Mike Swanson

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    My Windows 7 Beta 1 Experience


    As mentioned in a recent post about My Windows 7 Theme Pack, I’ve been running Beta 1 (build 7000) for awhile now, and I love it!

    Windows 7 feels nimble, it doesn’t get in my way, and it lets me access and organize my work using some very natural conventions. In earlier versions, I’ve always known that I can right-click on the taskbar and select Tile Vertically to arrange my applications. But guess what? I very rarely did it. However, in Windows 7, a simple drag of the window to the right or left edge of the screen performs this task much more naturally. And once I learned that I can use Windows + Right/Left Arrow as a keyboard shortcut, well…I find myself using this all the time.

    Most of the improvements—for me—are along the same lines. It’s as if Windows 7 gets out of my way while at the same time exposing the tasks that I need to perform in fresh and friendly ways. I right-clicked an ISO file the other day to see if I had my DVD burning software installed only to find that Windows 7 has a “Burn disc image” option built-in. How cool is that?

    I’ve also found myself using the taskbar full-screen preview feature to “glance” at other windows without actually switching to them. How often are you in an application like Microsoft Word when you need to refer to some data on a web page or in an Excel spreadsheet? Normally, I’d have to switch to the application, look at the data, then switch back. In Windows 7, I simply hover over the thumbnail on the taskbar, see a full-screen preview of the window, and when I move the mouse away from the thumbnail, I’m back in Word. Effortless.

    It’s all of these little flourishes that make the overall experience so much better. For a more comprehensive review of Windows 7, check out Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite.

    I’m running Windows 7 on my desktop machine at home, my desktop at work, and my primary laptop. Across all three of these machines, I’ve had a chance to install and use lot of software. While I haven’t exhaustively tested all of the applications, I have been using them with no significant issues. I thought I’d pass along the list for those who are curious (I linked to the lesser-known applications for reference):

    • Adobe Illustrator CS3 & CS4 (32- and 64-bit)
    • Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.2
    • Adobe Photoshop CS3 & CS4
    • Adobe Reader 8 & 9
    • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
    • Call of Duty: World at War
    • Crayon Physics Deluxe
    • CuteFTP Home 8
    • DxO Optics Pro 5.3.2
    • Expression Blend 2
    • Expression Web 2
    • Far Cry 2
    • Focus Magic 3.02
    • HP Photosmart Pro B9180
    • Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000
    • Nero 8 (I mostly use Nero Burning ROM and Nero Vision)
    • Nikon Scan 4.0.2
    • Noise Ninja 2.3.2

    The only real issues I’ve had relate to the two scanners at home:

    • Nikon SUPER COOLSCAN 5000 ED – A great negative and slide scanner, but this older product doesn’t have a 64-bit driver. This is the only reason I’m not currently running 64-bit Windows 7 at home. Fortunately, the 32-bit driver works perfectly.
    • Epson Perfection V700 Photo – The scanner works fine when using a USB 2.0 connection, but it will not work when using IEEE 1394 (FireWire). The IEEE 1394 connection works fine with Windows Vista, and this is the only thing I’ve found that is compatible with Vista but not with Windows 7. I’ve notified the Windows team so they can investigate.

    Overall, Windows 7 is a joy to use. If you want to give it a spin, you have until Feburary 10th to download the beta.


  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    Updated Adobe Illustrator to XAML Plug-In


    It's been five months since I posted an Update on My Illustrator Plug-In and Flash to XAML Conversion Tool. When I wrote that post, I was in deep preparation for our 2008 Professional Developers Conference, and I didn't have any time to focus on the plug-in. On top of that, I have to admit that I wasn't very motivated to dive back into a C++ project; while I used to write C/C++ all day long, that was many, many years ago. I've since been spoiled by managed code. But I digress...

    I found my project files, converted them to Visual Studio 2008 (yes, it's been that long), and spent some time fixing two issues that I've received a lot of e-mail about:

    • The first issue was related to PathGeometry changes in Silverlight 2. Chris Idzerda of Vertigo Software explains the problem in a recent post. This plug-in bug made it more difficult to use the exported XAML with Expression Blend. The good news is that the problem has been addressed in this update, and you should be able to add the exported XAML files directly to your Blend projects without issue.
    • The second issue was related to the insane numeric precision in the exported XAML. I was using the default floating point format (%f) which outputs 6 digits after the decimal point. Not only was this precision excessive and unnecessary, but it resulted in large exports. I've modified the format to output 3 digits after the decimal point (%.3f) which should still be more than enough precision, even for close-up work. Here's an example of output from versions 0.17 and 0.18 for comparison:

      0.17: <Path Data="F1 M 71.924805,320.608887 L 44.380859,179.062500 L 120.126465,175.236816 L 117.831055,269.345703 L 138.489258,267.815430...
      0.18: <Path Data="F1 M 71.925,320.609 L 44.381,179.063 L 120.126,175.237 L 117.831,269.346 L 138.489,267.815...

      On one of my larger test files, version 0.17 exports a 3,457KB XAML file, and version 0.18 output the same file at 2,987KB, a 14% savings.

    The last small tweak I made was to rename the Silverlight and WPF formats so that they're next to each other in the "Save as type" drop-down list in the Export dialog. You'll now see "XAML for Silverlight (*.XAML)" and "XAML for WPF (*.XAML)". I hope this makes it easier to locate the formats in the list.

    I've also verified that the plug-in works properly with Adobe Illustrator CS4.

    Download version 0.18 from the Adobe Illustrator to XAML Export Plug-In page.

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    MIX09: Objectified Screening, Scott Guthrie Interview, and More


    First, we've coordinated a special screening of Gary Hustwit's new documentary film, Objectified, at MIX09 in Las Vegas! We'll be showing it only days after its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, and Gary will be on-hand for some Q&A after the film. I'm a huge fan of Helvetica, and I'm looking forward to his new documentary about industrial design and the creative process. Watch the trailer for a sneak peak, and be sure to subscribe to the Objectified newsletter for the latest news. And yes, I love the T-shirt!

    Next, you'll want to spend 18 minutes watching Charles Torre's latest interview with Scott Guthrie where he talks about some of the announcements you can expect in his MIX09 keynote. He doesn't reveal all of the juicy bits (of course), but he does mention Silverlight 3, H.264 video, 3D support, and hardware acceleration. Oh...don't miss Scott's recent post about the ASP.NET MVC 1.0 Release Candidate. There's definitely a lot of exciting stuff to talk about this year.

    Also, Robert Hess, the former host of The .NET Show, has started up a new video series called The Knowledge Chamber. His first-ever episode has been posted on Channel 9, and I encourage you to spend 9 minutes checking it out: Steve Guttman - Microsoft Expression Web: No Platform Left Behind. I can't wait to hear more of Robert's interviews.

    Finally, our MIX09 Content Owner, Michael Suesserman (the guy who is ultimately responsible for all of the sessions that are presented at MIX09) joins Jennifer and I for the latest episode of our Countdown to MIX09 show.

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    My Windows 7 Theme Pack


    I've been running the Windows 7 beta for awhile now, and I'm in love! If you're relatively technical and want to take the new OS for a spin, the good news is that we've extended the beta download period until February 10, 2009. Once you have it installed, it's worth reading Tim Sneath's fantastic list of 30 Windows 7 secrets. I'm running Windows 7 on my Dell XPS desktop machine at home and on my Dell laptop at work. Even with the beta version, everything runs very smoothly and I feel a lot more productive. Plus, it's just a joy to use.

    Windows 7 introduces theme packs, which are .cab files that contain all of the necessary assets to implement a theme, including sound files and images. You can find a bunch of theme packs on the Windows 7 site, and Paul Thurrott covers the basics and includes his own theme packs in his article, Windows 7 Feature Focus: Styles and Desktop Slide Shows.

    As an experiment, I've created a theme pack based on my wallpaper images. It contains 20 hand-picked, nature-themed macro photos that I've taken over the years. The desktop images are configured to shuffle randomly every 30 minutes. Otherwise, the theme uses the default Windows 7 color and sound schemes.

    As always, comments and feedback are welcome. Drop me a note if you decide to create your own.

    Update on 2/24/2010: If you (or your browser) renames the file during download, it may not be recognized by Windows 7. Simply rename the downloaded file so that it ends with ".themepack", then double-click to install.

  • Mike Swanson's Blog



    MIX09%20Logo Yes, I’m still alive, and no, the rumors about the PDC Hard Hat Challenges melting my brain are false (it was only a minor contusion). The good news is that I’ve fully recovered, and I’m now focused on our upcoming MIX09 event in Las Vegas! This time around, I play the role of MIX09 Keynote Owner. That basically means that I’m responsible for driving the process that we use to determine what our story is this year, who we’d like on stage, which customers and partners we want to feature, how we organize and tell our story, and the practical matters and logistics around making it happen. It’s a group effort, and I depend on a brilliant and passionate keynote team to get the job done.

    But enough about me.

    MIX09 is going to be an amazing event, and it’s our job to deliver a return on your investment to attend. We understand that the economy is forcing everyone to re-evaluate the benefits of taking time away from the office, let alone the travel and expense to fly to Las Vegas in the first place. Based on my years of experience working side-by-side with customers and partners in the field, I know that you may only be able to attend one event (period) each year. And for many of you, attending any event at all is often a benefit or perk. Not only is it in your best interest to attend the “correct” event given your role, but it’s also in our best interest to ensure that we attract an audience that aligns with the content we produce. To help you make the best decision, it may help to watch this 4-minute video where I quickly explain the benefits of the conference. To hear the benefits from one of our partners, watch this interview with Scott Stanfield, the CEO of Vertigo Software. Finally, if you register by February 13th, save $400 by using the “MIX09offer“ RSVP code.

    There are a lot of exciting things going on at MIX09, and I’d like to list a few of my favorites here:

    • Scott Guthrie, a MIX veteran, is going to keynote again this year. Scott is a fantastic speaker, and he always receives amazing attendee feedback. Check out his keynote from MIX08, then use your spider-sense to extrapolate what he might announce or reveal this year. I’m not telling. At least not yet.
    • Bill Buxton was just announced as our second keynote speaker. I could try to summarize Bill in a sentence or two, but I can guarantee that it wouldn’t come close to doing him justice. Go grab a fresh cup of coffee, close the door to your office, and watch some of the videos on Bill’s site. He is a champion for user experience (among many other things) and is the author of the highly-regarded book, Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design.
    • The sessions. Not all of the sessions have been posted yet (we’ll end up with over 100), but a few that interest me are: What's New in Microsoft Silverlight 3 by Joe Stegman, The Future of Microsoft Expression Blend by Douglas Olson, Integrating Microsoft Expression Blend with Adobe Creative Suite by Joanna Mason (I’m an Adobe user too), and C# for Designers by Jennifer Smith and Fred Gerantabee. Honestly, there are too many great sessions to choose from. But I guess you’d expect me to say that, wouldn’t you? :-)
    • MIX 10K Smart Coding Challenge. I should have blogged this one earlier, since the entry deadline is January 30th, 2009. The grand prize winner receives a pass to MIX09, 3 nights at The Venetian Hotel and a $1,500 USD Visa gift card. Sweet. Even if you don’t enter, it’s fun looking through the gallery of submissions. Make sure you vote for your favorites and leave a comment or two. Since Genetic Algorithms hold a special place in my heart, I’m a big fan of Rick Barraza’s submission.

    Also, by popular request, Jennifer Ritzinger and I are back with our weekly (or so) video series, Countdown to MIX09. I don’t have a single link to all of the episodes, but I’ll list a few of them here. They’re all around 10 minutes in length, and if you subscribe to the MIX news feed, you’ll hear about them when they’re published.

    If you have suggestions for topics that you’d like to hear us address on future episodes, send some e-mail to mix09 (at) microsoft.com. I promise that we’ll read everything you send, and we always try to reply.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this long overdue post, and I hope to see you at the event!

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