I have a new blog so this blog is now closed down!
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If you want to know why I switched have a look here
Microsoft research have come up with some really cool tools for capturing and manipulating whiteboard contents captured using low quality web cams. My whiteboard is right behind me, (so my web cam points right at it, so it would work just great, but the downloads are MS only. The best trick is it removes the person writing on the board from the image. Here are some of the key points:
Other systems use expensive cameras or dedicated electronic whiteboards. The Live Whiteboard system, developed at Microsoft Research by Zhengyou Zhang and Li-wei He, uses whatever whiteboard you already have. It only needs an inexpensive Web cam and some clever software.
Live Whiteboard doesn't just deliver a video stream of the whiteboard. The software takes out all the shadows and uneven surfaces that come through on a Web cam, and turns the whiteboard into an image that allows viewers to see the whiteboard notes. Through a series of image processing procedures, the originally captured image is first transformed into a rectangular bitmap to correct perspective distortion, and then color-enhanced to increase contrast, saturation, and to provide a clean uniform white background.
In addition, if the remote viewer wants to focus his attention only on the content, the system can take out the image of the person who is writing on the board. The remote viewer sees only the new content magically appearing, he never sees the person who is writing the content. This saves even more bandwidth.
A new version of open office is available. The main improvements are:
Enhancements to the open-source productivity suite include support for PDF and XHTML exports and improved compatibility with Microsoft Office, according to the OpenOffice Web site. The new release, for example, will support forms conversion within Word documents and import text document layouts with more fidelity. OpenOffice 1.1 also boasts enhanced support for mobile device formats such as Palm's AportisDoc, Pocket Word and Pocket Excel.
IBM has ideas of its own, taking a thinner approach with its WorkPlace products
A wild card in the Office wars is IBM, which plans to offer server-based word processing, spreadsheet and presentation functionality to buyers of its WebSphere portal. At the very least, that could allow large customers to negotiate better Microsoft Office pricing/licensing, observers said. (See IBM Plans Sneak Attack On Microsoft Office.)
The MS Office team are majoring on quality for their next release, does this imply major changes, requiring major testing, or just good practice?
Software development, especially for a product as feature-rich as Office, is a repetitive process comprising what can seem to be endless feedback loops and rework.
"We're trying to reduce the iteration of that cycle because it's extremely costly," said Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president of Microsoft's Information Worker Product Group. "We want to use our development resources more effectively, yielding higher-quality code and not iterating what customers never see," he said.
The Office 12 team will rely on new tools, including Buddy Web, a system developers can use to privately share releases, according to the memo, from Eric Fox, Office development manager at Microsoft. Buddy Web had previously been used by the Outlook team.
In addition, the Office group will have access to Big Button, a system that gives developers easy access to the appropriate set of tests for their code.
Office 12, will not reply on Longhorn, not really a suprise, but its in print.
Microsoft knows it would be folly to leave the hundreds of millions of Windows XP and 2000 users out in the cold and force an upgrade to the shiny, new and radically different next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, which is now expected to come out in 2007 or later. Office 12 initially was slated to ship with Longhorn, but the next-generation Windows platform slipped and Office didn't, according to one insider. "The Office team is disciplined. They nail down their feature set, set a schedule and usually hit it," the insider said.
Read all this in the context of my previous posts on Choosing an office suite
Its interesting to see the slow but sure emergence of middleware to exploit XML documents. Microsoft have WSS which can manipulate Infopath docuemnts stored in its document libraries for example. InfoWorld report on a mor ambitious tool from IBM, code named Project Cinnamon, you can get the full details here, but here is the real content:
Cinnamon was born in IBM's Almaden Research Center and is a tool designed to automatically create mappings among different forms of data. By allowing users to define how an XML document gets mapped into a database such as DB2, the technology makes it easier to store those documents and to manage their content.
The upcoming utility hopes to address one of the thornier problems associated with XML-based development. Although XML serves as a clear standard for how content in a document is defined, the schema or definition of that content can be markedly different from document to document. This makes it impractical to place thousands of different documents in even a single data source and be able to retrieve certain data using a single search engine, an IBM representative said.
InfoWorld also says:
Some analysts think the upcoming technology can play a central role in helping corporate users crystallize the implementation of their Web services and SOA (service-oriented architecture) visions.
It may play a part, but I think "central role" is over stating it a bit.
I wrote about this topic a while back. Its nice to see some discussion starting up on it for two reasons:
- Its really interesting, and a topic that deserves more public debate
- I want to do some research on it, and need all the input I can get. My own blog is sort of work in progress research but I want to spend a month or so giving it some real attention
In fact if you are interested in personal productivity in general then the discussions on the Getting Things Done site are of a very high quality.
Some interesting roadmap data has been published at Tech-ED. Well perhaps more stunning than interesting. I posted previously that maybe Microsoft were loosing their nerve and pushing product to market rapidly through fear of loss of revenue, and that there strategic re-architecting of the main product lines was potentially being compromised. However these dates tell a different story:
The core foundation elements, i.e. Longhorn Client and SQL Server come first. Then Longhorn Server, then Exchange Kodiak, Office System 12 and SPSv3 in 2007-8. Hopefully a new version of WSS sits somewhere around 2005-6. This implies that Microsoft are planning something significant in Office System 12, and that the information management and collaboration story might actually start to come together with the next versions of Longhorn server, Exchange and SPS. There’s a jpeg of the roadmap slide available here.
Microsoft are planning to give me some details under NDA of this stuff quite soon, so I maybe able to confirm some of this speculation at a high level.
This is one of the areas I am going to be looking at so its good news that there has been a recent flurry of activity around it. here are some of the more important links.
The debate was started by the EC report into this topic which is summarised here the full report can be found here. One of the nice things about this report is that its been reviewed by Microsoft and Sun, and their comments on it, (at least those they made public), are also published. Tim Bray, a man with some credibility in this area, (now working for Sun), describes his meeting with the EC team here. John Udell writes up his views on the EC report here. Dare Obasanjo responds to Tim Bray here.
Then the thread starts to drift a bit, but Tim Bray also talks about his views on how the OpenOffice team have used XML, he is impressed! And a snippet on how Microsoft have used XML in Office 2003, he is less than impressed! Tim also talks about the use of custom schema’s and concludes they are not a good idea, (Microsoft implement them in Office 2003, OpenOffice don’t). Jean, (a MS employee), gives his point of view, Jean like Tim is also a member of the team that created XML.