Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Visual Studio 2005 Vista Update Beta

Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1 Update for Windows Vista Beta is now available - requires Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1.

For more info see Visual Studio on Windows Vista.

Monday, December 11, 2006

XNA Framework Redistributable Released

To coincide with the release of XNA Game Studio, Microsoft has also released the XNA Framework Redistributable. The XNA Framework Redistributable allows games developed using Microsoft XNA Game Studio Express 1.0 to run on Windows XP SP2 (note that this does not include Windows Vista – which will be added in an update next year).

XNA Game Studio Express Released

Microsoft has released XNA Game Studio Express. For more information see XNA on Channel 9.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Keima HQ Included in Live Data Update

Microsoft has updated their bridseye data. For more information see the Windows Live Local Blog (shouldn't they update the blog name to the official Windows Live Search Maps).

The main update (at least for me) is they've included our company HQ (Keima):

They've also immortalised my R32 (this is the silver one, not the deep blue R32). BTW: my flat is about two thirds of the way up and nearest to the camera.

Incidentally, this is the building that Jack is standing on in Torchwood:

The birdseye view is great, but the grid approach is really annoying. Good news:

"For all you Birds Eye fans - good news! We'll be releasing an update this month with a lot of Birds Eye improvements and among them will be the death of the grid :-)"

(from Frank Gehry's Architecture via Birds Eye).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Microsoft Book Search

During the mid nineties, the UK had a limited debate on what the government should do to celebrate the new millennium. In the end, the government of the day (Conservatives under John Major) and taken forward by Labour under Tony Blair decided to construct a big tent in the middle of London: the Millennium Dome. I was not impressed (and my poor friends have had to put up with me whinging about it for over a decade now). You see, I wanted another project which I was convinced would mark the new millennium, set up research for the next century and allow the UK to give something to the whole world. That idea was to digitize the British Library and make it available to all over the Internet. I thought that such a database, coupled with a good search engine and APIs would be perfect for research, would be ripe for data mining, and just good fun to browse.

Well Microsoft has now done this (so I'll have to find something else to whinge about – not that I'm short of subjects): Microsoft Book Search.

It's in beta at the moment and isn't perfect (e.g. the pages are not selectable text), but it shows what can be done. Most of the searches I've done have all resulted in the option to download the entire book (unlike Google Book Search, Microsoft are only using out-of-copyright books or books whose publishers have granted them the rights to publish). For example, I searched for the term astrophysics and found this book The Riddle of the Universe which has a link to download the entire book.

One interesting thing in the pipeline, according to Danielle Tiedt, the general manager of Live Search Selection for Microsoft, is full integration with web content (via Windows Live Search).

Friday, December 01, 2006

Programmable Matter

The T-1000 from Terminator 2

I've just come across the concept of programmable matter from last year's IEEE Computer. The Claytronics project is a joint effort between researchers at Intel and Carnegie Mellon University.

The core concept of programmable matter is nanoscale, programmable, sensing, locomotive entities called catoms (claytronic atoms – not strictly correct; they have more in common with complex cells).

Download the original article: Programmable Matter.

Note this is not a new concept. Nanomorphs were proposed by science fiction writer David Pulver. They have similar properties to claytronics.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Communications - The Next Decade

Ofcom has today published a series of essays by academics, politicians and regulators that examine the effect of convergence on the global communications sector. This can be bought (soon) from The Stationary Office or downloaded today direct from Ofcom: Communications – The Next Decade.pdf.

There's a mix of articles here from a number of people of differing backgrounds. One of the central themes that most seem to share is the convergence of telecoms, internet and television. All will converge around internet technologies with all IP networks.

I particularly enjoyed Peter Cochrane's essay: The Future of Regulation – Not. His view, which I agree with, is that a reduction in regulation of spectrum is now possible as new digital technologies replace analogue and networks become all IP based. Other technologies, such as MIMO and beam-steering antennas also reduce electromagnetic pollution making the spectrum lock-out of other service providers unnecessary. The internet is a perfect example of where we should be heading. However, we are not quite there yet. It will take another decade, but it will be essential if we are to achieve the most effective use of our spectrum. Unfortunately, due to political reasons and not technological reasons, I doubt this will happen. Ofcom themselves recently gave a reason why: Economic Impact of the Use of Radio Spectrum in the UK.pdf. This study estimates the net impact made by radio spectrum using firms to be in the range of £37 billion in contribution to UK GDP and 240,000 in contribution to employment. This represents 3 per cent of total UK GDP and 0.8 per cent of total workforce jobs. Of course, such spectrum costs are an effective tax on the consumer (e.g. UK 3G Mobile Auction of 2000) but it is unlikely that any government would have the political will to give up such a "tax".

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

XNA on Channel 9

Frank Savage demonstrates XNA on Channel 9: Looking at XNA - Part Two. One of the coolest things is watching him setting a breakpoint within Visual Studio 2005 whilst debugging a game running on an Xbox 360. It is also cool to see the demo game that comes with XNA Studio runs at 1080p. All of this from managed DirectX running on the .NET Compact Framework (the Compact version runs on the Xbox 360) running on an Xbox 360 (and only using a single core of the three available).

Note that XNA Game Studio Express will require Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1 and Visual Studio 2005 SP1 Update for Windows Vista to be applied to Visual C# Express if Xbox 360 games are to be developed on Windows Vista. (See the XNA Team Blog and "Soma" Somasegar's Blog for more information.)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Goggle Data Copyright

Is it me, or has a copyright message appeared on all the tiles downloaded from Google Maps? I've mainly been using Windows Live Search Maps, so could be mistaken.

Here is an example from Google Maps (this is a building near our Keima offices that shows up the copyright markings clearly):

and the same area from Windows Live Search Maps:

Perhaps it's always been there, but it is very distracting. Perhaps this is connected to the recent shutdown of the open source Gaia (see Ogle Earth: From Gaia with love)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Open Command Window Here

Here's a neat trick I just stumbled across: On Windows Vista, you can Shift/Right-click on a folder to get the Open Command Window Here:

This will open a Command Prompt window with the working directory set to that folder:

Visual Studio 2005 and Tracepoints

Tracepoints in Visual Studio 2005 are such a great debugging tool. Here's a summary of some of the useful things I've picked up relating to tracepoints. (At the moment, I've only used tracepoints in C#. Some points I bring up below relate to the .NET Framework, so will not work with unmanaged C++.)

Inserting a tracepoint

Two methods I know of:

  • Right-click the source line and select Breakpoint / Insert Tracepoint
  • Right-click an existing breakpoint and select When Hit and check Print a message when the dialog is displayed.

Either way, you'll see the following dialog (click for a better view):

Once you press OK, you'll see a diamond marker in the code:


Information added to the Print a message textbox is shown in the Output window. You could do this with in-code trace messages of course, but the beauty of using tracepoints is the code does not need to be edited (requiring a re-compile and possibly introducing a bug) and the message can be changed at any time during a debugging session.

Text entered directly into the message textbox can be a simple text message ("I've entered MyMethod"), contains special keywords ("Function: $FUNCTION") or expressions ("MyVariable = { MyVariable }").

The special keywords are (most shown in the explanatory text on the dialog):

  • $ADDRESS – the current instruction
  • $CALLER – previous function name
  • $CALLSTACK – the call stack
  • $FUNCTION – the name of the current function
  • $PID – the process ID
  • $PNAME – the process name
  • $TID – the thread ID
  • $TNAME – the thread name

There are two additional keywords not shown in the dialog

  • $FILEPOS – the current file position
  • $TICK – the CPU tick count in hexadecimal

There is no control over the output, so $FUNCTION contains the full signature including the namespace, classname and the types of any parameters.

Text in braces ('{' and '}') is evaluated. This can contain any code, so you can have something like:

  • Time: { DateTime.Now.ToLongTimeString() }

Yes, you can reference various classes from the .NET Framework. Or you could call a function or method:

  • Function returns: { MyMethod() }

So, using something like:

Func: $FUNCTION, Time: { DateTime.Now.ToLongTimeString() }, zoom: { zoom }

Will show up in the Output window every time this code is encountered:

Func: Keima.SetZoomLevel(int), Time: "16:31:55", zoom: 1
Func: Keima.SetZoomLevel(int), Time: "16:31:59", zoom: 3
Func: Keima.SetZoomLevel(int), Time: "16:32:02", zoom: 5
Func: Keima.SetZoomLevel(int), Time: "16:32:17", zoom: 9
Func: Keima.SetZoomLevel(int), Time: "16:32:20", zoom: 11

I've found a few restrictions:

  • Everything is output to a single line in the Output window (although $CALLSTACK outputs to multiple lines – adding '\n' etc doesn't help).
  • The messages only go to the Output window. It would have been nice to output to a file.

Managing tracepoints

The best way to manage tracepoint is to use the normal Breakpoints window (chord: Ctrl-D, B).

You can right-click a tracepoint to disable it or convert a breakpoint into a tracepoint (by selecting When Hit).

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Low power FM transmitters soon to be Legal in UK

Ofcom today confirmed that low power FM transmitters that help "connect" audio devices such as MP3 players will become legal in the UK from 08 Dec 2006. Just in time for Christmas!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Microsoft XML Notepad 2007

Microsoft has released XML Notepad 2007.

Features include:

  • Tree View synchronized with Node Text View for quick editing of node names and values.
  • Incremental search (Ctrl+I) in both tree and text views, so as you type it navigates to matching nodes.
  • Cut/copy/paste with full namespace support.
  • Drag/drop support for easy manipulation of the tree, even across different instances of XML Notepad and from the file system.
  • Infinite undo/redo for all edit operations.
  • In place popup multi-line editing of large text node values.
  • Configurable fonts and colors via the options dialog.
  • Full find/replace dialog with support for regex and XPath.
  • Good performance on large XML documents, loading a 3mb document in about one second.
  • Instant XML schema validation while you edit with errors and warnings shown in the task list window.
  • Intellisense based on expected elements and attributes and enumerated simple type values.
  • Support for custom editors for date, dateTime and time datatypes and other types like color.
  • Handy nudge tool bar buttons for quick movement of nodes up and down the tree.
  • Inplace HTML viewer for processing <?xml-stylesheets instructions.
  • Built-in XML Diff tool.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Improved KML Handling for Google Maps

James Fee points out that the latest updates to Google Maps have improved KML handling. Amongst other things, Google Maps now supports image overlays. Here is a Google example:


As James mentions, this is good for commercial organisations without a license for Google Earth. They can still view the results of applications that export KML.

Power Increases for UK Wi-Fi Rejected

In July 2006 Ofcom initiated a consultation on higher power limits for license exempt devices. One idea was that rural devices could have higher power limits. I'm not sure what Ofcom were thinking here, but I thought this was clearly unworkable:

  1. The increased interference on Bluetooth would make rural areas no-go regions for hands-free users;
  2. Wi-Fi devices would have to be location aware in order to meet standards.
  3. Consumers in rural areas don't need higher power. Current power restrictions allow standard Wi-Fi devices to cover a standard house and even larger houses can be covered by WDS compatible APs.
  4. Wi-Fi hotspot providers can use mesh.

Thankfully common sense has prevailed and they have rejected increasing the power limits for 2.4 GHz.

R32 Adverts

I own a fifth generation Volkswagen R32 :

so was amused to see these adverts appear recently:

I was not so amused to see that what is supposed to be the most powerful production Golf has a potential rival, the R GTI:

Whereas the R32 has 250 bhp, the R GTI has 400 bhp! Mine does 0 - 62mph (0 - 100 km/h) in 5.8 seconds, this beast can do it in 3.8 seconds. The biggest problem with the R GTI will be grip. The R32 solves this over the GTI by having larger, wider wheels driven through all four wheels (with an adaptive Haldex differential). With "only" 250 bhp, the R32's power-to-weight ratio is at the limit of what can practically be kept on the road. Often, with a quick start, the fronts will start to lose grip before the electronics throw all the power to the rears. So I'm not sure I'll be tempted by the R GTI. (Having said that, Volkswagen solved the problem with the most powerful production car, the 1000+ bhp Bugatti Veyron.) Perhaps, I'll be tempted by the other Golf-based car due in 2008, the Scirocco:

MapCruncher 3.01

There's been a minor update to MapCruncher to fix a bug with handling PDF transparencies. The updated version is here.

Update: it's now been updated to MapCruncher 3.02 to fix a bug in computing the default zoom render level for very small source images.

US EV-DO Approaches 100%

Chetan Sharma reports that Sprint and Verizon have completed their EV-DO Rev. 0 rollout and now have national coverage in the US. This is remarkable for two reasons:

  1. They only stared the upgrade a year ago;
  2. Sprint's plans to have 100 million users covered by Q4 2008 with WiMAX needs to occur at a similar, if not faster, pace.

Note that Sprint claims a similar rate for EV-DO Rev. A with initial rollout beginning end of October 2006 and being completed by Q4 2007. That's pretty good going.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Virtual Earth 3D 1.1 Update

Virtual Earth 3D has been updated to 1.1 (download here). I'm not sure if I'm imagining it, but it seems faster. I don't think the SDK or iSDK has been updated. Note that Microsoft's maps team have produced Virtual Earth MapControl 3.2, Virtual Earth MapControl 4.0, Virtual Earth 3D 1.0 and Virtual Earth 3D 1.1 in two weeks. That's pretty good going!

MapCruncher 3.00

MapCruncher has been updated to version 3.00 (MapCruncher-3.00.zip - see this changelog). The main changes include: improvements to the stability; support for Virtual Earth 3D; projection fix for maps that covered large areas; and fixes for the stale tiles that would accumulate within the cache.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Keima Wavecall Partnership

Keima is pleased to announce a partnership with the industry leading ray-tracing vendor, Wavecall. See the announcement on our webpage: Keima Wavecall Partnership.

Early mobile WiMAX (IEEE 802.16e) deployments will concentrate on major cities (see Sprint's announcement). Accurate modelling is essential for mobile WiMAX operators if they want to achieve an effective rollout and urban models should be used. Keima will implement Wavecall's industry leading WaveSight propagation model within our Overture network optimisation platform. We will also collaborate on consultancy services and training.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

.NET Remoting config schema

I've recently been working with .NET Remoting; writing a small distrubuted framework for sending "work packets" across a set of machines. I'm trying to be a good developer by ensuring all compile and schema warnings are fixed. However, no matter what I did, my App.config file was issues warning after warning for misconfigured elements I knew to be correct. Moreover, Visual Studio IntelliSense did not work with remoting application entries within <system.runtime.remoting/>.

This annoyed me somewhat, so I decided to investigate.

I first checked the properties for App.config to see what schema was used. Config files follow the DotNetConfig.xsd schema which, for me, sits in the default installation folder (C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 8\Xml\Schemas). I searched for the remoting definition and found the elements and attributes of system.runtime.remoting were missing. A quick Google revealed this was happening to a lot of people. Basically, the schema shipped with Visual Studio is incomplete.

In order to fix this, and being lazy and not knowing too much about XML Schemas, I constructed a sample .xml file using all the elements defined in the Microsoft schema reference (http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/z415cf9a.aspx). Then, using the XML->Create Schema feature of Visual Studio, I generated the relevant schema definitions. I then added attribute information for each element defined in the schema reference to this output. This produced a complete (to the best of my knowledge) definition of system.runtime.remoting. I then replaced the element definition within DotNetConfig.xsd (being careful to copy the vs:help info into the element definition). NOTE: make a backup copy of your existing DontNetConfig.xsd first.

Anyway, after all this hoop jumping, I now have a working system.runtime.remoting schema that removes all the warnings. Intellisense also works.

Here is a copy of the fixed DotNetConfig.xsd. Hopefully others will find this useful.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Microsoft Windows Live Writer

See Windows Live Writer for a really cool Microsoft app. Windows Live Writer allows users to write and post their blogs. It works really well with Windows Live Spaces. It can publish to Blogger, but I had lots of problems with Blogger giving various exceptions.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Here's a direct link to our headquarters: Keima Limited.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Virtual PC Is Now Free

One of the most important tools for debugging and support is Microsoft Virtual PC, so it's great to see it's now freeware.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Google change licensing

Google Earth Free or Plus cannot be installed at work. See Google Earth at the office? You need Pro.

Check out the terms:

"USE OF SOFTWARE The Software is made available to you for your personal, non-commercial use only. You may not use the Software or the geographical information made available for display using the Software, or any prints or screen outputs generated with the Software in any commercial or business environment or for any commercial or business purposes for yourself or any third parties."

This is very restrictive and you are not even allowed to use the screengrabs. This is so restrictive I suspect they'll have to adjust this in the near future.

The bottom line, if you plan to use Google Earth in a commercial environment or build solutions around it, is that you must use the Pro version at $400.

The cost of this product in a commercial environment is understandable - Google have to make a living after all - and the cost seems reasonble to me. The concern for me is the fact that the terms changed to become more restrictive.

This is not unique to Google since other companies have does this in the past. The concern comes from the fact that Google have a different business model. In the past you would buy a product such as Microsoft Excel and install it on your own computer. You'd own the data and the application. What happens with the new business model that Google intends us to use whereby Google stores the data and provides the application (e.g. Google Spreadsheets). What happens if they changed the terms for these sorts of applications?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Google Earth 4 Beta Released

Download here.

The GUI is simplified and look a lot cleaner. But the coolest thing is the textured buildings.

Now becomes:

There's also a new version of KML.

(Updated: testing Office Word 2007 B2TR's editing abilities for existing posts.)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

.NET Framework 3.0

Microsoft have renamed WinFX to the .NET Framework 3.0.

Apparently, this is to reduce confusion. WinFX is built on 2.0, so now we have .NET Framework 3.0 built on .NET CLR 2.0 and hence .NET Framework 3.0 is built from .NET 2.0 compilers. Now I'm confused. I preferred the separation of the development platform from the underlying OS API. Does this mean there will be no further updates to the .NET Framework for Windows 2000?

Note that LINQ was due in .NET Framework 3.0 (as far as I understand it, LINQ requires changes to the CLR). Jason Zander indicates that LINQ support, which is part of the "Orcas" project, will appear after .NET Framework 3.0. Does this mean we'll have a further update to the .NET Framework soon after Vista ships?

Virtual Earth Interactive SDK

Microsoft have released a one-stop shop for the Windows Live Platform which includes the latest APIs, code samples etc. See dev.live.com.

One of the first examples is an interactive version of the Virtual Earth SDK - Virtual Earth Interactive SDK.

Monday, May 15, 2006

John Carmack doubtful of PS3 Cell

John Carmack says game development on the Cell platform will be too difficult and thinks that Sony have ultimately made a mistake. However, he thinks that the PS3 will be a success since Sony have a loyal following and current market dominance.

See G4 TV. There are also some cool shots of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

World Cup Schedule

The World Cup 2006 fixture list from Microsoft's bCentral will install calendar items into Outlook and a Windows Mobile phone for all matches. It even adds a reminder 2 hours before each match to allow me ample time to get to the pub.

Google Gapminder Beta 2

Google have a beta visualization tool for the Gapminder data. See Google Gapminder.

It is interesting to watch the animations for things such as phone use over the last 20 years.

A more shocking result is seen by plotting life expectancy. Notice how this generally increases but moves backwards for the sub-saharan countries of Africa.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Consolas Font Pack

Consolas Font Pack.

The Microsoft Consolas Font Family is a set of highly legible fonts designed for ClearType. It is intended for use in programming environments and other circumstances where a monospaced font is specified. This installation package will set the default font for Visual Studio to Consolas.

Skype release 2.5 beta

Skype release a new beta: download Skype 2.5 Beta. The main new feature is the ability to send SMS messages to mobile contacts (see change log).

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

SyncBack SE Updated

The best folder syncronization tool, SyncBack, has been updated. See the History of Changes.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Free Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2

Microsoft have reacted to the free version of VMware Server by making Virtual Server 2005 R2 free. That's really good, but one change that is really cool is that Windows XP Professional (including the x64 edition) have been added as host operating systems. (Although note the warning in the release notes: "You should use Microsoft Windows XP Professional as a host operating system only in a non-production environment". This might be due to networking limitations built into XP to distinguish it from the Server version.)

Download Virtual Server 2005 R2 here (registration required).

Keima Limited

It's been a hectic, but exciting, few months. The exciting part comes from founding a new company with three colleagues (Richard Edge, Dr Steve Margetts and Dr Rupert Rawnsley). Our company is called Keima (pronounced /KA-ma/) after a figure (which we've carried through to our logo) in the Chinese game of Go. The keima is both strong and flexible and is similar to the knight's move in chess.

We're a telecommunications and software company based in Cardiff, Wales, UK. Between us we've more than 35 years experience in wireless engineering and optimisation. We will offer solutions to help telecommunication providers deploy new and potentially disruptive wireless technologies with the minimum of fuss.

We've got the beginnings of a website at www.keima.co.uk and will soon be adding lots of content. Now that we are up and running, I hope to get back to routine blogging.

Thursday, February 09, 2006