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Silverlight 5 is finally released!  Congratulations to the team for getting through some of the toughest parts of finishing a product and validating with customers.  It’s been a pretty crazy year for the Silverlight team and this is a really good release for the product bringing some solid features to the platform for folks to leverage in building their apps.

In addition to the platform having a release, I was really pleased to see an update to the Silverlight Toolkit, which has been one of the most popular things almost every Silverlight developer/application uses.  If you didn’t know where to get things, here’s some links for you:

Rather than enumerate all the good features that were finished from the RC/Beta, you should head on over to listen/watch Pete Brown’s presentation on the Silverlight 5 release overview.  He also has a post about the release enumerating in short form (with links to tutorials for some of the key features) on his blog.

What I think is really cool is also the amount of effort put into the Silverlight Toolkit for this release.  The one large thing of note is the extensions to enhance your 3D development experience in Silverlight 5.  David Catuhe has a post outlining in great detail some of the 3D extensions included in the toolkit.  You should really go check out his post.  Scrolling to the bottom I was really surprised/impressed to see a set of 3D samples included to help you understand how to use this feature:

  • Bloom – uses the Content Pipeline and post-processing effects
  • CustomModelEffect
  • Generated geometry – how 3D models generated by code
  • Particles – c’mon, who doesn’t like a particle generator!
  • Platformer - while not 3D it appears, it is a complete game with levels
  • 3D Animation
  • Skinning – shows skinning a character using the content pipeline

I mean, wow, great stuff David! 

I hope you all enjoy the release of Silverlight 5 and kudos to the team for getting it out the door. Go download the bits and start building awesome stuff.

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Silverlight 5

Today we had the SIlverlight Firestarter event and revealed to the world for the first time, not only the plans for the next version of Silverlight, but also a slew of demonstrations of some key features.

If you weren’t able to attend live or online real-time, we have recorded the sessions which will be available later this week on Channel 9.

There has been a lot of confusion on the future of Silverlight.  Microsoft wants to ensure we have a great developer platform portfolio that supports all great technologies like HTML5, Silverlight and WPF.  We’ll continue to invest in these technologies for the future of developers to target multiple platforms, technologies and devices.

But for now, let me share some of the things we announced that we’re working on to deliver for Silverlight 5…

Media Improvements

  • Hardware Decode and presentation of H.264 media
  • “TrickPlay” allows video to be played at different speeds and supports fast-forward and rewind. At up to twice the speed, audio pitch correction allows users to watch videos while preserving a normal audio pitch.
  • Improved power awareness prevents the screen saver from being shown while watching video and allows the computer to sleep when video is not active.
  • Remote-control support allowing users to control media playback.
  • Digital rights management advancements allow seamless switching between DRM media sources.

Application Development

  • Fluid user interface enables smoother animation within the UI. Layout transitions allow developers to specify animations to apply when elements are added, removed or re-ordered within a layout. This provides smoother user experiences when, for example, items are inserted into a list.
  • Text improvements make it possible to build rich magazine-style text layouts:
    • Multicolumn text and linked text container allow text to flow around other elements.
    • Tracking/leading set precisely how far apart each character is for full creative control.
    • Text clarity is improved with Pixel Snapping.
    • Text layout performance is significantly improved.
    • OpenType support has been enhanced.
  • Support for Postscript vector printing enables users to create reports and documents, including the ability to create a virtual print view different from what is shown on the screen.
  • Applications can now work the way users expect with added support for double-click and ComboBox type ahead.
  • Databinding enhancements allow more work to be done more easily via XAML:
    • Debugging support now allows breakpoints to be set on a binding, so you can step through binding failures.
    • Implicit DataTemplates allow templates to be created across an application to support a particular type by default.
    • Ancestor RelativeSource allows, for example, a DataTemplate to bind to a property on the control that contains it.
    • Binding in style setters allows bindings to be used within styles to reference other properties.
    • The DataContextChanged event is being introduced. Markup extensions allow code to be run at XAML parse time for both properties and event handlers, enabling cutting-edge MVVM support.
  • Networking and Windows Communication Foundation enhancements:
    • Reduced network latency by using a background thread for networking.
    • WS-Trust support: Security Assertion Markup Language authentication token.
  • Silverlight 5 performance improvements include these:
    • Reduced network latency by using a background thread for networking.
    • XAML parser improvements that speed up startup and runtime performance.
    • Support for 64-bit operating systems.
  • Graphics improvements
    • Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) accelerated 3-D application programming interface (API) provides rich graphics on the Web for building advanced data visualizations and rich user experience (UI).
    • Immediate mode graphics API allows direct rendering to the GPU.
    • Hardware acceleration is enabled in windowless mode with Internet Explorer 9.
  • Silverlight offers a new class of trusted applications that brings desktop capabilities to the browser for the first time. These features, when enabled via a group policy registry key and an application certificate, mean users won’t need to leave the browser to perform complex tasks:
    • Host HTML content as a Web browser control within the Silverlight application. HTML pages, such as help content or e-mail, can be integrated within the application.
    • Read and write files to the user’s My Documents folder, making it easier to find media files or create local copies of reports.
    • Launch Microsoft Office and other desktop programs. Users can open Microsoft Outlook and create an e-mail message, or send a report to Word utilizing the power of Office.
    • Access devices and other system capabilities by calling into application COM components. Users can access a USB security card reader or a bar-code scanner.
    • Enjoy full keyboard support in full screen, which enables richer kiosk and media viewing applications.
    • Call existing unmanaged code directly from within Silverlight with P/Invoke.
  • Out-of-browser trusted applications are further enhanced:
    • Existing unmanaged code can be called directly from within Silverlight with P/Invoke.
    • Child Window support allows multiple windows to be launched from the application.

Summary

So as you can see an impressive list of features we’ve been really working hard on to deliver.  We hope you like the features.  Please continue to suggest features to our team at http://silverlight.mswish.net and vote up others that already exist.  We really hope you look forward to the next version of Silverlight as we’re excited to bring it to you.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but no downloadable bits for you to play with just yet :-).

Hope this helps!

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contest alert, contest alert!  i wrote a while back about creating your own virtual earth 3d tour using collections and the live platform.  by doing this you can create your own windows media video file of your locations using virtual earth 3d rendering.

well, now you can benefit.  the virtual earth team is hosting a contest.  what do they want you to do?  they want you to build up some interesting collections and create the virtual tour.  after you've done that, post it on soapbox or youtube (or both) and submit your entry.   

this should be a fun few minutes for you to mess around with virtual earth 3d.  they've posted some samples such as a major league baseball tour, etc.  since i'm ineligible, here's some ideas noodling in my head:

    • seven wonders of the world
    • united states war battlefields
    • government capital buildings
    • royalty residences (i.e. US president white house, parliament, whatever the dude who runs italy lives in)
    • amusement parks
    • nfl football fields
    • airports

anyway, have fun with it, get creative and submit your entries!

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with the latest release of the maps.live.com site and virtual earth v6, there are some cool end-user features that you can take advantage of as well.  one of them is the ability to create a virtual tour of your collections (a collection is a group of waypoints you've saved in your profile.

perhaps you have a collection of your favorite vacation spots, or your locations of your organization's offices, or your an individual speaker and want a virtual tour of your stops for some odd reason.  well now you can and there are a few ways to do it.  first, head on over to http://maps.live.com and sign in (not required, but is required to save a collection).  to create a collection, simply search for locations and then you'll have the option to "add to collection" which you would do.  i created a collection of places starting at my house, then to a few baseball stadiums, then to disney and vegas...c'mon, sounds like a great trip!  here's what it looks like:

after i have a collection, i have a few options.  from the actions menu (of the collections pane) i can immediately do a tour in 3d:

this uses the virtual earth 3d control, which is available as a download (free) for internet explorer and firefox.  when i choose that option, the 3d tour starts and my first point in my collection.  on the left side i now see a tour pane:

had i edited the properties of my waypoints with other metadata like a photo, notes, etc. they would have showed up in this area.  you may also notice the play and record buttons on the bottom of that area.  here's were some of the other sharing comes into play (note: i can click the share button to send someone an email link to the tour as well).  let's say i want a video of this location tour for youtube, soapbox or whatever...simple, use the new record feature to create a windows media video file of the 3d tour.  when you hit record, it starts the tour over.  now the recording takes considerably longer than the normal playback, but that is because it is recording the various frames and encoding at the same time to create the resulting file.

when completed, you'll see that you have a completed file.  you can now post this wherever you'd like.  for example, here's my tour using (note: i've realized you just have to let your machine record...some of mine seemed to have got screwed up by me doing other activities -- and the titles are automatically added based on the waypoint titles):

pretty cool new feature i think provided by virtual earth and the live platform.  go forth and create.

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saw this on the 'sphere...using ulead, swf2xaml jeff and michael created 'silverlightvr 360,' showing an image of a jeep in virtual 3d.  the user is able to move the image on along both axis points to look at the object (jeep) in a virtual 3d view.

3djeep

tools and directions are listed on their write-up here.