Bring back the love – Mr. Advertisers; Mrs. Consumer

I absolutely loved this clip talking about how traditional advertising is losing touch with today’s consumers.  It recasts the consumer/advertiser relationship as a marriage (well, a pending divorce) and is fun to watch.  I think it probably applies even more to me than to most folks.

It’s a Microsoft video (I generally don’t like our marketing, but this is great), and I think it’s related to Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions.

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Writing on water – shades of the Abyss

Super cool – they use standing waves to write on water.  They’re going to put it in amusement parks and the like – I’d love to see it hooked up to a camera (not sure if it’s capable of that – it’s a funny-shaped ‘S’).  It’s odd that it seems to be so calm except the letter.

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Posted in News and politics | 1 Comment

Making an MSI that doesn’t need a UAC/LUA prompt

The goal

I think that most things don’t need to require a UAC prompt to install – just install it for that user.  Why not make the MSI so it doesn’t prompt and your users get a smoother experience?  (Also, I feel much better installing a program that doesn’t require elevation to install – at a minimum I know it’s not disabling my anti-malware software.)  Ideally, with that same package you could optionally install per-machine (which requires elevation).  Here’s some information on how to make it happen

Posted in msdn crosspost | 4 Comments

Book (Abstract) Review – The people’s tycoon.

On my trip to UCSD, I caught up with some reading of (chiefly) business abstracts.  I read an awful lot for work, so sometimes these pile up.  I think it’s important to always be challenging your mind, and I hope that it helps round me out to read more books about business, sales, and new ideas (new to me, anyway).  I’ll be adding these to my book list with a brief takeaway (summary of an abstract – hmmm).  For some, I may add a blog entry if it stirs much thought.

The first:  The People’s Tycoon.
Clearly not a Ford fan, the author seems to delight in shining light on the "other side" of Ford’s past. 

I’m not sure I learned anything practical here, although there’s plenty to think about.  Some of Ford’s failings (is that useful?).  It’s briefly interesting to consider – although a certain amount of it would certainly come from his nature and upbringing, I wonder how much of it can be ascribed to the pressures of success (and pressure for continued success) on the successful – as it says in the Bible "it is easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle, than to get into heaven."

I mostly found myself thinking about the author (consider the source, as they say).  As with any history, I wonder how much is true, how much is a matter of perspective, and how I can expect to understand which is which well enough to come to my own conclusions.  (Centralized media doesn’t do anything to help me in this plight, although blogging has shown that decentralized media isn’t exactly a cure, either…  I think information’s power to enable those that provide either it, authority or notoriety will always lead to issues.)  Here’s an example – while in France, I was friends with a lovely old lady (Mme. Bâtard) whose husband was a reporter – she had entirely stopped reading the news because what she read was so different from what she witnessed.  I would never recommend that approach, but it is telling.  What made her (an insider of sorts) feel so strongly – was it reporters’ different perspective that left out points she found critical and/or focused on what she found meaningless/misleading?  Was it different exposure to those populations (e.g.. Perhaps a reporter commented on character in business or political dealings while she observed character in personal dealings)?  Deliberate bias?  Probably a mixture as the differences in perspective and exposure are inescapable, and manipulating a bias seems to be the nature of those in power.  This is even a point in the book – talking about how Ford used his power to expertly maneuver media.  ("History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it" – Winston Churchill)

I also wonder what the author got from the book – he probably needed something with visceral enough details to sell the book, advance some issue, gain reputation and notoriety and to sell enough copies to satisfy some economic goal.  These pressures would have led to certain predictable outcomes.  An example of this is how (I’m told) many articles come from press releases written by companies – easy copy, which is adopted because it’s easy.  Eye-catching if slightly misleading headlines (ahem –  Or, if there isn’t clarity between two possible  histories, wouldn’t authors tend to choose those which would sell more books, or which advance their cause?  Anyway, those sorts of basic pressures impact history (past, present, and future). 

I wonder how those natural principles also apply to the internet – I’ll watch with interest, but I don’t pretend to understand it: As a programmer I’m more focused on producing sound bits than deeply understanding sound bites;  as someone making use of what seems to be increasingly biased (persuasive?) information, I feel obliged to spend at least some time trying.

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Interviewing at UCSD

I’m here interviewing at UCSD for the next couple days.  Looking forward to meeting everyone and looking around a bit!
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Internet Radio legal woes I’m a big fan of internet radio ( in particular) and was shocked to learn that most internet radio is probably going to go bankrupt.  You may have read it in the news, or on – an increase in the royalty rates (that broadcast radio is exempt from) is going to knock out a lot of internet radio.  NPR is trying to fight this although it appears that a little help from voters might be in order.  If you’re using internet radio and want it to stick around, you should use the template to write a letter to your representatives.

(FYI – I’m taking most of my facts from which is arguably a very biased source.  Still, some reputable names are associated with the effort.)

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How to launch an un-elevated process from an elevated process

This question has come up a fair amount lately.  …  for more, see my msdn blog.

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Talking about HOWTO: How to demo Windows Vista (part 1) – “Guided Help”



What’s really sick is that we had this technology back in 1989.  It was called Visual Test which was basically a companion product to Visual Basic and the other Visual development tools we had. 

We sold it off a development tools firm later on, probably because it was a bit ragged at the edged and originally created to just be a regression testing tool we built internally and just designed to package up and monetize.  I should know:  I bought the thing while I worked for Hewlett Packard back in the days when it was all about Windows 2.0 & Windows 386.

But it worked.  You could create and record your own "script" simply by moving your mouse around, typing on the keyboard, and having Visual Test record and macro-ize everything you were doing, so that you could edit the script then play it all back.  It was pretty impressive actually:  You could record scripts on the basis of windows/object names (so that the windows didn’t have to be exactly in the same spot over and over again) or you could record them on the basis of absolute location on the display, meaning everything had to be in exactly the right location.And you could compile the script into an .EXE so that it could be distributed and used against any test system.

And here we are, in 2007, slapping the name "Active Content Wizard" or something like that, and putting the damned automation engine into Windows.  WELL IT’S ABOUT TIME.

What’s old is new?  Could we have been using Guided Help in 1989?  Really, it depends on how you think of Guided Help – which parts of it you consider important.

Some of the concepts in Guided Help (e.g. ui automation) are old.  They’ve been available as an accessibility feature for a long time.  They’re used extensively for automating testing here at Microsoft.  And I’ve been a fan various implementations of ui automation for a long time for automating various tasks so that my computer could work on one thing while I worked on another.  I think I used to use Macro Magic? back when I worked at a testing company (GRE on computer, etc).  Before that, I think there was a macro recorder application that shipped with an early version of windows.  Although, since becoming a programmer my tasks aren’t really amenable to this kind of automation.  Guided Help isn’t made for those purposes and would need work before that was really ideal, although I suppose it could probably be used for them in some cases.

But some other other concepts in Guided Help weren’t around – the interaction model being the big one.  We also do a number of really interesting things in our automation of the UI that improve robustness and allow the user to mess up and still be able to continue on.  But it’s hard to make something that you want the user to read, while looking at something else over a different app, and not get horribly confused (until we got that just right, the usability tests were gruesome).

Would it be fair to say that Guided Help is a mash-up of some existing technologies, plus some new goodness?  Absolutely, it’s a fair statement.  I just hope it serves our customers well.  But I can say that Guided Help is very new code – it was written by just a few developers on my old team.  We shared some code and techniques for automation with the Vista Speech Recognition folks, and with some of the test automation frameworks in use at Microsoft, but the vast majority of the codebase is brand-new (get it while it’s hot :).  And I agree – it’s about time!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Cell Phone projector

Projectors have been getting smaller and lighter for a while – this one really caught my eye.  A cell phone projector.  Reminds me of a (SNL?) skit where a cellphone was also a shaver, dishwasher, insulin monitor, lie detector, harmonica, sandwhich maker etc… :).

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Flat Solution Explorer

Here’s a great tool for folks that use Visual Studio with large projects – it gives you a flat view of all the files in your solution.  Quick word-wheeling allows you to filter down to a set of files and get at exactly what you’re interested in.  It’s now available for download up on its codeplex site.

[crossposted from my msdn blog]

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