2008 Archives


9 December 2008


I wasn't always a fan of M33. Its ragged, messy arms are less photogenic than the classic spirals of M51 and M81. But what M33 lacks in grand pattern it more than makes up in detail.

The Astrotourist: M33

Happy 5th Anniversary, Transcendence!

28 November 2008


Five years ago today I released Transcendence 0.7, the first public alpha release. Since then, we've gone through seven major releases and eighteen minor releases. No, we haven't reached 1.0 yet, and yes, we are running out of pre-1.0 version numbers, but five Terran orbits later, I am very proud of all that we in the Transcendence community have accomplished

Five years seems like a long time, but believe it or not, the development of Transcendence began much earlier. On May 1st, 1995, the following post appeared on

In case anyone is interested, I've just uploaded a beta version of a game that I've been working on. Right now, the game only runs on Windows NT (not Windows 95) and has only been compiled for Intel platforms. Please try it out and let me know what you think (by e-mail). The file is and I put it up on under the /pub/msdos_uploads/nt directory. I imagine that eventually it will get moved to the win/nt directory.

Frontier is a game of both skill and strategy in which you explore the various star systems of the Frontier while seeking to increase your income and pay for improvements to your ship. Throughout the game you will fight increasingly more powerful enemy ships and stations, and, by looting their remains you will be able to equip your ship with better armor and weapons.

-- George Moromisato

Sound familiar? Frontier was my first attempt at creating a cross between Nethack and Star Control II and as you can see from the description, Transcendence is Frontier's direct descendant.

To celebrate the 5th anniversary of Transcendence's first public release, I've dug through my archives to find the original release that I posted in 1995: Frontier 0.5.

Transcendence has come a long way since then, and I have no doubt that the game will continue to improve and evolve in ways that we cannot yet imagine. Happy 5th anniversary!

Saving Microsoft

21 November 2008

Ray Ozzie

Wired's December 2008 cover story is about Ray Ozzie and how he is trying to turn the Microsoft battleship. I was lucky enough to get interviewed for the article and a few of my quotes survived. In the article, Steven Levy describes Microsoft's current challenges and paints Ray as the man trying to "lead—or drag, if need be—a software giant with 90,000 employees, $60 billion in revenue, and an untold number of blue screens of death across a chasm."

I know it's unfair to think that a company with $18 billion in annual profits could be "in trouble" (GM wishes it were in that kind of trouble) but after the problems with Vista and the attention lavished on Google and the iPhone, I think that Microsoft felt humbled and demoralized. An athlete who thinks he's in a slump will not perform at full potential. What Microsoft needs to get out of its slump is to start winning, not just in terms of profits, but in the arena of public opinion. And one way to change public opinion is with a good narrative: Ray as an agent of change who brings redemption to a once-respected but now humbled competitor. It doesn't hurt that there's some truth to that story.

Related Articles


16 November 2008


I finally got a chance to take some pictures from the dark skies of the West Coast. This shot of M74 required more than seven hours of exposures.

The Astrotourist: M74

Can I See a Galaxy?

6 September 2008

Viewing M51 through different telescopes

Looking at the sky through a telescope is a lot like reading—you need to use your imagination to complete the picture. That bright pale orb? That’s the planet Jupiter, large enough to swallow a dozen Earths and home to the largest hurricane in the solar system. That ghostly smoke ring? That’s a star exploding—a cataclysm that must have destroyed its planets and that awaits us in less than a billion years. And that fuzzy patch of oval light? Yes, that patch of light is a galaxy!

Nothing in the sky stretches our mind quite like a galaxy. A hundred-thousand light-years across, yet so far away that all we see is a smudge. Its billions of stars spin silently away, out of sight and out of mind to approximately 100% of the world’s population. Seeing a galaxy is the closest we will ever get to grasping the vastness of the universe.

So how can I see a galaxy?


Transcendence 0.99c

21 August 2008

Transcendence 0.99c is ready with some important bug fixes. Consult the Version History page for a full list of changes.

Download 0.99c here.

Transcendence 0.99b

17 August 2008

The latest version of Transcendence has another batch of fixes to bugs reported by players. In addition to fixing several crashes and save file corruption bugs, this new release also fixes some problems with Korolov and Huari missions.

As always, the Version History page has a full list of changes.

Download 0.99b here.

Transcendence 0.99a

30 July 2008

Thanks to lots of reports from playtesters I've made a bunch of important bug fixes. For a complete list of changes please consult the Version History page.

Download 0.99a here.

Transcendence 0.99

30 July 2008

Transcendence 0.99 is finally here! With major changes to the Eridani system and the Korolov Shipping Corporation, you will notice the difference right away. And if you make it past St. Katharine's Star and into Sung space you may get a chance to learn more about the Huari Empire and perhaps even visit their secret refuge.

Eridani and the Korolov Shipping Corporation

Korolov StationThe changes in version 0.99 start in Eridani itself. The Centauri warlords may not threaten the central stations of the metropolis, but the lesser stations are not so lucky. Help them to contain the threat of the warlords and they may help you in return. But watch out for Arco Vaughn! The warlord commander will not surrender without a fight.

Beyond Eridani you can look forward to enhanced Korolov missions. Escort six different kinds of freighters, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Be careful not to take on a mission that you cannot handle—escorting valuable cargo may pay more, but it also attracts more attention from the Charon pirates. And if you think killing Corsairs is all you have to worry about, wait until you run into a Charon frigate—only the best will survive that encounter.

Exploding Stations and Hardened Missiles

Version 0.99 also has many game balance changes, including support for exploding stations (thanks, digdug!). With this change, sitting on top of a station to destroy it may be harmful to your health. Instead, keep your distance and see if you can eliminate some enemy ships when the station finally blows.

Another enhancement adds hit points to missiles. Don't you hate it when your expensive XM900 missile gets destroyed by a stray laser shot? Now these missiles are a little harder to kill.

The Huari Empire and the Sung Slavers

Huari HabitatA hundred and fifty years ago the Huari Empire ruled the area known as the Ungoverned Territories. But the Sung Slavers, wielding their formidable technology, invaded Huari space and nearly exterminated their culture. Now the Huari brood inside of their massive fortresses, suspicious of everyone who approaches. But through it all, the Huari remain hopeful that one day they will reconquer their worlds. Their priests foretell a time when a stranger will appear and help the Huari to defeat the Sung and rebuild their proud culture.

And Much More

As always, there are a few small surprises in this version that you'll have to discover for yourself. And as always, there are lots of improvements to the modding system. It's been a long time coming, but 0.99 is ready for download and ready to play!

Download Version 0.99
Read the List of New Modding Features
Read the Complete List of Changes

Station Explosion


20 July 2008

0.99 Coming Soon

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition

16 June 2008

Dungeons & Dragons 4th EditionStrength, intelligence, wisdom, dexterity, constitution, charisma. If you don't know what's special about those six virtuous attribute then you never spent the Saturdays of your youth playing Dungeons & Dragons. At its height in the 80s D&D was deemed so subversive that it was banned by some schools and many parents forbade the kids from ever playing it. Despite this, its reliance on player imagination and thick rule books (not to mention math) consigned Dungeons & Dragons to the nerd section of the uncool aisle. By the 90s, the geeks and nerds of the world had moved on to other obsessions, such as Doom and Gillian Anderson, but D&D left a lasting impression. Without D&D for inspiration, the world might never have seen Blizzard's World of Warcraft or the Simpson's Comic Book Guy.


Live Mesh

22 April 2008

Live Mesh

For the last two years I've been in a great team at Microsoft working on a new product. Not every team in Microsoft, never mind the industry, gets to work on something brand new. I've had the luck and privilege to work on a couple of v1 projects, including Chron X and Groove, and for me, the most exhilarating and the most nerve wracking moment is when the product first launches.

Today, at the Web 2.0 conference, we are launching a technology preview of Live Mesh, a new software and services product that (we hope) will simplify your digital life by "meshing" your computing devices so they work better together.

It's been a long two years, and the team has gone through many challenging points in the development of this new product. There were some times, to be honest, when some people wondered whether we would ever release anything. Whatever else happens, whatever the ultimate fate of Live Mesh, I am happy and proud to say that our product has shipped.

There are already some good links about Live Mesh:

You can learn about the product at This is a technology preview and invites are limited. If you're really interested, let me know and I might be able to get you an invitation.

The New York Times talk about Live Mesh and Ray's role in the generically named article, Microsoft Reveal a Web-Based Software System.

Charles Cooper puts Live Mesh in context of other projects from Ray and from Microsoft: Peering through Ozzie's Mesh.

And since this is my web site, I don't feel bad about plugging the video that Noah Edelstein and I did for Channel 10: Hands on with Live Mesh.