My thoughts on Xbox One

I watched the XBOX One launch video today on my XBOX 360 console dashboard.  It is impressive in some ways but I am really disappointed that they are going to charge you if you buy a used game.  I only buy used games so this made me quite upset.  Actually, I got so angry at Microsoft that I cancelled my Xbox live subscription so it will end in January and I will not renew it.  They will only be hurting themselves.  A minority but still significant portion of people who buy new games count on being able to sell them when they have finished playing the games.  They use the money they get from the sale to buy more games.  Those that buy the used games when they are still relatively new might still buy the game new if it was not available used but many of the other used buyers like me would not buy the game new.  I get about $10 of fun out of the average game so I will not pay more than that for it.  Some games like Civilization, Dragon Age, Sacred or Kingdom Under Fire were worth a lot more to me but then there were games that I bought and then only played once or twice.  Maybe they will realize the economics of the situation when they finally start selling the system and as games age.  Maybe that will cause them to reverse their policy but that will take a while.

The media components of the Xbox are cool but many of the new TVs or blu ray players have social networking, video on demand, chat and audio streaming built right into them and those who do not have that can get a Roku or an Apple TV.  I would rather get an Apple TV for $100 than pay several hundred for an Xbox One.

I didn’t see anything on it but is it going to output in 4k resolution?┬á I am looking forward to the 4k technology.┬á If I was designing a game system I would make sure it had 4k video and 7.1 surround sound and make it very social for gamers. Make it easy to take pictures and videos of games and to post those to social networks.┬á Let gamers update their social networks with gamer stats and live updates from games and create parental controls to keep kids safe.

 

June 19, 2013 update: Microsoft backs down on DRM.  http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/19/tech/gaming-gadgets/xbox-drm/index.html

Ready for VandyLAN 8?

Are you ready for some great PC gaming? Bring your computer to VandyLAN 8 where we will game all day long and into the night. Come for the entire thing or just stay a while. Either way, you will have a great time. We will have the projector set up as a score board. Let me know what games you would like to play.

Things to bring with you to VandyLAN

1. Computer, Monitor and Keyboard for PCs or a Laptop
2. Mouse
3. Ethernet cable (the longer the better)
4. Power Strip
5. Game media for games you want to play

Optional but recommended
1. Headset (Headphones and microphone so you can speak only to your teammates)
2. Blank CD/DVDs for burning games. We can share ISOs too so this is not a requirement but some prefer a real disk.
3. Gaming pads, controllers and/or joysticks
4. Mouse pad (provides comfort)
5. External hard drive for file sharing

I would like to play some freelancer at the LAN party. Freelancer is a game from Microsoft that was abandoned years ago after a long wait for a sequel that never arrived. The modding community has extended the game over the years and added much more to the world including many ships, systems, bases and other things. One of the best mods is called Discovery. Another great thing about playing freelancer is that it won’t cost you a dime.

Here is what you need to do to run the game and discovery
1. Install Freelancer (http://theisozone.com/downloads/pc/windows-games/freelancer/)
2. Install the Freelancer 1.1 update (http://www.microsoft.com/games/freelancer/)
3. Installed the Discovery 4.86 Exiles
(http://www.moddb.com//down/discovery-freelancer-486-exiles)

Instead of setting up my own server, we will be using a server that already exists. I set up an account on this server already and I will get a ship. I will also earn some money so that I can give each player at the LAN party enough money for a ship. The name of the server is “Discovery Free Play Non-RP 24/7”. I talked to the owners and they are fine with all of us connecting for the LAN party and you are all free to join early too. See this page for information on all the ships you can fly. http://discoverygc.com/wiki/Ship_Portal

We will form up as teams and then fly to an empty area of space so that we can do some team battles. We can also do some cooperative activities. We will balance the teams based on the ships we have so that a few powerful ships do not dominate the battle.

This video gives you an idea how combat works in Freelancer with the Discovery mod.

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Here is a demo of what Artemis looks like in the theater. I only have three laptops in this setup with the main screen and the camera did not operate well in the low light but I thought it made for a cool demo.
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Four keys to successful BYOD | Eric Vanderburg | Network World

The bring your own device (BYOD) movement formally advocates use of personal equipment for work and obligates IT to ensure jobs can be performed with an acceptable level of security, but how can risks be addressed given the range of devices used and the fact that you lack control of the end point? Companies looking to embrace BYOD — 44% of firms surveyed by Citrix say they have a BYOD policy in place and 94% plan to implement BYOD by 2013 — need to address four key areas:

1) standardization of service, not device,

2) common delivery methods,

3) intelligent access controls and

4) data containment

Read the full article here:

Star Trek Biofilters and Terahertz ray technology

The biofilters from Star Trek may some day become reality.  The Star Trek biofilter is a device that scans for harmful biological substances and it was primarily used as part of the transporter system.  This technology that seemed so fantastical might soon be seen in airports, hospitals, postal offices, and ports.  The technology is called a terahertz scanner.  Terahertz ray technology is being researched as a way to identify bioterrorism agents in amounts as small as parts per billion.  Terahertz scanners operate on a different area of the spectrum from x-rays so scans from them would not be harmful to people.  These scanners, if perfected, could be installed to check packages for harmful agents or to check people entering and leaving secure areas to determine if they are carrying a harmful agent.  The scanners work in real time so there is no need to wait for an interpretation of a scan.  People could walk through an area normally and only be stopped if there was a concern with the terahertz findings. 

See this article in the New Jersey times for more details. 

Windows 7 and the Microsoft Strategic Commander

Microsoft released one of the greatest gaming controllers with the Strategic Commander back in 2001.  The controller fits perfectly in your left hand so that your right hand can still use a mouse.  It has six programmable buttons and three shift keys for 24 possible combinations.  Beside the buttons is zoom bar that allows you to zoom in and out.  The entire unit swivels on a base so that you can change orientation in a game.  A toggle switch on the side allows you to change modes.  Three modes can be programmed giving you 72 possible programmable buttons.  Using their sidewinders software you can assign complex actions to the buttons such as shift and 1 or a series of steps like shift + 1 and then alt + C.  You might wonder how this could be useful so let me explain. 

You are playing a real time strategy game and you want to built a barracks to produce units.  Normally you would click on a free worker and then select build structure and then select the barracks.  There are key combinations to perform each of these tasks but most of us do not memorize all of them.  Some gamers might memorize the last one which in this case I will assume to be the letter B.  With the strategic commander you can do all that with the press of one button.  Program a button to execute Shift + A to select an available worker then S for build structure and then B for the barracks.  It is easy to see how this controller can improve your gameplay. 

The strategic commander can also be used for regular windows tasks.  The programming works in the same way.  You can set a button to open your favorite programs or copy, paste, delete.  Photoshop users can program macros into the buttons to perform edits quickly.  The device is really amazing. 

You’re probably wondering why you’ve never heard of it if it’s so great.┬á Well, Microsoft discontinued the device in 2003 citing poor sales as the reason.┬á Still, enthusiasts created drivers for Windows XP and then Vista and now Windows 7.┬á For Windows 7 you can use a driver called ATK0110 ACPI Utility (Download for Vista works on Windows 7) and software called Strategic Engine to program it.

So for those of you with strategic commanders, dust them and use them again.┬á If you don’t have one an ebay search will still turn up results.┬á

VandyLAN 7

I wanted to remind you that this Saturday, July 25 from 12:00 Noon till 12:00 Midnight is VandyLAN 7.  I hope you can make it.  We will have a great time playing computer games.  I will also have the Xbox 360 hooked up for some games.  We can play anything you bring but we are sure to play Warcraft III tower defense and Quake Wars: Enemy Territory.  I will order pizza that day so please bring a few dollars for food.

 

Update:  Here are the pictures from VandyLAN 7.  We had a great time.

Kinetic Recall – Where did this knowledge come from?

Have you ever completely forgotten how to do something until you just started?┬á As a technology professional I find that it happens a lot.┬á I call it Kinetic Recall.┬á Let me start with some examples.┬á You go to the phone to call your best friend but you can’t seem to remember his or her number.┬á As you place your hand on the numbers your fingers seem to remember the sequence better than your mind.┬á As your fingers dial the number it comes back to you.┬á This kinetic recall happens when internalized actions have been habitually reinforced to a level where you can perform them on autopilot but it can be impossible to┬áverbalize or conceptualize it without first performing the action.┬á┬áSome other situations where kinetic recall comes into play would include driving to a familiar location, performing routine tasks on the computer, and tying a tie.
Have you ever thought about this before?  If so, let me know as I find it facinating.

Interviewing Tips from Microsoft

In a 2008 blog entry by Steve Clayton at Microsoft he mentions the five things he looks for in candidates when hiring.  This information is useful for both job candidates and those looking for qualified people.  Here are his five tips:
  1. Hire for diversity, not consistency ÔÇô I wanted people in my team as diverse as I could. Having twenty brilliant but unmanageable tech wizards in the team doesnÔÇÖt work. Balancing out the wizards with the delivery guys worked out well.
  2. Hire Delivery Guys (and girls) ÔÇô I donÔÇÖt mean postal workers. I mean make sure you have folks who simply deliver ÔÇô again and again, on time and with minimum fuss. When the chips are down, they come to the fore and your wizards take a back seat. As a side note, figure out what makes these people happy and reward them well. TheyÔÇÖre gold.
  3. Hire Wizards ÔÇô in my experience everyone great team has one (ore more) who are just brilliant minds. TheyÔÇÖre the creative ideas people who differentiate you from the average team. TheyÔÇÖre often a nightmare to manage but theyÔÇÖre worth it. How do you know a wizard? TheyÔÇÖre curious
  4. Hire Curious People  by this I mean people who have natural curiosity. Stephens mentions this in his interview with Bill Taylor and it struck a chord with me. These are the people who ask questions. Constantly. They may not ask questions out loud but they will questions things and often go away and explore to find the answer for themselves. They may never need the information or us it  but one day they may. Trust me this is a very valuable skill. These people become information hubs and you hear their names again and again in the company as theyre go to people. I learnt some of this from my Granddadbut thats a story for another day.
  5. Hire Passionate Readers ÔÇô this doesnÔÇÖt mean hire people who read Mills and Boon. ItÔÇÖs similar to curious people but worth calling out separately. A friend (who is a wizard and curious) taught me this interview question when I joined Microsoft. Ask someone what magazine they regularly read. Lets say they answer with WIRED. Then ask them how many back issues they have in their loft. ItÔÇÖs not a deal breaker question but my guess is if youÔÇÖre reading this you know what I mean. People who are passionate about stuff read about it. A LOT. Okay so they may read online now and this question may be dated but try it anyway. They may say "ah I just auctioned off my 8 year collection of National Geographic on eBayÔÇØ. ThatÔÇÖs a hire.

Read the entire article here : http://blogs.msdn.com/stevecla01/archive/2008/08/18/5-tips-for-hiring-a-star-team.aspx

For interviewing help go to http://interviewexcellence.org

 

Arcade Update

It has been a while since I posted anything about the arcade machine and for good reason.  It has been a while since I have done anything with the arcade machine.  Last Friday, Aimee and I had a little party for some friends and Chris and I were playing King of Fighters on the arcade machine when he made a comment that the screen was fuzzy and that I should replace it with a new LCD screen.  This got me thinking.  The next day I opened the case and found the VGA port on the board but there were other cables connected to it.  I disconnected those cables and attached a 19" LCD to the system but nothing ever displayed on the screen.  I pulled the mainboard from the machine and moved it to my workbench for further analysis.  After a few hours of messing with mainboard jumpers I found out how to change the output mode from NTSC to VGA.  I tested it on the monitor and it worked but I could not do anything as the mainboard was not connected to the coin ops.  I put the board back into the machine and setup the LCD close to the machine and did a full test of games and found that it did look a lot better.  The monitor that was in the arcade machine must have been 25-30 years old so it was due for a replacement. 

The next step was to price out a good monitor.┬á I wanted to get something rather large as it is a decent sized arcade machine.┬á The problem, however, is that my budget is not large.┬á I finally found a Sceptre 23" LCD with a low resolution for a very fair price.┬á Normally I would be ashamed to buy a large monitor with a low resolution.┬á I always buy the monitors with the highest resolution.┬á In this case it is actually better as the machine will not output in a high resolution and the further away I get from a LCD’s native resolution, the worse the monitor looks.┬á

The next step was to remove the old monitor from the machine.  Once a number of boards and glass was removed from the front of the machine, Ian and I were able to remove the old monitor.  I then measured the case and the new LCD monitor and went to Home Depot to get several boards.  I also got poster boards and cut them to size around the monitor so that it would be framed within the machine. 

On Friday, Chris and I built a frame for the LCD with the boards and then covered the boards with a thin packing material for cushioning and to resist slippage.  My measurements were correct and the LCD fit perfectly in the system.  We then put the newly cut bezels in front of it and connected the new screen. 

I have to say that even I was impressed.  You cannot tell that the screen is a replacement screen as it fits so perfectly in the system and the colors are perfect.  The screen is very bright (300 cd/m2) and it has a good contrast ratio (1000:1).  Both Chris and I are very happy with the latest modification to the system and I have been showing it to everyone who stops by.  A special thanks goes to Chris for his ideas and help installing everything. 

So what is next?┬á Well…There have been a few items that I have never gotten to with the system.┬á I still need to add a new vent to the top of the system and a fan or two to the bottom to increase air flow.┬á I also have a broken A button on the player 1 console so I need to fix that as well.┬á There are also a number of nicks and scratches that I want to paint.┬á I would also like to do some customizations to the main menu screen so that the games are displayed in a better order.┬á In the next year or so I may replace the sound system and I am thinking of adding some side art too.

The arcade project is an ongoing one but the nice thing is that I can still use it as I slowly upgrade things.  It is a lot of fun.