Joining the Mothership

imageAt long last I have accepted a full-time position at Microsoft, working on the Channel 9 team, mainly doing Coding4Fun stuffs.  I'll be telecommuting from NY as I have been these past 8 years.  It's hard for me to believe that I've been doing Coding4Fun articles and projects for the team since 2006, but I'm excited that I now get to do it full-time.

Also joining the team is master UX-man Rick Barraza.  He brings a pile of amazing talent and skill that will really allow us to create some fantastic projects.  And, of course, we're joining the existing team of Dan Fernandez and Clint Rutkas, with Greg Duncan heading up the Coding4Fun blog and Kinect Project blog.

Also note that Coding4Fun is looking for a junior developer/program manager.  So, if you want to join the team, now's your chance!

Anyway, I'm very excited to be joining Microsoft, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what we can crank out as a team…

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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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Mix09 Wiimote/C4F Meetup?

MIX09Logo

Update: It looks like this is a bust.  Only 3 people have responded with interest, so I’ll just get in touch with them and we can meet up.  I’ll leave the survey open in case people were holding out on me.  :)

At the very last minute, I was lucky enough to receive a free ticket to Mix09 (thanks Jay!) and have decided to attend.  After posting about it on Twitter, Matthias Shapiro suggested that since both Johnny Lee and I will be there (Johnny’s giving a session on the Wiimote), perhaps we should have a Wiimote “hacker” get-together.  I think it would be great to get all Wiimote fans, and even fans of the Coding4Fun website/book together to put names with faces and have some fun.

Sooooo….

I’ve put together a very quick, 3-question survey to gauge interest in having a meetup and what you’d like to do.  If you’ll be attending Mix and are interested, please take the 30 seconds to fill out the survey.  I’ll move forward with the plan based on how …

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Brian and Dan on .NET Rocks!

image This week, Dan Fernandez and I had the opportunity to be on the .NET Rocks! show with Richard and Carl.  We spent some time chatting about our Coding4Fun book (available at fine booksellers everywhere!) and several extremely interesting projects Richard and Carl have created in the past, including an anthromoporphic remote-controlled car, and a parrot who enjoys extremely right-wing politics.  I think you’ll just need to listen to the show to understand what those are about…

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Coding4Fun Book News

Now that we have finished writing the book, we finally have an official title and chapter listing.  Someday we may even have a cover.

The title has morphed into Coding4Fun: 10 .NET Programming Projects for Wiimote, YouTube, World of Warcraft, and More and the final chapter listing (not necessarily in this order) is:

  • Alien Attack: Create a 2D clone of Space Invaders with XNA for the PC, Xbox 360, and Zune
  • LEGO Soldier: Create an action game using Popfly with a custom-built virtual LEGO character
  • World of Warcraft RSS Feed Reader: Use WoW's customizable interface to have feeds pop up while you're gaming
  • InnerTube: Download YouTube videos automatically and convert them to a file format for off-line viewing
  • PeerCast: Stream video files from any PC
  • TwitterVote: Create custom online polls on Twitter
  • WHSMail: Build a website with ASP.NET for Windows Home Server that lets you view the messages stored on a computer with Outlook
  • "Wiimote" …
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Newsweek & The Wiimote

The Nintendo Wiimote is getting some very mainstream attention lately.  I was interviewed several weeks ago by Christopher Flavelle from Newsweek magazine for a story on developers using the Wiimote for uses other than playing games with their Wii console.  The article should be in the May 19th issue of the International Edition of Newsweek and can also be read online at http://www.newsweek.com/id/136381.  Have a read...

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Silence...

Where have I been?

Sadly, nowhere good.

My father passed away extremely unexpectedly on March 4, 2008 and life has been hectic and chaotic ever since.  I'm finally back into some sort of routine, so it's time to update here and explain what's going on outside of the unpleasantness.

First off, I've been contracted to co-author a book for O'Reilly (tentatively) titled Coding4Fun with Dan Fernandez from Microsoft.  The book will be a compendium of 10 (give or take) projects that, as the title suggests, combine fun and coding.  I'll update as we go through the process.

Secondly, I'll be presenting a session titled Introduction to Microsoft Robotics Studio with Lego NXT at the Tech Valley Code Camp this Saturday, April 19th.  If you're in the area, as always, stop by.  It should be a fun and informative day.

And finally, I will be back to work on some Wiimote goodness soon.  I was right in the middle of Guitar Hero controller support when the above …

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Tech Valley .NET Users Group Session

UPDATE: This event has been rescheduled to Tuesday, February 19 at 6:30pm due to the weather.

For those of you in the Capital District region of NY like myself, I'll be giving a session on how to interface external hardware using .NET at the Tech Valley .NET User Group on Tuesday, February 12 at 6:30pm.  Here's my poorly written blurb on the subject:

While developers write code to build software every day, not often are they exposed to code that drives and interfaces hardware. This session will attempt to bridge that gap and show how .NET can be used to effectively interface several hardware devices, including an RFID reader and tags, Phidget control boards with a variety of sensors, and a servo controller. Finally, the Nintendo Wiimote will be introduced along with my .NET Wiimote Library, demonstrating how to connect to a USB or Bluetooth HID device and use it from .NET, with examples showing what the Wiimote itself is capable of.

If you're in the area, please stop by and …

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Coding4Fun Article Ideas

If you visit my site, you're likely here because of an article I wrote on Microsoft's Coding4Fun site.  Or perhaps someone doesn't like you and punished you with a link to my blog.  Assuming the former, I am continuing to write articles on topics that are fun and/or interesting for me, but I wonder what the readers find fun and/or interesting.  So, with that in mind, do you have ideas for a future article?

If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear about them!  Please feel free to leave ideas as a comment on this article, a post in this general forum thread (easier for discussion), or contact me directly.  Coding4Fun is a Microsoft site that is geared toward development in .NET using the free Visual Studio Express products, so please keep that in mind when offering suggestions.

I look forward to hearing what you readers would like to learn about.

Thanks!

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C# MVP

Woo hoo!  I was notified earlier today that I've been awarded the 2007 Microsoft MVP Award for Visual Developer - Visual C#!

A gigantic thank you goes out to John Papa for nominating me for the award, and to the entire Microsoft MVP team for selecting me.

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Mix 07

Anyone heading out to Mix this year?  I'll be there once again, but this time I'll be (partly) working the Coding4Fun booth.  We should have a few interesting toys to entertain the masses between sessions.  Stop by and throw a Wiimote at my head or something.

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NYC .NET Developer's Group Event

I will be presenting Interfacing External Hardware Using Managed Code and Microsoft Robotics Studio on Thursday, April 19th at the NYC .NET Developer's Group monthly meeting, which begins at 6pm.  I'll be showing off some cool toys from the Phidgets people (an RFID reader, interface kits, sensors, etc.), how to control hobby servos and motors via a PC, and wrapping up with an introductory look at Microsoft Robotics Studio.

Come out and heckle!

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CodeBetter.com

I have been accepted as a new blogger by the good people over at CodeBetter.com.  If you've never been there, you're missing out on some great technical content.

My plan is to cross-post my technical content from this site to my new CodeBetter.com blog to reach a much wider and varied audience.  All non-professional/non-technical will remain here only.

This blog isn't going anywhere and will be the superset of all content between the sites.  The CodeBetter.com blog will be the subset that is technical.  You choose where and what you'd like to read.

Enjoy, and thanks to John Papa and the folks at CodeBetter!

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The Vanishing Point

Well, the mystery is on its way to being revealed.  Head back over to www.vanishingpointgame.com 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>@brianpeek.com .  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:

LOKI
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052

Inside was a letter telling me I am now a decoder and to visit www.vanishingpointgame.com 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 www.vanishingpoint.com/FILE and you get yet another message telling you to wait for the …

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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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Coding4Fun

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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Vista RC1 and Visual Studio Debugging

I have installed a Vista RC1 and Office 2007 Beta 2 on a new partition and am attempting to use it as my primary OS.  So far, so good.  It has come a long way since the first builds I started testing.  There’s certainly more work to be done, but it’s looking more and more like a final product.

On a tangent, symlinks are fantastic.  I know, welcome to UNIX circa 1985.  I am able to symlink my Firefox profile directory, Outlook config and .pst files, and a variety of other things from my XP parition to the Vista parition to share the data easily between the two operating systems.

But, I post to note a few quirks with Visual Studio 2005 and debugging web applications.  By default, I was getting lots of errors about authentication, not being able to debug, and a host of other things.  The fix was quite simple.

1) In the “Internet Options” control panel, go to the Security tab.  Add “http://localhost" to your list of …

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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.

But.

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.

So.

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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Gameshow Marathon

Is anybody else watchg the abortion known as Gameshow Marathon on CBS?  We’ve seen The Price is Right, Let’s Make a Deal, Beat the Clock, and now Press Your Luck.  The sets and games are sorta’ close to the originals.  But that’s not the problem.  The problem is the “contestants” are “celebrities”.  Who the hell wants to watch Kathy Najimy play Press Your Luck when she has no friggin’ idea what the hell she’s doing or how to play the game?  Why couldn’t they have used real contestants playing for the prizes in the games?  And come on, Ricki Lake as host?  If they had hired a burlap sack filled with potatoes to host the games, it would have just as much personality.  And it would be far less noisy…all she does is SCREAM during every game she’s hosting.

Tonight was the Press Your Luck remake.  The beginning of each of these shows contains a short retrospective …

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PlayMania Part 2

Since a couple people asked, here's a video of my four "appearances" on PlayMania on GSN.  I win on my fourth attempt.  Yay.

Update:  And since Mark asked, the correct answers to the ones I missed were:

Beatles Song - Get Back
Item Littering the Ocean - Cup Lids
Mariah Carey Hit - Vision of Love

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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.
  • GameFly.com - I joined GameFly for no reason about a month ago.  I cancelled before the trial …

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Grand Canyon Video

I forgot I had taken 3 short videos with my trusty digital camera (a Casio EX-S600 in case you care) while on vacation.  I combined them into a single, streaming clip which you can see here.

Enjoy.

Or don’t.



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Is RSS for me?

I finally jumped on the RSS bandwagon and tried out a few RSS readers last night, finally choosing Omea Pro from JetBrains.  I went through the gamut of standard Windows RSS aggregators and couldn’t find one that really fit my needs.  Omea has come closest and gives me a couple bonus features, like integrating with all facets of Oulook and file searching a la Google Desktop Search.  The interface gives me a single view of all of my feeds, all of my email, my Outlook taks, indexed files, and a variety of other things.

Yes, I know NewsGator has their Outlook plugin dealie, but in my opinion, it sucked, the biggest peeve being that it shared my folder list with Outlook.  I already have several trillion sub-folders in Outlook, and adding a bunch more for feeds was unsavory and required too much scrolling.

So, I now have all of my usual daily reads setup as feeds in Omea, notifications when new articles get posted, Outlook integrated so I can view my email right …

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