Windows 7 Launch Party in NYC

win_logo I had the extreme pleasure of being invited to and attending the Windows 7 Launch Party in New York City on October 22nd.  I went down to the city with fellow MVP Bill Pytlovany, author of the popular WinPatrol security software.  You can watch a video of the entire launch below or at the official Windows 7 press site.  Be sure to watch to the end to get a glimpse of some super-awesome hardware that takes advantage of all Windows 7 has to offer.

All in all, It was quite a day, from getting a picture with Steve Ballmer himself to meeting segment producer and occasional on-screen Late Show with David Letterman character Brian Teta who was amazed I recognized him.  Mr. Ballmer was just on his way out of the bathroom only 15 minutes before show-time when Bill and I accosted him and begged for a picture.  Frazzled though he was, he agreed and Bill snapped this...

Ballmer and I

There were plenty of awesome pieces of hardware to play with, including a ton of high-power and …

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The Vanishing Point

Well, the mystery is on its way to being revealed.  Head back over to to see the details.  As previously alluded to, the game is a series of puzzles that will earn you points toward a variety of prizes.  The grand prize now makes sense based on one of the previous clues:  something that less than 1000 people have ever seen, that being a trip to space!

So head over and register.  If you do, please enter my email address as your referring address which will earn me a few bonus points.  My address is <my first name> .  Thanks, and good luck!

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I'm a decoder!

I went to the mailbox today to find a mysterious silver/gray envelope with the return address of:

One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052

Inside was a letter telling me I am now a decoder and to visit along with a USB flash drive.  Interesting.

After looking at the image, text file and video on the disc and then some googling, it's apparently some sort of viral campaign from Microsoft regarding.... ?  The Vista launch, perhaps?

The cipher key on my USB drive looks like this:

It's a map of the letters/numbers to ROT13 from an image found on various Microsoft sites, such as the Windows Vista blog:

That works out to imm0rtaliz3m3, which, if typed into the box on the main Vanishing Point site listed above takes you to a downloadable MP3 file.  Analyzing that in a spectrum analyzer shows that the "pattern" spells the word FILE.  Take that to and you get yet another message telling you to wait for the …

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You Don't Know Jack

What is perhaps my favorite PC game of all time has been re-incarnated as a daily flash-based game.  Head over to to play a new Dis or Dat question every day.  I wonder and hope if this means we'll be seeing a new Jack in the future...

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Holiday Light Show Part 2

I have updated the article with some new source code and executables, and a video of the beginning of my first sequence using what I’ve built.  Take a look!

Update: If readers of the article/blog have questions regarding the project, please use the Contact link above or use the new Forum topic so that I can respond to you.  If you have a comment which doesn’t require a response from me, please leave that comment below.  I’ve received several questions over the past few days entered as anonymous comments and I have no way to respond to them without cluttering up the section below.  Thanks!

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Coding4Fun and Holiday Light Shows

My latest article is now posted on MSDN's Coding4Fun website!

We've all seen those animated, musical holiday light shows videos on the internet, or perhaps the beer commercial last holiday season.  I set out to create my own show using off-the-shelf components and .NET .  So, with one or many Phidget Interface Kits, some extension cords, and Visual C# Express 2005 or Visual Basic Express 2005, you too can create your own holiday light extravaganza!

I'll be posting updates to the article as time goes on, including a video of my own show once completed, so check back often...

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I was recently selected as a member of Microsoft's Coding4Fun writing team!  Coding4Fun is a site on MSDN devoted to geeks like me that enjoy building fun and quirky hardware and software projects using Microsoft technologies. My first two articles were for Halloween and can be viewed here:

I will be contributing about one article per month.  I'll post here when new articles become available.  Lucky you.

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XNA Game Studio

I was really, really excited about the XNA Game Studio announcements the other day.  But, the more I learn, the less excited I become.  Read the FAQ for more information…

The basics:  When the first beta of XNA Game Studio Express is released in 2 weeks, it will allow for Windows-only development.  Sometime before the end of the year, we’ll see an updated version that allows Xbox 360 development on retail hardware for those willing to spend $99 to join the “club”.

That sounds really exciting.


In Spring ‘07, we’ll see something known as XNA Game Studio Professional which is targetted at professional game developers to write approved titles using managed code for XBLA or commercial projects on a development Xbox 360.


At the end of the day, after spending $99 to join the “club” that allows development on the 360, you’ll be able to run your own code on the 360, and that’s about it.  There is no …

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IE7 vs. Firefox: The Follow-up

It’s been a few days.  In that time, I upgraded to Firefox 2 Beta 1.  It also locked up on most starts, requiring me to kill it in Task Manager.  So, I decided to fix the problem since it was obviously not the browser.

I created a new profile, copied my bookmarks, cookies, passwords, etc. over one-by-one, and then manually installed the extensions that I use most.  Since doing that, I haven’t had any odd behavior.  So, there’s obviously something busted with my old profile.  I have no idea what that problem is, but at this point, I’m just happy having a stable version of Firefox.

So how’s IE7?  It’s quite nice, actually.  Speedy, tabbed, and very usable.  It took some convincing to make it work with my favorite desk bar (Dave’s Quick Search Deskbar) due to some security changes, but that was the only hurdle, other than the first install problems mentioned in my last post.

After using them both for the …

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Dell 2407WFP

I broke down and bought a Dell 2407WFP monitor on Monday. It arrived this afternoon. I have read plenty of complaints and negative things about this monitor, and while some of them are true, it’s still a gorgeous piece of equipment.

I have an A02 revision, which is the version that fixes the color banding and blurry text issues that have been widely reported. I’ve only been using it for a day, but I have not noticed a hint of banding or blurred text in my daily use. And no dead/stuck pixels to boot!

The problems that do exist are not deal-breakers for me. First, there appears to be a bug in the firmware that makes it impossible to display 1600x1200 mode without stretching to fill the screen. I’m not a PC big game player, and the monitor runs natively at 1920x1200, so I can’t imagine this would affect me.

Secondly, the video display using the component inputs is pretty horrid. I hooked up my HD cable box via the component input, and it’s ugly. …

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IE7 vs. FireFox

Ok, it’s on.

For the past 2 or 3 weeks, FireFox has decided to start randomly locking up on both my desktop PC and my laptop. It sometimes takes 3 or 4 tries to get it up and running from a closed slate.  I’m sure it’s just some unhappy extension breaking it, but it’s given me a reason to try something new.

So, I’ve decided to try the latest beta (beta 3 for those of you keeping score at home) of IE7 for a while to see how it fares against what I’ve come to know and love about FireFox.

After the IE7 base install, the stupid thing wouldn’t even even allow me to navigate to a page. After clicking the new “Reset…” button from the Internet Options control panel, things started up and are now running.

I tried the original IE7 beta and liked it. Microsoft finally decided to catch up to the rest of the world. But I’m very curious to see if it will get me to switch back permanently.

Here goes nothing…

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Random Tidbits #2

Edge Magazine - It’s sad that the only good gaming magazine left on the planet is published in the UK.  It seems with the currency exchange rate, it’s actually cheaper for me to buy a year’s worth of issues at Borders than it is to subscribe and have it delivered via mail.  Regardless, worth the $8 every month in my opinion.  Reminds me of the old Next Generation mag, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise since they were affiliated back in the day.

PS3 - I’ll echo everyone else’s sentiments:  $599?  Suck it.  I’d like to think they won’t sell many and it will fail, but that probably won’t happen.

Wii - I personally can’t wait to try it out.  I fear the novelty will wear off quickly, but I’m a sucker for a crazy controller, as my closet filled with Guitar Heroes, Guitar Freaks, Samba De Amigo, and a host of other controllers proves.

Windows Vista 5381 - Even better than the last.  …

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Random tidbits....

Rather than create several hundred blog entries, here’s a compendium of what has been on my mind the past few days….

  • Tomb Raider: Legend - I finished playing all the way through this on the 360 a few minutes ago.  I enjoyed the story, but man, am I the only one that thinks this game has some serious control and camera issues?  I spent just as much time fighting with the grapple and the camera as I did the enemies and puzzles…
  • Windows Vista 5365 - It’s finally starting to suck less.  It’s moving quicker, the interface is falling together, and it’s just finally becoming useable.  However, 750MB of RAM used on startup with Aero Glass and no user apps running?  Please tell me that’s bloated because of debug code…It happily dual-boots with XP and runs nicely in both Virtual PC and VMWare for testing, which is nice.
  • - I joined GameFly for no reason about a month ago.  I cancelled before the trial …

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Boot Camp

I don’t get it.  Why are all of the Microsoft folks so excited about running a Windows OS on a MacBook Pro laptop?  The laptop has only one mouse button!  Any XP user knows that it’s extremely difficult, and in some cases impossible, to drive XP without right-clicking.  Now I’m not here to praise or bury Microsoft in the world of UI and usability, I’m merely here to present the facts.

I’ve had no less than 4 Microsoft-entrenched people ask me, “So when are you getting your MacBook Pro?”, to which I reply, “Never.”  Why would I spend $3k on a laptop I’d use almost exclusively to run Windows XP with one button?  Why would they?  Sure, it’s a slick laptop.  No one’s taking that away.  But the fact remains that a MS user is spending $3000 to buy a crippled laptop.  Why not buy one of the many other Duo Core laptops out there with similar specs that provide a much better user experience?

Sure, it’s cool.  You can dual boot two very …

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I’ve spent some time over the past week playing with both Virtual PC and VMWare Workstation.  I’ve been wanting to try out some of the beta developer bits from MS (WinFX, Atlas, etc.) but didn’t want to deal with having those pieces on my main development machines.  So, VPC and VMW to the rescue.

I’ve used both of these products in the past and never really found much difference between them.  Apparently I hadn’t looked at the latest version of VMWare (5.5) which pretty much destroys VPC in the realm of performance.

I have created a base XP install in both VPC and VMWare, and the VMWare VM gets to the logon screen in about 10 seconds, while the VPC machine takes about 20-30.  While I didn’t time it, installing Visual Studio 2005 on VMWare was noticeably faster.

Both VPC and VMWare offer similar offerings in terms of differencing disks/snapshots, but VMWare gives you a spiffy tree-like view of the paths you took to create your …

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email2face is live

ASPSOFT has developed a new website that allows matching an email address to a picture, allowing one to electronically “puttting a face with a name”.  Check it out at and add yourself to the repository, or search for a colleague.

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MIX 06 - Part 2

And MIX 06 is officially wrapped up.  Overall, I found today to not be much better than yesterday.  There were fewer sessions today, and they seemed to be even less technical than the ones from Monday and Tuesday.

Not the worst conference in the universe, but certainly nowhere near the best.  Maybe I’m just not the right audience for this.  Or maybe I’m just being overly critical.

I’m curious what others thought of the conference and if MS will do it again next year.  

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MIX 06

Am I the only one unimpressed with this conference so far?  It all seems really fluffy and glossy with no real deep content.  The keynotes are all Microsoft propoganda, and every session I’ve been to about Atlas/AJAX has presented me the same things over and over again.  How many times do I need to see how to add an UpdatePanel and an UpdateProgress control to an ASP.NET page?

All of the WPF sessions have been pretty lame, too.  Great, we’ve got the layout panels, we can zoom graphics, write XAML, etc.  Show us how we can use it to achieve a real-world objective.  Not that I’m fully convinced WPF has a real-world function as of yet.  It’s pretty, but where do I use that in my patient tracking healthcare application or accounting-type app?  Or perhaps I’m just not the target audience for that.

On the upside, one session today was really informative, and that was one on AJAX.  Lots of good content there, especially …

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