Wednesday, August 26, 2009

10 things you should know about Microsoft Expression Web

Microsoft recently released Expression Web, which replaces the venerable FrontPage HTML editor and Web site design tool. Expression Web has come a long way from its FrontPage roots, but it still maintains much of the ease of use that allowed FrontPage to be used by so many new Web content creators. Here’s a look at the highlights.

1: Expression Web replaces FrontPage in Microsoft’s lineup, but it fits into a different slot

Instead of being part of the Office suite, Expression Web is part of the new Expression suite. Expression is focused on Web designers and graphic artists. That being said, Expression Web does still have a few “FrontPage-isms,” such as the way it handles a Web site as a logical unit, while also incorporating some of the widgets and function set of Visual Studio 2005.

#2: Unlike FrontPage, Expression Web purposely generates standard, valid HTML and CSS by default

Although it can behave in an “IE first, all else second” manner, the focus is solidly on standards. This is a welcome change from FrontPage, which was notorious for generating code that did not work well (if at all) in browsers other than Internet Explorer.

#3: Expression Web is capable of working with ASP.NET files, but it can’t work with the code-behind files

All of the ASP.NET controls are configured using whatever attributes they expose. The ASP.NET pages that can be made within Expression Web fall under the category of tasks you would do in a basic, dynamic Web site. This is the most obvious sign that the tool is made with designers, not developers in mind. One piece of ASP.NET that it thankfully supports is the use of Master Pages. It is also capable of performing basic work with Data Sources and the related components that can be bound to them (Repeater, ASP.NET Web form components, etc.).

#4: The rest of the Expression suite covers the ground that Expression Web doesn’t

Expression Web is focused purely on HTML and CSS. It does not provide even a basic image editor, for example. And as previously noted, its support for ASP.NET is limited in scope.

#5: Like FrontPage, Expression Web provides a good number of tools for reporting against the site that you’re working on

For example, it has broken link searching, a site summary, and unlink file summary. While these tools may seem rather basic for a Web developer, they are invaluable for a Web designer, whose purpose is layout, not deeply technical code writing.

#6: One sign of the former Office integration is the use of the spell checker, something which will most likely never appear in Visual Studio

The spell checker shows some unusual behavior, which it does not show in other Office applications: Once a word has been “completed” (indicated by putting a space after it), further edits to that word that create a typo are not marked as such. This is a bizarre thing for it to do. The word to the wise would be don’t use Expression Web as a content editor for too long.

#7: Expression Web contains three important and useful validators

This first one is a CSS validator, which checks the selected documents (or the entire site) to make sure that the CSS within it is used properly, such as tags that have undefined CSS classes. The second is an HTML validator, which can use either a set DTD or each document’s declared DTD to verify that each page is valid and can verify the CSS against a particular version of the CSS standard. The third one is an accessibility validator, to ensure that the site meets standards for accessibility. This is a welcome piece, since Web designers frequently are ignorant of (or ignore) accessibility standards. These three items help make Expression Web an excellent tool for users who are more focused on layout and design and less inclined to think about or be knowledgeable about these topics.

#8: If you want the functionality of the Master Page system without using ASP.NET, Expression Web has a Dynamic Web Template system

This system allows you to create a pure HTML template and then create pages based upon it. When the template gets updated, so do the pages created from it. The pages may override the template as well, where needed, but the behavior in the Design view is to allow editing only in the sections of the page that the template has labeled as an Editable Region.

#9: Expression Web hooks into the Microsoft Script Editor, which provides debugging tools for client-side scripting

This is nice to have, but it would have been nice if the tools for working with the client-side scripting had been built into Expression Web. While the “separation of powers” makes sense at one level (after all, Expression Web is not meant for code writing), it is a ding in terms of convenience and ease of use.

#10: Microsoft is currently offering a 60 day free trial of Expression Web

This is a great way to try out the tool with no commitment, to see if it meets your needs. If you decide to purchase the full version, you don’t need to reinstall it; you can easily update the product key. Also, Expression Web is now part of the tools available to MSDN members, reversing an initial decision not to make it available to them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 by V.K Vimalaranjan · 0

Saturday, August 8, 2009

How to Stay Healthy During the Influenza A (H1N1) Pandemic

The recent outbreak of swine-origin influenza Virus A (also termed H1N1), or more commonly known as "swine flu," has many people concerned about their health. These concerns are justified, but need to be placed into perspective to avoid a social panic that will not benefit anyone. Swine flu is a respiratory disease found in pigs caused by Type A flu virus. It is contagious the same way any other known influenza virus is transmitted, which includes person-to-person contact via coughing and sneezing. Swine flu cannot be transmitted by eating or handling pork, and properly cooked pork is safe to be consumed. Also, as with any influenza outbreak, people with underlying medical conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, poorly controlled diabetes and similar clinical conditions are likely more susceptible to acquiring swine flu if they come into contact with the virus. It is essential to remember that for anyone, regardless of their health status, the only way to get swine flu is by coming into contact with a person actively infected with a confirmed case of H1N1. In this article I will help you to understand how to prevent swine flu, review the symptoms of infection and examine prevention/treatment interventions that are effective and available.

The basics of infection are simple and you already know them; however, it may be a good time for you to sit down with your family and review them:
  • Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep yourself hydrated by drinking enough water.
  • Get adequate rest and exercise to help your immune system function properly.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or one of the many over-the-counter hand sanitizers. Hands should always be washed after using the bathroom, eating, sneezing, coughing or touching any object that may be contaminated with significant bacteria or viruses. A simple-to-follow-rule is that if you have any doubt about whether or not you should be washing your hands, then you should indeed be washing them!
  • If you develop cold-like symptoms, even mild ones, it is best to stay home from work, school and social events for the time being. Your cold symptoms will more likely be the “common cold” that will typically respond to your usual self-care interventions. However, if they worsen you should contact your medical provider immediately.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also suggest that anyone who is strongly suspected of having contracted swine flu be asked to wear a disposable face mask to prevent possible transmission to others.
Know the signs and symptoms of swine flu in order to protect yourself and your family. Remember that swine flu presents itself like virtually any other flu-like syndrome, so while it is prudent to be cautious, the odds of you not coming into contract with someone with cold-like or allergy symptoms this time of year are fairly remote--so please do not overreact. Remember, the only way to get infected with swine flu is to come into contact with someone who has a confirmed case of the virus or by touching a swine flu virus-contaminated object.

The basic symptoms of swine flu include: fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Diarrhea and vomiting have also been reported, but to a lesser extent.

Since it's not yet known how easily swine flu is transmitted between people, it may be wise to avoid close contact with people who are displaying flu-like symptoms; however, it may not be necessary to isolate yourself from an ill individual if you feel well and are taking the precautions listed in Step 1. While not yet the standard of care, the ill person might provide you with a level of protection if they wear a disposable mask covering their nose and mouth while in your presence.

If you have come into contact with a person suspected of having or confirmed with swine flu there are two drugs that can be taken to prevent you from becoming infected with the virus or to lessen the severity of the disease. Currently only two out of the five anti-viral flu drugs are effective against swine flu. The two effective medications are: Oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu ®) to prevent and treat in people 1 year of age or older and Zanamivir (brand name Relenza ®) is approved to treat people 7 years and older and to prevent Influenza A and B virus infection in people 5 years and older. Currently, there are health authorities testing other medications, but as of now only Tamiflu and Relenza are known to help with swine flu infection. Generally, treatment for swine flu is a 5-day course of therapy and 10 days are required for prevention control. It is also important to note that these drugs are not in short supply or difficult to manufacture. There is no reason to stock pile drugs or panic.

Stay informed. The science and knowledge of swine flu infection and treatment is rapidly evolving on a daily basis, which is normal when there is a flu breakout. Newly developed information should not be considered a concern or reason to panic. It should be viewed as scientific advancement; the health care community is learning more about this emerging infection.

Saturday, August 8, 2009 by V.K Vimalaranjan · 0

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Microsoft Surface, Future of Computers

Future Microsoft Computer Technology Using New Touchscreen Computer That Will Change the Physical and Digital World

Bill Gates will manage one of the highest-profile transitions in American business history and computer technology. Before stepping down as chairman of Microsoft (currently $300 billion company that he co-founded over 30 years ago) and moving on to philanthropy, Gates will head a few more high-tech projects and hopefully achieve his goal of bridging the physical and virtual worlds. A secret covert project code named Milan and is 5 years in the making was top secret until recently being unveiled to the public at the Wall Street Journal conference. The project involved transforming an ordinary tabletop into a brilliant, interactive surface with effortless interaction with digital content through natural gestures, touch, and physical objects. A revolutionary aspect of Microsoft Surface is its natural interaction with everyday objects and technologies with an intuitive touch-sensitive 30-inch tabletop with nothing but your fingers. No more computer mouse, keyboards, or wires. The multi-touch interface allows the user to have hands-on control of photos, music, maps, and more. The coolest feature I liked was the photo resizing and stacking that is similar to Macintosh’s Apple iPhone’s zoom gestures.

This idea is nothing new and is not the only company eyeing the new market, but it has never been more than a prototype until recently being exhibited at the All Things Digital conference.. Microsoft Surface made several appearances in movies like the futuristic movies Minority Report and The Island. This new technology, the brainchild of Stevie Bathiche and Andy Wilson, is breaking down the traditional barriers of people and technology by providing an effortless interaction with digital media. It is apart of Intel’s vision of the near future where devices work seamlessly together. This innovative computer has price tags running $10,000 a unit. Microsoft however expects prices to plummet over the next three to five years to the point that it will be available for every home.

Key Attributes of Microsoft Surface

  • Direct Interaction: Users can actually “grab” digital information with their hands and interact with content by touch and gestures, without the use of a mouse or keyboard.
  • Multi-Touch Contact: Surface computing recognizes many points of contact simultaneously, not just from one finger, as with a typical touch screen computer, but up to dozens and dozens of items at once.
  • Mulit-User Experience: the horizontal form factor makes it easy for several people to gather around surface computers together, providing a collaborative, face-to-face computing experience
  • Object-Recognition: Users can place physical objects on the surface to trigger different types of digital responses, including the transfer of digital content.

Inside Microsoft Surface Computer

We begin exploring this radical new computer by exploring the components that make up this computer. In order to get the table as low as it is, five cameras are used so that each one can have a small field of view. This translates into better resolution and speed (measure in pixels/second) than a single camera with an exceptionally wide-angle view of the table surface. A high-end PC is hidden inside but uses mainly conventional components. Powered by a Core 2 Duo Intel CPU and a “newish video card” running on 2 GB of RAM.

Underneath the impact-resistant acrylic plastic screen hides five semi-infrared scanners/cameras, a projector, and a wireless modem. The surface can read a nearly infinite number of simultaneous touches, and are limited only by processing power. The scanners are able to detect movements and recognize objects and shapes placed on the surface. The computer is able to interact and respond to them accordingly. If the scanners recognize fingers, and the fingers have been placed color circles that appear on the surface, the projector sows colored lines that follow the tracings and movements of your fingers. The five cameras are near-infrared devices, but that’s not because they are trying to read heat signatures from fingertips on the table. Instead, its because the entire surface is bathed in light; by illuminating the top of the table, the cameras can easily see when things are placed on it. Shining colored light across the surface of the table would spoil the effect that Microsoft wants, so near-infrared light is used for invisible illumination.

The internal modem is able to send and receive signals from any electronic device placed on top of the surface. With its wired 10/100Mbit Ethernet and wireless 802.11 b/g and Bluetooth 2.0 supports built it, it is already more than compatible with the various devices on the market already. If you place your Wi-Fi enabled digital camera on the table, Microsoft Surface is able to “see” the camera and pull your digital pictures and videos out onto the table for everyone to look, move, edit or send. Images are literally spill out in a pool of color.

Microsoft has developed a square tag called a “domino” that can be attached to objects so that Surface can interact with them on the fly. Instead of relying on RFID, the domino tag uses dots to encode its information (hence the name). There is a single do in the center of the tag, three dots on one side for orientation, and space for eight more dots that are read as data. Essentially, it’s a one-byte data tag.

All of the hardware is run by a special version of Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows Vista. Surface applications can be written in Windows Presentation Foundation or XNA. The development process is much like normal Vista development, but custom WPF controls had to be created by the Surface team due to the unique interface of Surface. Developers already proficient in WPF have been trained in the idiosyncrasies of writing Surface apps and should be available to customize Surface deployments. This is assisting in the transition from DOS to GUI.

When something like a wine glass is set on the table, Surface illuminates the edges of the object with a soothing glow and can display information, pictures, or decorative graphics next to and around the glass. When the glass moves across the table, these items follow it. The possibilities for such a device are staggering, especially when it drops in price and enters the home market. It’s even possible that consumer electronics could be tagged at production.

To operate the 22 inches high and 42 inches wide Microsoft Surface computer, all you have to do is reach down, touch it, and push it. To make the image you see on the screen bigger, spread your fingers. To make it smaller, squeeze your fingers together. To move something into the trash, push it into the trash with your hand. This new interface allows to paint with a real brush, play cards with your hands, and pay your bills just by putting your credit card on the surface of the display.

Microsoft Surface also allows what is being called Multi-Touch and Multi-User interaction. This means that more than one individual can interface with the computer simultaneously. With the Microsoft Surface, that doesn’t mean a few, it can support dozens and dozens of fingers at once.

Microsoft Partners Get Latest Technology

The first people/companies to get their hands on these are partners T-Mobile USA, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and Harrah’s Entertainment. Hotels, retail stores, and restaurants will easily adapt to this technology and make use of this new technology.

T-Mobile plans to adapt the technology by allowing customers to place any cell phone(s) onto the surface and then view a detailed display of the product(s) information. This makes it easy and ideal to compare various phones at once and easily keep or remove your choices. Consider all your options for possible mobile telephones with all of the products information at hand. Harrah’s is also exploring the idea of integrating further options for ordering food and beverages, and possibly gaming or game-related activities.

Starwood plans to make the machines available in public areas of select Sheraton properties, including in Seattle, starting later in 2007. Starwood is exploring the possibility of users being able to select music through their personal playlist, share photos, ordering food and adapting a virtual concierge idea.

Harrah’s plans to start using the surface tables as a “virtual concierge” desk in conjunction with its Total Rewards loyalty program at its eight Las Vegas properties, which include Caesars Palace and Bally’s. People will be able to use the tables to access maps of the different properties, get details about events and venues and create itineraries for themselves.

Touchscreen and Multi-User Computer History

The tablet PC was the conceptual forerunner to the new machine. However, the tablet pc failed to capture the consumer market as much as Microsoft Chairman Bill Gate predicted. Project Milian was the first product from the Surface Computing team, a hitherto unknown group that has grown, under the radar, to 120 people. The company says the product’s genesis came in 2001, arising from brainstorming sessions between Andy Wilson of Microsoft Research and Stevie Bathiche of Microsoft Hardware. Wilson has shown certain elements of the surface-computing technology publicly, as has Bill Gates. Most of the products details are now unwrapped. Visionary Bill Gates has been touting alternative forms of computer-human interaction for years, such as tablet computing and voice recognition. Now the result of six years of collaboration between the company’s hardware and Microsoft Research (MSR) will have the opportunity to reap the rewards and bask in success if all goes according to plan.

Microsoft Surface plans on achieving much more and not sharing the same fate as the Tablet PC. Pete Thompson, general manager of Microsoft Surface Computing, plans on this section of the company becoming a multibillion-dollar industry. The goal is have this technology to adapt to everyday life and be pervasive – not just a novelty computer. Price will be a major obstacle for the new machine to overcome if it is to catch on with mainstream computers. Like all of the latest gizmos and gadgets, prices start out high and quickly drop as the computer becomes “out-dated”. Current projections for the unit range from $5,000 to $10,000. With this price range it could be years before it is available to the consumer market, but Microsoft plans on this happening much sooner.

See Microsoft Surface in action

Restaurant menu

Microsoft envisions the Surface technology being used in restaurant settings.

Photo manipulation

Mark Bolger, director of marketing in Microsoft's Surface Computing group, shows a photo application that pulls digital images from a remote server and then lets users move them around the tabletop -- and resize them -- with their hands.


Bolger demonstrates a virtual painting application.

T-Mobile Demo

One of the customers that will be using Microsoft Surface is wireless service provider T-Mobile. In this demo, Microsoft's Mark Bolger shows one of the ways that the technology could be used in a T-Mobile retail store.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009 by V.K Vimalaranjan · 0

2009 Xbox Project Natal Announcement| Exclusive

Introducing Project Natal, a revolutionary new way to play: no controller required. See a ball? Kick it, hit it, trap it or catch it. If you know how to move your hands, shake your hips or speak you and your friends can jump into the fun -- the only experience needed is life experience

Microsoft's first try at a gaming console amounted to essentially a very affordable PC. It used standard PC components, including a mobile Intel processor (a hybrid Pentium 3/Celeron), a desktop NVIDIA chipset, a Western Digital hard drive and relatively standard PC DVD-ROM. The original Xbox was such a PC in fact that there were quite a few users that wanted to mod it simply to have a cheap PC, not even for gaming - including ourselves.

Before the Xbox was launched, Microsoft was very concerned with users thinking of the Xbox as nothing more than a PC branded as a gaming console, so it went to great lengths to reduce the association. For example, the strict ban on keyboard and mouse support, despite the fact that the console implemented the standard USB interface.

With the Xbox 360, Microsoft gained some benefits of the original Xbox success. Xbox didn't win the sales battle against Sony's PlayStation 2, but the first Xbox was strong enough to cement Microsoft's name in the world of console gaming manufacturers. For their second time around, there is less worry of the Xbox 360 being viewed as a just a PC, so Microsoft took a bolder approach.

Honestly, with the Xbox 360, Microsoft could have put forth another PC in a black box and it probably would have done fine. But with their second gaming console, the target was growth -- and Sony. With an established name and fanbase, it was time to take the market seriously and start to exert some dominance and thus the Xbox went from being a clunky black box of a PC, to a stylish consumer electronics device.

The Xbox 360 is smaller than the original Xbox, and its wireless nature makes it a natural fit in the living room - marking a thankful change from standard gaming consoles of the past. Despite looking like the offspring of an iPod and a DVD player, the Xbox 360 is still very much a PC on the inside. As such, it's got all of the components we're used to.

With less than a week to go before the retail availability of Xbox 360 consoles, we got our hands on one to give it the usual AnandTech once-over. And take it apart of course.

What's in the Box?

Our Xbox 360 system was the $399 unit, which comes with the following:

- Xbox 360 console
- 20GB Removable Hard Drive
- Wireless Controller
- Headset
- DVD Remote
- Ethernet Cable
- Component AV Cables
- External Power Supply

The $299 core system gives you the same console (with a white DVD tray cover), a wired controller, and standard composite AV cables; there's no hard drive, headset or remote.

By now you have undoubtedly heard about the massive external power supply that comes with the Xbox 360 and you can see it in the lower left hand corner of the picture above. Remember that in the original Xbox, the power supply was internal. But with the power requirements of the Xbox 360 being significantly higher than its predecessor, while featuring a noticeably smaller case, the only solution was to take the power supply out of the Xbox 360.

How Xbox 360 Works

Microsoft's first video game console, the Xbox, has sold more than 20 million units worldwide since its introduction in 2001. Despite the Xbox's impressive power, the list of big-name video game titles to support it and the success of the Xbox's online component, Xbox LIVE, Sony's PlayStation 2 still outsold it.

As the game industry moved into the next generation of video game technology, Microsoft was determined to dethrone Sony's PlayStation. Enter the Xbox 360.

Microsoft rebuilt the Xbox from the ground up. From the name to the look to hardware and features, the Xbox 360 is a radically different and more powerful machine than its predecessor. Far more than a video game console, the Xbox 360 is a total media center that allows users to play, network, rip, stream and download all types of media, including high-definition movies, music, digital pictures and game content.

In this article, we will learn about the hardware and features that make the Xbox 360 a leap forward into the next generation of gaming consoles.

The Xbox 360, like all video game consoles, is just a computer with hardware and software dedicated to the function of running video game software. The original Xbox was essentially a Windows PC with a modified Pentium III processor, some relatively powerful graphics and audio hardware and a modified version of the Microsoft operating system Windows 2000, all packaged in that distinctive black box. The Xbox 360 is also a specially packaged computer, but once you look inside, you realize that this console has quite a bit under the hood:

Custom IBM Power PC-based CPU with three 3.2 GHz cores
Custom ATI graphics processor with 10 MB embedded DRAM
512 MB 700 MHz GDDR3 RAM
Detachable and upgradeable hard drive -- all models except the Core system
12x dual-layer DVD-ROM
Support for up to four wireless game controllers
Three USB 2.0 ports
Two memory unit slots
As you can see, Microsoft intends the Xbox 360 to be a serious game machine. The company is also serious about reaching more audiences with the Xbox 360. On the next page, we'll look at variations of the Xbox 360 that are marketed to different kinds of gamers.

by V.K Vimalaranjan · 0

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