Posts Tagged ‘microsoft’

netflix-nomoregoldIts been a few years, (I ranted about this a while back) but it seems Xbox finally caved and will now let us use our Xbox consoles to watch Netflix without forcing us to have a Xbox Live Gold membership.

There isn’t much of an explanation, nor any real fanfare on the Xbox site, just a small note in their frequently asked question section that they “are committed to delivering the best gaming and entertainment experience to you – our most loyal fans.”

It’s funny that Netflix is the one informing customers about this, you’d think Microsoft would be all over it trying to shine up their tarnished public image.

Who knows, I may even turn on my Xbox 360 and use it again, although I, like many I presume, have already found other ways of getting Netflix onto our TVs.  Another example of too little too late I think.  If you are going to wait years to respond to the outcry, don’t be surprised if no one is listening when you finally do.

barkerp

laptop-deathknell“So you must have got the 5, how do you like it?”
I looked on confused for a moment,… “Oh, the iPhone 5, yeah I did.”
In a world where tech moves so quickly being asked about a product I’d been using for more than a couple of weeks caught me off guard. (at least that’s my story and not that I’m getting old).
My response, once I got my head around the meaning or the question was simple. “I love it”.
That’s the short answer anyway. The long answer isn’t much different though, all in all a very positive experience. As with anything new if you delve in and immerse yourself in it you can pick it up fast and the subtle changes to the iPhone are such that I hardly notice them until I pick up a 4s or 4 and look at the screen. Where did the extra line of apps go?

I’m getting a little off topic, but bear with me, it’s a short trip down a sidetrack eventually leading to the point.

I am typing this on my iPad, because as I said the world of tech moves quickly. I did a post about that new toy recently (here) so I won’t get into that again, but suffice to say, between the iPad and iPhone 5, my laptop is getting lonely I think, and in reality, the iPhone is being put down more often now in favour of the iPad because I can see more of what I am typing, etc.  (again, not because I’m getting old and my eyes are failing) Sure it’s no 60 words a minute but its a pretty good keyboard all things considered, maybe not as good as an actual tactile keyboard but definitely easier to use and transport around when space is limited.

From where I sit, typing away on my iPad or iPhone more than I do on my laptop, I think Microsoft is onto something with their latest foray into the tablet market, the “Surface“.  Sure, they are late to the game, but they may be the one pushing the tablet in the direction it needs to go.  A replacement for traditional laptops.

Most of what we do when mobile is word processing, gaming or content consumption, and the heavy lifting is done on other devices. As tablets become more and more powerful, the line between them and the traditional laptop fades. Really, the main difference between my iPad and my MacBook Air is the size of the hard drive. If I could get an iPad with a 250 gb drive in it I’d be as happy as a…. well, you know how that expression goes.

Whether its Microsoft’s way with a connectable keyboard, or taking Apple’s route of using bluetooth connected keyboards, the end result is the same, we are quickly heading towards a real shake up in the mobile computing world.  Tablet sales are climbing at a crazy rate, seemingly at the expense of laptop sales.  Desktop computers settled into their place in the world some time back and will always have their place in the work environment.  I don’t see them going away for a while, maybe a shift in the way people use them though, becoming more like a server and storage area for our mobile devices.

As for which tablet will become king? At this point, Apple has a good lead, but Microsoft has its own army of followers that are pretty loyal and will quickly either jump on that train as their first tablet or switch from the Apple one.  Either way, the sales will come at the expense of the laptop.  Their time is limited as people as well as the business world keep adopting the even more portable tablet.  Especially when it comes to travelling, I rarely see laptops being used in airports anymore, it is mostly tablets, and mostly iPads .  Sure many people will still keep using laptops, but more as a replacement for a bulky desktop computer than a portable device they carry with them.  As with phones, when it comes to tablets, you hitch yourself to an engine and hope you are on the right track, but thankfully another train will be coming along shortly so you can easily switch if you find yourself going the wrong way so their really is no wrong choice.

What’s with all the train references you may ask? Well, its Christmas time and I keep looking at the tree with the battery operated Christmas train slowly making circles around it, between the presents over and over again, the little chiming of Christmas tunes ringing out from the engine.  A stark contrast to the laptop’s death knell I’m hearing in my head.

barkerp

…that is the question

The most common computer question I get after “Does this seem like a virus to you?” is “Should I replace my computer or not?
This may be a rambling reply, so get comfy, in the end there is an answer.

In this society where we tend to always want the latest best new thing, we often forget that we don’t always need to replace, sometimes an upgrade of key components can breathe new life into a computer.  Replacing the hard drive for instance.  If you have the option, then an SSD can make your computer run that much faster.  Especially when paired with bumping up the ram.  Max it out if possible.  If you are running a current Operating System (OS) then you shouldn’t have any software limitations to how much you can access and use.  Check with the technical specs for your specific computer and it will tell you what the max RAM is.  In the case of an Apple computer, check with Mactracker to confirm.  (http://mactracker.ca) Sometimes the Apple maximum is not the real maximum the device will support.

I mentioned “current OS”.  That is because older versions of Windows had maximum accessible ram caps, but that was changed with vista and Win7 and if you are not running one of those, then that is a good indication it may be time to check and see if your current PC is even capable of running a newer OS.  The latest Mac operating system has minimum system requirements to run smoothly and quickly and won’t install on older hardware, same with Windows.  You can check easily if your system will allow you to upgrade to the latest OS, which if it can’t then yes, it may be time to upgrade or replace.  For Mac, again, Mactracker is a great tool, as is the Apple website under support, in the Technical Specs for the OS you are thinking about.  Mountain Lion for instance is here… http://support.apple.com/kb/SP654.  Similarly with Win7 you can check here… http://windows.microsoft.com/is-IS/windows7/products/system-requirements. The Microsoft site above will also allow you to check your PCs compatibility from the site if you allow it.

Bare in mind, these are the MINIMUM requirements.  Some things may work, but slowly, so take it with a grain of salt.  If you are close to the low-end of what is required, tweaking the graphics will help to speed things up a little.  By that I mean turning off the fancy visual effects such as the “genie effect” in Mac OS dock, or disable Aero effects in Win7.

If you are already running a current version, or in some case, current enough, then another thing to do is keep it clean – both the hardware and the software. By clean I mean getting the dust and crumbs out of it as well as by removing unneeded software/apps/programs/files.  A full hard drive takes longer to access files and also causes havoc with programs looking for temporary space.  Any OS will try to allocate a chunk of space from your hard drive for file swapping and temp storage while you work, and some programs require more than other depending upon their undo files, etc.  It surprising how a little spring cleaning can help speed up your computer.  Getting back to the dust issue, a good rule of thumb for desktop computers is to open the case once a year and carefully blow out the innards with canned compressed air.  I typically do this with a vacuum running next to it to catch all the dust before letting it back into the house/office.

If you are having the hard drive replaced or adding extra ram to speed things up, the shop/person doing it for you will typically physically clean out the inside of the computer.  Ask them to check the operation of the system fans and power supply fan while in there too.  A system not properly being cooled will also have troubles and can cause slow downs or in severe cases, system failure, shutdowns or damage.

If you’ve tried speeding up what you have, have updated it as much as you can and still aren’t happy with the speeds, then at least you have a good clean system as a spare, or a hand-me-down, or better yet maybe a hand-me-up.  Once you’ve got your new computer and transferred all your files/data/programs, why not give your old one to your parents or grandparents, odds are it is better than they already have and they will appreciate the gesture of finally paying them back for all the things they gave you growing up.  It may be better than giving it to your kids, who if they are like mine, want the newest toys on the market anyway.  Also, it is nice you are familiar with the system, so that way when they ask you questions about how it works, you’ll be able to help them out easily.  One last perk is you are keeping it out of the landfill, and giving it a little extra life, which always feels good to me when I’m justifying buying the latest and greatest for myself.

Use the tech-shuffle to your advantage, there is usually someone who will be thankful for your hand-me-down/up devices.

barkerp

p.s. –  for all your Shakespeare nuts, yes I know the image of the hand holding the skull doesn’t go with the “to be or not to be” scene in Hamlet, but I’m taking artistic license, Horatio.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for companies making money by selling us products and services.  It is after all the basis of the free market that we all know and love.  But when it comes to paying a company a monthly fee just to be able to stream media through their console, that’s where I think they’ve gone too far. And they’ve been doing it a long, long time.

This isn’t me being an Apple-fanboy, this is me being pissed at having to pay a fee to Microsoft so that their gaming device which I already paid for will be able to stream Netflix through it.   They are the only gaming platform that charges a fee to do this, and in my opinion it is nothing but a cash-grab.  What exactly does Microsoft need to do in order or us to use our XBox360’s to stream video through it that can justify forcing users to pay for XBox Live Gold just to use it?  Is it maybe because they have their own service (Xbox Live Marketplace/ Zune Marketplace) that allows you to download movies and music, for another additional fee of course.

They already give us a console that doesn’t include a WiFi adapter out of the box and has more software “updates” than any other console, as well as being the only one to have an entire section of their company dedicated to dealing with broken devices and the “Red Ring of Death“, but they also have the gall to make us pay them a premium just to make their console do something that costs them nothing.  There is no overhead for them to worry about, nothing to administer, no additional load on their servers, so why make us subscribe to Gold just to make it work?

The statement that really got my goat was from someone on Twitter who said “it’s only $60” when I made a comment about being annoyed I had to pay to stream Netflix on my XBox360 when we were discussing which console was better.  Yes, it is only $60 per year. But that doesn’t make it right.  Playstation does not charge for you to stream Netflix, neither does Wii.   Besides, $60 can feed a starving kid for 2 months.  It can keep a few dogs well fed at the Humane Society for a couple of months too.  Or to be more selfish, it’ll pay for my morning timmy’s for 2 months.

The point is, we’ve already paid for the device and if they truly want it to become part of our media hub, why force us to spend more money each month for an add-on service that offers someone like me no value?  Where we live the internet speed available is too slow to make online gaming possible – I’ve tried it.  I rezz just fast enough to see myself fragged over and over again.  Kinda makes most of the games being developed nowadays a rip-off too since most of the fun is online based, but that’s a rant for another day.  So what else does Gold offer? Video Kinect, Twitter and Facebook on my XBox360 – no thanks, we have computers and other devices for that that work much better.  Aside from the fact that to do that I would also need to get gold accounts for my kids too, which means paying even more for the family plan for Gold.  Why isn’t there a plan available per device, which would make the most sense since most of the time only one person is going to be using the device & those services at a time.  Like I said, just another cash-grab.

So really the only part of the Gold account I want is the ability to stream Netflix thru my console, all the rest is of no use or interest to me.  I guess what amazes me the most is the fact there are so many people paying for a service that the other console makers give away for free. (latest number i found was over 30 million “Live” accounts, no breakdown as to how many are Free and how many are Gold though) Maybe if Xbox stopped charging the extra money for the Gold accounts then more people would use them and be willing to pay extra in the XBox Live Marketplace & Zune Marketplace to download movies and TV shows, instead of charging us a fee for the privilege of being able to pay them even more of our hard-earned cash.

tcg

Kinetic Energy:  n. The energy possessed by a body because of its motion, equal to one half the mass of the body times the square of its speed.

Kinetics:  n. the study of human bio-mechanical movement.

Xbox360 and new Kinect may be a great way to get you off your hiney and moving, but I have to wonder if the typical person in their typical living room or tv room is going to start experiencing injuries such as shin-splints from all the bouncing and jumping around?

You may have heard about this project before when it was named Natal.  Microsoft dropped that name and changed it to Kinect.  If you haven’t already heard about this little add-on for existing and new Xbox360’s go check it out. http://www.xbox.com/en-CA/kinect/default.htm We’ll wait right here for you.

Basically you get to swing your arms and legs and move you body similar to the way you would if actually participating in the sport or event that you are playing virtually.  I know what you are thinking, didn’t the Wii already do that?  Yes and no, the Xbox version uses no controllers at all, so at least the flying controller problem that plagued early adopters of the Wii won’t be an issue.

It says it will work with existing older model XBox360’s but i’m sure will work better with the newer model that was just recently released (xbox360 250).  Regardless though, many people who have their gaming consoles in the basement or other rooms may be in for a little soreness from the unforgiving concrete or standard rigid floor.  Even with a little underpad and carpeting, most people don’t wear shoes in the house so you lose that protection that you would get when actually playing the sports or doing the activities outside.

Is the next step in home entertainment/media rooms going to be a combination of soundproofing and media capabilities as well as flooring suitable for exercising such as sprung floors?  Well, maybe for some, but I suspect most will just suffer along with the rigid floor and the occasional soreness, stiffness and stubbed toes.

Much like the Wii, the Kinect has potential to get the aging and sedentary of us off the couch, but hopefully doesn’t create a whole new category of ailments.  “Xbox-kinect-syndrome”.  It may be a great boon for the physiotherapists and makers of custom orthotics out there though.

tcg