Wednesday, 06 October 2004

From a review of Windows XP Media Center 2005 (code-named Symphony while in development) written by Chris Connolly, which is set to release next week - and it sounds like you'll be able to buy it all by itself, without having to buy a PC at the same time (which is exactly the option I intend to take advantage of):

"... Fortunately, Microsoft finally listened, and are opening up Windows XP Media Center Edition for everyone. Their latest version, Media Center Edition 2005, is now selling on the open markets, and is available to all. While the OS itself is not officially launching for another week, we were able to get our hands on this final product to give everyone a first hand glimpse of how Media Center Edition 2005 (Codenamed Symphony) works in an uncontrolled environment ..."

I jumped ahead, looking for the HDTV verdict, as there have been conflicting reports as to whether it is supported or works:

"... Now, setup for our analog TV stream was a piece of cake with the Hauppauge WinTV card. HDTV was a bit more troublesome, even when using ATI's brand new HDTV Wonder card. Many expected that Media Center 2005 and the HDTV Wonder product would be announced together and become the "duo" for hardware/software HDTV for the PC. Unfortunately, this really isn't the case. Media Center Edition 2005 does have integrated support for the ATI HDTV Wonder product out of the box. Even when the card's drivers are installed correctly, MCE2005 will not detect the card as a valid TV Tuner. ATI's Multimedia Center DTV application won't even work in the operating system, outside of the Media Center application. Our suggestion is stay away from this combo until ATI puts out a set of "Media Center Certified" drivers. All in all, outputting content to an High-Definition TV / monitor is no problem. Getting an HDTV stream to play on Media Center, well, that's up in the air at this point. We couldn't get it to work, but we haven't tried all of the available HDTV options out there ..."

This is an extensive review of the new version of Windows XP MCE. Note that another review by Thomas Hawk is a little more critical, but does a good job of pointing out the improvements as well as what Thomas wishes was different.

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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Wednesday, 06 October 2004 21:25:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

As a proponent and business owner of SharePoint 2003 technologies, this article on Security Pipeline caught my eye:

When President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry square off Friday at Washington University in round two of their presidential debates, the event will spur an intense IT integration effort pulling together national, state, and local emergency responders. These responders will rely on the real-time flow of data to ensure that the only bombs going off in St. Louis are rhetorical.

To do this, the event's incident-command team, comprised of police from St. Louis County and Washington University, firefighters from the city of Clayton, Mo., and agents from the U.S. Secret Service, will rely heavily on a Microsoft SharePoint-based portal modified by service provider Convergence Communications LLC. In its university lecture hall headquarters, the command team will have 25 PCs that can send and receive data over a LAN to as many as 450 police officers positioned across the campus, regardless of whether the officer hails from county, city, or university forces. Five officers normally patrol this same area.

The portal will let command-center workers exchange instant messages, share data, and have joint access to a checklist of tasks that need to be completed on schedule. For example, if a road is scheduled to be closed at a given time, the officer closing that road must communicate via the portal that he accomplished this task. "If the task is overdue, the list will flash so that the commanders know there's a problem..."

Very cool. Granted, it's a million-dollar system built on SharePoint as a platform - what do you figure the price would have been in the private sector though? :-)

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SharePoint | Tech
Wednesday, 06 October 2004 20:46:52 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

MSN has released the next version of their MSN Search Technical Preview, for a limited time only - go try it out, and be sure to provide feedback via the link on the page:

A few details about this stage of the preview:

  • There are now more pages in the index than the last version of the preview.
  • The site may be slow at times or you may notice missing or incomplete features; if you notice problems or results that are inappropriate for your search, please tell us what went wrong.
  • The software supplied in this preview is not formally supported and Microsoft does not provide technical assistance for it.

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Wednesday, 06 October 2004 19:37:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 05 October 2004

Yes, people, we are still alive here - the media in some places is getting overly excited. Really, nothing has happened as far as any major events. There is no ash in Portland or pretty much anywhere else as of today. Please stay calm, move along, nothing to see here (well nothing catostrophic anyhow, but plenty of interesting stuff). If you want to keep in touch with updates on the volcano as I post them, I have created a new category for posts and a matching feed.

Mt. St. Helens this morning let off the largest of its steam and ash emissions so far since the new volcanic activity started. Portland's KATU News got some great spot video becasue they just happened to be in the air when it started. Interestingly, the seismic activity dropped off when this emission took place, and has remained mostly low-level since.

In the image below, taken from the University of Washington's webicorders of the St. Helens South Ridge seismographic station, the seismic activity drops off right after 9am, which is when the new cloud of ash and steam was emitted:

Activity has - as you can see - stayed at a lower level since, with a few larger quakes occurring among a lot of smaller ones.

Clicking on either image will open a new window with the full size image from the U of W webicorder site.

An interesting anomaly on the webicorder readout during the 11am Pacific Time hour shows what is either a strange (harmonic?) event or a simple error in the seismic recording. Anyone know or have any idea what the wandering lines represent?

At any rate, ash and steam from the mountain went thousands of feet in the air and for the first time ash amounts were detectable on weather radar. Small amounts of ash fell around small towns northeast of the mountain and on US Hwy 12, which resulted in reduced visibility, according to media reports.

The lava dome, which was formed between the big explosive event in 1980 and 1986, has raised more than 150 feet since the events started. Last week they were excited over a 2 centimeter lift - In the past 36 hours the dome has lifted more than 50 feet.

The forecast is for more events like the ones we have been seeing, with a likelihood of an eventual (sooner or later) explosive event. If magma (hot molten rock) reaching the surface (at which point it's called lava) is new magma from deep inside the earth, it will contain lots of compressed gasses, which will create an explosive type of event that throws rock and ash in the air. If it is old magma, perhaps left over in a relatively shallow cavern from the 1980 eruption, it might not contain as much gas, and as a result it may just flow out and help build a newer, bigger dome in the volcano's crater, a process that could - eventually - build the mountain back up again.

But the amount of ash being thrown about has grown with each steam eruption so far, and the levels of magmatic gasses have also grown, so I am betting on bigger event, rather than smaller. Nothing like 1980, mind you - but spectacular, I will bet.

Those Earth Science classes in high school and junior high did some good after all. See? Good teachers make all the difference in the world.

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Mt. St. Helens | Random Stuff
Tuesday, 05 October 2004 19:14:59 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback is taking pre-orders for the soon-to-be-released Media Center Extender devices made by Linksys.

What are Media Center Extenders? They are devices that communicate with a Windows Media Center 2005 (I believe that is an actual requirement, but will need to check) computer on your home network, allowing you to view and use media stored on the PC on your television systems. Think of it as an integration device that connects TV to music, images, live and recorded TV items on your Media Center PC. Note that Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 will also be released soon.

  • Connects your Home Entertainment Center to a Windows Media Center PC through a Wireless-A, Wireless-G, or wired network
  • Watch home or downloaded digital movies and browse your digital pictures on your television. Also watch, pause, and record live TV shows
  • Listen to your digital music collection and Internet radio through your stereo system 
    Select entertainment from on-screen menus with the easy-to-use remote control

So, what's so cool about that? Well, this device converges the media stored on your PC with the rest of your AV equipment - It means you can store all that video, music and image data and information in one place (on the Media Center PC) and view or listen to it anywhere you like on your home network (such as on your TV, your home theater system, the stereo system, etc). Plans are that you'll even be able to add a Media Center Extender title to your XBox system and watch movies, view pictures, and listen to music there.

Bobsled you say? Yeah. Code name for the Microsoft project while it was under development.

Find out more about Windows XP Media Center here, and more about Media Center Extenders here.

(info via Charlie Kindel)

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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Tuesday, 05 October 2004 16:56:29 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 04 October 2004

When it's light out, it's great... When it's dark out, it's... well... dark. If it gets cloudy... you get the point. Click the picture below for the full-size image.

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Mt. St. Helens | Random Stuff
Monday, 04 October 2004 22:18:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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