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ContentAgent 3.1 at IBC

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 04:04:35 GMT

Since I can't talk about what I'm currently working on right now I will, instead, shine a little light one of my previous babies that has grown up a bit.  Today marks the first day of IBC, the venerable broadcast TV show held anually in Amsterdam where my exceptionally awesome friends and ex-colleges are showing version 3.1 of ContentAgent, a product/codebase to which I dedicated a great deal of blood, sweat and tears in years passed.

The product and team appear to be in rude health with new features including RED Rocket hardware accelerated encoding as well as sales to notable broadcasters, post houses and production companies all over the world.  It's quite humbling to see how far the team have evolved something that started out as the first known managed code / DirectShow hybrid application running on Windows XP embedded appliances back when it wasn't supported to do such things :-)  Good on ya Nick, Chopper, Marcus & team.. have a good IBC.  Try not to end up in the canal too often nor commit too many bicycles to the same fate :-)


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Is this thing on?

Sun, 21 Aug 2011 22:16:06 GMT

It's been a while.  Let's see if I can even still post to this blog.  Much has been happening both at work (btw I'm on the Presentation and Composition team for those that are interested) and in my tech explorations outside of msft that have netted out to keeping me away from blogging tools.  The only writing i've been doing has been in Visual Studio.  You can find out something about those over on my other blog.  Anyhow.. hopefully this marks the start of a renaissance of my blogging endeavors.


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Sneak Peek at Bringcast.. my Podcatcher for Windows Phone 7

Fri, 17 Dec 2010 06:20:16 GMT

Since I just reached the lofty Feature Complete milestone this evening figured I’d get Robert to do a sneak peek video of my Podcatcher for Windows Phone 7.  Next stop.. Release to Marketplace (image)

style="width: 513px; height: 313px" class="youtube-player" title="YouTube video player" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/wmG3U9DFp8k?rel=0" frameborder="0" width="640" type="text/html">

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Great Post on Windows Phone 7 development tips

Sat, 30 Oct 2010 17:37:30 GMT

There is a lot of content flowing on the topic of Windows Phone development at the moment around PDC 2010 and elsewhere as you’d expect with devices in the throws of launching worldwide.  One of the more useful posts I’ve read recently is this one by Kevin Marshall which is a great summary of some of the more important tips (e.g. use JPEGs over PNGs and don’t use the vanilla progress bar but rather this one) as well as some good new ones.  One that really stood out to me was:

  • If you are serializing objects to isolated storage, consider implementing binary serialization instead of XML or JSON.  It’s more work to maintain and pain to implement if you have complicated object graphs, but the performance difference is tremendous. In one of our apps going from DataContractSerializer to Json.NET to binary improved our iso cache deserialization from 7000ms to 3000ms to 300ms.  If you want that data on startup it’s pretty much a necessity,

It turns out to be pretty straightforward to build a binary serializer and does indeed pay large dividends around application startup / tombstoning in my experience.

Anyhow if you are doing active development on WinPhone7, I’d highly recommend subscribing to Kevin’s blog.


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Photographers at Microsoft 2010 book is available for preorder

Tue, 28 Sep 2010 05:07:34 GMT

Last year I took part in the Photographers@Microsoft project to raise money for United Way, a local King County charity. This year I didn’t submit any entries but will still be picking up a copy as it looks to be pretty awesome and the cause is good.

You can get an online preview of some of the images

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and preorder from the site: http://www.photographersatmicrosoft.com/


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Reading feeds with IE9 site mode and Google Reader

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 04:44:54 GMT

I’m really loving IE9’s new site mode feature that allows you to create Windows 7 taskbar buttons for web sites.  It works particularly well for reading feeds in Google Reader.  Here’s how I’ve taken to consuming feeds since I’ve been on IE9: 1) Create a IE9 shortcut to Google reader by navigating to the Reader homepage and dragging from the site’s fav icon: and dragging to the taskbar: Reader will reopen in it’s own application window which is also independently addressable from the alt-tab list (rather than getting lost in a mass of vanilla browser windows: 2) Read your feeds using more screen real estate.  Thanks to the minimal nature of IE9’s UI I no longer have to put the browser into full screen mode. For even more room you can put Reader into fullscreen mode by hitting the f key on the keyboard: 3) This is the killer part… when you come to a long article you want to take time over, control-click on the header.  This opens a new tab but keeps the focus on the reader tab (simply clicking without control still creates a tab but switches you to it as well).  So now you can skim through your feeds opening new tabs for all articles you want to read in depth: 4) Once you’ve done scanning reader, hit ctrl tab.  This will switch you to the first article.  Read the article, ctrl w to close that when your done,  then ctrl tab for next article etc.  If one of the articles contains a video, drag that tab to the right of the screen and use Aero Snap to drag to the right of the screen (undocking from the reader window in the process) and easily arrange it side by side with the rest of the feeds. 5) If an interruption occurs, no worries click away to another window.  All of the articles you opened are addressable separately from the taskbar simply by hovering over the reader icon: or to be really geeky, use windows key + the index of the reader tile in the taskbar (in the example above, windows + 8) to cycle through the articles from the keyboard. Love it.  So much faster than simply having reader in a browser window. And other sites like Twitter, Facebook all have the same advantages. Woot!Get my every move: Follow James Clarke on Twitter [...]



Expression Encoder 4 Pro is getting GPU accelerated encoding

Sun, 12 Sep 2010 19:28:57 GMT

In case you missed it, Expression Encoder 4 is getting CUDA GPU accelerated H.264 encoding: check out NVIDIA’s press release on the subject:

Microsoft (Topaz Lounge) and Microsoft Expression Encoder 4 Pro allow users to quickly and easily encode both live and pre-recorded video in a wide variety of file formats. With Expression Encoder, video production pros can customize their video and publish it to a Web server, guaranteeing viewers a rich, pixel-perfect media experience. Expression Encoder sets itself apart by enabling high-performance acceleration of H.264 output formats using NVIDIA GPUs with CUDA technology, far surpassing the performance capability of CPU-only solutions.

"When it comes to HD video encoding for professional video applications, time is money," said Eric Zocher, General Manager for Expression at Microsoft Corp. "By collaborating with NVIDIA, Microsoft helps deliver a quality performance advantage with Expression Encoder."

Also, Expression Encoder 4 is available for direct volume licensing to OEMs, IHVs, and ISVs. Read more on Eric Ligman's Partner SMB community blog or Allan’s post over on the Encoder blog.

There are some other juicy Microsoft Media / Smooth Streaming IBC news on the Silverlight blog.


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Gnomedex 10 perspectives

Sat, 04 Sep 2010 06:25:59 GMT

This year was my 3rd (or 4th I can’t remember) Gnomedex and I’m writing this two weeks after it ended.  And it did really end this time.. boo hoo.  It was interesting in a number of ways.  There has been a definite transformation from more technical content towards a focus on how technology is applied to the sociosphere.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing although, personally, I’d have liked to see more people writing code in the audience as I was…  I remember the heady days when ten or more RSS aggregator makers lined up on stage.  This year it was people calling themselves tech mavens.  They probably are tech mavens in their own way, only not in quite the same way as in the old days.  It is more tech consumers. I only attended the conference proper on Saturday due to work commitments; was really struck by Jason Barger’s talk on his book Step Back from the Baggage Claim.  I haven’t yet read it (although it is in my Audible queue) but was taken by the metaphor.  Not only do we need to step back to allow people with greater need priority in all walks of life, but often we also need to step back from all the technology that we are bombarded by.  I find this to be so true on a daily basis.  There is so much going on, so many inputs that we often don’t have time to think or reflect. Scott Draves was interesting.  I love it when left and right brains collide.  The conjunction of math with art.. the fractal flame equation becoming an art installation at Stanford and the Electric Sheep screen saver A new dimension this year was the presence of the younger generation.  The Omnitechnews crew were out in force.  And Dancing.  It is humbling to have one’s offspring and their friends front and center. And the hilight for me has to be The Oatmeal.  Matthew Inman was a riot and stole the show But what really made Gnomedex for me this year was the social aspect.  It was great to meet Brandon: and Lamarr in the flesh, electronic friends from far away.  The parties were awesome.  The people were awesome and the vibe was awesome (man).  And Pirillo was on a trapeze.  Nuff Said. Get my every move: Follow James Clarke on Twitter [...]



Reader Stats

Sat, 04 Sep 2010 05:16:27 GMT

Reader is the only remaining Google service I use (sorry, Brad).  And, boy, am I still addicted.  The recently added trends feature is interesting and confirms the fact:

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200 items per day is quite hard going but very informative.  Oh, and all this talk of RSS being dead is nonsense, at least around these parts.


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Quick and Dirty way to backup a SQL Azure database to a local copy using EF and Dynamic Query

Tue, 17 Aug 2010 04:14:07 GMT

I’ve been meaning to publish this for a while.. a simple, quick & dirty SQL Azure backup mechanism.  It requires that you already have a Entity Framework datamodel in place.  It also depends upon Dynamic Query extensions available here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/vcsharp/bb894665.aspx.  Lastly, it assumes that your primary keys are GUID based.  Essentially just some generics, LINQ, reflection and dynamic query it work.  Nothing particularly special but works without a full local SQL Server install unlike BCP. Usage: BlogTestRole.BlogDataClassesDataContext remote = new BlogTestRole.BlogDataClassesDataContext(msdnConStr); BlogTestRole.BlogDataClassesDataContext local = new BlogTestRole.BlogDataClassesDataContext(localBackup); copyTable(remote.Users, local.Users); copyTable(remote.Blogs, local.Blogs); ... Code: private static void copyTable(System.Data.Linq.Table remoteTable, System.Data.Linq.Table localTable) where T : class, new() { int remaining = 0; int pageNum = 1; int pageSize = 100; do { var PagedData = remoteTable.Skip((pageNum - 1) * pageSize).Take(pageSize); remaining = PagedData.Count(); if (remaining > 0) { Console.WriteLine("Writing post batch.."); foreach (var entry in PagedData) { T bl = localTable.Where("id.ToString() == @0", GetPropertyValue("id", entry).ToString()).FirstOrDefault(); if (bl == null) { bl = new T(); CopyObject(entry, bl); localTable.InsertOnSubmit(bl); } else { CopyObject(entry, bl); } } localTable.Context.SubmitChanges(); pageNum++; } } while (remaining > 0); } static void CopyObject(object from, object to) { Type t = from.GetType(); var props = t.FindMembers(System.Reflection.MemberTypes.Property, BindingFlags.Public | BindingFlags.Instance, null, null); foreach (var item in props) { object value = null; value = t.InvokeMember(item.Name, System.Reflection.BindingFlags.GetProperty, null, from, null); t.InvokeMember(item.Name, System.Reflection.BindingFlags.SetProperty, null, to, new object[] { value }); } } static object GetPropertyValue(string name, object instance) { Type t = instance.GetType(); var props = t.FindMembers(System.Reflection.MemberTypes.Property, BindingFlags.Public | BindingFlags.Instance, null, null); foreach (var item in props) { if (item.Name == name) { return t.InvokeMember(item.Name, System.Reflection.BindingFlags.GetProperty, null, instance, null); } } return null; }Get my every move: Follow James Clarke on Twitter [...]



Bing dynamically updating wallpaper for Windows 7

Thu, 12 Aug 2010 04:57:02 GMT

Recently a couple of new Windows 7 themes have appeared that are fun.  You can get these by right-clicking on your desktop and selecting Personalize followed by a click on the Get more themes online link (assuming you are running Win7).

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The first that I’ve been installing on my home and work systems is Surreal Territory by Chuck Anderson:

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which contains some decent environmental shots with a touch of creative color correction:

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The second one is Bing Dynamic:

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Which is an RSS feed of some of the best Bing Images.  As new ones come out, so they will get downloaded and cycled through your desktop automatically.

Enjoy.


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Going to Gnomedex 10

Sat, 07 Aug 2010 01:07:40 GMT

So I’m going to Gnomedex this year.  Chris swears blind that there will be more technical content this year so here’s hoping (image)   See you there.

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Couple of Expression Encoder updates

Tue, 03 Aug 2010 04:43:55 GMT

There is a new build of Expression Encoder 4 available that fixes some issues related to Screen Capture:

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/expressionencoder/archive/2010/07/31/10044506.aspx 

It is also possible to download the screen capture CODEC as a separate package which enables you to open screen capture files in other tools:

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID=71895f93-d804-4b70-8440-6b726ea0f12c

Lastly, Steve Marx listened to my call for an Expression Encoder publishing plugin version of his Adaptive Streaming->Azure Blob Storage work and has made one:

http://blog.smarx.com/posts/publishing-adaptive-streaming-video-from-expression-encoder-to-windows-azure-blobs

Cool stuff.


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Virtualization Test

Sat, 31 Jul 2010 06:37:59 GMT

If you are reading this the switch over to SQL Azure Virtual Path Provider worked (along with the fancy cache invalidation logic).  That means that the server-side code running inside of Windows Azure is actually coming from tables in SQL Azure.  Which means I can update the server-side code through a Silverlight editor without having to republish the WinAzure code.  Confused?  So am I.  But it is working (image)   A more detailed post to come once the kinks are worked out.  I also wacked the Azure worker role which was costing me $80 per month so I’ll need to rework that into the web role at some point.


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Hosting IIS Smooth Streaming files on Windows Azure Blob Storage

Fri, 30 Jul 2010 04:27:55 GMT

When I was working on the Expression Encoder Team we would get a number of questions about the possibility of hosting IIS Smooth Streaming files on Windows Azure blob storage.  The Azure Publishing Plugin that I wrote supported file upload for regular non streaming files but for ISMV content, the service would have needed to support IIS Media Services in order for it to play back successfully.

MP4 Explorer was a possible way of converting a Smooth Streaming file back to multiple file chunks which could be uploaded to Azure that would play just fine but this was a somewhat clunky (chunky?) process.

Steve Marx, on the Azure team, has gone one step better and written an upload tool which takes a ISMV file and chunks it on the fly as it is uploaded to Azure:

Blog post:

http://blog.smarx.com/posts/smooth-streaming-with-windows-azure-blobs-and-cdn

Code:

http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/smoothstreamingazure

Now, all Steve needs to do is update the publishing plugin code to use this and there would be an integrated experience inside of Expression Encoder (image)

Even better, the IIS and Azure guys should make their stuff play together and just support Smooth Streaming directly in Blob storage.  Here’s hopin’


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Reflections on some of the UK’s good bits

Thu, 15 Jul 2010 22:40:17 GMT

When one lives abroad, it is easy to focus on what’s better about living in a particular foreign country than in one’s place of birth and upbringing.  For me, the former would be the US where I’ve been living with my family since September 2006 and the latter is the United Kingdom where I currently find myself on vacation (sadly, on the eve of my return). Upon first becoming an expat, there are inevitably many advantages that one comes across on a day-to-day basis that can be tallied up.  In fact, it becomes something of an obsession to focus on these benefits as one congratulates one’s self on an excellent life choice which invariably involved the somewhat violent act of up-rooting family and transplanting them to a far-flung location.  Such are the artifacts of life’s insecurities. But it is also easy to forget some of the good things to be cherished about the Mother Country.  So it is interesting for me to return home to Blighty on vacation after a leave-of-absence of nearly four years and observe these obvious and, some might say, clichéd points first hand. Pubs.. don’t exist in the US.  Well, generally not at least.  You come across the odd establishment of the Irish variety but really nothing to compare to an excellent English Country hostelry such as the Alford Arms. News Papers..  The UK press certainly can’t be credited with having a particularly high moral fiber at the best of times.  However, invasiveness notwithstanding the quality of journalism that emanates from Fleet Street is sorely missed in these quarters. Architecture.. ‘Nuff Said (Louis IXIII stayed here in exile). and this is my Brother’s place in Devon: Baths.. no, not the well-known west country city but the more prosaic cast-iron tub that one can immerse oneself in (as I did yesterday).  Armitage Shanks.  In the US, baths are designed for midgets.  It isn’t possible to stretch out, prone and enjoy a good soak.  I don’t understand why not.  And, no hot tubs do not make up for this inadequacy. Tea.. OK super-cliché alert but.. having stopped off in Marlborough, Wiltshire (home to my Alma Mata) reminded me how quaint the ritual can be (even when one partakes at lunch time ) Chocolate..  Hershey's sorry.. fail.  UK Crunchy Maltesers Ripple Confectionary world capital. Countryside.. The US has some stunning spots there is no doubt.  But on more than one occasion I’ve had a moment to pause and reflect. Oh.. and lastly, Rain.  The rain in Seattle is pretty amazing but I have to admit that UK rain really is the best there is. It’s been a wonderful trip.  Now back to wide roads & mountains Get my every move: Follow James Clarke on Twitter [...]



Soho rendezvous Part 1

Wed, 14 Jul 2010 11:31:17 GMT

Thanks to all who came to the Soho meetup last night.  Was great to catch up, drink some Cooper’s Butt and chew the fat (as well as some excellent Duck Jalfrezi)

Looking forward to seeing more folks tonight.. feel free to drop by The George on D’Arblay Street W1 from 6pm onwards if you want to join in.

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Expression Encoder 4 Pro is available

Thu, 24 Jun 2010 15:36:28 GMT

(image) Congrats to the Expression Encoder team for not only shipping V4 but also getting it propped to the MS Store where you can now pick it up the Pro version for $49:

http://store.microsoft.com/microsoft/Expression-Encoder-4-Pro/product/0BE96B98

For info on what’s new check out the product site:

http://www.microsoft.com/expression/products/EncoderPro_Features.aspx

One of my favorite new features is a small one: The ability select a precise screen capture size (eg 1024x768) and then resize a window into the capture region:

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This makes it much easier to record quick demos of a particular app window at a deterministic capture size / bitrate.

There are some other nice UI improvements most notable of which is probably the greatly improved Live encoding mode:

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Expression Encoder 4 (i.e. the non-pro version) is still available as a free download which now includes the ability to do non-live Smooth Streaming encoding.. check it out here:

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=b686399e-db71-4c4c-a457-c5b69b60e4d5&displaylang=en


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Back to the UK for Beer

Wed, 16 Jun 2010 04:31:45 GMT

It’s been a while since I’ve been in the UK.. 3 1/2 years to be precise.  I’ve not missed the place much (sorry, it is a small, over-crowded island that serves only moderately good beer and, ok, pretty reasonable curry) as much as I’ve missed the people.. I.E. you guys (image)   so I wanted to announce a Soho, London Summer meetup 2010.. or, two Soho meetups to be precise.  There will be beers, wine, food and conversation served in The George (assuming it’s still standing)  on D’Arblay Street followed by the nearest exceptional curry establishment on 7/13 (that’s July 13th) and 7/14 (yes it will be a double-truck).  Be there or be square.

Send me mail if you like to confirm your attendance or otherwise:

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Pingback sending test 2

Tue, 15 Jun 2010 16:24:53 GMT

http://clarkezone.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/net-4-pingback-test/

another test.. please ignore


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Pingback sending test

Tue, 15 Jun 2010 08:31:36 GMT

Send some pingback action to my wordpress test blog…

http://clarkezone.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/net-4-pingback-test/


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Ignore: Test Post

Tue, 15 Jun 2010 07:56:57 GMT

Another one


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Test Post from ASP.NET 4

Tue, 15 Jun 2010 04:43:48 GMT

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