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since the ctp of wpf/e became available, there have been some interesting discussions and demos happening in the world.  again, if you haven't seen check it out...one of the latest samples () shows what appears to be a single animation, but is actually half WPF/e and Flash.  it is so visually clean, it is hard to tell the difference -- i had to put a mouse over each half to even notice a difference.  very interesting.

two other questions have popped up to me.  first, the installation.  yeah, you have to go to a site and download an exe/msi (for windows) and a dmg (for mac).  kinda sucks i agree.  i can tell you that microsoft is working to create the ideal installation experience for the final release of WPF/e.  this first ctp is focused on features of the framework, not the deployment model...so stay tuned.

the second question is about firefox 2 support...or lack thereof.  this is for both mac only really.  here's the skinny -- the team just didn't have time to officially put firefox 2 on the testing platform in order to get the ctp out.  but have no fear...here's how to self-host.  in aghost.js, about line 87, you'll see:

if(navigator.userAgent.indexOf("Firefox/") != -1 || navigator.userAgent.indexOf("Safari") != -1){   

there you have it...change that line to ensure firefox 2 can be met -- you should be able to just remove the version number check and it should work.

hope this helps some testing.

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i've been playing around with the vista sidebar gadget lately and trying to dabble in developing some gadgets.  i must tell you, i feel with ajax, gadgets, wpf/e event handling, that i'm taking a step back to the good ol' days of 1998.  javascript everywhere.  in part 1 i created some helper templates for the structure...i should modify these a bit on some learnings i had (mainly localization and referencing), but they'll work in most instances.

gadgets are no different.  in fact, a sidebar gadget is really nothing more than DHTML content with some flair.  i also must admin, the sidebar is the first thing i turned OFF in vista when i installed it.  why?  well, the default gadgets aren't of any value to me personally.  a clock?  already got that in the system tray.  pictures? kinda distracting to me.  stock?  trust me, i know what my stock is doing and it isn't moving enough for me to care at this point.  i told myself that i wouldn't use the sidebar unless i saw some real value.

some colleagues have challenged me to create that value and i've started on that path -- part for providing some value, and part learning.  the learning has taken more time than i'd like.  this isn't necessarily because of the gadget infrastructure, but because i suck at good design/html.  and even though i suck, my bar for decency in design has increased. (note: i'm still saying i suck, but i've gotten a lot better than stick figures).

so in my list of gadgets i'm working on, one of the simpler ones was an msdn search gadget.  so here it is.  add it to the sidebar and you get:


type in some search text and click the arrow and you'll get what the gadget structure calls a "flyout" with the results like this:


the links go directly to the topics and there is a link at the bottom for the full results if the first 4 results don't seem to entice you.  it's simple enough, and basically is all javascript (not basically, it is).

i must say that there isn't great support for a rich debugging and development environment for gadgets right now (debugging can be a challenge because you use some of the sidebar-specific host functions).  i was able to create my graphics using expression design, which was another experience, but relatively simple to do simple things.

anyhow, here it is: MSDN Search Sidebar Gadget

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for some cool things wpf-related, i highly recommend looking at .  some interesting examples being posted there.

right now there is a side-by-side wpf/e and flash control:

and also there is a cool demonstration of a SWF->XAML converter tool showing the resulting output side-by-side as well.

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ever since people started getting zunes, there has been some discussions about ipod owners wanting their content from itunes to be played on their new zune devices.  on forums you see posts about tools and techniques to get the music into a format that any device can play.  one technique is to burn to a cd and then rip back in mp3 form (losing tags as well as decreasing quality of original content).  another is using a tool to strip the restrictions of the file and change them to a different format.

this has caused quite a big debate.  this debate is not new, of course, and started when content first starting having digital rights put on it.  in 1998, clinton signed into act the , which attempts to put some clarification on this issue.  i'll add the standard disclaimer now that i am not a lawyer, attorney, whatever legal term you prefer to use.  i'm a united states citizen doing my best to live in a society of ever changing technology with ever changing laws trying to catch up with them.  after all, the same government helping to enact these rules has told us that the internet is just a bunch of tubes anyway (want to know who voted).

apple was probably the first big visible player in the game and instituted the DRM technology that is currently in use today.  it's basically the drm policies that allow only "authorized" computers and devices to play the music, etc.  okay, fine, drm-me all you want.  however, the issue of "fair use" has come up.  now legal people will tell you (and the interpretation of the u.s. copyright office) that fair use is only a defense to the dmca violation (and thus by claiming the defense you've violated the rule). 

prior to 1998 (and one could essentially argue prior to the popularity of napster), none of this was really a problem.  we all bought media in some form and did with we wanted with it.  mixing audio has been around for years and even evangelized in movies.  VCRs also introduced an interesting era with regard to television content.  we simply are just now entering another one of those eras.  media (namely music here, but give a few years or maybe months and video will face the same persistent challenges whereas now it just a few) is now being demanded in digital form.  consumers have proved they are willing to pay for it and at a decent cost as well.  heck you could probably even raise the price a bit and get CD-quality music and people would prefer to get it digitally.  why?  because our entertainment world is changing.  cars don't come with tape decks anymore.  they come with cd players that have mp3 capabilities.  heck, some even come with ipod integrations, auxiliary jacks, etc.  industry is adapting the the desires of consumers.

so where am i going with this?  simple, i don't think it would be a fair stretch to think that 10 years ago when you bought that duran-duran cd you would have even second guessed whether it was now yours.  sure, common sense and ethical morals tell us that you wouldn't have attempted to copy it and sell it, or make copies for your friends.  but times are changing.  now you buy a song from <fill-in-the-blank>tunes/marketplace/*ster/etc and you have restrictions.  granted these restrictions are placed to act as deterrents from doing the very likes of simply sending it to your friends, etc.  okay, i get that -- and agree with it.  i totally respect the copyright holder wanting to retain the rights to their works entirety and ensure they are getting paid for it, unlike some.  but if i acquire my desired entertainment digitally and the world (and some of the same companies providing the content) are providing me numerous ways of playing it, wouldn't it be fair to assume you would want to play it wherever.  i don't want to steal it, copy it for others, or sell it.  i simply want to play it on my computer, through my receiver, and on my portable device -- all the brands of my choice.  i'm still preserving the integrity of the rights-holder...i simply want options on what to do with it.  yes, i'm claiming "fair use" -- and to me my use in those scenarios seems COMPLETELY legit...you won't convince me otherwise.

i read the copyright office's interpretation of the DMCA and get confused myself:

This distinction was employed to assure that the public will have the continued ability to make fair use of copyrighted works. Since copying of a work may be a fair use under appropriate circumstances, section 1201 does not prohibit the act of circumventing a technological measure that prevents copying. By contrast, since the fair use doctrine is not a defense to the act of gaining unauthorized access to a work, the act of circumventing a technological measure in order to gain access is prohibited.

to me, the essence of the dmca is to target the violators creating the technology to crack the protection schemes.  so if that is the case are the users of those schemes in violation if it doesn't explicitly call it out?  gray area here.  yes it is gray.  the law is great for one reason -- it should be black and white.  i know that isn't the case always and it seems we are moving more toward interpreted law everyday.  even that debate is a gray area.  but for sake of argument let us just assume it is.  the interpretation above could also be interpreted several ways -- what is "copying" (it depends on what your definition of 'is' is :-)).  is copying making the content available on the playback device of my choosing?  and is it restrictive to a method?  so is burning to cd and then ripping back just as illegal as removing the DRM?  the content is now unprotected -- granted the quality is gone, but the essence of the protection also is -- so should cd burning companies be in violation of this law?

granted there are a lot of tools doing things very "hacky" and prove they are not trying to even favor the copyright holder.  however there are some that are doing it under the bounds of some type of fair use of the content you paid for.  jhmyn, qtunes, etc.  these are applications that actually use the apple servers to get the user keys to decode the file.  and they only allow the original purchaser to do such activity.  and they keep the metadata of the original purchase so it is truly (in my opinion) making best effort to preserve the protection of the copyright, but allowing the purchaser rights to determine the method of consuming that content.

it is frustrating at best.  at what point did commerce (especially in media content) change form purchasing content to purchasing rights?  do you know walk in to a store and buy a cd and think that you are only purchasing the rights to play it?  in my eyes, yes and no.  i've bought that content.  i should be able to consume it in my medium of choice -- so long as i do only that.  in the world of open source software, one of the common phrases against commercial software vendors like microsoft is "vendor lock-in."  well in the world of digital entertainment, the current one causing that pain is apple.  and yes, msn music, urge, and zune marketplace with their formats are to follow as well.  the "plays for sure" initiative attempted to change that, but seemed not to have taken flight.  why?  who knows -- zune isn't "plays for sure" compatible...i guess the consumer market showed it wanted a consolidated environment for media.  but at a price of flexibility it appears.

i just think it is somewhat humorous and aggravating at the same time when we are doing all these things, but yet if you accept the penalty of quality (and for most it is an unnoticeable quality change that couldn't be altered with a simple volume hike), you can very easily, very readily still get to the end game -- and the same tools that protect the content are enabling that easy change.

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each year, my wife and i hold a friends/neighborhood party to celebrate the holiday season (yes, the holiday season that stresses me out like you wouldn't believe).

at any rate, this year we held our 3rd annual festivus party.  what's festivus?  well, if you are a true seinfeld fan, you'd know.  in one episode (episode "the strike") of seinfeld here was the exchange:

Frank Costanza: Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.

Cosmo Kramer: What happened to the doll?

Frank Costanza: It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born … a Festivus for the rest of us!

Cosmo Kramer: That must've been some kind of doll.

Frank Costanza: She was.

and thus, was born.  originally celebrated on december 23, my wife and i hold it on the first saturday in december to try to beat the rush of company parties, etc.  we also make it a chili cook-off contest and white elephant raffle shindig as well.  for the past three years, i've dawned my same kelly green pants, and this year added a red blazer (courtesy of ebay of course). 

Festivus III at the Heur's

others came dressed ala cousin eddie from the christmas vacation movie -- it was awesome.  we had a great time this year and hopefully those that came did as well...it's a good chance to have some fun with friends and neighbors, i highly recommend it.

this year we also made party shirts for everyone, here was the design (front/back):

fstv20061front FestivusShirt

the back if you can't tell is a bunch of 'holiday' trees with a single aluminum pole in the middle -- commemorating festivus.  why a pole?  well:

No, instead, there's a pole. It requires no decoration. I find tinsel distracting.
-Frank Costanza