OffBeatMammal

Searching for monkeys in Cyberspace

Dream - Build - Play

clock January 4, 2007 22:20 by author OffBeatMammal

To help folks get started with the XNA Game Studio Express check out the "Dream - Build - Play" competition - grab a (free) copy of XNA Studio and check out this site for more info...



Mix07 - Registrations now open

clock January 4, 2007 00:30 by author OffBeatMammal

Microsoft is hosting a 72-hour conversation, and you're invited.

MIX07 :: April 30 — May 2nd, The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas

MIX is Microsoft’s conference for Web designers, developers and decision-makers who make their living at the forefront of the consumer Web. Join the conversation with Microsoft and others on how to harness the latest technologies, unlock new revenue opportunities, reduce development costs and improve customer experience. MIX is for cutting-edge Web professionals designing and building next-generation experiences.

Registration is now open, and if you sign up before March 15 2007 there is a 15% discount. You could even get there for FREE - Check out the IE7 AddOn Content (but be quick!)

Following on from it's debut in 2006, MIX will continue to explore how to build more interactive and responsive experiences that take full advantage of the capabilities of the Web. MIX will also be an opportunity to dive deeper into Microsoft’s Web technology offerings and discover ways to create more dynamic customer connections that take user experience to the next level.

If you're serious about developing for the future (be it Ajax, Rich Internet Applications or just delivering compelling content) is there anywhere you'd rather be?



A new era of TV?

clock December 29, 2006 18:01 by author OffBeatMammal

A recent survey showed that 27% of respondents (the biggest slice) believed "Online Video / Internet TV" would be the dominant tech meme for 2007 (browser based apps came in at 22%, Mobile Web at 15%. Rich Internet Apps - WPF/E for instance - came in lower but IMO that represents the time it's going to take for people to get to grips with what that technology can deliver).

It's certainly something that's been a long time coming. The huge success of YouTube, Google Video, AOL Video and of course Soapbox proves that there is a huge appetite for non-studio produced content (and certainly a huge pool of people keen to produce that content).

Projects like the forthcoming Venice Project (from the creators of Skype), the Democracy video player/sharing platform, Tioti, tVadio and a number of other independent peer to peer video (P2PTV) distribution mechanisms are promising to deliver the best of that content (both user generated and studio produced) in an efficient, high quality, free/low-cost manner. However with some of those the legality of some of the content is questionable. With others the breadth of available content is also going to be a limiting factor. For many users the sheer bandwidth requirements are also going to be an issue if users are on capped or shaped plans that limit their consumption (or have heavy financial penalties for high usage)

The production companies themselves are not standing idly by while this happens. In the UK the BBC are about to launch iMP - a p2p application which allows users to watch shows up to 7 days after they've aired, and Channel4 have a similar service. NineMSN in Australia is offering a Catch-up TV service (download, not p2p) and in the US networks are making episodes of popular shows available via the iTunes store (wonder what that will do for syndication of the lists of CSI:, Lost, 24 and Battlestar Galactica?) though as it's mostly targeting the video capable iPods that quality isn't as good as HDTV yet. ClickStar and RealNetworks are both heavy-weight players in this space. Even Netflix (the DVD home delivery pioneers) are looking at electronic delivery as an option.

In conjunction with various networks Microsoft are making TV episodes and movies available (in SD and HD quality) for both Xbox and Media Center Edition users for download and rental.

So what does this mean for consumers?

Well, in the short term I think lots of confusion. Different services will offer access to different slices of content and you may well end up having to subscribe to three of four different providers to get the mix of Sci-Fi Movies, first-run TV drama and home-made bizarre juggling accident videos. Like the iTunes music store and PlaysForSure there will be incompatible DRM solutions, different restrictions on viewing, archiving and sharing and platforms supported.

During 2007 I think we'll see a whole bunch of new start-ups offering "the" best solution but it's going to take most of the year to work the kinks out, get a decent momentum (and convince the mainstream producers that it's a viable proposition) and let the dust of acquisitions settle.

Meantime the advertisers will be looking at new ways to monetise the content!



Microsoft bringing movies (and TV) to you

clock December 24, 2006 06:11 by author OffBeatMammal

By now you should be familiar with Spotlight in Media Center, and it's ability to delivery radio, games, TV episodes and movies right to your media center PC ... and from there to your big screen TV when you want it.

You're didn't know about Spotlight? Well find a Windows PC with Media Center Edition and check out what's on offer in your region. In Aus the answer was "not much" but here in the US the choice is pretty amazing.

Well, the Xbox team didn't want to feel left out. Sure they can act as an extender to a Media Center, but there are some folks who've got one and not the other. For the Xbox only crowd there are now movies and TV episodes available for download and rental in the Marketplace.

The price of the new Xbox offerings are really good (especially considering you can select HD, or choose SD for a discount) and the range has stuff for me, my wife and my daughter (actually we're all fans of Avatar - the last Airbender)

They both use different purchase models and rules - Spotlight links to a number of alternative third party providers, whereas the Xbox Marketplace uses Microsoft Points (a familiar currency for Zune users as well)

Now in an ideal world the content on both Spotlight and the Xbox Marketplace would be common, content could be selected on the Media Center and viewed on the Xbox, Content could be bought or rented or kept on a subscription basis and shared between MCE, Xbox and Zune... but like the disconnect between Zune and PlaysForSure they're different (and as yet pretty much unknown) markets so time will tell what's a practical direction for these to go.

The Xbox service seems to be doing really well so far... getting good reports from users.



I've not even got good at C# yet....

clock December 23, 2006 05:23 by author OffBeatMammal

... and now I've got to worry about F#!

F# is a programming language that provides the much sought-after combination of type safety, performance and scripting, with all the advantages of running on a high-quality, well-supported modern runtime system: .NET.

Unlike other scripting languages (JScript of VBScript) it executes at or near the speed of C# and C++, making use of the performance that comes through strong typing. Unlike many statically-typed languages it also supports many dynamic language techniques, such as property discovery and reflection where needed. F# includes extensions for working across languages and for object-oriented programming, and it works seamlessly with other .NET programming languages and tools.

Now I don't pretend to understand most of that (although by the second read it started to make sense!) it's a pretty cool language that you can develop using Visual Studio (even the free Express version).

The performance claims are not exaggerated. It can be used to churn through huge amounts of data quickly and (possibly even cooler) write XNA based games for the XBox360.

So much to learn, so little time! I'm glad they skipped D# and E# (they did skip them didn't they... I didn't miss something else important?) or I'd never be able to keep up!

Update: looks like I did miss D and E, though I guess I'm ahead of the game as I did use Z back in the days when I wrote code that ran under CICS (I've still got the manuals somewhere I think - probably in the attic along with my Smalltalk and Prolog ones!)



Houston, Wii have a problem

clock December 22, 2006 17:48 by author OffBeatMammal

I'm still planning on getting a new Xbox 360 but was wondering if the Wii would be fun, cheap and alternative.

Sounds like it's just plain dangerous....



I was planning to get a new Xbox anyway...

clock December 13, 2006 20:07 by author OffBeatMammal

When we left Australia we'd left the Xbox 360 behind. It was the wrong format and it wasn't actually mine (but thanks to the agency for an extended loan!)

I was planning a Christmas present to me of a new one - just as a media center expander you understand. Nothing to do with the games of course!

Then, I saw this video...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks Wii is a silly name!

If I hadn't already been planning to buy one... would it have tipped me over the edge?



XNA is here

clock December 11, 2006 19:56 by author OffBeatMammal

A while ago I'd found a really cool tool in beta - XNA Studio Express but for various reasons despite having the Xbox there in the living room I never got a chance to play.

The good news is that it's now released and available for anyone who want's to start making games for the Xbox or PC.

Maybe I should try and find some time to sit down with Rhiannon and work out a new game to wow the under 8s! It's been a very long time since I last wrote a game (BBC Model B, 6502 Assembler and Beeb Basic!) and it's pretty amazing to see how the tools and technology has evolved in the intervening lifetime.

Of course, I'll still need some artistic talent but give me time with Expression and I'm sure that'll come ;)



Is that a ringing in my ears?

clock September 2, 2006 06:47 by author OffBeatMammal

No... apparently it's just the new Vista start-up sound... which you can't turn off!

I'm hoping that if the heated discussions over at the Scobleizer blog is anything to go by the Vista build team will pay some attention and make it optional. I for one don't want to have to listen to a creation by Robert Fripp every time I reboot my Vista machine.

I like to turn off all the sounds on my machine - I use it to listen to music so I don't want "ding dong" all the time, and I often start it up late at night or in meetings where I might not want to annoy those around me. My Vaio has an option to turn off the hardware startup sounds which I'm  really glad about.

My Media Centre has all the system sounds turned off (first time it did an automatic upgrade and reboot at 2am before I'd stopped the sounds we had the dog howling at the machine!) because - like the laptop - I want to choose what I listen to.

The arguments for this fixed startup noise are that Macs do it (yet, but it's a single tone, it's not played at full volume and it provides information on system health - which is actually useful), The xbox does it (but I'm not going to take that into a meeting or bedroom) and Sony and Toshiba computers do it (but on my Vaio it's a BIOS option).

The reasons given behind wanting this are to help with the "spiritual journey" (yeah, right. I'm still trying to work out what Steve Ball and the folks from the Audio Video Excellence team mean by that) and a branding exercise (ah, I can agree with that). Sadly I think the spiritual journey I'll go on every time I reboot in order to install a patch or security update (I'll wait on Vistas arrival to decide if it's going to be less dumb than WinXP or OSX and force me to reboot on a fairly regular basis to install service packs).

It's bad enough for me at home, but I hate to think how it'll fare in classrooms, lecture theatres, courtrooms, cube farms and boardrooms. I just hope that at the very least it's 'fixable' with a registry tweak, but better yet a control panel option. If only so Microsoft can claim kudos for having listened to it's customers!

Silence is Golden!



Is that a ringing in my ears?

clock September 2, 2006 06:47 by author offbeatmammal

No... apparently it's just the new Vista start-up sound... which you can't turn off!

I'm hoping that if the heated discussions over at the Scobleizer blog is anything to go by the Vista build team will pay some attention and make it optional. I for one don't want to have to listen to a creation by Robert Fripp every time I reboot my Vista machine.

I like to turn off all the sounds on my machine - I use it to listen to music so I don't want "ding dong" all the time, and I often start it up late at night or in meetings where I might not want to annoy those around me. My Vaio has an option to turn off the hardware startup sounds which I'm  really glad about.

My Media Centre has all the system sounds turned off (first time it did an automatic upgrade and reboot at 2am before I'd stopped the sounds we had the dog howling at the machine!) because - like the laptop - I want to choose what I listen to.

The arguments for this fixed startup noise are that Macs do it (yet, but it's a single tone, it's not played at full volume and it provides information on system health - which is actually useful), The xbox does it (but I'm not going to take that into a meeting or bedroom) and Sony and Toshiba computers do it (but on my Vaio it's a BIOS option).

The reasons given behind wanting this are to help with the "spiritual journey" (yeah, right. I'm still trying to work out what Steve Ball and the folks from the Audio Video Excellence team mean by that) and a branding exercise (ah, I can agree with that). Sadly I think the spiritual journey I'll go on every time I reboot in order to install a patch or security update (I'll wait on Vistas arrival to decide if it's going to be less dumb than WinXP or OSX and force me to reboot on a fairly regular basis to install service packs).

It's bad enough for me at home, but I hate to think how it'll fare in classrooms, lecture theatres, courtrooms, cube farms and boardrooms. I just hope that at the very least it's 'fixable' with a registry tweak, but better yet a control panel option. If only so Microsoft can claim kudos for having listened to it's customers!

Silence is Golden!



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