Mike Swanson

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    Canon RAW Codec for Windows Vista Released


    I used to be a Nikon guy, but I decided to dabble with the Canon Rebel XT a couple of years ago, and so far, I'm pleased. Most of my newer wallpaper images were taken with the Canon camera and a 60mm macro lens. Unfortunately, until now, all of those wonderful .CR2 files sitting in my picture folders didn't display thumbnails, and they weren't viewable in the Windows Photo Gallery. The good news is that Vista provides an extensible platform for camera manufacturers to add support for their RAW file formats directly into the operating system (as an aside, if you want to read more about writing a custom codec, check out the Windows Imaging Component Overview article on MSDN).

    Canon released the first version of their RAW codec today, and a few others are also available:

    • Canon RAW Codec 1.0 - choose your digital camera, then click Drivers / Software to find a link to the codec. According to the site, this version works with .CR2 files from the following cameras: EOS-1D Mark III, EOS-1Ds Mark II, EOS-1D Mark II N, EOS-1D Mark II, EOS 5D, EOS 30D, EOS 20D, EOS Kiss Digital X / EOS DIGITAL REVEL XTi / EOS 400D DIGITAL, and EOS Kiss Digital N / EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT / EOS 350D DIGITAL. No support is currently mentioned for files with a .CRW extension.
    • Nikon RAW Codec 1.0.1 - works with .NEF files from the following cameras: D1, D1H, D1X, D100, D2H, D2Hs, D2X, D2Xs, D200, D40, D50, D70, D70s, D80, COOLPIX 8800, COOLPIX 8700, COOLPIX 8400, COOLPIX 5700, COOLPIX 5400, COOLPIX 5000.
    • Sony RAW Codec - works with .SRF and .SR2 files, but I'm not sure which camera models are specifically supported.
    • Olympus RAW Codec - work with .ORF files from the following cameras: E-1, E-300, E-330, E-400, E-500,E-10, E-20, C-70 ZOOM, C-5050ZOOM, C-5060 Wide Zoom, C-7070 Wide Zoom, C-8080 Wide Zoom, SP-310, SP-320, SP-350, SP-500UZ, SP-510UZ.

    As an alternative, you can open up Windows Photo Gallery, choose File/Options, then click on the Check for updates button in the General tab. This will lead you to any added/updated codecs too.

    For more information on Microsoft and photography, visit the Microsoft Photography Blog.

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    Show Off at PDC 2005


    Although I haven't had the time to blog about my experience, I attended SIGGRAPH 2005 at the Los Angeles Convention Center last week, and it was an amazing show. On Tuesday night, I attended a 2-hour event called the Electronic Theater where a sold-out audience of thousands watched short video clips of the latest and greatest work in computer generated animation. While waiting (in the long line) to get into the room, people were buzzing with excitement about what they would see and who would be showing their work. The presentations were short, and each video segment introduced the artists, the project, and the tools that were used. Not only was this a great way to see what could be accomplished with specific toolsets, but it was also very inspirational. Each clip ended with generous applause and a showing of strong support. About half-way through the show I wondered: "why don't we do something like this at the PDC?"

    Fortunately, we have a very cool PDC committee who connected with the idea almost instantly (it's great to work at this company!). So, with a nod to SIGGRAPH's Electronic Theater, we propose a PDC 2005 2-hour session called Show Off. The concept: "Why demo your cool application to a few friends, when you can Show Off to thousands of your peers at the PDC?"

    The important bits:

    • You and/or your team put together a single WMV file that shows off something cool about your application, tool, technique (or whatever).
    • This is a Microsoft developer conference, so make sure that it uses at least some of our technology. :-)
    • Videos are limited to 5 minutes.
    • It's content that counts. A Channel 9 "guerilla-style" hand-held video format is perfect.
    • If you want to use a screen capture application like Camtasia Studio or HyperCam (or even mix it with real video), go for it!
    • Be creative. Show something cool that would excite your peers.
    • You'd privately host the WMV file yourself, let us know where it is, and we'd collect it for consideration.
    • We reserve the right to pick which videos we show at the PDC for completely arbitrary and geeky reasons.
    • At some point, possibly right after the Show Off session at the PDC, you'd allow us to link from Channel 9 to your video for the whole world to see.

    During the submission process, we'd collect any project/team names, developer details, tools used, and contact information (if you want others to be able to contact you about your awesome work). If we show your clip at the event, we'll include this information at the start of the video.

    So, what do you think? Would you participate? We're trying to gauge interest before we spend a bunch of time on this. Please share this link with your developer friends, regardless of their ability to attend the PDC. Leave comments. Send e-mail.

    Is this a good idea?

    Update: In case you're wondering, you can pretty much show off anything with a Microsoft developer story. Maybe you have a 5-minute tour of awesome scripting or keyboard shortcuts in Visual Studio 2005. Or perhaps you created a cool XAML animation for the Windows Presentation Foundation (formerly known as "Avalon"). Or, you've come up with a great way to automate your build and testing cycle. Or think of it this way: if you had five minutes to show off some tip, technique, tool, code sample, or project to your developer friends, what would it be? We obviously don't want commercials, but if it's something geeky about a commercial product, that's good too!

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    Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Rocks!


    Okay...I have a confession to make. To-date, I've purchased four TiVo units, and I'm currently running the DirectTV DVR that includes the TiVo service. My wife and I are both TiVo addicts, our friends are sick and tired of us talking about it, and I firmly believe that it's the only way to watch TV. Yes, I realize that it runs Linux, but you know what? It's an excellent product, and they've nailed the user interface. However, although the standalone edition allows you to browse digital media, the DirectTV version does not, so we're left with only a partial solution.

    As you can imagine, I've followed our Ultimate TV and Windows Media Center releases quite closely. Believe me when I tell you that I'd love nothing more than to purchase our own stuff. However, I refuse to spend my money on something that I don't believe will offer me a real benefit, and until the recent release of Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, I didn't believe that we were there yet.

    I had heard so many good things about the 2005 edition (for example, see Paul Thurrott's review) that I decided to try it myself. The software and hardware are now available for OEM sale which makes it much easier to evaluate (as a matter of fact, the software is also available to MSDN subscribers). I've always had a problem with the thought of buying a whole computer just to play back my media. Part of the reason I really like TiVo is because it's an appliance that requires no maintenance on my part. I already have a few computers to maintain...I don't need another one. And I didn't look forward to having a computer with all of its associated cables in my home theater. I want something that looks more like A/V equipment (frankly, like TiVo).

    Because of a recent computer purchase, I now have an extra P4 1.8GHz machine in need of a job. Although the video card doesn't have a built-in tuner, it does have S-VIDEO out, making it a perfect test machine. So tonight, I installed MCE 2005 and connected it to our home theater. The installation was a breeze, the configuration took only a few minutes, and the interface is easy to use from a distance. And even though it isn't an "appliance," Windows XP Service Pack 2 now allows me to configure the system for automatic updates which makes maintenance simple.

    So you can appreciate our situation, my wife and I have ripped over 1,600 CDs to a media server (WMA 192Kbps), we have about 9,000 digital photos, and around six hours of digital video. I'd really like to be able to browse all of our media on our 64" HDTV. We've tried a number of solutions in the past (like the Turtle Beach AudioTron, a good device, but not for that many songs), but we always gravitate back to the Media Center interface. It's clean, logical, and intuitive.

    Well, after playing with the interface and working with media over our 802.11g wireless network, I can tell you that we've finally nailed it with the 2005 edition. It's trivial to find music, even among 1,600+ CDs. We're both visual people, so we enjoy the ability to select CDs using the album covers. But, it's also easy to use the remote to search by artist. Response is snappy, and I'm pleased to find that my MSN Radio subscription works just fine. I'm not sure if I'd ever use it, but I am pleasantly surprised to find that my favorite blog reader, NewsGator, is one of the online services. It's also a straightforward exercise to configure network shares, so I can distribute media across more than one device. Slick.

    I'm sure that I'll eventually purchase something like the HP Digital Entertainment Center z500 series, because it looks and feels more like the appliance that I'm after. Couple that with a few of our new Media Center Extenders, and we can proliferate media throughout the entire house. Tell me...is there anything better than a gadget addiction!?

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    Experience with Windows Vista RC1


    Since I've been running Windows Vista RC1 (build 5600 for x86) on all of my primary machines, I figured I'd share a few more tidbits of information about some of the programs I run:

    • Adobe Creative Suite 2 - I only use Photoshop CS2 and Illustrator CS2, and so far, they both work fine.
    • DxO Optics Pro 3.5 - I was able to install this by using the program compatibility wizard, but when I try to run it, it fails. I contacted DxO, and they haven't yet tested on Windows Vista. I haven't tried their 4.0 Beta yet, so it might work.
    • Windows Live Writer - installed and working fine. I'm actually using it to post this blog entry.
    • SyncBackSE - installed and appears to be working. I've only tried the standard "backup" settings, and I haven't tried to schedule a nightly backup yet.
    • Flash Professional 8 - installed and working fine so far.
    • QuickTime 7.1 - installed and runs fine, both in and out of the browser. The only thing missing is the glassy look in the standalone application.
    • CuteFTP 8 - installed and runs fine. When exiting the application, I receive an error message, but it doesn't seem to cause any problems (this has been reported to GlobalSCAPE).
    • VirtualCloneDrive - I've always been a fan of Daemon Tools, but it doesn't seem to work in Vista (correction: just noticed they released a new version that claims Vista compatibility). So, I've been trying VirtualCloneDrive, and it works well. It's a great tool for mounting ISO images, and it's free.
    • SilverFast Ai 8 - great scanning software that works without a hitch.

    I can't vouch for the accuracy of the contents, but you might also want to check out the Windows Vista RC1 Software Compatibility List that's being maintained as a wiki.

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    Virtual PC 2007 Released


    We released Virtual PC 2007 today, and as promised, it's completely free. The biggest improvement (at least for me) is that this version of Virtual PC works with Windows Vista as both a host and a guest operating system. Ben Armstrong provides more feature detail in his blog post. The 30MB download is available in both 32- and 64-bit versions.

    If you haven't tried a virtualization product before, you might wonder why you'd use one at all. Here are just a few things that I do with Virtual PC, and I seem to find new uses all the time:

    • Use it to run incompatible applications. For example, I have a digital photography tool that doesn't work on Windows Vista yet. So, I've setup a Virtual PC image with Windows XP SP2, and I fire it up whenever I need to use the application. If you can't imagine what I'm talking about, I literally see a window on my Vista desktop that behaves like another machine. The screenshot to the right shows Windows Vista, its start menu, and Word 2007. In addition, you can see a Virtual PC 2007 window running Windows XP SP2 and 3D Pinball.
    • Use it to test applications. Since the Virtual PC machine is indeed virtual, so are its "hard drives." In actuality, the hard drives are stored as files (with a .vhd extension) that you can browse to via your host operating system. This means that any changes you make to the virtual machine are done in isolation. So, if you're testing your software against multiple operating systems, why not have a different virtual machine setup for each possible configuration? It's much more convenient than maintaining a bench full of physical machines. And, if you've setup an undo disk, hard drive changes are written to a separate file so that when you shut down the virtual machine, all of those changes can be discarded. This is an extremely easy way to revert back to a known configuration. Undo disks are also useful for trying out internet downloads in a safe environment.
    • Use it to demo "servers." If you frequently demo software that requires a backend server, it's possible to setup a virtual machine to host your server process. Then, you can run the client application in the host operating system and connect to the server running as a Virtual PC. It's certainly better than lugging around a bunch of extra hardware!

    I'm sure there are other uses, and I'd be curious to hear what you do with Virtual PC. Feel free to leave feedback or drop me a note via e-mail.

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