James O'Neill's Blog

June 3, 2009

Free the Windows 7 !

Filed under: Windows 7,Windows Server 2008-R2,Xbox — jamesone111 @ 1:37 am

Brandon has a post on the Windows team blog

Windows 7 will be in stores beginning October 22nd.

I was talking a group of people a little while ago who said “In the stores in time for the Holiday season means what ? A reason margin before thanksgiving in the US ?” So this fits nicely with that enough time to stock on the shelves, sales people informed and so on. Working back from that you need at least a month, and ideally 6 weeks to 2 months to from “release” to “in stores”. We don’t have a fixed release date, because things can go wrong at the last minute, as Brandon says

Obviously, Release To Manufacturing (RTM) is an important milestone on the path to [General Availability]. We anticipate that we’ll be able to make the RTM code for Windows 7 available to our partners sometime in the 2nd half of July. We also expect to be able to make RTM code for Windows Server 2008 R2 available to our partners in this time frame as well.

So the server products will be out around the same time.

That’s also giving ourselves a decent margin for last minute problems. Ed Bott has brief post and has the decency not to say “I told you so”, because after a look at the Beta back in January he said it would release round in July. I’ve said if it wasn’t ready by August or September there would probably need to be another release candidate but if there we went from Beta to  just one RC, then July seemed about right. People are going to ask “I’m on such and such a programme, will I be able to get it between RTM and October 22”. Such things will be clarified nearer the time.

With bing getting a great press, and Xbox showcasing project natal  like this which can also do party pieces like this  and this

I feel like next year could be a vintage one.

By the way, I rarely embed You tube in my posts, that should tell you I think the video above is a bit special.

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

October 27, 2007

More halo 3 picture fun

Filed under: RSS,Xbox — jamesone111 @ 3:15 pm

warthog.sticker Driving home last night I heard Stephen McGill (who’s in charge of all things Xbox in the UK) on the PM programme (it’s about 40 minutes in if you want to use the “Listen again feature). He was talking about Gears of War winning the Golden Joystick awards. According to the BBC Xbox and Wii had a good night and Playstation had a miserable one. Halo 3 came out too late to be in the vote. I guess PGR4 and Bioshock were in the same boat, and I guess the timing spoils their chances for next year.

I have gears of War (thanks to a deal when I bought the Xbox-360), but I’ve not really immersed myself in it. Halo 3 is going to take up more of my time than I thought, the films feature is just fantastic. I wonder what people are going to do with the images (I’ve just discovered Bungie.net will give me an RSS feed to get to the images I upload, as well as one to give me all my game stats. Yikes, anyone can watch my stats and see what how badly I suck at multiplayer). The images are fascinating for the detail you find, not just in the lighting but the objects themselves. Just over 2 minutes into Cinema paradiso video (different sizes from here) one of the Bungie people says “I did not know that the Warthog actually had internal dash lights … and then I flying round and it’s like ‘What ? theres’ actually, like, lights in here ?”  Did you know that it had rubber mats in the foot wells, or the makers VIN sticker ? Look to the left …  This whole stop the action and view it from anywhere is … well to quote that Bungie guy again “The complexity of that system is SO insane”. OK it doesn’t make it any harder for the machine to render if you change the view point, and logging what objects are in the system and how they move, so you can render them again is a pretty simple idea. But

I’m a bit cross that the bungie guy says “The next thing you know they’re going to take the forge, and take saved films of that and add voice overs and do Macbeth” – I’m so cross he said Macbeth, because that’s the one play I’d pick; “Waiting for Goddot” performed by Spartans might have problems on a number of levels. I’m tempted to put together a Warthog brochure or a even a Warthog drivers club calendar. But… I’m concerned about copyright. Keep in mind that this only applies to the UK and I’m not qualified to give you an interpretation of the law, even If I do know my way round The Copyright designs and Patents  act 1988. (I recently had to refer someone to Section 30 (1) which says “Fair dealing with a work for the purpose of criticism or review, of that or another work or of a performance of a work, does not infringe any copyright in the work provided that it is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement”).  and I thought I knew what it said about computer generated art. These seem to be the key bits

Section, 4 Artistic works (1) In this Part “artistic work” means— (a) a graphic work, photograph, sculpture or collage, irrespective of artistic quality

Section 9 Authorship of work  (1) In this Part “author”, in relation to a work, means the person who creates it. (3) In the case of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work which is computer-generated, the author shall be taken to be the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work are undertaken.

Section 11 First ownership of copyright (1) The author of a work is the first owner of any copyright in it, subject to the following provisions. (2) Where a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work is made by an employee in the course of his employment, his employer is the first owner of any copyright in the work subject to any agreement to the contrary.

Obviously you should get someone qualified to interpret what “the arrangement necessary for the creation” of a snapshot from a halo game are and if there are other bits of the act you need to note. I’m going to try to find out what our stance is on other rights we have (e.g. the image rights of the Master chief). Sound like I need to get my own interview with Mr McGill. In the meantime here is a nice Warthog image to be going on with.



This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

October 19, 2007

Software + Services – X-box live as a model ?

Filed under: General musings,How to,Xbox — jamesone111 @ 10:51 am

We keep talking about a world of Software + Services. I saw a slide recently that talked about this almost in the form of “Client / Server 2.0”

The idea went like this

  • First we had the PC / Mainframe era. It was either anarchic on the PC or Controlled and restricted as a central service
  • Then we had the client / Server era. PCs consumed central services but both halves were smart.
  • Then the Internet came along. Web sites gave you what they gave you, and didn’t provide services to be consumed, the client was relatively “dumb”  
  • Then the internet evolved into providing services which could be consumed …

is this the much talked about web 2.0 ? No. I find that to be one of the more irritating buzz phrases of the moment. Is it about services ? Not really. Is it about user generated content. Kind of, but not really either. I found a good quote recently about web 2.0 (and I can’t find it again), but the gist was that that it is about services that become better as you add users. Lots of people using a Search engine doesn’t make it better. Lots of people using X-box live doesn’t make that better. Lots of people using MySpace, Twitter, or Facebook does make them better. And that is partly because each participant contributes.

Software + Services is a way of providing that “Client / Server 2.0” so that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. The revelation of the X-box 360 for me has been Xbox live. I was expecting it to be the media centre extender but I still haven’t set up a permanent media centre at home. But I’ve used Xbox live a lot, not as a way of playing against other people, but as a mechanism for getting new games, demo games and videos; these services give me a better experience of the Xbox, but they couldn’t exist without the sophisticated client platform the 360 provides.

The folks at Bungie have taken this a step further. Actually they’ve taken things several steps further. The first thing is they put a data recorder into Halo 3. This lets you go to “saved films”, (their video linked from that page is pretty amazing.). The game is re-rendered in real time from the saved data, but you can move the “Camera” view point around in real time. Fire a rocket, pause the action fly round to the target and watch it fly in and hit in slow motion. Race through to that heroic moment where you took on an enemy tank and view it from all angles. Didn’t see the enemy who killed you, find them on a replay. It adds a whole new dimension to the game, last night I spent more time playing with saved films than playing the game. But there’s more. The saved films will let you capture clips or stills and upload them via Xbox live. I can send links to my “friends” on X-box live.

But the service is better than that. Bungie’s web site displays my pictures to to the world , not just people on Xbox live. And of course I can download them to my PC, crop them and then push them up to a blog post using Windows Live Writer. Writer too is an example of the software + Services model. The PC is better at editing a blog post than any of the blog sites I’ve looked at. Writer uses a published web service API to interact with sites: instead of the PC platform benefiting from the service the blog service is getting something extra from the PC platform.

Of course there are people who offer software-as-a-service, in other words the PC becomes a (relatively dumb) terminal to run applications in the browser; this does have a place, but replacing an application that runs on the PC with one which delivers less running in a browser isn’t compelling. So Software + Services can help us to span platforms (X-box and PC in this case), and combining a service “in the cloud” with a smart client produces a new class of applications which do more. Posting a picture from a console game (in this case of an Alien about to be hit by a fuel rod cannon shot) to a personal web page might be a trivial use of the capability, but 5 years ago it would have seemed impossible. 


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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

September 28, 2007

Load up on guns, and bring your friends.

Filed under: Xbox — jamesone111 @ 8:19 am

The original Halo was the making of the original Xbox. It looked fantastic and sounded fantastic – spent shotgun cartridge bouncing brass end against a wall and then open onto the floor, spent shell cases from the machine gun tinkling as that bounced of the stone floor. The story unfolded like a movie, and when I say “Frankly the first encounter with the flood still scares me” anyone who’s played the game nods sagely.   

Halo 2 was great in technology terms, graphics rendering was even better, as was character AI (Marines who would drive vehicles with you as a passenger) we had dual wielding of weapons etc. But like many sequels down the years the plot was… disappointing and as is the case with many trilogies it came to an inconclusive end. Where I’d revisit episodes of original Halo over and over (“The Silent Cartographer” and “Assault on the control room”), I’ve never been back to most of Halo 2. Dual wielding was all fine and good but when you had a gun in each hand you couldn’t melee or throw grenades. It wasn’t as good to play… except in multi-player mode. That was a triumph, and it was the making of Xbox live. But if I were marooned on a desert island with one computer game I’d take the original.

So what of Halo 3. Will the sound impress ? Will the graphics live up to the show-reel ? Will the “physics” of the elements make you forget that this is a game and make you feel like you’re walking though a movie ? And when all that is mere engineering will you be desperate to know what happens next, and will the game play make me want to play it again, and again, and again. The Folks at Bungie posted a video to Xbox-live market place where they talk about that, and fine tuning the landscape to improve the play and one of them talks about making “Return of the King” the final part of Lord of the rings; the ultimate crescendo for the finale. Could they pull it off ? After playing the opening part twice now I can say yes on all counts. Much hyperbole has already been about 3, but on the evidence I’ve seen so far calling it a masterpiece doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Steve brought his copy of Halo 3 up to Scotland where we had an X-box for the after-hours event that’s going on after our roadshow. We played co-operative mode for 4 hours on a dreadfully small screen before admitting that some sleep before delivering a virtulization event would be a good idea. We played the opening a second time in the lunch break on a bigger screen (though still in pretty low res). And I know already that there are segments like the beachhead at the start of “The silent cartographer” which will still give me the same rush at the 100th playing.

Commercially… Well Halo 3 is the biggest launch in the history of Entertainment in the US, grossing more than $170 million dollars on Day One alone.  In a year filled with blockbuster sequels, Halo 3 still stood out, passing both Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ($166 million) and Spiderman 3 ($151 million). By the end of the year the Halo franchise is expected to break the billion dollar barrier across the 3 games. What can you do but be impressed ? 

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

September 26, 2007

Silverlight and more Halo 3 fun,

Filed under: Xbox — jamesone111 @ 9:10 am

WarthogI posted before about use of Silverlight for the Halo3 videos – I’ve got to say the whole museum of humanity series is an impressive piece of work just to support Halo. There’s also a an interactive manual that’s well worth a look.

I’m  disappointed to see that both Halo3.com and the root MSN Halo site use Flash where they could use Silverlight: Actually I said in a discussion that “If I worked in the Silverlight team I’d take it is a kick in the teeth…”. A couple of the Silverlight team told me off for being quite so outspoken, though I’m not alone, one said

While we appreciate the passion and support, collectively these sorts of posts seem to imply that we are either too ignorant to realize when we’ve been kicked in the teeth, too pusillanimous to stick up for ourselves, or we’re fighting like mad behind the scenes but losing. These all assume that we have been kicked in the teeth, which is simply not true.

OK. Fair’s fair: Silverlight is still new, still building its base of developers and (as I’ve been keen to say myself) isn’t a 1:1 replacement for Flash. So there are still places where Flash is the right tool for the job (not being a web developer I’m not the person to explain what these are vs what Silverlight’s strengths are).  On a project the size of Halo3 I suspect the lead time meant they had to go mostly with a technology which was out months ago, Silverlight would have been seen as a risk. And the Flash on these sites is Good Flash – Not the the look-at-me look-at-me adverts or We’ve nothing to say but paid our designers a lot usage that I think of as Bad Flash.

Over on XBox.com they’ve got a tool for doing your own Halo3 themes: like this one is done in Flash. Enjoy.


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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

September 25, 2007

What happens if you break a Microsoft embargo

Filed under: Xbox — jamesone111 @ 11:46 pm

Today has been Halo3 day. Marred for me by the fact that I’ve been on the Road away from my Xbox, and unable to pick-up my copy. Marred too by the fact that I missed my chance to get a copy of legendary edition.

You may have read that Argos distributed copies early. Tut, tut. The Master chief was very upset.



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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

September 1, 2007

Wanna see what Silverlight video streaming can do ?

Filed under: Xbox — jamesone111 @ 6:52 pm

Eileen mentioned on her blog that the New Zealand tech-ed folk had posted their keynote in Silverlight.

But with the Greatest respect to the presenters, they don’t have the don’t have the punch of these Halo 3 videos. One of them is pretty violent – maybe not the thing to watch with the kids around.  I don’t know how adaptive silverlight streaming is because this seems to use a lot of CPU and a lot of network. But it’s 840×470 resolution, fantastic sound, and I could seek around the movie quicker than DVD players that I’m used to.  And did I say it was Halo 3 ?

I’ve been playing Halo on my Xbox 360 because I don’t think anything has beaten it’s combination of detail, playability and story. And the flood still scare me. Halo-2’s opening sales not only beat any video game, but also any book, movie or album. Multiplayer Halo 2 on X-box live was simply fantastic, but although the game looks and sounds even better than the original, it didn’t have an episode I wanted to play again and again and again like  “The Silent Cartographer” or “Assault on the control room” levels in the original. The collectors edition DVD suggested they had trouble with the story elements, but the videos for 3 suggest they’ve got the story sorted. If it looks this as good as the videos and the story is a closer to episode I’m going to be tied to my console …

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

July 11, 2007

Why I really bought an Xbox-360

Filed under: Xbox — jamesone111 @ 2:48 pm

I know my wife reads my blog. (Hello dear). So I hope I’m not going to surprise her. zzzzzz7654198There are a bunch of reasons why I like the Xbox-360

Great is too small a word to describe what’s coming. At E3 we showed a new trailer for the Halo. It looks… superb. I like the Halo themed X-box on that page but I can live with my white non-HDMI one for now.  Have a look at the “ARMS Race” video linked to further down the page from Neill Blomkamp who is working on the Halo Movie (apparently).

Not withstanding, media, marble games, driving games and general living-room experience of the 360, the prospect of Halo 3 is just too exciting, and the real game play (as opposed to the X-box rendered cut-scenes) looks stunning. I can’t wait.



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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 27, 2007

Xbox 360 – a nice surprise at Amazon.co.uk

Filed under: Working at Microsoft,Xbox — jamesone111 @ 12:50 pm

I’ve been dragging my feet about upgrading my Xbox, but some of the bearings are getting a bit noisy, and the more time I spend with Vista’s Media Center the more I want to use the Xbox as an extender. Then there’s the gaming side: I quite like driving games and to be honest the wheel I have has been a major disappointment after the force feedback wheel I had on my PC.  I’m quite taken with the Force feedback wheel for the 360 – although it’s early days for games which support it. And Halo 3 isn’t far away.

I’ve also had a little bit of good news on the financial front recently so I decided the time had come to treat myself to a 360; you may know that Microsoft has a staff purchase system to let us buy software more-or-less at cost price. Since Consoles are sold with a subsidy, they’d be more expensive than in the shops, so they’re not even listed. Which is how I find myself on Amazon – where I found three offers

  • Get a free Xbox 360 Entertainment pack (a 2nd wireless controller, Project Gotham Racing 3 and Xbox Live Arcade Unplugged: Volume 1)

  • Get Crackdown & Gears of War for £10 until midnight on May 30, 2007. (£10 the pair, not £10 each – cheaper than staff purchase)

  • Get a top game for £30 (from a list of 20 or so) until midnight on May 30, 2007

So I’ve ordered the console with 20GB hard drive, ethernet cable, HD AV cable and headset, two wireless controllers, PGR3, Crackdown and Gears of War – for less than £279.99 RRP. Now I have to go to the staff purchase site and order the wheel ,the Media remote (a much better design original Xbox DVD bits)and  WiFi adapter (which runs at 54Mbit/sec and turns off with the console. My current 11Mbit one is on 24/7, not very green). Then I have to move my Xbox live subscription over.  So there’s still stuff to do to get exactly what I want, but I feel like a big kid a few days before Christmas.


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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 16, 2007

Halo 3 – and well kept secrets

Filed under: Xbox — jamesone111 @ 12:04 pm

Part of me says I should not have to learn about what’s happening at Microsoft from the BBC. My dive buddy in Malta was asking me about Halo 3 and I was telling him that consumer product launch dates are known to only a very few – it’s one of the few bits of the business which is secretive. I’ve heard an expected date for Longhorn Server to ship – and that’s expected, not fixed and I’m not sharing it. No one in my circle knew that HALO 3 WILL LAUNCH ON SEPTEMBER 25th (US) and 26th (Europe).

As I type this, over at bungie.net , the clock is still ticking down with 1 hour to go before the start of the public beta, with no news of the launch date. Nor is the Launch date visible on Halo3.com Could it be that the BBC Story appeared a couple of hours early. I don’t know.

Update. Looks like the Beeb jumped the gun. At Bungie.net the clock has gone and the announcement is there (with more detail here – but boys, the equinox is the 21st! you ship 4 days into Autumn, not 2 ! )

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

April 11, 2007

Will the management sign off this new IM device ?

Filed under: Real Time Collaboration,Xbox — jamesone111 @ 9:26 pm

OK,I’m a bit slow off the mark here but last week we announced we’re linking Xbox live into Windows Live messenger.I’ve got to get one of these… I not sure if Live Communications Server users with Public IM Connectivity to MSN / Windows Live will be see the Xbox live users – they better had !

Of course thirst for such a device has nothing to do with this or this. Or it’s possible use for this. Good lord no, perish the thought !

Update: And this Item on Amazon, has no influence what so ever.


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 10, 2007

End of an era. Apple is no longer a computer company.

Filed under: Apple,General musings,Mobility,Xbox — jamesone111 @ 1:08 am

I don’t know what has happened between Steve Jobs’ company and the one owned by the Beatles. It was always the case that the guys from Cupertino had to call themselves Apple Computer to keep themselves distinct. Not anymore.

Scoble got it from Om Malik who thought it was of the noteworthy part of Jobs’ keynote. I couldn’t face watching another whole Keynote at Midnight after watching Bill last night, but about 1hr 40 into the speech Jobs explains that they’re not really a computer company any more, what with the iPod and the new iPhone and Apple TV (formerly iTV which wouldn’t work in the UK. That device seems a bit weak I’m not the only one who thinks an Xbox does more.) . They’ve been the Mac company for 23 years – but their Computer has been eclipsed by their other offerings, so from now on they’re just plain Apple.

Back in April I wrote

Apple is a leader in industrial design: which is why my wife has an iPod Nano – the iPods have a magic to their design which no-one else seems able to match. The number of things which borrow from the original iMac design shows how other designers admire it. I’ve just bought a new Samsung TV and I didn’t consider Dell’s offering but I’d look at an Apple TV. As well as design, Apple has brand kudos that Samsung, Dell and (yes) Microsoft lack, so the idea of Windows on Apple hardware is seductive.

iPhone has that magic. I’ve got to hand it to Apple: it’s beautiful, even if it does less than my 3 year old smartphone – Jason’s more neutral in his analysis.

Steve quoted some interesting numbers. 26 Million Games Consoles sold world wide in 2006. Robbie Bach said at the CES keynote that we’d sold 10.4 Million Xbox 360s. If those numbers are calculated on the same basis then Xbox 360 has a 40% share of the market. I don’t know what the original Xbox sold in 2006, and what the rest of the non-Sony Market is. Steve compares this against 94M digital cameras, 135M MP3 players, and 209M PCs. And about 1 billion cell phones.

But iPhone is $499 US with a 2 year contract. Now I’ve no idea what the world market in $499 designer phones is, but it sure ain’t a billion – and it doesn’t look like it has the things which business users demand (like sync to the corporate mail server). I wouldn’t buy a $499 phone any more than I’d buy a pair of $499 shoes. But Steve want’s 1% of the whole market – 10 million phones in 2008. A man who wants to create a $5 bn market in it’s first full year: what can you do but be impressed ? 


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Postscript. I might have guessed that Hugh would have something witty to say about this

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 8, 2007

A good day to be a fake doctor …

Filed under: Music and Media,Windows 2003 Server,Windows Server 2008,Xbox — jamesone111 @ 9:28 am

I mentioned we had something big planned for the CES show in Vegas, and that something is Windows Home Server. There was a nice teaser site, The Center for Digital Amnesia Awareness which now has the information on it.

On 10 has a video which explains it; their summary

As a small, headless box that lives on your network and in your closet, a Windows Home Server can quickly grow the pool of storage from which all of your shared files for each of your users lives. The backup engine in Windows Home Server also silently backs up the entirety of each machine connected to it every night. And because the data is always online, using the built-in remote access abilities, you’ll also be able to access your data from any machine on the planet.

Charlie Kindel works on it – and he has a photo which shows the kind of ideas people have for machines that will run WHS, the Windows Server Solutions Group (which is also responsible for SBS – which Eileen mentioned recently)

One thing that seems have caused confusion is the “Personalized Internet address from Windows Live™ with no monthly service fees* ” something I read says owners of home server will be able to get a name within a domain owned/managed by windows live. I’m guessing there will be a mechanism either for home server or the DNS Server to discover the machines true Internet address and register dynamically.

I’ll post more as I have it

Update: There’s a good five minute summary Video now on the MicrosoftAtCES site


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

November 20, 2006

Long queue for a Wii

Filed under: Xbox — jamesone111 @ 4:48 pm

Every time I see a headline about Nintendo’s new console something puerile in me takes over; sorry but there it is.  

While I’m on the subject of consoles, having seen so much about it I went to see Casino Royale at the weekend. Past Bond films have been over-the-top, and this one was underplayed, and was the better for it. Daniel Craig – and the people who selected him – must feel such a sense of vindication. My only annoyance with the film was the product placement. Virgin’s boss Richard Branson was shown going through an airport X-Ray, before the film we had an excellent version of Sony’s Bravia TV-Ad (no music, real explosions). If that ad had been running earlier in the year I would probably have bought a Sony. The came an advert for the Sony Viao laptop (Bond sends email from one in the film). All the cars in the film are Ford-owned marques – Jaguar, Aston Martin, Volvo as well as Ford, all the electronics are Sony – not just the Viao but Sony phones, and a Sony digital camera. One of the clips before the film shows 007 breaking into M’s home, but not even he can get his hands on a Playstation 3.

Meanwhile Scoble explains why Bill Gates gave this great quote about Xbox 360 to CNet:

CNet: There’s obviously one other big product for the holidays in terms of things that you guys make–XBox 360. You did get the year’s head start this time. There still seems to be pretty strong critical acclaim and demand for PlayStation 3. How do you see that?
Gates: I wouldn’t change positions with them in a million years. I mean, we know what it’s like to be a year late. We feel great about the position that we’re in. And, of course, they’re going to sell a lot in Japan.

You know, Sony can make 80,000 bricks, and people would buy them. So the real competition–you’re going to see the impact of our innovation and all the momentum we have in Christmas 2007. This Christmas, the story is: XBox 360 is going to sell super-well, and they’ll sell the rounding error amounts they can make.

I came back from Barcelona to a message from an old friend asking me if I can get Gears of War. The 360 does have innovation, but Sony’s sales figures being small enough to be “rounding error” Ouch!


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 14, 2006

X-box 360 and the "You tube of games"

Filed under: Xbox — jamesone111 @ 11:57 am

Yes, the BBC got my attention with that headline too.  Here’s the official press release.  This is the launch of XNA Framework, a custom implementation of the .NET Compact Framework for game development.

Dan Fernadez has a great summary  and a great collection of links on his blog. The talk is all about C# express, there is a tantalizing comment that “Since the XNA Framework is a set of managed code libraries, you can use any managed .NET Framework language.” … It opens up the rather odd possibility that you can write for the X-box in CoBOL ????

It seems like today might be a day of links, so here’s a Bonus Link: After trying out VB express with some enthusiasm, I was going to write about about how it’s a great time for the hobbyist programmer – but Dan’s written that one too.

Tagged as Microsoft Xbox XNA

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 2, 2006

Media Centre Edition is dead, Long live Windows Media Centre.

Filed under: Apple,Photography,Windows Vista,Xbox — jamesone111 @ 12:31 pm

I want an Xbox 360. Someone gave me an original Xbox and the games still impresses me. When I got the Xbox I already had a cable TV decoder, VCR, and DVD player lashed into the back of the TV. I gave the DVD player to my Dad because the Xbox did that job. But it’s not a pretty piece of furniture and it’s noisy. The 360 is better in that regard, wireless controllers are tidier, and it’s ability to display photos, play music and so on makes gives it greater “lounge appeal”.

Part of the 360’s advantage is high definition pictures – so a few weeks ago I replaced my 16-year old TV with a widescreen TFT one. The new TV supports DVB-T – “Freeview” to anyone in Britain, which means farewell cable decoder (and £20 a month saved). But I can’t tape digital stations; and my 16-year old VCR isn’t widescreen either, I need to play my old tapes, but it’s time to find a new recording solution

Windows Vista does away with a Media Centre edition, “Ultimate” and “Home Premium”  include Windows Media Centre as an application. The Xbox 360 can act as a media extender, so you don’t need a PC under the TV. I think that’s ideal: with a TV decoder and Vista on the PC in my study, it can be a big store for music, photos and recorded videos.  Except: that PC is old and underspecified for the job. So I need a new PC, maybe even a 64-bit one, and no doubt the monitor will be replaced at the same time. I learnt about backup the hard way, and with more storage my backup system will need a re-think too.

Vista is going to solve another problem for me. I have something like 15,000 digital photos, and little by little I’m digitizing my way through 20 years of film. No filing system I’ve found works. Back in 2002 when I was a Sharepoint Portal Server Guru, I summarized what I had learnt amount managing thousands of documents in “The Taxonomy ten commandments”, the last of which was: Readers will find documents by browsing categories or by searching. If readers are exposed to your folder hierarchy you are doing it wrong! The things that applied to documents in Sharepoint then apply to photographs on my hard disk now. Category driven search folders in SPS have given way to Tag driven ones in Vista – and Vista’s are much easier to use.
For example: I have hundreds of photos of my daughter and her friends. If I tag pictures with the names of people in them, then two clicks “stacks” my pictures by tags, each tag becomes a search folder – all the pictures of a particular friend are in one place.. two more clicks burns those pictures to CD. Further, the tags are  EXIF fields just like technical details of a TIFF or JPEG. If someone looks at the CD in 20 years time, they can see who else is the picture and when it was taken: I wish I had that for all my old negatives.

Trying to get control over all this content, causes some other headaches. My wife’s music is in Apple’s AAC format for her ipod – mine is in WMA for everything else. It seems we need to stick to MP3 as the only common denominator. Formats are a nuisance, even without DRM, or   Content, Restriction, Annulment, and Protection as  zdnet calls it http://news.zdnet.com/2036-2_22-6035707.html . DRM’d files either work on Windows media player (including mobile), or on the ipod, but not both, plug the iPOD into the Xbox 360 and it will play

 [Rhetorical question] Our server folks think about the customer who has some Unix/Linux as well as Windows.  For Vista I wonder if our media folks have considered households like mine with both an iPod and a Windows mobile device ? Media sync is broken in the interim build of Vista I have at the moment, so I can’t check.

I hope to avoid wiring a TV aerial connection for the PC – it is difficult  to wire anything in the old house where I live. For that reason, I use 802.11b to provide internet connections to laptops, desktop, and Xbox. I’ve had it since the summer of 2000, when I imported my own Linksys box from the US. I noticed that Linksys’s free-standing Media extender supports only 802.11A or G variants, so my 11Mbit/sec network may be too slow and need upgrading.

I can’t help feeling something’s gone wrong here.  I wanted a new HDTV games console. So I’ve upgraded to an HD TV screen, which caused me to change my digital TV provider, which in turn has made look at changing how I record TV, to do that I’ll be replacing my OS, which means changing the PC hardware. To make it all work may mean reformatting all stored music, going back and tagging photos and revamping my wireless networking. And the one thing that’s staying ? the 16 year old VCR because I still need to play old tapes. Maybe with Vista I will finally digitize them.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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