Thursday, January 26, 2012
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Advertising Agency: JWT, Gurgaon, India
Executive Creative Director: Priti Kapur, Kishaloy basu
Art Director: Sumonto Ghosh, Kishaloy basu
Copywriters: Priti Kapur, Iraj Fraz Batla
Group Account Director: Samrat Basu
An Iranian company Aaye Art Group ("designer and manufacturer of artistic and cultural goods") is making replicas of the American RQ-170 drone aircraft downed in Iran last month: "Most of the toys, which come in several colors and are made of Iranian plastic, have already been snapped up by Iranian government organizations. [...] The firm is now making 2,000 of them a day. " (Washington Post)
If you want to buy one but are affected by the embargo, you could pick up a similar one on eBay.
Friday, January 20, 2012
We don't know how it will perform or if it will be ergonomic, but the new Level 10 Mouse penned by the BMW Group's DesignworksUSA will surely grab some attention with its stripped out looks, which for some reason, kind of remind us of a robotic part that fell from the Terminator.
The BMW design consultancy created the computer mouse for Thermaltake and its Level 10 series.Read more »
Pundits may have had their doubts when the model first appeared in 2002, but the Cayenne has proved to be a phenomenal success for Porsche, which has just assembled the 100,000th example of the second-generation model at its plant in Leipzig, Germany.
The 100,000th Cayenne II is a V8 petrol model in a "Pure White" finish and it's being readied for shipping to Brazil, where it will be handed over to its new owner.
The production milestone comes less than two years after the market launch of the second generation of the Cayenne in May of 2010. The first generation of the luxury SUV sold 360,000 units from 2002 to 2010.Read more »
This is the second in a series of posts I’m doing on Windows Azure – which is Microsoft’s Cloud Computing Platform.
In today’s post I’m going to cover how to sign-up and get started with Windows Azure using a no-obligation 3 month free trial offer. This free trial costs nothing and doesn’t obligate you to buy anything at the end of it. It provides an easy way to try out and get started with Windows Azure.
Windows Azure Website
The http://www.windowsazure.com web-site provides everything you need to get started with Windows Azure – including overview content, developer tutorials and documentation, account management, and more:
On the www.windowsazure.com home page, as well as in the top-right hand corner of every page of the site, is a “free trial” link. Clicking it will take you to a sign-up page that enables you to quickly register a new account and get started with Windows Azure:
The free trial provides everything you need to get started with Windows Azure.
Three Month Free Trial Offer
We recently refreshed our Windows Azure free trial offer to make sign-up easier, ensure it is always risk/obligation free, and enable more services with it. You can click the “Sign up now” button above to register and have an active Windows Azure subscription ready to use in under 2 minutes.
What the Free Trial Provides
The free trial offer allows you to build and run applications on Windows Azure at no cost (and with no obligation to buy or pay anything at the end of the three month free trial). It includes a number of compute, database and storage services that you can use to build your applications. Some of the resources include:
I’ll cover more about what “750 small compute hours per month” means in a future post – but essentially it means that you have enough hours to continually run an application you build in a virtual server – dedicated and isolated just to you – on Windows Azure each month (there are 744 hours in a 31 day month: 24 hours x 31 days = 744).
The trial also includes a 1GB SQL Azure Database that you can store data within. SQL Azure Databases run on dedicated servers we manage and cluster (for high availability and scale-out). This means you don’t need to worry about installing, managing, or running your own database servers (which makes life easier). The trial also includes 20GB of high availability storage that you can use to store blobs, queues and non-relational tables.
What is Required to Sign-up for a Trial
When you click the “Sign up Now” button on the free-trial page you’ll walk-through a sign-up wizard that will ask you to provide three things:
- The Windows LiveID account you want to use to use to sign-in and manage your account
- A mobile phone number where we can send (via SMS) a verification code for you to enter
- A credit card
We use the last two items for proof of identity. The credit card is not billed and during the free trial you’ll have a spending limit set to $0.
Free and No Risk
Spending limits are a new feature we added to Windows Azure last month, and ensure that you never have to worry about accidentally going over the resources included in a free offer and being charged. If you end up building an application that exhausts the monthly amounts included in the free trial before the month ends, and you have a spending limit set to $0, then we will by default disable the application for the remainder of the month (leaving your data in read-only mode) until the next month starts. This ensures you are never billed anything during the free trial.
You can optionally turn off the spending limit feature if you want to go beyond what the free trial provides (and pay for the incremental resources on top of what is provided in the trial) – but by default the spending limit is on (and set to $0) when you sign-up for a free trial to ensure that you never inadvertently get charged anything. This provides a no-risk way to evaluate Windows Azure. You can learn more about the spending limit feature here.
You can easily track what resources you’ve used on Windows Azure by clicking the “Account” tab of the www.windowsazure.com web-site. This is another new feature we added to Windows Azure last month, and it allows customers (both free trial and paid) to easily see what resources they’ve used and how much it is costing them. You can download the usage data as either a CSV data file (which you can open in Excel or other tools), or visualize the usage data within the browser:
You can also use the account tab to easily change payment methods (both to setup a new credit card or to switch to invoice-based billing), create new subscriptions, as well as optionally cancel subscriptions.
What if you don’t want to use Windows Azure at the end of the trial?
There is no obligation to use Windows Azure (nor buy anything) at the end of the three month free trial. So if at the end of it you aren’t ready to buy anything (or just want to hold off a few more months) there is no obligation to pay anything. At any point during the free trial you can also click the “account” tab of the www.windowsazure.com website and explicitly cancel your subscription.
The above post covers how to quickly sign-up for a subscription with Windows Azure. Its easy to do – and takes less than 2 minutes to complete. Once you are signed up you can build and deploy high-scale cloud applications. In future posts we’ll look at the steps to do this, and some of the cool features and options that Windows Azure enables for you.
Hope this helps,
P.S. In addition to blogging, I use Twitter to-do quick posts and share links. My Twitter handle is: @scottgu
In August I purchased and reviewed the Microsoft Touch Mouse. I still use my Microsoft Arc Mouse more than the touch, initially due to what I felt was dodgy scrolling performance on the Touch Mouse, as I mentioned in my review. Still, I've kept it in my backpack and I use the Touch Mouse perhaps a few times a month and have kept the software up to date in case there's some software changes made to improve performance.
I can happily say that they've changed something and the scrolling performance is WAY better. I can finally get 1 to 2 pixel precision with it while scrolling in my browsers. The other nice feature is the "three finger swipe up" which gives you effectively a Windows version of the Mac Expose window switcher view.
Today I noticed while catching up on Long Zheng's excellent blog that the Touch Mouse Sensor SDK is available for download. Per their site:
"The Microsoft Touch Mouse supports multitouch gestures via an integrated sensor. The Touch Mouse Sensor API SDK is a small library intended to enable students and researchers to experiment directly with Touch Mouse sensor output.
Using this SDK, you can create your own applications consuming the 13×15 sensor image. The SDK includes C# and C++ samples demonstrating how to read and manipulate sensor data"
OK, so what can we do with this thing? It comes with a number of samples to get the bitmap from the sensor and process it. It includes examples in both C# and C++. Because I don't have C++ on this machine I got an error opening that solution, but you can just remove that project and still build the samples.
You don't need to do your work in a graphical application, although it's nice to visualize this data of course. First sample is a console app, that tells you were the center of mass of your big fat finger is.
The smarts are in the Microsoft.Research.TouchMouseSensor namespace. You implement a callback function that the mouse effectively calls whenever something interesting happens. It looks like this:
/// Function receiving callback from mouse.
/// <param name="pTouchMouseStatus">Values indicating status of mouse.</param>
/// <param name="pabImage">Bytes forming image, 13 rows of 15 columns.</param>
/// <param name="dwImageSize">Size of image, assumed to always be 195 (13x15).</param>
static void TouchMouseCallbackFunction(ref TOUCHMOUSESTATUS pTouchMouseStatus,
As you can see, the image size is 13x15, always. You get the raw bytes that represent the image, 195 bytes long.
The first thing I was surprised to see was just HOW MUCH of the surface area of the mouse is covered and how high the resolution is. I was thinking, "13x15? That's so small, how could it tell me anything useful with such a limited structure?" Well, that's how clueless I was.
Of course, each of these bytes is giving a number between 0 and 255 so a lot of information can be extrapolated between two pixels with different values and you can get a pretty detailed picture of what's going on. How much? Well, before I move on to a graphical example, why not abuse ASCII as much as we can?
First, I'll output just the hex values with this code, then show what it looks like when I move my figures around the surface of the mouse.
StringBuilder sb = new StringBuilder(300);
for (Int32 y = 0; y < pTouchMouseStatus.m_dwImageHeight; y++)
// Iterate over columns.
for (Int32 x = 0; x < pTouchMouseStatus.m_dwImageWidth; x++)
// Get the pixel value at current position.
int pixel = pabImage[pTouchMouseStatus.m_dwImageWidth * y + x];
if (pixel > 0)
Here's the result, animated.
Cool. But what about with color? I could use the default Console stuff and set the colors, or I could get direct access to the Console, use the Win32 APIs and what not, but I could also use Tim Sneath's ConsoleEx class that's on NuGet thanks to Anthony Mastrean! First, I'll "install-package ConsoleEx" to bring it in.
How about a mouse touch heat-map with color? I thought about building a whole "find closest color" map and trying to map 255 different colors, but then I just did this.
if (pixel > 230)
Console.BackgroundColor = ConsoleColor.Red;
else if (pixel > 128)
Console.BackgroundColor = ConsoleColor.Yellow;
else if (pixel > 90)
Console.BackgroundColor = ConsoleColor.Green;
else if (pixel > 45)
Console.BackgroundColor = ConsoleColor.Blue;
else if(pixel > 15)
Console.BackgroundColor = ConsoleColor.DarkBlue;
Console.BackgroundColor = ConsoleColor.Black;
ConsoleEx.WriteAt(x*2, y, " ");
And the result is this:
You can do the same thing in WPF, of course, with better bitmap support, but seriously, with a Console-based heatmap, who needs graphics? ;)
OK, fine, here's the sample code that takes the results of the TouchMouseSensorEventArgs and creates a grayscale image.
void TouchMouseSensorHandler(object sender, TouchMouseSensorEventArgs e)
// We're in a thread belonging to the mouse, not the user interface
// thread. Need to dispatch to the user interface thread.
void SetSource(TouchMouseSensorEventArgs e)
// Convert bitmap from memory to graphic form.
BitmapSource source =
PixelFormats.Gray8, null, e.Image, e.Status.m_dwImageWidth);
// Show bitmap in user interface.
SensorImage.Source = source;
And the result:
One way to look at this is as if the surface of the mouse is a tiny Xbox Kinect. What kinds of gestures could I recognize and hook up to do stuff? Control WIndows, do custom stuff inside my application, browser, or whatever. Any ideas?
The downloads are here:
© 2011 Scott Hanselman. All rights reserved.
Many popular sites are blacked out today in protest of two acts before Congress, known as the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House. Long story short, the legislators barely know how to email, much less understand what a DNS takedown is.
As I've been surfing around today bumping into SOAP sites, I noticed that every site is doing the blackout technique differently. This is interesting to me for a few reasons. First, things on the web aren't setup for an event like this. To shutdown your website for a day is one thing but to do it in such a way that your site presents a new temporary message without affecting search engines that have already indexed you is an interesting problem.
A number of people are changing their content for the day and some are rightfully concerned that this single day's protest will affect their search results. In fact, Google has announced via Google+ that they will be slowing the Googlebot in an attempt to mitigate the effects from the protest.
Put a giant DIV over your existing page
Wordpress.org had this clever technique. I hit the site, saw that it was black, then did a view source. However, when I did, the HTML source had the regular WordPress site that's always there. I used an element inspector as you can see below and started moving around. Note the blue outline that is outlining some phantom element.
What's going on here? Let's blow it up using Tilt in Firefox.
Ah, see those three black buttons on the right? WordPress's original site is still under all that. They are floating a DIV over the top with a super large z-index.
If you change the CSS dynamically and change the z-indexes, (or just delete the DIVs) the actual site peeks out. Clever. A nice dramatic effect with minimal effort and effectively no SEO downside.
In my desperate search to learn everything I can about Justin Bieber, I turn to Wikipedia. I hit the site, I see Justin and then a curtain falls. Wikipedia's blackout page shows up AFTER a teasing flash of content.
They've added a div at the VERY end of their page:
<div id="mw-sopaHeadline">Imagine a World<br>Without Free Knowledge</div>
<div id="mw-sopaText"><p>For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopedia in human history. Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:SOPA_initiative/Learn_more" target="_blank">Learn more.</a></p></div><div id="mw-sopaAction">
<p class="mw-sopaActionHead">Contact your representatives.</p>
<label for="zip">Your ZIP code:</label>
<input name="zip" size="5" type="text">
<input id="sopa-zipform-submit" value="Look up" type="submit">
At the very TOP of their page they have a bunch of positioning CSS. The flash happens because the DIV doesn't show up and get styled until the VERY end of the page gets loaded. Nice simple way to do it as SEO is so important to Wikipedia.
Actually Go Offline with an HTTP 503
The most impressive of the options, and arguably the most semantically correct, is the HTTP 503 Error. When you ask your browser for a page, it usually gets a 200 which means "OK, cool" or a 302 that means "temporarily over here" or even a 301 that means "permanently moved. Jimmy no live here! You no call back!"
An HTTP 503 means "Service Unavailable." I'd look it up on Wikipedia, but well, you know.
Notice in the Network tab picture below that they literally return a 503 result from the main HTTP GET. One could imagine them returning a 200 and just saying in the HTML it was a 503, but in this case they really used the web correctly. The Googlebot will visit the page, see the 503, assume the site is down temporarily and try again tomorrow.
Frankly, this is the technique everyone should have done. All the CSS and DIV work is clever, but not as easy , not as dramatic and certainly not as "correct."
Kudos to BoingBoing - a group that clearly gets the web - to use HTTP as it was designed to, to make their statement.
Redact by changing CSS Background Colors
From a design and stylistic perspective, Wired really nailed it. I love what they did here with the text intact and background colors in black.
You can hover over the text and see what's under it. No SEO affect, and still makes the point in a very dramatic way.
Here's some of the their markup and CSS.
They have a "censor" class" and apply it to a SPAN from a sopa.css.
Change an Image
My friends at DuckDuckGo changed their main image and linked to SOPA information. A simple change that won't affect SEO and is easily undone in the future.
Google did the same thing in fact, with simple markup.
<img alt="Tell Congress: Please don't censor the web!"
title="Tell Congress: Please don't censor the web!"
border="0" height="196" src="/logos/2012/sopa12_hp.png"
width="445" style="padding-top:50px" id="hplogo">
Make you Wait or Click
Craigslist had an interstitial that blacked out their site with a link at the button to click to continue.
Interestingly, Craigslist did their protest in the lowest-tech way possible. They literally just changed their first page. I suspect there will be a few days of SEO issues and we may see this page in search results.
Today Firefox's about:home included a nice CSS animation that takes the background of the page from white to black to a nice effect.
What other cool SOPA protest techniques have you seen today? You can add a SOPA widget to your own site with Grassroutes.
Sponsor: My thanks to DevExpress for sponsoring this week's feed: Introducing DXv2 – Welcome to the next generation of developer tools from DevExpress! Explore what’s new in the latest release.
© 2011 Scott Hanselman. All rights reserved.