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:: Wednesday, December 15, 2004 ::

More Water Signs on Mars
Exploration: The Mars Rovers find clouds on Mars that are likely water vapor and keep chugging along on opposite sides of the red planet. One has a wonky wheel, the other a bum shoulder, but not too shabby for 11 months into their 90 day journey. More stuff and big photos on the JPL Mars Rover site.

Mini Lesson in VB 2005
Geek Alert: Spent about 20 mins watching a steaming mms video from Microsoft's Channel 9 site on the creation of a pocket PC app that interfaces with the MS Streets and Trips app (with the USB GPS module) that uses Blue Tooth. This is the same bit of software Red got for her guy. As an aside, what's the back story with the couple on the main Streets and Trips web site. What's with his hand and why is she so happy?

Back to the video. Alex Kipman demoed to Robert Scoble creating an app with a bit of Visual Basic 2005. They did it in the lobby of a hotel pretty much from scratch. Created the interface on the Pocket PC cell phone and everything. Was very cool. Well, for me. I don't code, but it was clever. 50 lines of code had the map software, the GPS, the contact list and the pocket PC's phone all work to the point that the map was overlaying data from the contact list in the Pocket PC and pulling who was living nearby by their coordinates and with one click it called a selected individual.

The point was if you were a realtor and wanted to know where your clients were in relation to your physical location and needed to go to their house or let them know you were delayed you could do it with about three clicks: Select the Streets and Trips,GPS pins you, automatically displays who is where in your contact list and a single click to call them on the built in cell. I suppose it would also be useful if you had done some wardriving and had inputted info on current open hotspots and needed to find one fast... The single click could maybe instead set up the pda's network connection to the protocols of the closest hotspot. Or even send a blue tooth message to a laptop to configure itself to do the same even before you were in range of the hotspot... Elegant.

Desktop Search
Geek Alert: Google came out with a desktop search this fall. Now Microsoft has come out with MS Desktop Search as part of the MSN Toolbar Suite. Have a watch of this video too. The video is 52 mins long with no commericals. Worth it, IMHO.

Anyway, Channel Nine interviewed two members of the MSN Desktop Search Team (Bubba Murarka and Marek Gorecki - the geek on the right). The Desktop Search is a component of MSN search and is a 4-5MB downloaded toolbar plug in for IE. Depending on what you want it to do, it searches the web, files, pictures, Outlook emails - including attachments. It indexes the My Docs folder and all email messages in the hard drive by default and once it has it done it the first time it is quicker during subsequent searches. It can even search through meta data so it can locate say artists in MP3 id3 tags, key words in all documents and so on. A nice local relational database.

It has the ability, though not by default, to index networked machines if you ask it to. It doesn't, however, index the browser cache or browser history. Feedback from the Dogfooders (- see below) was two fold: it could contain privacy info such as passwords. And all the porn of course you want to hide from your wife... (they jokingly said that). Favourites do get indexed however.

It's search box can be used as a run dialog as well: "=winword" will launch Word right from the search bar. (Think of the way Google can act as a calculator. You knew that right?) You can also adapt searches on web sites and make them short cuts to be used in the MSN search bar. So you could search Amazon by key words from your desktop without opening IE, entering the URL, going to the search box and then starting to search. Clever.

Items from the search results can be dragged/copied to the desktop so you don't lose them later, and can open right click context sensitive menus. Right click on an email you found in a search and select reply all and it will. Do the same for a Winzip file and you could expand it.

I see it as possibly being a real hog on older machines. Though it does back off searching when running on batteries, and can be 'snoozed' or paused for time periods like when playing games or full screen presentations. The two guys demo-ing it were somewhat evasive when saying how much RAM it uses or how much slows down the machines, but both of them were saying the latest builds were super smooth and were running on most of their machines. Marek Gorecki had no icons on one of his desktops. He said he didn't need them since he could find and launch apps faster than Start | All Programs | Office | Word.

I could see this being pretty clever after say version 2.0. I want to see some real world reactions in the blogsphere first. I'd like it to search recently visited pages in my browser for info as well. With the amount I am reading and possibly posting about, remembering where I saw "it" can be challenging sometimes.

On an unprotected machine you can get admin rights to, it would be a spy's dream! :P

The Desktop Search FAQ is here.

Last, the MSN Search folks have a public blog on MSDN - which isn't linked on the MSN search download page. I had to, ironically perhaps, search for it via MSN search... You can post suggestions to the site, they will announce updates etc. Only 17 posts from them so far.

They have an internal blog as well (which Scoble and the pair touched on but would not show clearly on the video). I found that interesting conceptually. It could be a really cool information medium for larger companies. Like a message board where people working on common projects could post information in more of an informal way so people can get a snapshot of what is going on, share best practices, bounce ideas and so on without spamming everyone's in-box. Internal blogs that come to mind off the top of my head: different functional groups, supervisors/managers/leadership teams, site directors, folks involved in project launches, employee empowerment teams, or even functional production teams, why not even vertically integrated business units and so on. On the LAN without fear of releasing internal confidential info to the outside - as is potentially the concern with any corporate blogger. But accessible to those outside of the direct audience. You sometimes get the best ideas that way! It would improve communication. I know it would have some challenges with some companies in terms of the lack of "officialness" to it. After all, it is a blog and they are not always as structured as a press release. I know I want one. :P

Heard a new term while watching the video: Dogfooding. That's when you send out raw pre-pre-pre releases of an application to your peers at work. Let them try to break it, improve it make suggestions and so on. Not limited to people in the dev project: anyone at work. For instance, all 57,000 people at MS can dogfood an app. Nice bit of beta testing.

Channel Nine really shows a different perspective on Microsoft now and then.

Thousands of germs per square inch
Germ warfare: The old desktop may be the source of all your colds and flu.
Office toilet seats had 49 germs per square inch, he found. But desktops had almost 21,000 germs per square inch. Phones were worse -- more than 25,000 germs per square inch.
Wash your hands and wash them often. I do regularly. I do a great more deal this time of year...

Edit: tidied up the spelling/grammar a bit. Was a bit late in the night to do such a long post. :P
Carpe Diem

:: Mike Wood 02:10 [+] :: 0 comments


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