Monthly Archives: October 2006

It's official. Since today, I am a resident (*) of Amsterdam. For my readers outside of Europe(do I have any?): Amsterdam is not the capital of Denmark, it's the capital of the Netherlands 😉

Flag of the city of Amsterdam

This morning I got the keys to my new apartment after the transfer of ownership at the notary. This afternoon I went to the city hall of Stadsdeel Zeeburg to change my residential address from Zeist to Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is the city where I studied physics for six years. It's the city where I first met my ex-boyfriend. It's the city where I first... well, let's not get into that 😉

I have fond memories of this city. However, I never lived in Amsterdam before. So I am really happy to move there.

(*) Well, I do not live full-time in Amsterdam yet. I still have my appartment in Zeist as well. At the end of next week my stuff will be moved and I will move too.

Since I don't feel like packing my moving boxes yet, I am trying out IE 7.0 RTM for Windows XP SP2 in a Virtual PC.

Moving boxes

Installation took about 5 minutes including a nag screen about running Windows Update first, which I had already done, and validating the Windows installation (WGA). After that I compared some features of IE7 and Mozilla Firefox.

IE7 vs Firefox

Tabbed browsing

I mainly use Firefox for browsing since I have become addicted to tabbed browsing. I don't like the default tabbed browsing experience in Firefox so I have tweaked it with the Tab Mix Plus extension.

How customizable is the tabbed browsing in IE7? Somewhat, but not as much as in Firefox with the Tab Mix Plus extension. This is the settings screen in IE7:

Tabbed Browsing Settings screen in IE7

I won't post a screenshot of the Tab Mix Plus settings because it has six tabs worth of tweaks and twiddles. Is Tab Mix Plus suitable for the average user? Probably not, but I am not an average user.

Points I like about tabbed browsing in IE7:

  • The tab bar clearly shows what the active tab is.
  • The quick tabs feature showing a thumbnail view of all tabs on a single page.
  • A dropdown which shows the titles of all tabs, allowing you to quickly choose a tab.

Points I dislike about tabbed browsing in IE7:

  • You can't close the last open tab. When I am done browsing for a moment, I like to have a big white open space instead of the last page I looked at.
  • No way to undo closing a tab.
  • No way to duplicate a tab. I regularly use this to fork my browsing history. In Firefox the duplicate tab inherits the browsing history of the original tab. In one tab I can move back and navigate in another direction.
  • You can't change the default behavior where a page should be opened if you type in a URL in the address bar. It always opens in the current tab, unless you press ALT + ENTER.
  • You have to switch to a tab before a close button appears by which you can close it.

RSS

One of the features in IE7 that rocks is the RSS and Atom support. It gives you a very nice view of an RSS feed with several options for sorting and filtering:

Security

One of the major areas of improvement in IE7 over IE6 is security. IE7 still supports ActiveX and Firefox doesn't. This probably means that Firefox remains less vulnerable.

On Windows Vista, it's a whole different ball game between IE7 and Firefox. IE7 can run in Protected Mode. This mitigates a whole slew of possible security vulnerabilities.

Firefox has its own set of security problems. That's why I run Firefox without administrative privileges on XP even though I am logged on as an administrator. I do this using the Drop My Rights tool. One of the things this tool does is to remove the administrative privileges and membership of the Administrators group from the security token of the process. This way malicious code injected into the Firefox process cannot write to system folders or the Program Files folder. It does have some side-effects. For example, when Firefox starts a Windows Media Player process, this process inherits the security settings of the Firefox process. WMP doesn't behave well with such low privileges. I have to remember to open up a WMP window before launching an mms:// link from Firefox.

Nevertheless malicious code injected into the Firefox process can still wreck My Documents folder, since it does run under my user account and that folder is owned by me. IE7 running in protected mode on Vista cannot do that since the user profile folder is virtualized.

Conclusion

Of course, IE 7.0 is a much improved browser over IE 6.0 SP2. But Microsoft hasn't won me over yet, so I will probably continue to use Firefox. At least on Windows XP.

[Updated 2006-10-19: IE7 does allow you to rearrange tabs by dragging-and-dropping.]

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Internet Explorer 7 was released to manufactering (RTM-ed) by Microsoft yesterday. IE7 can be downloaded from the IE7 site on microsoft.com. The download for Windows XP SP2 is 14.8 MB in size and was digitally signed by Microsoft on October 17, 2006.

I am still debating whether to install it or not on my main OS because I am a bit worried about web site compatibility. A lot of web sites probably delayed updating their site for IE7 (if needed) until the inevitable hit. So it might be better to wait a little till enough other people have hit those sites with IE7 and complained to the site owners. I guess I will probably try it out in a Virtual PC before installing it on my host OS.

Don't be confused by the version number of the IE7 installer executable: the version number of the download is 6.2.29.0. Here are some version numbers of the included components:

mshtml.dll7.0.5730.11Trident rendering engine
wininet.dll7.0.5730.11Internet Extensions for Win32
msfeeds.dll7.0.5730.11RSS platform
jscript.dll5.7.0.5730JavaScript engine
vbscript.dll5.7.0.5730VBScript engine
ieapfltr.dll7.0.5824.16386Microsoft Phishing Filter

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Linking to pictures on Flickr


Now that I got some pictures up on Flickr, it is time to try out the Flickr4Writer that RJ blogged about.


This morning I delayed going to work because I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunrises I ever saw from my old apartment in Zeist. I had to take some pictures and uploaded them straight away. You can view the entire set on Flickr.


Beautiful sunrise in Zeist  Beautiful sunrise in Zeist  Beautiful sunrise in Zeist


By the way, you can still buy this magnificent view as I haven't sold my current appartment yet. Next Friday I will get the key to my new apartment in Amsterdam in this building:


Apartmentbuilding "De Watertoren"


Vista Media Center


And finally to put some technical content into this post: I have been busy with front-end development lately. We finished a new version of Rabobank TV. No new functionality, just support for new set-top boxes. I cannot disclose which ones yet. I started to really dig into Windows Presentation Foundation and started reading Petzold's Applications = Code + Markup.


I've tried to wrap my head around why Microsoft is unleashing yet another markup language onto the world: Media Center Markup Language (MCML). It allows you to create flashy applications for Windows Vista Media Center. The Media Center UI uses this markup itself, so you can create the same effects that you see in the Windows Media Center shell. That will enable you to create a much richer user experience than you can create with a Hosted HTML Application like Rabobank TV.


However, Rabobank TV must work on a slew of different STBs that have nowhere near the horsepower of a media center. I have seen STBs that take 5 seconds to do a page transition between two HTML pages that takes 0.5s in Windows Media Center.


MCML is so close to WPF that it begs the question why it exists. The answer is that it was created and used in a product long before WPF. It just wasn't exposed in previous versions of Windows Media Center. Moreover MCML can be remoted to Media Center Extenders like the Xbox 360. The extender will render the MCML. WPF (XBAP) applications and Hosted HTML Applications cannot really be remoted to extenders. For WPF and Hosted HTML Applications, Media Center will send 5 FPS of screenshots to your extender. More details in this Channel9 thread.


Will it be worth investing time in learning MCML? Microsoft has said that no MCML design tools will be released. You will have to resort to handcoding XML. Creating WPF applications with Expression Interactive Designer and the "Cider" design tools will certainly be easier.


I guess that it all depends on how succesful Vista Media Center and extenders like the Xbox 360 will be at penetrating the living room. Vista Media Center will be included in Vista Home Premium Edition and Vista Ultimate Edition. Home Basic users will be able to upgrade their Windows edition online without needing a reinstall. So the market potential is bigger than that for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.

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Thanks to Matthijs I found a new time-consuming hobby: uploading my pictures to Flickr.

I took some 400 photographs with my Canon EOS 20D during my holiday to the South of France in September 2006. During this vacation I was already being asked by one of the group members if I would put my photos online. At that time I didn't know where to store my Gigabytes of images. Matthijs told me that with a Flickr Pro account you can upload 2 GB a month without any limit on the total amount of storage you consume.

After some experimentation with tagging and uploading some of my pictures to Matthijs' Flickr account, I decided it was worth the effort and money ($24.95 a year).

But I did not want to be locked into Flickr forever. Once you add your metadata through the Flickr interface you are screwed. Flickr does not embed this data into your pictures. So if you want to take your pictures elsewhere, you loose the Flickr metadata. Fortunately, Flickr supports importing metadata that is embedded into your JPEG images. So the better option is to add the metadata to the images themselves before uploading them to Flickr. And that's what I did.

One of the great features of Flickr is the map view that shows you where you have taken your pictures. Provided you have geotagged your images of course. These are the keyword tags that I used for my pictures.

These are the tools I use for this hobby:

  • Windows Explorer. To copy, view and rotate (lossless JPEG operation) my images
  • Adobe Photoshop CS2. To enhance my images: cropping, rotation, enhancing shadows and highlights, do lens corrections (like remove vignetting, perspective correction, remove distortion).
  • Panorama Tools with PTAssembler and related utilities. For stitching my images to create panorama views.
  • Google Earth. To view the locations where I took my pictures.
  • Panorado Flyer. This is a Windows Shell add-in that allows me to easily geotag one or more images by selecting a location in Google Earth. Also lets Google Earth navigate to the location of a geotagged image.
  • PixVue. This is a shell add-in that allows me to easily add and edit IPTC and XMP metadata to my JPEGs. Makes keyword tagging very easy.
  • Enable Flickr to import geo-info embedded in the EXIF data.
  • Flickr Uploadr. Since I add all meta-data to my images, I just have to drag-and-drop my images from the Windows Explorer onto the Flickr Uploadr and press Upload.

RJ has also gotten the hang of geotagging his Flickr images. He has a cool Flickr badge on his blog. I'll have to nag Dennis about allowing the inclusion of script tags on my blog in Community Server. Right now, if I paste the Flickr badge code in my blog settings the script tags are escaped and output as plain text ;(

Source: http://hiroc.lpl.arizona.edu/images/TRA/TRA_000873_1780/

A recent picture of the planet Mars has made its way on the Internet. It was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft on October 3, 2006.

This HiRISE image shows "Victoria Crater," an impact crater at Meridiani Planum, near the equator of Mars.

There are high-resolution versions (up to 4045x5085 pixels) of this picture available. What's amazing is that the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity can be seen in this image, at roughly the "ten o'clock" position along the rim of the crater. Even its track marks are visible

I don't know if the image was Photoshopped, but it sure looks pretty.