Monthly Archives: November 2008

XPS format is a red-headed stepchild with MS

I am not sure why Microsoft is so good at hyping technology just introduced and also so good at abandoning it soon thereafter. XPS is a good example of how they take the promise of a new technology and kill it with apathy.

XPS was first shown in at the 2004 PDC. Then it came out within Windows Vista in the 2006 timeframe. It is their version of Adobe PDF. It has some great features like the fact that it is an XML file format and not a binary format. This means that it is easy for a third party to develop an application that can go into a file, parse it, add info, or even generate files of the XPS type without even having the MS engine in their application. It is also the format that the print spooler in vista renders to. MS was also supposed to work with Printer companies to make XPS processing within the printer engine standard. This is so that print jobs are delivered at full engine speed of the printer without losing any print fidelity because of format conversions along the way. This is all great stuff.

The issue is that Microsoft seems to have abandoned the client side of the technology. There has not been an update to the anemic viewer they released called XPS Viewer EP and is available for download as part of the “essentials pack.” The viewer is still at version 1.0 after almost 3 years. Yes they have done minor patches to the package to make it compatible with XP SP3, but no new features that I can see.

Ok well even though the XPS EP viewer doesn’t come preinstalled in Windows, Vista does come with support within IE. How does this work? Well I sent my dad an XPS file knowing he has a Vista Home Premium machine and what happens? He gets an error message “Your current security settings do not allow this file to be downloaded.”

image

Wow great experience… I then sent him a link for the XPS EP viewer which he tries to install and gets an error message that the update does not apply to his computer. This is getting even better…

So after all I gave up and PDF’d the file and emailed it to him. Worked like a charm. Not only was I able to easily go to the website, print to pdf (IE even suggests a name for the file unlike XPS), the file opens in Adobe Acrobat, I click the send as email button, he gets it, opens it, prints it, and all is right with the world.

Why can’t XPS work like that?  Why can’t there be an easy way to get the client application on every Windows machine? Why not make some improvements to the XPS application so that people will want to use it. How about adding commenting features. People would jump to use it if the client application had commenting features. Instead of paying Adobe hundreds of dollars for Acrobat to generate pdf files, and be able to add comments within a PDF, if there was a free MS technology that offered the features it would absolutely get adopted.

Here is a link to the XPS Blog.  There has been some activity with Windows 7. We should have to wait 3 years to get an update to the XPS client though if there is even one coming in Version 7.  I would be curious to know how many engineers are working on XPS at MS.

So Microsoft, please tell me why XPS has become a red-headed stepchild and what has it done to deserve this fate?

Technorati Tags: ,,,,

News about an improved Windows Live SkyDrive

Information is light , but I got an email today telling me to “get ready for more…” features.  I did notice that they are now stating that SkyDrive will give you 25 GB of free online storage.  My guess is that they will combine the storage of multiple services to makeup that 25GB. Not sure if Live Mesh will be a part of that, but I wouldn’t doubt it.  It would be good if they increase the single file size above 50Megs.  200megs or 150megs would be good. What do you think?
image

New Hotmail Wave 3 released :Get a Yahoo account and start taking notes!

Although the new Hotmail wave 3 release is an improvement over the wave 2 release, it misses the mark in many respects.  Here are some examples:
 
1. The pagination is annoying.  There should be an option to show more emails per page or even better would be to allow me to just scroll down while Ajax buffers in 25 emails ahead of me at all times.
 
2. Drag and drop works ok, but its annoying that I can’t select multiple emails at a time to drag and drop.  This needs to work more like the Windows live mail win32 app.
 
3. There should be a full right click menu on anything I right click.  Now it seems like I right click and get an anemic menu.  Where is reply, reply to all, forward, etc?
 
4. Folder font sizes are too big. Should be adjustable through a menu or match the size of the Yahoo fonts. Too much wasted space right now.
 
5. Folder pane width is not adjustable.  Make this adjustable.
 
6. Email search should be better.  Should allow me to filter results better.  Look at how Yahoo does this.  When I search I then get a new pane on the right that allows me to further "narrow results".
 
7. Add the ability to embed objects (e.g. flash/silverlight videos) into our emails similar to what spaces allows.
 
8. Make spell-check real-time like Telerik editor. Maybe buy Telerik and put it across every live service.  You already use them on a lot of your sites (MSDN forums, Channel 8, 9, 10, etc)
 
9. Missing a "Check for email" button.  Yeah, I know that you can click on your inbox and Mail will auto refresh.  Most people will not know that. My Dad for instance will likely close IE then go back to Hotmail and curse under his breath how stupid the new mail is. Simple solution… put the button back.  There is plenty of space at the top of the UI for this.
 
Let me discuss some things I like about the new release to be fair and so that I don’t seem like a Yahoo fan boy (I’m not):
 
1. I like the speed of the new interface.  Make sure to keep the speed as you refine and add the features above.  Other mail providers have shown that we can have both speed and features.
 
2. I love the way contacts I start typing drop down with my contacts and auto refine as I type.  Very ajaxy… me likey!
 
 
This Hotmail release just seems baron of nice little touches.  Advice to MS… sign up to yahoo.com for a free email account and start copying as much as possible.  They were able to manage to do a feature packed web 2.0 app that is still super fast. You can do it too.  There is no shame in copying someone when they were first and got it right.  When you don’t then there is no way to get it right yourself. Don’t be different for the sake of being different.  In this case it equates to "not as good!"
 
Technorati Tags: ,,,,,

We have a new president!

Well after we fought a tough battle we elected a new president. It went my way I am proud to say.  President elect Barack Obama is the right man for the job and as a nation we have made a momentous step in the right direction for race relations going forward. Now the world can see that we are not hypocrites and that true equality is the American way.