Over the last two weeks I shot a lot of pictures from my apartment in Amsterdam. Last Wednesday I had my PC hooked up again so I could upload the pictures to Flickr. If you are interested you can watch the entire set here. Below are just a few highlights.
Linking to pictures on Flickr
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.
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:
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.
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 ;(
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.
Sunday, I am going on a one-week trip to the South of France, near Carcassonne. The trip is organized by the Dutch travel organization SNP. Here is the description of the trip (in Dutch). The following pictures are from the SNP site (photograph taken by Ben van Hecke):
After the trip I think I will take the plunge and finally sign up for a Flickr account to publish some of my photographs online. Especially now that I have seen the Flickr plugin for Windows Live Writer on RJ's blog.
BTW: Due to the heavy flood of comment spam here at BloggingAbout.NET, comment moderation is switched on on my blog. If you want to make a comment on one of my blog posts and have it appear immediately, please register as a user first. Otherwise anonymous comments will not be published until I get back and get the opportunity to do so.
Do you know the Google Earth application? It's a great free program that allows you to fly over the surface of the earth and watch satellite imagery and aerial photograph. The detail level can be amazing: details of up to 50cm can be visible. But those detailed images are not available for all locations.
A couple of days ago, I read in the local newspaper that detailed imagery of Zeist was made available in Google Earth. Zeist is the town where I live in the Netherlands. So I checked it out. It was really amazing. I can almost recognize the cars parked in front of my flat. Google Earth also has a nice feature to save a location and point of view, so others can start from there. Here is the placemark for my home.
Go and check if you can find your own home.
I had to first uninstall Beta 1 of WinFX, its SDK and the Visual Studio 2005 integration from my computer. Max uses the September CTP of WinFX. Fortunately that version still runs on Beta 2 of the .NET Framework 2.0, so I didn't have to uninstall that. The setup for Max automatically downloads and installs the correct versions of .NET 2.0 and WinFX when not already present.
Max really showcases the new possibilities for UI with Windows Presentation Foundation and sharing photo presentations through Windows Communication Foundation. It is hard to judge exactly how difficult it was to create such an application because Microsoft has not released Max' source code ;( Since Max is said to be a codename, I suspect Microsoft wants to productize it (and give it away for free to genuine Windows users) and will never release the source code.
A lot of people were not impressed by Max because there are better photosharing applications out there. I think that is not the point. Max is about how relatively easy it is to create such an application using WinFX. Of course it can be done using other technologies, but Microsoft claims that will take considerably more effort. And I believe them.
And yes, Max is a memory hog, but remember it runs on pre-release software that's not fully optimized yet.
Frits (a non-blogging colleague and friend) was commenting that he was looking forward to Grand Canyon related pictures.
I have gotten a very nice preview of the Grand Canyon yesterday. British Airways was kind enough to fly straight over this awesome piece of nature. As I was looking at the inflight display I noticed we were heading to LA on a path just north of Flagstaff. Take a look at this hybrid picture of Flaggstaff and the Grand Canyon from Google Maps.
I was not sure if I was sitting on the right (as in not opposed to left, but as in correct 😉 side on the plane, so I asked a stewardess if she could find out at which side of the plane the view would be best. She was kind enough to ring the cockpit and told me the view was just about to begin on the other side of the plane. Luckily I managed to get to a window on the right side of the plane before the captain made a general announcement. From the window I was able to take a couple of very nice pictures. I wonder if the pilots can notice the weight shift when a significant number of passengers move to one side of the plane.
Now if only I could find a way to get a picture from the Compact Flash card in my camera to the Internet. My PocketPC only reads SD cards. The PDC terminal I am using now to type this post does have a USB port but I don't have a card reader with me. Please leave a comment if you can help me out.
BTW: @Frits, I managed to not noticably scare anyone during the 25 minutes walk to the convention centre.
Adam Nathan has a nice example of the use of animation for a property using XAML. And it's a funny post to read as well.
Two pictures of Jim Miller (one of the CLR architects) are stacked on top of each other. The animation changes the value of the opacity of the upper image from 1 (completely opaque) to 0 (completely transparant) and back again. Because the subject of the two images is the same and the two image are lined up, this gives a nice morphing effect.
I wanted to try this myself, so I searched my image archive for two similar looking photographs. I found two, but lining them up was more work than I expected. In PhotoShop I had to adjust for subtle differences in focal length, rotation, aspect ratio etc. Plus one of the photographs is one and a half year older than the other one, so the trees have grown 😉 You can see the result below.
To see the morph between these two pictures, paste this code into XAMLPAD:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?> <Grid xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/avalon/2005"> <Grid.Storyboards> <SetterTimeline TargetName="kerckebosch2" Path="(Image.Opacity)" AutoReverse="true" RepeatBehavior="Forever"> <DoubleAnimation From="1" To="0" Duration="0:0:4" /> </SetterTimeline> </Grid.Storyboards> <Image Name="kerckebosch1" Source="http://bloggingabout.net/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2014/01/kerckebosch1.jpg"/> <Image Name="kerckebosch2" Source="http://bloggingabout.net/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2014/01/kerckebosch2.jpg"/> </Grid>