Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

Microsoft – Opening Up The Gaming Network

March 24, 2016

microsoftIn the last few weeks MS has announced that it will open up it’s gaming network to other platforms, with a stealthy nod towards Sony and the PS4.

This would mean that subject to a game developer deciding to go down this route, you would be able to play say a PC gamer from your Xbox One.  Also in what was thought to be a ‘never going to happen’ scenario there is the possibility to allow Xbox One gamers to play PS4 owners, that is if Sony decided to take up this offer from MS.
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I am not a tecnical guru and my knowledge is limited however I have a number of concerns with this proposal which I will detail below:

PC gamers can have an advantage through mods;
PC gamers have always been known to mod games with some even creating whole new games based upon an original game’s engine (DayZ for instance).  However the issue comes with games such as first person shooters as the PC world is plagued by servers full of PC gamers who have modded their game with things such as aim bots, disruptors to others connections, etc.  It doesn’t appear as if this issue has ever been fully resolved on the PC so how do MS propse they will prevent this on the open network?

Varying performance of platforms causing an unfair advantage.
Even if the PC gamer is more saintly than mother Teresa they may have an advantage simply by the speed their rig can display images on screen.  For example lets take the fast paced world of Call of Duty.  If a PC gamer has a top of the range rig, they may see an enemy just a split second sooner thus giving them  the upper hand.  Again how do MS propose to prevent this, or is this down to the game developers?

Is it opening the Xbox world up to more risks of attack?
As we have seen over recent years Xbox Live has probably been the most secure of the gaming networks, however even that has come under attack a few times.  Will opening up the network perhaps leave us Xbox gamers open to more risk, such as when the PSN network gets attacked yet again.  Does it make it easier for attackers to carry out a multi network hit at the same time?
psn-logo

Finally do we want to play with other networks in the first place?
It may be just my personal opinion but I feel there is a subtle difference between the type of Xbox and Playstation gamer, I feel that the Playstation gamers particularly on Call of Duty are often younger and more vocal (what I call squeakers).   As someone in my 30s I don’t want to have to mute half a lobby just because the network has been opened up.

MS has already mentioned that cross network play will be optional to the user, so you will be able to specify that you only want to play with Xbox gamers, however some of the above risks would still be applicable.

I am sure this is not a decision MS has taken lightly and I am sure in time they will publiclly address these and many other concerns, but for the time being it just makes me a little nervous.

DLC The Good, The Bad & The Downright Ugly!

August 29, 2013

Further to my post a couple of months back regarding DLC (downloadable content) I thought I’d revisit the subject after the latest Call of Duty DLC “Apolcalypse”.

DLC is thriving and is an obvious way for companies to wring even more money from gamers.  There are many differing opinions of DLC and I thought I’d share my updated thoughts on the subject.

The Good

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The DLC for Call of Duty has always been good in my opinion, yes there have been times I wished they would have more maps instead of Zombies but it has always had a positive affect on my gaming.  The reason I feel the Call of Duty DLC is such a positive thing is due to it’s staggered release schedule it constantly rejuvenates my love of the game.  If you’d asked me just last week about the game I would have told you that I had tired of the game and was no longer playing it that often and so much so I wasn’t even considering buying the new version “Ghosts” being released in November.

However the final DLC dropped including 4 maps and a Zombies game and my love of the game has been resurrected.  The 12 maps released over the past nine months have been a bit hit and miss with fans but I feel the final four are extremely good and I have really enjoyed playing them.

This type of DLC released sometime after the initial game release I feel is perfectly acceptable, time has been spent by the developer creating the new content and it injects a new lease of life into a flagging game.

Many developers use this staggered release to keep the excitement about their game going, which in turn benefits them as it keeps the excitement for the next full game release in a continuing series.

The Bad

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Now some DLC I find particularly hard to swallow, to show I am not biased towards Call of Duty I refer to the camo DLC that is released fairly regularly.  All these releases are just different designs to put on your weapons when playing multi-player online.  Yes these are very cheap and it is purely down to the buyer whether they want them or not however I feel these should be included in season passes which entitles the gamer to all map releases for that year.  Season passes often can cost as much as the original game so bunging extra DLC on that is not included just seems greedy.

Another example of this is Forza and Need for Speed, you can pay to have extra cars.  Firstly these can give the player an advantage over people not able to afford to purchase these cars but also, should this not been included in the original game.  It seems that items that would normally have been included with the original game in the past are now purposely being held back to rake in a few more pounds/dollars!Forza_Horizon_boxart

Any DLC which give the gamer an advantage over other players should be banned in mu opinion, or at least make them a segregated, walled pool of players.  If little rich kids can pay to power up their avatar making them over power their opponents then this just isn’t fair to the gamers struggling to afford the game in the first place.

The Downright Ugly
I mentioned this in my previous post but it still continues and therefore must prove that people are still willing to purchase.  Day 1 DLC.  This is a pure money grab from the companies.  Content which should have been included on the original disc held back to cost the gamer more.  Now pre-order bonuses are ok, they encourage people to put their orders in early which is just good business sense, but to have content available on day 1 can be nothing more than greed.

With the introduction of day 1 game downloads coming on the next generation of consoles, will this mean a dilution of day 1 DLC or will it continue as it has done on the current generation of disc based games?  We will have to wait and see!

Leaving MobileMe – A Great Alternative

May 25, 2011

I have been a member of Mobile me for 2 years now and have utilised all of it’s features, from websites to mail.  I joined originally as I loved the ability to sync data between my Macbook and my iPhone.  This all works very well.

However, this year I took the major decision to sell my Macbook (see previous Blog for explanation Link ).  It was after selling my Macbook that I looked at syncing all the data from my iPhone to my new Windows-based PC.  I realised the majority of sync tasks can be done via iTunes but I still wanted the cloud functionality that I had used with my Macbook.  MobileMe worked fine syncing with MSOutlook using the Apple application for doing this.  My only issues were that this syncing program started at every boot unless you disabled it, but then you would need to enable it again to sync.  I also became disheartened by the cost each year of MobileMe at £60 .

I scoured the internet searching for viable alternatives finding many free alternatives.  The problem however was that no service provided the complete package of Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Webspace, Bookmarks and Find my iPhone.  Therefore I felt syncing via multiple services would probably kill my iPhone battery.

It was then I came across GoogleApps.  This service, at it’s basic level is free for personal users giving you syncing ability for Calendars, Contacts, Mail and Websites.  However there was no ability to sync this to Outlook.  However the next package up at just £3.3o per month included this functionality.  I could not believe that I pretty much had everything mobile me had at nearly half the cost (£39.60).

There are of course varying degrees of replication and a couple of functions not included in GoogleApps but overall it was worth it for the cost saving and the ability to pay monthly instead of yearly.  I have listed below the functions I use and their differences to MobileMe.

Prerequisite
GoogleApps does require that you own your own domain name which of course incurs a yearly fee, for me this was not an additional cost as I already own a domain, however if you do not already you can easily register for one using Google and costs approximately £11.  Also you will need to install GoogleSync if you wish to sync with MSOutlook.  The positive for this is that it only opens when you open Outlook thus does not use resource when not in use as MM does.

Mail
Mail is very good with GoogleApps (GA), even with the free package you get up to 10 email address accounts.  With the business package you get unlimited accounts each with 25GB of space.  You could get friends to join with you so you can spread the costs between you for email.
Mail is IMAP the same as MM so anything you do on your iPhone is replicated on the GA servers.

Positives: You can have numerous email accounts e.g. for each of your family or friends. You can manage Spam from your iPhone by moving it to the Spam folder which Gmail then uses to identify junk email.  The read message count is alaso pushed to your iPhone unlike MobileMe which required you to open Mail to refresh the unread count.

Negatives: GA has a strange function whereby if you delete on your iPhone it is basically archived.  Without going into too much detail it basically means the email does not have a label such as Inbox or one of your personal folders.  Nothing is deleted unless you go to the All Mail folder and individually delete it.  If you delete in Outlook it goes into the BIN folder as you would expect and will auto delete in 30 Days.  The only problem I have with the iPhone in effect archiving is that you cannot easily identify Archived mail in Gmail to  batch delete the mails.  This can however be done from Outlook which is clever enough to identify the archived mail.

Calendar/Contacts
Not much different to MM except I did not have the UK GMT issue for all day events as I did with MM.

Positives: Again you can set up multiple calendars for different users.  Also contacts birthdays are placed into a separate calendar list which syncs with Outlook without issue.

Webspace
Very similar to MM, only positive is that you can actually create a website from within GA.

iDisk/GoogleDocs
I am very fond of GAs equivalent to iDisk as it just feel more flexible.

Positives: Docs can be saved to be viewable from a web browser, you can decide on exactly who can view what by setting individual share settings.  You can install a MS plugin to either automatically or manually share documents directly from programs such as Excel, Word, etc.

Bookmark Sync
This function is not available via GA, there are other services out there that can provide this but I do not feel it is worth paying for this so I simply use the iTunes sync for Bookmarks.

Find My iPhone
This service is not available with GA but I never really used this so it was not an issue for me.

Overall I could not be happier with GoogleApps and to add their customer support is very quick to respond to any queries you have with your service so all round this “in my opinion” is a far better service.

FaceTime for Windows

March 2, 2011

So last year FaceTime was introduced to the world and even I have to admit I was quite impressed with how well it works iPhone to Mac. What I was more excited about was the fact that Apple stated this would be open source allowing any developers to create applications to run it on other platforms. It has been over a year now and there is still no windows version to be found. Surely this suggests it is not open source or that there is something not being shared so openly as Apple first suggested, as I am sure someone would have developed it for at least the windows platform would they not?

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

O2 Costs and iPhone 3Gs….o what?

June 10, 2009

O2Well this week Apple fans everywhere were excited to hear just some of the new iPhone features in the new OS3 upgrade.  Whilst we still have to wait until the 17th June here in the UK, it is a major upgrade to the already excellent phone.

However the announcement of the new iPhone 3Gs received more of a luke warm reception.  Whilst it does sound good, new video ability, maps that rotate so you actually know which way you are walking down a road (how many of us have had to walk 100 yards down a road before we realised we were walking completely the wrong way).  It just does not seem a big enough upgrade to warrant the costs O2 are quoting.

For existing iPhone 3G owners O2 are offering anyone spending £80 a month regularly the ability to upgrade 6 months early, anyone spending £50 a month regularly the ability to upgrade 3 months early.  This then still incurs the large iPhone costs and contract.  None of these options are applicable to me as I have only been on my contract for 9 months.  So what options do I face if I wanted to get this new technology.  The first and probably more obvious option would be to buy a pay as you go iPhone and just put my sim card in it, a snap at just £450+ I don’t think.  OK so the other option is to pay off the remainder of my contract of £34 a month and then start a new contract.  Obviously these costs could not be justified even if this was a major upgrade but with such a small change in phone, this is extremely hard for even rich people to justify.  Therefore I have had to accept I will not be upgrading for many months.

My second beef with O2 is that whilst internet access is free on iPhone contracts, if I wish to take advantage of the new iPhone internet tethering I will have to fork out another  £14+ a month!  You can get a USB dongles for less than this so how can O2 justify this extortionate costs?  Well most probably because they have the exclusive rights to the iPhone thus no competition.

Apple used to be a fanboy friendly company but in recent years, brand loyalty seems to have become a very expensive past time with no benefits to your loyalty.  We can only hope that one day Apple release the network exclusivity of the iPhone so that healthy competition can arise.

New Web Domains, Why, Why, Why?

June 26, 2008

 

So I was reading the BBC website today BBC Technology News and read that they have approved a change to the way the internet addresses can appear.  Currently the majority of addresses end in .com but there are also country specific ones such as .co.uk.  The debate to open up the available .com endings has been going on for many years with the Porn industry being one of the main forces trying to get a .xxx domain established which many would see as a positive thing as it makes it easier to block explicit content and no-one would accidentally stumble upon these sites as it will be obvious what they contain.  

However, it would appear that they have now agreed to open this up and for a few thousand pounds anyone can create their own domain.  I see a number of issues with this.  Firstly this will open up the “entrepreneurs” to buy all domains that are probably wanted by real companies and therefore push the cost up, which is exactly what the regulators tried to stamp out a few years ago after the .com boom when people sold web addresses to companies in an effort to make money.

Secondly many people find it hard enough to remember web addresses (not me personally) and if you forget the address of a company you can often guess it’ll be the company name plus .com at the end.  If this is opened up to be anything then how the hell will you guess what the actual address is, instead people will have to use a search engine every-time.

I agree domains such as .xxx are a good idea as it makes protecting children from explicit material easier but I think that there should be a forum for groups to appeal for new domains to be created, but to let anyone create a domain name is just thoughtless and in my mind a very stupid idea!

iPhone 3G – Now It’s Something To Shout About

June 12, 2008

Iphone 3G

 

So the latest apple announcements have been made, and this time I have to admit that I am very intrigued and somewhat excited about the latest iPhone developments.

Previously I stated how the hype surrounding the device had been blown out of proportion however it seems that in less than a year Apple has actually listened to customer feedback and taken some very positive actions towards creating a device that people really want.

One of the major issues with the original iPhone was the incredibly high costs.  And as I stated in my “Tech No Savvy” blog, by just waiting a year they have chopped the price right down.  This therefore has enabled the only UK carrier with the iPhone, O2 to be able to offer the phone free on some contracts or at a small fee on others.

Another issue I had with the iPhone was the distinct lack of 3G networking, this again has been addressed.

The final “show-stopper” for me was the lack of push email, which I currently have on my blackberry.  In their announcement Apple appear to have addressed this with their introduction of “Mobileme”.  This service is an upgrade to their .Mac service which previously involved a yearly fee for services such as web-space, photo galleries and email.  The upgrade now allows you to be able to sync contacts, calendar, and addresses between Macs, PCs and iPhones.  It also allows you to have push email to the iPhone.  This all sounds fantastic and a definite step towards me considering an iPhone.  

There are however a number of questions arising from these announcements for me.  Firstly can it forward emails from accounts such as Yahoo and Hotmail like the Blackberries can currently do?  Or does it mean having to use your new mobileme email account to pull in the emails from other accounts before they can be pushed to your iPhone as this is not ideal?

Secondly on blackberry services mobile networks charge an extra fee for the push email service, but with the “Mobileme” service you have to pay £59 for this service so in my mind surely they can’t then make a further charge from the mobile network, or can they, as Mobileme is an Apple service which would then use the mobile network?

These are just many questions that I’m sure O2, the only UK mobile network operator with the iPhone will be answering over the next couple of months, although if their customer services is anything like I remember from two years ago then I doubt anyone will get a decent answer to any of their queries.  I have submitted my questions today so we will have to wait and see.

HDTV – Is It That Good?

June 12, 2008

 

 

HDTVSo after my recent marriage we purchased a new HDTV, I wasn’t expecting much from it but I have to say the improvement in picture is amazing, even on non HD channels.  I watched a Euro 2008 match the other night on the BBC HD channel and it really does have to be seen to be believed just how crisp the picture is.

I do have some issues with the new HD services though.  Firstly the HD cable was extremely expensive with a decent one starting at £50.  Some people may say you can get one off of eBay for £10 but many articles confirm just how bad the picture is with these sorts of cables.  Also if you’re going to spend £400+ on a TV why scrimp on the cable which could reduce the quality of the TV output.

My second and main problem with the HD channels is availability.  As a Virgin Media customer I thought great, I have a V+ box which is already HD compatible.  Whilst I do get brilliantly improved picture quality for all of the normal channels through the box there is only one HD channel available which is BBCHD.  Yes Virgin does offer some HD programs on-demand but these are very lacking and from what I have seen are just old TV programs that I have already seen.  They do also have some HD films on their film flex service but at £1 extra than the normal versions of the films.  I also believe that other than Films and Sports, Sky offer the same few channels too.

With this all in mind I looked on the internet to find out if any new HD channels were coming.  ITVHD was the first I came across which I thought would be good however the descriptions of it says “exclusive to freesat” the new satellite service which has just been released.  I find it strange that it wouldn’t be available on Sky or Virgin but “exclusively” does make me wonder.  Channel 4 also is offering an HD service but again this is not currently available on Virgin and there is no information about whether it will be.

This is all a great shame as from what I’ve seen so far, HDTV is amazing, fingers crossed the channels will come as HD take-up increases and it hasn’t all just been hype about one or two channels!

Macs and Viruses

April 2, 2008

 

 

Apple Logo

One of the many claims Apple makes is that the Macs are less vulnerable to viruses.  Whilst the facts confirm this, there has been much talk about the new operating systems and processors opening Apple up to viruses which they are allegedly not prepared for.  

You can buy Norton Anti-virus for the Mac but one of the appeals of this machine is that you don’t need to use this resource hogging piece of software.  However have these times changed?

 

My question has always been, is the lack of viruses on the Mac simply a case of hackers wanting to hit the larger market of windows operated PCs?  Is it simply a case that with a smaller market share, the virus creators did not target these machines?  With Apple’s share of the PC market rising at a greater rate in recent times is there now a case for protecting your Mac against these viruses and thus slowing your system down?

 

We can but hope and pray that this is not the case but if it is then we must hope that it is Apple that create the antivirus software that runs quickly and smoothly on their own operating systems unlike the third-party add-ons of Windows based PC’s.

The Big Mac Vs PC

March 23, 2008

Microsoftandmac

I have been a PC user for many, many years and always thought of Apple Macs as a machine that was a poor substitute. This opinion I have read on the web to be fairly typical of PC users who have never experienced a modern day Mac.

My opinion whilst not completely unfounded was based on University Macs, of which there were only 5 or 6 and were in hindsight very low spec and not correctly setup. It was however these Macs that have tainted my opinion of Macs for many years.

Recently I have started to find myself increasingly intrigued by these mystical machines that the actual users promote as the best machine they have ever used. I have done a fair bit of research on these machines and found out just what an all in one package they are. This is before I even start talking about how cool they look.

On a recent shopping trip a friend and I visited the Apple store in Lakeside, my first time in one of these stores and I was amazed at how cool all of the devices looked. I have been a long term fan of the iPod but had neverconsidered using a Mac for the reasons mentioned above. However on this trip my friend and I took a close look at what these machines can do.

My friend was interested in a desktop version, the iMac I believe it is called. This machine was all contained in the screen itself so already very mobile within the house, the price was also reasonable, whilst higher than a PC it already contained all the additional software you’d probably have to buy to have an equivalent.

I did find it hard to compare to a PC as my limited research had educated me that Mac’s do not need to be as high spec as a PC to outperform. However the Mac did look very cool and have all of the functions my friend required.

I myself was looking more towards the laptop versions of the Mac, the the Mac Book and Mac Book Pro. The new Mac Air whilst impressive was just too expensive for my requirements and if I was to continue to use a PC as well as a Mac I would need the CD drive.

The Macbooks were all very cool and it did even cross my mind that when I come to replace my desktop PC then maybe an iMac would be the way to go, however, there is still one thing that concerns me and that is “compatibility”. 

As a self contained unit the Mac is undeniably a very cool and comprehensive piece of machinery however, despite the growing popularity I have some concerns. My friend for example is a light user only using theirPC for photos, music and browsing the net, which makes the iMac ideal for them. However for myself I am a heavy, gaming user and whilst I can see that most of my demands would be met by an iMac the biggest downfall is the games. Whilst I could comprehend that the new top spec games would not be on Mac at this time, I could not understand how a machine like this does not even have low spec games such as Fifa. True some games are coming out on the Mac but these are compared to PC’s quite old and not up to the same standard.

I have since initially writing this blog discovered that Macs can now boot up into Windows as well as the default operating system therefore making it game compatible which is amazing!

So in my opinion whilst the Mac looks and feels a great machine, there is still an overwhelming issue of the PC’s dominance in the world making Mac users have to use poor substitutes so that they can share their documents with the world, which is a little annoying, also the Mac is a long way from being a cool games machine although this is something even now I can see being resolved within the next ten years, and until then we can use the new dual boot into Windows XP for games which makes the Mac extremely cool and mighty!