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Microsoft Launches WorldWide Telescope 167

Posted by kdawson
from the godspeed-jim-gray dept.
esocid writes "WorldWide Telescope, developed by Microsoft's research arm, knits together images from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory Center, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and others. Windows users (only) can browse through the galaxy on their own or take guided tours of different outer-space destinations developed by astronomers and academics. The application allows viewing from different wavelengths such as X-ray, visible light, and hydrogen-alpha radiation. Business Week has a review and some background on the project, which has been in development for years. Google Sky beat them to the punch but Business Week opines that WWT's interface is superior."
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Microsoft Launches WorldWide Telescope

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  • but (Score:5, Funny)

    by electrosoccertux (874415) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:28PM (#23394572)
    But can it see why kids love cinnamon toast crunch?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It claims to be professional astronomer like tool. It is such an over reaching attitude that all involve in the project should be embarrassed. This is a web 2.0 application but it only runs under Windows!!
    MS is a joke and continue to show that not only are they incapable of coming up with something truly innovative, they always somehow manage to make products that look great on paper but are close to useless in real life.Sigh.
    • by bigstrat2003 (1058574) * on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @03:42PM (#23395542)
      Yeah, it runs on 90% (hell, I'll be generous to you, 80%) of PCs out there. That's soooooooooo useless.
    • by Liquidrage (640463) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @03:47PM (#23395636)
      I don't really know if it's actually overstated at this point. I would be surprised if a lot of astronomers didn't push their data to it. That's one of the nice features of the software. Look, the twin kecks aren't controlled by Starry Night. But this can totally replace starry night for me it looks like, and as a repository I would absoltely love to have access to real time data and images from *professionals*.
      • by Raineer (1002750)

        I'm not in a position to try it at the moment, but is this really as good as Starry Night Pro?

        Does it offer telescope controls as well? I know telescope control is sort of a feature that allows one to be lazy, but maybe that is why I like it :)

        • by Liquidrage (640463) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @05:36PM (#23396976)
          Yes, it's ASCOM compliant so it does allow mount control. As far as "really" as good. My initial impression is yes. I like it better. Easier to use. Tons of information. The interface is pretty smooth. I went after Eta Carinae first thing. Search went easy. I had several different images to flip through on the "zoomed in" detail view. Several options for research. Even the wiki link for that page. And, "drumroll" when I went to the wiki page for it, it respected FF as my default browser and used that for the browser. So far my initial impressions are very high. But I won't know for sure if it'll replace Starry Night for me until I get a viewing session outside with it.
  • Web 2.0? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thyamine (531612) <<thyamine> <at> <ofdragons.com>> on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:37PM (#23394684) Homepage Journal
    The description says it's a "Web 2.0 visualization software environment". Shouldn't that be running in a web browser then? What's with having to download and install the application itself? Being on my Mac, I can't (probably wouldn't anyway) try it out to see what happens, but that description seems a bit misleading.
    • Re:Web 2.0? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dancindan84 (1056246) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:57PM (#23394986)
      Welcome to the misuse of buzzwords. Every time someone uses "Web portal", "Web 2.0", "Enterprise", "Synergy" without knowing the meaning an angels wings fall off, killing a kitten. A buzzword get picked up by the media, which then drives PR to use it as often as possible to describe their product whether it fits or not, which is then reported on by the media and the vicious cycle continues until the next buzzword hits.

      Most people would consider google sky a "Web 2.0" app. It's an interactive web based application that seamlessly runs in your browser. WWT is much more similar to google earth. It requires downloading a separate application that runs autonomously from your browser and just happens to use the net for data.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by PunditGuy (1073446)
        A browser is just a standalone application that happens to use the net for data. It can use integrated applications for things like RSS or Google Sky, or it can run standalone applications for things like RSS or WWT.

        WWT is using the Web to synthesize data from multiple sources into an integrated, interactive user experience. How does that not qualify?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by alonsoac (180192)
          I would expect a Web 2.0 application to run in the browser. Any browser. For instace the Firefox on Linux I am using. If WWT does not run here then it is just a Windows application.

          some quotes from the Wikipedia entry on web 2.0:

          "In the opening talk of the first Web 2.0 conference, O'Reilly and John Battelle summarized what they saw as the themes of Web 2.0. They argued that the web had become a platform, with software above the level of a single device"

          "According to Best the characteristics of Web 2.0 are:
          • by Eskarel (565631)
            The problem with all that openness and freedom is that javascript is a mess and flash is a poorly written insecure kludge and always has been. Until the W3C can come up with an alternative we're stuck with proprietary stuff like silverlight.

            Do I think that Microsoft needs to start viewing their stuff like .NET and silverlight and their ASP technologies as technologies in their own right that just happen to work best on their technology as opposed to attempts to lock people into their server environment, yes

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              .NET and Silverlight are not an attempt to make a better javascript, they're an attempt to tie the web so intimately to Windows that it becomes a requirement, just like IE before them.
      • Re:Web 2.0? (Score:4, Funny)

        by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @04:30PM (#23396224) Journal

        Welcome to the use of buzzwords.


        Fixed that for you. OP's mistake was assuming that "Web 2.0" had any meaning at all.
      • by Valiss (463641)
        A buzzword get picked up by the media, which then drives PR to use it as often as possible to describe their product whether it fits or not, which is then reported on by the media and the vicious cycle continues until the next buzzword hits.

        Whoa man, don't brick this topic!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by OshMan (1246516)
      In web applications design, whether or not actually run in a browser, it is critical to be fully buzz word compliant. This single concept is the cornerstone of any solid marchitecture, and the key to successful venture capitalist enticement.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ajs (35943)

      The description says it's a "Web 2.0 visualization software environment". Shouldn't that be running in a web browser then? What's with having to download and install the application itself? Being on my Mac, I can't (probably wouldn't anyway) try it out to see what happens, but that description seems a bit misleading.

      That's OK. You don't need their app. Since celestia [shatters.net] is free software that runs on Windows, MacOS and Linux. If you're looking for a less powerful, but easier to use tool for just looking at the sky, stellarium [stellarium.org] also runs on all of the above platforms, and is also free software.

      Enjoy!

    • MAC is supported as well as Windows... See the website
      • MAC is supported as well as Windows... See the website
        The Mac hardware is supported, not the OS. It is supported under windows in bootcamp. Actually, I tried to find that on the website and they seem to have deleted all reference to Mac support.
  • Telescope or Printer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shogun (657) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:37PM (#23394686)
    Ok this is weird, if I run the self extracting installer it starts to install some Xerox printer drivers instead of the WWT. I think it gets its temp files mixed with the drivers that I installed a while ago, it appears to install fine if i manually extract somewhere else and run the setup.exe...
    • by Jugalator (259273) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @03:03PM (#23395062) Journal
      You probably have a setup.exe for your printer drivers in either %WINDIR% or %TEMP% (or elsewhere in the path, but the Windows directory is sometimes incorrectly used as a temp directory because apps blindly extract to "current directory" which may end up being that one, and otherwise, the temp dir use to be used)

      I've had this happen before myself, and don't really know why it happens, but believe that for some reason it can't overwrite the setup.exe it tries to replace, or the installer extracting to its temporary directory is even stupid enough to not *try* to overwrite an existing setup.exe. *shrug*
    • It installs Microsoft Virtual PC for me. wtf
    • I recall something like this happening with the SETI@Home (BOINC? Distributed.net?) software in the early days. Running the installer would actually give you a Teletubbies screensaver. And, no, I hadn't recently tried out the Teletubbies screensaver :) It did have something to do with a clash in generic names, like "setup.exe".
  • Good to see (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    FTA: "Microsoft Research is dedicating WorldWide Telescope to the memory of Jim Gray [wikipedia.org] and is releasing WWT as a free resource to the astronomy and education communities with the hope that it will inspire and empower people to explore and understand the universe like never before."
  • by greymond (539980) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:38PM (#23394720) Homepage Journal
    MS's may be better but it required me to download and install their app where as Google Sky is just like Google Maps and runs in my web browser. I don't know if I'd actually compare these two products considering it's web app verse a 20mg install.

    That said I personally lost interest with both about 5 minutes after playing with them. I'm not really a solar-system-space nut, but I'm sure those that are will love either.
    • by esocid (946821)
      The good thing with google sky is that it runs in both their webpage and through google earth. The only difference I think is they use different projection, Mercator or something like that, on the web based version.
    • by Hasmanean (814562)
      20 milligram install? So that's where the missing mass of the universe is, it's the weight of all that Microsoft software.

      Maybe the mass of all the software bugs has something to do with it.
  • "Better" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sarten-X (1102295)
    (not having read the article)

    "WWT's interface is better"... but only on windows... So for the schools, third-world countries, etc. we've read about who are adopting Linux... Microsoft assumes they don't exist?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      "WWT's interface is better"... but only on windows... So for the schools, third-world countries, etc. we've read about who are adopting Linux... Microsoft pretends they don't exist?
      There, fixed it for ya.
      • by Sarten-X (1102295)
        the "ignore it and maybe it'll go away" approach?
      • by Jugalator (259273)
        No, neither pretends or assumes. They don't *care* they exist. It's clearly not cared for with the release of this app. Otherwise they would obviously have made e.g. a web application of it as well.
  • by Daimanta (1140543) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:41PM (#23394768) Journal
    The sky is blue. However, this might have something to do with the OS running this system.
  • BBC review (Score:5, Informative)

    by kernowyon (1257174) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:46PM (#23394822) Journal
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7397811.stm [bbc.co.uk] which also mentions that you CAN run the Worldwide Telescope on a Mac.... as long as you run Windows on your Mac!
    They quote Bill Gates who said he was hoping the project would -

    "inspire young people to explore astronomy and science"

    Presumably also requiring Windows is a mere co-incidence!
    At least the Beeb article has the decency to mention the Open Source project Stellarium http://sourceforge.net/projects/stellarium/ [sourceforge.net]
    • Re:BBC review (Score:4, Informative)

      by griffjon (14945) <.GriffJon. .at. .gmail.com.> on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:56PM (#23394960) Homepage Journal
      And, don't forget Celestia, which has a great UI and lets you fly around the universe very nicely!
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        While you're mentioning open source alternatives, Stellarium is also not just quite pretty, but apparently good enough to be used in some planetaria. The soon to be release version 0.10 will add some of the features (e.g. tiled high-res downloadable photos as sky textures) that are touted as great innovations of wwt.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by notaprguy (906128) *
        Celestia and Stellarium are very nice but pale in comparison to WWT. Just try them out side by side. Seriously, it's easy (yes, you have to have Windows...). Celstia is at http://www.shatters.net/celestia/download.html [shatters.net] and Stellarium is at http://www.stellarium.org/ [stellarium.org]. Neither offers to rich visualizations, amazing high resolution images, easy navigation, great "guided tours," community features, ability to easily create your own tours and many other things. You're talking apples and oranges. I have used Cele
  • Satelites! (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by blhack (921171)
    Telescopes!?
    Imagine if you had a Beowulf cluster of..

    oh...

    yeah, I'll show myself out.
  • Wine support? (Score:1, Redundant)

    by cbhacking (979169)
    Apparently this is a desktop app, not a web app. Any idea if it works in Wine (or Mono, if it's managed code)? I'd try it myself but must run - it's worth a shot though.
  • by E-Lad (1262) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:54PM (#23394928) Homepage
    I never would have expected it, especially in a MS product, but the folks who put the WWT app together also blessed it with ASCOM [ascom-standards.org] capabilities, so one may use the WWT app to drive a computerized telescope mount (aka, a "goto mount").

    While there are [bisque.com] other [starrynightstore.com] ASCOM-enabled apps that astronomers have been using for years to point their optics (and manage dome robotics, and focusers, and cameras), I have to say that the basic mount control in WWT is a pretty cool tip of the hat towards to astronomy community in practical terms.
    • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @03:13PM (#23395160)
      I like Google Sky as a toy, but it wasn't able to replace Starry Night as a serious tool. It sounds like WWT may actually compete with the more useful applications, which is pretty cool.
      • by krelian (525362)

        It sounds like WWT may actually compete with the more useful applications, which is pretty cool.
        Shhh... You can't say that here.

    • by rbanffy (584143)
      What would it take to add ASCOM support to Stellarium? http://www.stellarium.org/ [stellarium.org]
      • by E-Lad (1262)
        What would it take? A lot. And it would exist only on the Windows version.

        The "COM" part of "ASCOM" actually refers to Windows' Common Object Model, which the ASCOM driver stack is based on. As a result this means that the ASCOM stack and its device-specific drivers are confined to the Win32 world.

        The only reason why the Mac versions of Starry Night Pro and TheSky X have (or will have) telescope control is because their authors implemented their own device-specific drivers directly in the app.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There is a problem with the installer. When I run it, the installer starts up the installer for my Dual Core Optimizer, and asks me to remove it.
  • by loudmax (243935) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @03:05PM (#23395082) Homepage
    Since this product isn't available for my operating system, I can't check it our for myself, but I do hope it encourages interest in astronomy. There are valid reasons to bash Microsoft (the OOXML debacle [noooxml.org], for example). Putting out a free-as-in-beer science project for their customers only isn't one of them. If some of Microsoft's customers get to learn more about the sky, that's a good thing. I hope they enjoy it.
    • by pimpimpim (811140)
      I think that working at Microsoft Research is pretty neat, they get to develop all sorts of nifty apps like the interactive table/monitor, this thing, and a lot more. If it were your job, you would accept that it meant having your fancy app depend on windows, even if you would knew how to avoid that.

      If some headhunter would come to you, and told you you would get a "carte blanche" to develop anything you want at microsoft research, would you say no? (that is not per se a rhetorical question )

    • 100% agree.

      Keep in mind that Microsoft Research != Microsoft
      One is evil(tm), the other is not.
    • by cbhacking (979169)
      Does it work in Wine, by any chance (On OS X or Linux or other *nix)?
  • It's a .net 2 application, so might even work in Mono.

    Anyone tried?

    It looks really cool in Windows, for the record.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Uh-oh. Does this mean we can expect to see the following error message?

    Your universe has stopped working and now must shut down. We apologize for the inconvenience.
  • I want to see all this space imagery available in a 3D interface that's zoomable (and rotatable and translatable) so we can fly around these bodies in 3D. Jumping to addresses. And even a 4D interface, which lets us trace a path through spacetime, with dT 0, or just staying put as the objects travel around our viewpoint.

    Celestia [shatters.net] is approximately what I'm talking about, but it seems really unfit for actually visiting a planet's surface - the skins are relatively lo-rez 2D textures, and the UI is inadequate
  • Why, you ask, would MS research be building a worldwide telescope? Well, they realized that hunting viruses one by one is a futile way to secure an operating system. Once the WWT finds the metavirus, they'll be able to patch that and live happily every after(assuming The Raft comes ashore well south of Redmond).
  • First off, the American taxpayer has paid for all of the data that is being used by this program. The systems that obtained it, the systems that store it, the systems that retrieve it, everything.
    Second, Microsoft is 'giving away' this software for free, but it requires one to purchase their commercial product to use it to access the public's data.
    Finally, this is the end result of NASA decision making from the late 1990's that resulted in NASA dumping virtually all other computing platforms in favor of M
  • Its just a ploy to keep 'all eyes', including DoJ's and EU's, off of Microsoft's anti-competitive practices. OOXML? Um... Oh, look! Whats that over there!
    </sarcasm>

  • I'm sorry, but I just tried both WWT and Google Sky out. I am not sure how Google Sky even compares. It doesn't do any of the nice zoom and pan effects that WWT does. There's also no way to change the imagery source, take tours, etc. There are so many more features (useful ones) in WWT. Can someone explain how the comparison is even valid between the two?

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