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Seattle - MVP Summit 2009 - Day 2 - Having fun in Seattle

by Benjamin Nitschke 28. February 2009 07:36
The weather on day 2 (Saturday) was a little bit less sunny, some clouds in the sky, but it did not rain until late in the evening.

From my hotel I could see all the construction going on in Seattle downtown.


It seems like the Seattle Space Needle got some satellite dishes upgrades overnight.


I walked around a little in the Seattle Center park, but most interesting stuff did not start until later, so I decided to head to downtown.


So, back in the Monorail for a quick trip to Seattle downtown. That guy on the right was looking at some tourist brochure for a long time and he hold it kinda strange. Like there was a naked girl in there after expanding the brochure.


Last time in Seattle I only took a quick peek at the Seattle Library. I decided to take a closer look this time, maybe read some books and check out the view from the top of the building (it is like 10 stories high). The building looks really cool from both the inside and the outside.


Even inside everything looks huge.


And the view from the top is also nice. But enough looking through the windows. Time to check out some books. I tried to search stuff via the website (free Wifi rules), but the system is kinda complex and it took me a while to figure out where the book is located that I searched for.


In the early afternoon I checked out another cinema I was not before. As you can see I was prepared for the movie ^^


The movie was called The International, and it was ok, a little long, but quite fun to watch with a lot of cool action scenes in the middle. The cinema was located halfway between both Monorail stations, so I went back to the hotel by foot.


Who would have imagined, they have American food here ^^


In the evening I went to another movie at the IMAX of the Pacific Science Center at the Seattle Center park, this time The Dark Knight. The movie did not make much sense, but I never liked any batman movie for that. However it was fun to watch and had a lot of cool effects and action scenes.


All that walking around and movie watching was quite exhausting and I was glad to go back to the hotel and relax for the rest of the day, reading emails and website updates. More tomorrow from the first day of the MVP Summit (keynote and stuff).

Seattle - MVP Summit 2009 - Day 1 - Ariving in Seattle

by Benjamin Nitschke 27. February 2009 17:07
Hi Folks, this is finally the post for the first day. I was unable to get the pictures from my camera to my laptop because I forgot that cable. The SD card reader in my laptop also did not help me out as it does not detect anything. Luckily the Zen player could help me out since it allows to use a SD card as a removable USB disk (but it did not allow me to use the Import All feature, it did always crash my Zen, strange ..).

Okay, lets get started, this is on the morning of Friday where I started with a train ride to the airport.


A familiar sight at the Hannover airport. BTW this airport will be really crowded in a few days when the CeBIT 2009 starts (I will go there too after the MVP Summit next Saturday). I prepared myself mentally for a lot of waiting, but I never waited more than 30 minutes. I played mostly some iPhone games or listened to or watched stuff on my Zen player.


This is the first plane, called Cityhopper, which will get us to Amsterdam. The weather was rainy and cold. I checked online and the weather in Amsterdam and Seattle is pretty much the same.


Arriving in Amsterdam, not much going on here except rain. But it is a pretty big airport and it took almost half an hour just to get to the next gate.


After getting to the gate and answering all the stupid security questions like "Did you pack your luggage yourself?" or "Did you pack a big bomb or did someone give you a bomb?" it was already time to enter the next plane. Much bigger I have to say. I have to spend the next 10-11 hours in there, I did not expect much from the movie selection and was glad I had some own movies prepared for me. But I was surprised to be able to see some new movies and I saw the coolest movie this year so far with the guy from "Shawn of the Dead" Simon Pegg, called "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People". The movie itself does not make much sense and has a little too much senseless romance, but Simon is so incredibly funny, I laughed quite a lot.


I also made a few little videos like the following with my camera. The quality is pretty bad, but it will hopefully be fun to see in a few years. Just got off the plane and drove through a tunnel to Seattle in a bus. You can see some real life HDR, other than that not much in this video.


I finally arrived at the hotel after almost 20 hours of being awake. I noticed that I carry around quite a lot of hardware. From the left to right, Zen player, my good old MDA Windows Mobile phone, iPod Touch, Zune player, 16 GB Flash Memory and the camera I took this picture with. You can also see my Rubics cube in the picture, which I still have solve ^^


And this is the hotel room. The hotel is actually quite cheap for the Seattle Downtown area, but I liked it a lot. It got a freezer, microwave, free Wifi Internet connection and everything else was fine too. The only annoyance was the thin glasses in the window, which made me hear all the noise from the road at night. But that was not any better at the other hotels I stayed here.


After taking a nap for about 1.5 hours I went outside and looked around a bit. I saw this incredible long limo and a funny rotating sign with an elephant on it.


A supermarket in Seattle at night. I just got some things I forgot and was quite puzzled by the prices. A lot of take 2 for 1 deals and stuff a lot cheaper if you buy 700 of it. Not really useful for me. Also got some cookies and drinks not available in Germany ^^


And finally the Seattle Space Needle at night. More pictures tomorrow.

Flying to Seattle for the MVP Summit once again

by Benjamin Nitschke 27. February 2009 01:39
Yep, it is time for the MVP Summit again (starts this Sunday) and for that reason I will fly to Seattle once again in a few hours. Seems like I go there every year now ^^

This time I will have some extra time to run around and enjoy the cold weather (its not better here in Germany anyway). I will make photos as usual and have hopefully something interesting to say about whats going on.

Since I have a Zune, an iPod and a Creative Zen player and I will take all of them with me:
  • Zune for playing around with XNA
  • iPod for many apps and since I'm doing a bit of iPhones development right now
  • And the Zen for actually hearing music and watching some movies. I just uploaded a crap-load of stuff onto that thing. Really cool that each movie or tv show is just a few 100 MB.
All 3 devices have pretty cool hardware. The Zune is not used much and kinda expensive, but at least interesting for its XNA capabilities.

The iPod is just way to expensive, but interesting for iPhone development. The iPhone is kinda cheap, but you will need a very expensive phone provider contract, which is over 1000 euros over 2 years here in Germany.

And then there is the Zen (or other devices), which do not have many extra features, but its cheap and it just works. It even got a SD slot so I can extend the flash memory. But the main reason why I use the Zen all the time is the amount of hours I can hear music or watch videos on (Zune or iPods with hard disks just suck in that regard, they will be empty in half a plane ride) and because I can put whatever I like on that thing. There is no stupid Zune player or iTunes to install. It does not tell me that I cannot use any files or that I have connected an iPod on too many PCs. Just drag and drop files over, which I often use for safes or copying files from home to work, or just drag in music, add some podcasts and for the plane ride I now also got some videos on there :)

BTW: Everything with the Zen mp3 player is great, even the software you can optionally install is non-intrusive for the most part. The only little annoyance is that it takes a long time to convert videos to .wmv files with 320x240 pixel resolution (required for playback) using the Creative Video Converter. But there are some other programs that can help:
  • I tried AutoMKV, which always crashed for me when trying to do .wmvs, but other formats did work.
  • There are tons of iPhone Video converter apps out there, most cost money and almost all of them are pretty crappy (both for performance and stability).
  • And then there is the Free Zune Video Converter 1.1, which works pretty nice and is incredible fast.
  • After that I stopped searching, there is probably more out there (even converters on the web, where you upload your movies, wtf?). Creative Video Converter is quick and dirty minus the quick, Free Zune Video Converter is fast and easy and VirtualDub is for the more complex jobs ^^
Ok, time to go to bed now, plane is lifting off in a few hours ..

Can't get used to a Mac?

by Ferdinand Lange 26. February 2009 05:08

So can't we.

While being used to a windows environment, it's really awkward to get used to how a Mac actually gets things done.
Minimizing the window on double clicking the titlebar, programs which are still running though you (thought you) quit them, and where the heck is the friggin' menubar.

Here, however, are some helpful articles to ease the introduction to your brand new Mac.

Top 30 mistakes made by new Mac users
It applied to me for two thirds of the issues :)

10 things every new Mac user should know
Good to know...

10 Applications every new Mac user should download
I havent actually tested those, since i try to use the Mac as little as possible. (But who wants WMP on a Mac anyways?)

Official list of Mac OS X Keyboard shortcuts
For those who are hardcore keyboard shortcuts users or just get confused about how they completely do things differend.

Good luck, you really might need it.

Why cheap SSD sucks for Visual Studio

by Benjamin Nitschke 25. February 2009 19:47
My new PC at work has a 64 GB SSD (Solid State Drive) hard disk and installing and using it went pretty ok. Installing Windows 7 and Windows Vista was pretty quick. Most benchmarks, tools, games and programs run also fine and reading a lot of small or big files is also fast. Even extracting big archives goes quickly. But the one thing I wanted to use the SSD for does not perform very well: Compiling in Visual Studio. Our project at exDream is pretty huge (17 GB, about 30k files) and recompiling everything takes quite a while. Reading small files is working well and it seems like opening and working with files in Visual Studio is also good enough. But once the compilation starts (also happens sometimes when installing programs with lots of little files), the performance goes way down. Once more than 50 files per second are being opened and written to, it takes up to 1 whole second (usually you have access times of <0.1 ms with SSD) to open new files. This is obviously very bad.

For now I'm just using the SSD for Windows and the Program files, but store all the code and projects I want to compile on a normal hard disk, plus I also moved the temp folder to D (the normal hard disk). Now things are pretty good again, but I did not gain the performance improvement I was looking for with this :(

Since I tweaked my Vista quite a lot already (see post below), I already fine-tuned a lot of settings that are also good for SSD, but OCZ has a nice guide with some extra tricks on what to do to get the best performance possible with those cheap SSDs:
General discussion and XP tricks: http://www.ocztechnologyforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=43460
Vista 32/64 tweaks: http://www.ocztechnologyforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=47212
Speeding up Vista: http://www.ocztechnologyforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=43525

The SSD is the OCZ 60 GB SSD V2, which still has a JMicron controller, which just plain sucks for many IO operations. Its specifications say that it can do 170 MB/s reads and around 100 MB/s writes, the truth is more like 130 MB/s reads and around 100 MB/s writes for sequential data. The problem is other when copying files I never have those cases.

My brother has a Patriot Warp v2 SSD, which has similar issues because it also uses a JMicron controller. It is a little slower for sequential reads/writes, but a little faster for writing smaller files.

BTW: I tried using 2 Raptor Hard Disks with a Raid-0 configuration 2 years ago and it was a similar issue, the stupid software raid controller from the mainboard was slower than just using one single hard drive without any raid. Reading data was way quicker, but writing stuff to the raid was just way slower!

It seems only expensive SDDs like Intel's X25-M 80GB SSD (costs around 400 bucks) have a really good controller and can do many reads/writes with small files without any problems.

iDome and Unity3D

by Stefan Schwarzien 25. February 2009 06:07

I was just browsing the shmup-dev.com forums when I read about an algorithm to create and morph shapes dynamically developed by Paul Burke.

Curious as i am i followed the link to discover a vast collection of interesting articles.

The article that got most of my attention was about the iDome and the implemention with the Unity3D engine.
showcase
Unity3D implemention

I think the idea is ingenious, and possibly the most innovative thing since tilt sensitive game controllers.

He also composed a FAQ  for you guys that are trying to rebuilt that thing. If i had the space and a projector, i sure would give it a try.

Also, if you are into game development or just curious by nature, you should check out his other articles. Theres some really interesting stuff covered.

[MobileBits Blog] Cleaning up Vista and make it faster

by Benjamin Nitschke 24. February 2009 17:05
I was just cleaning my new Vista PC a little with some helpful tools and websites: .. and I came across this video (Mac vs Bloated PC):

Sound SDK on the iPhone

by Ferdinand Lange 24. February 2009 07:06

Hekkus Sound System recently added support for Mac OS X and the iPhone, which is kinda useful if you want to play OGG files and do some better sound effects. It also has a OpenAL interface and supports many other platforms including cell phones, windows, even .NET and so on. Check it out if you need more advanced sound support.

[MobileBits Blog - German] Setting up Visual Studio for Unity

by Benjamin Nitschke 21. February 2009 21:15
Ferdi has posted a German Tutorial on how to use Visual Studio for Unity over at the MobileBits blog. This is kinda useful because Unity3d currently only works on the Mac and I'm pretty much unable to use the Mac for anything because I cannot use my own keyboard layout over there. I have been working a little via VNC, but having a familar IDE like Visual Studio is just so much better ;)

An English tutorial can be found at the UnifyCommunity site:
http://unifycommunity.com/wiki/index.php?title=Setting_up_Visual_Studio_for_Unity

Basically you create a console application in Visual Studio where you write all the c# scripts for Unity. Then a little FTP upload tool is used to upload those c# files to the FTP server on the Mac, where you can then compile the scripts in the Unity IDE. More on that next week. I have not worked much with Unity yet because we have been busy at exDream with our current project and we got many new interns this week plus marketing guys coming by and stuff like that.


Windows 7 Versions

by Benjamin Nitschke 21. February 2009 20:59
I have been using Windows 7 on and off for about a month now on my laptop. Most things work fine, but some tools like Daemon Tools, some newer games and some drivers (like my printer driver) do not work at all, which was kinda annoying. I also had a lot of crashes with certain software like Word 2007 for some strange reason and there was that annoying .mp3 bug in the early beta (first week of January), but that was fixed a week later. Other than that Windows 7 is pretty great, I especially like the new Task Bar, which combines the quick launch bar and the task bar (running programs) and makes everything more compact. On Vista I still use the RocketDock bar because I find it more useful than the quick launch bar and it is nicely customizable. Another good thing about Windows 7 is the immensly improved start-up performance and the amount of disk space it needs (around 10GB instead of 17GB for Vista), it has also cleaner UI and some better helpers to configure stuff. Most stuff did work right out of the box (most games, Visual Studio and normal everyday programs).

Well, I'm still using Vista at home and at work and I have to wait until more stuff works on Windows 7 before I will do the switch. But I suspect that most people will stay with XP for a long time.

For a little fun check out the upcoming Windows 7 Editions (found at http://gadgets.boingboing.net/2008/10/14/microsoft-announces-1.html):


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are own personal opinions and do not represent the companies view.
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