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Roundup of Microsoft Research At TechFest 2009 123

Posted by kdawson
from the thirty-five-cool-things dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Ars Technica has a very thorough post of some of the technologies that Microsoft researchers showed off at TechFest last week. 'The exact number of projects that were demonstrated at TechFest 2009 is not clear, but here's a quick rundown of about 35 research projects that haven't received much coverage, accompanied by links that will let you further explore if your interest is piqued. Remember that these are concepts and prototypes, not finished products, and they may never end up becoming anything significant.'" While Microsoft has been criticized for squandering a fortune on R&D, there can be no doubt that they are showing off some cool tech here.
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Roundup of Microsoft Research At TechFest 2009

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  • Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mc1138 (718275) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:16PM (#27059735) Homepage
    Some might say that some of what they do is a waste, but there aren't many companies that are able to do such large scale R&D. Yeah its microsoft, but of late it seems they are trying to release sound technology and I for one am all for them being able to continue to do so even in turbulent economic times.
    • Re:Good for them (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:31PM (#27059843)

      Well, Wall Street will say all of what they do is a waste, because it might take longer than next quarter's results.

      Here's hoping that more of the R&D ends up in more of their products. I've seen some of their research stuff and their problem isn't a lack of ideas (yeah yeah yeah bear with me a moment) it's executing on those ideas and getting them in (and polished) into products.

      • Re:Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) * on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:51PM (#27060051)

        "Well, Wall Street will say all of what they do is a waste, because it might take longer than next quarter's results."

        And now you see why we have the Great Economic Tsunami of 2008.

        • by gravos (912628) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @11:23PM (#27060287) Homepage
          The most interesting thing I saw is Social Desktop. Admittedly a basic idea, but oh, the power you can leverage off that... For example you could make a universal file system that you can access anywhere on top of that. It's huge.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            The most interesting thing I saw is Social Desktop. Admittedly a basic idea, but oh, the power you can leverage off that... For example you could make a universal file system that you can access anywhere on top of that. It's huge.

            Universal filesystem? We already got one of those. They call it FTP. It's quite nice really. You can use part or all of anyone else's filesystem with standard protocols so that means you don't need to know the details of the filesystem on that person's hard drive. Then there's NFS if you want to worry about the details of the remote filesystem. Did I mention SFTP/SCP?

            It's quite rare that someone who is really impressed with a "new" technology (more like a new brand) and thinks it's HUGE and this-an

      • Re:Good for them (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @11:05PM (#27060163) Homepage Journal

        it's executing on those ideas and getting them in (and polished) into products.

        I don't think so. I'll give them the X-Box, but everything else they've implemented since they started trying to eat everybody else's lunch.

        Their search efforts. The SCO fiasco. The desperate grab for yahoo and blatantly paying people off to force Silverlight on everybody. The shit-colored Zune. Vista.

        But what did it for me was the recent forcing of social networking horseshit onto Hotmail without a clear, easy, and permanent method to disable it. Say what you want about Hotmail being Microsoft and all, but I had that account for 10 years because Hotmail Just Worked(tm). I just cancelled a 10-year Hotmail account and left to Gmail a few days ago because Microsoft thought that it would be cute to splice their own(poorly-implemented, I might add) version of MySpace into my goddamn e-mail account.

        So no, I disagree with you. In fact I believe just about everything they do develop, no matter how ingenious, is always fucked up at the implementation stage.

        • Re:Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

          by guruevi (827432) <evi.smokingcube@be> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @11:36PM (#27060381) Homepage

          I believe that is because every single product they release commercially, they will try to use as a vehicle for their other stuff (for best or (usually) for worst). Windows 98 was a vehicle for their ad-based "channels" and the MSN network (a non-neutral internet of some sorts), .NET was initially a vehicle for VB and Visual Studio, later morphed being a vehicle for IIS (and subsequently Windows Server). The MSN portal instead of being informative has become a vehicle for all types of things including Microsoft Search, Messenger, Hotmail, MySpace and Facebook knockoffs, ...

          Same goes for their desktop software (Office, CRM) and server systems (AD, Communications Server and Sharepoint), they all lead to some type of vendor lock-in or it won't work well. Good for us, bad for them these days others begin to see the need to be open and they missed the train.

          • by jamesmcm (1354379)
            I agree, the way they use all their products as vehicles for their other products is wrong, and that's what the EU should focus on, not the browsers so much.

            Take DirectX for example, if it was developed by a separate company they would make cross-platform implementations so they can sell their game development tools, etc. to a wider audience, that is the logical move. However, Microsoft just use it to strengthen their Windows monopoly, a move which is illegal under EU law, and should be stopped.

            To be ho
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by DuctTape (101304) *

          I just cancelled a 10-year Hotmail account and left to Gmail a few days ago because Microsoft thought that it would be cute to splice their own(poorly-implemented, I might add) version of MySpace into my goddamn e-mail account.

          It's not like Hotmail is the only one. Yahoo!'s mail did it, too, with their "Connections," but perhaps it's easier to ignore on Yahoo!.

          DT

        • Re:Good for them (Score:4, Informative)

          by Jamie's Nightmare (1410247) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @12:57AM (#27060911)

          I just cancelled a 10-year Hotmail account and left to Gmail a few days ago because Microsoft thought that it would be cute to splice their own(poorly-implemented, I might add) version of MySpace into my goddamn e-mail account.

          You seem like the kind of hot-headed prick that makes rash (and ignorant) decisions out of anger. Case in point. Did you have to cancel your account? No. You could have done this:

          1. Upper right side of screen, click options.
          2. Select "More Options"
          3. Under "Customize your mail" select "Today page settings"
          4. Select "Skip the Today page and take me straight to my inbox" Done

          Blaming Microsoft for your own shortcomings. Classic.

          • Re:Good for them (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @01:30AM (#27061107) Homepage Journal
            Skipping the today page does not change the fact that the nagging cruft is still there.

            And yes, I actually played around with it first. To "add" people requires you to type in your information to confirm that Microsoft permanently owns all content related to your social networking a la Facebook, but since they're polite enough to ask for that, then why not ask me if I wanted all that crap in the first place?!

            It's like going to the restroom and unexpectedly finding your longtime neighbor who asks if he can watch you shower and take a dump. Even if he leaves after you tell him no, he shouldn't have been there in the first place. And you're never going to trust him again.

            The death of my 10-year old Hotmail account is symbolic. The rebirth will be my gmail accounts accessed via Thunderbird installed on a Dell with pre-loaded Ubuntu that I'm going to buy next week. Hotmail always charged extra for SMTP. You know, I kinda like Microsoft. I like XP, and I want to see Surface succeed, But they're really digging their own grave and even the most diehard of Microsoft apologists know that.
            • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

              by Jurily (900488)

              It's like going to the restroom and unexpectedly finding your longtime neighbor who asks if he can watch you shower and take a dump. Even if he leaves after you tell him no, he shouldn't have been there in the first place. And you're never going to trust him again.

              That's the best analogy of Microsoft I've ever heard.

              BTW Google did something like that integrating gtalk into gmail. Like I'd want anyone to know when I'm checking my email. However, once you turn it off, it stays there and you basically never hear about it again unless you want to. Stupid idea, but at least they made the saving throw.

            • by ozphx (1061292)

              ...permanently owns all content related to your social networking a la facebook...

              And everyone else...

              This is pretty obviously done because no social networking site wants:

              a) Every money grabbing moron suing them for redistributing the valuable IP contained in their "LOL BRB, Taking a dump" status line.
              b) Dealing with making sure every piece of random garbage which is attached to every other piece of random garbage is removed when you cancel your account.

              They also don't want you as a customer if you just ch

              • ...permanently owns all content related to your social networking a la facebook...

                And everyone else...

                This is pretty obviously done because no social networking site wants:

                a) Every money grabbing moron suing them for redistributing the valuable IP contained in their "LOL BRB, Taking a dump" status line. b) Dealing with making sure every piece of random garbage which is attached to every other piece of random garbage is removed when you cancel your account.

                This could be averted with an irrevocable (and non-exclusive) license to redistribute the content within certain terms. They don't need to own it.

                • by ozphx (1061292)

                  Hrmmm, I thought thats how it was worded when it came to uploaded photos. As for them owning my status message... *shrug*. Nothing new here - we've been used to this since the Happy Penguin State Colouring Competition had a little * line that said you won't get your entry returned.

                  If I write the next War and Peace using Twitter, then we'll see how the legal challenges go...

        • Re:Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Xest (935314) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @05:04AM (#27062091)

          You're right that they've made many fuckups but you've only taking a select set of their products that are fuckups and tried to infer from that that all their products are fuckups.

          Visual Studio, .NET and most of their other development stuff is excellent and truly top notch arguably beating out everything else on the market that tries to achieve the same goal. You look at something like ASP.NET MVC which started out as a research project and is now nearly at release stage and it puts a lot of longer running open source web frameworks (such as CakePHP) to absolute shame.

          A lot of people don't like the Office 2007 interface because it's different and people don't like different, but in terms of ease of use for beginners and the productivity increases it brings it's a major innovation. The previous style toolbars have been running since the 80s and absolutely were not perfect so they deserve some credit for finally doing something to improve the good old toolbar in a way that does produce real, measureable productivity increases. Some common tasks that used to take an hour can be done in 30 seconds now. Sure the OOXML thing was a farce but that doesn't make the whole product bad when the new UI offers real benefits and you can save in other file formats anyway.

          Even their server products aren't that bad anymore since they figured out that stability and security were important. 2008 server is particularly decent and 2003 wasn't too bad.

          Also, you include forcing silverlight on everybody as being something that makes it a bad product, now I'll admit I don't know what silverlight is really like but businesses practices aside is it really any worse than Flash for example? The Yahoo thing ended up in Microsofts favour, Yahoo reached a point where it wished it had accepted Microsoft's offer whilst Microsoft ended up thanking the gods it didn't pay what it was offering.

          Microsoft has indeed produced some shit through the years- the Zune, IE6, ME, Vista, Sourcesafe etc. but to suggest all their products are fucked up at implementation is ignorant of their numerous successes. I do not believe a company even with a monopoly the size of Micrososft's could continue to survive if everything they did was fucked up at implementation. People say companies buy MS OS' because of the monopoly position which is pretty true, but they hold no monopoly on development tools, office software and so on, they don't bundle this software with the OS, they charge for it and yet people buy it primarily because it's really no worse than the other offerings out there and is in many ways, much better.

          I do not see Microsoft any different to other companies in this regard- Apple has it's successes like the iPod, iTunes and so on but look how many flops it's had through the years too. Google has it's search engine, web office tools and so on but again look at the flops it's had and the projects it's scrapped. All companies have succeses as well as failures and Microsoft is really no different in this regard, even if it is popular to hate them for their monopoly. Perhaps the biggest difference with MS is that most it's successes are in the business world whilst most it's failures are often more prominent in the consumer world- the Zune, IE6, ME and as such they struggle more for hearts and minds than say Apple and Google whose successes are prominent more in the consumer world- I mean, everyone remembers Apple for the iPod and no one remembers them for the pile of steaming turd that is MacOS Server whilst everyone remembers Microsoft for the likes of the Zune and Windows ME and no one (apart from developers who work with it) remembers them for Visual Studio.

          • by arevos (659374)

            You look at something like ASP.NET MVC which started out as a research project and is now nearly at release stage and it puts a lot of longer running open source web frameworks (such as CakePHP) to absolute shame.

            I think you're exaggerating how good ASP.NET MVC is. I've been working on a six month project with ASP.NET MVC, and whilst it's certainly better than straight ASP.NET (though it would be hard to make something worse), it's nowhere near as good as any of the popular Ruby or Python frameworks.

            The main benefit to ASP.NET MVC is the ability to use NHibernate, which is a pretty decent ORM, and IMO better than ActiveRecord. But apart from that, there's not a lot going for it, unless you happen to be stuck in .NET

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Fear the Clam (230933)

            A lot of people don't like the Office 2007 interface because it's different and people don't like different, but in terms of ease of use for beginners and the productivity increases it brings it's a major innovation. The previous style toolbars have been running since the 80s and absolutely were not perfect so they deserve some credit for finally doing something to improve the good old toolbar in a way that does produce real, measureable productivity increases. Some common tasks that used to take an hour ca

          • by Turiko (1259966)
            the office 2007 menu is NOT a good thing. sure, the new users have it a lot easier. All the other users have a hard time adapting and feel like their money was stolen, as they hardly know how to use the new blinky interface. I'm 16, and even I (!) have trouble adapting, since i'lm used to the traditional menus in EVERY program i come across. What people did microsoft aim at? 12 years old? It's a bad thing to replace something that everyone knows with something you basically have to re-learn the whole prog
          • Visual Studio [et al.] is excellent and truly top notch

            Last I checked, the only way to move the cursor one unit (line or char) to the left/r/u/d is via the arrow keys.

            You can formalize a very simple idea using statically optimal search trees, entropy or what have you, but I'm not gonna. Instead I'm gonna state the simple idea:

            In order to minimize total cost, the most common operations should be the cheapest.

            An implication: what you do quite often is inserting text; probably you're also a touch typist, so your hands are going to rest on "asdfjkl;" (or "aoeuhtns

            • by Xest (935314)

              The code window is only really a small part of what's good about Visual Studio though and even then the Intellisense implemented in VS in recent years is truly quite awesome. As an example, if you start typing in a parameter for a function call it wont just match the letters you've typed but the type that the parameters is taking you pretty much instantly to the variable whose name you wish to type first time every time, if not just keep typing- no time lost, but plenty saved each time it gets it right.

              But

              • by arevos (659374)

                But other small things (and many large things) help a lot, many other IDEs have some of the features, but not IDEs have all of the features.

                The grandparent post made comparisons to Emacs. If I were you, I wouldn't get into a feature comparison between VS and Emacs - Intellisense is neat, but only does a fraction of what SLIME does :)

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Simetrical (1047518)

            Microsoft has indeed produced some shit through the years- the Zune, IE6

            IE6 is not a good example. It was actually a top-notch browser in its time -- it's what finally killed Netscape. It's just that after Microsoft dominated the web browser market, it stopped adding useful features and got trounced by others.

            • by Xest (935314)

              IE6 was bad because it was one of the least standards compliant browsers we've ever had to suffer in the mainstream and also one of the least secure.

              The issues weren't so much with features but how it contributed to millions of virus and spyware infections worldwide due to being so insecure whilst breaking so many websites so that they had to be hacked to work with it then unhacked whilst providing alternative paths for both as alternatives started to grow that were far more standards compliant - Opera and

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Simetrical (1047518)

                IE6 was bad because it was one of the least standards compliant browsers we've ever had to suffer in the mainstream and also one of the least secure.

                It was not less standards compliant nor less secure than its competition at the time it was released. It grew into the monstrosity we know and hate due to neglect, not because it was poorly executed to begin with. It was good, but the competition got better while it stayed put.

                • by Xest (935314)

                  That doesn't really make sense, Microsoft didn't make it less standards compliant and secure as it's life went on, it was atrociously poor at standards compliance and security from it's very release so it absolutely was poorly executed to begin with. Just because there was not much else around at the time does not mean it was a good product. In fact, it actually got better towards the end due to additional security features, the popup blocker but no real improvements in standards compliance, although of cou

                  • That doesn't really make sense, Microsoft didn't make it less standards compliant and secure as it's life went on

                    No, it became less standards-compliant and less secure due to neglect. New standards were released and old standards were clarified, so it became less standards-compliant. New types of security vulnerabilities were uncovered and old ones became better understood, so it became less secure. Competing browsers evolved to stay in pace with the changing times, and IE6 did not. So by 2004 or whatever, it was a lot worse by comparison than when it came out.

                    Just because there was not much else around at the time does not mean it was a good product.

                    No, it really does. You cannot say "IE6 is a bad brow

                    • by Xest (935314)

                      "No, it became less standards-compliant and less secure due to neglect. New standards were released and old standards were clarified, so it became less standards-compliant."

                      You do realise IE6 was released in 2001 and the HTML4.01 standard and CSS2 standards became recommendations in 1999 and 1998 respectively right? XHTML1.0 in 2000. IE7 came out in 2006, a year before CSS2.1 became a recommendation by which point we can say IE6 was passed it's sell by date. XHTML1.1 hasn't yet reached recommendation stage

          • by ca111a (1078961)
            Sorry, my post is a bit too long, but so is the parent.
            Ribbons are crap. I've used Office for 10 years and I often cannot find a simple function I used to have right there in the menu. Apple's searchable menus are far superior. Also, next time you use them on a laptop try to notice how they take up half of your screen. And next time you say that something now takes 30 sec instead of an hour, please include a solid example. And why would it take an *hour* before?
            Visual Studio is good, I agree. Let's forget
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Adilor (857925)
      Exactly. Yeah, there's a lot of hate out there for 'em. You can't be a big guy in the market and avoid hate. You have to admit, though, that being said big guy does have its advantages in areas like this. There's a lot of power in this company. No matter how much some of us may dislike Microsoft, they deserve some props for the strokes of genius they occasionally show. I'm impressed, at least.
    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @12:25AM (#27060713)

      Some might say that some of what they do is a waste, but there aren't many companies that are able to do such large scale R&D.

      But that's why it is a huge waste. Not because they do it, but because they can do all this awesome R&D and yet we (the human race) really see nothing from it.

      What it derives from is the fundamental reason why Microsoft funds all this R&D - to keep the people doing the R&D happy in the current-day equivalent of the Holodeck, where they can do anything they want yet nothing they do actually matters. Microsoft doesn't care, as long as what they are doing does not help other companies progress then Microsoft looks like they are not moving as slowly as they are by comparison.

      It's easy to see how a situation like this can come to pass when a company has a lot of money, the directive to hire and retain smart people, yet has a corporate culture that makes bringing real products to full delivery almost impossible.

      And that in the end, is the greatest crime of all. The opportunity cost of what we all have lost from these people slaving away in the golden tower from which nothing returns.

      • by gtall (79522)

        Yeah, yer right! No one should have funded all that crap on quantum mechanics back in the early part of the 20th century. No one could see far enough ahead to point to any useful trinkets for you to be blinded by. And they should certainly not have funded any gravitational studies, who the hell would use them to put comm. satellites in orbit or build out a GPS system? And what about those morons in the 50's (the names Crick and Watson ring a bell) who were dorking around with DNA stuff? What a waste of time

        • by 1s44c (552956)

          Dude, you totally didn't get what the parent was trying to say. He wasn't against research. He was against big companies buying researchers to prevent what they would have been working on getting into the hands of competitors.

          I'm sure all three of us agree on the value of good research.

        • No one should have funded all that crap on quantum mechanics back in the early part of the 20th century. No one could see far enough ahead to point to any useful trinkets for you to be blinded by.

          Read again imbecile. Your whole rant is pointless because YOU AGREE WITH ME.

          That is to say, I did not in any way attack R&D. I attacked Microsoft for doing deep R&D that THE HUMAN RACE WILL NEVER REALLY SEE OR USE. It's like the R&D tree falling in a forest, there is no sound nor other effect as far

          • I realize in re-reading my post that I offered a terrible slight to Science Fiction, in saying that Microsoft R&D might as well be SF stories I of course ignored the very useful things that have come from people seeking to make ideas in SF stories a reality. WIth Microsoft there is in fact the exact opposite effect, because anyone who thinks something Microsoft R&D is doing is cool has the exact opposite motivation - who would be crazy enough to work on something that (A) Microsoft might deliver as

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by gtall (79522)

            Great arguing style, you've got there.

            What you are ignoring is that MS researchers publish in journals and conference proceedings accessible to any library and frequently they are on-line for anyone. How is this then mysteriously lost?

            What you are objecting to is MS development (not research) never seeing the light of day. I doubt that, I'll bet most of their development goes into small things that go into their OS and other associated malware. It probably won't fix the stinking blob that is Windows, or wha

            • What you are ignoring is that MS researchers publish in journals and conference proceedings accessible to any library and frequently they are on-line for anyone. How is this then mysteriously lost?

              The people reading it now will discontinue work on a project, because Microsoft is doing it.

              If Microsoft does not then really develop an idea, chances are slim indeed it will be found later to revisit.

              What you are objecting to is MS development (not research) never seeing the light of day. I doubt that, I'll bet m

          • by DevStar (943486)

            This is just absurd. Tons of people can see and use the R&D that Microsoft produces. Go into virtually any CS conference, from PLDI to SIGGRAPH, and you'll see tons of papers that build on and cite research published by Microsoft. And where was some of the most important research on quantum computing done... well another industry lab, Bell Labs. BTW, Microsoft has also done some great work in quantum computing as well. Here's an example of some of their interesting work in topological quantum compu

          • by maxume (22995)

            They publish extensively. That is quite at odds with your 'never see'.

            I suppose you would be better off writing individually to anyone who works there, explaining hoe they are wasting their efforts.

    • Re:Good for them (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rampant mac (561036) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @01:37AM (#27061153)
      "Some might say that some of what they do is a waste, but there aren't many companies that are able to do such large scale R&D."

      Steve Ballmer, Feb 2009: Microsoft asked some of its employees to read various company annual reports from 1927 through 1938. The goal, he said, was to find out who had done a good job handling the Great Depression," Lane reports. "'RCA, god rest them in peace, RCA become our role model,' Ballmer said. 'They actually kept investing in R&D through the Depression period, and in the post-Depression they dominated TV technology because they were really the only guys who had invested.'" (http://www.cio-today.com/story.xhtml?story_id=12000B3128U0)

      Steve Jobs, March 2008: We've had one of these before, when the dot-com bubble burst. What I told our company was that we were just going to invest our way through the downturn, that we weren't going to lay off people, that we'd taken a tremendous amount of effort to get them into Apple in the first place -- the last thing we were going to do is lay them off. And we were going to keep funding. In fact we were going to up our R&D budget so that we would be ahead of our competitors when the downturn was over. And that's exactly what we did. And it worked. And that's exactly what we'll do this time. (http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2008/fortune/0803/gallery.jobsqna.fortune/15.html) R&D is HUGE. Without it, I'd doubt the iPod would have made such a big splash, or if we'd see any of the amazing processor iterations that we're currently seeing.

  • Yeah, but can they make something as cool as Windows Mojave?
  • Missing (Score:5, Funny)

    by Divebus (860563) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:18PM (#27059755)

    I don't see bug fixes in that list.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Slumdog (1460213)

      I don't see bug fixes in that list.

      Not fixes, just new bugs and R&D is working out some really complex ones.

  • Here's hoping ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by genmax (990012) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:19PM (#27059761)

    ... that some of this research actually helps Microsoft in turning in to a company that derives its revenues from the fruits of its innovations rather than monopoly-based marketing hacks, and lock-ins into poorly written code.

    Say what you will about Microsoft's software, Steve Ballmer, etc. - Microsoft Research does some really cool work, and its track record of supporting fundamental math/cs research (and researchers) is quite commendable.

    • Here's hoping ... ... that some of this research actually helps Microsoft in turning in to a company that derives its revenues from the fruits of its innovations rather than monopoly-based marketing hacks, and lock-ins into poorly written code.

      To steal a line form Dilbert: I respectfully decline your kind offer to join your delusion.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tjstork (137384)

      Microsoft ... poorly written code

      How do you know its poorly written, if it is proprietary?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Microsoft ... poorly written code

        How do you know its poorly written, if it is proprietary?

        Lots of ways he could have. He may be an ex-employee. He may have an academic license to view their code. He may have been offered a job by them and given a chance to see the code first (I know someone who had this happen to them). He may have looked at leaked code. He may have looked at code they released (especially after there was a bug in it and MS wanted to show the cause to the IT community at large). He may know second-hand.

      • Excellent question. I guess if we want to be perfectly honest, we really can't say for sure, without access to the source code.

        However, we tend to infer the instability of Microsoft code from the number of times Internet Explorer crashes in a 24-hour period, and how many BSODs we get in a month.

        Clearly, it's broken from an end-user perspective, no matter how efficient the source code looks.

        • However, we tend to infer the instability of Microsoft code from the number of times Internet Explorer crashes in a 24-hour period, and how many BSODs we get in a month

          So, if we are to judge Linux by the same standard, would it be fair to rip how often people have to hit CTRL-ALT-BACKSPACE to kill their super stable X session. Can we rip that brand by all the terrible things that happen when ever ubuntu pushes out a kernel update to Hardy Heron when you have nVidia drivers? That desktop gets blown away ba

      • by Higaran (835598)
        That's easy, BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH. If the code was really good, then you would almost never see it. I do admit, I have yet to see it with vista, hvae been using it for about 6 months, and rarely see it anymore in pc's with XP.
        • by tsa (15680) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @11:50PM (#27060469) Homepage

          I haven't seen a BSOD on my computer for many years, at work where I use Windows exclusively as well as at home, where my Mac is often tortured by running Windows on it for playing games. XP is very stable.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by ozmanjusri (601766)
            I haven't seen a BSOD on my computer for many years

            Nobody has (almost).

            Microsoft did bit of brilliant market engineering by switching the default setting from BSOD to automatic reboot for XP. It meant all their evangelists could legitimately (if misleadingly) claim that XP was so stable it never BSOD'd, while not requiring any actual expensive coding to fix bugs.

            To get your pretty blue screens back, change the recovery settings to disable automatic rebooting:

            1. Right-click My Computer, and then click
            • by tsa (15680)

              You left out my remark that XP is very stable. I almost never have problems with XP, neither at work nor at home. I've never experienced an automatic reboot as far as I can remember.

              • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

                by 1s44c (552956)

                I've never experienced an automatic reboot as far as I can remember

                In which case you are not applying critical patches and your machine is dangerously insecure.

                • My machines are up to date and I also VERY rarely enjoy an automatic reboot or BSOD.
                  And the one time I did have a persistent BSOD/reboot cycle, it was because of faulty hardware.

                • by tsa (15680)

                  You'd like that wouldn't you? Some people have too much faith in MS as the Devil.

            • I will cherish forever the memory of the BSOD during the lighting of the Olympic flame in China last year, especially knowing that Gates was in the stadium at the time. I hope he had a good view.

            • Others have already pointed out that this is just spreading FUD. I haven't had the "Automatically restart" check box selected for 11 months. I haven't had a single BSOD. Yes, I used to have scads of them. XP has in fact gotten better. I'm no Microsoft apologist. I use XP when my employers make me, and so far, those decisions have made complete sense. At home, I don't use Windows (except in emulation, sometimes).
            • Even with Automatic Reboot on you can see the BSOD, if just briefly.

              If you aren't at your desk, you will probably be logged out and when you do log in you'll get a Crash Recovery dialog. If you're on a server product, you'll be asked directly why the computer restarted. Frankly they've hidden nothing and in fact improved the product.

              For most situations, sitting on a BSOD indefinitely was the wrong thing to do.

            • by maxume (22995)

              I regularly get weeks of uptime (which end when I intentionally reboot...). I think a lot of it is that the initiatives to improve driver quality have actually worked.

            • To get your pretty blue screens back, change the recovery settings to disable automatic rebooting: [list of steps]

              Couldn't you just have posted a command I can copy-paste into my shell? Clicking around seems like a waste of time...

              (no, I'm not blaming you for the faults of windows; or rather, only ironically) ;-)

              • by HydrusZ (539461)

                reg add HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\CrashControl /v AutoReboot /t REG_DWORD /d 0

                There you go.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by cbhacking (979169)

              You can fool some people some times, but you can't fool all the people all the time... this cuts both ways. Sure, it could be applied to Microsoft making auto-reboot the default, but it also applies to you claiming that's why we haven't seen BSODs at all.

              A couple interesting points:
              * It's quite possible to tell when a Windows system crashes, even with auto-reboot enabled - you still see the BSOD briefly, and then the computer spontaneously reboots, and *then* you get a message on log-in claiming tha

          • I did yesterday, twice, on a company workstation. Windows XP Professional version 2002 SP 3.

            I also see window artifacts every day or two. Some piece of a window has a horizontal black line drawn through it. Windows freeze and can't be moved for several seconds. Several types of popup windows won't close, or close only to spawn a new window.

            Yes, XP is very stable. It consistently behaves like this.
        • by ozphx (1061292)

          99% of the BSODs I have seen have been PAGE_FAULT_IN_NON_PAGED_AREA, usually in either an nvidia or realtek driver. This is a clear bug in driver code. The error is using a pointer to a page which isn't locked and subsequently gets paged to disk from within a ring0 level. So you get a page fault, and everyone is sad.

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by ozmanjusri (601766)
        How do you know its poorly written, if it is proprietary?

        Reading things like this [ericvasilik.com] should give you a hint.

    • by peragrin (659227)

      two problems with MSFT is that the research products almost never make it to real products that people can use, and once they are approved MSFT marketing sink their teeth into them until the cool products gets squirted out like a brown zune.

      I don't think there is any engineer at MSFT who isn't smart or clever. after all they keep windows going that has got to require massive amount of creative hacking.

      • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:52PM (#27060061)

        the research products almost never make it to real products that people can use

        You could say the same for just about any real research. I'm still grateful that it's being done. Far too many companies are content to focus on the next quarter while leaving the research to academia.

        • by 1s44c (552956)

          Far too many companies are content to focus on the next quarter while leaving the research to academia.

          Academia is where research belongs. Few companies are capable of doing quality research, Microsoft isn't one of them. Companies apply research, they don't create research.

    • by dido (9125)

      I doubt that'll ever happen. Microsoft is a large, publicly traded company, and what you want to see is a nearly 180-degree shift in the character of the company that would entail a lot of risk. Any moves to this effect will most likely be opposed by many members of the board of directors tooth and nail. They have all of the resources necessary to become a force to be reckoned with once again, a massive war chest that dwarfs the resources available to some small sovereign countries, a research arm that e

    • by DuctTape (101304)

      [Here's hoping] ... that some of this research actually helps Microsoft in turning in to a company that derives its revenues from the fruits of its innovations rather than monopoly-based marketing hacks, and lock-ins into poorly written code.

      (okay, here it comes...)

      You must be new here.

      DT

  • Woah (Score:4, Funny)

    by Idiomatick (976696) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:31PM (#27059837)
    Did we /. arstechnica? I cannot get to it.
  • Microsoft Research Asia
    Researchers: Lei Ma, Qiang Huo, and Frank Soong

    What's up with this asian guys trying to write some weirds characters up in the air?
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Apparently you didn't even read the summary right under the video. It can be used in education via webcam, where the user may not be familier with a keyboard, but still needs to input words. This could spill over to places like kiosks or embedded systems, where a keyboard is a liability towards being broken, or simply a cuttable expense. It could also work with other niches, such as providing feedback on teaching sign language, or letting a player use hand signals to communicate in squad-based shooting game

      • Keyboards are less of a liability than any newfangled input device would be, and will be for a long time, however replacing the keyboard would help many users with disabilities.
      • by Saija (1114681)

        Apparently you didn't even read the summary right under the video

        wtf? this is slashdot!! no one reads the summary neither the tfa !

  • What about Bob? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Bob 2.0 is a speech-enabled, touch sensitive Social Networking hypervisor powered by Cloud Computing.

    And may I have your attention to the mobile phone over here - *this* isn't your father's Clippy.

  • Imitation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @11:39PM (#27060395)
    The problem with most of Microsoft's research is, it ends up (usually poorly) imitating a competitor that is obvious in the eyes of a consumer. Someone looks at the Zune and can immediately compare it to the iPod, Live Search to Google, MSN to AIM (or IRC, etc), and the XBox to the PS2. The flaws in all of these products were A) A late deployment (minus the case of MSN), B) No real way to make money on it (the Xbox devision only recently turned a profit), C) In-Your-Face marketing, just compare the commercials for "I'm a PC..." to Apple's recent commercials, Apple's were cleaner, simpler and got the point across, Microsoft's commercials basically stated "Hey, we are still a monopoly!", D) Bundling. Having Windows Messenger (on XP, it was the precursor to MSN messenger) pop up every single time I started Windows didn't exactly persuade me to get MSN anytime soon, neither does the fact that Windows is required for a Zune and all the other MS DRM is Windows only basically alienates me as a Linux (and sometimes OS X) user from spending money on Microsoft hardware.

    I'm sure we would all be singing a different tune if MS had launched the Zune back in 2000, or if Live/MSN search had the clean, easy to use, and optimized search engine before Google, but MS didn't launch them so to most customers they look about as appealing as buying a Wal-Mart branded MP3 player when a name-brand iPod costs only a few bucks more. Sure, some will buy them, but they will see them as the "off-brand" something that I don't think MS quite realizes. The MS brand means nothing to consumers, the days where it was considered name-brand are long gone.
    • The problem with most of Microsoft's research is, it ends up (usually poorly) imitating a competitor that is obvious in the eyes of a consumer. Someone looks at the Zune and can immediately compare it to the iPod, Live Search to Google, MSN to AIM (or IRC, etc), and the XBox to the PS2.

      MS' business model, in general, is to be the fast follower. They let someone else test the waters with a new idea; and if it looks like it will be successful MS jumps in to grab marketshare. They have been quite successful with that model, even with a few flops.

      Their cash and market strength plays well with such a model.

      R&D give them things they can incorporate in existing products as well as some new ones; but in general MS is not a company that seeks to be first to market with a new idea.

  • Lets start a pool on which of these technologies will be cooler than the SPOT watch. Provided any ever see the light of day as an honest to god product. Or will we just keep hearing about how cool they will be Any Day Now, like a certain table-with-a-projector-and-a-PC-in-it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cbhacking (979169)

      Surface has already been deployed. The first models were installed months ago. Some of the fancier hotels are rolling them out across the country already. It's not priced for the home user - something on the oder of $5000/machine - but you could probably buy one for personal use if you wanted to. Given enough time, its price will certainly come down.

      The point is, just because you've never personally used a given product doesn't mean it isn't already developed, deployed, and being used in the world.

  • Microsoft has given my university a grant to help develop software in the field of phamacogenetics. It's for developing a program that will identify interactions between a person's individual genetics and the medications they are prescribed. It's supposed to revolutionize the field of pharmacy. I just hope it doesn't have to reboot after every patient.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I just hope it doesn't have to reboot after every patient.

      I just hope it doesn't reboot every patient... giving new meaning to BSOD.

  • or Kumo or whatever R&D into how or whoever is going to change our lives. I'll settled for just decent help documentation and semi-usable help search, from any software vendor. Please.
  • MSR's reputation (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @03:23AM (#27061729)

    While MS gets heavily criticized, the same can't be said about MSR, which is a highly prestigious industrial research group that harkens to the culture brought about from the early days of Xerox PARC Research. When it comes to research, MSR publishes consistently in extremely competitive and top-rated conferences and journals (e.g., ACM Siggraph, SOSP, OSDI, etc). While these outcomes do not have a tangible "dollar" amount attached to them, they do allow MSR to attract and bring together a tremendous amount of talent coming out of top computer science schools. Increasingly, very few companies out there are willing to commit the resources to research like MS does or truly focus on "pure" research without being tied down to a product group. Some examples would be IBM, Intel, HP Labs, etc. The reality is: research that truly has an impact cannot be tied to product cycles.

    As a CS PhD student myself at a "competitive" CS graduate school, many of my peers who are considering academic positions also intend to apply to MSR after graduation. And it's not easy to get in. The interview process is nearly as rigorous as one would undergo if applying for assistant professorship at a top CS school. So, MSR only hires top-rate people, and I think MS's decision to fund MSR will and continue to pay off in the future.

    • The reality is: research that truly has an impact cannot be tied to product cycles.

      I guess that is why some of the greatest things that exist only in MSR never come out as a product, because Microsoft upper management is only looking at the money, and how to completely own the technology so that they control the entire product. Not "give it away" or (some of it away), and let people interact and contribute to it. What good does technology and new ideas do for people if they are not given access to it? In
    • by peter303 (12292)
      Last several years MSR has co-authored as many as 20% of the main papers. This is remarkable considering the main paper track has a 85% rejection rate. Some of the rejects go to secondary tracks, but only their abstracts are published then and not really science then (reproduceable).
      The sad thing is I see so little of this research making it in main stream MSFT commercial products. I hear from mainstream MSFT developers of a cultural rift between them and the "effete research snobs". Stockholders are sta
  • Why? (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by 1s44c (552956)

    Microsoft are a big money company, not a knowledge organization. Big money companies can't do research, it's against their nature and a huge waste of cash.

    If they care about research they should just give university scholarships to bright researchers and leave them to get on with it.

    • "Big money companies can't do research, it's against their nature and a huge waste of cash."

      Sure, just consider AT&T, Xerox, and IBM. Nothing useful ever came from these big companies' research.

  • As far as I can recall, precisely zero of the Microsoft Research projects I've thought were cool ever got into Windows.

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