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Friday, April 29, 2005

Back Home For Me, And Longhorn

It's been well over a week since my last update, but in that span of time I've written my last 3 exams, moved back home, and done all kinds of fun errands like going to the dentist and such. Doesn't everyone just enjoy the dentist? Anyways...

Longhorn's been sent home too. Microsoft has apparently decided to pull the latest build released to WinHEC attendees (Build 5048). I don't blame them either. Although I would have liked this build to have been publicly available, it is a developer preview intended for testing new hardware drivers. Much of Longhorn's feature-set was stripped out, and this is what is seems like no one has understood. Right from the day this build was released people began criticizing the user interface (or lack there-of). This should have been pretty obvious, but this is a hardware developer preview handed out at a hardware developer conference.

With that being said, there are some notable improvements (just a couple, but this is a developer preview release) that I've seen in some screenshots. The My Music and My Pictures folders have received an upgrade. On the left hand side there is a directory tree view rooted at the My Music (or My Pictures) folder. You can now browse you're music with each artist in a seperate folder without having to see everything else that you've got on your hard drive as you currently do in Windows Explorer. I just might start to make use of these folders because of this improvement. The status bars at the bottom of windows have also been modified. Their height has been increased in order to provide a richer presentation of the file metadata.

Sure this build looks like Windows XP with a little bit of a UI change, but pay attention to the above text in italics. Don't judge Longhorn on this build, it's not even close to a fraction of whats to come. Much of the improvements that come with Longhorn are under the hood, thats what people should be excited about. Yes, I'm excited about the new UI as well, but that's not what it's all about.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

What Flavour Of Longhorn Will You Get?

Since the introduction of Windows XP, as well as with previous versions of its server line of operating systems, Microsoft has offered several different flavours, or SKU's of the operating system. Each SKU targetting a distinct class of end-users. Windows XP Home was aimed at the home user and came with little extra features. Windows XP Professional came with IIS in the box, as well as the ability to log into the machine using Remote Desktop (something that I personally feel should have been bundled with the Home SKU). Some time later, Microsoft unveiled the Media Center Edition, although in order to get a copy of this SKU, it is required that you purchase a Media Center PC from certain OEM's, and there is a specific list of hardware that can be used with these PC's.

With Longhorn on the way, I hope that Microsoft will follow one of two routes. The first, which I believe would be best for the end-user, would be to bundle everything together in one box. The second way to go about things, have two different SKU's at most, but with distinct differences in functionality.

Including everything in one box is definately possible. By the time Longhorn goes RTM, every PC is likely to have a DVD drive. You would go about installing Longhorn just as you would normally install an operating system; boot up from the optical media, select the partition you wish to install to, and start copying the 1's and 0's over. Once Longhorn has been installed, re-insert the installation DVD and from the autorun menu you can select which role you would like this installation to play in your home. Installing no additional role would give you your desktop PC experience. You could however choose to install the Longhorn Media Center functionality on this PC, or the Tablet/Mobile functionality.

The second option, and the one that I assume Microsoft will likely go if they had to decide between my two options, would be to have at most two SKU's. The first would be a standard Longhorn installation. Don't call it Home Edition or anything like that (the name for Longhorn alone would be a blog entry in itself), Windows Longhorn (or whatever name is chosen) will suffice. This SKU would target both home users and business users. A standard version of Longhorn would be installed by default, with the option of installing additional services such as IIS, and Media Center functionality. The second SKU would be the WIndows Longhorn Tablet/Mobility. This version would lack the ability to install IIS (running a website on a mobile system isn't really recommended) or the Media Center functionality, but would include core mobile functionality that Longhorn will provide, as well as the inking and handwriting recognition features. The ability to view media from a Media Center system would be a nice feature, however.

I hope that at the very least, the Media Center functionality will be available without purchasing a system from an OEM that has been dubbed a Media Center PC. I see Microsoft moving towards a new era in computing - multi-role systems. Gone will be the days of owning a desktop PC and a dedicated Media Center. By the time Longhorn goes RTM, the system that will likely be running this next generation operating system will be powered by a multi-core processor. I wouldn't be surprised if the PCI-E graphics card in that system had multi-core GPU's as well. With all this multi-threading going on, someone could be using the desktop PC in the office while it simultaneously plays and records live television for the users in the den. Moving away from the half-dozen SKU's could help Microsoft realize this possibility and make a better, richer, and cheaper experience for the end-user. I'd be interested to see how Microsoft goes about deploying Longhorn to the the consumer.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Synchronized CTP In The Pipe

Fork McKinstry from Microsoft just posted an answer to a question I posed about the status of a WinFX, Avalon and Indigo CTP that will be compatible with "Whidbey" Beta 2. Although he could not give an exact date, he did state that they are "working hard to make a build of Avalon/Indigo available that runs on Whidbey Beta2 as soon as possible."

This is very good news as the latest version of Visual Studio requires the older build of the .NET framework that came packaged with the March 2005 CTP. People on the newsgroups have claimed that the Beta 2 release is indeed compatible with the March CTP, however I have been unable to obtain a functional environment with the two.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Visual Studio Beta 2 And March 2005 CTP

After uninstalling the February CTP of Visual C# Express, as well as the .NET 2.0 Framework, Avalon, Indigo and WinFX CTP's, I installed the Visual C# Beta 2 release. That worked fine, and it also installed the newer build of the .NET 2.0 Framework. I then proceeded with the March 2005 CTP installation. I was successful in installing the older build of the .NET Framework along side the newer build as they are installed into separate folders. When attempting to install Avalon however, the installation reported that the older build (installed along side the newer build) was required for the installation of Avalon. It's also been reported on the newsgroups (after I attempted this unfortunately) that the Beta 2 of Visual Studio SKU's and the March 2005 CTP are not compatible.

I've asked on the newsgroups, and hopefully a Microsoft employee will be able to shed some light on my inquiry, if there will be a CTP drop of WinFX, Avalon and Indigo soon so that Beta 2 will be able to be used to develop for these platform technologies. I'll blog about the result when I get work from the powers that be. My guess is that if they plan on releasing a CTP in synch with Beta 2, which is what I remember a Microsoft employee stating some time back, then it will likely come on the 25th of April when Microsoft WinHEC begins, as well as when the next build of Longhorn will be available.

Visual Studio Express Products

You can now publicly download Beta 2 of the Visual Studio Express SKU's from MSDN. I haven't seen any indication that a Avalon or Indigo update has been released along side the Express SKU's, however someone on the WinFX newsgroups claims that Beta 2 works fine with the March 2005 CTP. I'm guessing that we won't see another Avalon/Indigo CTP before this summer.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2

Well, apparently "very very soon" meant within a few hours. If you're an MSDN subscriber, you can download the Visual Studio 2005 .NET Beta 2 (Whidbey). Enjoy subscribers, we can only hope that the Express SKU's will be updated and available soon, along with the .NET runtimes and Avalon/Indigo CTP drops for this milestone!

Building Up Steam

It seems that Microsoft is building up all kinds of steam today. A new video on Avalon, a couple of interviews focused on Longhorn, and now this! Two more interviews with Jim Alchin are avialable from CRN and PC Magazine. Also, as reported on Channel 9, everyone should be watching StartSomethingPC. This site contains a teaser video and an RSS feed which I will be watching closely. The theme of the page closely resembles that of Longhorn's Slate theme, however we will just have to wait to find out if the two are associated in any way.

Good news for those seeking information on Longhorn, Channel 9 has reported that Sean Alexander has just announced that he has been working on Longhorn for the past couple of months.

More news on Visual Studio 2005 Beta 1, apparently it is to be released "very, very soon." I'm assuming that this means either sometime today, or on Monday. As with everything else that I'm tracking, the only thing to do is "wait and see."

I just found this as well through Channel 9, Thomas Hawk's encounter with Jim Alchin and a few other bloggers. Some good information in his write-up, including confirmation that Longhorn will have a Media Center version.

Custom Controls

There's an excellent article over on Longhorn Blogs by Ryan Dawson about creating custom controls in Avalon. Well worth reading! I really like how you can easily build upon other controls to create your own for whatever scenario you are look at.

Robert McLaws also lets us know that Longhorn Beta 1 should be expected in late July/early August. Another interesting piece of information he gives us is that the Windows division is going to start releasing CTP's between Longhorn Beta 1 and Beta 2. This is great news, allowing us to have a closer look at the development process that Longhorn is undergoing.

Busy News Day

Lots of news today on various topics. To start off, two new articles on Longhorn by EWeek (Why Longhorn Matters) and CNet (An Early Peek At Longhorn). As everyone has been suspecting, a Developer Preview (Alpha) of Longhorn is going to be released at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference 2005 (WinHEC). Hopefully this release will be available to the general public much like the Avalon and Indigo CTP's. Beta 1 of Longhorn is to be expected in time for summer, however I'd place my bets on August, or more likely September to be in synch with the Professional Developers Conference (PDC).

Also, there has been word floating around the newsgroups that the sidebar has been removed from internal Microsoft builds of Longhorn for some time now. Scoble confirmed this on the Channel 9 forums. I think that it was an interesting item in the 4051 build of Longhorn that I had a chance to take a quick look at last year, however I am not really affected much by the removal of it.

Moving to Avalon now, there is a new video up on Channel 9 today. Scoble meets up with Pablo Fernicola (Group Project Manager for Avalon), Arik Cohen and Rob Relyea. They introduce Avalon, as well as show off a couple of demo applications. If you want to fast forward and just see the demo's, check the list below. However I do suggest watching the entire video, it is well worth it.

  • 15:00 - Design an Instant Messenger UI using the Grid Layout
  • 33:30 - Amazon Web Services using Avalon for Content Presentation
A final note, a Dell technician came today around noon and replaced the entire motherboard along with the video card in my Inspiron 8200. It was really something to see this guy take my system apart. I've always wondered how they managed to pack everything into such a small form. I'm back up and running now, although still studying for exams, I am eager to dive into Avalon/Indigo. We're due for the release of the next Visual Studio 2005 milestone, expect it "soon."

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Dell Open Surgery

While studying last night for the exam I wrote this morning, I began to experience some severe problems with the Dell Inspiron 8200 that I drag to and from campus every day. The display hardware seems to be failing as I use the laptop. I gave Dell tehcnical support a call, and thankfully the three year warranty that came with the laptop doesn't expire for another four days (is that luck or what?). So I'll be waiting around for the next few days for a technician to bring a new laptop motherboard to swap in for the one that is failing.

As I said, I wrote my first exam this morning, only 5 more to go. I'll be moving back home at the end of the month. Between now and then there won't be much activity here, that being said, check back towards the end of the month once I get everything set up at home and start developing. I've been thinking of the application that I want to implement using .NET, Indigo and Avalon, and I've extended it somewhat. I would like to put up some professional looking concept images, but I'll have to find a good application to do that. If I'm not mistaken, Visio is used for such things. I believe I can get a copy through the MSDN Academic Alliance, so I'll look into that.

Monday, April 11, 2005

New Indigo Video

There is a new video up for grabs on Channel 9 with Indigo Architect Steve Millet. He gives a good description of what Indigo is all about and then proceeds to give a demonstration of an Indigo application. You will also find links for the MSDN Indigo Developer Center and an Introduction to Indigo on MSDN TV on the same page as the video. I have yet to watch the entire video as classes are coming to an end and studying for finals must now begin, however from what I have seen it is very interesting.

I'm also considering moving to an alternate Blog host. I currently am unable to host this blog on my own server, so that is out of the question for this summer. I'm currently not happy with the service that Blogger has been providing as of late. At times it is impossible to add new entries to my blog due to what seems to be the server hanging. Also, I would like something with a little more functionality. If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to let me know by leaving a comment!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Visual Studio .NET 2005 Beta 2

It was stated at Visual Studio Live that Beta 2 of Visual Studio .NET 2005 would be shipping at the end of March, even if this meant March 40th... It is currently the first week of April, and apparently Beta 2 is still "waiting on stress results" according to Shaykatc's Blog. I'm assuming that Beta 2 will be released within the next couple of weeks, if not sooner, as it had been stated that this would be the wildcard in the Beta 2 release. It should be noted that the March 2005 WinFX SDK CTP will not be compatible with Visual Studio .NET 2005 Beta 2. There will apparently be a second drop that will be synchronised with Beta 2. I'll post more information as it becomes available.

Longhorn Networking Revealed Transcript

I just noticed that the transcript for the Longhorn Networking Revealed TechNet chat is finally available online. Have a look at it to see all the changes that are forthcoming in Windows Longhorn.

Crunch Time

Sorry for the lack of updates as of late. I've been swamped with assignments and midterms during this last week of classes before exams begin, so I haven't had a chance to play around with the CTP Bits. The server I've installed the March CTP Bits on has just been sitting idle, as I have yet to purchase a monitor, or at the very least a wireless card so I can access the server remotely. A local computer store is supposed to be receiving a shipment of the new Linksys Compact Wireless-G Router's, so I will likely pick one of those up on Wednesday so that the server can be integrated into the existing wireless network.

Although I haven't done much with Avalon and Indigo these past few days, I have been drawing up specifications for an application that will make use of both technologies. I'll release more information as I progress with development.