Just one geek's opinions and epiphanies

New Xbox360 Media Remote


The Xbox 360 has been going strong with new media offereings, more games, and better titles than all the other consoles. Now they have announced a new media controller that looks to bring more solid proof that DVR functions and TV functions are destined for the set top box from Microsoft.

Xbox 360 Media RemoteThe new remote seen here as DVR style buttons including "Live TV" and "Guide". It appears to also control the basic functions of a TV with TV Power, INPUT, DISP, Mute, Ch +/-, and Vol +/-.

The remote sports a nice sleek black design as well, instead of the stark white oddly shaped predecessor.

I like the new remote, and when the TV options for Xbox hit the consumer level, I will probably drop the funds to get this new remote.

Netflix + Wii = My Whole Home Covered!


So I have had the Xbox360 streaming my Netflix selections for a while now, and it was kind of annoying to have to move it to the living room if I wanted to watch a movie downstairs instead of in the comfort of my bed.  Well now I don't have to make such a decision.

No, I didn't get a Xbox360 for the living room, but now the Wii is getting streaming from Netflix! Here is a snipplet from the New York Times about it:

Nintendo is bringing Netflix’s online streaming video service to its Wii gaming console, the most popular in the industry, the companies plan to announce Wednesday. The service lets subscribers choose from a catalog of generally older movies and television shows and watch them instantly.

It sucks because the rumor is that you will have to use a disc to start the service (ala the PS3), which is sad since Nintendo has a market that in theory should be able to provide such a software sans-disc.

Furthermore I hope the rumors are wrong and the disc is a one time channel install. That would be acceptable in my mind. Otherwise watching videos on the Wii will still be cumbersome as I will have to protect another disc from the kids.

Update: You can now signup to be notified when the streaming disc is ready for Netflix @ https://www.netflix.com/NRDInfo/Wii

Twitter, Facebook & Last.FM on Xbox360 Suck


I don't often shed my fanboy for Microsoft's entertainment side. I love my Xbox360, the Zune is amazing, but these latest additions to the line up really suck, and I am going to tell you why I think they suck.

Last.FM

Last.FM in my eyes had the potential to really add some awesome to the Xbox experience, by after the new update and installing the new app I have to say that as it is now, I will probably never load Last.FM on my Xbox ever again. Why? It is useless.

You can connect your Xbox360 to a myriad of sources for entertainment, the most common being a Zune (or iPod) or a networked computer. On these sources you may be limited to how much content you can hold, but the advantage of these sources is immediately seen against Last.FM. Streaming, while in game. Using a normal source you can start music playing, jump into a session of any game, and you listen to your tunes while you game. This is a really sweet feature of the Xbox360 because the Gears of War, Halo, [insert any FPS game title here] soundtrack gets old quick.

When I heard that Last.FM was coming to the Xbox360 I was stoked, I figured that Microsoft would do things right and you would be able to start a stream of music from Last.FM, jump in a game and jam out to music while you play a game. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You start streaming music, and if you leave the Last.FM app, you leave the music behind. I tested this once, and that was the last I will be in Last.FM unless they make it more intergrated.

Twitter

Basically Twitter falls short on the Xbox360 as well, and really for much the same reason. You have to leave everything you are doing to get to Twitter, and then there is no support for images, or links. I might update my status once in a while in Twitter on the Xbox360, but only because I already own the keyboard for the controller.

What Twitter should have been for the Xbox360? It should have been a few things in my mind. First it should have given the option to auto tweet my achievements and unlocks. Last night I was awarded an Avatar Award, but the world doesn't know that because Microsoft didn't make the Twitter integrate with the achievement unlocks.

Secondly, I think Twitter should have had a notification style interface (for supporting games). Basically while in game if someone @names you or DMs you, you should get a Gears of War journal update style notifier. A quick popup that lets you know the world needs your attention. Simple, yet affective.

Finally I really wish they had added Twitpic/yFrog or some other type of image support for Twitter, I loves my TwitPic... loves it!

Facebook

Facebook of the three new apps is the one that came the closest to being useful. In fact I have actually spent more time "on facebook" through the 360 than any other device in the history of Facebook.

The Facebook app suffers from the horrible app problem that you have to search for it on your system, the apps should be readily available from the main menu but they are not, we will talk about that some more in later articles I am sure.

Once you locate Facebook and login, you are given access to a lot of the things facebook can do. Check your friends statuses, look at their pics, give them Likes, and leave comment. It is a pretty full app. Does what you would expect it to do.

I would have loved to see the Xbox360 team really strive here though and maybe have the Facebook app able to upload images to your Facebook account (maybe fron USB storage or networked computers?).

Like I said I have spent more time on Facebook on my 360 than I have anywhere else, ever, and that means something is right there.

Again I think things with Facebook could have been a little more integrated, maybe the same notification system, ability to upload, maybe some ability to find friends, search the site etc.

Over all I am pretty disappointed with the new Xbox360 apps as a whole though. Maybe Microsoft will go back to the table and work these up to a second version that is much more integrated and works the way people would expect them to work. Until then I will keep iTweet open on my G1 for Twitter, and I will continue to stream my local collection of music.

I'm such a fanboy today!


This week has been probably the best PR week in Zune and Xbox history! So now I am pretty much coming out and saying what everyone already knows about me.

I am a Microsoft Fanboy!

Zune 3.1

Tuesday Microsoft Zune launched version 3.1, more or less it was a minor update. Some trimming of the OS, speeding up some menus and adding some games. This update was for both the Zune device (all of them) and the desktop software. It added some new features such as the ability to look for music that people like you like.

Another point of interest are the multiplayer games. They only have a handful of games, but they are free and they work well. The new multiplayer feature is nice cause you can now play Texas Hold 'Em, or Checkers with other Zunes nearby. Go ahead and insert your "Who owns a Zune" joke here.

When you add those new features (small but important ones) with the already awesomeness of the Zune, you should start to see why the Zune is a good personal media player.  If you don't know the full list of awesome, I have posted it, well right here:

  • Download Music from Device (all generations)
  • Share music with other Zunes
  • Share music with Xbox
  • Zune Pass (which just got more awesome, details in a min)

Let's get intimate with this last feature, the Zune Pass. Zune Pass isn't really a feature, it's the subscription plan you can use to get music for your Zune. For only $14.99/month you get as much music as you can download, so far I have over 100GB downloaded from Zune. There are no caps, except what you HDD can hold. Oh but wait... it is DRMed! That doesn't really matter to me, for a couple reasons, mainly I don't try to use my music anywhere I don't have access to my Zune or my Laptop (one of the three computers on my Zune Pass).

Zune Pass just got better though. Microsoft just announced that Zune Pass now get (included in the $14.99 price tag) 10 songs to keep forever! That is right, for each month you have your Zune Pass you now get 10 free DRM-free tracks to keep forever! When you consider that tracks cost approx. $1 each, that brings the cost of the Zune Pass to effectively $4.99 a month! Think Apple will follow suit? Hell they haven't even got a subscription service yet.

NXE: New Xbox Experience

Let's shift gears, and talk about my Xbox Experience. The new dashboard is sweet! It is fast, it is clean, finding the information you are searching for is quite easy now, and it just looks nice. Avatars are... avatars. Meh. Installing games to the HDD is ok too, it would be better if Microsoft would consider alternatives to the CD in tray requirement. Maybe a 1 week DRM so I don't have to keep my disk in the machine?

The real winner in this NXE though is NetFlix. Wow! I have a cruddy DSL where I am living right now and the NetFlix streaming just worked, and worked well. Once a movie is buffered (and they buffer more than normal Xbox videos) there wasn't a single second I thought about the fact that it was streaming.

The selection on the NetFlix streaming is quite lame. However I did find a bunch of movies I either haven't seen or wanted to see again. I would love to see NetFlix work out the kinks with the Sony rights to streaming on the Xbox. It really rubs me wrong when a company like Sony does exactly this, and their partner Netflix covers for them by saying there is no foul play. I call bullshit. I could possibly understand that story if Sony pulled the streams from all streaming avenues, and not just Xbox.

Conclusion

So there you have it, I am just a fanboy at this point. You would have a hard time convincing me that an iPod is greater than a Zune, or that a PS3 is greater than an Xbox. Note to Apple and Sony, feel free to send me free stuff to try and convert me, I would be happy to give you a fair shake.