Microsoft has gotten XNA Game Studio, its tool for creating games that run on both the PC and Xbox 360, out with the first beta of its version 2 release, showing the fast maturation of the platform only a year after the first version. New features include support for Visual Studio 2005, multiplayer games that use Xbox Live or System Link, among the usual refinements and enhancements. Users of the free XNA Studio Express can get the beta and run it side-by-side with the free 1.0 by following the instructions here.
Little Gamers, a popular seven-year running webcomic, has gotten an official game, and that game runs entirely on Microsoft’s XNA Framework. That means that the game will run on your PC, and with an XNA Creator’s Club subscription, the same version can run on an Xbox 360. A current build is available for download, a prototype was a finalist in the Dream, Build, Play! competition, and here’s a video of it in action:
The game is a 2D action sidescroller which borrows many gameplay elements from action games such as Metal Slugs and Madness Interactive and mixes them with the webcomic feel and humor of Little Gamers to create a unique cute but deadly combination.
During his travel all around the world, in 16 action-packed levels, Mr. Madsen, the main protagonist, will face many enemies like hippies, zombies, pirates and ninjas. Every weapon held by your opponents (and yes, that includes bosses) can be picked up and used to defend yourself; that includes more than 30 weapons available for the player throughout the game. Many power-ups will be available during his journey, ranging from beer to the deadliest flower ever known to humanity.
(via Walter Stiers)
Adam Kinney has created an Xbox Live Gamer Tag Gadget, which lets you enter a bunch of Gamer Tags and see who’s online, and click one to see what games their playing and other stats. It’s a fairly useful and well-designed Gadget, but what makes it so good is that the whole thing is built on Silverlight. So, now that we know Silverlight Gadgets work, and work well, imagine how much cooler-looking Gadgets we could be getting in the future.
UpdateStar is one of those programs that checks the software on your computer and determines if there are updates to that software you can install. It’s a routine type of app, though high profile blogs like Download Squad and Lifehacker seem impressed with it, so its likely one of the better ones. What’s really cool about it is that UpdateStar uses the Office 2007 Ribbon interface.
Looks like they do a good job with the interface, resulting in a bold, modern app with instantly recognizable controls. I wonder if they’ve managed to comply with all the interface guidelines? Seen any cool Ribbon apps lately?
Microsoft has decided to open up the code for its .NET Framework, though not as an open source project. Microsoft is releasing it under a Shared Source license, specifically the Microsoft Reference License, that allows developers access to all the source code, but only to look, not to change it. Microsoft wants to be more open, but it wants control of its own specs, so this license allows it to be a little more open with the community, while retaining control.
Microsoft should consider taking it further, spearheading a big scale open source project, like an open source version of a property of its that isn’t going anywhere, or an open source update to an aging piece of Windows infrastructure, as an experiment. If all goes well, the next version of Windows could ship with a component that has been completely updated with open source code under an open source license, and it could be a first step towards making the company a little more friendly.
Read some thoughts on the change at Mary Jo Foley’s blog.
Microsoft has launched a developer community for Windows Live at viawindowslive.com. Via Windows Live has a gallery where you can show off your mashups, articles on using various Live APIs and tools (like Virtual Earth maps, Silverlight, Messenger add-ins, Live Search API, Live ID, Live Contacts, Live Gadgets, Live Expo API, Custom Domains and Alerts), a forum, a wiki and other things.
(via Andrew Coates)
Google had a tech talk recently where Ron Avitzur explained how he and Greg Robbins built Graphing Calculator 1.0 at Apple in the early 90s, after they no longer worked for Apple. It’s a fascinating and funny story, you just need some patience to sit through all 54 minutes of it. It’s worth it.
Microsoft finally released a “gold” version of Silverlight, announcing Silverlight 1.0 (the version without .NET) is ready for its full debut. Along with it, they confirmed a deal with Novell to complete Moonlight, the Linux version of Silverlight (bring 100% compatibility for Windows, Mac and Linux) to Linux browsers Firefox, Konqueror and Opera.
To go with the release of Silverlight 1.0, Microsoft announced some new partners. They include wrestling giant WWE (pictured above), Major League Baseball, the Home Shopping Network, Entertainment Tonight, among others.
A participant in the Google Summer of Code (a software development competition run by Google) created a set of widgets that can be used to create Linux applications with an interface similar to that of Microsoft’s Office 2007, complete with the famous Ribbon. Microsoft allows developers to use the Ribbon, and they don’t seem to have banned it for Linux, so long as you don’t clone an Office 2007 app specifically, this should be fine to use.
Brad Wardell has an interesting article at Neowin about how Windows Vista handles icons. Microsoft made some very specific decisions regarding icons in order to push high quality ultra-detailed icons in Vista. One problem: Microsoft encouraged developers to use 128×128 icons in Windows XP, but ignores them in Vista for the smaller 48×48 icons when faced with an icon that doesn’t have the new 256×256 icons, meaning if you designed a large and small size for XP, Vista shows your small icon only.
Read the whole article for some interesting background.
Microsoft has launched a new website, Tafiti.com, that delivers Windows Live Search in a Silverlight interface. Tafiti, swahili for “do research” or “to search”, is more of an expirement, showing the cool applications and UI that are possible with Silverlight, but it is fully functional, with Live Search, including web search, books search, blog search, news search, and image search. It appears that you have to uninstall the Silverlight 1.1 alpha and re-install the 1.0 Release Candidate to make it run (that’s not getting annoying).
You can drag searches over to the areas on the right side, then, share them with others or your other PCs (or Macs). Each search stacks on a card above the last one. Tafiti uses some pretty cool animation, only possible with Silverlight. There’s a really cool carousel that rotates among search types. The news search uses a very cool newspaper style view.
There’s also this cool tree view, that shows items from the search on a rotating tree. It’s good for a screensaver, and can be clicked to run full screen.
On10 has a video demo of the website.
Check out Tafiti, it’s pretty cool, and it goes to show you what Silverlight is capable of. Five guys built this, so the possibilities are more than there for small teams to do cool things.
I reported three months ago that Silverlight support was coming for the Opera, and it looks like that support is coming pretty quickly. In fact, the previous Opera release, 9.22, is supposed to support the plugin, and the release blog post says, “The Silverlight plugin should now work”, but it doesn’t. All users I have come across, including myself, have said that the Silverlight plugin is now identified by Opera and listed in the plugin list, but Silverlight applications do not run at all.
It looks like they’ve got the plugin working with Opera, but the plugin itself may need an update to actually acknowledge Opera and run there. Otherwise, it may just be that they’ve gotten Silverlight to work, but there’s a lot more bug fixing to be done, so it doesn’t run just yet. Guess we’ll have to wait for more info to know for sure, and to be able to use a single browser for everything.
Thankfully, the new secret beta of _________ runs very well in Opera.
While this is by no means a live product, and it doesn’t have the functionality and features to rival Gmail, it is nice to know that a developer can clone the look of the Gmail interface in just four hours using the Windows Presentation Foundation. For interface designers, this shows off a good reason to use WPF, the ease of use and speed with which you can put together interface elements. Read more at Andrew Arnott’s blog.
My Opera web browser, normally the king of stability, crashed and completely screwed up my saved tabs, so I’m posting everything old right now, in order to set things right.
There’s a Silverlight Streaming plugin for Windows Live Writer, which allows you to automatically insert Silverlight Streaming applications into your blog posts. It’ll check your Streaming account, give you a list of apps with previews, and let you click to insert. Sweet.
(via Angus Logan)
Sudoku is a really fun game, a numbers grid puzzle you find in many newspapers. If you play a lot of Sudoku, you may sometimes need a little help, so you’d appreciate this Silverlight helper application, which lets you enter information about the puzzle you are trying to solve, and it gives you some information that should help you get there faster.
The program keeps track of what possible numbers can be entered in a given cell, which numbers came with the puzzle and which you wrote, makes noise if you make a mistake, and accepts a lot of keyboard input. But what I liked about it: It runs on Silverlight. You’ll need the Silverlight 1.1 Alpha and a compatible system (IE or Firefox on Windows). Enjoy!
The app was written by Microsoft’s Delay (not sure what his/her first name is).
Microsoft announced DirectX 10.1, an update to Windows Vista’s version of DirectX (the platform that handles graphics and other multimedia tasks, typically those related to gaming). 10.1 will be a software update to 10.0 and, in most cases, will work on the same hardware that supported DirectX 10. 10.1 adds some small improvements to 3D rendering quality, 32-bit floating-point operations (as opposed to 16-bit) and required support of 4x Full-scene anti-aliasing.
If your current hardware supports DirectX 10, it will work under DirectX 10.1, though it may not support all of the new features. For example, the Nvidia GeForce 8800 and AMD/ATI Radeon 2900 graphics cards will probably not support the whole feature set.
Craig Ferguson On Zune, Microsoft Works To Be Free, Live Search Gets Sitemaps, Silverlight Gets RC1, BSOD Tattoo
Catching up: I had a crazy week, with me and my wife going on a short wedding anniversary vacation, one of my best friends getting married, and my aunt and her family moving forever to another continent. There’s a lot of stuff filling up the queue, so we’re going to go through it double time
Craig Ferguson Pokes Fun At Zune
Craig Ferguson, host of the Late Late Show on CBS, makes fun of Microsoft’s attempts to counter the iPod and iPhone:
I love the way he pronounces Zune.
(via Apple Are)
Microsoft Developing Free Ad-Supported Works Suite
Mary Jo Foley broke the news that Microsoft is preparing the next version of Microsoft Works, Works 9.0, as a free ad-supported product. Works users will get the typical address book, calendar, database, dictionary, PowerPoint Viewer, basic version of Word, and templates, but pay nothing extra. In order for Microsoft to better compete with Google Documents, Works will be free and supported by advertising within the application windows.
Check out possible screenshots here.
Live Search Finally Adds Supports For Sitemaps
Windows Live Search has finally got support for Sitemaps, the growing industry standard for websites to report their full and updated page listing to search engines. Live Search will now use your website’s Sitemap if you point to it in a robots.txt file. They do not support it in any sort of webmaster console, and they do not have a means for websites to ping them with updates. With Microsoft on board, the top four search engines (Google, Yahoo and Ask are the others) now all use Sitemaps.
Silverlight Release Candidate 1.0 Is Out
Microsoft released the first Release Candidate of Silverlight 1.0, moving towards final release. Hopefully, they’ll wrap up 1.0 quickly and be able to put all the resources behind 1.1, which is the version more people are talking about, since it contains many important features, like the mini .NET CLR. Click the link to get all the downloads.
Blue Screen Of Death Tattoo
I can’t imagine there are fans of the Blue Screen of Death, the screen you see when Windows crashes, so this must be some sort of counterculture thing. Witness this man’s tattoo of the famous screen (text only, not blue):
Customize The Office 2007 Ribbon, Information Cards Accepted Here, Microsoft Student 2008, Virtual Earth MapCruncher, Where Silverlight Comes From
I’m in Atlantic City with my wife, celebrating our one-year wedding anniversary, so here’s a post featuring a bunch of items I should have blogged weeks ago.
Add-in Lets You Customize The Office 2007 Ribbon
RibbonCustomizer is a very useful add-in for Microsoft Office 2007 which lets you customize the Ribbon interface in Excel, Powerpoint and Word 2007. In the professional edition, which costs $29.99, you can customize individual commands, create new Ribbon tabs and populate them any way you want, create and share customizations, remove and re-order groups in Ribbon tabs, re-order and remove tabs, pretty much anything you want to change.
The free version includes less features, but it does share one feature with the Pro version that might make it all worth it for you: The Classic UI tab. This adds a tab to your Ribbon that has file menus and toolbars, just like the old versions of Office did. You can use this for free to help someone get used to the new interface, by switching back and forth between new and old, until you are ready to use the new one. That feature alone makes this worth installing.
(via Erik Rucker)
“Infomation Cards Accepted Here” Icon Released
Microsoft is pushing adoption of Windows CardSpace for digital identity management, so they’re sharing this icon for websites that accept Information Cards. Sites and applications can use this icon if they accept any Information Card, even if it’s not using CardSpace, which is why the icon doesn’t have any corporate info in it. Microsoft just wants people to start using Information Cards, so it can start becoming the one you get your Information Card from.
Microsoft Releases Student 2008 with Encarta Premium
Microsoft released the latest version of Student, and the 2008 package includes Encarta Premium 2008, Microsoft Math 2.0 (with a Graphing Calculator, Step-by-Step Equation Solver, Equation Library) and Foreign Language Help. Not very different from Student 2007 besides the Encarta update, but there is one new program: Learning Essentials 2.0 for Students, which has templates and tutorials that transform Word, PowerPoint and Excel into more student-oriented applications, with tips for creating better papers and other things for class assignments.
MapCruncher Lets You Import And Combine Existing Maps With Virtual Earth
Microsoft Research has this useful program called MapCruncher, which lets you take an existing map, like a map of bus routes, tourist hotspots, or hiking paths, and import it into Virtual Earth. You import the map, whether in vector (PDF, WMF, EMF) or raster (JPG, PNG, TIFF, GIF, BMP) format, find 5-10 landmarks on both the imported and Virtual Earth maps, and it creates a mashup for use on a web page, and image tiles to match up with the road and aerial images in Virtual Earth.
To see how it works, look at this mashup of the Louisville, Kentucky bus map. You can find any bus station or route, and with a click swith between bus map, aerial, and road maps. Very cool.
Where The Silverlight Name Came From
Ever wonder how Microsoft came up with the name “Silverlight” for what was Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere? Sean Alexander had some background on it I missed. Included is that the Silverlight name was settled on in mid/late 2006, but was held back behind an intentionally awful codename of WPF/E so the new Silverlight name would be a bigger hit.
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