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Zune v2

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The new Zune's are out. The tv ads are quite 'abstract'. You should check them out on YouTube (or wherever). The famous pink bunny one is my favorite.

 


Video: Zune TV Spot

There are some great new features. I like the new zunePad interface (since I still have a v1, I looked at the V2 hardware in the store). But my favorite feature is the new wireless syncing. I have been asking for this feature for years. I want to leave the Zune in my car, and when I pull into the garage, have it connect to my computer over wifi to sync. That's just awesome! And there is awesome support for podcasting. A great feature there is that you can unsubscribe form a pod cast on the device. When you go into the marketplace, there are hundreds of podcast series available, most for free. You can also provide your own URL if you want. You can change some settings for each series. Such as how many of the shows to keep (from just the newest one, to all of them), what order they should be played in, and when/how they should be sync'd (for example, only sync unlistened/partially listended to episodes)

The new colors and models (flash based, and new hard drive sizes) are cool too. But the brown is still my favorite. Hear that world? BROWN is my favorite.

Oh, but what is the iPod killer feature? (And I am saying this having never used or owned an iPod before, so I have little or no credibility.) It seems that every year or so, Apple releases new iPod models ('innovation'). These new features are only on the new models. So if you want that new feature (audible support perhaps), you have to buy a new iPod. All of the new features that are now dependent on v2 hardware (tv out) (wireless sync is v1 compatible) are downwards compatible to the Zune v1. Yes! I just have to update the software/firmware, and I get all of the new features. (well, except for the new zunepad interface thingy, which is a physical feature after all). I don't want to take anything away form Apple's iPod success, but it seems that the iPod is a treadmill. The new versions come out, and you have to buy a new one to get that new feature. I haven't heard of any of these devices every being forward compatible or upgradeable. That is an awesome story. There are lots of people buying three or four units from woot (v1 zunes for $85 or so). That's a great deal.

This v2 is a complete overhaul of the hardware, the ROM, and the desktop software. I can't wait to see quicker releases with new features more than once a year. But, since xmas is the driving force for buying these, I bet the major feature releases will still target the holidays.

The new desktop software/online presence is awesome! There is the social, a zunecard (like xbox cards), watch what your friends are listening to so you can sample or buy it. I like the now playing interface. Its a poster wall of the cover art of all of your albums. Elements appear and fade as needed. Very minimalist while not being bare.

 

Anyway, you have to check this stuff out. The UI is smooth, fast, really cool. I have over 4500 pictures on my zune. With the old software, it was really slow. The new software doesn't skip a beat.

The Zune team has done a truly fabulous job.

 

Oh, and did I mention it can now wirelessly sync?

CodeMash Early Bird Pricing about to fly the coop

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CodeMash v2.0.0.8 is coming quicker than you know. The Early Bird pricing is going to close on November 15th. After that, the price will rise form $125 to $175. Alumni will still be able to register for $110 until December 15th. If you haven't received your alumni code, please let us know.

The final session list has been published as well. We will soon announce the keynoters (big drum roll) over the next few weeks.

Go register already!

http://www.codemash.org

Columbus BizTalk 2006 R2 Launch

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The launch event in Columbus was yesterday. I think it went very well. I was excited to see the room packed, and we had a lot of great conversations around BTS, SOA, and WCF. Several people asked for the decks. I believe MS will be sending them out to the attendees, but I will post them here (at least the ones I used) here as well.

And congratulations to William for winning the Xbox 360 Halo 3 Special Edition! 

Oslo bound!

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No, I am not taking a trip to here, here, or here.

Oslo is the codeword (gosh, I love code words for products. I still think of VS2005 as Whidbey.) for the next generation of SOA enabling products and technologies from Microsoft. Oslo was recently announced at the SOA conference in Seattle, WA this week. Oslo is a very small word for something so big.

I have been fortunate to be involved in some groups that get to provide feedback and input into the shaping of this strategy. And it has been killing me not being able to even talk a little bit about it. I have to be careful and only talk about what MS has been public about.

Parts of Oslo are the next versions of BizTalk, WCF, WF, Visual Studio, and a whole raft of other technologies that CSD are trying to bring into alignment.

The MS platform provides a bunch of great techs today to do SOA, and build ESBs. The current problem is that the toolset is rich, but not well aligned. These investments will make these solutions that much easier to build, and much more valuable.

One of the major underpinnings of this strategy is bringing modeling to the next level. There have been many, many attempts at modeling over the years, and the past of modeling is a MadMax-esuqe wasteland littered with the corpses of models and obtuse languages. The first modeling tools I have really liked were the class designer in Whidbey, and the workflow modeling with WF and BizTalk.

These models are the new abstraction layers. It all started with assembly, then c/c++, then c#. Each time moving a little farther away from the AX register, and making the developer better, faster, and cheaper. Now we are moving up the food chain, in a big way. We need to declare what the system needs to do (ala XAML and LINQ, saying what I want done), and move away from imperative development (saying what I want done, and how I want it done.) Let the platform figure out the HOW. As an enterprise developer charged with delivering value to the business, I just want to focus on the WHAT.

MS hopes to elevate models even farther, and make modeling a first class citizen across your systems. Many times models only apply to one part of the process, one role on the team. The models I mentioned above are like this. Only the developer uses the class designer. A business user doesn't, an IT operations manager doesn't, and a wacky cartoonist doesn't either. Models will stop representing the application; a poor reflection, and become the application. BizTalker's are used to this, as we see the orchestration as the application in some senses. What MS is talking about here is a 10x leap in the concept.

Well, we don't want models littered all over the place. So they have announced that they will unify and streamline several different repository technologies across the platform. This is pretty exciting, once you dig into the details. The repository will be much more than just a UDDI style directory of services, but exist as a place to house the models, and related meta data.

As I often say to my MS friends when I get to see this tech, "I wish the future was here now." I am just not patient.

Through a lot of the meetings that I have been in with MS about these future products and plans, I have seen a significant concern about leaving no model behind. Customers have been burned in the past when their investments wouldn't migrate forward with the new tech. I think they have learned their lesson, and will make sure that all of the investments customers have made in the platform will move forward easy. 'Pay it forward!'. :) If they don't, from a sales and marketing position, they open themselves up to a 're-evaluation' project with some customers. Just think, if you had to re-engineer all of your workflow's and business logic around doing-what-you-do, you would at least take a look at the market before blindly jumping into the next version.

The things I am concerned about are two fold:

- Will all of these new innovations move me forward from where I am with BizTalk, or will there be a new pain path to get back to where we are already. This is a major new move. Bigger than WCF and .NET 3 in my opinion. Some of this is re-engineering of what we have, it has to be. I want to make sure that I can do everything I can do today, and more, in the new world. I don't want a 1.0 world, I want a 6.0 world. And let me tell you, I have recent experience in delivery a new system that just simply does what the old system does. On the surface it seems as the easiest project. It's a huge iceberg though. One of the hardest types of projects you can do.

- Second, these tools and platforms MUST support an agile business, and an agile IT shop. Not just agile developers. I must be able to model, deploy, unit test, and refactor easily. This is what will draw over the biggest competition.

Who is the biggest competition? The developer who wants to write code the old fashioned way.

Jeff's first JUXtapose

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Jeff Blankenburg, the Dev Evangelist for the Microsoft Heartland District has launched a new screencast series titled JUXtaposed. JUX stands for Jeff on User Experience. Or Jeff Unglues Xylophones.

His first screencast is a quick 10 minute walk through of some simple animation in XAML using Expression. What I like about his 'cast is that it isn't perfect. Smooth demos are nice, but when there are small mistakes, the speaker gets to show you how to debug and fix things. That is a very handy skill when you are trying to learn something new.

I hear he is going to do 25 of these.

 

The best part? He chose to pimp CodeMash by animating our logo! And it only took him 10 minutes. Thanks Jeff.