Nicki Richards back performing with Madonna at Live Earth

If you were wondering what was the obvious answer to the question regarding who’s going to sing backing vocals for Madonna at Live Earth on July 7th, a nice confirmation comes from the official Nicki Richards myspace page. The singer says she will be performing in London with Madonna on July 7th. According to her page, their appearance is scheduled for 20:00 London time.Longtime friend Donna De Lory hasn’t officialy confirmed her presence on stage, but as reported by MadonnaTribe weeks ago, she has a rather noticeable gap in her own concerts schedule around that time.

Via: Madonna Tribe

Third and last UK Microsoft Student Partners Event for 2006/2007

I’m now back home from Cambridge after attending the third and final Microsoft Student Partners (MSP’s) Event for 2006/2007. And what can I say, other than it was absolutely great it’s just a shame it was the last event for the MSP’s of 2006/2007.

I arrived in Cambridge yesterday at around 9:00 as myself and Ryan (a MSP) were going to do some shopping before we needed to be at the Microsoft Research Labs Building at 12:00.


However this didn’t quite go to plan as unfortunately Ryan’s trains were delayed. So he ended up arriving at Microsoft Research Building just in time to catch the end of lunch which was from 12:00 – 13:00. It also turned out that while I was exploring Cambridge that Grant (a MSP) was actually already at the hotel at the bar area. If I had known that I could at the time I could have joined up with him.

After having lunch and talking to fellow MSP’s it was time for our first Presentation.

Our first session of the day was “Introduction and Overview of Microsoft Research, Cambridge” and was presented by Fabien Petitcolas from the External Research Office. He gave us an introduction to the Microsoft Research Group at Cambridge as well as what other Microsoft Research divisions are doing around the world. As well as this he also talked about:

Our second session was “Systems & Network: Peer-to-peer networks” and was presented by Christos Gkantsidis a researcher from the Cambridge Systems and Networking Group. He talked about P2P Networks and how they have evolved. As well as this he also talked a little about Mesh Networks and how they are being used.

Our third session was “Machine Learning” and was presented by Phil Trelford from the Machine Learning and Perception Group. He talked about some of the stuff he had been doing within the Applied Games Group with Ralf, Thore, Onno and Joaquin. As well as this he also asked a MSP (Ian) to come up and have a go at Project Gotham on his XBOX360. This way he could show us the TrueSkill algorithm which is used by a number of popular XBox360 games to match up players of similar skill. You can find out more about Trueskill’s ranking and matchmaking algorithms here

After this third presentation we had a break so we could yet again discuss what everyone has been doing lately.

Our fourth session which was “Programming: Principles & Tools: F#” and was presented by Don Syme. He explained to us what FSharp (F#) the programming language is all about and how it could be used.

Our fifth session was “New Concept in the Home” and was presented by Tim Regan from the Digital Systems Group. He discussed what happens in his group as well as what we can expect in the future. Videos he showed included a video showing a Super Multitasking Phone which is quite funny, you can check it out here.

Our sixth and less technical session was “Recruitment Overview” and was presented by Peter Key. This session was about how to get into Microsoft Research and what the benefits are.

Our seventh and last presentation was “What’s next after MSP Life?” and was presented by Amin Islam and Fernando Loizdes, both of which are MSP’s. Basically they wanted to know what we thought about the Microsoft Student Partners Programme this year, so we could all pass on our comments to the next lot of MSP’s. There was definitely some good feedback thrown out here.

By this time it was now 17:30 and it was time for one more session, this was the “MSP Award Ceremony”, in which the top scoring MSP’s and hardest working MSP’s got various prizes. As well as this all the MSP’s got their Microsoft Student Partners Glass Award and reference letter.

After finishing all the sessions it was time to travel to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the centre of Cambridge, some of us took our cars while others boarded the coach provided, quite a lot of traffic on the way to the hotel, but eventually we all made it.

Unfortunately myself and my MSP room buddy Will had some problems actually trying to get a room. Will arrived first and checked in but apparently they couldn’t find him on the system, only me. Then I arrived and as I was trying to check in but this time they couldn’t find me, only him.

We went upstairs together and tried the key cards but yet again no luck.

So yet again did we went downstairs to ask for new key cards, this time the receptionist gave us a different room. Again we went upstairs, this time to try this new room and hurray the key cards worked, but whoops as we walked into a room we noticed that it was already occupied with someone else’s baggage in we quickly left!

Again we went downstairs and again they gave us a new set of key cards along with a new room, but yet again did they mess up, the keys worked but it was yet again occupied and this time it was worse the occupant was inside luckily we hadn’t got very far only opened the door to notice it was occupied!

Straight away we went downstairs this time not very happy at all, as we had already been up and down more than enough times and we had already been in two rooms which had been occupied.

Eventually we got another new room, and were assured it would be ok this time; to make sure of this one of the senior members of staff took us there and explained what the problem was (same last name as someone else). Thank god it was all ok this time.

But still I think that the Cambridge Crowne Plaza Hotel could have done better a better job at handling this situation, ok so one of the rooms was occupied by someone else with the same last name, but what about the first two rooms we tried various times to get into to, did these people have the same last name too. I doubt it, and if they did surely the receptionist should have checked this at the start. Also after our bad situation there’s a lot the Hotel could have done to make our stay a little more better after that initial bad experience, for example complimentary drinks or something of the sought. Considering the Cambridge Crowne Plaza Hotel is a four star hotel I’m disappointed they didn’t….

Anyhow after a nice shower and change of clothes it was time to hit the town with fellow MSP’s for our evening meal at an Italian Restaurant called “Strada”. This had very nice food I must say! 🙂




We had all now finished our meals and it was time to head back to hotel, but instead of doing that we of course decided to head out bar/pub hunting. However this was quite a task. We even asked a tramp (who asked us for money for dog food) where there were places to drink nearby (we offered money “for dog food” in exchange for locations of pubs/bars) he told us how to get to a wetherspoons, unfortunately though we never found it. Funny thing is after walking around in circles we saw him walk past us again… maybe he tricked us! 😉

Eventually we came across some clubs but from looking at the CTV screens which they had outside it looked dead so we decided not to pay the entry fee, instead we walked on. After some more searching we came across a bar named “La Raza” which looked pretty good so we headed in. After some (or maybe a bit more for some) a group of us headed out in search of a livelier pub.

Unfortunately we had no luck so we headed back to the hotel in the hope that the hotel bar would be open all night, no luck there though, so after some pondering on what to do we decided that we (9 guys and 1 girl – emma) would head to Emma’s room. Here we had some fun and amongst other things (see pic below) we tried to see if there was any late night or 24 hour of licenses open in Cambridge.


Unfortunately we were yet again out of luck eventually another group of MSP’s arrived but they didn’t bring any drinks with them either and eventually they left, by this time it was already pretty late or better said early morning and we were running out of things to do (not even the film could satisfy us those of you in the room know what I am talking about haha ;)) so we decided to split up and head back to our rooms.

Morning awakened us and it was time to get some breakfast and check out of the hotel so we could go punting with a treasure hunt on the River Cam. Though this wasn’t treasure hunting as we expected it to be, that is looking for things along the river, instead we had to try and decipher a bunch of cryptic questions which were asked on a sheet the answers were to be found on the way – that is we were given clues. One easy example being: Running water is head but what way is the water wheel.




My team didn’t get many answers correct however we did have a hell of a lot of fun at punting, from having our oar stolen (replaced with a piece of wood) by another MSP Team to having our pole getting stuck in the mud a couple of times which ended up getting the better of Will. (see pic below)


After the punting it was Barbeque (BBQ) Time that of which was very tasty indeed.

And then that was it, all over, the soon coming of an end of a great year of being a Microsoft Student Partner. All is left now is for me to wrap up a couple of off stuff I want to get finished off, like adding some tags to the photos I took of the event. Check them out here. (got to love the photos)

But before I do so, I would like to give a big thanks to the whole of the Microsoft UK Academic Alliance Team, thanks for everything, especially you Stuart and Matt! 😀

And also a big thanks to all the Microsoft Student Partners (MSP’s) for 2006/2007. You have gave me such a great experience, as per the Microsoft Student Partner Programme 06/07 Yearbook:

Ian MacGillivray Aston University
Will Perry Imperial College, London
Motti Strom Imperial College, London
Amjad Shaheed Liverpool John Moors University
Steven Evans London Metropolitan
Samuel Desborough Loughborough University
Andrew Cooper Nottingham Trent University
Grant Downie University of Abertay
Ian Saunders University of Bath
Paul Kiddie University of Birmingham
Tom Randell University of Bradford
Mike Holmes University of Derby
Richard Makepeace University of Derby
Nabeel Moghal University of Greenwich
Ben Hall University of Hertfordshire
Richard Tomlinson University of Hull
Zacharias Joubert University of Hull
Darren Straight University of Kent
Gavin Cox University of Leicester
Ryan Maxwell University of Lincoln
Mike Hill University of Manchester
Matthew Bell University of Plymouth
Emma Guy University of Reading
Philip Stears University of Reading
Steve Workman University of Sheffield
Chris Weeks University of Ulster
Fernando Loizides University of Wales, Swansea
Amin Islam University of Westminster
Paul Shemmell University of Wolverhampton

Microsoft Enhances Virtual Earth Product in Great Britain With High-Resolution 3-D Height Data From Intermap Technologies

Microsoft and Intermap Technologies have today announced the launch of Microsoft’s enhanced Virtual Earth 3-D viewing platform based on Intermap Technologies’ highly accurate and up-to-date elevation data for all of Great Britain. Intermap is also creating similar maps for all of Western Europe and the continental United States. The resulting product delivers a more seamless and accurate 3-D experience for all Internet users visiting Microsoft’s Live Search Maps for England, Scotland and Wales.Intermap’s precise and uniform 3-D digital terrain model serves as the foundation for the placement and alignment of aerial photography and other geospatial images. These images are then layered upon this 3-D foundation to better align and place objects without distortion or undulation, thus creating a superior end product.

Microsoft is committed to delivering the highest-accuracy and highest-quality product for our Live Search Maps customers, and this enhancement is another step toward meeting this commitment, said Aric Weiker, director of product management for the Virtual Earth platform at Microsoft. Having Intermap’s highly accurate and reliable foundation layer under our imagery and building models allows us to provide one of the most accurate viewing experiences on the Internet today.

Live Search Maps is Microsoft’s online local search and mapping service that combines unique bird’s-eye imagery with advanced driving directions, Yellow Pages and other local search tools. Powered by the company’s Virtual Earth mapping and location platform, these features give users useful new ways to map and find directions to various locations, and to better visualize their surroundings from multiple aerial vantage points.

This is a fundamental change for the industry as Microsoft raises the bar for accuracy and realistic 3-D experiences, said Eric DesRoche, senior vice president of automotive and consumer electronics at Intermap. While an accurate visualization application is important to deliver to consumers, our relationship with Microsoft begins to pave the way for the delivery of additional value-added products for the business and consumer markets within Great Britain, Europe and the U.S.

As part of Intermap’s worldwide proactive data collection efforts, Great Britain is currently in the company’s data library. In addition, Intermap is now aggressively mapping Europe under its NEXTMap Europe program. Data for the entire country of Germany is currently being placed in the Intermap library, and data collection for the remainder of Western Europe is scheduled for completion by the end of 2007. The continental U.S. is being mapped concurrently with the European initiative and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2008.

Live Earth Announces New Talent For Its London Line-Up

Metallica, Kasabian, Pussycat Dolls, and Terra Naomi have all been announced as the final acts to be added to the Live Earth London line-up performing at Wembley Stadium as part of the 24-hour, 7-continent Live Earth concert series on 7/7/07.

With an already astounding line up that includes some of the best music acts from around the world, this monumental event will bring together more than 2 billion people to combat the climate crisis.

With the full line-up for Live Earth London now revealed, hosts and guest presenters will be announced shortly. The full Wembley line-up is…


It’s also been announced that an exclusive download of Metallica’s Live Earth performance is going to be available for a minimal fee immediately after the event finishes. With of course all money raised going to the four climate charities hand-selected by the band: Sierra Club, The Apollo Alliance, WWF and Rainforest Action Network.

Lars Ulrich of Metallica said… “I love my sons. I want them to “inherit the Earth” FOR REAL! We keep waiting for future generations to solve the problems; to invent cleaner technology; to pay the costs…that’s the same as passing the buck. I want the buck to stop here, now. I want lawmakers and laws to impose change. Nothing else will keep this world safe for my sons.”

Kasabian, whose latest album ‘Empire’ went in at number one in the UK album chart, are joined by Grammy nominated pop sensations the Pussycat Dolls, and Terra Naomi, who wrote the song ‘Say It’s Possible’ after watching Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. As part of a virtual tour from her Los Angeles apartment, she recorded herself on a video camera and posted it on YouTube; it soon found itself on the site’s front page. Within two days, it had amassed over 200,000 views – a figure that now stands at over 2 million.

It’s also worth noting that a small number of tickets have been released this week and successful applications will be contacted by SMS with instructions on how to purchase their tickets.

Live Earth Shanghai Revealed

Organizers today announced details of the Live Earth concert which will be held in Shanghai on July 7, 2007. The much-anticipated Live Earth Shanghai show will feature top mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and international artists live on stage. The Shanghai leg of the 7-continent, 24-hour concert will be held on the on the steps of the Oriental Pearl Tower. Performing live on stage at the Shanghai show are:

Artists from the popular television programs My Hero and My Show will perform as well.

Live Earth Shanghai is organised by Shanghai Oriental Pearl Live Nation Sports and Entertainment Co. Ltd and is supported by Shanghai Media Group, the United Nations Development Programme China (UNDP), China Environmental Awareness Programme (CEAP), United Nations Volunteers (UNV), the World Wildlife Fund China (WWF),  The Climate Group China, Global Village of Beijing (GVB), Friends of Nature (FON), and Roots & Shoots of the Jane Goodall Institute.

Tickets for Live Earth Shanghai at the Oriental Pearl Tower go on sale Wednesday, 20th June, 2007. With additional information available at .

Live Earth Shanghai is being filmed and broadcast by the Shanghai Media Group. The show will be broadcast live on the Art & Entertainment channel and shown on Dragon TV one week later.  And Exclusive online media partner MSN is helping Live Earth reach people in every corner of the globe.

Live Earth Shanghai will be streamed at 

Windows Live Platform Discussion with Koji Kato and Danny Thorpe

Windows Live is best known as a collection of end-user offerings like Messenger, Spaces, Search, Hotmail and a whole bunch more.  It’s also in the process of evolving into a platform.  Koji Kato and Danny Thorpe, from the Windows Live platform team, discuss with Catherine Heller a Windows Live Technical Evangelist on Channel 9 their views on internet software and what it means to “componentize” Windows Live.

Koji sets some context by drawing an analogy to Office (00:02:27), and its early evolution from a set of end-user targeted apps to a set of components.  Beta versions of the Windows Live Contacts Control and Spaces Photo Control (described by Danny around 00:11:37) represent some of the initial Windows Live components, and include customization plans (00:21:21), international/localization support (00:19:13), and support for multiple browsers (00:18:15).

Koji Kato
is a Group Program Manager on the Windows Live platform team.

Danny Thorpe is Architect on the Windows Live platform team.

The interview was conducted by Catherine Heller, Windows Live Technical Evangelist (who you may remember from her former Windows Vista evangelism days).

Check out the video here.

But Koji, why aren’t you blogging yet? you said at the 2nd Windows Live Session in London last year that you would think about it! surely you haven’t decided not too! 🙂

Microsoft launches new-look MSN for mobile phones

The MSN Mobile Team at Microsoft launched a redesigned MSN portal optimized for mobile phones on Sunday, stepping up its offering at a time when more powerful devices increase the demand for richer content on handsets. However mobile Internet use still represents only a fraction of computer-based Web usage, but that could change with companies like Microsoft who see increasingly powerful mobile phones and faster networks opening the door for new services and content.

“We firmly believe there is an inflection point here,” said Phil Holden, Microsoft’s director of mobile Web services. “There’s a new battle, a new frontline developing on the mobile phone.”

Microsoft’s new MSN Mobile portal available at offers news, sports information, entertainment features and access to services like e-mail, search, maps and instant messaging all on one page. And what’s great is that when a user accesses the portal, the MSN platform detects the handset and optimizes the site for that device, adjusting things like font sizes for different screens. promotes Surface with Silverlight

Just reading my feeds and noticed a post by Mark Johnston who has spotted (thanks to Sean Alexander) that Silverlight is now on promoting the very cool new product Microsoft Surface. The last time Silverlight was used was to promote the Xbox 360 Elite just after Mix in April. So it’s great to see it Silverlight yet again appear on

Mark says it’s worth pointing this out for a couple of reasons:

1. It shows how Silverlight can be used to deliver media in a branded advertising scenario and promote a product/service like Surface

2. More importantly, as a reassurance to the many designers and developers that are out there considering using Silverlight for production projects. I had one guy email me after last weeks MSDN Roadshow and he wanted help ‘selling’ Silverlight to his boss for use with a client. Having examples of one of the highest traffics sites on the web using Silverlight is a good thing to show and also indicates that customers with Silverlight installed is growing well (as indicated by Sean’s post with the spikes in downloads of the plug-in).

Check it out at that is the United States Website, the current UK site points features links to help the police in their quest to find the little British girl, Madeleine McCann.

WebCamera Plus turns your PDA or Smartphone into webcam

Ever wanted to use your PDA or Smartphone as a webcam?, well now you can with WebCamera Plus. Thanks goe’s to Jeremy Cath and Steve Clayton for the find!

WebCamera Plus key features:

  • Transforms your PDA or Smartphone to high-resolution web-camera.
  • Can work through any connection: USB ActiveSync, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPRS, 3G, LAN.
  • Compatible with almost all modern Smartphones and PDAs.
  • Can be used as web-camera in many programs: Skype, MSN Messager, Yahoo Messager, Virtual Dub and many others.
  • Can capture device screen and transmit video to Desktop PC.
  • You can download WebCamera Plus here


Microsoft Research Software for the 21st Century

Just thought id check out the Microsoft Research Website before I go the Microsoft Research Labs in Cambridge next week for my third Microsoft Student Partners (MSP) Event and while on the site I noticed that you can now watch a video of Andrew Herbert, managing director of Microsoft Research Cambridge, who discusses the 20th century computer systems assumptions that are no longer true in the 21st century.

He discusses things like the single processor systems and the single threaded programs, low level programming languages, screens on desks, hierarchical file systems, and virtual memory.

The video also showcases a number of exciting new technologies that have been developed at Microsoft Research Cambridge. Researchers who participated in the video include Steve Hodges and Simon Peyton Jones.

And according to the site, starting June 2007, you will also be able to watch this Microsoft Research Cambridge documentary on British Airways in-flight video on demand systems.

Watch it here.