More thoughts about the xbox 360, have lessons been learned?

I've been thinking about the xbox 360 a lot more since the announcements from Sony PS3 and Nintendo's Revolution. Everyones talking about how they all compare but I've been thinking about the experiment and maybe mistakes of Xbox.

Microsoft I feel, really learned a lot of lessons during the xbox generation. Xbox really bombed in the Eastern markets because it was too big and looked like a hummer sitting next to a smart car when compared to a new PS2. Xbox 360 is still large bit its smooth looking and can fit under and besides your TV. Lessons learned.

Xbox live costs money. Xlink Kai and Xbox connect are all free to use and actually provide a better service complete with private rooms and chat over voice over ip and usb keyboard. So what did Microsoft learn? Create a Xbox live which is free out of the box and provide a better service for those who pay. What Microsoft did not learn? Decentralised networks where all the logical and IQ is on the edges, tends to be where xlink are going – Microsoft is going the opposite way.

Big mistake by Microsoft is having no next generation DVD Drive, HD-DVD or Blu-Ray needs to be added. But Microsoft did learn there lesson from Xbox DVD playback, to watch DVDs on the xbox you needed to buy a 30 pound remote. Thankfully DVD playback is at least built in and ready to go from day one.

I hear that Xbox 360 will not support USB keyboards for game playing, sounds like Microsoft have not learned there lesson from Xbox. Having USB connections on the Xbox was good because developers could allow for mouse input. Having USB on every port also meant USB could be used for alternative inputs. Yeah webcams but maybe microphones, who knows what else. Having that in Xbox 360 would be cool. However, Microsoft have not. Oh well.

Ok the biggest lesson, Xbox media centre! Microsoft have copied everything xbox media centre and the xbox extender kit and put it all into xbox 360. Internet access will be combined involved in everything and I'm sure everything that is available in instant messenger (video, audio via sip) will be there allowing you to talk to people online. HDTV is going to be there from day one which is cool so Windows media 10 content i'm sure will be there too. I guess it will be DRM aware too – hummm shame. I dont know how much detail Microsoft has considered for example they say you will be able to access your media on your pc to watch content but how? WIll you need Windows Media centre or some other application? Or will they learn the lesson and use SMB? Or hell use the XBMS protocol? hummm maybe not. Will it support all codecs and formats under the sun like xbox media centre? Will it support content from external sources like all the ipTV shows on the net? Or will you be stuck with the usual boring mass media content? Its too early to know for sure.

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The problem with Language RSS

Shoshannah Forbes and I have been sending emails back and forth about the issue of RSS adoption in Right to Left languages like Hebrew and Arabic. It fits so closely with what I'm going to say tomorrow at XTECH (where I happen to be right now actually) its almost uncanny. I asked Shoshannah if I could blog her reply to my question about her RSS feeds. Basicly her RSS feeds include the HTML attribute dir to indicate direction of the text. Which makes it invalid and may break quite a few of the RSS readers out there. Anyhow here is the email complete with my new agreements and additional comments. Please remember as usual these comments are my own views and not BBC World Service's views (my employer).

Shoshannah Forbes wrote:

> The problem I am facing is simple:
> If I use valid RSS with no dir=rtl, then 99% of the RSS readers will display the text block as LTR, with punctuation digits and English in wrong locations, making the whole thing unreadable.
> When adding dir=rtl, at least I can get about 50% of the RSS readers to display the post body properly (titles are still a mess).

Agreed, but I feel there are two ways of looking at the problem. From your point of view it makes sense to include dir=”rtl” because very few software developers are going to change there code to take this into consideration. For us (the BBC World Service) we have the might to speak to developers and get them to change there code. Even if we do not do it for ourselves, we owe it to our audience (my own feelings).

> I don't use unicode control characters for a few reasons:
> * They are a real pain to input- it is like entering the control characters for CR/LF or < font > tag manually (but worse)- there are just to many places to enter them.

Yep totally agree

> * Most keyboard layouts do not have a direct way to enter them.

Yeah were using virtual keyboards for some languages and there a nightmare!

> * They make a mess of the text- they are only used for the RSS, and unneeded for the editing or the html display, and can produce unexpected results when entered into the text.

Yep, agreed

> * There are many clients that incorrectly display them as visible characters in the text.

Yeah, its a shame and that will change but its too much trouble at the moment

> * They make the text much more difficult to edit- if you change the text, you need to go back and change them as well. And since they are invisible, you get an awful lot of trial an error.

Indeed! You really need to understand them to edit with them. This would require extra training for our language services

> * They force me to use explicit directionality, which complicates things and makes the text less portable.

Yeah, there is a idea of reuse through out our language services. This is tricky already, who knows how much more tricky it would be if text was unicode directional too

> * My web app that creates the RSS from my HTML does not know how to add them automatically.

Yep, I know my Blogger app (Blojsom) supports Unicode Directionality IF i put them in at the start but then were back to the editor problem of virtual keyboards and sticking in hidden characters! The same is true of the BBC World Service systems. We use XSL with Saxon so if the characters are there, it should (not tested by myself) pass through to the RSS.

> * Since they are rarely used in other contexts, I can't focus on the content when writing, and have to start thinking more closely about the presentation.

Yeah indeed! Our language services are already busy as hell, unicode directionality would just add a level of complex on top of a already stressful job.

> * Moving from me to other users- most Hebrew/Arabic users don't know about them, and don't want to know. You try to explain to your mother that when she is writing in her weblog, she can't write in here usual manner, but has to enter this strange codes in a foreign language which have complicated rules (I have seen many pros get confuses with these characters, I don't expect laypeople to understand them).

Right on the nail! One of my points for tomorrow is unicode directionality is too damm difficult and very confusing! i expect some will challenge me about this tomorrow and honestly I will just admit its too difficult for me its even more difficult for others. Plus we should be making things easier for people not harder. The barrier for entry should be at a level where your mum or my mum could use it and write it.

> * It doesn't scale- think about a an Israeli blog hosting service- they want to offer RSS feeds for all the blogs, with minimum work for the users. Relaying on unicode control characters just doesn't do it.

Yeah plus from the Israeli blog hosting point of view, you want to get people going quick and easily not putting them off with complex editiing. Its the reason why Blogger does so well, 3 steps and you got your own blog.

> * Since they are complex, it is difficult to create a GUI for entering them (unlike general RTL/LTR controls, which are available everywhere).

Yeah its almost needs to be just like the direction attribute in HTML. I'm suggesting tomorrow a attribute like this for RSS.

> Not having the dir attribute in RSS gets rid of some markup- in favor of lower level much more complex control characters. A bad deal, IMO, and one which is a major cause for the problems when dealing with Hebrew/Arabic RSS.

Indeed, it was a ideal solution but the real world use is too painful

> I think that the root of the problem is that bidi is part presentation and part structure. And since even in the best of cases (for example, the automatic bidi control in recent QT or GTK applications on Linux) there are still many many cases that can *not* be covered reliably by the display algorithms of the software, I tend to think that for practical prepossess, bidi is more structure then presentation.

Yeah agreed, theres lots of push to put bidi information inside of CSS instead of HTML even, which is correct if you see bidi as presentation.

> I sure wish there was a way in RSS to tell the client “this element is RTL” or “this area is LTR” without resorting to HTML hacks. But at the moment, those hacks are the only practical tool I have to get at least *some* of the readers out there to display the text properly (more like “mostly properly”).

I feel your pain and I'm not even writing my own content in a right to left language! Its such a shame that HTML hacks are the only way we can move forward on this. The crux of my presentation and paper is that developers and content providers need to work much closer together and the RSS specificiation needs to make full use of attributes like xml:lang and maybe some other kind attribute for direction.

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Planning for XTech

My setup for the XTECH conference

Edd Dumbill has used some type of aggregation system to pull together all the various Xtech information into Planet Xtech. It works pretty well except for the wiki changes but there short and easily scanable. I'm subscribed to the RSS feed as I prefer it to reading the page. The good thing is my global watch lists still apply so I'm able to be notified if something of interest comes up. Technorati is also a pain because it brings up older posts says Edd, and you can certainly see that. I'm also wondering why Technorati is not showing any of my posts? This one has the Xtech tag attached like previous ones. Anyhow theres some more indepth thought here. To me its all a no brainer, I had setup a special group in Jager and added technorati, flickr, recent wiki entries and entries into it. So I pretty much had PlanetXtech on my own machine. But this is exact the kind of thing Cocoon is great at doing, and I guess if I was asked to do the same, would have used Cocoon and XSL.

Anyhow, I'm all setup and ready for Xtech now. As you can see in the picture above. I got a feeling if Miles didnt buy me a Flickr Pro account for my Birthday (thanks again for that Miles, and what a good idea for a birthday present) I would have to buy one by the end of Xtech. Pixory is still doing me well at home, but is cripled by my 256k upload on the ADSL, plus it doesnt have the social aspects of Flickr of course. Like the decentralised nature of blogging it will come in time via methods like trackback, aggregation, tagging but not quite yet.

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First night in Amsterdam

Hotel room from my Bathroom

I'm telling you I love this city, yes its full of shadey people at night and theres the hard drug pushers walking around offering tourist all types of anything but you cant beat the vibe in this city. Anyway I have to report that the Lloydhotel maybe quite a bit from Central Station (about 25mins walking, 5mins by taxi) but its certainly worth it. I'm using there very fast and free broadband connection which is plugged into every single guest room. Yep on the wall there is a nice network connection just waiting for you to plug in. I can pick up the 4 different Wireless nodes which are placed downstairs in public places like the bar and lounge areas. But being on the 3rd floor makes the signal a bit weak. Anyhow for some reason my ipaq seems to do a better job picking it while walking around the hotel. It seriously takes some getting use to. Being surrounded by free wireless while away from home does not quite compute in my own mind. But dont worry, I'll be taking full advantage. I already have noticed someones elses iTunes playlist is available via the local lloyd network. But I can not for the life of me connect to Jabber, skype is fine but not jabber. Its almost like the ports have been blocked… Email is also fine, so email me on my hotpop or rave address if you want to tell me something urgently.

The actual room and hotel are pretty good and this wireless aside has to be the best hotel I've been in. its not the biggest (vegas hotel room at Lady Luck was huge). But this hotel is smooth, simple, clever and stylish. Theres little touches like the lights which can be moved around the wall using strong magenets and a set of spare enthernet cables just in case you forget to bring or buy one. Sarah asked me to explain the room and hotel and I answered simple, sensible and clever. You can tell the designers had a great time.

I have to spare a thought for Matt biddulph, whos hotel did not have wireless and needed to go down the RAI centre to get some. I now have my stuff together and should be ready for tomorrow's talk. Just like Dodds, I also extended the week into the weekend so I wont need to rush home after the conference. Sarah is coming over so we can spend the weekend together in Amsterdam.

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