Monthly Archives: February 2007

Windows Vista Ultimate kiosk video

Here’s a pretty cool video about Windows Vista Ultimate in a kiosk format just released on Microsoft Downloads today. It’s not quite clear exactly why this is available to download, as the accompany description written as if it was created by the Ultimate team. “Our own team participated in the creation of this video, so that is why you see Ultimate Extras featured prominently. We owe a compliment to Microsoft Studios, who used our content and produced the clip.”

Most of you are probably not comfortable with downloading a 118MB video about an operating system, so here’s a version I uploaded to YouTube.

For the first four minutes, the video gives an overview of Windows Vista Ultimate in general; including home and entertainment, mobility and business features. The rest of the three minutes feature a special on Windows Ultimate Extras; including DreamScene, Hold’Em, BitLocker online key storage and language packs.

Throughout the video, the screenshots tend to sway side to side at a weird perspective which makes me a little light-headed. But the animated black Aurora background seen prominently at the start and end of the video is very cool!

Thanks to Josh Phillips who tipped me off about this earlier today.

Games for Windows Live beta signup

Games for Windows Live
The beta invitation emails for the Games for Windows Live (formerly known as Live Anywhere) has been sent out today. The email invites users to sign up and complete a survey to be considered for the Games for Windows Live beta. The email reads as follows,

Are you interested in being part of a select group that is invited to help beta test a new service that lets Windows gamers connect with their friends on the Xbox through the LIVE gaming network? If you are, please read on.

The registration period for this upcoming beta testing opportunity will only be available for a limited time. To be considered you will need to complete the Games for Windows – LIVE Beta application survey.

To fill out the survey:

  1. Go to this page on Microsoft Connect
  2. You will be prompted to login with your Windows Live ID if you haven’t already done so.
  3. If you have not completed the Connect registration form, you will be presented with the Terms of Use agreement then you will navigate to the Connect registration page.
  4. You must agree to the Terms of Use agreement prior to registration.
  5. Once you have completed the Connect registration page, you will navigate to the survey page.
  6. You must complete all of the questions and submit the survey to be considered.

Those who are selected will be contacted with more details in the coming weeks. All eligible beta participants who are approved for the beta will be entered in a drawing(s) for prizes.

The email specifically communicates “If you know of someone else who may be interested in participating please forward this mail to them”, so instead of forwarding the email to everyone I know, and since this is a public URL, I’ll just share it here. This does not guarantee you a position in the beta, but purely for consideration.

This should be a very fun beta program for anyone who gets in. And there are prizes! :)

P.S. How confusing is that name? It’s nothing related to Windows Live, its Games for Windows, Live. Not Games, for Windows Live. Marketing is going to have a hard time with that.

Command & Conquer 3 rocks my socks off

Command & Conquer 3 logoI love my PC games. I love my real-time strategies. And most of all, I love my Command & Conquer.

Command & Conquer: Tiberium Dawn was one of the first games I’ve ever played on the PC that got me hooked on the genre. Perhaps it was the plausible storyline, the advanced graphics or the straight-forward gameplay. Fast forward 11 years, after many successful and also disappointing sequels, Command & Conquer 3 is living up to the expectations of the Command & Conquer franchise.

When C&C3 was announced just a year ago, I was skeptical of what might have been. Electronic Arts has a track-record for sidetracking and destroying legacy franchises with questionable expansion-packs after another. Red Alert 2 was as far as I would have liked the C&C series to sway, Generals went over the line.

Command & Conquer 3The demo was released. I downloaded it. Installed it. Played it. Finished it. And I have one word, “Wow”. Here’s why.

  • Full-motion videos makes a grand comeback – Fantastic acting. Fantastic actors. Fantastic set design. And it all comes in gorgeous high definition. Oh, and did I mention Grace Park?
  • Easy to pick up and just have fun – Real-time strategies has become so complicated to play, tech-tree so complex, games turned into work than play. The new interface is a nice blend of the C&C sidebar we all know and love, as well as some smart additions that makes construction easier and more manageable.
  • Real missions, not tech-tree missions – It’s no surprise to find RTS’s these days which restrict the tech-tree on a mission-by-mission basis just to make you play all the missions. C&C3 gives you nearly the whole tech-tree on the first mission. You have the full arsenal at your disposal. I find myself playing the game, instead of playing the tech-tree.
  • A graphical game, not a graphics simulation – This game runs superb on my mid-range GeForce 6600GT. Even though this is based on the SAGE engine from C&C: Generals, this is nothing like it. It runs smooth and it isn’t over the top. Everything doesn’t look real because it doesn’t have to. Buildings appear straight out of the ground, but that’s really cool because you don’t have to deal with stupid construction vehicles which have a health of 1 and move like a snail.

That’s only some of the reasons why I love the demo and will pre-order my copy straight away. Even there are only 2 missions in the demo, there is so much to enjoy. Go grab the 1.2GB demo from EA.com and give it a test drive for yourself.

Supreme Commander may have met its match.

Is Windows Vista Ultimate Extras a sham?

Windows Ultimate ExtrasBesides BitLocker encryption, a few pro-user tools (RDP, CompletePC backups, shadow copy etc..) and the Family Discount program, the only other reason to even consider purchasing Windows Vista Ultimate was for the Ultimate Extras. Users were suppose to feel good about themselves for having access to exclusive and premium content only available to the most expensive version of Windows ever manufactured, but at the moment, they might look a little stupid.

Hold’Em & DreamScenesSo far, some users have paid an addition of approximately US$150 for a black box, some Vista features mentioned above, a poker card game, various language packs and videos projected on the desktop. Like there aren’t enough free hold’em poker card games out there already with much better graphics and AI. Even VLC media player could have even done what takes a technical preview to do, years ago – playing videos on the desktop. Now it takes another add-on (Deskscapes) on top of an add-on to do what should have been done in the first place – dynamic content on the desktop. Microsoft even has a patent for it.

Digital PublicationsBut what’s coming up next? The next Ultimate Extras is most likely to be Digital Publications, in other words, free e-books with tips and tricks to using Windows Vista. I fail to see how that is cool or even helpful, since TweakVista has that covered pretty well, and is accessible to all users of Windows Vista.

GroupShot? It might come, it might not come. Granted it is cool and useful, but even if Microsoft does decide to commercialise this research project, I fail to see why they would release it to such a small audience on Ultimate Extras, when they could be making millions by putting it in to the next version of their digital imaging suite.

Microsoft Plus! Pack for Windows XPThe problem with Ultimate Extras? It’s not a problem with the program itself, because charging for additional content has always been successful with Windows Plus! packs, and this is no different. The problem lies in the lack of transparency at Microsoft. When you buy Plus! packs, you know exactly what you get for how much you get it at. But Ultimate Extras is different. You pay an upfront cost of around $150 to maybe get some cool stuff released sometime in the future which may or may not interest you. That’s a lot of ambiguity for that amount of money.

Microsoft, you need to stop classifying Ultimate Extras with national security secrecy and start giving out a road-map for what users should expect. Ultimate Extras won’t give you some sort of competitive edge over OS X because you’re so hush-hush over what you’re developing. The only people you hurt are loyal users who you’ve promised “cutting-edge programs and innovative services” and so far delivered two products which there has been free alternatives for years.

Geometry Wars on the Windows VistaUpdate: Brandon LeBlanc suggests I should give an example of what Ultimate Extras I would like to see. I don’t have many, if I did, I’d be in the software business, but here’s one on the top of my head. Microsoft should give away a free copy of the PC version of Geometry Wars they’re currently developing. Free for Ultimate users, and they can still charge for whatever they wanted to through normal retail channels.

Hamad releases high-resolution Vista wallpapers

Hamad Darwish Windows Vista picturesHamad Darwish, the Flickr photographer commissioned to shoot Windows Vista wallpapers, has been busy over the last few weeks.

He’s appeared on Good Morning Kuwait, a TV show comparable (not in scale, but at least in name) to Good Morning America; Digg (3 times); the Al-Anba newspaper; Kuwait Clientele magazine; Softpedia; Chip.de; the Official Windows Vista magazine and a Chinese magazine for the arts, which they claim to be the biggest in China. Apparently, he has also landed a contract with a photography equipments manufacturer and been commissioned to teach a photography course.

You could say, I started something. But that’s not all.

Hamad has since released as promised, the entire set of photos taken for Windows Vista in high-resolution of 1920×1200 pixels on his personal website. Go grab ’em!

I’ve picked Destination – vol. II as my new wallpaper. It’s just amazing. :)