With the Xbox One's release this past Friday, November 22, we have the final piece to the next gen console puzzle. Whether you consider the Wii U next gen or not, or that neither the PS4 or Xbox One can truly be considered next gen in the face of a good PC, the fact remains that the Xbox One represented the last major new system we were waiting on for the forseeable future. Certainly the Steam Box will get some buzz once that's released, but price and compatibilty may represent hurdles to the type of adoption both the Xbox One and PS4 have thus far received. Plus, there's the argument - which I tend to agree with - that you don't necessarily gain any benefit investing in a Steam Box over a good PC. Final judgment will be reserved though once Valve's Steam Box initiative gets fully underway.
Naturally, both the PS4 and Xbox One launches can be considered a success, with each selling over 1 million units in the first 24 hours. The Xbox One needed 10 or 11 more countries with which to reach that number, but it was also priced $100 more, and faced similar supply constraints (meaning its arguable both could have sold more if stock was there). Like the PS4 and Wii U before it, a small percentage of Xbox One launch consoles were affected by technical issues, but, luckily, overall, all three seem to be solid hardware out of the gate. That does nothing to soothe those who actually have a unit with issues, but it seems that, based on percentages, all three major new consoles had reasonably smooth launches. To wrap up the sales commentary, if sales don't pick up for the Wii U this holiday and beyond, it's certainly reasonable to think that both PS4 and Xbox One will surpass total Wii U sales by or before June 2014 (as some analysts have suggested), which would also put to rest the idea that the industry's new norm is greatly reduced sales, i.e., the Wii U's sales issues are its own. No matter what, console gaming is still small change compared to smartphones and tablets, but we at least have the potential of still being a very vocal percentage of the technology ecosystem if sales for both the PS4 and Xbox One maintain positive momentum into 2014.
Now, with all that out of the way, I'll provide my impressions of the Xbox One. Since my wife and I are writing a book on the Xbox One, My Xbox One, follow-up to My Xbox, which covered the 360, we needed our usual two consoles: one to play with, and one to keep pristine so we could methodically document the goings on. For now, I just opened up the one to play with.
First off, it's clear that there have been widespread reports of PlayStation 4 (PS4) consoles that have had various technical issues, requiring a call to Sony technical support. The resolution for many of these individuals seems to be a roughly 10 day turnaround to get a replacement console. Not good. With that in mind, I can report I've had no issues with mine, so I can safely judge the PS4 on its own merits rather than frustration with a damaged unit. Hopefully the Xbox One consoles we ordered will be similarly trouble free in the coming week.
Anyway, I have the PS4 console, the camera, a second controller, and three retail games on disc: Knack, Killzone Shadow Fall, and Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag (the latter two games got various pre-order add-on bonuses, and in fact Killzone itself was free from Amazon with the purchase of the other two games). I was able to supplement that with two free games thanks to my PlayStation Plus subscription, as well as a third game with a $10 credit in the PS4 box. I have some of that credit left still and will likely get one more games from the digital store: Sound Shapes. Anyway, the three digital games I have now are: Contrast, Flower, and Resogun. There was also a free offer for Warframe, which I believe is a freemium game where pay for additional in-game items. As a Plus member I got a bundle of in-game items to get me started.
I integrated my smartphone, a Galaxy Note II, with the PlayStation app, as well as my PlayStation Vita with the PS4 Link app. There were no issues with either pairing--just enter the numbers that appear on the PS4's screen and you're linked. The smartphone app gives you access to various account settings and the digital store and allows you to connect to the PS4 for control purposes, but there's nothing particularly intriguing about it. It's functional, but I probably won't use it much except to prepurchase items.
The Vita integration on the other hand is incredible. Taking the Vita's previous integration with the PS3 to a new level, the Vita can now display anything that the PS4 displays on its screen and also play any of the games the PS4 plays. My PS4 is hooked into my network via a powerline network adapter, and my Vita of course connects to the same network over WiFi. While I haven't tried it from every room in the house yet, there was little lag or delay in streaming the one game I tested with the setup so far, Knack. It felt nearly as good as playing it on the TV. This is a VERY promising feature.
Anyway, back to the console. It was easy to set up the PS4 and login to my existing PSN account. I was also able to integrate Facebook and use my Facebook picture as my account picture. Speaking of Facebook, the PS4 automatically records the last 15 minutes of whatever you're doing, which can be uploaded to the social network (live streaming to other services is also an option) either in screenshot or video form. The videos can also be edited and cropped. Simply hit the "Share" button on the controller and you're in business. Again, a very nice feature.
Here are some links to videos I posted on Facebook (I trimmed the latter videos on the PS4 itself):
As I recounted previously, I decided to replace my Asus touchscreen Ultrabook (4/128 SSD, 13" screen, Windows 8.1) and Apple iPad 2 (64GB) with a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 (8/256 SSD) and Type Cover 2. My thinking was that the Surface Pro 2 would effectively replace both devices in my man bag. Yes, there would be some concessions here and there, like a smaller screen (~10") than the Asus (which my youngest daughter now uses) and a weak app selection in comparison to the iPad 2 (which now sits on a dock on my nightstand), but ultimately, the increase in portability (a lighter bag!) and convenience of a single device outweighed the negatives.
While I used my iPad 2 for many things, my favorite function was as an e-reader. Since the iPad 2 does not have a retina display, it sometimes required me to zoom in a bit for certain types of reading material not optimized to the screen size (I'm looking at you, UK's Retro Gamer Magazine). Overall, though, it was a great reading experience for me and I've spent countless enjoyable hours in the Kindle app. It was also great to read at the gym when I was doing cardio (which I find dreadfully boring) after weight training (which I adore).
Naturally, the Surface Pro 2 would need to replicate the functionality of the iPad 2 for reading purposes, with the added bonus of its 1080p widescreen allowing for sharper text, which would hopefully translate into no longer needing to zoom in on very small details. Overall, the Surface Pro 2 performed well for me in this regard, though there were some quirks. For one, the iPad 2's screen is a 4:3, square-ish ratio, while the Surface Pro 2's is a 16:9, rectangular ratio. That basically means that the iPad 2 is more enjoyable in portrait mode (like a normal book), while the Surface Pro 2 feels a bit awkward (overly tall) in portrait mode (like all large, 16:9 tablets, really), making the Surface Pro 2's ideal reading mode landscape. Now, this was something I resisted on the iPad 2 because of the lower resolution and screen ratio, but it turns out that landscape (multiple columns) is actually a quite enjoyable way to read when you're doing it on the right device. Of course, I still sometimes read in portrait mode on the Surface Pro 2 - like at the gym - because that's what fits best on the various cardio machine holders with the Type Cover 2 attached (I'd rather not detach it and leave it on the gym floor) - and it's just fine like that, but, oddly enough, I think I now prefer reading in landscape. We'll see how that evolves going forward.
In preparation for working on our upcoming My Xbox One book, Christina and I thought it would be a good idea to check out Microsoft's Xbox One console prior to its official November release. Thanks to the One Tour, we had our chance today in Philadelphia through an Area One party. Basically, what this meant was that we had to pick one of the three hour blocks of time, wait in line, and hope we could get in to experience "live music, live gameplay, and more..." Naturally, we were most interested in the live gameplay part.
Once inside the large warehouse area, we were treated to our choice of multiple game areas where we could sit or stand and play some of the Xbox One launch and launch window titles, which included: Crimson Dragon, Dead Rising 3, Forza Motorsport 5, Killer Instinct, LocoCycle, Ryse: Sone of Rome, Max: The Curse of the Brotherhood, Zoo Tycoon, and Kinect Sports: Rivals.
So, I’m excited to announce that my book, Cancer Nutrition & Recipes For Dummies is officially out—okay, it has been out for a few weeks now (since July 29th, to be exact), but finding the time to do anything these days is a tremendous challenge. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have burnout and need a break from all the extracurricular activities. Bill is in the same territory as I am, so we’re two peas in a pod in that regard. But as tired as we are, we just can’t say no to projects, particularly when they excite us. And that is how it was for me with the cancer book. So, I wanted to tell you a little about how it came to be and what my experiences were along the way.
As many of you know, Bill and I have written a few books together, projects that we got through our agent, Matt Wagner. They were all technology books, of course. And while I love technology, it really isn’t my strong suit. In fact, Bill often likes to tease me by calling me a “technology witch” or “technology lich” (you’ll get that reference if you’re a fan of Adventure Time, like we are). And he’s right! Technology seems to fall apart in my hands. I don’t know why or how, but it always manages to go awry in some way. But I always thought that this quirk, if you can call it that, was what made us a great team on these projects—he’s the subject matter expert who knows his stuff and can fix things and I’m the dope who breaks them, thereby helping us determine which troubleshooting topics to cover.
After coauthoring a few books with Bill, Matt emailed me that he expanded his contacts at various publishing houses and asked if I had any ideas for potential medical titles. He wanted to see if I had an interest in doing stuff in the clinical arena as well. I shot off a few ideas to him, all focused on cancer.
Cancer was foremost on my mind because I had been an oncology editor and writer at my previous job and it’s an area where there’s a lot of activity, so there are always lots of exciting developments to read and write about—kind of like with technology. It was also a topic very dear to my heart because of my mother-in-law’s struggle with breast cancer. I saw the obstacles she faced and felt so helpless to do anything for her. Many people joke about their in-laws, but she was always kind to me and I considered her a second mom, so watching her decline was truly devastating for me.
Before the year is out, we'll have the choice of the latest console systems from the three big manufacturers, with three very different value propositions. I'll briefly break each of the three down, one-by-one, then I'd like to continue the discussion in the comments.
First up, there's the Wii U, relying mostly on the same type of technology found in the current generation's Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles, with its primary hook being its tablet controller that allows for touchscreen interactions and off-TV play, priced between $300 - $350. There's a good chance, despite Nintendo's insistence that they won't or can't, that this will drop in price just before the launch of Microsoft's and Sony's new consoles. I base this on the jockeying Nintendo already seems to be doing, for instance with eliminating the $300 BASIC version of their system in favor of the DELUXE (and no doubt different future bundles). The negatives for the Wii U are that, for various reasons, third party support has already dried up, and there's no evidence that their tablet controller hook has resonated (or will) with the public. There's always a chance for things to change, but right now, I don't see how Nintendo recovers a dominant console position, particularly since there's really nothing that reeks of "next gen" in their forthcoming software line-up. Certainly with their first party software they'll continue to appeal to the Nintendo faithful, and that should be enough to help the platform stick it out for the next few years. Beyond that, it's impossible to speculate, particularly since we don't know how Microsoft and Sony will ultimately fare (it could just be the new norm, in light of smartphone, tablet, and PC competition to have a tough time with traditional consoles and gaming handhelds).
Secrets of the Machine - A Roadmap on Paper...
Hello everyone! I hope that your Summer is beginning well, and that nice weather showed up with it for Memorial Day. In this third installment of "The Retro Repair Adventures", we're going to take a closer look at the truly AMAZING documentation which came with the VIC-20 right out of the box. Then I'll take you through some of the other programming books gifted to me on that fateful Christmas, so long ago. I will also explain in further detail how this documentation enabled me to effect a repair for the "glitchy characters" which my ailing VIC-20 displayed in the last episode.
How to do "The Shatner Rub"...
Hello my fellow Armchair Arcadians! It's good to be back. Didn't mean to be gone so long again, but hey, Life happens. This time, I'm putting on my "Engineer Hat" (with the mandatory pocket-protector), and taking you on a Retro-Repair Adventure. In this first installment, we'll be delving into my own computing, programming, and gaming past. I'll take it easy to begin with, by giving you a close look at my very own, very beloved, and very much malfunctioning Commodore VIC-20. (We'll get to the nitty-gritty details of the electronics repair in my next posting.)