Microsoft Tag offers seamless 2D barcode service

Microsoft Tag

I have been fiddling around with 2D barcodes for a little over a year and recently came across Microsoft’s offering known as Microsoft Tag (Beta).

Microsoft Tag is a high capacity color barcode that uses triangles instead of the more common squares used in other 2D barcodes including QR codes. Not unlike other 2D barcode solutions, the tag is essentially a web link; the reader decodes the Microsoft Tag, sends the URL to a resolution server that returns a URL containing the content, which triggers the mobile phone’s browser to load the page. Microsoft Tag seems to be proprietary technology.

Common issues facing 2D barcode solutions provider are :
– size of the code itself
– decode accuracy and speed
– speed of resolution server in returning content URL
– system compatibility of client software on a wide range of mobile handset models

I started by downloading the client reader onto my iPhone and had no problems. I then proceeded to creating a code for testing, which again was problem-free (see issues about this below). I launched the app on my iPhone and the reader automatically detected and decoded the 2D barcode without having to perform the normal i) frame, ii) take snapshot of code, iii) decode, and iv) resolve process. This is not unlike i-Nigma’s client reader on the Symbian S60 platform. The decoding and resolution were both speedy. The reader was not fussy about framing, lighting or size of code within the reader’s window. I was impressed with the overall performance.

Generating the code from Microsoft’s website was simple and quick but the output options are limited and odd I would think. The website offers exporting the code as either pdf, wmf, or xps format with sizes ranging from 0.75 to 120 inches. I would have preferred saving the code as either jpg or png – this is much simpler and more direct for majority of users.

My preliminary experience with Microsoft Tag was promising. Microsoft’s website offers users to the ability to create tags quite easily, and provides graphic reports on how many times the code (i.e. Microsoft Tag) has been clicked on / decoded.

According to Microsoft’s website, the client reader supports a wide range of devices including iPhone, Symbian S60 3rd edition platforms, phones supporting J2ME, Windows Mobile 5 and 6 as well as a few Blackberry handsets. I suspect the user experience on J2ME phones will be different.

Currently, Microsoft Tag’s reader can only decode and process Microsoft Tags. If Microsoft expands its website service and reader to include creating and decoding for other public domain codes like QR and Data Matrix, it could become the de facto service for 2D barcodes.

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Frog – off road racer miniaturized by Tomy

When I was around 14 years old, my father bought me a Tamiya remote control car model kit, code named Frog. I was thoroughly fascinated with the toy. Now, more than 20 years later, Tomy has developed a mini version of the very same remote control off road racer! The mini toy looks real nice although I really loathe the pink color scheme for the Frog.

The original Frog (click to see more) (Scale 1/10) :

The Frog mini :

My new phone : Nokia E65

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I acquired a new handset after using my Nokia 3230 for more than 3 years. Initially, I was considering a few Sony Ericsson W series handsets, but at my new job, I need to be able to install a 2 dimensional barcode reader onto my mobile phone and the client works best on a Symbian phone.

I ended up comparing two phones, the Nokia 6120 Classic and Nokia E65. I actually liked the 6120 slightly more but the salesman said some customers had negative experiences installing software onto the phone. As a result, I ended up buying the E65.

I spent some time transferring my contacts over to my new phone and have been trying to get used to the menu navigation. Despite having used a S60 phone before, the E65’s newer 3rd edition S60 interface is different enough from the 3230 for me to need to refer to the manual.

First impressions of the phone are positive. It has a very nice screen, the menu is significantly nicer to look at and the default screen is indeed much more informative than the older S60 one. On the negative side, because the default screen has quite a few lines of info, using wallpapers makes it difficult to see anything properly – and the text blocks the images anyway.

MILK – fancy high end computer desk

milk_full_macsetup.jpg

The MILK desk is a sleek looking Scandinavian product. It features a clean aesthetic and helps transform your messy workspace into a work of art! The product’s web page is very well constructed and shows off the features of the desk – which includes cable and cord drawers, specialized bins and even powered elevating and lowering of the entire desk surface. Fascinating.

Product page