I had heard however that Virtual PC doesn't implement the latest DirectX, so if you use this to develop applications you probably won't be getting full speed or hardware accelerated graphics to develop your WPF graphics on. I am not sure WPF 3D works either in this configuration completely either.. Survey says "great idea", not ideal implementation.

Creating a separate testing and design environment is a good idea, but if you have actually tried to develop with this there are certain "gotchas" there..

Whoever put this subscription idea together, it's a good one, I just think there wasn't enough review of the technical specifications behind it and decisions about what it should include. Of course no one asks me about this kind of thing.. Virtual PC is not something you'll be wanting to test your 2D and 3D animation design on. You won't be able to check accurate Frames Per Second rates and be sure that the screen is updating properly. For a designer that's very important, for a developer *NOT SO MUCH* so please don't test install and use Blend in Virtual PC it's a bad idea for designers.

But if you know all of these things it sounds like a great idea and gives a designer a whole stable of software to work from. Now if they'd just take my suggestion and add Office Live Workspaces to this subscription I'd think they'd have a real winner on their hands.

You can use this free online tool to collaborate with your clients, do art approvals, project tracking all in one free online location.  Don't take my word for it though, sign up for it today for free.. That's one thing no one else has or is giving as part of their services free collaboration and project management for your clients. Play on par with your clients as if you were a bigger organization.

Overall Impressions:

All in all it's a great value for a business wanting to equip their designers.. I would like to see them expand this kit with discount coupons for third party products like Techsmith's Morae Usability testing software. Which would be a great value add to this kit..

Good Advice for People Upgrading/Updating

By Don Burnett


I don't care which OS you have, OSX recently had a huge security update (security holes in MacOS my, oh my!) that wreaked havoc on users machines who did the software update. Linux has had driver problems including unavailable drivers for sometime. The last time I installed linux and added an nVidia hardware accelerated 3d driver, when the driver compiled and installed it crashed the kernal and I had to reinstall with no ideas to why this was happening even though I supposedly was on the right release and the package manager had downloaded for me..

So please fanboys of Linux and Apple stop trying to claim that you are better. I own machines with both OSes installed and frankly you just aren't any better at all. This is something we all have to deal with. Don't give up get some help, when you run into stuff like this. "Switching" just gets you a different set of problems..


Vista Upgrade Path

As for Windows Vista, people with a sygmatel audio chip are complaining because their motherboard and chip doesn't work (that's some non-recent Dell machines)? Well if you think how many machines are out there with different motherboards and chips? If you actually look at the numbers, it would be amazing if Microsoft could test every single board and resource on the planet. It's really not their responsibility though they have safeguards in place.

So you bought from a company that used a cheap audio or model chip and the chip maker either went out or put it in the hands of the hardware seller to support. Frankly this isn't Microsoft's fault, it's the folks at Dell or HP or anywhere else to support specific features of their hardware models. I can hardly feel that Microsoft should be held responsible for a part of the OS they don't package.

If the drivers come on a separate disc from the manufacturer of the hardware blame them, and remember the next time you buy hardware the problem you went through so you don't have it again.. Microsoft will do all they can and they do, but if the hardware maker goes up the river then what do you do? I have been stung by this in more than one Windows update cycle myself. I know Mac owners who had to throw out full systems because their computers weren't compatible with the OS X version of the OS a few years ago. Hardware that wasn't fast but perfectly useable with the old OS..

Is there a Solution?

How do I get around that, I make sure that I have a standard "supported" chipset in any machine I buy. It's simply not good enough to say I bought a "Lenovo, a Dell, or an HP"... Learn to read the hardware specs and ask questions. If they won't tell you who makes it don't buy it. I feel safe with ATI/AMD and Nvidia nforce chipsets. Hold the CPU maker responsible make them update you to something that is supportable and sustainable. A good thing to do is check the hardware specs with the list of drivers in Microsoft documentation. If all the main drivers come on the Vista installer from Microsoft then you are good.

Also don't expect your 4-5 year old machine to be completely compatible with the next version of "Windows".. It's called LEGACY hardware.. You buy a system with drivers and software certified for that machine at time of release. The manufacturer usually only supports what they have released or bundled.

Missing Drivers? Microsoft is not to blame..

Microsoft has given driver manufacturers uprecedented early access to Vista and offered help with driver development to them. More than one company (third party) didn't even start their driver development before Vista shipped. Microsoft warned these folks, if they didn't start updating I'd consider it the 3rd party company's problem, like a certain big sound card maker that started sound with the PC industry.

It's best to be an educated user, back up your machine before you update anything, and be sure you have the right drivers and updates for your hardware.. It will make your life a whole lot easier.. Demand more from whoever you buy your hardware from as a consumer as well. Don't let them sell it as a "throw away" in a couple years type of sale. Above all keep your machine secure with anti-virus and malware protection.

For those looking to go back to XP? Why? you can in about 5 minutes turn off User Account Control, go back to the old look and feel (change your preference setttings) and you'll still have a much more secure OS and probably just as useable. There are several websites that are out there that will show you how to do this. In five years, I don't think you'll be looking back at this anyway. It's nice to see that XP is a great user experience that has so many people that like it though.  With Vista you get a completely re-written OS with security as a first thought, not as a re-write. Sure that security might be a tad slower (I haven't noticed myself) to work with but when your cursing your machine because you have to reformat or re-install or take that into your dealer for them to work on it, you might be glad you had a bit "slower" OS.. I don't actually believe though it's any bit slower.. Plus you get WCF,WPF, and other goodness in Vista, stuff you don't see but will make way cooler graphical applications possible that isn't on XP.. Also support for bigger memory sizes is there..

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mix 08 Reflections- Keeping it Honest..

by Don Burnett

Reading Adobe designers and developers reads on Mix 08 has been interesting. Most people I have talked to think the products are getting closer to feature parity with each other. However, the Flash designers are not worried they are going to be out of a job anytime soon. Most of the keynote "cool demos" were cool for Microsoft developers but made a lot of the design folks (Adobe community) yawn.. What does Microsoft need to do to capture more in the next year?  Well I have a couple of suggestions I am going to put out to the community and see what travels upstream..

1) Move Mix 09 to coexist with SXSW, don't even announce it at the Venetian. Microsoft should make the Mix conference part of the South by Southwest festival. The fact of the matter is the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference attracts the entire Web 2.0 community. The spill over of attendees would be great for Microsoft. This year Microsoft spaced Mix 08 a week before SXSW.  This is just incredibly bad timing. Were there people at both? Yeah probably a lot, which one was over the top? Well SXSW..   At least have both conferences in the same general area and not so far apart. While I am sure SXSW probably wants to stay independent of Microsoft, a conference within a conference is a great idea. I know people who went to both and were exhausted and completely sick after that second week. 

Microsoft would attract more community, if they were either just at SXSW or changed the timeframe of next year's Mix event. The general consensus from everyone that went to both is "never again". They probably will go to SXSW if they have to choose. This isn't to say Mix content isn't good, just SXSW appeals to those things in Interactive that brings people together as a community and Mix is more a Microsoft developer tech fest. Microsoft would have made huge strides with Mix, if the Web 2.0 folks that were there at SXSW spilled over into Mix making it a real mix and a real composite of the entire community.

2) Give us more designer goodness at Mix. Yes the UX track was very nifty to see them add, but the vast majority of people twittering (which I watched in Realtime, while sitting with my leg up in the air from the accident) said this was a Mix aimed at developer guys, not the Flash/Flex/Adobe community or interactive media folks. Most designers who went to Mix and SXSW were more interested in the web 2.0 stuff going on there (and I don't mean the "Zuck" Interview and the bazillion parties). Most of the 2.0 Silverlight stuff was aimed towards developers, and I think emphasis on Expression Studio could have been a lot greater with the content. It deserves a track onto itself not just user experience. Come on guys didn't you get enough UX training in school and in your job daily ? Guess not..

3) This one, I label , "What happens in Redmond stays in Redmond..". The demos at the keynote were cool, but I have seen much of these things already on other platforms over the years, while DeepZoom is nice, let's face it, you can't build an entire application around just it..  It amazes me that Microsoft spent all this money on technical reference samples like, Video.Show, World Wide Telescope, and others and yet the only real sell going on in that keynote was really the Atlas Ad Manager stuff, and they really didn't show us anything new with WPF.

Well, they did announce (to show the progress Windows applications were making) to say that they were coming out sometime with a service pack around summer time (oh yeah aston-martin, memorable..).  There is only so much time in a keynote, but it's obvious that the folks were just not totally in touch with the cool stuff like the fact that the smart client experiences starter kit could be a "market onto itself" should have had at least a session for those interested in creating publications with it. There is so much cool content that wasn't used at Mix 08 going on in the community they could have another conference just around that.. I won't do the laundry list here but you get the idea..Get these people out to community show them cool stuff that's being done and worked on. Don't make all this stuff internal "Microsoft folks" or just partner organizations.

4) Are you tired of going to a Microsoft design thing and it be all Microsoft employed folks talking? The whole thing lacks design community credibility. If you go to other vendors conferences you'll know right away and see people from outside the company talking and giving presentations for the company. It's time to let the community in, and this will build even bigger community for you. 

The community is there now (you guys have done a nice job growing it), just give them the opportunity. I have to say my local group of folks have been treated great by Microsoft. We get to know things before they happen almost all the time, they give us nice goodies and encourage us to move forward with the support of the product.  Two of the coolest demonstrations I have seen at a Microsoft conference in the past few years, was a presentation by the "Godfather of CSS", and the developer who did the Yahoo Messenger for WPF application.  This drove attendance to events like mad.

I think more community participation (even directed participation) is a great thing. Microsoft got smart about it's Windows Server, Visual Studio, SQL Server 2008 launch and included the community in the entire launch. The event was even entitled "Heroes Happen Here"..  It really shows some great planning on their part and I hope we see more planning like this from all of Microsoft presentations in the future. This totally rocked and is what everything should get modeled after.


5) All Cell Phones and Tweets should be banned from presentations (or used as part of the presentation).. Real-time twittering from the audience should be banned during presentations unless the speaker gets to see the feed from everyone present at the same time he is talking.  I think twitter is a great way to have a running back-channel commentary, but sometimes it's harmful to speakers. SXSW is a good example of where backlash from such things going on while the presenter was talking and being asked questions. Yes I am talking about the "Zuck" interview. I really felt the Newsweek lady was disrespected. They really should have made it a different type of presentation, a "TWITTER town hall meeting" format. The sad part of this is everyone there twittering seemed to think they were more important (or out to get their 15 minutes of fame) than the interviewer or "Zuck" himself.

To me this whole issue is about politeness and respect. If you are in the audience be part of the audience. Your comments at that point *ARE NOT* as important as the person speaking. There should be more and better rules we used to call stuff like this "Netiquette".. Unless the twittering can be viewed by the presenter and is allowed as part of the presentation.






Saturday, March 22, 2008

Surface Demo Updated for Silverlight 2.0

by Don Burnett

Over at Michael Schwarz's Blog, he has updated the Silverlight Surface 2.0 demo to include support for multi-scale images with Deep Zoom.. This is a real treat to check out, and with the new code updates this demo is getting to be cool enough that you need to show your friends if they liked the demo at


Sidenote: Someone asked me if the WPF surface code/SDK was available yet recently and the answer is beyond the Silverlight stuff here, I understand that Surface is a commercial product,  you'd have to talk to Microsoft about using it. I suspect it goes beyond these demo capabilities with it's motion tracking alone. But this is a great idea and you can figure out how to implement these features from the code here for your applications..


Oh and as for this demo, keep an eye out for the source code at the author's site he doesn't seem to have actually posted the new demo in anything but live format. The original code is still downloadable. He might just be packaging up the new stuff.  The wow factor with deep zoom is way cool here..



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Friday, March 21, 2008

Realtime Advertising With Silverlight

by Don Burnett

One of the great examples that everyone talks about is the famous Home Shopping Network interactive TV demonstration. I have no idea of the project's current status, but it was one of the coolest things over the last year, and I thought everyone should get a look at it again, before we loose it from our current memory. This really was one of the first very cool demonstrations of Silverlight. Now we are seeing so much more daily in terms of interactive advertising and video technology.



Thursday, March 20, 2008

Flash for iPhone? Huh? No Not Really, well maybe, huh? WTF?

by Don Burnett

Flash for the Apple iPhone has become a very hot topic since the release of the iPhone/iPod Touch SDK.  The latest official news is it may not be happening.. According to an ArsTechnica article : "Jobs asserted that Flash ran too slowly on the iPhone—which is another way of saying the iPhone isn't fast enough to run Flash—and suggested that something else was needed.  "There's this missing product in the middle," Jobs said. "It just doesn't exist. We enjoy a good relationship with Adobe."


"Look up in the sky it's a Bird, it's a Plane,.. This is a job for..GNASH ??"

I have a suggestion with this impasse, a third party step in and port their "Flash" plug-in.. I think this job for GNASH..  We could easily see this ported to the SDK and then released.. Then it would side-step wrangling by whoever is really holding out on this happening. That way...

  1. Neither Apple or Adobe are responsible for it's performance or purported "Lack of Performance".
  2. You can't blame Adobe or Apple for Battery Life issues
  3. Security is out the window from Adobe or Apple so it's use at your own risk.
  4. The community that uses it and develops it takes responsibility for it and it's improvements features are dictated by the community that uses it (how it works etc.)

I really hope this happens just as I'd like to see Silverlight everywhere too. Seems to me Silverlight Mobile (being on Nokia Internet Devices that use Linux  is a really big deal).. And Silverlight seems to be feeling the mobile love over Flash.. 

Flash Support through QuickTime?

Over at that ArsTechnica article the vast majority of commenters didn't care if they got Flash for iPhone or not. It seems from the comments that I am seeing, is they see Flash as being a competing platform for Apple (they did do QuickTime for gosh sake with Flash Tracks). If QuickTime can/could play older Flash player files or imported and converted to QuickTime at least , why couldn't they also expand QuickTime to playback current SWF File).. Something isn't making sense here, especially the performance questions..

Security concerns could be worked around by whoever does the implementation..

I find this all politics and not good for end users.. My vote is for GNASH.. Get both Steve and Adobe out of the equation.


Some Silverlight Mobile Videos On the Web..

By Don Burnett


Here are some newer Silverlight Mobile samples I have found on the web obviously from Mix 08. Nothing really sticks out here as a great example of a mobile UI application but they are interesting viewing.. There is a Mix session viewer), and it is interesting..

Silverlight Mobile Demo - MIX
Silverlight Mobile Demo - MIX



Here's one from last year's Mix Conference, the famous MLB.COM demo including video. Not sure where video was with these other demos this year..

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Semicolons not accepted in Silverlight 2.0 Web Services for beta 1

by Don Burnett

It always helps to read up on blogs if you want to know the latest problems people are finding out there. Over at IanG's Blog, he has documented a bug in Silverlight 2.0b1, apparently if  the service you wish to access has a semicolon in its URI, Silverlight won’t allow your client-side code to access it, no matter what the clientaccesspolicy.xml file says, however you can work around this problem using crossdomain.xml instead.

If you want to go into detail about the workaround for this problem please check out IanG's blog for more details..


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

So Many Great Silverlight How-To's, It's difficult to keep up.

by Don Burnett

Sockets in Silverlight 2.0

Over at Marc Holmes Blog, there is a great example of using sockets with Silverlight. This enables real-time push data communications from within the Silverlight Plug-in. Into the browser. The code is also available for download.

ListBox and DataGrids in Silverlight 2.0

Over at the UX Musings Blog there is a great tutorial on how to start wiring up ListBox and DataGrid controls to data in Silverlight 2.0.. Corrina Barber did a great job with this tutorial and she actually gives you many great screen captures and gives you the example in both C# and VB.NET...

Check it out...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Silverlight 2 Developer Poster

by Don Burnett

Brad Abrams has a link up on his blog to the Silverlight 2.0 developer poster including JPG, PNG, and TIF versions along with the (not so useful for me) deep zoom version.

It looks something like this thumbnail from Brad's Blog.. I found this immensely useful in version 1 and I am sure I will in Version 2.0 as well..


Check out Brad's Blog for the Download Links..

ACM in Entertainment

By Don Burnett

In case you haven't heard about it or don't know about it, the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) has a great Publication called "ACM Computers In Entertainment". Being that we focus here on advertising and Rich Internet Applications I thought you might find this quite the cool publication.. My old Media Station friend Newton Lee who lives out in California these days, is heavily involved in this organization and their work.

Here is the banner from the most recent publication below. If you aren't a subscriber, you probably should be..




ACM Computers in Entertainment, Volume 5, Issue 4

We are pleased to announce that the nonprofit ACM Computers in Entertainment magazine, Volume 5, Issue 4 has been published. In this issue, we feature 7 original papers on the technology, history, and branding of computer games, as well as the video interviews of our distinguished advisory board member Michelle Hinn and the president of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Joseph Olin.

In the upcoming 2008 issue, we will present a brand new section of ACM CIE, "Analysis: New Media and New Technology," a section that focuses on the business side of computers in entertainment, looking at the applications and impact of various technologies and trends on the entertainment industry. Thank you for your continuing support!


Digital Library

Call for Papers



Editorial Board

ACM Computers in Entertainment


Styling Controls in Silverlight 2.0

by Don Burnett

Styling your controls so they fit within the confines of the page is important to keeping your overall design's integrity. It's very easy to do this in WPF, and now it's just as easy to do this in Silverlight 2.0 with Blend 2.5.. Let's look at how we can manage all of this.

The easiest way is to create a "GLOBAL STYLE" for a user control.. Let's look at this really quickly..


First I'll create a Silverlight 2 project..


My project is a simple one, now I'll drag a button and a radio button control onto the design surface..


Now I'll open my app.xaml file, It will look something like this...


The purpose of this tutorial is not to do a complete style change, but to show you how and where to do it, so for this demo I am just going to change a few setter properties..


Here I have created a button style that I have named "MyButtonStyle" and set the font wrapping and fontsize in the button. I could have easily defined color animation, any number of things including a full template..

Now I save my project.. Then returning to our page.xaml file I select the button to which I am applying this global style to..


I select my button  that I have made then go to the buttons properties and click under miscellaneous on the "style" property tick


Then from the pop-up style context menu that appears


I select MyButtonStyle which I have defined.. And I am done, I have defined a global property for this button user control and it immediately changes the values in my project. Of course you can define more than one style, set the style according to a data set that you have databound. This makes creating applications with user personalization settings very easy.

Anyway, that's how you can do a simple global style change and apply it to a custom control.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Microsoft's Worldwide Telescope

by Don Burnett

Anthony Handley has some great content over at his blog, and from there I learned about something called the "worldwide telescope" being developed by Microsoft Research as a free download at sometime this summer. This stitches together a 3d view in an all around the earth view of stitched together pictures from the worlds best telescopes in a completely immersive environment.

If you can't wait you can check out the video of the "worldwide telescope" in a video preview at (Standard Def) and (high def) download. I highly recommend Anthony's blog UXConfidential, he is an excellent UX Designer/Developer as well..

PS Oh and yes, some of these videos are done in Flash, just in case anyone was wondering..

Expression Encoder 2 Brings Cool Special Effects and Advertising to Silverlight Video

By Don Burnett

Expression Encoder 2 offers some significant advantages over the first version. The new functionality of the "Overlay" feature is pretty spectacular.. You can import many different video formats, and some new ones for overlay that were not expected..




The exciting thing is you can now import .xaml files into your media which can include full screen animation overlays and more. So for instance you could take a logo you did in Expression Design and animated in Blend and add that into your video. You can tell Expression Encoder how long that it will be onscreen from the timeline and it can span over an entire project with multiple clips if you like as well.. Here's an example I did of the XAML version of the Designing for Dot Net logo, imported into Expression Encoder 2, note you can set placement, sizing and cropping of the  overlay at will with the green design rectangle handles.



This means you can add a lot  of really great special effects to your encoded videos.. You can also make an overlay do picture-in-picture video..

Here are two videos back-to-back from the encoder preview..



Anyway that's just some of the new features, you can easily attach leaders, trailers, and the post-production support for tweaking and editing is really wonderful..

XAML support gives you great abilities to do some very cool things with masking and alpha channel that haven't been available before.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Look Back at Mix '08 (a Top 10 list)

by Don Burnett

Well it's only been a little while since the doors to Mix 08 closed, but let's look back at some of the cool things that were announced at Mix..


  1. Silverlight 2.0 beta 1 released - aimed at developers mostly includes .NET framework and DRM for Video, more custom controls built in, adaptive streaming support. Server distribution of Silverlight content, DRM for video, DeepZoom,  Advertising models and tools to create ads quickly and easily.  Controls (UI and Layout) and more. Nokia will be including Silverlight Mobile on their phones (note that Silverlight will *not* be restricted to run only on Windows Mobiles devices). This is very exciting for Silverlight's cross-platform future.
  2. NBC Olympics Silverlight Experience -  For the first time ever in history when you’ll be able to watch over 2000 hours of  live coverage,  or after the event replays. The cool new interface was demonstrated at the keynote.  The experience is built totally in Silverlight.  This should drive adoption of Silverlight, with millions of installs of Silverlight.
  3. At the keynote the Hard Rock Cafe shown a new feature of their site that lets you peruse their memorabilia collection, using a new Silverlight Feature called Deep Zoom.  Microsoft also released a new application for creating Deep Zoom collages. It doesn't seem to use HD photo support as first anticipated, but the Zoom/multi image feature really rocks and it's something not done by other web "plug-ins". There is a great example of the control out at
  4. Silverlight 1.0 has achieved great momentum, with 1.5 million installs a day..
  5. WPF is going to see a service pack this summer with improved performance including new "Shader" FX capabilities.
  6. Aston-Martin has a cool customization site for buying your own vehicle from them using Silverlight and later WPF at the dealership..
  7. A Beta of Expression 2 was released. Each product has seen some major functionality upgrades, from Design's new Slicing, to Web's new PHP support and Layered .PSD import, to Blend supporting Silverlight, and Media's incredible cataloging features. Even Encoder saw a huge update with support for Overlays of video and XAML animations. It's more poised for work with live sources and creating track-able video ads for websites.
  8. Expression Blend 2.5 for Silverlight 2.0
  9. Internet Explorer 8, with Super Standards Mode, as a default. Also new features like activities and web slices all based on CSS standards and Acid 2 test passes.. The performance is way above IE 7 for rendering.. It's definitely something to look at. I am using the beta with no real gotchas or problems. If have an issue with a site I just re-open it with IE 7 emulation turned on and it works great..
  10. aQuantive's Atlas Ad Manager- for digital publishers, delivering a new-to-industry automated ad network control panel to publishers to increase revenue from under-utilized impressions. This is expected to be the first in a series of innovations resulting from integrating the best-in-breed resources of Atlas and Accipiter.  AdManager, delivers billions of ads monthly across all rich media types to hundreds of leading publishers around the world.


Why I like Slicing in Expression Design 2.0

By Don Burnett


This is so cool it's some of the easiest slicing I have ever worked with, whether it's for web bitmap formats or XAML.. Select an element on the screen, select "Create Slice from Selection"..



Set your editing parameters for the slice..


You can even specify the layers that are getting sliced as part of the slice contents..


Slice Layers appear on the Layers menu for manipulation..


Many formats are supported including HD Photo format, PSD and PDF..



And that's it, simple easy to work with, cool and quick to use..

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Lurking in the Background it's ShadowExplorer, a Utility you'll think of as a better Time Machine

by Don Burnett

Some people know that Vista comes with a feature called Volume Shadow Copy. Few people know what that is outside of server administrators. But nonetheless, Vista comes with the ability to load up and revert to older versions of files that you have saved on your hard drive. Accessing this feature has been a one file at a time kind of thing until now.. Here comes ShadowExplorer.

While this utility might not be as "glitzy" as Apple's OS X time machine feature, ShadowExplorer certainly is quite  quick and easy to use to go back in time and revive old file versions that have been overwritten..



You can download this goodie at GHACKS..

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Deep Zoom Image Composer for Silverlight Releases to Preview

by Don Burnett

Over at the Expression Blend blog, Microsoft released a tool for Silverlight 2.0 to preview release called the Deep Zoom Composer.  The user guide has also been released.

So what does this do for you? Well if you are developing HD photo applications for Silverlight 2.0 that uses the Multi-Scale Image control, it lets you compose an image or a collection of images.



As you notice, it offers layered views, positioning of images with a great deal of control. It's very easy to work with and I seriously recommend that you check it out.

You can download it for free right now right here.. If you just want to see the cool things you can do with it, you might check out the Hard Rock Memorabilia Collection web site that was completely built with the multi-scale image control.

Congratulations to Cynergy Systems! The Phizzpop Design Challenge Winner!

by Don Burnett

PhizzPop Design Challenge Finale Winner


"Microsoft is proud to announce that Cynergy Systems ( has taken the title at the Finale at South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas on Monday, March 10th.  Presenting to a crowd of over 500, Cynergy presented 'Ben', a series of connected cross-platform applications that leveraged the power of Silverlight, Live Services, and VOIP.  At one point, the team called Barack Obama from a Silverlight Facebook application using VOIP technology.  Asking for some crowd participation, Cynergy had the whole room shout 'Hello from SXSW' to the Obama campaign's answering machine.  Congratulations to Cynergy for the win! "

Congratulations to Cynergy Systems for coming up with this really rocking application. The original problem was quite a nebulous concept, but as many times before Cynergy navigated the waters and came up with a super solution, a modern example of social networking that gives us a great example of democracy in action.. SXSW sounds very over the top from all accounts, wish I could have been there. I am still working on healing from the auto accident.

However, if you missed out like I did, check out this VERY COOL website, with great content from the South by SouthWest (SxSW) conference.. It's done with Silverlight and will give you a great idea about the level of great content provided at the conference..


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Microsoft Bring Collaboration to Creative Business With Office Live Workspace

by Don Burnett

As a smaller design firm sometimes you spend more time dealing with client business issue than you actually do the creative design side of things. Well Microsoft has a new web based service that can help you save time with clients and handle things like project tracking and collaboration with clients with the efficiency of a much larger agency.

Most web-based creative businesses have their own websites to track client projects. If you are a smaller company, working with larger sized businesses it's always a challenge because they expect up-to-the minute updates on projects their progress and status information about work in progress. While this is something I didn't hear them talking about at Mix, I believe though it's something that smaller firms wrestle with every day.

Now there is a great solution for this, it's called Microsoft Office Live Workspace. Let's look at this and how it can organize your company and creative business.


Here is the Office Live workspace screen. Microsoft also offers an add-in for Office 2007 that lets you directly open workspace files from the FILE menu in your Microsoft Office applications. Even though this is very useable today, it would be nice to see this functionality included in Expression Studio, so you could upload files for client approval and collaboration right away...


It's also important to be able to control who gets access to your documents.. So you can set up who can edit and who can view project files.. You can also leave comments to viewers and editors on files in the workspace themselves, which is great for art approvals.


Now if you have ever worked on a project you know that version control is essential to keeping documents up-to-date and assets as well. Version control is not forgotten.. It's automatic in Office Live Workspace


Online file access for most Office file formats is also possible. It supports file formats such as PDF and Microsoft XPS formats. Even during File editing you have access to a lot of files. Right now XAML file types, and Expression Studio files have to be saved and opened in Expression Studio products directly, but can be directly from the workspace.. To support Expression Studio file formats all that will be required in the future is someone writing a preview module, much like people do for outlook file previewers today.


To-do list files directly integrate with Outlook's to-do function as well..

And that's the tour. If you don't have this connectivity with your customers through a company intranet/extranet or would just like a service that's accessible by clients anywhere, this is a great way to organize and get productive with your creative business..

Microsoft also offers Office Live's small business services that are companions to Office Live Workspaces offers the following services as well.

  1. Create an online presence, including free Web hosting, easy-to-use site design tools, site traffic reports, and more (please note this while great for small business may not handle advanced web site needs, but is great for the typical small business).
  2. Custom Domain and email.A custom domain and up to 100 business e-mail accounts—free for the first year .
  3. Contact Manager- Manage sales opportunities, contact information, and track every interaction with customers.
  4. Document Mangers- Store and share company documents in one central place for easy access and version control.
  5. Collaborate and share information with customers, partners, or employees with password-protected online workspaces.
  6. Project Planning- Plan projects, assign tasks, and monitor your progress.

Best of all it's FREE.. You can sign up right now.. Positives on this product for me the direct Office program integration (including all the new file formats) I don't have to leave Microsoft Office to post something and I use Microsoft Office products so I don't worry about incompatibilities, also we may see compatibility with Expression Studio format files in the future w. Microsoft is really pushing this for college campuses and students as well. I know there are other products out there, like GoogleDocs, and others but honestly I prefer to stay with the company that makes the Office products I use in the first place in this case. Also if they end up supporting Expression Studio file viewers my art approvals can go much faster.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Summer Heralds Improvements to WPF (YEAH FINALLY!)

By Don Burnett
New Setup.exe Brings Improved .NET Setup for Applications

Later this year, Microsoft is going to ship a new setup framework for .NET that makes it easier to build optimized setup programs for windows applications. This setup framework can be integrated with existing installation products (like InstallShield) and others. Offering a better setup user experience., and enables a smaller and faster end-user setup experience of the .NET Framework.

Windows Forms and WPF client applications will be able to use this new setup to cleanly “bootstrap” getting the .NET Framework installed onto machines. Improvements will also be made to "cold start" times for applications

WPF Performance Improvements

Later this year, Microsoft is planning to release an update to WPF that includes a number of performance optimizations that improve its text, graphics, media and databinding support. These include:

- Acclerated Graphics Support. Moving the DropShadow and Blur bitmap effects, to be hardware accelerated (making them many times faster). The APIs for these effects will stay the same, no recompile necessary.

- Faster text rendering, especially when used in Visual and DrawingBrush. The APIs for these will also stay the same. No recoding or recompiling.

- Media and video performance will be much faster again no coding changes.

- A new WriteableBitmap API  will be introduced, that enables real-time bitmap updates from a software surface, and a new effects API.

- Microsoft will introduce new data scalability improvements for data editing. These include data virtualization support and container recycling, making it easier to build rich visualization controls.

WPF Control Improvements

With this update, Microsoft is planning to release a number of new controls for WPF.  Included in the list we are working on are DataGrid, Ribbon, and Calendar/DatePicker controls. Bringing more parity with Silverlight 2.0 and requested improvements for speed to existing controls.

VS 2008 WPF Designer Improvements

Microsoft is planning a service release of VS 2008 that includes a number of feature additions to its WPF designer support. These include event tab support within the property grid for control events, toolbox support within source mode, and a variety of other common asks and improvements.

The improvements should make it easier to build great wpf apps. In most cases these will not require any code changes.


Friday, March 7, 2008

Mix Sessions 08

by Don Burnett

Well, as some of you might know I was planning to go to Mix 08. My knee had other plans though. About three weeks ago I was involved in an auto accident. In the accident my knee was pretty tore up and damaged by the impact. I ended up being lucky to be here, with the car totaled. Well, my knee swelled up like a huge grape fruit and I couldn't walk on it. So instead of going to Mix I ended up in the E.R. and later having a procedure done to drain my knee of the blood and fluid that was collecting in there with no place to go..

Today (Friday) is the first day I have been out.. I have been attempting to catch up, so I watched the first two days of Mix sessions, and maybe it's just me but I haven't been as impressed with the content as I was the year before. Not to say it's not great content and Microsoft has a lot of impressive partnerships and "wins" to show off this year. There are a few things I have been hoping for and haven't seen as of yet..

If you want to see the sessions from the past few days check out the blog. They are available for viewing over Media Player, your iPod, or Zune. So far there have been only about five or six sessions (out of over 20 something) that have interest me or told me something I didn't already know. So did I miss out by not making it to Mix? I am not really sure I did. Sure the parties and the people are fun, but if I had to compare the content to last year or even the Adobe Max conference I am not really sure that the topics really interested me on a personal or professional level overall.

Quite a few of the subjects have already been covered elsewhere in a more thorough way other places.

So did I miss out? I won't be at which looks like a more interesting show for designers. Considering the new technologies like Silverlight 2.0 (which seems like it's in the Phantom Zone still trying to get out and be a real product not in beta) and Silverlight Mobile. There should have been a few "silver bullet/red phone" moments, but those opportunities seem to pass by with not much happening. Mix 07 might have set my yearly expectations a little too high.

Some of my favorite sessions that I have viewed at (editorial comment: yeah they could be better but they are great!)

Understanding Microsoft Partner Programs, for Designers, Developers and Agencies (BCT03)Encoding Video

for Microsoft Silverlight Delivery Scenarioes (BCT07)

Welcome to Internet Explorer 8.0 (BCT08)

Advanced SEO for Web Developers (BT03) (where's the Silverlight Analytics)

Building RIAs Using Microsoft Silverlight PT 1 (CT01)

Building RIAs Using Microsoft Silverlight PT 2 (CT02)

Adding Instant Messaging to any site (T03)

RESTful data services with the ADO.NET Data Services Framework (T07)

Developing Data Driven Web Applications using ASP.NET Dynamic Data (T24)

Great Presentation, but not what I was expecting..

Being a "Recovering Flash Developer/Designer" (to quote the presenter) I would say that while the "From Flash to Silverlight: A Rosetta Stone" was a good presentation on "beginning Silverlight", it did not capture what you need to know if you are a Flash designer/developer who is trying to translate their skills from Flash over to Silverlight.. Concepts in Flash itself that developers work with daily wasn't paralleled in the presentation and I really was disappointed because the presenter did a really great job on the content he had, it just didn't address what I was expecting to see.

I was really hoping for a more "conceptual" Rosetta Stone. One that talked about clips and symbols, and movies and how differently this works than multiple timelines and the bubbled event model in Silverlight. I expected some talk about browser/DOM integration and a Silverlight app can have multiple story boards and timelines based on events and the differences in Timelines conceptually and see both products on the screen and see the author doing work in both and showing where it all applies.

You could also tell the guy was more of a developer and ActionScript guy, than a designer because he immediately went into Visual Studio to do Silverlight, this I think is a big no-no if you are trying to convince a Flash guy on Silverlight's greatness, I think I could see from the video the designers in the audience's eyes glassing over at that very moment. Not how I would have started off to talk to people about transitioning to Silverlight from Flash. Flash is a GUI product and he should have been in Blend immediately. Visual Studio is a developers tool and a good turn off to a designer even with Cider..

Overall Impressions from Content Presentation at Mix 08

This Mix more looks like it was aimed at developers and the Microsoft developer community than it does the Designer community, and that's okay because we need everyone right? I believe after seeing this Mix and what Microsoft decided was "important" to talk about, that there is room for another Microsoft "Designer" event (maybe not even by hosted or sponsored by Microsoft) during the year..

Sure there were some great things here, the Astin-Martin, Hard Rock demos, the Olympics, Move Networks partnering with Microsoft, and of course the Atlas Ad Manager with Silverlight integration. It looks like the opportunity to capture some of the design folks that are heavily invested in other technologies were missed by mostly developer presentations.

Having said that if you are a developer it's a wonderful year for Mix. Managed code is finally cross platform with full data/entity connectivity from within Silverlight. There were great examples of how to get into all of those areas and there is a lot of depth to cover there.. This will bring the whole developer application world of Windows developers and web developers closer together with similar capabilities and Silverlight RIAs will start looking like their big-brother Windows applications. Certainly the UI capabilities, network services and data bound capabilities are way way better this year.

Questions I had (because I didn't get to attend!)

I expected to see at least something on Silveright analytics and there wasn’t anything about measurement or diagnostics.. Anyone see specific functionality for this while at Mix? Metrics and reporting are essential to Silverlight's success in the web community and it's a blocker to better adoption over other RIA technologies..

How much did you hear about the WPF service pack that is supposed to come out this summer??..

Was there a CTP of this with the improved WPF controls and improved performance it's suppose to offer? I assume it includes equivalents of the Silverlight Datagrid and Calendaring controls?

Is there and evaluation/ SDK/CTP out there available for the Atlas Ad Manager?

Is there more details on the "Expression Studio Professionals Program"?? (Please don't put us on a subscription model, unless you are really going to make QUARTERLY improvements and commit to them). I really disliked the Macromedia model for all of this, think DIFFERENT on this one please Microsoft..

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Favorite Things: Expression Studio 2 Beta Features

by Don Burnett

Wow what a keynote at Mix08, Silverlight 2.0, Silverlight Mobile (on non Windows Mobile platforms), IE 8, not to mention the cool memorabilia collection from Hard Rock, now immortalized as a Silverlight application using HD photo technology..

Here are some highlights of my favorite features in the new Expression Studio 2 in pictures.. which you can DOWNLOAD NOW


Expression Web 2.0

The return of Hyperlinks (from Front Page)




Layered PSD Import (hello easy buttons and slices)




Silverlight 1.0 Import (it's smart and interrogates your JavaScript)


Broad Media format support



Expression Blend 2.5 preview (download link)




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Expression Media Encoder 2


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