Archive for the ‘Xbox 360’ CategoryPage 2 of 3

August 7, 2007 Xbox 360 Console Update: Play that (wireless) guitar

You may be wondering what was updated on your 360 when you said yes to the update it offered on August 7, 2007 (or whenever you turned it on again after that date). I’ll let “Major Nelson” explain in his own words:

Moments ago, the team released a system update (aka Dash update) to Xbox Live. Over the next few hours, when you sign in to Xbox LIVE, you’ll receive a prompt to accept this mandatory update. What’s in this update? The only thing this minor release will do is prepare your Xbox 360 for the wireless guitars that are being released in a few months.

No new features beyond this wireless support are included in this update. As usual, we’ve got some new features planned for later this year as part of our biannual release cycle.

Until then, keep practicing your music-making on those oh-so-agreeable hands-free air guitars.

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The New York Times: Chatpad keyboard for Xbox 360 speeds typing

Keyboard for Xbox Speeds Typing
Published: August 2, 2007

Sending voice and Webcam picture messages to fellow Xbox 360 players over Microsoft’s Xbox Live service is a cinch, but tapping out old-fashioned text messages using the 360’s onscreen keyboard isn’t much fun. A new $30 miniature keyboard called the Chatpad speeds up text entry to let you best even the fastest BlackBerry touch-typists.

The Chatpad, to go on sale Sept. 6, attaches to the underside of the 360’s controller without interfering with the controller’s comfortable feel in the hands. A backlight makes typing during late-night Gears of War campaigns easier on the eyes, and a dedicated Messenger button activates the 360’s instant messaging program so you can taunt your enemies without breaking from the action.

Unfortunately you can’t use the keyboard to type a letter and jump to the corresponding spot in long lists of Xbox Live movie downloads or songs stored on an iPod connected to the 360. Instead, you need to hold down the scroll button. Albert Penello, director for global marketing for Xbox, said the company was looking into a way to add this feature.

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One Minute Review: The Darkness (Xbox 360)

The Good: The Darkness is a beautiful first person shooter with a supernatural twist. Evoking your darkness powers becomes second nature after a few hours of play, and before you know it you’re flipping between creepy talents like there’s no tomorrow.

The Bad: Actually, there may be no tomorrow for supremely talented players because the game is pretty short. Also, while those darkness skills eventually become second nature, they’re pretty confusing to understand and difficult to evoke and control in the early stages of the game; a more detailed training run/explanation would help. Unremarkable ending with final boss Uncle Paulie, and though there are check points, the lack of a save-anywhere feature (as found in Prey or Quake 4, for instance) gets points off in my book.

Bottom Line: Quibbles aside, the game is totally creepy and fun to play. There’s nothing wilder than knocking out all the lights in an area and sending your Creeping Dark scouting ahead for you, going in, over and all around obstacles and rooms and nooks and crannies – then seeing it come flying back in a crazy blur when you retract it. The game is also available for PS3, however I prefer the Xbox 360 version because of those oh-so-addictive achievement points. B+

Also available: The Darkness for PS 3.

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The Orange Box: Box artwork for Half-Life 2 collection revealed

Valve Software has ponied up box shots of the upcoming collection, The Orange Box. Though I’ve always liked keyboard and mouse play better than console controller, this is one game I can’t wait to play all crashed out in front of the HDTV.


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The New York Times: All the Films You Want to See, but When? By Joe Hutsko

All the Films You Want to See, but When?
By Joe Hutsko

Downloading movies over a high-speed Internet connection offers the promise of convenience, but promise is the operative word for this new method.

Read the story on the New York Times.

Related: PODCAST
Tech Talk, June 20, 2007
Tom talks to writer Joe Hutsko about what it’s really like to download and watch movies from the various services vying to deliver video right to your PC or TV.

Listen to the podcast.

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On One game, three platforms: Which is best?

One game, three platforms: Which is best?
by Joe Hutsko

Does ‘The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion’ play better on an Xbox 360, PS3 or PC?

“Shivering Isles” lured the author back into playing “Elder Scrolls” on the Xbox 360. But which platform best showcases this epic adventure title — console or PC?

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Download Halo 3 Beta via Crackdown: Are we there yet? Major Nelson reverts to plain text!

Today is the day owners of Crackdown for the Xbox 360 may download the Halo 3 beta. As of 11 am EST there’s no download and I’m getting the message: “Check back here at a later date to download the Halo 3 Beta.” All the usual suspects are reporting that Bungie has alerted the Xbox Live group of the hiccup and they’re working on it.

More interesting is Major Nelson’s post on, which appears as an absolutely plain, text message:

We’re aware that some users are having difficulty downloading the Halo 3 multiplayer beta via Crackdown. Bungie Studios is working with the Xbox Live team to resolve this as quickly as possible – stay tuned. Gamers entering the beta through other means, such as the Friends and Family remain unaffected.

I am headed back to Seattle in a few hours, so I’ll be offline while I am in the air. For the most up to date information, keep an eye on for the latest from Frankie regarding this issue.

This site is experiencing an excessive traffic amount of traffic at this time, so sorry for the temporary nature of this message. We’re working on getting back online as soon as we can.

(Click here for a screenshot of the message.)

Personally I’m not crushed by the delay since I’m a multiplayer wimp and will be more into the single-player game when the real thing ships on September 25. My friend Ric, however, is visiting, and he’s an insanely great multiplayer gamer. He came prepared with his profile on a memory card, gripped in his sweaty fist and waiting for the download to happen so he can log in and lay into other Halo 3 beta go-getters.

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Review: Xbox 360 Elite & VGA vs. HDMI

UPDATE – Xbox 360 Spring Update “Reference Levels” explained.

Received an updated reply from Microsoft that further clarifies the reference levels enhancement included in the Spring Update. The reply is from Microsoft’s John Rodman, Senior Product Manager, Xbox Global Platform (followed by the original post):

Q: Any chance one of your tech contacts could explain in layman’s terms exactly what VGA level referencing is and how it affects 360 users who connect with VGA?

A: We added a new feature to the 2007 Xbox System Update which is actually fairly common among consumer electronics devices. You may know it by a variety of names; Reference Levels, Output levels, Black Levels, Blacker than black, Enhanced Blacks, Setup, PLUGE -all of this is talking about roughly the same functionality. In Xbox 360 we call it
“Reference Levels” for those using HDMI or VGA cables and “Black Levels” for Component or Standard cables.

At a very high level, this feature is here to accommodate the different methods that TVs use to receive a video signal. More specifically it addresses the different ways that “black” and “white” can be represented in that video signal. If you want to dig a little deeper, the easiest way to think about this is to imagine a scale from 0 to 100. 0 is the dark end and 100 is the light end of the scale.

Because of the multiple “standards” put out by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) there is some confusion around what the term “Black” actually means. Some TVs expect black to be 0 while others expect it to be at 7. So, if the Xbox 360 outputs 7.5 as “Black” and it is connected to a TV that expects “Black” to be 0, it will result in a washed out colors. Conversely, if the Xbox 360 outputs 0 as black and the TV expects to get 7.5, it will end up with a very dark picture.

If video from your Xbox 360 looks too bright or too dark, you should try each of the settings and see what works best for your particular TV. If you are happy with you’re the video from your Xbox 360, then don’t bother changing it.

(Original post, April 29, 2007):

Got my Xbox 360 Elite this morning. I went to Walmart first, found a woman in the electronics section, and asked where are the 360 Elites. She looked at the flyer in her hand and said “They ain’t out yet.” I said they’re shipping today, and asked if she’d check the computer for me, to see if they’re in back. “They ain’t here, I tol’ you – some people axed the same thing yesterday, we ain’t got none.” I said okay, told her to have a nice day, and she said the same in return.

I figured I’d go to Circuit City or Best Buy and wait till they open at 10. On the way there I noticed Target was already open, and on a whim went in to ask if they had the 360 Elite. The nice young guy in the games section said he thought so, he’d go check. He came out with four 360 Elites, selling one to me, and two to another guy who showed up.

I opted for the 3-year warranty for $29.99, bringing my total receipt to $544.62.

At home, I unpacked the 360 Elite and was bummed to find that the rumored transfer cable/kit was not included. I did a search to find out what was up, and learned that even if it was included, using the transfer cable would wipe out whatever new stuff was on the 360 Elite’s drive – not that any of it is very interesting. (A downloadable coupon in the support section entitles 360 Elite owners to a free transfer cable kit.)

I decided to transfer my stuff using the 64 MB memory card I had on hand. One look at the size of some of my saved stuff – like more than 1 GB for Oblivion alone – gave me pause. The I realized that for that game, and most others, I needed to transfer only the actual save game files, which were rather smallish; the rest, such as the 1+ GB Shivering Isles expansion pack I bought a few weeks ago, I could re-download once I was all set up. I also transferred over Arcade games like Uno, Wik, Worms and some others. The back and forth process from 360 to 360 Elite took about 45 minutes.

Now, for my most burning question: Would the HDMI connection be noticeably better than the VGA connection I was already using?

In a word: No.

An email to my Xbox press contact, asking for clarification, received this reply:

As you mention, the console can output 1080p resolution video over both VGA and HDMI. There may be very, very subtle differences depending on a consumer’s display, but we wouldn’t expect many people to notice.

There will be a difference between HD DVD video played over component and that played over HDMI. The content protection policies of HD DVD allow a maximum output of 1080i over component, so if you have HDMI (or VGA for that matter) you will get the full 1080p resolution.

In the end, by supporting HDMI we are giving our customers who have HD displays another option in the case their display doesn’t support VGA, plus they get the benefit of audio and video over a single cable.

In fact, others have reported that the HDMI isn’t noticeably better than the component video connection, either. On that, I disagree – switching from component to either HDMI or VGA is considerably different, and I notice a dramatic improvement with the Xbox 360 dashboard, in games, and when watching DVD movies.

My second biggest curiosity was noise, and whether the 360 Elite would be quieter than my original 360.

In a word: Yes.

When the DVD drive isn’t spinning, the 360 Elite is quieter than my original Xbox 360. When playing a game it is also quieter. Others have reported the drive isn’t actually quieter, just different in tone. That may be the impression for those who are comparing the old and the new in a large office environment, but in my bedroom, the new is quieter than the old. Perhaps that’s because my original Xbox 360 was the earliest of early units – shipped to me a few days before the 360 was released to the public. It’s that “old.”

But is it whisper-quiet? Nope. It’s still a pretty noisy product.

Bottom line: If you’re HDTV or monitor has an available VGA port, use it (by purchasing the optional VGA cable) with your existing Xbox 360 and enjoy video as good-looking as the 360 Elite’s. If my HDTV had only HDMI and component connection, I would definitely buy the 360 Elite for the sharper picture it delivers when connected that way. As for the hard disk, I had at least 8 GBs available on my old 360 and I don’t see filling this one up fast. My media lives on my MacBook (which I can tap into via the 360 with the add-on program 360Connect), and as far as downloading movies, which I do quite often (last night I watched The Parallax View, a 70s conspiracy theory film starring Warren Beatty that I highly recommend), I watch them then delete them, since they’re only viewable for 24 hours once you start watching. Still, others may want a bigger hard disk for their stuff, and the 360 Elite satisfies on that front (albeit at a pretty high price when compared to the GB-per-buck ratio found on PC add-on drives).


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Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Shivering Isles patch for Xbox 360 and PC

Bethesda Softworks today released a patch for the Xbox 360 and PC versions of the Shivering Isles expansion pack for Oblivion. Xbox Live prompts 360 players to install the patch when the game is launched; the PC version can be downloaded from Bethesda’s website. My contact at the company, Pete Hines, sent the below info regarding the patch:

On Apr 30, 2007, at 12:33 PM, Pete Hines wrote:

The patch notes on our site cover both versions:

Specifically for this update:

Fixed a crash caused by bad form IDs

Fixes an issue where the game would try to use a form IDs that was either restricted or not available yet.

Fixed an issue where form IDs were not being marked as free properly, causing objects to disappear in game.

Thanks for the update, Pete.

While my first post on last year was about Oblivion being a bit of a bore, my feeling about the game has changed, thanks to the Shivering Isles expansion pack that was released several weeks ago. With so much focus in a single (yet huge) region, my enthusiasm for the game has been reignited, and I’m spending many late nights deep in the game.

I’m nuts about the dual realties of Mania and Dementia, and I’ll be sorry when the add-on ends. But by then I’ll be so much more powerful I’m actually excited about diving back into the main quest.

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From Times Square, Windows Vista launches around the world

In line for Vista launch event in Times SquareStood in line last night with other journalists, for admittance to Microsoft’s Windows Vista (and Office 2007) launch event. It was cold out, and major kudos to the people managing the lines, checking bags (security was pretty tight; bomb-sniffing dogs included) and looking up our names and passing out badges with their bare hands. Mine own fingers were nearly frozen to the point of frostbite by the time I got inside. Not kidding. So to you folks, thank you, again.

Inside we milled about a bit then gathered in the auditorium to listen to some live music before Bill Gates took the stage, talked a bit about Windows past and then present, showed some slides and videos, was joined on stage by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, some partner executives, and eventually one of the families that’s been beta testing Vista for two years. Their major suggestion/contribution: A burn-to-disc button in Vista’s new bundled photo application (which I like a lot). Nothing new about that since other programs, including Apple’s iPhoto (which I don’t like at all), have had that ability for years, but no need to dwell.

The family’s beta-kids all pressed a touch-screen button to officially launch Vista around the world, and on several screens we watched some pretty cool videos of the event in other countries. It was sort of like watching New Years Eve in Times Square on TV, when you see 12 o’clock ringing in in Sydney, Paris, and other locales.

Afterward I checked out Toshiba’s sweet little Portage R400 notebook/tablet PC with wireless dock (going to request one for a future review, here) and went to the bar to order a Manhattan.

Continue reading ‘From Times Square, Windows Vista launches around the world’

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