Author Archives: FanBoy2

When Browsers get hacked

Perhaps not much will be said about the recent browser hacking exploits of IE8, Safari and Firefox since all three of them were hacked within an hour. But you can bet if only one of them had been exploited it would have been a free for all of name-calling and lack-of-security marketing guff from the competitors.

Should we be worried that IE8 (for example) was hacked in under 30 minutes? Or what if it had been the only one hacked and the others immune?

The answer is no, we shouldn’t be worried about the exploits being found. The real question is how quickly the exploits are fixed. The test of a good company is how quickly they respond to their customer’s needs.

What we’d ideally like to see is a competition that reported how quickly a company patched their product and made it available for general release.

And as for the hacking competitions – keep them coming. They provide a valuable service to consumers.

(via Seattle PI)

TomTom and Microsoft

What a shame these clowns can’t get their act together. Instead of showing initiative and growing this massive opportunity to unite location and Microsoft technology, both parties have taken the ‘road most travelled’ and pursued litigation.

We’re not sure which party is most to blame, but that’s not the point. Another opportunity wasted, and more attorney’s pockets lined.

We can only hope that the ‘committed to a solution’ part in this statement by Microsoft’s Horacio Gutierrez is actually true, and not just PR woffle:

"We are reviewing TomTom’s filing, which we have just received. As has been the case for more than a year, we remain committed to a licensing solution, although we will continue to press ahead with the complaints we initiated in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington and the International Trade Commission."

Source: Microsoft PressPass


(via Mary Jo Foley)

Silverlight Toolkit on Codeplex

Still getting through all our news from last week and PDC, so please bear with us – normal up to date transmission will resume in the coming days <g>

The release of the Silverlight Toolkit on Codeplex deserves a mention.

The Silverlight Toolkit is a collection of Silverlight controls, components and utilities made available outside the normal Silverlight release cycle. It adds new functionality quickly for designers and developers, and provides the community an efficient way to help shape product development by contributing ideas and bug reports. This first release includes full source code, unit tests, samples and documentation for 12 new controls covering charting, styling, layout, and user input.

Source: Codeplex

Interestingly the project has four quality bands, from Experimental up to Mature. There’s nothing currently in the Mature band, but give it a few weeks and you’ll see that change.

The project also has a Themes section. Very cool.

Download the latest release here.

.NET Micro Framework V3.0

The latest version of the .NET Micro Framework slipped out early last week (we’ve previously praised the Dare to Dream Different competition on the framework).

.NET Microsft Framework

This latest version includes some substantial improvements:

Version 3.0 brings several new features and enhancements to an already robust and productive development platform:

. Enhanced secure connectivity. .NET Micro Framework version 3.0 features new connectivity support, including Wi-Fi integration, Universal Serial Bus support, Web Services for Devices, secure sockets layer and support for a file system compatible with FAT32.

. Extended hardware choices. Enhancements include interoperability with native code allowing direct access to hardware, reduction in the minimum footprint to 64K RAM, a more accessible and easier-to-use porting kit, support for the Analog Devices Blackfin processor family, and ARM Thumb and Thumb-2 instruction sets.

. Increased productivity. A fully integrated development experience with both Visual Studio 2008 and Visual C# 2008 Express Edition – along with interoperability – provides developers with powerful debugging and emulation capabilities and a more flexible migration path for .NET developers and those with existing native code modules.

. Additional user interface options. Touch and gesture support enable development of more interactive and capable device applications.

Source: Microsoft PressPass

But you’ll notice the logo hasn’t changed – we can only guess it wasn’t important enough to get the new wave logo.

Azure Services Platform

There’s been tons of blog posts, articles, video interviews and general opinion on Azure this week. And understandably so, since this will likely be looked back on as one of the biggest turning points for Microsoft in their entire history.

An interesting point to note in the posts has been how so many have written about their understanding of what Azure is, without taking the time to actually read up on it. So, we’ve seen videos with people being interviewed about their reactions and thoughts on what it will include, how it might be applied, and how to use it. This is very strange. Why? Because everything you need to know is clearly articulated here on the Azure site. There’s even a whitepaper covering all the minute details.

We’re going to dive into it a little in this post, but as a general community service here’s the links you need to read:

    Well, us actually. But apparently not most of the journalists and prominent commentators. But enough of our complaining.
    Digging into Azure
    If you are too lazy or time poor to read through the site (even the FAQ) then here’s the essentials you need to know.
    Here’s the pretty diagram everyone has been using (straight from the Azure site)

Windows Azure

    Obviously the first thing you notice is that there is an operating system component – called Windows Azure – and a bunch of services. The combination of the services and the operating system are collectively referred to as the Azure Services Platform or more simply just: Azure.
    Azure is all hosted in Microsoft’s data centers and is their cloud offering. It’s basically a cloud services platform. It’s reasonably open in the protocols it supports, and whilst initially targeting .NET and Microsoft developers, is designed to support other platforms in the future (eg Ruby and PHP).
    Windows Azure – the operating system part – is what was referred to last month as Microsoft’s Cloud OS (and even Windows Strata for a time). It is all the glue that manages resources in the cloud.
    The rest are the services. Live Services is a growing area, and one that will become prevalent on all devices. The .NET services and SQL services are no real surprise to watchers of the space. Even SharePoint services is an understandable offering since Microsoft is pushing SharePoint big time these days.
    The one that caught us by surprise was the inclusion of Microsoft CRM in Azure collection.
    Yes, hosted CRM is here and logical, but adding a complete service component for CRM in the Azure space is interesting. It shows that Microsoft is placing a big bet on CRM – a component that has had numerous adoption problems in the corporate space. Perhaps this will be its break out opportunity. We know many companies have changed their strategy on CRM in the last week, from having it as a minor piece of their consulting work, to now being an important strategic practice.
    Our opinion: Microsoft has changed the game completely. This is a revolution. Amazon and others have been providing excellent token offerings (eg with EC2) leading up to this point in time. But now Microsoft has come in and demonstrated they have the vision, capability and passion to completely dominate the cloud. They’ve been at it for a while, and now its time to get on board. We are in awe.

Small Basic on DevLabs

Small Basic

There’s a new project on DevLabs called Small Basic. Here’s the intro:

Small Basic is a project that’s aimed at bringing "fun" back to programming. By providing a small and easy to learn programming language in a friendly and inviting development environment, Small Basic makes programming a breeze. Ideal for kids and adults alike, Small Basic helps beginners take the first step into the wonderful world of programming.

Source: DevLabs

Thank goodness someone is bringing ‘fun’ back – obviously we’ve all been hating programming for the last few decades <g>.

With only 15 keywords, and minimal concepts, even a newbie like me could get productive. There’s a 62 page Getting Started guide that covers all manner of things like For Loops, While Loops, graphics and mouse event handling. There’s even a built in function for retrieving Flickr photos.

Small Basic IDE

The actual installer is a very reasonable 4MB download.

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Open Standards Messaging Snooze

Ooops, that should have read Open Standards Messaging Software, but we fell asleep before we got to the end! Why? Because it sounds soooo boring.

In a press release today, Microsoft has announced its decision to join the Advanced Message Queue Protocol (AMQP) Working Group. Oh, sorry we drifted off again. Yes, this must extremely boring.

But actually it’s very important.

The group is trying to develop an open industry standard for ubiquitous messaging. Currently there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different messaging standards around. Most integration projects require some kind of interface between systems that handle messaging. Millions of dollars are spent every year just re-building the interfaces between this system to that. It’s all wasted money. Money that should be spent on innovation and real value to the customer, but is instead spent on ‘plumbing’.

The key is interoperability. That’s the goal. Imagine having a set of providers in your toolset that allowed simple connection between each and every system you need to message between. [As an aside, on the orchestration side of the coin this is something that BizTalk has been attempting to provide for years now.]

Microsoft joins the likes of Cisco, Novell, Red Hat, and a bunch of financial institutions in this goal.

Sure, it sounds boring, but this is something to be applauded.

Office 2007 Service Pack 2 due in early 2009

Thanks to Mary-Jo (who in turn thanked WinBeta) we have this post from the Office Sustained Engineering blog, announcing that Service Pack 2 for Office 2007 will be available between February and April 2009.

They’ve previously noted that SP2 would include support for Open Document Format (ODF), XML Paper Specification (XPS) and Portable Document Format (PDF) – you’ll be aware that some of these are supported via separate add-ons at present.

However, these also a raft of new features, including the following:

For Office Desktop Programs:

  • Improved Outlook Calendaring Reliability
  • Improved Outlook Performance
  • Enabling Object Model support for Charts in PowerPoint and Word
  • Improved cryptographic functionality by supporting all cryptographic algorithms offered by the operating system
  • Improved functionality in Excel’s charting mechanism
  • Ability to ungroup SmartArt graphics (and as a result, the ability to add animations to them in PowerPoint)
  • Ability for Visio to export UML models to an XML file compliant with the XMI standard
  • Tool that enables the uninstall of Office client Service Packs
    For Servers:
  • Performance and manageability improvements to variations in Enterprise Content Management (ECM) including STSADM commands for repairing links between source and target pages
  • Improvements around processing status approvals from Office Project Web Access into Office Project Professional 2007
  • Improvements to read-only content databases and index rebuild timer jobs in Windows SharePoint Services 3.0

This is awesome news. Why? Because this is much more than a few fixes. Take one of these items as an example: Visio UML export to XMI compliant formats. This is a big task, and yet they’ve chosen to do it even though the usage will likely be minimal. Or what about adding object model support for Charts. Another big item.

Fair enough, things like improving Outlook Performance are much needed, but in general we are impressed with how extensive the ongoing support and improvement that Microsoft provides is.

Keep up the great work.

SilverlightContrib Alpha 2

OK, so not strictly a Microsoft announcement, but definitely of interest following the official release of Silverlight 2 last week.

SilverlightContrib is a collection of open source Silverlight controls and API enhancements. The CodePlex page is here. This latest release is Silverlight 2 compatible.

There is also a demo site showing off the controls. Our favourite is the Cool MenuSilverlightContrib Cool Menu

We don’t cover all the open source projects out there (there’s thousands) but we do like to promote some of them from time to time.