The new version is VILE - recommend an old version? RRS feed

  • Question

  • I've been a big fan of of Microsoft's ICE software for years. It is such a great program. Well I hadn't updated the software for about 18 months so today I installed the latest version.

    What a horrible shock! The new version is an ABSOLUTE ABOMINATION - probably the worst computer application I have ever seen. It is VILE. I am actually angry about this, and it takes a lot to make me angry. It has gone from a great program to a terrible one!

    I didn't get any further than the start screen before I immediately uninstalled this monstrosity. But based on the start screen alone, here are the four (obvious) things I detest about this software...

    What I hate about it

    1) It shows adverts now! What the hell? Since when have Microsoft applications ever contained advertising? What is going on? Don't they know that no one is going to use this if they put adverts in it?

    2) The start screen is horrible! The actual controls are up at the top, and the whole screen is full of absolute BULLSHIT - adverts, and links to some website called "Photosynth.net". I DO NOT want an application that automatically goes online and downloads adverts and images into the application! That is SO WRONG! If I want to go online I will use a web browser. I do not want applications connecting to the Internet and "telling me about things". I consider that an invasion of a private realm, and very creepy.

    3) The start screen is animated! Basic application design 101 says you do not have animated elements. It is distracting and unsettling to have things moving around. Why would they do this?

    4) And just to make this truly awful update even worse, they've redesigned the graphical style, and it is HORRIBLE. It's no longer a standard "Windows" application - everything now is just floating rectangles with no borders. Some kind of weird "minimalist" design. It is utterly vile! I can't even believe Microsoft made this, it looks totally out of place in Windows. Even the "minimize, restore, close" buttons are changed. I don't want computer programs to be ostentatious, graphical and gimmicky, I want them to look plain and uniform and just do their job.

    So since I wouldn't touch this vile thing with a barge pole, I have seven questions:


    1) Can anyone recommend the best "old version"?

    2. Or, could anyone tell me what was the last stable version before they added adverts, animation, and "online" elements? (I could live with the new 'minimalist' style if I really had to.)

    3) Have there been any significant performance improvements in recent updates? In other words, how far back could I go and not lose performance? (I'm mainly talking about the program's ability to stitch properly and give good results rather than speed - it has always been blindingly fast.)

    4) Where can I download old versions from? (If I can't get hold of an old version, I'll just have to use Hugin.)

    5) What the hell has happened to this once great program? Why has it changed so drastically? Since when did Microsoft put adverts in their software? Is anyone even using the latest version?

    6) I haven't read people's reactions to this. Was everyone else as angry about this as me?

    7) What is photosynth.net and what connection does it have to ICE?

    I have used a lot of strong words in this post. I am not normally this angry, but I have just witnessed one of my all-time favorite applications turning into THE worst application I have ever seen right before my eyes! It is devastating!

    • Edited by Jamie UK Tuesday, March 15, 2016 9:10 PM
    Tuesday, March 15, 2016 9:01 PM

All replies

  • Well after quite a bit of searching, I have discovered that the last version of Ice was 1.4.4, released back in May 2011, and I have been able to download a copy for x64. (Not sure what happened to versions 2.0.0 - 2.0.2 but I'm guessing they weren't publicly released?)

    So my problem is solved! :) Hooray!

    Version 1.4.4 is so much better, and less than one third of the size of 2.0.3! No adverts, no irritating welcome screen, no connecting to the Internet, and a nice standard Windows interface, nothing gimmicky. To boot, it has a File menu, allowing you to close the current panorama without having to restart the program. :)

    So happy that I've got this great program back! For a minute I thought I'd lost it.

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016 9:30 PM
  • I have just made another discovery!

    I decided to test the speed of versions 1.4.4 and 2.0.3, to make sure I wasn't missing out on a major speed improvement - but in fact I found that the opposite is true: the new version is twice as slow!

    To test it, I ran eight different panoramas, each with an average of 22 photos, and timed how long it took to read, match, solve and composite the photos.

    Version 1.4.4 took a total of 114 seconds, while Version 2.0.3 took a total of 225 seconds, meaning the old version took 49% less time as the new version. In addition to this, version 1.4.4 loads much faster. 2.0.3 takes several seconds, while 1.4.4 is virtually instant. These little details all make a big difference in my book.

    To give version 2.0.3 some credit, I have found just two ways in which the new version is superior:

    1. Obviously, it now has more projection modes (Mercator, orthagraphic, fisheye and stereographic).

    2. I also found another advantage: I have one set of photos which never stitched properly with the old version (must have been a bug as the images ended up all over the place). The new version stitches them properly. It's a shame I can't have the old version with the bug fix, but I am prepared to put up with that bug because the software is so good.

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016 10:11 PM
  • I totally agree with you! I use ICE v1.4.4.0 to make photomosaics of the Moon and the older version is excellent, Version 2.0 sucks! Usually can't join properly to moon images, whereas v1.4.4.0 has no problem at all!
    Thursday, March 17, 2016 3:47 AM
  • I have v1.4.4.0 both 32 and 64 bit in case you're interested. Regards, Andy.

    Thursday, March 17, 2016 3:48 AM
  • I have v1.4.4.0 both 32 and 64 bit in case you're interested. Regards, Andy.

    Thank you Andy, though I was able to find it online.

    And I have learned a good lesson from this, to always keep all my installers, in case the developers decide to release a monstrosity and old installers aren't available. This experience scared me! :)
    Wednesday, March 23, 2016 3:23 PM
  • Hey, Jaime, 

    I see you've managed to find an installer for ICE 1.4.4. 
    You can always go to the Internet Archive to download a fresh copy of the ICE 1.4.4 installer again if you need it.

    I'm not aware of anyone at Microsoft Research who still works on ICE so your unfortunate diatribe serves no real purpose.
    Matt Uyttendaele and Eric Stollnitz who worked on ICE (and its interactive panorama viewer, HD View) for years and years left Microsoft Research to go to Facebook and Adobe about half a year ago.

    I'm not any bigger a fan of the advertisements for other Microsoft Research apps in ICE than you are (although the Blink and Hyperlapse Pro apps are pretty cool) but you could certainly learn to vocalize your displeasure in a way that actually allows people to identify with your stance. And in future you should probably wait to make a list of things you hate about a program until you've actually used it - if you want people to consider your statements as intelligent.

    Let's address your points, one by one.

    1. You hate the ads for other free downloads from Microsoft Research. Okay. A lot of people don't like the ads. 
      But this program was created by Microsoft Research employees at Microsoft's expense and published for free. 
      In other words, Microsoft spent money to create and distribute this program that you profess to love so much and made no money from it. 
      The folks who created it wanted to raise people's awareness of other things that they made for free in case you might be interested and you are somehow offended by this?

      In case you haven't noticed, anything that costs no money on the web is paid for by advertising. 
      In ICE 2's case, the advertising isn't even for anything that makes Microsoft money. 
      It's just promotion for other free downloads from Microsoft Research, so I'm not going to have great sympathy for you. 
      If you're a fan of anything that Google does, it's all funded by ads. That's how they give things away for free. 
      If you have a smartphone, tons of the free apps (on iOS, Android, or Windows Phone/Windows Mobile) are funded by ads. 
      This isn't anything new. It started on the web a decade and a half ago, it started in mobile apps nine years ago, and it was happening in local applications like instant messengers as far back as the web.

      Again, I share your distaste for the presentation on the welcome screen but I'm not going to fault a team of researchers for using one of their apps for publicizing others.
    2. Again, you mention that you hate the ads on the welcome screen, but I believe I've covered that. 
      You also say that you hate the links to view the panoramas that other people have uploaded to Microsoft's panorama hosting solution for ICE users.
      Perhaps Microsoft should have given us an option to toggle this off but is it really unreasonable to think that passionate panorama photographers would be interested in viewing their fellow ICE user's panoramas? 
      Is it unreasonable for Microsoft to make new ICE users aware that they offer panorama hosting for interactive viewing?
    3. Oh really? This seems like mere opinion to me. What on the ICE 2 welcome screen is animating for you? 
      The promotion for other free Microsoft Research downloads?

      Even if something is animating for you, this requires sophistication on the part of the application developer. 

      I have always appreciated programs that use animation well to draw people's attention to the next step and guide them through the process of using the program.
      Things like MSN Explorer or MSN Messenger, Windows Media Center, Zune, or Skype (not so much since Microsoft bought them, sadly) always felt like they were made by people who understood that they needed to make things presentable and comprehensible to normal people instead of only developers or power users.
    4. More unqualified opinion here. Whatever. I cannot begin to count the number of applications which reskin the minimize, restore, and maximize buttons.

    And to answer your questions...

    1. You've already found ICE 1.4.4. Moving on...
    2. Again, you already have the answer.
    3. ICE is an automated program. 
      The ability of its image feature extractor and matcher are going to vary from photo set to photo set, so whether someone has success with ICE 1 or ICE 2 on any given photo set is irrelevant to how one or the other will each perform on a completely different photo set. It's best to just have both ICE 1 and ICE 2 installed to try a photo set which fails in one of them in the other to see if it will succeed there. If you have a photo set that it's having trouble with, you might (depending on how you took the photos) be able to use ICE's 'structured panorama' mode to manually tell ICE about which direction the photos are panning, what pattern they're panning in, how many rows or columns there are, approximately how much one photo in a row or column overlaps the next, etc.
    4. Again, you have the link to download an older version of ICE.
    5. What happened to ICE? It got improved, for the most part, that's what.
      And unfortunately it got a welcome screen that you have to click 'Next' on before it will begin crunching on your photos that you drag into it.

      Did you ever have to rotate your panorama somewhat to get the horizon to be level and then also want to recenter it (assuming that your panorama does span 360 degrees horizontally)? In ICE 1, re-centering your pano never allowed you to see precisely where your left and right edges were going to be cut off because ICE 1's preview image is just a low resolution thumbnail of your pano whose edges are drawn in chunks of pixels.

      In ICE 2 the preview is always full resolution and you can see precisely where the left and right edges of your panorama will be.

      In ICE 2, since the preview is full resolution and interactive by default there's no time wasted like in ICE 1 when entering editing mode and switching back to the thumbnail.

      In ICE 2, there's no discrepancies between the graph cut that ICE makes for the preview versus what it uses when it produces the full resolution export (a very irritating problem with ICE 1).

      In ICE 2, I am able to tell ICE (before it ever wastes any time automatically coming to the wrong idea about camera motion) whether I used Rotating Motion or not which was a constant source of irritation for me in ICE 1.
    6. People didn't like the ads and found the need to click 'Next' on the welcome screen once (before a loaded .spj file would begin compositing) to be a step backwards in efficiency, but overall none of the others that I've read were expressed quite like yours...

      Others simply produced an edit to the xml file in ICE 2's folder that stores the URLs to the promotions and Photosynth.net panos and hollowed it out so they had a clean welcome screen or found keyboard shortcuts like tapping [Alt]+[Left Arrow] a few times to back up to the form where you can drop a new batch of photos in to start stitching another panorama.
    7. Photosynth.net is first and foremost home to photosynths (or 'synths' for short) and is also Microsoft's free hosting for stitched panoramas (panos) from ICEPhotoshopmobile pano appsetc. 

      In brief, whereas a good panorama can only be stitched from photos taken from the same perspective (where the camera lens does not change latitude, longitude, or altitude between input photos so that foreground objects line up identically with background objects in all the photos and ICE - or any other panorama stitcher - can stitch them seamlessly), in a photosynth the program works to recognize portions of the same objects from multiple perspectives and by doing so learns the basic structure of the objects in 3D. 

      A photosynth, then, is multiple photos taken from many different perspectives throughout an environment or around a central object. 
      The photos remain 2D, however they are arranged in 3D space and able to be navigated between as though you were navigating the space they were taken in and a very sparse 3D model of the photographed scene (called a point cloud) is also available as a backdrop for the photos.

      A photosynth is not a panorama and a panorama is not a photosynth. They each have different uses and different strengths and weaknesses. 
      A good panorama contains no parallax and is a perfect single perspective which looks in all directions outward.
      A good Photosynth is free to move the camera and contains lots of parallax to demonstrate to the computer how different objects relate in space.
      Both can be hosted for free on Photosynth.net, though.

      There are two basic varieties of photosynth: 
      Original synths (first able to be uploaded by the public beginning 2008 August 20th) which are completely freeform and can contain around 2,000 photos each and 
      Photosynth 2 Tech Preview synths which come in four structures
      Spin (Think 'Object movie' or 'Inverse Panorama' or 'Object' in QuickTime VR terms), Walk, Wall, and Pan.

      Original synths originally used a Direct3D web browser plugin to view photosynths on Photosynth.net but then switched to a (lower quality) Silverlight viewer.
      This makes them a bit awkward on today's web since Internet Explorer 11 doesn't play nice with the original Direct3D viewer unless you open up the IE F12 Dev tools and use the Emulation tab to switch your current tab into IE10 (or below) mode and then switch the 'view.aspx' part of an original synth's URL to 'd3d/photosynth.aspx' and Chrome and other web browsers are moving away from the NPAPI interface that Silverlight uses to communicate with the web browser.

      Tech Preview synths, on the other hand, use a WebGL viewer and so will work for anyone with a modern web browser on any operating system or device.

    Panorama hosting was added to Photosynth.net six years ago in 2010.
    You can view the video where this was first shown here: TechFest 2010: Microsoft ICE - Image Composite Editor 
    Here's the ICE/HDView team's blog post about it: ICE Is Now Synthy
    Here's the Photosynth team's blog post about it: Buttery-Smooth Gigapixel Panoramas 

    Prior to panorama support on Photosynth.net, if you wanted to view your ICE panoramas interactively you would export from ICE in HD View format (called Deep Zoom in later versions of ICE 1 and ICE 2), then make sure that the HD View web browser plugin was installed on your computer and open the HTML page in the folder that you exported the Deep Zoom format of your panorama into.

    If you wanted to share the interactive version of your panorama before March of 2010, you had to have your own web hosting where you could upload the folder that ICE had exported and upload all of the image tiles and xml file etc. that composed that interactive formatting of your panorama in the exact same arrangement to each other that they had had on your hard drive.

    Needless to say that in the age of Flickr, Smugmug, or smartphone apps and sharing photos on Facebook, Twitter, etc. a lot of average users were used to online services providing free hosting for photographic content and making the upload process easy. So that's what panorama support on Photosynth.net aims to provide. A simple way for the average person to share the interactive version of their panorama with others. And panorama viewers (a Silverlight one and an HTML5 one) which should make your panorama viewable on any operating system or device that the people you're sharing it with might be following your link with.

    Your fellow user,

    Tuesday, March 29, 2016 8:57 AM