Even a chimp can write code

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Software Branding

I was pleased to see the updated Windows Vista User Experience Guidelines introduce a section on Software Branding. I firmly believe the secret sauce behind every successful software application is the emotional chord it strikes in the end user. Too often we, the sausage makers, focus too much on the technical aspects and too little on the emotional aspect of the software we build.

For something that is frequently overlooked or gotten wrong, this article on software branding is chock full of common sense. Although the examples use Windows artifacts, the guidelines apply very broadly to software we all create.

On another note, I am happy to see this idea dawn on folks across Microsoft. Now if we can strike the right balance between the whole technical v/s visceral v/s behavioral v/s reflective aspects, it'll portend good things to come. The innovations in the Shell in Windows Vista, and platforms such as WPF and WPF/E will surely help.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Email this | Bookmark this

Expression Blend is Release Candidate

The Expression Blend team quietly announced their excellent designer surface for Windows Presentation Foundation went to Release Candidate status. The new build has a bunch of fixes but no new features (that I'm aware of) over the most recent CTP. It does however introduce some spectacular starter samples built using Blend. If you have a creative bone in you, I really recommend downloading Blend RC and taking it for a spin. Either way, check out the ClickOnce powered online samples that the ever resourceful Karsten has posted. I know Robbie and Nathan are impressed.

Labels: , ,

Email this | Bookmark this

Times Reader Goes Subscription

The New York Times announced that the Times Reader application's Beta period ends soon and it will be be converted to a $14.95 / month subscription service that will include Times Select and Premium Crosswords, which were previously paid content anyway. Also apparently home delivery customers of the paper will now get the Times Reader for free. Rob gives his perspective on the pricing. I suspect the Times is just testing the waters here. Of course they're in the subscription business to stay, but I wouldn't be surprised if they factor in usage data and tweak the model to accommodate the potentially diverse user base. Let me tell you, there's more method than madness behind SKU differentiation.

Labels: , , , ,

Email this | Bookmark this

Thursday, March 08, 2007


You know your significant other is really into this whole online shopping thing when you come home to this:
UPS InfoCard and FedEx Door Tag

Labels: ,

Email this | Bookmark this

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Live Traffic Gadget

I'm a minimalist when it comes to the gadgets on my Vista Sidebar but as a Seattle area resident, this I couldn't resist. The Traffic gadget by Live Search Maps is now available and it supports over 20 U.S. cities.

The blurb for this gadget says:

Don’t get stuck in gridlock or be late to your next appointment. Traffic by Live Search Maps is a quick and simple way to see real-time traffic conditions in your area. Shortcuts to driving directions, local search or full-screen traffic view on maps.live.com are also easily available from the gadget. All information within this gadget can also be found at maps.live.com
You can get it here.

Labels: , , ,

Email this | Bookmark this

Monday, March 05, 2007

Using WCF In An XBAP

Steve Maine confirmed to Rob and me that Windows Communication Foundation (WCF, codename "Indigo") will work in partial trust in upcoming .NET Framework v3.5. This means you can now use HTTP binding in WCF from within a XAML Browser Application (XBAP).

What does this mean? Well, using WCF you will now get parity for things for which you have been using ASMX within your XBAP. Secure communication is possible via transport layer security only.

Not all WCF features are available from within an XBAP though. This means you cannot currently host services, have duplex communications, use non-HTTP transports, or use WS-* protocols. Please use the WCF Forum or the WPF Forum to tells us what you think. We'd love to hear your feedback on this feature.

For the differences between ASMX 2.0 and WCF, see this article. If you already have ASMX services for which you were using an ASMX client, here's how to migrate ASMX to WCF. I should add, you are already able to access a WCF service using an ASMX client.

Labels: , , , ,

Email this | Bookmark this

Friday, March 02, 2007

Using Economics to Predict a Flu Pandemic

Markets have proven their effectiveness in predicting future prices and economic conditions. This is the bedrock on which our stock and futures trading institutions rest on. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange has a weather futures that allows traders to wager on weather conditions using measurements like heating day degrees (HDDs) and cooling day degrees (CDDs). Farmers have long relied on the Merc's ability to predict prices from items like Lean Hogs to Dry Whey.

Iowa Electronic Markets is a futures market operated by the business school at the Univ. of Iowa for research and educational purposes. For a dozen years, they've accurately predicted election results, and have roundly beaten opinion polls at that. In fact today, March 2, 2007, trading began in the markets based on the 2008 U.S. Political Conventions of the Democratic and Republican parties.

Now the IEM takes on the flu pandemic. No, seriously. They have a program where health professionals can participate in a pandemic futures market. However, unlike some of their other prediction markets, this market does not use real money in line with legal constraints and medical ethics. It remains to be seen if real money is the secret sauce behind the wisdom of crowds in the predictions markets. My (Ayn Rand infused capitalist pig) gut says money, the fear of losses and the prospect of gains all have an important role in influencing human behavior. These sentiments either directly influence or at the very least catalyze your decision to buy or sell or hold. When one or more of these aren't involved, the results might be skewed. By how much, it remains to be seen. You can bet I'll be tuned in.

Labels: , , , ,

Email this | Bookmark this


Noticed on The Colbert Report opening sequence, the word ENEAGLED. My subconscious was expecting to see FREEM but a quick rewind and pause on the Tivo showed me otherwise.
Bear and Colbert
This replaces the just-as-made-up FREEM which I expect meant "Freedom without the DO". Is this possibly a blend of "engulfed" and "eagle" or perhaps "enabled" and "eagle"? With Stephen Colbert being a renowned eagle fancier, at least one substrate is easily established.

What do you think "eneagled" means?

Labels: , , ,

Email this | Bookmark this