Microsoft Robotics Studio Released


I had referred to this before and I was eagerly waiting for a release. Well, there you go, Microsoft has released the commercial Robotics Studio (1.0). It is quite exciting and I hope to be able to play around with it some time soon.
Yes, you can download it for free for personal use:

That means if you are student, educator, academic researcher, or hobbyist looking to try out or use the software without the objective of making money or running your business, the software is available for download for free.

Go ahead and play around!!!

The sanctity of a complete album


Does having playlists of mp3s in random order mask the “full album” experience that we used to have a not so long time ago? Back in the tape days, I would have complete albums which I would play and get used to – discovering more songs, hearing the artists’ (or music label’s) version of what they value and in what order.

Anyone who has heard albums like “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd would probably feel unhappy when they meet people who have only heard an individual song from that album. Unless one has experienced the continuity of the entire album, the heart-beats and voices in between songs, one can not fully appreciate why it was one of the longest running albums of all times (It was on US Billboard Top 200 for 741 weeks).
But today, more and more people are listening to only individual songs. I always felt like an old purist debating the sanctity of the complete album, but I just became aware of how our listening behavior can actually destroy the concept of an album altogether. This gentleman has explained how the science of economics will catch up with our listening experiences.

Maybe individual songs could be priced in such a way that it would be cheaper to download a complete album; that would be one incentive to make people still download all songs from an album. Or maybe people can use one of the subscription services from Yahoo or URGE. [I am working on a comparative review on Yahoo Music Unlimited 2 Go and URGE All Access To Go. I have used them both, but currently am siding with URGE for reasons I will explain in the review]. These services do allow complete album downloads and URGE seems like a savior since it really retains the flavor of the complete album; it even throws in an album review from All Music Guide in the mix.

I sincerely hope the album does not die. But I am not sure if I am simply resisting a good new-age trend or am concerned about the loss of an experience which is too valuable to forgo.

… I love you … Please Repeat?


Me: What time is it?
She: It’s 10:48 pm

Me: What day is it?
She: The date is Tuesday, December fifth two thousand and six.

Me: When is my next appointment?
She: Tomorrow at 4:30 pm in 2260 USB

Me: Play music
She: Do you want to listen by genre, album, artist or anything?
Me: Artist
She: Do you want to listen to U2, Phil Collins, Collective Soul, …
Me (interrupting): U2
She: Playing U2 … (Windows Media Player opens up and Zooropa starts)

Me: I think I am falling in love with you!
She: Please repeat!
Me: I said I think I am falling in love with you!
She: Please repeat!
End of converstation.

I had the above conversation with my phone after installing Microsoft Voice Command on it. It really is one of the most amazing voice command softwares I have seen. It’s a good example of the serious research microsoft has been doing in “speaker-independant voice recognition”. You do not need to train this software, just speak to it in natural english and it works fine (if she can understand my Indian accent, I think she is pretty good).

Oh yes, I call the software a “she”. I just can not bring myself to calling her an “it”. Examples of other things I can ask her to do:

“What is my schedule for today”, “Change profile to silent”, “Turn off all reminders”, “call john at work”, “start calculator” etc. She even reads out the contents of emails that I receive. This software is a good reminder of the fact that we really are getting somewhere with digital assistant technology. I would really recommend watching the demo video to get a sense of what it really feels like.

Free copy of Microsoft Office 2007


Power Together - Microsoft giveawayPower Together - Microsoft giveaway

Zdnet had reported a Microsoft give-away which allowed one to get a free copy of Office 2007 or Vista. I jumped at the opportunity and I completed the requirements and this is what Microsoft has to say:

Congratulations! You’ve completed the number of Webcasts or vLabs required to receive a free, fully-licensed copy of Microsoft Office Professional 2007. Once we’ve confirmed that you meet the eligibility requirements stated in the offer details below we will ship your gift within 6-8 weeks of the release to manufacturing of Microsoft Office Professional 2007. While you’re waiting, why not check out additional Webcasts of vLabs to further your skills?

I just hope there is no further catch in it. The “… confirmed your eligibility requirements…” sorta scares me! I can only wait and watch.

I do use the Microsoft Office 2007 Beta and I really like it a lot. They have done an amazing job with the interface and I am also happy to see that they have changed from a binary format to a compressed XML format for describing the *.doc (now *.docx) files.