Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Sign Up for Free Issues of CoDe Focus Magazine!
Every so often, we produce special issues of CoDe Magazine
that focus in on a specific topic. We call these special issues CoDe Focus Magazines.
These magazines are distributed at special events such as conferences or
product launches. We generally distribute them free of charge
to our subscribers and additional mailing lists. If you are interested
in receiving such free magazines, click the link below. (Regardless if you are a
current subscriber or not! Everyone qualifies for a free issue!)
Click here to be
added to the list!
There are several issues planned at this point. One that will ship
fairly soon targets Tablet PC and Mobile PC
Development. The link above will allow you to sign up for those
issues and also for issues beyond that. This will give us a good idea of what
topics we should be tackling first. So make sure you tell us about as many of
your interests as possible.
Feel free to pass this on to your friends...
Posted @ 6:31 PM by Egger, Markus (firstname.lastname@example.org) -
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Amazing Color Illusions
Colors are amazing. Not only are colors perceived differently by different
people, but they are also perceived differently when positioned relative to
Check out these amazing examples:
This should give UI
designers something to think about...
Posted @ 5:08 PM by Egger, Markus (email@example.com) -
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Another Conference is Sold Out!
This has been a pretty interesting year for conferences. The ones in the
spring had been well attended. MEDC was good. DevConnections (www.devconnections.com) was good.
TechEd was sold out. DevTeach (www.DevTeach.com) was well attended (this is
the conference we were involved with directly through CoDe Magazine - www.code-magazine.com). And the
conference that has really big news has not even happened yet! And if you are
not signed up already, then it is too late now, because PCD05 is now
This is pretty amazing. I have seen a few sold-out conferences before, but
this year seems to be a particularly good conference year. Not too surprising I
guess when one considers the leap in technology we are all about to make with
Windows Vista (Longhorn) and WinFX. Nevertheless, this sort of logic has not
always lead to good event attendance. Perhaps this is also a good sign for the
IT industry as a whole? I hope so...
Posted @ 5:06 PM by Egger, Markus (firstname.lastname@example.org) -
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Microsoft Meltdown 2005
If you have any interest in game *development*, you should check out this
article about Microsoft Meltdown 2005:
There are some interesting new technologies hidden in Windows Vista, such as
DirectX 10 and WinSAT. Check it out!
Posted @ 5:03 PM by Egger, Markus (email@example.com) -
Thursday, August 11, 2005
The Aero Window "Zoom" Effect
posted about the much discussed transparency effect applied by Aero
Glass. However, there is a second trick Windows Vista (Longhorn) has up his
sleeve when the Aero Glass style is active, and people have been pretty
outspoken about this effect as well: The Window "zoom" effect. Basically, when
you open a Window with the Aero Glass style active, the window seems to open up
at a slightly smaller size than it ends up being, and then performs a real quick
animation to the final size. Closing a Window has the opposite effect. It looks
Once again, I decided to take a closer look
at this particular effect, because it didn't strike me as a true "zoom" effect
when I first saw it. When someone says "zoom effect", I usually think of a
simple change in size. But this is not at all what happens here. Just as it was
the case with the transparency effect, there is much more here than meets the
eye at first. Here's a screen shot that shows 3 frames from the IE Find Window
"zooming" into view:
For one, the animation
also applies a transparency effect (this time, it's a simple alpha blend... only the very last frame
applies the true transparency effect I talked about yesterday). What is more
interesting however is that the window is not zoomed, but tilted in 3D space.
This is most obvious in the first frame, where you can see that the window
clearly has a trapezoid shape (the same is true for all the controls in the
window). For people familiar with DirectX, this is a familiar sight. The Window
is simply moved through 3D space. For a "conventional" window however, this
ability is completely new.
You can also observe a similar effect when
a window is closing. The fact that the window is moved through 3D space is a bit
more obvious when the window is larger:
In case you have a hard time seeing how the
window is not rectangular the way it would be in 2D space, or in a conventional
zoom operation, here is a similar screen shot, with a red outline showing the
shape the window would have in 2D space:
As with the transparency effect, the difference between this and normal zoom
is quite subtle, but what is interesting is the technology that drives the
process. For the first time, Aero (and Avalon) allow us to move things in 3D
space, without having to open special 3D view-ports or anything similar. Pretty
Posted @ 3:56 PM by Egger, Markus (firstname.lastname@example.org) -
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
A Close Look at Aero Glass Transparency
If you follow the
blog-posts about Windows Vista Beta 1 (formerly Windows "Longhorn"),
then you surely have seen discussions about the new transparent look
of the Aero Glass style. Some people think it is awesome, other say
"I had a similar skin on Windows XP/Linux", or whatever your operating system of choice
might be. Others just plain do not like it. So there are a lot of
opinions floating around, but I noticed that there is little technical depth
behind these discussions. It is all just about "this is transparent and I do/do
not like it", but what struck me immediately when I first installed the Glass
style is that this ain't no ordinary transparency; and what they are doing is
very interesting from a technical point of view. So I decided to take a close
look at the transparency.
Basically, if you have not seen the Aero
Glass style, the deal is that things like the title bars of windows are
semi-transparent, allowing the user to see what is behind the window. In some
apps, the transparency goes a step further. In Vista's IE7 for instance, even the
address, navigation, and search bar is semi-transparent.
In conventional user interfaces, transparency was
done through alpha blending. If there was a white area that was 50% transparent,
then each pixel behind white area was blended together by basically coming
up with a merged color that was a combination of 50% white and 50% whatever
the color behind the pixel was. (Imagine this like a weighted average). The
transparency in Aero Glass however is completely different and not just a simple
Alpha-blend. To demonstrate the difference, I created a small sample. The
following image shows the same text area 3 times. The first time without any
overlaid transparent object, the second one with Aero Glass transparency, and
the third one with an alpha blended transparent window:
Click the image to see a full-size version.
As you can see, the simply alpha-blend
(bottom image) simply shows the original window content with only a slight
change in color. Everything is still perfectly sharp (everything to the contrary
is caused by the JPEG format I used for this image). The transparency simply
blended the colors of each pixel.
The Aero Glass version (in the middle) on
the other hand doesn't change the color of each pixel, but it applies a
real-time graphical blur effect. If you look closely, you can see that the
effect is even slightly different further to the right (once again, the image is
not entirely true to the original look, since I save this as a JPEG). This is
very different from conventional transparency and therefore very different from
skins that were available in the past.
What is of significance here is not whether
or not one likes this effect, or whether or not it matters that it looks
slightly different on a pixel level. What matters to me is the technology used
for this. I do not have any hard knowledge as to how this effect is created. It
certainly isn't alpha-blending though, and if I would have to make a guess, I
would say that this is a pixel shader. And that gets me excited! Just think of
the abilities one has when pixel and vertex shaders become available in
Posted @ 5:35 PM by Egger, Markus (email@example.com) -
Monday, August 08, 2005
Blog Pet-Peeve: Tell Me Who the Heck You Are!
Here's a thing that bugs me like no tomorrow: When you are writing a blog,
tell me who the heck you are!
I just went on Google to find someone with knowledge about a specific
technology and found someone's blog who wrote very well and knowledgable about
the subject I was interested in. "Cool!", I thought, "I am going to send this
person an email and offer them some money for content we can use for CoDe Magazine...". But no! No name to be
found anywhere. The author had apparently thought long and hard about coming up
with a cool name for the blog and in the process completely eliminated his name
off the thing.
Guess what: I will now send my money to a different author who had his name
and email address on his blog. I am sure the first guy will get less spam than
person #2, but he also does less business.
I seem to have similar problems all the time. Just the other day, I
remembered that someone had written about a certain topic in his blog, so I
opened up my RSS reader and tried to find his feed in my lengthy list
of subscriptions. But no mention of his name in the blog name! Argh! Before
I was able to find his feed, I lost interest and he lost business.
What a stupid reason to miss out on business, publicity, fame, or whatever it
is you are trying to achieve with a blog. I mean, if people do not want to be
out in public, then why have a blog?!? Doesn't this defeat the very
Posted @ 6:44 PM by Egger, Markus (firstname.lastname@example.org) -
Monday, August 08, 2005
Messing Around with Windows Vista's (Longhorn's) Aero Glass Style
I have not messed around with Windows Vista (formerly "Longhorn") in a while,
so I thought I'd try out Beta 1 again. I decided to buy a new computer (I kinda
needed one anyway) and install it on that machine and try to work with it as
much as possible, using it for whatever I have to do (for real and not just
playing around as I had done with Longhorn in the past).
The first thing that caught me by surprise was that the 3D accelerator I had
in that brand new machine was not good enough to run Aero Glass (the brand new
visual style everyone is talking about), so everything looked a little different
from XP, but it wasn't even close to what I had hoped for. Also, I realized that
a lot of things were a lot buggier than I had thought. My system crashed a few
times right away. I installed MS Office including Outlook, but important
features like "Reply to All" did not work at all. I also tried to install Visual
Studio 2005 Beta 2 and that just crashed (no error message, but a real crash).
Eventually, I decided to upgrade my system (which I guess was already
outdated after I had it for 24 hours) with a new graphics card. I wanted an ATI
card, because I had read online that ATI cards worked a lot better than the
nvidia ones with the Beta 1 build. Unfortunately, I could only get an nvidia
card on short notice, since I had very specific requirements (256MB, DX9 and
Shader3 compliant). Luckily, I got the card to work with one of the experimental
drivers nvidia has on their web site.
What I got in return was a nicer UI as well as a number of side-benefits I
hadn't expected. All of a sudden, the "Reply to All" feature in Outlook started
to work. The install of Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2 worked without a problem.
Similar improvements all over the place. No more crashes so far either. Very
odd. Much better performance (which I expected). I am not sure why, but running
the bleeding edge UI seems to be a lot more stable than running the old
So how do I like Aero Glass? Well, it certainly has a certain coolness factor,
and as someone who really likes UI design, this kind of thing gets me excited.
A lot of the effects people are discussing are a lot more sophisticated than
one would think at first (more about that in future posts). The transparency
is nifty. I am not sure yet how quick it grows old though (I have done
my share of cool UI stuff that I grew tired of in a matter of days...). Readability
of things like title bars def. suffers. Plus, I am not completely certain
yet whether or not the transparency effect gives me headaches...
Posted @ 4:52 PM by Egger, Markus (email@example.com) -
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Tablet PC Market Expected to Soar
I guess a lot of people have expected the Tablet PC market to take off right
after the initial release of the first devices. This never happened to that
extent. A lof of people seem to be waiting for the "killer app".
Personally, I think is just plain nonsense. Tablet PCs are extremely useful
for all kinds of things. They add value to pretty much any application there is.
The "killer feature" of Tablet PCs is that they provide functionality that adds
value at all times. Waiting for a single killer scenario just seems to be a
completely incorrect paradigm.
I see Tablet PC functionality in a similar light as computer mice. What is
the killer app of a computer mouse? Windows? The same is true for Tablet PCs and
Ink. Today, nobody programs an application that is targetting mice. They are
just supported all the time. We need to get to a point where things work the
same way with Ink. All apps should support it, and developers should keep ink
capabilities in mind and make sure they work well in all applications. And this
has to be possible (and already is possible) with very little effort on the
Anyway: I am getting side tracked here <s>. What I really meant to say
was that analysts are now predicting that the Tablet PC market will soar. Check
out this article:
Posted @ 5:04 AM by Egger, Markus (firstname.lastname@example.org) -
Monday, August 01, 2005
No more Longhorn, Avalon, and Indigo...
Windows "Longhorn" is now "Vista" per the announcement of a few days ago (as
you probably know). Here's another new set of names: Avalon is now called
"Windows Presentation Foundation" or "WPF", and Indigo is "Windows Communication
Foundation" or "WCF".
Here are some links for more info: WPF - WCF
I don't know. Maybe I am just negative, but I do not like these names all
that much. It seems MS just has this boring way of naming things, driven by the
overall desire to push the Windows brand. It seems to me that it has gone to a
point where it actually backfires. Example: Windows Media Player. Nobody
says "I am WindowsMediaPlayerCasting...". Even if someone is, they would say "I
am podcasting". So it seems to me that the branding is getting in the way of
marketing for MS. The notable exception is probably Windows Vista, where it
seems likely that people will drop the "Windows" part when they refer to it. In
the past, people said they were using "Windows XP". Now they probably will say
"I use Vista".
It just seems backward and not that great marketing-wise. But then again, it
seems we see somewhat of a reversal. In the past, MS had "so-so" products and
great marketing. Now the products rock, yet the marketing seems to only do ok
(at best) in what seems to be an attempt to "out-apple" Apple.
But nobody ever asks me about these things. <s> If they did however,
I'd have another suggestion for them: Rename the new .NET transaction namespace
into "Windows Transaction Foundation". In short: WTF.
Posted @ 3:43 AM by Egger, Markus (email@example.com) -