Ok, last post for today. Can you tell I'm supposed to be doing real work I don't want to do?
Microsoft's new beta site Connect has a ton of new betas and stuff for you to sign up for and tryout. The latest two that I have downloaded are Microsoft Robotics Studio and XNA Game Developer Express. Note that these are available on the MSDN site now but you should use the Connect site to check for new and upcoming products and get a jump start on the technologies.
My son and I are both avid XBOX fans and have both the original and 360 versions of the console. So why does this matter to developer tools? Because you can develop games for Windows AND the XBOX 360 console using managed C# code in XNA Developer Studio Express 1.0. There is one caveat though. You cannot create commercial games for the 360 at this time with XNA Dev Studio.
Although XNA Game Studio Express is free, as is C# Express Edition, you must purchase an XNA Creators Club subscription from XBOX Live Marketplace to be able to debug and play the games you create, on your 360 console. $99 for a year or $49 for 4 months at this time. You can still create commercial games for Windows however. There is also a Professional edition planned for next year that will allow you to create commercial games for the 360 console.
Microsoft Robotics Studio is of interest to me because I have always liked the software to hardware concept beyond just computer peripherals. To be able to program the functionality for your own robot has always been a sidebar dream of mine. Now I can work on the software aspects of that dream and practice on simulated 3D models without having to invest heavily in hardware. Once I figure out how to make a robot move without crashing into objects and totally destroying my house, I can then move on to getting physical hardware to interface with.
So, when will I start working on these projects? Somewhere between now and 2010. Seriously, once I complete a couple more certification exams and have some free time, I will dig into these. Stay tuned for adventures in each.
If you are currently using either of these products and have tips or tricks, please post them as we can all benefit.