AMD target gap in market (honest)

phenomHere’s a question: what do you do if you have a batch of quad-core chips that have a dodgy core?

Answer: think up a silly name and sell them as triple-core chips!

AMD have recently announced that they are producing a new line of processors with a triple core to fill a gap in high-end desktop machines. This gives them the edge over Intel, who only offer 1,2 or 4 core. And apparently it really isn’t because they have a batch of dodgy quad-cores to sell off. I believe them… 😉

See AMD’s press release for more details

Is the FFII losing the plot?

FFIIIs the FFII losing the plot, or am I being sucked into Microsoft’s trap?

I normally read the FFII (Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure) press releases with interest as I feel they were instrumental in persuading the European Parliament to reject US-style software patents. Software patents are one of the great technology evils of the modern age, but they mean big money for big businesses, and so there is constant pressure upon the European Parliament to make them legally binding here in Europe. The FFII represent many small and medium-sized businesses that know that software patents would be bad for their businesses.

So given that I normally think highly of the FFII, why the title of this blog post? It is prompted by their latest press release: “Microsoft will trump EU competition ruling with patents. It is in response to the news today that Microsoft has lost its antitrust case appeal. Aparently though, this isn’t good news, as FFII president Pieter Hintjens explains, “The decision seems positive but it is five years out of date. During that time, Microsoft has lobbied for software patents in Europe and bought patents on many trivial concepts. It has claimed patent violations against Linux, put patent timebombs into its formats and interfaces, and turned fear of patents into a core part of its business strategy. It will now open its formats, because that lets it extend its software patent franchise even further.”

This just doesn’t ring true to me. I personally think that Microsoft is in the process of shifting its business model as its previous anti-competitive practices have put many businesses and governments off. It’s a giant organisation though and some bits seem to be adapting faster than others. Thus we see the one company threatening Linux users with patents on the one hand, whilst giving to the Linux community with Moonlight with the other hand. I therefore think that the FFII have lost the plot with this one. The nagging doubt that they are right and that Microsoft have suckered me remains though.

Mix UK 07 Day Two

Read about Day One here

Day two of the Mix event proved a bit more of a roller-coaster than yesterday. At times the presentations were great; one though was so truly awful, I struggled to stay awake. Then we got to the “Sneak Peaks” hour at the end and the conference ended on a really good high.

ironpythonjpg.gifironruby100×100.jpgThere were sessions on IronRuby and IronPython. Both were informative (though the IronRuby talk was really about Ruby rather than IronRuby). I find the whole DLR/ non-Microsoft language thrust here to be indicative of a sea-change in attitude by Microsoft. As Scott Guthrie put it yesterday, Linux is now the “arch friend”. Talking of Scott, Michael Foord (the chap who did the IronPython talk) , seemed to confirm what I had previously heard: Managed JScript is based on ECMAScript 3 (ie the nasty old-fashioned class-free 1999 addition of JavaScript), not on any variation on ECMAScript 4, JavaScript 2 nor ActionScript.

Todd Landstad, another American Microsoft person shipped over for the Mix event did an OK presentation entitled “Designing Interactions for Mobile Computing”. He had an impressive collection of UMPCs for us to all gawk at and he demonstrated both Windows Sideshow (a definite “solution looking for a problem” in my view) and some quite clever stuff of using various gestures and handwriting recognition to navigate around Live Earth using just the pen on a tablet PC.

The other presentation during day two was on the “design track” (rather than the “developer track that I tended to stick to). It had the glorious title of “Silverlight, WPF, Expression design projects – where do we get started?”. It didn’t just fail to live up to a great title though; it was crap; I can think of no better way of describing it. Presented by Paul Dawson and Robby Ingebretsen, it basically consisted of Paul doing a “Website Marketing for four year olds” talk then handing over to Robby who waffled on about XAML ownership within a design/ development team and the need for a “director” role to fulfil this ownership. It was so bad, I made use of the WiFi connection and caught up on work emails whilst they droned on. If this was an example of the quality of the “design track”, then I’m glad I stayed clear the rest of the time.

Then the final hour arrived: the Sneak Peaks. After the less-than-exciting keynote, my expectations were low for this. I was pleasantly surprised therefore at the quality of the presentations. There was some guff, such as a Halo 3 video (Halo 3 looks as boring as every other first person shooter) and a demo of seadragon (which I’d seen before as the full-blown app presented at this year’s TED talks rather than this less impressive Silverlight version). However there were two things that caught my attention. The first was a very brief sneak preview of Impression:Web 2 that revealed it is going to support PHP. The other was a “computer science problem” presented by Simon Peyton Jones. He works for CaricatureMicrosoft Research Ltd in Cambridge and he is a living version of the eccentric professor stereotype. He did a talk on transaction memory and absolutely stole the show (which is no mean feat considering half the audience were “arty” designers!)

On a final note, I took the risk yesterday of sitting down in front of a very clever lady, Luisa Calvo, who was drawing caricatures at the evening social event. The results can be seen on the right. I don’t see the likeness myself, but it was a fun end to the day.

Mix UK 07 Day One

I went along to the UK Mix with a degree of trepidation. There I’d be as a Mix newbie amongst seriously devout Microsoft devotees. Dare I mention the F word (Flash) or the L word? Would I be spotted as a less-then-100% committed-to-Microsoft person? I think sometimes I let my imagination get a little carried away. As far as I could gather, this was the first ever UK Mix event, so everyone was a newbie, and apparently Microsoft are now really into talking (rationally) about Flash and Linux.

So on to the event itself. My first impressions weren’t that good. The initial keynote speeches were dull and contained nothing particularly new. I suspect this is an affect of blogs though: Silverlight 1.0 was released last week, so announcing it at the Mix seemed like repeating old news.

A couple of the presentations in the keynote bucked the trend and were interesting. There was a “scrum wall”application that dotnet Solutions had developed using Silverlight. It was good to see another company using scrum, as I’ve become a big fan recently. The other impressive demo was by Sage and was a demo of a tax return. Yes, you read that right: a tax return. Windows offers the option to print a PDF to a file of XPS format. It turns out that XPS is a subset of XAML. Whilst not identical to Silverlight’s subset of XAML, its pretty close. So a PDF form can be readily turned into a web app without having to redraw a complex form. Very nice.

One of my aims at this event was to get answers to two questions I find important:

  1. When will Silverlight appear for WinCE?
  2. Why isn’t Microsoft better supporting JScript.NET for those trying to migrate from ActionScript to Silverlight.

A gent by the name of Scott Guthrie (I gather he is a bit of a Microsoft bigwig on account of having managed the teams that wrote/ are writing .NET and Silverlight!) put in appearances throughout the day. I was able to pose my questions to him and thus got answers from the horse’s mouth as it were. It appears that WinCE support should be available by the time Silverlight 1.1 is released. Silverlight 1.1 is due for release sometime next year (so it could still be a year or so before WinCE support appears). The answer to the other question was more revealing. The new Managed JScript ought to be fairly close to ActionScript in order to support the OO features of .NET. This doesn’t sound right to me, but time will tell. More interestingly though, Scott predicted that someone (which won’t be Microsoft, they’d prefer others did it) will likely write a ActionScript DLR compiler to allow ActionScript to be used directly(ish) within Silverlight. I hope he’s right on this.

So all in all a great first day at this event. I’ll finish with a photo (taken via a N800 webcam, so its poor quality) of Scott talking about Slverlight and .NET. More tomorrow.

Scott Gutherie

Finally, you can read about day two of the event here

FlashDevelop

FlashDevelopIf you are a Flash designer, the chances are you are happy with The Flash Pro development environment. It has been created with designers in mind and meets your needs well. If however you are a Flash developer, then you likely find Flash Pro truly awful as a development tool. If you fit the latter category, you may not be aware of alternatives to Flash Pro. There are a range of them including SE|PY, SharpStyle Neutron (a VS2005 addon), Power Flasher (an Eclipse plugin) and ASDT (another Eclipse plugin). However by far the best of the bunch (in my opinion at least) is FlashDevelop.

FlashDevelop is a stand-alone IDE specifically designed for ActionScript (though the version 3 supports AS2, AS3 and HaXe) that is written in .NET and is easily expanded with .NET plugins. As it is .NET, it is currently only available for Windows, but with Microsoft starting to show support for Mono, it may well be appearing in OS X and Linux in the not too distant future.

Moonlight gets Microsoft backing

“Big Blue”, the SIlverlight logoMicrosoft is a changing beast and those changes look, on the whole, to be for the best. They are of course still up to their usual tricks, such as their attempts to rig the vote in Sweden for example on their OOXML documentation standard, for which they are seeking ISO approval. However they appear to have realised recently that working with, rather than against, the open source community sometimes makes business sense. A case in point is Silverlight.

Microsoft claim that Silverlight will be cross platform. The problem until recently is that they were only supporting a some browsers on the Windows and OS X operating systems. That of course leaves two gaping holes: other Windows and OS X browsers and Linux (there is a third gaping hole: WinCE, but presumably Microsoft will tackle that at some point). Not so long ago, one might expect Microsoft to go into denial over Linux and to claim that IE on Windows was cross-platform enough for 99% of the people, so tough luck to the other 1%. They couldn’t do that this time around though as they are trying to take on Flash, which is pretty much truly cross-platform already. So perhaps it is not so much of a surprise that they intend to make Silverlight available on Linux.

Mono logoWhat is surprising is the chosen method. Rather than port Silverlight to a binary release for Linux on x86 machines only, they have taken the genuine open source route: they are backing Moonlight! Moonlight is part of the Mono project, which is attempting to create an open source, multi-operating system version of .NET.

Can Silverlight really be a Flash killer? That I do not know, but with the news that Microsoft are going to assist – via Novell – the development of the Silverlight .NET environment for Linux, Silverlight starts to look a very interesting product. And let’s face it, Adobe aren’t exactly a small lilly-white company about to be threatened by a giant (anyone remember the Dmitry Sklyarov saga?) So I at least will not shed any tears if Silverlight does kill off Flash. I predict a more likely outcome though (at least for the short term) is that competition will spur both projects on giving us both a better Flash and a better Silverlight product over coming years. Now that can’t be bad, so well done Microsoft.

Read the official story here