Showing posts from June, 2005

Temporal Ninching

[Semi-relevant link: JACK2002]

I've worked on several products at Microsoft - Liquid Motion, Vizact 2000, PowerPoint 2002 and InfoPath 2003. InfoPath has had the most customer impact, but I think I had the most fun working on Vizact.

Liquid Motion was a Java-based animation authoring tool and runtime that was started when my team was a small Java startup in San Francisco named Dimension X. When acquired by Microsoft we kept working on the product and released it in 1998. It was roughly comparable to Macromedia Flash – animations in a box on a web page.

As a follow-up, we started "Liquid Motion 2000" code named "Riptide", which was eventually sucked into the Office org and branded "Vizact". Whereas Liquid Motion animated "within the box" on a web page, Vizact animated any element on the page (think: Macromedia Dreamweaver) using DHTML. We worked with the Internet Explorer team to push some animation behaviors into the IE code base, known as H…

Terran Trade Authority

I recently rekindled my interest in the late 1970's pencil-and-paper role playing game Traveller. It was the SF answer to Dungeons and Dragons. I dug out my box of old role-playing materials, and started surfing the web for "what's happened since the early 1980's?"

Among the various things to happen to Traveller in the 1990's was a fourth edition ("Marc Miller's Traveller") published by the now-defunct Imperium Games. Notable about this version were very stylish covers featuring art by Chris Foss. This style seemed very familiar; I assumed I'd seen these illustrations before. Eventually, I remembered getting large picture books of SF spacecraft out from the local library when I was growing up. But I couldn't find the right search engine queries to figure out what the books were.

During a trip to Half Price Books I found a promising clue - Aliens in Space. Popping this into a search engine turned up the Terran Trade Authority [Wikipedia],…

Living Virtually

This was written in early 2004.

Remember "Virtual Reality" (VR) – the buzzword of the mid-1990's, when we all expected we'd be wearing datagloves and goggles and spending all of our time in 3D worlds?

(Full disclosure: I worked at company called Dimension X that, among other things, produced a VRML browser called Liquid Reality, and produced web sites with 3D content. They're all gone these days. [Some are even blocked from searching on by the new domain owners!]

Although you don't hear much about VR these days, the technology has gone mainstream. New computers have hardware acceleration capable of a gazillion nicely shaded and textured polygons per second.

Stream of consciousness –

Over the 2003 holiday break I was at home sans wife or child for a couple of weeks; I realized I didn't have anything on the TiVo that was really *my* stuff. So I added a few programs from TechTV, including X Play – a show which reviews handheld, console and PC ga…

On a knife's edge

There's a saying that I'm having difficulty tracking down. One version attributed to Pratchett and Gaiman reads "Civilization is twenty-four hours and two meals away from barbarism." but there are versions that predate that, such as "mankind has always been only one generation away from barbarism". I think there was also a version cited on "Red Dwarf". Regardless of the precise details, I tend to agree, falling much closer to the "two meals" side of things.

However, I'm reasonably confident that, should we avoid slipping into barbarism, we're less than 50 years away from leaping off into the uncharted territory of near-god-dom, masters of technology and information that will let us reshape the world(s) around us, or let us abandon them altogether.

Isn't that a terrifying thought? That we're walking on a knife's edge, tantalizingly close to nirvana, but a single slip could doom us?

Step 1: Read Iain M. Banks - he has a…