Cool Tech Reviews

Just Cool Tech

April 29, 2007

Free genealogy program from Microsoft


Family.Show from Vertigo Software and Microsoft

No, Microsoft isn’t going into the genealogy software business. It’s just that they badly want developers to use the facilities of the new Windows Presentation Framework (WPF, codename “Avalon”) that shipped with Windows Vista to create spiffy new graphics programs. To that end they are providing a variety of demo programs and:

Today, in collaboration with Vertigo Software, I’m pleased to announce the launch of a brand new end-to-end reference sample for WPF. Available for download immediately, Family.Show is a genealogy explorer that allows you to create or import a family tree and explore, annotate or save it to XPS.

We’ve shipped the source code for a number of demos before, but the bar for a reference application is somewhat higher. The goal here is to show best practices for the construction of an application and to try and include as much reusable code as possible that others can use both to understand the framework and to “borrow” for a real application.

(XPS is the XML Paper Specification, a document format like Adobe PDF that Microsoft also introduced with Vista.) Still using Windows XP? Not to worry – you get much of the WPF functionality and all you need to run Family.Show just by installing the .NET Framework version 3.0 on XP – it’s available at the above link.

Family.Show is a good idea for a demonstration program since most genealogy programs are understandably heavy on their database attributes, but usually light on the graphics which can get quite complex.  The use of WPF allows Family.Show to provide a really nice graphical explorer interface for family trees and it will import (and export) standard GEDCOM files so you can load it up with the data from whatever genealogy program you are using now and give it a spin. If you want to start from scratch building your family tree, Family.Show is fully capable and easy to use as the demo video illustrates.

Bottom Line:

I would have to say that Family.Show seems remarkably full featured for a demo program, but I did have some problems with it losing relationships in my personal GEDCOM file. For that reason and questions of long term support, I don’t recommend that you shift all your family records over to it, but it is still a neat way to browse around.


Posted at 11:24 am. Filed under Companies, Development Tools, Genealogy, Microsoft, Software

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November 8, 2006

Microsoft presents the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) screen saver


Who says Microsoft doesn’t have a sense of humor? Check out the BSOD screen saver they have online for free download:

One of the most feared colors in the NT world is blue. The infamous Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) will pop up on an NT system whenever something has gone terribly wrong. Bluescreen is a screen saver that not only authentically mimics a BSOD, but will simulate startup screens seen during a system boot.

• On NT 4.0 installations it simulates chkdsk of disk drives with errors!

• On Win2K and Windows 9x it presents the Win2K startup splash screen, complete with rotating progress band and progress control updates!

• On Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 it present the XP/Server 2003 startup splash screen with progress bar!

Bluescreen cycles between different Blue Screens and simulated boots every 15 seconds or so. Virtually all the information shown on Bluescreen’s BSOD and system start screen is obtained from your system configuration – its accuracy will fool even advanced NT developers. For example, the NT build number, processor revision, loaded drivers and addresses, disk drive characteristics, and memory size are all taken from the system Bluescreen is running on.

Use Bluescreen to amaze your friends and scare your enemies!

Actually, it’s part of the package that Microsoft got when they acquired Winternals Software and their set of free “Sysinternals” system tools. The old Sysinternals website has been moved to Microsoft TechNet under the name Windows Sysinternals, but all the old utilities are there. Warning, only serious techies need apply – except for the BSOD screen saver.


Posted at 7:52 pm. Filed under Companies, Development Tools, Microsoft, Software, Utilities

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August 2, 2006

Over 150 free programs from Microsoft


I know, Microsoft and free don’t usually go together, but from time to time you’ve probably seen some Microsoft freebies and wondered if there might be more. Not to worry, Blake Handler tracked them down and made a list:

Ultimate List of Free Windows Software from Microsoft
Microsoft has over 150 FREE Windows Programs available for download — but finding them all is extremely difficult. Until now, thanks to the Road to Know Where!

They are mostly utilities, some of which only a true geek would love, but there’s a little bit of everything including browser enhancers, screen savers, games, eBook readers, and a surprising amount of multimedia tools.


Posted at 8:08 am. Filed under Bargains, Companies, Development Tools, Graphics software, Microsoft, Security, Software, Utilities, Web software

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