24 May 2006 raph   » (Master)

WinHEC

I'm posting this from our booth at WinHEC in Seattle, having just seen the keynote by Bill Gates. There's lots of cool technology and devices, but overall I got the sense of a totalitarian vision, no more so than in the "FlexGo" initiative designed for developing countries, in which people don't buy so much as rent PC's, and rely on a DRM-mode access control system that shuts the computer off if they don't pay.

A lot of the stuff they showed at the keynote has to do with reducing the amount of manual configuration necessary. A lot of Windows Rally seems to be playing catch-up with Bonjour (formerly Rendezvous, and closely related to zeroconf, which is slowly but surely getting implemented in the free space). I think there's a lot of potential in this space, especially for first-principles research digging into the question of how much manual configuration is truly needed, as opposed to piling hack upon hack.

Even though this is a Windows-centric conference, there are some developers who really grok the cross-platform and open source worlds. One app (which has asked not to be named) uses WxWidgets, and they're even considering OCaml. One of the main things holding them back from that would be the wx bindings, which currently only exist in very crude form. That's got me thinking again about choice of languages, and I'll probably be blogging about that. Among other things, I should take another look at wx to see whether it's Good Enough(tm) to build the cross-platform GUI stuff I need, or whether I should keep going with my own very lightweight C abstraction layer (check out the darcs repo if you want to play with it).

High DPI

One of the features promised for Vista is support for high-dpi displays. In the December beta of Vista, I played with setting the dpi to 192, and the results were terrible - in many cases, fonts were scaled doubly, once by being sensitive to the dpi setting, and again by the compatibility-mode scaling. The February beta was a lot better, so it's possible that it will kinda sorta work by the time Vista ships. That said, Samsung is here showing their family of flat panels, and none of their panels push dpi past what was widely available a couple years ago.

Apple has also been making various noises about high-dpi applications, most notably David Hyatt's blog entry on high-dpi web sites. There are all kinds of crufty ways of detecting whether the browser is high-dpi, based on CSS3 selectors and so on, but there's no clean simple way to do it.

David obviously can't say much about Apple's future product plans, but you can probably read between the lines when he mentions his Dell laptop with 1900x1200 (145dpi) resolution, not to mention the fact that he's working on this stuff at all. Apple is in a good position to innovate here - it would fit the pattern they set with 802.11, FireWire, combo drives, and more than a few other things.

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