Tag Archives: XBox

Windows 8 review

So, the covers have started to be lifted from Windows 8. Take 5 minutes to watch the video to see a glimpse of Microsoft’s new operating system.

Some immediate feedback:

  1. “We’re watching Google”. Google believe the [Chrome] browser is the future, so Microsoft are looking to pull as many Internet services out of the browser into small apps.
  2. “Touch my screen”. I hate fingermarks on my screen. Walk up to someone else’s screen at work today and touch their screen – you’ll get a reaction as if you invaded their privacy! No one likes fingermarks on their screen. Windows 8 will be all about touch screens though. We recently bought a new PC at home and I decided not to get a touch screen because I was concerned the kids would have wrecked it within weeks. And a keyboard on the screen? A vertical keyboard? No thanks.
  3. “It looks so beautiful until you want to do anything productive”. All the screens in the video look really nice – it’s like ‘Windows 7 mobile meets XBox‘. And then the video shows Excel and Word, which are straight back to square one.
  4. “Multiple windows – hmmmm”. I get the slider to show multiple windows, but the sad thing is that this is a world away from how people really multi-task with many smaller windows. Have a vertical slider is very inefficient with wasted space.
  5. “Files haven’t changed”. Whilst Microsoft should be commended from abstracting the C: hierarchy to users folders (it started in Windows Vista and Windows 7 makes it even easier), the abstraction should continue. Why do we still care about files? The only point of a file it to email it to someone else, and Google Docs has solved this already (by sharing it from a central place).
  6. “Why no Kinnect?”. After using Kinnect over the weekend with the family, you start wondering why objects in the rest of the world need you to touch them! Kinnect (aka waving at things) is the future and a smaller one to one style interface would be much better than touch (see #2).

However the OS does look lovely. It’s like a ‘Windows 7 meets XBox‘ interface (and both are good). I’m just concerned they’re fine on a 5″ screen or when you sit 5″ away from it. Sitting a foot away from it at a desk for 8 hours a day requires a different style of UI.

Amazing technology in the living room


Last weekend we bought an Xbox Kinect at home. I have a personality trait whereby I get really excited about technology only for it to rapidly degrade after a few days. So I decided not to write this review any sooner for fear of it being written with a bit too much passion and not enough objectivity.

A week after plugging in the Kinect controller, I can report that’s it’s still AMAZING. The technology still feels futuristic. Picking up an iPhone with it’s two year old pinching and stretch controls feels ancient. Using a mouse or a keyboard feels archaic.

Gesturing is the way forward.

The kids (ranging from 4 to 9 years old) love it and find it intuitive. Adults find it intuitive, although I’ve yet to see an adult that doesn’t sit (or for that matter, stand) with their jaws open finding it difficult to appreciate that the television is responding to body movements.

Many reviewers compare the Kinect to the Wii, because they are the two consoles where players need to be active or stand up to play most games. The comparison is ridiculous. The graphics and playability on the Xbox Kinect games are as polished, clear and fast as the rest of the Xbox titles compared to the Wii which feels like it’s still using the graphics chips from an 1980s Atari console.

However the part that most of our visitors like the most about the Kinect is being able to control the main Xbox menu, by sweeping icons to the left and right and selecting them on the screen just like in Minority Report.

To select a menu, the user puts your left arm at 45 degrees down becomes second nature in much the same way as a right mouse click on a PC felt odd a decade ago but is now automatic.

If a different user stands up Kinect will recognise them if they have a profile on the box using face recognition.

Microsoft have got the Kinect completely right. Installing it on my old Xbox (the original white one) was painfree. I’ve never opened a manual for it. The kids got it. Adults get it. Gestures are the way of the future.

I also bought a new family PC for the home as well after the last one died. For a while, we considered getting a Dell with a touch screen for two reasons. One is that it looks nice without complex wires, and the second is that its a large touch screen. However I’ve never seen the point of a touch screen on a PC – why do you want to press the X to close a window and get a fingerprint on the screen when it’s quicker and cleaner to press Alt+F4 (and you still think the 45 degree arm salute is unobvious?!) or move and then press the mouse.

I don’t get PCs with touch screens, but if you could gesture with your hand to quickly close a window, or click your fingers to open a favourite application, that is the future.

The Kinect is an amazing piece of technology, and the fact it costs about £150 and sits in your living room is testament to consumer power forcing companies to create such viable mass consumer devices. I just can’t wait until I’m controlling everything in the house with gestures.

Hoping bad luck only come in 3s


They say bad luck comes in threes – well the three came thick and fast this week in the Howard household.

We bought a dog from the RSPCA rescue centre in Peterborough 5 weeks ago and on Friday it developed a rare form of pneumonia and spent three nights in hospital at the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals in South Mimms. Lexi (that’s the dog) is on the mend at the moment, however we suspect it will take a few more weeks before she’s back to her normal self. The reason I started off with Lexi’s background is because she’s still within the first ‘no claim’ fortnight of pet insurance…

The next thing that went wrong is the family computer. We all share a single computer and use different accounts to log in.  Frustratingly I (promise) was planning to do a full backup over the Christmas break, however we had a physical hard drive error on Wednesday, and everything on the hard drive has gone. I bought a licence of the SysTweaks Advanced Disk Recovery to run on my work laptop over the holidays. ADR took 2 days to do a ‘Deep Scan’, then a few hours to restore the files I selected. All (100%) of those files are corrupted and can’t be opened. It’s been a very frustrating experience. And now, the hard drive won’t even be recognised by my work laptop.

What has been interesting out of this experience is that the kids are totally unaffected – all of their work is stored on a variety of websites (aka ‘the cloud’). A lot of my wife and I’s ‘stuff’ like photos are also in the cloud at various places (at least, the good photos). It’s some of the smaller stuff like wedding speeches that are permanently gone. I think I will take out a Spotify subscription in the new year (after paying off the vet bills and a replacement PC) because whilst we ripped all of our CDs last year on to the computer, when the hard drive went, I just thought it wasn’t a problem because they’ll all be on Spotify anyway.

The third piece of bad luck happened when playing my son on the (3 year old) XBox 360 yesterday and the game paused. No response. Switched the console off and on – and a three quarter red ring came on the power button. I’ve heard about ‘the red ring of death’, and we have now succumb to it. We need a new XBox.

Needless to say (but I’m quite depressed so I’ll say it), it’s been quite an expensive week. The vet bills alone could buy a family car, the new family PC will be my wife’s opportunity to finally get rid of our old CRT monitor, and the XBox may be an opportunity to get Kinect…

Photo courtesy of tomasland.