Worldwide Telescope launches half-baked!

Microsoft launched their much-hyped WorldWide Telescope this morning.

The application has a lot of promise as an educational tool, in that it can make astronomy fun and engaging.

First off, there is no Mac version. Boo! For this reason alone, I should have just walked away. But I didn’t because it promised so much and I quite enjoy astronomy.

I checked out the system requirements (bearing in mind how optimistic Microsoft are on these typically – did you ever try to run XP on 64mb RAM? Ha!).

On the System Requirements page it told me I needed a 2.2GHz Mac to run WorldWide Telescope if I wanted to do so on XP or Vista (recommended) via Bootcamp (no mention of Parallels or VMWare. Given that my Mac is 2.16 GHz, and hasn’t BootCamp setup (I use Parallels), I gave up on that option.

Worldwide Telescope system requirements

I then went about installing it on my Vaio. The installation went ok (although I wasn’t made aware until half-way through that I’d have to install Direct X).

When I launched it on the Viao though, the first obvious problem was that you can’t choose Ireland as an option to set as your location. What a crock! Seriously. The country options go Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy. WTF? People in countries like Yemen, Uzbekistan, Lomé, Togo, Sierra Leone, Senegal, North Korea and Myanmar, for instance have no problem setting their location. But no Ireland option. What did we do to annoy Microsoft Research?

The second issue was even more annoying though. The application wouldn’t run on the Vaio. It crashed the display driver.
WorldWide Telescope Error

This is, unfortunately, typical Microsoft software behaviour. Launch bloated, Windows only, error-prone software with the minimum of QA or testing. Let the unsuspecting public be your free testing department and hopefully get the software right by the third revision.

It is no wonder so many people are afraid of computers when the software released by the world’s largest manufacturer is so prone to crash.

40 thoughts on “Worldwide Telescope launches half-baked!”

  1. Well, that’s a terrible pity. After all the hype I’ve been reading I was looking forward to going home and trying it. Might just wait for the next version.

  2. If you have a suitable PC Sinéad, give it a go.

    The install is 5 mins. If it works for you, great. If you are unlucky, like me, it is only 5 mins.

    Although Ireland is not an option to select as your location, you can enter your GPS coordinates, if you know them to get over the idiotic oversight.

  3. Good thing you can enter GPS coordinates. Otherwise you’re stuck with selecting UK, just like us folk in the Isle of Man.

    Still .. you have to wonder how accurate selecting a country is when you live somewhere huge like China, or the US

  4. Tom

    some good feedback here that I’ll take back around the install experience and lack of Ireland in the list is shocking. Do these people not drink Guinness? 🙂

    In terms of the “typical” behaviour and v3, when you run the app it does say beta which I think should be more prominent on the website to set user expectations. A good learning for us vs some other vendors who have offerings in perpetual beta and don’t seen to be held to the same standards on their releases.


  5. Tried installing in Vista Ultimate – the Directx 9 install came up, which I cancelled since 10 is already installed – and it crashes upon opening!

    Does this program not recognize DirectX 10?? Who does the hiring at Microsoft?! UFB!

  6. Hey Steve,

    (I hope you see this)

    It’s great that WWT allows you to purge its cache. But, amazingly for a program whose cache can grow really big, there is no provision to set the cache location.

    I did see a “CacheDirectory” setting in WWTExplorer.exe.config, set it and restarted the app, but the cache was still dutifully dumped on C. Makes the app unusable for me. Sigh.

    Another thing I noticed was a bit of horizontal, banded pixelization occuring when an image was overlayed on the background during zooming in or out.

  7. Oops!

    Per the banding issue: Forgot to mention that I’m running an ATI x800 AGP-Pro with the latest drivers.

  8. I notification box stating to install the Directx 9 over the existing 10 would be nice. Installed the Directx 9 and the program runs fine. Dxdiag still shows 10.

    It really is an extraordinary astronomy program.

  9. It is a beta Tom (spring Beta to be exact). I installed it here on my machine in around a min and haven’t had a single issue with it.

  10. Brian, would you mind disclosing who you work for?

    It would seem from your ip that you are not a dis-interested party in this.

  11. You know who I work for Tom – I left the TSSG research group in Ireland a while back and joined MS.

    And do be honest I am a disinterested party. Personally I have no involvement whatsoever with MS Research and while I think the tool and idea are pretty cool all I was doing was pointing out it’s a beta. Which I’m surprised you didn’t mention.

    Anyway, no matter what I say, I guess the fact that I work for MS will make you assume that I have some agenda. Guess that’s something I’ll have to live with – even though I do come from a research background in the Irish Education sector.

  12. Ah, I see that my email address didn’t get added – hence you didn’t know who I worked for.

    Completely off topic Tom – I just noticed that when I came to post right now, the field for name was pre-populated with Tracy (I assume this is from the Tracy person who posted earlier) Weird. Just thought I’d let you know.

  13. Funny – it’s welcoming me back as Brian, even though I’ve never been called Brian in my life. I wonder if the next visitor will be welcomed as Russell!

  14. Hmm.. the page seems to think I’m Brian (and I’m not..)

    Thanks for the heads-up on this program – loaded fine on my PC and should be very interesting for the kids.

  15. ..I could also see Brian’s comments awaiting moderation…pity they weren’t juicy 😉

  16. Guys,

    really strange behaviour on the comment fields being pre-populated with previous comment info. Not sure if it is related to the theme (K2) which I am updating now or the caching plugin.

    Hasn’t happened before and I haven’t made any changes to the blog (no time to!) so perplexed!

    Thanks for making me aware of it.

  17. I’m being welcomed as Russell now (which is my name) so that seems to have fixed it.

  18. Bleating about betas. Move along please, submit feedback via usual channels. Beta releases now seem to increasingly be a link/advertising-bait opportunity for self-appointed bloggers as opposed to an in-development product testing milestone.

    Dell D6-x or other. Vista SP1. Installed fine. Ran fine. Never noticed there was a “set your location” option – didn’t see it being relevant when I was browsing Uranus.

  19. Weird – the mere mention of MS in a forum and it goes nuts.

    Should anyone really be surprised?

  20. Too bad it didn’t work out for you. I think the imagery with the World Telescope is just awesome. It actually made me consider trying out Google Earth Sky and Stellarium just to see how this stacks up against the two.

  21. Tom you should be more moderate on this one. I second Birna (Hi by the way) on this it’s a beta for god sake and it’s coming from MS Research which means it’s not going to compete Google tomorrow morning.
    I am an aamateur in astronomy but i can tell you I installed the tool without a glitch, everything works fine.
    It’s a pity that even if your posts are interesting, you are always hitting on Microsoft whatever they can do to please you 😉
    Now WWt is a huge application and so far they cover very well all the aspects of astronomy including some really cool panoramas of the planets in our solar systems.
    @Now honestly I didn’t try the Mac version, but I am sure that like the Windows version you need to be above the minimum requirements.

  22. Paschal,

    thanks for your comments.

    Brian, all software coming from Microsoft recently seems to be Beta. Vista was the world’s most expensive beta ever launched.

    I am not “always hitting on Microsoft” – see any of my posts on their better products (i.e. I have written positively on IE8 and SilverLight – even doing a podcast with Brad Abrams Project Manager of the SilverLight dev team).

    I know you didn’t try the Mac version. You couldn’t have. There is none. If you have a Mac, Microsoft expects you to install Windows on your computer to run WWt.

    Yes though, you do need to be above the minimum requirements. One if my issues with the app is that my Mac, which is a 2.16ghz Intel dual core with 2gb of ram is below the minimum requirement.

    Very few people (and even fewer schools) will have access to computers capable of running this bloated app.

    It is a shame as it has lots of potential.

  23. Come on give me a break, it’s not a bloated application! come on we are talking about the universe here!
    I have a Meade sky application to control my telescope and the software is bigger than the WWT project.
    Sorry but I find this project a very good educational tool, and has a lot of potential for amateurs and professionals.
    the sky map is great, you can quickly jump to any object and it has been a great tool for me to learn more about stars and constellations I can’t even dream to see with my ‘little’ 8″ telescope. Yes it surely can include Ireland, but to be accurate you need to enter latitude and longitude to work seriously and this is what yuo can do precisely with WWT.
    I like also the user interface simple and efficent, no fuss straight to an object and some cool zoom effects.
    One thing I regret is that they used flash instead of silverlight, but maybe they thnk it was not ready yet for the masses.
    Anyway make my day and give the tool some credits 😉
    Don’t forget it’s a free tool so if you know how to do it better I am all listening.

  24. Ok Paschal,

    maybe I should have said resource hungry instead of bloated. If it can’t run on a 2.16GHz machine with 2gb of ram it is poorly written and useless for the vast majority of computer owners.

  25. The program ran for me, but used a lot of system resources up understandably. Win XP Home, 2GB DDR, 2.2 Ghz Athlon.

    Overall the tool is a great resource for anyone interesting in astrology, I found myself using it for hours.

  26. just for the record it runs on my Vaio TZ which though it does have 2GB of RAM also has a measly 1.2ghz ULV processor. I think the specs aim for a “good experience” rather than any hard coded limitations.

  27. That drivers crash was because of NVIDIA. NVIDIA has a problem with some new video cards and vista, their driver commonly restarts.

  28. What’s up with the world wide telescope? I’m tryng to download it, but not having any luck. Can you help?



  29. Ahh 2.2ghz that explains it. My 2ghz iMac running VMware Fusion 2 crashes every time I run the blasted WWT. Not only does it crash Windows XP Pro, but it crashes OS X.

    I doubt the speed of the processor is the real cause of it not working right on a virtual machine. It’s what you call Garbage In, Garbage Out. Bloated code written poorly by teams of dysfunctional imps.

    Not bad for a beta huh?

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