Information Marketplace in the Cloud

An information marketplace, Microsoft codenamed “Dallas”, is being built for the Windows Azure platform. The Microsoft codename “Dallas” is explained on its website as “Dallas is an information marketplace that brings data, imagery, and real-time web services from leading commercial data providers and authoritative public data sources together into a single location, under a unified provisioning and billing framework”.

There are subscriptions for developers and information workers. Developers can access the premium data content through “Dallas” that is being sold from sources like the World Health Organization or Zillow. ATOM feeds let applications consume the data. Information workers can download the data and import it into tools like PowerPivot for Excel 2010.

There are a lot of data feeds on the internet but quality data from trusted sources is not always readily available for enterprise use, like world health statistics or real-estate statistics. More so, when an individual company offers data it usually does so in a format that’s different than you are readily able to use as a developer. With “Dallas” it looks like the value of the marketplace they are creating is in providing access through standard interfaces to trusted data sets.

Windows Azure Ink Recognition Not Currently Supported

Over the past two weeks I’ve tried to add ink recognition (ink-to-text) capability to my SpiveyWorks Notes. I recently successfully added ink capturing using Silverlight’s InkPresenter. This works great on a Tablet PC with a stylus or on touch screen like the HP TouchSmart desktops. Then I was able to serialize the Silverlight ink on the client, send it across to Windows Azure and server-side deserialize the XML and create WPF ink objects that I then saved to a PNG image to display for web browser’s that do not support Silverlight. While a person could not draw, they could at least see what other people had drawn. Ink is great for mindmapping and other free-form capturing of ideas. Getting all of this to work was pretty painless in Windows Azure. However, I wanted to take it one step further and convert the handwriting to text, ink-to-text, using the WPF InkAnalyzer class. This way I could convert the handwriting to text and index the text so users can search their handwritten notes. Yet, after attempting this I discovered that Windows Azure is only available in 64-bit editions and the WPF InkAnalyzer is dependent on a DLL that only works on 32-bit Windows, specifically the IALoader.dll that is found in the Windows SDK folder. Hopefully in the future there will be an IALoader.dll that is available on Windows Azure, but for now I am limited by the platform and can not convert ink-to-text on Windows Azure.

SpiveyWorks Notes Gets New Tile View

I just finished updating SpiveyWorks Notes to use a new Tile view. This Tile view replaces the bland hyperlinks that use to liter the page. With the new tiles content is more discoverable at a glance, showing still images from YouTube clips or images that are in Notes. Tiles give the user a richer way to understand what notes are available to them without having to read a lot of text.

SpiveyWorks Notes Gets Ink Feature Through Silverlight

I just finished updating SpiveyWorks Notes with a new feature to let users handwrite sections of notes if they have a Tablet PC. If they have a HP TouchSmart then they can use their finger. This lets users quickly hand-draw diagrams, rough sketches that can be shared with other people. The feature uses Silverlight to enable inking, but if you do not have Silverlight installed then you can still read the ink because SpiveyWorks Notes is smart enough to show the ink in using a standard PNG image file when you are not in Edit mode.

Silverlight XmlReader Issue

I was making a Silverlight 3 application in Visual Studio 2008. The code was suppose to open a Stream object and read it using an XmlReader. The code compiled and ran but for some reason it seemed like only some of the XML nodes were being read. After spending two hours tracking to fix this problem I stunned to learn what the issue was. The Silverlight XmlReader does not reliably read XML nodes if they are on the same line. To reliably read the XML nodes, the XML has to be formatted so that child nodes are on a new line. For example, was not being reliably read. Sometimes the reader would only read one child element. However, if you format the XML like the following then the XmlReader would work reliably.

The Silverlight code I was using to read the XML was the following.

Dim stream As New StringReader(data)
Dim reader As XmlReader = XmlReader.Create(stream)
While reader.ReadToFollowing(“Stroke”)
If reader.NodeType = XmlNodeType.Element Then
If reader.Name = “Stroke” Then
‘Do something
End If
End If
End While

reader.Close()
stream.Close()