Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

eScience & Technical Computing - Web Services and Scientific Research

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    Document Interop – OpenXML to HTML


    It’s good to see how the vision of the OpenXML document formats is being more fully realized, especially with the availability of tools from the Document Interoperability Initiative.  The latest ones being the Open XML Document Viewer that allows OpenXML to be viewed from HTML – it also includes a Firefox Plug-in that runs on Windows and Linux – so OpenXML documents can be viewed without having Office installed.  The Apache Software Foundation POI Java SDK for Open XML makes pure Java libraries available for reading and writing files in Open XML formats. 

    It will be great to see other document viewers and editors…plus I’m waiting for devices to automatically start outputting data into OpenXML format – say spreadsheet – then automatically analyze, chart the data when you open your favorite spreadsheet app.  Sure seems like a step forward from csv.

    More details:

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    Carole Goble receives 1st Jim Gray eScience award


    Carole Goble wins first Jim Gray e-Science award

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    eScience Unconference


    Just finished up the Unconference event – bridging the Microsoft eScience Workshop and the IEEE e-Science Conference.  It was great fun  :-)

    We ended up with Demos and discussions…and I really appreciate all the folks that participated. 

    Demos on:

    Discussions on:

    • Clouds and/vs Grids
    • What is Provenance?
    • Spatio Temporal Sensitive environment applications.
    • Why do IT deployments fail in healthcare
  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    InfoMesa Project – Whiteboard for your data


    One of neatest apps I’ve see lately is InfoMesa – a project by Sam Batterman – the example is InfoMesa allows any kind of data or visualization to be added to the Whiteboard. 

    The folks at RENCI are using it in their Social Computing Room (SCR) w/ a 360 degree desktop. 

    You can download the implementation and code and test it out.


    What is it?

    InfoMesa is a project to allow scientists to do more science and more discovery in a collaborative and data-rich environment. The metaphor that we have elected to use as the underlying fabric of the InfoMesa is a Whiteboard.

    InfoMesa allows any kind of data or visualization to be added to the Whiteboard. Far from static, these tools are interactive, allowing data to be absorbed from data sources like Oracle, SQL Server, Excel Spreadsheets, XML or even Cloud-based web services. InfoMesa, when complete will support imagery, video, 2D connected models, 3D models (lit in a photo realistically manner), web searches, results from web service calls, Image Tile Maps, ScatterPlots, Sticky Notes, Ink Notes, Rich Annotations and Associations.

    An Example of a typical InfoMesa Whiteboard is shown here:


    Welcome to the InfoMesa Project - Official Launch - Windows Live

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    Interesting Papers from MSR – Nov 2008


    Papers from the November 2008 drop Microsoft Research I found quite interesting.

    Txt-it Notes: Paper Based Text Messagingimage
    Stuart Taylor - November 2008

    Text messaging or SMS (Short Message Service) has be-come a ubiquitous form of communication, particularly amongst the younger generations. However, older members of society (and technophobes in general) are often excluded from communicating in this way. In an attempt to overcome this problem, and to try and help foster social relationships among family members, we have designed and implemented a paper based system for sending and receiving text messages. We describe the underlying technologies used, along with the design of the paper user interface, the simplicity of which allows the system to be used by young and old alike.

    Migrating enterprise storage to SSDs: analysis of tradeoffs
    Dushyanth Narayanan; Eno Thereska; Austin Donnelly; Sameh Elnikety; Antony Rowstron - November 2008 

    Recently, flash-based solid-state drives (SSDs) have become standard options for laptop and desktop storage, but their impact on enterprises has not been studied. Provisioning enterprise storage is challenging. It requires optimizing for the performance, capacity, power and reliability needs of the expected workload, all while minimizing financial costs. This paper, through analysis of a number of enterprise workloads, provides insights as to when, and how, SSDs should be incorporated into the enterprise storage hierarchy. We describe an automated tool that, given device models and a block-level trace of a workload, determines the least-cost storage configuration. It analyzes the factors that drive the configuration choice, and computes the price points at which different SSD-based solutions will become cost-effective. Our optimization framework is flexible and can be used to design a range of storage hierarchies. When applied to current workloads and prices we find the following in a nutshell: for many enterprise workloads capacity dominates provisioning costs and the current per-gigabyte price of SSDs is between a factor of 3 and 3000 times higher than needed to be cost-effective for full replacement. We find that SSDs can provide some benefit as an intermediate tier for caching and write-ahead logging in a hybrid disk-SSD configuration. Surprisingly, the power savings achieved by SSDs are comparable to power savings from using low-power SATA disks.

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    eScience 2008 Unconference Signup


    The signup for the Unconference session at the 2008 eScience Conference is available.  Unconferences are participant driven events – so attendees get to decide what, who, gets to present.  This Unconference bridges the 2008 Microsoft eScience Conference and the 4th IEEE International Conference on e-Science

    The Unconference will be Tuesday, December 9, 2008 7:00 P.M. – 9:00 P.M. at the Conrad Hotel. 

    Add your name/slot to the list on the unconference wiki….

  • Demos Only - no slides allowed - only demos
  • 5 min talks- (2 Slides Max)
  • Open topics - what do you want to talk about
  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    GrayWulf (on SQL Server) wins SC’08 Storage Challenge



    Congratulations to Alex Szalay and his amazing team at JHU for winning the SC’08 Storage Challenge – with the entry GrayWulf:Scalable Clustered Architecture for Data Intensive Computing. GrayWulf – is implemented with SQL Server 2008


    Data intensive computing presents a significant challenge for traditional supercomputing architectures that maximize FLOPS since CPU speed has surpassed IO capabilities of HPC systems and BeoWulf clusters. We present the architecture for a three tier commodity component cluster designed for a range of data intensive computations operating on petascale data sets. The design goal is a balanced system in terms of IO performance and memory size, according to Amdahl’s Laws. GrayWulf pays tribute to Jim Gray who stimulated the system and its design. The hardware currently installed at JHU exceeds one petabyte of storage and has 0.5 bytes/sec of I/O and 1 byte of memory for each CPU cycle. The GrayWulf provides almost an order of magnitude better balance than existing systems. Our benchmarks are based on date from the petascale Pan-STARRS project, building the largest sky survey to date. The benchmarks involve sequential searches over hundreds of terabytes.

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    Thank-you Fargo!!!


    CityOfFargoLogoSo here I am in Austin attending SuperComputing’08 posting about WALL•E and WWT and then noticed that my post about needing someone from North Dakota to visit the blog has been fulfilled :-) - Thanks to Fargo – all 50 states are checked off :-)

    Some interesting facts about Fargo:

    • The city's average high temperature is 16 degrees in January and 82 degrees in July.
    • Fargo has two sister cities: Hamar, Norway and Vimmerby, Sweden.

    Now onto Canada – just need Yukon and Saskatchewan.  Northwest Territories is checked off thanks to Yellowknife :-) 

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    WALL•E's Universe in WorldWide Telescope


    Now this is fun science - Microsoft Research and Disney•Pixar team up to offer guided tours of the universe with WorldWide Telescope – how better to get our children interested in science and the universe – for most of us it was the Apollo Missions that interested in science and space, now WALL•E is a good ambassador.

    WALL•E's Universe 

    Explore the Universe with WALL•E and Andrew Stanton. Zoom, pan, spin and learn about planets, constellations, stars and galaxies.

    © Disney/Pixar

    WorldWide Telescope

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    Windows HPC Server 2008 cracks Top 10 in Top 500 list


    The latest Top 500 list was released at Supercomputing Conference (SC08) in Austin, Texas today and Windows HPC Server 2008 was part of the #10 placed machine [Dawning 5000A] from Shanghai Supercomputer Center.  This is the top machine outside of US – amazing job by the Windows HPC team.

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    HPC Server 2008 Experience Counts Academic Program


    Great opportunity to get a special academic discount on Windows HPC Server 2008.  

    Windows® HPC Server 2008 Experience Counts Academic Program

    Share your HPC experience and get a special academic discount.

    You know the value of high-performance computing (HPC). No matter the topic - the inner workings of the universe or the economy; the spawning of a hurricane or urban development - HPC has become a key driver of the type of research that leads to groundbreaking insights.

    Microsoft Higher Education - Experience Counts

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    Fun with Blog Maps – Oh North Dakota where are you?


    It’s been a rainy Friday – so for fun I wanted to see how my WorldMap is doing.  I have hits from all 50 states, except North Dakota – so my challenge is how do I get one of the just over 640K residents to hit my blog….if you have any thoughts on it or have relatives in ND send them my link…

    btw – I found the state facts of North Dakota quite  interesting – Nicknames: Peace Garden State, Flickertail State, and Roughrider State – Motto: Liberty and Union Now and Forever, One and InseparableBeverage: Milk – Fossil: Teredo Petrified Wood (Teredo was a worm-shaped mollusk) – and the State Fruit: Chokecherry (I never would have guessed it is part of the rose family).

    Once I get that North Dakotan – the next goal – how to get hits from all the Canadian provinces – looks like I still need Yukon, Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan. :-)

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    University of Washington eScience Institute Rollout Event


    Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure to participate and present at the UW eScience Institute kickoff event.  I really enjoyed the event and and the vision laid out by Ed Lazowska.  The talks by David Baker, Martin Savage and Andy Connolly really highlighted the need for resources to help in the eScience space.  While the effort is still spinning up, it will be a great resource for scientists at UW to utilize in their efficient adoption of computing technologies.  I look forward in continuing to work with UW as we’ve been doing with the Dynameomics project and with the Trident Workbench.

    University of Washington eScience Institute Rollout Event

    Presentations by:
  • Phyllis Wise, Provost
  • Ed Lazowska, Computer Science & Engineering
        (Interim Director, eScience Institute)
  • Dan Fay, Microsoft Research
  • David Baker, Biochemistry
  • Martin Savage, Physics
  • Andy Connolly, Astronomy

    Rollout Event for the University of Washington eScience Institute

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    Electric Vehicle Conversion Project


    It’s great to run across professors that try ideas out – especially outside of their field.  Last week I was at Purdue University attending the Dept of Computing and Information Technology Industrial Advisory Board meeting – and found out about Mike Kane's (heads up the Bioinformatics Lab) conversion of a ‘73 Bug to Electric for $4500.  It’s perfect for commuting to/from campus :-)

    First EV Conversion: 1973 VW Bug (Summer, 2008)

    The first project was funded/completed by Professor Michael Kane and involves a 1973 VW Bug. The VW cost was $1,500 (without the engine) and had already been renovated (interior and exterior, looks great!). The conversion involved adding a 12-hp* DC motor to the existing VW transmission, as well as a dedicated potentiometer (i.e. throttle box), controller, contactor, shunt, and batteries (deep-cycle marine/RV batteries). The batteries cost $600, and the motor and controlling electronics cost $2,400. Note that the design of this EV was aimed at a "low cost" conversion rather than "high performance", and there are many different components and configurations that allow you to best balance cost-to-performance.

    Total cost: $4,500

    Video - WLFI television coverage


  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    Virtual Earth in full view


    Now this is a way to view Virtual Earth – talk about an immersive experience.  I would like to see how WorldWide Telescope would look on this display…

    PDC2008 ShowOff Entry: Multi-channel Virtual Earth
    Multi-channel Virtual Earth
    This video shows a multi-channel version of the Virtual Earth control running on a custom curved screen that provides a 180 degree horizontal field of view. The screen is created using eight high-end full 1080p projectors with a professional warping and blending system.  The code is a modified version of a sample project with a custom camera class to properly adjust the FOV and camera offset for each projector and some code to synchronize the camera position across the network.  The system is being controlled with a wireless Xbox 360 controller.

    PDC2008 ShowOff Entry: Multi-channel Virtual Earth | briankel | Channel 9

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    .NetMap @ Harvard


    Marc Smith gave a (Excel) .NetMap online tutorial at Harvard this morning hosted by David Lazar of the Harvard Kennedy School - Program on Networked Governance.  The slides and recording will be available at http://www.hks.harvard.edu/netgov

    Online Event: Using (Excel) .NetMap for Social Network Analysis

    (Excel) .NetMap is an add-in for Office 2007 that provides social network diagram and analysis tools in the context of a spreadsheet. Adding the directed graph chart type to Excel opens up many possibilities for easily manipulating networks and controlling their display properties.

    In this tutorial the steps needed to install and operate (Excel) .NetMap are reviewed. The (Excel) .NetMap add-in provides directed graph charting features within Excel, allowing users to create node-link diagrams with control over each node and edge color, size, transparency and shape. Since .NetMap builds within Excel, all of the controls and programmatic features of Office are available. Additional features of (Excel) .NetMap generate social networks from data sources like personal e-mail (drawing data from the Windows Desktop Search engine). Arbitrary edge lists (anything that can be pasted into Excel) can be visualized and analyzed in .NetMap.

    This session will provide a walk through the basic operation of .NetMap. Attendees are encouraged to bring an edge list of interest. Sample data sets will be provided. Techniques for time slicing and filtering networks will be highlighted. You may download the Excel .NetMap Add-in and slides visit in advance of this tutorial.

    Government Innovators Network: A Portal for Democratic Governance and Innovation

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    PDC watch remotely – Great News


    This is really good to hear…being able to watch some of the PDC sessions remotely.  I’m looking forward to tuning in.

    PDC @ Home

    With the current global crisis some of us will not be able to attend PDC this year due to different reasons however the PDC organizers decided to make available portion of the content in order to have people like me virtually attending PDC this year. These are the resources that you can use to be part of PDC without be physically there… enjoy it!

    Watch the PDC Keynotes LIVE Online
    Bookmark www.microsoftpdc.com and watch live:

    · 8:30-10:30 AM Pacific Time (UTC -8) Monday, October 27 Keynote 1 – Ray Ozzie, Amitabh Srivastava, Bob Muglia and David Thompson

    · 8:30-10:30 AM Pacific Time (UTC -8) Tuesday, October 28
    Keynote 2- Ray Ozzie, Steven Sinofsky, Scott Guthrie and David Treadwell

    Community and Influencers Blog : PDC @ Home

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    DataDepot – Blogging, Visualize, and Engage with your Data


    Looking for a way to interact around data – take a look at the MSR DataDepot, a place to communicate around datasets – essentially bringing together the idea of blogging/wikis and scientific data.  I especially like the idea of mixing and matching datasets and creating new plots.

    DataDepot is a set of tools for collaboratively uploading, sharing, and analyzing data. You can use DataDepot to track personal data, to explore public data, and to engage with scientific data.

    Blog your data

    Want to 'datablog' your running miles or your commute times or your grocery spending? DataDepot provides a simple way to track any type of data over time. You can add data via the web or your phone, then annotate, view, analyze, and add related content to your data.

    Visualize your data

    Data are visualized over time in an interactive Silverlight graph object. You can zoom in on your data to see statistics for a particular time span and to compare to the overall dataset.

    Engage with data
    Basic Statistical Overview
    For each individual data track we provide a basic stastical overview, including an average, min and max, and standard deviation. For example, in the morning commute time datablog above, we see this person's commute averages 73 minutes, maxed out at 99 minutes, and has a standard deviation of 11 minutes.
    Add related content
    For each data page, you can add comments and wiki content.
    Add an automated data source
    Using our API, data can be added programmatically to create a 'sensor' that captures values for a data source as they change over time. Here we see a 'sensor' for the price of gas in the U.S. The political polling data shown above are also collected automatically every day using our API.
    Combining data
    You can "mix and match" datasets by creating a combined track. To do so, click Create a Track at the top of any page, then select 'A track that combines existing tracks...'. Using the dialogue boxes, select as many tracks as you would like to include in your combined tracks, then complete the short wizard to finalize your combined track.
  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    Blogging in Real Ink – electronic notebook?


    Adapx PenEarlier this year I stumbled upon Adapx’s Capturx™  for Microsoft® Office OneNote®image which is a digital pen that captures what you write and then you can upload to OneNote.  So you get all the benefits of Paper and Ink (quick boot time :-), long battery life, etc) but then can upload and get the electronic copy in OneNote – which can convert to text or file with other notes.  In the 9 months I’ve been using it I’ve found it indispensible – it’s my electronic notebook.  The Adapx system uses the Anoto pre-printed dot pattern to pick up the strokes, and since it uses “Rite in the Rain” all weather notebooks, you can really use it in harsh conditions.  So it would be great tool for environmentalists to utilize to capture data in the field.  I also saw their announcement of Capturx Forms for Microsoft Office Excel and can’t wait to test it out as well.





  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    Asus Windows CE PND sports heads-up display


    I can’t wait to see one of these in action in person…I’m willing to beta test :-)

    Asus announced a "revolutionary" Windows CE PND (personal navigation device)  that projects directions, speed, and other information onto a car windshield. In addition to its HUD (heads up display), the "R710" includes a five-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth, a microSD expansion slot, plus A/V playback, says Asus.

    Touting the R710 as the "world's first PND with PathFinder HUD technology," Asus says that the R710 makes an important contribution to safety, since drivers no longer need look away from the road to get navigational information. With traditional PNDs, it can take between one and two seconds for a driver's field of vision to adjust as their eyes move back and forth, the company claims.

    Windows CE PND sports heads-up display

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    HPC - MPI.NET 1.0 Is Now Released...!


    PhilPen has posted that the folks at Indiana University have released MPI.NET: High Performance C# library for Message Passing.  The runtime and source code are available for download as well as a Tutorial.  This should make it much easier for folks to use any .Net language to write MPI apps – I’m interested in seeing ones written with F# and even PowerShell.

    MPI.NET 1.0 Is Now Released...!

    MPI.NET is a high-performance, easy-to-use implementation of the Message Passing Interface (MPI) for Microsoft's .NET environment. MPI is the de facto standard for writing parallel programs running on a distributed memory system, such as a compute cluster, and is widely implemented. Most MPI implementations provide support for writing MPI programs in C, C++, and Fortran. MPI.NET provides support for all of the .NET languages (especially C#), and includes significant extensions (such as automatic serialization of objects) that make it far easier to build parallel programs that run on clusters.  

    MPI.NET has been developed by the research staff at Indiana University in collaboration with Microsoft.   Developers leverage the "Windows HPC Server 2008 SDK" in tandem with the MPI.NET SDK to build MPI.NET applications.   An MPI.NET runtime component must be installed onto Windows HPC Server 2008 based clusters to host MPI.NET applications.

    Regarding Windows Server : MPI.NET 1.0 Is Now Released...!

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft


    Touchless is a fun and very cool release available from Office Labs – all you need is a webcam and some objects to use as pointers/markers…
    check it out.


    Touchless enables touch without touching by using a webcam to track color based markers. Touchless includes two parts:

    • Touchless Demo is an open source application that anyone with a webcam can use to experience multi-touch, no geekiness required. There are 4 fun demos: Snake - where you control a snake with a marker, Defender - up to 4 player version of a pong-like game, Map - where you can rotate, zoom, and move a map using 2 markers, and Draw - the marker is used to guess what....  draw!
    • Touchless SDK is an open source SDK that enables developers to create multi-touch based applications using a webcam for input, geekiness recommended.


  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    Science News to justify half a bar of chocolate per week - lowers risk of heart disease


    I only wish the study coming out of the Moli-sani Project being run by Research Laboratories of the Catholic University in Campobasso recommended milk chocolate instead dark chocolate. 

    Sorry Snickers - Half A Bar Of Chocolate Per Week, But Just The Dark Kind, Lowers Risk Of Heart Disease | Scientific Blogging
  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    Image Composite Editor (ICE) available for download


    The Interactive Visual Media Group from Microsoft Research has released Image Composite Editor (ICE) – which let’s you stitch together images and output to multi-resolution tiled formats – great for creating HD View and Silverlight Deep Zoom images…

    More details on it at Matt’s HDView Blog

  • A GPU accelerated orientation adjustment tool.  Sometimes the automatic stitching software doesn't quite get the viewing direction correct, or perhaps you want to use a rectilinear projection instead of a cylindrical projection.  This new tool allows you to interactively make these adjustments. 
  • 360 blending support.  Our fast poisson blend technique now creates a seamless 360 blend.
  • Output to Photoshop layers.
  • Create an HD View web page.
  • Create a Silverlight Deep Zoom web page, including new 360 support in our Silverlight application.
  • Integration with both the Windows Shell and the next version of Windows Live Photo Gallery, so that you can quickly launch a new stitching project.
  • Image Composite Editor (ICE)

    What is ICE?
    ICE is an advanced panoramic image stitcher. You shoot a set of overlapping photographs of a scene from a single location, and ICE creates a high-resolution panorama incorporating all your images at full resolution. Then save your stitched panorama in a wide variety of formats, from common formats like JPEG and TIFF to multi-resolution tiled formats like HD View and Silverlight Deep Zoom.

    Microsoft Research Image Composite Editor (ICE)


  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    Virtual Earth 6.2 Technical Webcast


    Here are a couple of upcoming Virtual Earth Webcasts to highlight the uses and details of the Virtual Earth 6.2 Release.   There are many VE pieces that can be used with scientific data, ie  to plot or even overlay other maps using mapcruncher

    Chris Pendleton is hosting the Momentum Webcast: See More and Do More with Microsoft Virtual Earth (Level 100)

  • Event Date: Thursday, October 02, 2008
  • Event Time: 9:00 AM Pacific Time
  • Microsoft is excited to announce the latest version of the Microsoft Virtual Earth platform, which can now deliver the Virtual Earth mapping experience on the desktop, on mobile devices, and via broadcast. The new release features mobile support, expanded international mapping, richer imagery, a broader range of data, and improved functionality. Organizations using Virtual Earth can see more and do more than ever, with enhancements that allow users to find, discover, and visualize data in new and innovative ways.

    Mark Brown is hosting the Virtual Earth 6.2 Technical Webcast

    • Event Date: Friday, October 3, 2008
    • Event Time: 10:00 AM PT
    • Duration: 90 minutes

    Join Mark Brown, Senior Product Manager for Virtual Earth to get a deep dive review of the next version of Virtual Earth 6.2 with demos throughout to show you how to leverage these in your applications. In addition we are releasing Virtual Earth Web Services v1.0. This SOAP-based web service was designed for developers looking to build and deploy mapping applications in a server-side environment and provides support for building desktop and mobile applications. Mark will also go through a number of the features in this v1 release with some demos and sample code as well.

    Mark Brown's Virtual Earth Blog : Virtual Earth 6.2 Technical Webcast

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