Archive for the ‘Microsoft’ Category

Microsoft’s DeepZoomPix Viewer is Pretty Cool

PhotoMetadataUrl=http://deepzoompix.com/API/PhotoMetadata.ashx?alias=thomashawk&album=2,Get Microsoft Silverlight

The slide show above is from a new photo viewer by Microsoft called DeepZoomPix. The technology feels a lot like CoolIris to me and I think that you are going to see more and more dynamic ways of viewing photos online like this in the future. The view above is pretty simplistic as an embedable slide player, but you get a far more interesting view if you actually click through to one of my albums. You can check out the more interactive version of the above slide show here.

Use your mouse or scroll pad to increase or decrease the magnification of the photos and to move around and explore a bit.

The player allows you to either upload your own photos to it or to link the player up with either your Flickrstream or your Facebook photos and import photos from there.

I found that it took me several hours to import a little over 400 slides for the slideshow above. For some reason it did not import all 2,000+ of my neon photos, but the average person probably doesn’t hae a 2000 photo high res slide show to put together either.

I think that this player will make for an interesting way to share sets of images from events, vacations, parties, really anywhere where you’d like to put together a relatively quick and easy slideshow.

The service has a fairly strict Code of Conduct which prohibits your using it to display any “nudity of any sort including full or partial human nudity or nudity in non-human forms such as cartoons, fantasy art or manga.pornography, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity, hatred, bigotry, racism, or gratuitous violence.”

The offering also is only available through the end of 2009. I’m not sure what happens to your slide shows after that but I suspect that if Microsoft chooses to discontinue the service that the shows could be deleted. Microsoft makes a point of noting that you should not consider this site as a primary place to host your photos and that there are no privacy controls, so anything you publish here will be viewable to the entire world.

According to Microsoft, the primary purpose of this technology is three-fold:

1. Provide an end-user friendly demo around a scenario that everyone can understand.
2. Show designers the capabilities of Silverlight for creating rich user experiences (UX).
3. Show developers how they can use various Microsoft client and platform technologies to easily create compelling and scalable systems.

You can learn more about this new viewer at the FAQ for it here.

Thanks for the heads up Steve!

Microsoft Future Pro Photograher Contest

Microsoft Future Pro Photographer Contest

The Microsoft Future Pro Photographer contest is a great contest put on for student photographers. If you are presently a student at a two or four year advanced degree institution and are over 18 years of age you are eligible to submit photos. If you are a college student this is an excellent contest to participate in and possibly win up to $20,000.

Submissions are being accepted from March 1, 2009 to April 30, 2009 and the winner will be announced at the Microsoft Pro Photo Summit this July. The Grand Prize winner will receive $20,000 in addition to three of First Place winners in categories of Nature and Landscape; People and Portraits; and Sports and Photojournalism who also receive a cash prize of $3,000; all winners will receive a digital workflow prize package as well.

All entrants can submit up to three original images in the following categories: nature & landscape; people and portraits; or sports & photojournalism. The image must be a JPEG that is no larger than 1024 pixels and 2MB. Each image will be treated as one entry. These images must not be published, released or distributed for commercial use and must be created and owned exclusively by the entrant submitting the image. Each image will be judged on its originality, technical execution (focus, exposure), visual impact (composition, impact, lighting) and relevance to it’s category (nature, portrait, sport). All rights remain with the photographer. Microsoft will only use winning images, with photographer credit, for the sole purpose of promoting the contest.

You can learn more about the competition here. A video of last year’s winners is here.

Microsoft Launches New “Windows Live” Social Network

Microsoft&squot;s New "Windows Live" Social Network

I got my first invitation today to join a “network” on Microsoft’s new “Windows Live” social network. Here are some of my rough initial thoughts.

1. I was pleased to see that the network offered some integration with Flickr. Windows Live allows you the ability to link up your Flickrstream in the network and will stream your most recent uploads to your contacts on Windows Live, in a similar way to how Flickr does. Windows Live shows your contacts your most recent four photos uploaded. I think it would be better if they showed all of your most recent uploads in a batch (or at least had a button to expand all of your uploads like FriendFeed does).

It doesn’t seem like the “photos” section of the site and your Flickrstream integrate very well though. I’d think it would be better if you could use your Flickrstream to build photo albums on Windows Live rather than having to upload photos directly.

2. Windows Live allows you to send a message inviting all of your Facebook contacts to your network on Windows Live. I’m a bit surprised that Facebook would give Microsoft this kind of access to their network when Windows Live seems to be a pretty direct competitor to Facebook, but then again Microsoft did invest a ton of dough into Facebook at an absurd $15 billion valuation, so maybe this has something to do with that.

Windows Live also allows you to invite your Linked In contacts.

3. Hopefully over time Windows Live will allow you to include more internet services into your Windows Live “web activities” stream. So far I’ve added Twitter, Flickr, Pandora, Yelp, StumbleUpon and my blog. They also include Daum, Photobucket, Flixster, iLike, TripIt and WordPress.

4. There doesn’t seem to be a place to enter a more detailed full text profile. At least not that I’ve found yet. There also does not seem to be a way to build a custom profile url. I’m especially surprised that you can’t customize your url. It would seem alot easier to share your presence on the network if you didn’t have something as abstract as http://cid-cc5c6d9b36ce0565.profile.live.com/?mkt=en-us as your profile (that one’s mine and you can add me as a contact at the above link if you’d like).

5. There are still a few places where the web design needs work (text overlaps a bit and some areas of the network feel a little clunky), but overall the site has a fluid ajaxy sort of feel that I like. I’m not aware of any contact limit (like Facebook’s 5,000 contact limit) on the site at this point.

Microsoft&squot;s New "Windows Live" Social Network

6. The site has interesting “category” rankings. Similar to FriendFeed’s “list” functionality, you can group your contacts into various categories. You could, for instance, create various “categories” of photographers: “Graffiti Photographers,” “Neon Photographers,” “Night Photographers,” “San Francisco Photographers”, etc. The site also allows you to “hide” updates by either user or content type. This seems a very close copy from FriendFeed’s “hide” functionality.

7. The advertisements on the site seem a little annoying and are more noticeable than Facebook. The ads seem large and bulky and include animation. Obviously Microsoft is looking to make ad revenue with this product, but they might have been better off making the ads a little less intrusive to start with.

8. You are allowed to upload photos up to 50MB in size. This is very generous and more than most other photo sharing sites. Flickr, by comparison, only allows 20MB file size uploads (which they should think about increasing, especially in light of the higher res files that will be coming from the new Canon 5D Mark II and other similar higher megapixel cameras being released). There does not seem to be a “bulk” uploader to get photos on the site. It would be really nice if we could see some cooperation and portability between Flickr and Microsoft allowing you to use the Flickr API to transfer your photos to Windows Live.

9. Get ready for Microsoft censorship. The site has pretty strict content guidelines including disallowing any media that, “depicts nudity of any sort including full or partial human nudity or nudity in non-human forms such as cartoons, fantasy art or manga.” It will be interesting to see how/if Microsoft draws a line between nudity and fine art. This is a line that is frequently blurred and I’ll be interested to see how closely Microsoft monitors people who use the site and/or censors their photostreams.

10. Microsoft needs to get the licensing fixed on the network. I was surprised to read in the terms of service that by uploading any content to this social network you are essentially giving your work away. From the TOS:

“9. Your Materials. You may be able to submit materials for use in connection with the service. The service includes publicly accessible areas (“public areas of the service”) and areas to which you can control access by others (“shared and private areas of the service”). You understand that Microsoft does not control or endorse the content that you and others post or provide on the service. Except for material that we license to you, we do not claim ownership of the materials you post or provide on the service. However, with respect to content you post or provide you grant to those members of the public to whom you have granted access (for content posted on shared and private areas of the service) or to the public (for content posted on public areas of the service) free, unlimited, worldwide, nonexclusive and perpetual permission to:

* use, modify, copy, distribute and display the content in connection with the service and other Microsoft products and services;
* publish your name in connection with the content; and
* grant these rights to others.” (emphasis mine).

How I read this is that basically you are granting public domain rights to any media that you upload to the site. If I’m reading this correctly, this is pretty terrible. Microsoft should follow the lead of other sites and create a licensing matrix that would allow everything from “public domain” to “creative commons” to “all rights reserved” licensing options over your content.

If you want to add me as a contact on Windows Live you can do that here. If you add me as a contact I’ll add you back.

Update: The network also seems to have interesting “Group” functionality where you can create groups. It does seem lame though that Microsoft limits you to owning only 20 groups.

10 Reasons Why the New Microsoft Social Network Spaces.Live.Com is Not for Thomas Hawk

Microsoft's New Social Network

See important update below.

I spent some time today playing around on Microsoft’s latest entry into the social networking arena, home.live.com. Unfortunately they’ve gotten so much of it wrong. I’m continuously amazed that a company with the resources as vast as Microsoft simply can’t put out something in this area that does not suck.

TechCrunch reported on the new Microsoft Social Networking site earlier today here.

Here are 10 reasons why the new social network is not for me.

1. The layout looks terrible. It feels boxy and typically Microsofty. It’s not simple and uncluttered. It’s visually and aesthetically unpleasing (you can see a screenshot of the site above). I’m not sure how to fix this other than hiring better designers to work on the project. Why, for instance, is the “S” cut off in “Friend’s Updates?” Same goes for “pages” in “Personalized Pages” below. It feels clunky.

I don’t care about OneCare which is featured prominently on my page. I don’t want to use their “Family Safety” section and “Spaces” only reminds me of the Microsoft blogging platform which I’ve always hated.

On the larger version of the page the “weather” in San Francisco is featured prominently. It feels very MyYahooish which I also hate and don’t use.

2. Just a small pet peeve, but when I try to customize my url thomashawk.spaces.live.com isn’t available. Seems like someone else is using that url and not doing much with it. Of course I’m not the only Thomas Hawk in the world, but it is nice when I can get my name like on FriendFeed, Twitter, Flickr, etc.

3. The photo uploading section is crap. There seems to be no bulk uploader and I’m limited to uploading only 8MB in images at once. Many of the images that come from my Canon 5D are over 8 images in a single image alone. Uploading photos to this site would be unbearable for me. By setting these limits they seriously limit most professional level DSLR imagery. This means that mostly I’m not going to see anything the likes of Flickr or Zooomr on this site. It’s going to be more like a Photobucket, which is certainly not a place I go to look for or share great photos.

Microsoft bought the Vizrea team right? What ever happened with that? Why aren’t they working on photo sharing here? Or maybe they are. Or maybe they are just waiting until they pick Yahoo off for $12 a share and integrate Flickr into this.

4. I don’t like the abrasive ads at the top. This makes the site feel like MySpace to me. Microsoft should take a page from the book of Flickr, Twitter, and FriendFeed here. When you are a small social network without many users ads don’t matter that much. What you want to do is grow the social network and get huge. *Then* you can think about monetizing it. Let users pay for a Pro account without ads (like Flickr does) or ad ads later. The revenue from the ads today can’t be meaningful or significant.

5. When I tried to customize my space by uploading my own photo as a background, it didn’t work. This could also be related to the 8MB file size upload limit. So instead I’m stuck with Microsoft’s crappy default or one of the horrible “themes” that they have for me to choose from. Why are the default “themes” so crappy and unoriginal? It feels like I’m selecting what default desktop theme package I’d like to use. Nature, Occasions, Patterns, Sports — all that feel very cliparty. How about hiring some cool, hip, cutting edge designers or artists to really create some cool stuff. What about that graffiti artist that said he was a “PC” in the big Vista commercial? What about hiring that guy or some actual interesting artists to design the themes rather than cheap and crappy looking defaults.

6. But I don’t want to blog here. I want to blog at thomashawk.com. There seems to be no easy way that I can tell to import your various other online sites from the internet. In TechCrunch’s article it seemed to say that this was possible as they compared it to FriendFeed. Best I can tell it’s not. I can find no way to link my blog, Flickr account, Zooomr account, YouTube account, etc. to my page on this social network. FriendFeed is doing better than anyone else out there in aggregating web presence right now. Microsoft, how hard is it to simply copy FriendFeed in this department? Why show me a “blogging” section on my space area if I’m never going to use it?

7. Inviting Friends needs work. What’s a social network without your friends right? Microsoft has a leg up here because you can import all of your Windows Live Messenger contacts into the site, but other than this there is no easy way to invite your contacts to your page. Other than this you can only manually enter an email address to send out an invitation. Microsoft should also allow you to access your gmail, yahoomail, or mail client app address book to mass invite or select more of you friends to invite if you’d like.

8. The “Events” section is lame. I went to the events section to learn about some cool events around me in the SF Bay area and guess what there are none. Why not use upcoming.org’s API to feed into here or eventful or meetup.com or whoever to give me some instant interesting things to think about doing?

9. According to the video on TechCrunch it looks like the new Microsoft Social Network is supposed to allow you to aggregate other places on the internet where you have a presence on your Windows live page. Several times in the video Microsoft points to something called “Web Activities” and “Add Websites.” The problem is that in real life this functionality seems to be non-existent on the site. I may just be stupid, but after spending about an hour playing around with the site today I simply could find no easy way to add outside websites where I have a presence. In typical Microsoft fashion I went to the help menu and typed in the phrase “activities” in the search box (seeing how they used the “activities” word over and over again in their video) and of course it still did not show me how to add activities to my page. It did, however, offer me up a little write up on how to close my or my child’s accounts. Something that I really had no interest in learning about.

10. Where’s my profile page? There seems to be no easy way to see what your profile page looks like and no easy url to send to your contacts to show them your presence on this social network.

It seems to me like Microsoft needs to go back to the drawing board with this one. Then again maybe like a lot of other Microsoft products they just feel that they are big enough to shove crap at people and people will use it anyways. Whatever the case, as someone who is very active on social networks, I’ll doubt I’ll be active on this one. At least until I can learn how to do the most basic things that a social network ought to allow.

Update: Ok, now I’m feeling kind of lame. It seems this might be the old Microsoft Live Social Network that I just reviewed. Tom Conrad just said the new version won’t be out until December.

I wish the Microsoft video on TechCrunch hadn’t said: “You can start adding updates from your web activities to Windows Live today. All you need is an id. Get started at home.live.com.” Turns out “today” really might mean a few weeks down the road.