Niner since 2004

For the last four years I've been following the beta scene closely, and providing the latest news and information about it to my visitors. In the last few months, however, my sites' focus has shifted onto all OSes, rather than just Microsoft betas.

Update, 2008: I'm now a graphic designer, unfortunately living in Prague, CZ.


  • Jim Allchin - The Longhorn Update

    JBeda wrote:
    BOFH wrote:
    Since MS have been, officially, very quiet about DCE - even at the WinHEC and PDC events - some people still fail to understand that whilst Avalon is the "presentation layer", it isn't the rendering engine which Explorer Glass is built on. That function still comes down to DCE, which will not be backported to XP.

    Actually, I think you got some of the fine points of the Avalon graphics architecture wrong here.  Avalon does include the rendering and compositing engine.  The DWM is being built on parts of the Avalon platofrm.

    Yes, I wasn't sure as to whether or not you'd still be including application-specific hardware acceleration, but I was sure you wouldn't attempt to port the DWM effects or the LDDM back to XP and Server 2k3, as it would pretty much negate the whole point of releasing longhorn at all.
  • Jim Allchin - The Longhorn Update

    Andrew Davey wrote:
    Are Google now going to have a huge advantage over winFS? Shame really - I value a usable file system over fancy UI.

    It's not a file system. :\
  • Jim Allchin - The Longhorn Update

    Zeo wrote:

    I’ll leave with this one last question, having listened to PM’s and Devs I’ve heard them taking about the cutting of features for longhorn and their placement into the Blackcomb client OS, so what’s up with Blackcomb? What’s the developing story between the new Shorthorn, and the Long-term Blackcomb?  If features are being cut as they inevitability will in software development projects, what’s research working on for the post ’06 Client OS story?

    This is where I get to have fun Smiley

    Okay, basically, nothing's really changed... if you go back far enough. Back during the Whistler beta, the roadmap was quite simple - Whistler, followed by Blackcomb. The specifications for Blackcomb were laid down, UI prototypes and concepts were created and demoed at the Financial Analysts meeting by Steve Guggenheimer, and Blackcomb was all set to become the next major client release of Windows. Then, XP went RTM - later than expected, but earlier than Windows .NET, and Microsoft had a problem. They panicked, and threw everything into the development of Windows .NET, and by 2003 they'd finally got a product which was ready for release to the general market. By now, they were already rapidly approaching the estimated release date for the next client version of Windows (previously expected at 2004), and so they were forced to think again about their development plans.

    The upshot of it all was, that Longhorn was inserted between Whistler and Blackcomb as a point release; a minor update which would include some of the new features of Blackcomb, but miss out larger, key parts, such as the radically new GUI. This decision was made during the development of Windows Server 2003, and it was announced by various news sites that Longhorn would become the next client release of Windows. Of course, all this talk of a "radically new GUI" led people to believe that it would be... (omgwtfbbqgrass)... three dimensional. They based these opinions on various things being passed around at the time, such as the Task Gallery MSR prototype, and various other things such as 3DTop, SphereXP, etc. Unfortunately, these ridiculous claims also made some "reputable" news sites, and so it was clear as day that Blackcomb would contain the new 3D GUI. Ugh.

    Anyway, Windows .NET (now known as Server 2003), went RTM, and development on Longhorn was back on; full steam ahead as far as Longhorn was concerned. Then, something confusing happened. Microsoft announced "PDC '03", and various PowerPoint presentations were released which listed WinFS - which some people recognized as a continuation of Cairo - as one of the key components of Longhorn, along with Avalon and Indigo. This took everyone by surprise, as it was previously thought to be a Blackcomb feature.

    Okay, so lets take stock of where the roadmaps sit at this point (before PDC03):

    Windows XP - went RTM in 2001.
    Windows Server 2003 - RTM'd in 2003
    Longhorn - projected RTM, 2005
    Longhorn Server - projected RTM, 2007
    Blackcomb - projected RTM, 2008.
    Blackcomb Server - projected RTM, 2010

    Okay, so we've got two clear product cycles here - Client and Server. Both client and server releases are separated by 3 year gaps - plenty of time to work on each OS, devoting 1 year of dedicated time to client, and 2 years to Server, with up to two years overlap between the development cycles. Since server typically contains more components than client, this makes sense.

    Now, two things happened. Firstly, Microsoft announced that no; Blackcomb would not be the next MAJOR release of Windows - reasons for this? Well, they wanted Longhorn to sell for one, plus, a lot of the Blackcomb-only features were now being included in Longhorn, including an ehanced GUI. Of course, there's still internal promise of a RADICALLY new GUI, called "AERO", which nobody outside of MS has actually seen yet (that's what those UX and MSX boys are busy doing in Lab_06/private).

    The second thing was Windows XP SP2.

    Normally, development of service packs after SP1 is left down to the support team, but in the case of SP2, since so much extra functionality was added, development was handed back over to Windows Core - something which was previously unheard of. Basically, Longhorn development slowed to a crawl, and Microsoft realised that they weren't even going to hit their revised estimate of 2006. In order to ship WinFS along with the rest of Longhorn, it would take them up to 2007 or 2008 at least, and this was simply too long to wait for another client release of Windows.

    In August 2004, after Windows XP SP2 went RTM, Microsoft made the careful - and immensely wise - decision to revert back to the original roadmap, with Longhorn being a stepping stone to Blackcomb, the next major client release of Windows, which just happens to include WinFS, and a radically new UI called AERO Smiley

    In Bill Gates' interview with C|Net, he states that "the big breakthrough, where you get [WinFS, Avalon, Indigo, and AERO] brought together, will ship first off-cycle but then come back around and be built into the next OS release."

    That, ladies and gentlemen, is the future of Windows, and we're now (almost) back on the original roadmap, albeit delayed by a year because of Windows XP SP2.

  • Jim Allchin - The Longhorn Update

    Perhaps Jim should have said "the Aero compliant UI", then Wink

    Aero is a set of User Experience guidelines; not a UI. The new shell, which hasn't been demoed yet (and now, in light of the cutbacks, may not be included until Blackomb), is called AERO.
  • Jim Allchin - The Longhorn Update

    Hi there!

    Can you all stop calling it the Aero UI, please? It helps if you get your naming conventions right.

    It's called "Explorer Glass", not "Aero" anything.
  • Jim Allchin - The Longhorn Update

    Tom Servo wrote:
    The big slide makes it hard to read your comments, since I'm running the browser windowed. And what I said actually referred to text in a comment section of a blog of a MS employee, not this slide, though the post was related to it.

    And I don't see how I'm "not exactly wrong". Maybe I wasn't too clear with all that acronym soup, but the point I wanted to make is that the lower layer abstractions for XP and Longhorn will be different. On Longhorn the window surfaces will be handed over to the DWM (which is dependent on Avalon again) and on XP they'll be handed over to some code that draws using GDI. Add some input handling thinking here. Additionally what I've wanted to say is that the UCE is an Avalon component afterall, since you made it sounds like it's a Longhorn thing only, and will be available in the XP version of Avalon, since it needs to composite the window surfaces, it's just not used for desktop composition.

    Ah, okay, I get you now.
  • Jim Allchin - The Longhorn Update

    Tom Servo wrote:
    BOFH wrote: stuff... DCE, DWM, Avalon, etc.

    Actually, there was a small discussion about that on Joe Bedas blog sometime ago.

    The gist: DCE doesn't exist anymore, it's been merged with the application layer compositor and is called UCE (universal composition engine). The DWM will thus use the same compositor as the Avalon application. And furthermore, the UCE _is_ part of Avalon. So Aero (Glass) requires Avalon in one way or another.

    BUT... the UCE can run in software mode. So it'll be likely that the WindowsXP build of Avalon will run in software mode inside the application, and some lower layer XP specific code will use GDI and User32 for display and input, instead of an desktop UCE on top of LDDM/D3D and whatever will do the input on Longhorn.

    Now regarding WinFS, currently it is built on top of NTFS, but since it currently also supports static folder structures defined inside the store, filesystem semantics are supplied. Thus I see no reason why you wouldn't be able to merge WinFS and NTFS for a post-Longhorn operating system (WinFS V2). Just drop an additional bitmap into the data file (next to the free page bitmap) that tells the filesystem driver which pages are used for data structures and which for filestreams. I'd rather want to see an unified filesystem than some piggyback thingymajic on longterm.

    Ah, apologies there Tom; I'd forgotten about the change in acronyms to UCE. Yes, here's the slide you're referring to:

    You're not exactly WRONG, as far as the XP-delivered UCE goes, except there's one important distinction to make. Yes, Avalon will run in software mode, but it won't deal with the entire display - only Longhorn-style Avalon applications will have their controls rendered by UCE, and also, DWM won't be present, therefore the applications will lack graphical effects such as transparency and shadows, as well as windows Transition effects (spin to taskbar, spin to desktop, etc).

    Thanks for pointing this out.
  • Jim Allchin - The Longhorn Update

    scobleizer wrote:
    BOFH: interesting, I didn't think that Glass needed the DCE. Allchin, yesterday, announced that Glass will be on the 2006 version of Longhorn.

    Well, of course it will; Lab 6 are currently well on track for a 2006 release of a finalized version of DCE, and LDDM support from the major video IHVs is quite forthcoming. Many of the DCE demos we've seen so far have been on either nVidia Quadro cards, or ATI's 9800/9700 range, with LDDM drivers powering the effects. Unfortunately, if you even so much as mention LDDM to an IHV, you'll recieve nothing but a "no comment" in response, which at least shows that they're taking it seriously.

    Glass, as well as the rest of DCE, including hardware acceleration, WILL be in the 2006 release of Longhorn, although it's still not certain whether or not the new shell which MSX/UX have been working on will be included (integrates things like GroupBar, ProjectBar, etc, into the standard windows shell, thus redefining the taskbar concept. The new shell, "AERO", will apparently be a consolidation of various MSR projects which showed productivity improvements over the standard Windows interface, and will also include simplification of various key UI elements, to make the overall Windows User eXperience (Aero), much more productive.

    As far as WinFS goes, to think of it as a radically redefined file system is to look at it in the wrong way. A better, and easier to understand model is of Windows XP's Indexing service. Basically, the Indexing Service provides a centralized database for rapid searching on Windows XP platforms. Or, as MS put it:

    Indexes contents and properties of files on local and remote computers; provides rapid access to files through flexible querying language.

    Basically, WinFS extends the functionality of Indexing Service to include metadata stored when an application creates or modifys a document, and is tracked in real-time and updated as and when it is required. Because of the enormous hit on resources this could - and will - have, upon the first index of a large hard drive, the idea eventually will be to have the process performed across a network by a centralized server running Longhorn Server, and then users would then be able to access that centralized store to search for documents on their own - and other people on the same domain's - computers.

    The client-based WinFS distribution was pulled from LH partly because they wouldn't have been able to achieve all of their goals by 2006, and partly because of the immense performance hit that everyone was reporting on all of the leaked builds seen by the Beta Scene over the last couple of years. At first, Microsoft weren't too worried about the state of WinFS in the early leaked builds, because an RTM release seemed so far away, anyway. However, when they released the PDC build, and STILL saw insane resource usage, that caused a re-evaluation in the development focus, and surprisingly, WinFS was one of the components which was most worked on for the release of Longhorn 4074 at WinHEC.

    However, WinFS's resource usage was still an issue - albeit not as much of an issue as with 4051 - and therefore after the completion of Service Pack 2, and all of the recent press as far as yet ANOTHER delayed release of Longhorn - Microsoft were forced once again to re-evaluate their development process, and decided to put WinFS off until the Server version shipped, thereby allowing the client-server metaphor for WinFS to work effectively.

    What does this mean for end-users? Well, they won't be experiencing a performance hit when installing Longhorn. This is a good thing, guys, because it means that Longhorn really will offer performance BENEFITS over Windows XP, and will offer yet another reason to upgrade.

    Also, it gives the development team more room to work on things like DCE, Avalon, Indigo, etc; the overall user experience will be much better in Longhorn when compared to either XP or 2000, something which is highlighted best by the new graphical effects and hardware acceleration present in even today's alpha builds of Longhorn. (3718 didn't require LDDM drivers, 4074 does)

    But yes, to answer your question Scoble, Glass is reliant on DCE's rendering/compositing features.
  • Jim Allchin - The Longhorn Update

    The problem is, Scoble, some people are still unsure as to exactly what "Avalon" is, and very few people realise that Avalon isn't the hardware acceleration layer which Explorer Glass rests upon.

    Since MS have been, officially, very quiet about DCE - even at the WinHEC and PDC events - some people still fail to understand that whilst Avalon is the "presentation layer", it isn't the rendering engine which Explorer Glass is built on. That function still comes down to DCE, which will not be backported to XP.

    Sure, XAML apps and whatever will be able to run on Windows XP, but they won't offer any of the transparency effects present in the various 4074, 4067, 4050, etc, demos which have been shown at events such as PDC - all of those effects are powered by DCE, a separate entity from Avalon.

    The concept of backporting Avalon and Indigo down to Windows XP is to allow cross-platform compatability between Windows XP and Windows Longhorn. Microsoft were originally slated for their decisions to make Longhorn apps non-backwards compatible, and many saw this as one of the killing blows Microsoft were dealing upon themselves. Unfortunately, there were only two alternatives:

    1) Throw away the ambitious plans for Longhorn's new application model, and in the process throw out any of the new sandboxing and security features which are the #1 REASON for going with Avalon as the primary development system, or

    2) Backport the Avalon and Indigo stacks to previous versions. Since most people associated Avalon with the new current GUI shown at PDC and WinHEC, Explorer Glass, when to be perfectly honest it's merely a new application execution environment and/or API for native Longhorn software - somewhat akin to Windows.Forms. Just as the .NET Framework introduced Windows.Forms to Windows XP, as the replacement for MFCs, WinFX will introduce Avalon.

    Of course, Avalon apps, when executed under Longhorn, with the LDDM installed and enabled, will provide all of the DCE hooks required to enable Explorer Glass and the rest of the DCE effects generated by DWM.

    To round it all off, a glossary of terms/acronyms:

    DCE - Desktop Composition Engine
       Powers all of the new transparency and alpha blended effects shown at techdemos and enable-able in 4074/3718.

    DWM - Desktop Window Manager
       Enables all of the above effects - uses DCE as the rendering device for said effects.

    LDDM - Longhorn Display Driver Model
        Provides hardware support for the graphical effects rendered by DCE. Passes rendering of the desktop to the GPU rather than the legacy rendering method, GDI, used in the XP Driver Model.

    WinFX - Windows Framework Extensions?
          New API/programming stack which includes the .NET Framework as a subcomponent, as well as the Avalon and Indigo pillars.

    - Replacement For Windows.Forms
           Provided by the WinFX programming stack.

    Indigo - Web Services
           Replacement for things like Winsock, MSHTML, etc. A centralized location for developers to access live, non-local data.
  • Oji Udezue and Fabio Pettinati - The role of personas in Longhorn's design

    Would it be possible to obtain an electronic copy of the Personas posters?

  • The 9 Guys - Who We Are

    "We don't know if we're actually going to create something and release it, so why tell people about it?"

    When I ran a beta site, I used to have 20k+ people a day coming to my site for that exact reason. It's ANY pre-release features - whether or not they'll make it into the final product - which people get the most excited about.

    In fact, things like the Redshark program - Codename Neptune and Odyssey - are still some of the most talked about things in the beta scene, excluding Longhorn. Things like Activity Centers and the Sideshow should've been shown off back then, and things like DCE and MIL should be shown off now.

    These are the sort of things which keep people up at night; mainly out of frustration that they're being "kept in the dark" about them, somewhat. Not to mention all of the community efforts to unlock these features - DCE being a great case point to look at. Spread across about 4 large community forums there've been close to 7 or 8 individual attempts to unlock and enable DCE in build 4029, 4051, and 4053; the latter two from backporting off the core DLLs from 4029. If MS were to come out and release the info themselves, it would give developers and beta enthusiasts alike a chance to play with these features before WinHEC.

    Anyway, that's just my 2 pence.