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.

J Allard says "Decide. Change. Reinvent."


For those who don't know J. Allard is leaving Microsoft. Allard is the driving force behind the Xbox 360 and Zune movements. Below is his sign off letter that he sent to the Entertainment & Devices Division, as well as some other select individuals at Microsoft. There is a great message in this email, and so I have reposted it here to make sure more of the geeks who need the message see and read it.

From: J Allard Date: May 25, 2010 8:56:08 AM PDT To: “Robert (Robbie) Bach”, Entertainment & Devices Division FTE Cc: Senior Leadership Team Subject: Decide. Change. Reinvent. Reinvent. If you’ve been following along, you probably understand just how difficult it was for me to decide to leave the tribe and explore new territory, but the time has come. My passion for our cause combined with my obsessive nature has put many of my other interests on hold for a long time. I don’t know exactly what tomorrow looks like – but if my focus has been 95% MSFT, 5% life until now, I know that the first step is to flip that ratio around. After wrapping some projects up, I will shift to 95% life and 5% MSFT. With that 5% I’ll be working for SteveB on a couple of projects beginning this fall….. In response to the curiosity, no chairs were thrown, no ultimatums served, I am not moving to Cupertino or Mountain View, I did not take a courier job and I require no assistance finding the door. I do know that I’m going to help a couple of friends get their startups going (e.g. The Clymb), I’m planning some races (by foot, bike and off-road trucks), and I’m going to put some energy into my passion for design, the arts and philanthropy. For those of you reporting into one of my organizations, I am committed to working through all of the transition issues and assure you that The Tribe remains committed to the work you are doing and our purpose going forward. If, at the next juncture, I decide to join a corporate tribe again, this place will definitely top my list. There are a lot of great companies out there doing terrific and meaningful work with better pizza, nicer décor and great implementations of “ls” on the desktops, but The Tribe? No one can touch our talent, our impact or our ambition. We’re the only high-tech company with the track record and self-confidence to reinvent ourselves as we have. If you want to change the world with technology, this is still the best tribe out there. Please, put my headcount and that cardkey “invitation” to good use. Find a college student that claims we don’t get it and blogs tirelessly about our lack of agility. Track down an EE that has been focusing on fuel cells and has radical thoughts about power management. Or a social networking whiz who is tired of building little islands that go hot and cold and can’t break the mainstream. Hire a designer who’s given shape to 2 decades of beautiful automobiles and thinks we can sculpt technology to better connect to users. Infuse them with our purpose. Give them the tools. Give them lots of rope. Learn from them. Support where they take you. Invite them to redefine The Tribe. Decide. Change. Reinvent.

I certainly will never think of my cardkey the same way again ;)

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.

Beginning Silverlight 2


[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="125" caption="Beginning Silverlight 2: From Novice to Professional"]Beginning Silverlight 2: From Novice to Professional[/caption]

In web development, it's important to keep current on new and updated technologies to avoid falling behind in the field. As a designer-turned-coder, I enjoy reading about and following up on the latest tools available for design and interface programming. Having designed and programmed in Flash for almost 10 years now, I was excited to read this book and see how Microsoft was tackling Rich Internet/Interactive Applications.

The author, Robert Lair, starts out the book with an introduction to Silverlight and the benefits of building interactive applications using Silverlight and its related tools. After the brief introduction, the real work begins and the reader is quickly involved in writing Silverlight applications. Robert does a great job walking the reader through the various tools available while building each application, and each example builds on or incorporates the previous examples, effectively 'stair-stepping' the reader up to building their own Silverlight applications.

Robert suggests that the reader be prepared with some knowledge of C#, JavaScript, and XML, but still keeps the code and examples simple enough to follow quickly and open enough to continue building as the reader's knowledge expands. Possibly the only break from this learning curve flow is the final chapter, where Robert describes and builds a custom control for Silverlight, a button with an extra 'cool down' function that isn't possible using just the predefined Silverlight controls. This is definitely one of the most exciting areas in Silverlight, and while it seems a bit abrupt to dive right into coding a custom control, there isn't a great way to teach such a high-level process without hitting it head-on. Robert handles that extremely well by walking through the code in steps and giving detailed explanations on each piece of the control.

Following the book from beginning to end, the reader will certainly have the tools and enough starting experience to create and deploy Silverlight applications. As with most design and interface tools, the only limit is the imagination and creativity of the person behind the tools. This book provides an excellent starting point for anyone interested in learning about Silverlight and its capabilities.

As I finished the book, I found myself even more excited about Silverlight applications. While I'm not prepared to run around shouting 'Flash is dead!', I am thrilled to see a contender to Adobe's Flash and Flex. It's also good to see an option for the .NET developers to build the Rich Internet Applications while using the programming language and tools they are accustomed to. This book will put those developers on the fast track to rivaling even the best Flash/Flex applications available today.

You can pick up Apress's Beginning Silverlight 2: From Novice to Professional from Apress.com or Amazon.com.

Zune Problems


Looks like Microsoft and the Zune Team may be having problems with their servers again. I am not able to download any music, while getting errors of a "Firewall" issue. Great error as I have no firewall in place, and I can touch all of their servers except the DRM one.

Guess that just details for us how well DRM works. Oh well, sit and wait.