News Roundup - Silverlight hits the Skids, Bing and Google Updates, QGIS 1.6

If you’re a Silverlight developer, hold up your hand. Then put your face in it.

After the Microsoft PDC event featured almost no talk of Silverlight whatsoever, Microsoft finally stated what Ars correctly surmised should have been abundantly clear: their strategy for Silverlight has shifted. Microsoft is now focusing on HTML5, and Silverlight will be targeted toward application development for Windows Phone 7 (which ain’t exactly selling like hotcakes). Closely following this announcement were changes to Bing Maps, including dropping 3D (which was surprisingly Active-X, not Silverlight), and Bird’s eye will now be available to HTML5 browsers without Silverlight. Microsoft quickly tacked on some “Didn’t mean to say we were tossing Silverlight there…” messages to the blog post, but things really should have been clear when Microsoft started working on a version of
IE that isn’t complete garbage.

Silverlight is toast, or at least it’s heading that way. I’ve said it a hundred times: don’t do plugin-based web development unless you bloody well have to. Now Netflix, will you please drop Silverlight and give me a player for Linux?

It isn’t all bad news on the Microsoft front however. Bing’s AJAX map control has been updated to v7. Improvements include a > 2/3 code reduction, faster rendering, mobile web optimizations, enhanced bird’s eye, and a new base map style. I fiddled with a bit, and it’s a big improvement over v6.3.

Google had some updates this month, with the big one being the release of Google Earth 6. The interface is largely the same, with the big improvements being map related: tighter integration with Street View with much improved navigation and integration with 3D, and the addition of 80+ million 3D trees.

Google also added custom map styling to their Static Maps API. I’m still a little mixed on this whole styling thing - having every Google Map look the same is a feature. But I have to admit I’ve seen a few styled Google Maps mashups that are quite good.

Google Maps, emo style.

QGIS 1.6 Copiapó has been released. There are a ton of improvements, including live GPS tracking, offline editing, many improvements to vector table editing, and lots more. QGIS is great; it has become my default desktop GIS tool for almost anything not involving SDE. There’s also a free PyQGIS Cookbook ebook available.

And now for a few quick hitters:

  • Quite a while back Google released a tool called Page Speed, which is designed to help web coders make their pages faster and more efficient. Now Google has released mod_pagespeed for Apache, which will automagically apply 15 optimization rules to your content on its way out the door. Up to 2x performance benefits are claimed. If you're hosting on GoDaddy (like this blog), you're probably going to get it soon if you haven't already. The extension is available for Apache on Windows, OS X, and 32 and 64 bit Linux.
  • ArcGIS 10 Service Pack 1 is out. If you're one of those (smart) people that waits for the first SP before you go to a new Esri release, it's time to hop aboard.
  • And finally, via Slashdot, the president of Microsoft Russia, Nikolai Pryanishnikov, when asked about Russia's plans to create a national OS based on Linux, said "'We must bear in mind that Linux is not a Russian OS and, moreover, is at the end of its life cycle." To quote jgardia in the Slashdot forums, Nah [to it being FUD], I just think it is just the way they see things in Microsoft. When an OS is stable and works reliably, then it is at the end of its life cycle (like Windows XP).