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A while back the team at the New York Times newspaper produced a digital reader for their content, dubbed ‘Times Reader.’  The technology powering that reader experience (“the digital newspaper that reads like the real thing”) is Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), part of the .NET Framework.  It is a remarkable experience for viewing digital news in a traditional format.  It provided online and offline reading capabilities mixed with some new and innovative ways of viewing related stories.

Portions of the reader were even transformed into a starter kit framework: Syndicated Client Experiences Starter Kit.  This kit provides the initial plumbing to produce similar experiences and truly is a great starter kit to use.  Others like the Seattle PI and MSDN have put their content via this mechanism.

This experience of the Times Reader was a Windows-only experience because of the dependency of the .NET Framework.  The Times Reader does provide the best experience because of this dependency however and it is important to note that.  Mac users, unfortunately, were left out.  Until now.

Rob Larson, VP of Digital Production for the NY Times, announced that they’ve been working on a Mac version and a beta will be released soon.  Rob’s team implemented this version using Silverlight.

“We are using Microsoft’s Silverlight technology to render the pages on the Mac version. Silverlight includes a subset of the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) tools we use on the PC version. This allows us to keep the look and feel of the Mac version very close to the PC version and also allows us to reuse code across platforms.”  source: http://firstlook.nytimes.com/?p=46

I initially saw a lot of comments in the post about ‘why is this better’ and I think those are from people who haven’t seen the reader experience on the PC.  I have to admit that I’m not a newspaper reader at all, but as a geek, the news I do read is entirely digital…I’ve never owned a physical subscription to anything.  This digital reader experience is unique and fun to play around with (you have to see the search/related stories visualizations) and I think brings some freshness to traditional print news. 

Rob’s post has more screenshots and details about the implementation and future plans, including a comment of their commitment to bring feature parity between the versions.  I’m looking forward to seeing this implemented and hearing from the development team about their use of Silverlight to bring this experience to the Mac platform.

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intersoft just sent me an email that the beta versions of their WebUIStudio.NET 2008 R1 is available, which includes a few new silverlight controls: WebAqua and WebCoverFlow.

i'm curious how soon the apple attorneys might prepare a cease-and-desist on the naming of both of these controls, but that's for them to figure our.  I'm more interested in getting my hands on them and playing around.  you can read their press release here on where to get them.  it's very exciting to see so many controls popping up.  i hope that when silverlight 2.0 releases that these will all be ready for primtetime as well!

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when vista came out, clearly one of the biggest pain points to end users was user account control (UAC).  this is the feature that requires authorization to run certain applications which would require elevated privileges...most notable being installations.  osx, of course, has had this feature for a while.  osx requires the user to authorize elevated changes like changing account information or other system settings, as well as installations.  osx differs slightly in that once you authorize in certain areas (like sys prefs) it remains 'unlocked' until you lock it again explicitly or other actions do.

another thing that vista (and actually xp sp2) introduced was protecting users from downloaded files.  if you downloaded a file and then tried to use/execute it, vista would prompt you that you downloaded the file and should be cautious, etc.  a good feature IMO.  after prepping my clean pave of leopard i downloaded a few of my apps and when launching one saw this:

looks like leopard implemented a similar feature.  it is good to see security taking a priority in updates to operating systems.  sometimes they are annoyances (i actually think this one is in vista and in leopard), but i get it, to the 'lay user' software developers have an obligation to do their best to protect the system, user and networks while at the same time balancing that with proper user experience.  i've seen other leopard security improvements as well that catch up to some of the introduced features in vista...good to see it taking a front seat, or at least i think so.

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well, it's been over 12 hours since leopard was available to the masses and the early reviews seem to be in.

yawn.

i just got my discs and will be updating my machines soon to see (i'm going to try to update one and clean install the other).  but i'm reading the reviews and they aren't promising.

dave winer says the upgrade process went fine, but he seems left with wondering what did he upgrade too? he says:

Net-net, my first impression of Leopard is that it isn't a big deal one way or the other.

interesting.  i thought this was supposed to be apple's biggest os ever.  i'm sure to some it will be.  when i look at the 'over 300 features' i laugh a bit.  since when do we call fixes and critical updates features that count toward a benefit to upgrade?  i see some key updates in leopard.  spaces, time machine, some UI glitz (transparencies and new dock features), etc.  but are those core enough to make it that much better?  ichat backgrounds...do those improve your daily experience with leopard?

and what is with the blue screen of death on leopard?!?!? i thought that was trademarked by microsoft?  i love the comment that at least steve jobs could have picked a different shade of azure or someting ;-) -- if more of these BSOD reports come in, wikipedia will have to change the definition of BSOD!

i'm doing a little wayne's world flashbacking in my head about all the vista reviews of how the UI improvements were crap if that is all that was included in vista.  flip3d, yawn, etc., etc. -- so there is some of that happening with leopard.  maybe the geniuses of user design/experience should have been more public with their beta to get feedback?

matt neuburg has a write-up that caught my eye as rather than just pointing out general statements he articulates on some of the key 'features' and what he sees the problems are.  i think his points are valid and does make me wonder about the user experience design elements that went into some of the things he's pointing out.

it also gets me wondering about what i just paid for.  did i just pay for a service pack?  sure, spaces and some things are new, but are those incremental improvements?  when i look at the 300 improvements i seem to see some service pack-y things rather than features:

    • Descriptive Error Messages
    • Dashboard -- are these new improvements or just new widgets?
    • Improved full-screen interface
    • Video quality improvements
    • improved iCal interface (not a new version, just 'improved')

you get where i'm going with this.  it somewhat bothers me as a msft employee a bit that leopard (OSX - 10.5) is considered a 'new operating system' when really it is an incremental improvement over tiger (10.4).  really, i think i just paid for a service pack.  apple has always said that microsoft took 5 years to update their operating system, but at the same time has considered 'dot' releases to OSX as major upgrades.  by that definition, what is XP, XP SP1, XP SP2, etc. -- those are 'dot' releases providing improvements and incremental updates.  c'mon apple, fess up that leopard is a service pack with some glitz.  it's okay to admit it, people will still by it.

i'm starting my upgrade/install now and will see how it goes.  i'm jaded by some reviews already but they seem to hit features that i use, so if i'm negatively affected, i'll be upset.  what is funny is that leopard seems to enable the ability to go back to different modes, but it involves terminal commands.  at least windows gives users UI options to toggle to their preferred settings.

another fair review from macworld themselves states "...in reality the changes are a mixed bag"

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someone asked if would work in an ...interesting thought i felt.  after all, the dashboard widget concept is similar to the sidebar gadget feature in vista in that it is essentially a packaged file with html, javascript, images, etc.  so i went to task and tried it out.

i first started with a media player that i had been working on and it didn't go so well...more on that at a later time (startup javascripts, etc.).  after that i just dumbed it down to a simple sample that had some animation and stuff.

packaged it up, deploy to dashboard...and...

nothing.

hmm...what is going on here.  ah, yes, there is a setting in the dashboard widget that requires you to turn it on to allow internet plugins to work...modify to enable, redeploy.

nothing.  blech.  actually, not "nothing" but the default install prompt for silverlight -- which upon clicking did nothing.

with some pointers, i started realizing that the dashboard is likely not registering as "safari" or "firefox" or anything of the like.  it's built using , but perhaps that is the problem.  some others pointed me to that it is likely a conflict with the detection script in silverlight.js and not being able to figure something out.

so i changed to hard-code in the embed/object tag and then was able to get it working like this:

<div id="SilverlightControlHost" class="silverlightHost">

    <object type="application/ag-plugin" id="SilverlightControl" height="100%" width="100%">
        <param name="source" value="Scene.xaml">
        <param name="onError" value="default_error_handler">
        <param name="onLoad" value="javascript:_sl0">

    </object>
    
</div>

i wouldn't necessarily recommend using the object tag as the detection script works perfectly in typical browser situations (typical meaning != dashboards or other hosted models).  i'm going to take a look at the detection script next to see if hacking it up might make this work easier.

i can't figure out how to take a screenshot of a dashboard gadget working (capture doesn't work in the dashboard view), so you'll have to take my word for it.  if you want to try it out on your osx dashboard yourself, the test file is at the end of this post.  I also did a quick and dirty wrapper of lutz roeder's digger to see if it would work.  the keyboard interaction doesn't, but again i suspect that is some javascript hacking that needs to be modified in the engine script (of digger) to enable it working in webkit.

File: SLDash.zip
File: Digger.zip