TrendNet might pigeonhole its TEW-647GA Wireless N Gaming Adapter as a gaming-console peripheral, but we think it’s much more useful than that. The tiny device is capable of linking any hard-wired Ethernet device—be it an Xbox, a PC, or a Blu-ray player—to an 802.11b/g/n wireless network for a street price less than $50.
Granted, Microsoft’s own Xbox 360 Wireless N Networking Adapter is smaller still (and draws its power from the Xbox 360’s USB port), but that device is nearly twice as expensive and it doesn’t support anything other than the Xbox 360. The TEW-647GA is a lot prettier to look at, too, with its dual antennas stealthily concealed inside its black plastic housing.
The day before the official start of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft all staged elaborate press conferences to introduce new titles, new franchises, and new hardware.
Microsoft kicked off the set of press conferences with a live 90-minute event in downtown Los Angeles that officially pulled the veil off of its highly anticipated controller-free user interface. Formerly known under the code name Natal, the control scheme is now known as Kinect.
As anticipated, Kinect is fully integrated into the Xbox 360 experience. In Microsoft’s demonstration of the interface, attendees saw voice control of a video library (“Xbox: Pause”) as well as gameplay controls for casual, fitness-oriented, and family games. The AV controls were the most impressive, if only because they will eliminate the scramble for a remote control.
Initially planned solely for the Xbox 360, Microsoft has admitted to contemplating future versions of Kinect for the PC platform. Maximum PC is on the scene at E3 in Los Angeles, and we’ll be investigating this possibility further once the show floor opens on Tuesday morning. We do know that the Kinect device will require its own custom port—it does not use a USB port.
At the end of Microsoft’s press conference, the company surprised the crowd with the announcement of a new Xbox 360 model. This new version will ship with the custom Kinect port mentioned above. It will also feature a 250GB drive, a built-in 802.11n wireless adapter, five USB ports, and according to Microsoft, much more efficient cooling, a lighter power brick, and quieter system noise.
More details to come as we uncover them here in Los Angeles. If you have any special request for games or game-related hardware, post it in the comments and we’ll try to accommodate you.
"Very sad. As an XBMP user from back in the day, and still using XBMC on the original Xbox, thank you XMBC team," an XBMC user wrote in response to the XBMC team's latest announcement.
What he's referring to is the dissolution of the original Xbox branch from the team's subversion repository. What that means is no more releases or updates to the XBMC platform for the original Xbox, and instead 100 percent of the focus will be on other, more modern platforms.
"The last official release for the XBOX by the XBMC team was Atlantis, over 18 months ago," the XBMC team announced in a blog post. "Since then, one brave soul (Arnova) has been merging code from the main codebase into the XBOX branch in our repository. Because there were many users out there that took advantage of these updates, we had no problem with this.
"But times have changed. The XBOX has hard limits for what it can handle. Some users are satisfied with these limits, and we encourage them to use XBMC there if they are happy. But it is a popular misconception that official XBOX development is still taking place by the team, so we have decided to set it free. We have enough on our plates already, and worrying about a deprecated platform just increases our workload."
On a positive note for XBMC for original Xbox users, Arnova does still plan to continue development on the Xbox, just not at XBMC. You can find his new project homepage at SourceForge.
"We're leaving it in his hands to decide how to handle the project's administration. How he manages the forum, bug tracker, scm, developers, etcs. is up to him. In other worlds, don't complain to us," the XBMC team wrote.
Have you heard of XBMC, the open-source, multi-platform media frontend? If not, you soon will as we put the finishing touches on a related how-to guide with plenty of advanced tips and tricks, but in the meantime, check out what resourceful modder Richard Wileman managed to do with his old Xbox.
We're talking about the original Xbox here, the little black box that most of us have long since retired. But rather than toss his up on Ebay or Craigslist, Wileman pretty much redesigned the unit from the ground up, sticking the Xbox's guts into an aluminum chassis and giving it a few other upgrades.
There's a full size 2.5-inch hard drive, a new DVD drive, an IR port, and even a little LCD to help keep tabs on the playlist.
Have you been holding off on buying that new console for fear of the setup process? Does the thought of wasting a whole ten minutes of you time plugging everything in and turning it on make you physically ill? Well then, Target will totally have you covered later this month. Yes, for a mere $99 Target will come to your house and set up your console.
If you are rich enough to go for this, Target will plug in the console to your TV, configure it, put it on your network, and setup online accounts. Technically, it’s a third party, Zip Installation, that’s doing the work, but Target is putting their name on it.
At a hundred bucks, I imagine it will be a tough sell. Would you, or anyone you know pay for this service?
This week's edition of the Freeware Files may seem a little unusual, but hear me out. A number of you faithful Freeware Files readers are going to be receiving (or have received) awesome gifts from Santa/your parents/Best Buy this holiday season. Trust me--I checked the list myself. Caught up in the frenzy of new toys, phones, and gaming devices to play with, you've probably neglected your poor ol' PC for the time being.
A number of the goodies you're playing with actually have unique little third-party tricks for interfacing directly with your desktop or laptop. Yes, that's right. You can actually use the non-computer components and devices from your living room or pocket to enhance your normal PC use. And these aren't just little remote desktop hacks that let you see your PC's screen on your phone or something. I'm talking about hacks that blur the line between your PC and your game controllers or phones, unlocking new usefulness for your desktop system with devices that are anything but.
So, if you're the proud owner of one of these products, click the jump and see how you can use them to enhance your PC experience:
Up to 1 million Xbox modders were pretty pissed to find that they had been banned from Xbox Live following the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the biggest launch in entertainment history. The mass ban was intended to prevent pirated copies of the highly anticipated game from spreading, a notion Microsoft will now have to defend in a class action lawsuit filed against the company.
According to the lawsuit, the timing of Microsoft's widespread ban may have resulted in more Xbox Live subscription sales than if the bans had taken place before the release of Halo 3: ODST and CoDMW2. The lawsuit also claims that some of the bans locked out users who had modded their consoles for reasons other piracy.
They’re there. You know they’re there. And they aren’t going away. Certainly not if Microsoft has a say. “They” are in-game advertisements, which have been steadily creeping into the on-line gaming experience. And right now they are generate buckets of cash for Microsoft, and show the potential of generating buckets more
Massive, the on-line gaming advertising arm of Microsoft, uses a dynamic process to inject ads that “enhance” the online gaming experience. According to JJ Richards, at the Microsoft Advertising Blog, “Our research indicates that most gamers like advertising in the game because it adds to the realism. Imagine playing a Major League Baseball game with no ads behind home plate, next to the scoreboard or on the outfield wall - not very realistic. Now imagine the outfield with up-to-the-minute ads you just saw on television or read in a newspaper - the latest movie release, television show, or a new car model. That is much more realistic.” Massive’s objective is to place ads where you would expect to see them in everyday life, while taking care not to degrade the game-playing experience.
On-line gaming is a logical step for advertising because of the audience: 18-34 year old males, who spend a lot of time gaming (and have become harder to reach by traditional means). Richards claims that Massive is able to reach “40 million Xbox and PC gamers in 31 countries worldwide.” And apparently in-game advertising works. Microsoft reports that 72% of gamers recall seeing the ads, and 65% say that such ads standout more than traditional advertising. Whether this translates into actual sales Richards doesn’t say.
While we're big fans of the proven awesomeness of open-source software, we don't automatically download every free application that's labeled as an open-source project. What make more sense is the use of open-source as the tool that effects some kind of massive or otherwise unreachable change in a common device. Case in point is open-source firmware, named not for any philosophical belief behind its creation, but because few would want to heft the banner for these changes themselves. After all, creativity comes from a wide range of sources and inputs--as does software testers. You sure wouldn't want to be the one person working on third-party iPhone firmware, bricking device after device in a quest to add additional functionality that Apple didn't first design.
But that kind of unintended funcitonality is the sole benefit to open-source firmware. Throw those aspirations of community membership and open-source allegiance out the window: You want to increase the power of your device akin to a Sim tinkering his or her hardware to gain mechanical skill points. There's no shame in that. In fact, you can accomplish much by adopting third-party firmware in place of standard manufacturer packages. For example, building increased sound codecs into your MP3 player of choice, or adding on-screen level meters to your digital SLR. You can even turn your router into a bridge, perfect for extending the range of your neighbor's wireless signal so you can thieve his connection from additional locations in your apartment. You can also brick your device.
We jest, but only partially. For the danger of running third-party firmware--safe as many of the packages can seem to be--is that you could render your device of choice unusable. It happens to "real" firmware upgrades; it can happen to "unofficial" firmware upgrades as well, only I venture that you'll probably find more problems in the latter scenario than with a manufacturer's tried-and-tested update. But still, the benefits can often outweigh the risks, especially if you're looking to extend your legacy devices with additional features. An entire ocean of open-source firmware fixes awaits your perusal -- we take a look at some outstanding examples of open-source firmware, and teach you how to install them on your own gadgets!
Reports have claimed that Microsoft is currently in the developmental process of creating a mobile platform that mixes many elements of the Xbox and Zune – earning it the nickname “xYz.”
The rumored handheld is reported to be “unlike anything on the market today … think of a mashup of the Sony Mylo, the PSP, and the iPhone… errr, the iPod touch; [the MS handheld] doesn’t need access to a phone network. Although the Microsoft handheld is definitely a converged device, this is not a Zune Phone. Microsoft won’t compete with its Windows Mobile customers.”
The device will supposedly be based off of Live Anywhere, for the most part. “There will be a single online marketplace; the lines between the Zune, Xbox Live and Sky marketplaces will blur when the handheld launches.”
Given that both Nintendo and Sony have strong footholds in the handheld gaming sector, it seems like a natural progression for Microsoft to move here as well. Let’s just hope that this rumored handheld takes less pages from the book of Zune and more pages from the book of Xbox.