Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

Archive for November 2007

Viewing your calendar offline – demo video courtesy of Brandon LeBlanc

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Courtesy of Brandon LeBlanc, here’s a video that demonstrates how you can view your Windows Live Calendar in an offline client in Windows Vista.

Very cool stuff. Its still not as rich an experience as you might like because, although it might not look like it, this doesn’t actually auto-sync with the online service. You’d hope that one day it will use your Windows Live ID to automatically pull down ALL the calendars that you are subscribed to in the online service. That will happen soon enough I’m sure.

For now though, this is a very good start. I just wish it was built into Windows Live Mail that’s all.


Windows Live Tags: clubhouse, story, calendar, offline

Written by Jamiet

November 25, 2007 at 5:42 pm

Posted in Live Calendar


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This week I was intrigued to read a blog entry from Yaron Goland that pointed to this video from the canadian privacy commissioner. The video seeks to educate canadians as to the perils of submitting data to online social networks and its well worth a couple of minutes of your time to go and read it.

Yaron moved on to talk about an open social network. One where we all host our own data and don’t rely on a multitude of walled-garden "providers" (you know them all by now) to do it for us. Yaron says:

"we could really use a real OpenSocial. It wouldn’t even be hard. Take a dollop of standardized data schemas, a side of REST and sprinkle some OpenID on top and you are basically there"

He’s spot on of course and in fact the standardized data schema that he talked about already exists. Its called Friend-of-a-friend (FOAF).


You probably haven’t heard much about FOAF. Well in short it is a specific schema built on top of the Resource Description Framework (RDF). RDF is basically a way of describing stuff in a machine readable format and FOAF is a specialized version of it where the "stuff" in question is people. What’s really cool about FOAF is that it enables you to provide as much or as little information about yourself as you like and also point to the FOAF descriptions of all your friends as well. The really crucial part of it is that you host it yourself – you don’t have to have some corporation doing it for you and that is why FOAF needs to have its day in the sun.

Do you want to see what a FOAF description looks like? Well OK, here’s mine:

    <foaf:PersonalProfileDocument rdf:about="">
        <foaf:maker rdf:resource="#me"/>
        <foaf:primaryTopic rdf:resource="#me"/>
        <admin:generatorAgent rdf:resource="http://www.ldodds.com/foaf/foaf-a-matic"/>
        <admin:errorReportsTo rdf:resource="mailto:leigh@ldodds.com"/>
    <foaf:Person rdf:ID="me">
        <foaf:name>Jamie Thomson</foaf:name>
        <foaf:homepage rdf:resource="http://jamiethomson.spaces.live.com"/>
        <foaf:workplaceHomepage rdf:resource="http://www.conchango.com"/>
        <foaf:schoolHomepage rdf:resource="Horsforth School"/>
                <foaf:name>Betty Boop</foaf:name>
                <rdfs:seeAlso rdf:resource="http://www.bettyboop.com/foad.rdf"/>

I didn’t want this blog post to get TOO technical but just give me a moment OK. As you can hopefully see FOAF (and thus RDF) is an XML grammar. That means that it is self-describing so a relatively untrained eye can look at this and instantly be able to know stuff about me. You know my name, my title, where I went to school, where I work and the name of one of my friends (who you will notice I’ve actually made up in this case). If I didn’t want you to know any of that stuff then I could just remove it all and this would still be a perfectly valid FOAF document that could be read and understood by a machine. Where it gets really powerful is when you consider this line:

FOAF is providing a mechanism for me to link to my friends’ own FOAF files, thus defining my social network. And I didn’t require one of the big name social network "providers" to do it for me.


So, FOAF takes care of the "standardized data schema" that Yaron talked about. Now how about that "side of REST". Ostensibly that’s not too difficult either, all I need is somewhere to host it such as http://www.jamieshomepage.com/foaf.rdf and the job is done. Unfortunately I don’t have such a place where I could host it so I’m a bit lacking here – I’ll talk about that a bit more in a blog post I plan to write in follow-up to this one.

The third thing that Yaron talked about is OpenID. I don’t know much about OpenID except that it is a distributed authentication model for the web – the idea being that if everyone supported OpenID then you would only ever need one username and password to access everything that is out there. At the moment I don’t know how FOAF and OpenID would fit together because I don’t know anything about OpenID, but I’m going to endeavour to find out.


So, if I’ve managed to sell you on the fact that FOAF is the answer to our privacy and and walled-garden ills then the next thing you are going to want to do is go and build your own FOAF file, right? Happily that is dead easy because Leigh Dodds has provided a tool that enables you to do just that. Go to http://www.ldodds.com/foaf/foaf-a-matic to have a go. Once you have got your FOAF file hosted somewhere, let me know and I might list you within mine.


FOAF deserves to conquer the walled-garden social networks because its closer to how the web works. How it was always supposed to work. As Dare Obasanjo points out:

"…the web will win. Everyone who has fought the Web has lost. Facebook will not be an exception."

Really the only question to be asked is not if this will happen, but when.


Written by Jamiet

November 24, 2007 at 3:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized


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Wikipedia is turning out to be a very useful mechanism for discovering what future things are coming out of Windows Live because Microsoft seem to be announcing stuff on there before anywhere else. As I mentioned recently there is some info up there about Live Groups and today I stumbled on something called Photozoom. Its a browser based tool that allows you to, well, zoom in on photos. Under the covers it uses Seadragon and judging by the following quote it is going to be embedded in Silverlight at some point in the future.

  • Microsoft has not released this technology preview to the public yet as the currently available alpha and beta builds of Silverlight do not feature the zooming feature that is required for PhotoZoom

Just to prove that this isn’t just vaporware a screen shot is included here.




UPDATE: Looks like Liveside were way ahead of me on this one.

Written by Jamiet

November 23, 2007 at 6:06 am

Posted in Uncategorized

You need to watch this video

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Well…if you hang around on social networks you do anyway.


I’m sure most of you know all of this already but it really slams home the message.


Thanks to Yaron for the tip.

Written by Jamiet

November 21, 2007 at 10:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

More Live Maps ideas

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I’ve been churning out a few ideas for Windows Live lately and here are a couple more. This time concerned with Live Maps.

  • Collections currently require an internet connection in order to be viewed. I think there’s great potential for taking collections offline (i.e. as a stand-alone file) that you can interact with just as much as you can regular Live Maps.

This would be great for mobile devices because it would save bandwidth and thus save costs. Obviously the file contents would be a tiny subset of all the data available on Live Maps, but if you know what data you are going to need before you leave your house taking that subset with you would be a good thing.


  • The recent release of Live Maps (and the Virtual Earth platform) introduced the ability to build 3D tours of your collections (see some of them here). Its a fantastic feature but like anything there is still room for improvement. I noticed today that if you place a line such as this one:


on a collection and then build a 3D tour from that collection this is all you get:

Its hardly enthralling is it? All it does is zero in on the centre of the line. Instead I’d like something a bit like the video below that I had to record by placing lots of pushpins along that line that you see in the image at the top of this blog entry.

Still though its far from perfect. Its not the nice smooth journey along the route that one would like.

[I also acknowledge after writing this that I should have used something less bleak than the english Lake District for demo purposes but I’m not going back to redo it now. Hopefully you get the point.]


I have submitted both of these ideas to http://feedback.live.com and hence you can see them on my Feedback Lista as well. If you think it would e good to have these features then go and ask for them yourself as well.


Written by Jamiet

November 21, 2007 at 3:46 am

Posted in Live Maps

Build your contacts. Get a messenger gadget on your signature.

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See the image below? If you want one (one which actually does something – unlike the one below) adding to your email signature or your blog site then head to www.messengerbuttons.com and get one for yourself.



Written by Jamiet

November 21, 2007 at 1:39 am

Posted in Live Messenger

eBook standard?

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I was reading Mike Torres’ blog entry Amazon Kindle – a revolution? today where he stated “But until Amazon promises that the books I buy from them can be read on my PC, Mac, or a device like the iPhone or Sony Reader, I’m not sure it’s worth it to invest in the Kindle”.

He’s dead right. The thing that would make this happen is an open standard for eBooks, just like mp3 is an open standard for music. Does such a thing exist? I have no idea, but I’d love to know (let me know if you have any info). If a standard does not exist then it should do and I’m not jumping on this bandwagon until it does.

Kudos to Amazon for what they’ve brought out today though!


Written by Jamiet

November 20, 2007 at 2:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized