Tag Archives: microsoft

Video, Silverlight and jQuery

During our 25 days of blogging last year, Sam talked about some of the new websites designs that we’ve been working on.  The 125 website was the first to go live last month and today we have released the website accompanying the exhibition for a new sports development.

For both sites we’ve developed some new ways of displaying information as well as improving the designs. Bot the homepage designs use jQuery to create visual effects on the page. 125 has multiple “slides” of information. Each slide transitions to the next after a short period of time or when you click the link on the right.

New Sport also uses some jQuery transitions, this time to change the background image and headline when you hover over links to each section.

There’s a few more new additions to the sport site. We were provided with a DVD containing lots of aerial photos of the campus to feature in a gallery. We’ve done the usual thumbnail gallery but we’ve also got a fancier way of showing off photos.

Microsoft Photosynth is a tool from their Live Labs project. It works by taking a set of photos, working out how they fit together and creating a 3D model in which you can navigate around them. Our set of photos is 71% “synthy” – a measure of how we matched they are – pretty good I’d say! The one negative thing is that viewing the resulting photosynth requires Silverlight on the browser.

Photosynth of Edge Hill

Another new development that’s being released for the first time on this site is a video browser. The observant may have noticed last week video pages on the Edge Hill site changed slightly, doubling the size of the video and moving around some elements on the page. This was to allow us to highlight related videos right along side.

Video player

One final little thing we’ve incorporated into this site is embedding the PDF of exhibition boards – normally a sizable download – into the page using Scribd. Using third party hosted services has risks associated with it but here it clearly benefits the user to be able to quickly scan through pages without the need to download a large file and open in Acrobat.

Encarta bit by Wikipedia: Another triumph for Web 2.0

Microsoft announces the closure of Encarta later this year after losing ground over the years to freely available reference material on the Internet and on web sites like Wikipedia.

“People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past,”

the software maker said in a notice posted on its MSN website. As described in a Bits blog, the Wiki-dominance is so far-reaching that it got 97% of the visits that Web surfers in the U.S. made to online encyclopaedias, while Encarta was second with 1.27%.

Encarta has been a popular product around the world for many years. However, the category of traditional encyclopaedias and reference material has changed. Now Encarta itself has fallen victim to changes in technology. Well, it looks like Wikipedia is here to stay without strong rivals on the net, the question is for how long?

The plug will be officially pulled in October of this year but Microsoft will also stop selling the Encarta products by June. RIP Encarta 1993 – 2009.

Janeth

The Empire Strikes Back

Occasionally Microsoft comes out with some really interesting stuff. The Break Up, and the accompanying blog show that at least parts of Microsoft are thinking right. But while the video is fine and all that, perhaps more interesting is the fact that the blog uses WordPress.com rather than Microsoft’s own platforms, video is hosted by a third party service and the blogger writes a strange mix of independent and official.

How believable is such a site? Is it really more convincing that the official sites or are people wise to underground marketing now?

Via CentreSource.

The Facebook debate goes on…

Everywhere I turn people seem to be talking about Facebook (I know I’m very guilty of it). From a University perspective it’s creating a lot of debate – How much should we encourage it’s use? Should we be plugging into it? Can we reprimand our students if we find information we don’t like on it? And then there is the view ‘well it’s just a fad so why bother worrying about it’.

Just as we’re getting comfortable with the concept of Facebook and making decisions about how much we wish to engage with it… they change something else and we have a whole host of ‘new’ things to talk about.

Today the headline is Social site Facebook buys Parakey! Basically Facebook have bought an internet startup called Parakey which is causing TechCrunch to ask Could Facebook Become The Next Microsoft?.

So could it? Is that where it’s heading?

I’m not convinced it’ll be the next microsoft but in terms of huge growth – yes I can see it happening. The great thing about Facebook and it’s developer platform is that ‘we’ the users create most of it’s usefulness. We’re adding, linking, building applications and we’re making it more useful for ourselves. We have few constraints. If it doesn’t do something you want it to do then you can build your own application and plug it in.

It looks like Facebook’s aim and direction are clear. So how will we respond? Well I for one still maintain they are the site to watch… and watch I will.

Typography on the Web

I thought it was about time I posted on the Web Services blog. Michael has suggested that I write something about typography on the web so here goes.

First a few comments about typography as part of the Edge Hill University brand. The new logo uses FF DIN Medium in lowercase, an extremely smart and popular contemporary font. Linotype’s ITC Conduit font is used for uppercase headings in brochures and in the prospectus. Both of these fonts are lovely but unfortunately ubiquitous, this could mean that their longevity is limited and that we may end up with a dated logo quicker than we think.

These fonts can only be used as graphics on our website; we cannot use them for HTML text as this is reliant on the user having them installed on their PC, which isn’t likely. So we have a limited selection of common and unloved fonts to use, they are Arial, Georgia, Times, Verdana and Trebuchet.

Luckily with CSS we can imitate some of the typesetting techniques used in print design, for example Tracking is called Letter-Spacing and Leading is called Line-Height, not particularly inspiring names I know. Unfortunately we cannot structure lines of type in tidy pyramids that flow neatly down the page, the line ends when it ends, so the text rarely flows.

Internet Explorer 7 now uses anti-aliased text which means that letters are no longer pixelated and have smooth rounded edges. Unfortunately this means that Verdana, which looks neat and tidy on old browsers, now reveals its true form.

Anti-aliased text is here to stay on the web and luckily Microsoft have a new font package called The Microsoft ClearType Collection which is designed to look good on screen as well as in print.

Cleartype fonts

The new fonts all begin with C, which is helpful for designers like me who have too many fonts installed on their computer. Their names are Calibri, Cambria, Candara, Consolas, Constantia, and Corbel, which sound like models of Vauxhall cars from the eighties. My favourite is Constantia, a very nice serif font that could replace Georgia in the affections of American web designers, Americans love their serifs. Calibri is a nice sans-serif and will probably be favoured in Europe. The weakest is Candara which looks a little like Trebuchet.

Unfortunately these new typefaces are free with Windows Vista so will not be universally installed until that operating system takes off, or is forced on the public. In the meantime you can download the fonts to XP as part of the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats.