Sunday, 04 July 2010
About 6 weeks ago I blogged about the technology behind the amazing Olympics experience I had here in Canada watching CTV, and my American neighbours had watching NBC, as well as the Norwegian and French coverage. Now another case study has been released from that work. This one focuses on the way the broadcasters were able to insert ads (to pay for all that glorious coverage) and build highlights packages. As it says in the case study:
NBC teamed with premier technology vendors, led by Microsoft, to cover 4,485
hours of 2010 Winter Olympics events in HD via Microsoft Internet Information
Services (IIS) Smooth Streaming to a video player based on Microsoft
Silverlight. In addition to pleasing sports fans, the programming offered an
audience of more than 15.8 million unique visitors to the many advertising
partners of NBC. The exceptional capability of IIS Smooth Streaming and
Silverlight technologies gave technology vendors the tools they needed to
deliver midstream ads while providing an engaging experience for Olympics
I find it interesting that Canada, with one-tenth the population of the USA, consumed double the hours of video. Not per person mind you, but total. We were lucky enough to have a lot more to choose from. As you can see when you look at the unique visitor counts, it is mostly that we each watched a whole lot of Olympics back in the dark winter months. Definitely worth a read to see how it was done and how it will no doubt continue to be done in the future.
Friday, 02 July 2010
I love demoing restart and recovery. This is the feature that will bring many users to Windows 7 - getting your work back even after the application blows up. Sure, Word saves your document every 20 minutes - but why does it seem I always lose 19 minutes of work? In my simple demo apps, there's a form with one or two controls on it, and one is some text, and when the application blows up I write all the text out, and then on restart I reload it from wherever I wrote it to. It's simple and for most applications it's exactly what you want. But for some applications that approach won't work as well. For example, what if you have an MDI application and the user has 20 or 30 documents open, each with unsaved changes, when the application is terminated? There may not be time to save all those unsaved documents. And then on restart, perhaps the user doesn't want them all restored, or at least not with their real names... it can get complicated.
You are going to need to know your own application and make an intelligent decision about how to handle restart and recovery for your application. But it might help you to know how a certain MDI application near and dear to all our hearts does it ... Visual Studio. Visual Studio does a Word-like autosave every 5 minutes. When the application blows up, it doesn't do anything in particular on the way down. But when it's restarted, it takes a look at the files it has auto recover versions of and asks if you want any of them. You might, you might not, and as the user it's up to you. Zain Naboulsihas a tip-style blog post
that explains how it works and how you can control it. Read that for its own sake, since you're probably a Visual Studio user and should be using it as effectively as you can. But also take the opportunity to think about a good design for restart and recovery in your application, which is probably a little more complicated than one text box and one other control.
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
I'm recording some videos again (I'll announce when the project is live) and I'm doing it, as I really like to these days, in a bootable VHD. I've got the environment set up just the way I like it, without messing with my day-to-day setup, and as an extra bonus I avoid the distractions that Outlook, Instant Messenger, Skype, and the Favorites menu in my browser have to offer. When I went to record the first video I realized I had forgotten to install Camtasia in the VHD so I quickly downloaded a trial from www.techsmith.com. I got to work recording my video, editing it, and so on. Then I rendered the video. This can take a few minutes, but I don't complain because I know it's doing a lot of work. But I got a great surprise ... this latest version uses the taskbar progress bar overlay, so that I can put the rendering into the background and work on something else full screen while it renders. I can still see at a glance how it's doing, but I don't have to keep the little progress window on top. It's a really nice touch.
Then as serendipity would have it I spotted this video on Channel 9 that calls out this and other Windows 7 features in TechSmith products. It's only 9 minutes long, so go and watch it. And if you haven't added Windows 7 features to your client apps yet, why not? It really makes a difference.
Monday, 28 June 2010
With summer finally under way for real it seems like a million years until the fall. But in the world of event organizing, autumn is just around the corner. Session selection for TechDays is in the final stages and I'm looking forward to seeing the completed list. In the meantime, the Early Bird pricing is still in effect.
There will be an event roughly every two weeks from mid September to mid December. In each city (Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax) it will be two days, and while most of the sessions will be the same in every city, a new Local Flavours track will vary from location to location - just as the local tech folk vary! You can register now - go ahead! If you have some questions, Damir has answers for you.
Saturday, 26 June 2010
If you use the Microsoft Visual C++ debugger, the team would like to hear from you. They have a quick (6 questions!) survey they would like you to take. Here's the survey
, and the team's post
about it, if you'd like to leave them a comment.
Thursday, 24 June 2010
Interested in playing with extensions to Visual Studio 2010? You should be, just for the fun and productivity of it. But in case you need extra incentive, how does this sound:
What will you create with Visual Studio 2010?
Enter the Summer of Extension Competition and let the US and Canadian Developer community know! Show your peers what kind of extension you can build for Visual Studio 2010 for your chance to be featured on the ReadWriteWeb website. Other prizes include a one-year MSDN Embedded subscription license (a $1,199 USD value!), an Xbox Elite prize bundle and a Natural Wireless Ergonomic Desktop 700 Keyboard and Mouse. Prizes will be awarded to winners in both countries.
Just create your extension, upload it to the Visual Studio Gallery, and tag it with rww to enter. (ReadWriteWeb and Microsoft are sponsoring the contest.) More details at ReadWriteWeb, where you'll also find some handy resources and links.
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
The last (at least for now) in my series of articles
on Visual Studio Extensions is live on Code Project. This one is on creating your own item and project templates
. Like all the articles, it's really a train-the-presenter package designed to help you deliver a talk on this topic at a user group or Code Camp. If you care about the topic and would just appreciate the shortcut of a deck, working demos, and speaker notes that combine to hit a good talk length, then this is just what you need. It's all highly supplemented by videos - of all the demos and in one case of the entire talk. A quick reminder of the 7 articles I have there:
- Introduction - explains the other talks and also has extensive notes on how to prep to deliver a talk someone else wrote.
- For Visual Studio 2008:
- For Visual Studio 2010:
If you would rather learn the material than deliver the session, I suggest you follow the first few steps I recommend in the Introduction for a presenter:
- If there is a recording of the entire talk, watch it from start to finish.
- If there are only recordings of the demos, open the slide deck and read the
slides to myself, pausing to play the demo videos at the appropriate points in
- Read through the speaker notes to see what the author suggests I add to each
slide as I present it.
You owe it to yourself to learn about extensions. Honestly, creating an item or project template will save you time the very first time you use it - it's quicker to make an use a template than to copy an old project and hand edit the file, project, and class names. And the astonishing array of free extensions on the Visual Studio Gallery
is sure to include something that will save you time and frustration. Give it a whirl!
Sunday, 20 June 2010
The Windows API Code Pack
is a wonderful library. It wraps many Windows 7 and Vista features so that you can use them from managed code without learning any interop techniques. I've made extensive use of it in demos, presentations
, and training materials
. I've also blogged about it extensively, primarily in my Client Development
category and Windows 7
Folks who've seen the Code Pack in action tell me they are going to use it in their Windows 7 applications immediately, and they're right to do so. Well now I'd like to do a bit of a headcount. If you have a real application (not a demo written to show how Windows 7 features work or how the Code Pack works) please drop me an email (you can see my domain, right? well my address before the @ is just my first name) and tell me who you are, where you work if you made the app for work, what the app does, and whether it's for sale or for internal use. Plus anything else you want to tell me like the Code Pack saved you weeks of work or got you promoted or helped you win the lottery
. Unless you specify in the email that you're only telling me this, I will be passing it along to some other people, so keep that in mind. I really want to hear what you're using it for, so please let me know!
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