Voice Messaging on Xbox Live

From Major Nelson on the forums:

As you all know from the previous announcement (view post 7032451) Today (4/21) we are upgrading Xbox Live to lay the foundation for new features. While you won’t see many of these new features until games support them, I wanted to tell you about a new feature that you’ll be able to experience immediately when the service is back online later today. The first thing to I need to tell you is there is NOT a major dashboard upgrade, but there is one feature that you’ll see that I have not announced until today: Voice Messaging! After today’s upgrade Xbox Live members will be able to send and receive friend requests and invites from the dashboard with a short voice message attachments. As games begin to adopt voice messaging, you’ll be able to send/receive voice messages in game, but for now the only way to use voice messaging is in the dashboard. After the upgrade, give it a try!

Sounds pretty neat. I have to admit I forgot about the downtime briefly today but then figured it was a great opportunity to play some single player Pandora Tomorrow. Great great game!! The player movements and transitions are superb! It really builds on the experience. I think its my new favorite (For this month anyhow).

XPlay 2

Ok I have to admit that I felt a little burned when we got our iPod which was described on the Apple site as compatible for Windows and Mac – only to discover that it meant you could use either but not both.

You cannot use an iPod whose disk is formatted for Macintosh on a Windows-compatible computer. You can reformat the disk to use it with a Windows-compatible computer, though. To do so, see technical document 61671, ” iPod for Windows Software 1.0: How to Format iPod’s Hard Disk”.

In our modest little home we have 4 PCs and 2 Macs (not including junk boxes that act as doorstops) so we were counting on being able to use either file system we felt like at any time. Apparently this is not the case. All our media files are accessible via our network so it’s not hard to find a work around – but that’s not really the point.

Anyhow all bitterness aside, this little app looks like it might help. It let’s you access a Mac formatted iPod via a Windows machine. Looks good enough to try and for $30 – if it solves the problem then I consider it well worth the investment.

SharePointFav

If you are like me then you probably spend a lot of time researching and reading about topics on the Internet. As a result, you often find yourself stumbling across great sites that represent your topic well and therefore you either want to save the link for later reference or share it with others.

Now if every site had content that was retrievable via an RSS feed, your next step would be clear. You would simply subscribe to the feed using an app like Newsgator (or whatever aggregator you use). But of course, that wouldn’t do much to help you share the link with your team members.

Unfortunately not all sites are equal and sometimes you strictly need to save the url for later access. This leaves you with a couple of alternatives:

Save to Browser Favorites
This method is somewhat acceptable however this locks information on your PC so therefore no one else can access it – plus it isn’t very useful if you have multiple machines. Not to mention, if your forget to backup your profile, you risk losing any links that you have saved in the event of hardware failure or an OS re-install.

Email to Team
This method will get the url out to your team site but relies on them to organize it somewhere for easy access down the road when they might need it most. Besides we all know about the problems associated with filling up other people’s inboxes.

Add to SharePoint Links list on a team site
Now you are thinking! By adding it to your team’s site for a particular project, topic or product, you are not only sharing it with everyone but you are making it easily accessible and relevant.

Of course the only problem now is that you may not always feel like copying the url, logging onto a team site, opening a list, pasting the url, assigning a title and description and saving. Thus you often fail to take advantage of a perfect collaboration opportunity.

Enter SharePointFav!

Steve Clarke has just developed an application that will give you the option of adding links to SharePoint sites directly from your browser. All you have to do is right-click to select “Add to Sharepoint List” , select a category (this determines what site or list you will publish to) and click add link.

I have been using this app for the past few weeks and it’s really helped me accumulate some solid links that I may have failed to archive otherwise. If you want more info or would like to download it, check out Steve’s weblog.

Great job Steve – Keep those SharePoint apps coming!!!

MAX Drive for Xbox

Hey now this is pretty cool!

“Datel’s MAX Drive, a PC-compatible USB flash drive for the Xbox, is set to revolutionise the way we manage our game saves. MAX Drive is a USB device that fits into your Xbox memory card slot using a special adapter (supplied). Its massive 16MB capacity can store game saves standard memory cards couldn’t hold – just the thing for those memory-hungry sports sim seasons. In fact, it can hold double the amount of saves possible on an ordinary Xbox card. But that’s not all…

Because MAX Drive is a USB device, you can use it to transfer saves from your console to your PC, storing them on your computer’s hard drive. You can then email them to your friends using your PC’s Internet connection. Imagine having all that flexibility at your fingertips. Best of all, you can also download the latest game saves with in-built cheats from Datel’s CodeJunkies server.”

I have always said they should make it easier to transfer your screenshots and replays onto your pc. My current setup allows me to do it directly to my computer but in the past I always wished I could transfer files from my Xbox to my PC. I mean what’s the point of having screenshots of kicking your brother’s butt in PGR2 if you can’t rub them in his face or email them to his friends?

InfoPath Basics for the Information Worker

So you have had Office 2003 installed for a while now but haven’t really gotten around to figuring out what this new application called “InfoPath” is all about. You have probably even heard it mentioned a few times but maybe not.

Well to give you the lightest definition I can think of:

InfoPath is an application that lets you (an information worker) create dynamic forms that can help you share and manage information from team members easily and without the aid of a programmer. That?s right YOU can do it!

Hmm you still aren’t smiling. OK let’s use an example or two.

Example 1: Creating Forms to Help Collect Information from Your Team

Let?s say that you have a team of 5 workers. Each is very busy but to help keep on track of each others leads and issues you request that each member send a short email to let you know what happened that week.

Well Bill likes to talk so he usually sends you an email that scrolls and scrolls for pages so you spend a lot of time just trying to pick out the information you need. Jimmy, while a great guy and hard worker, tends to be a little absent minded and sometimes leaves important information out. And well the other 3 fall somewhere in the middle. You spend a great deal of your time requesting this required information from your team, and even when you get it – it’s not always complete or easy to work with.

By creating a simple InfoPath form you can select what information you want to collect from your team and create a template that ensures that each item is covered. The fields you want to include are created by simply dragging and dropping pre-developed controls onto your page. You can even create rules on what fields are required and how the information entered should be formatted with just a few simple clicks.

You don’t need to be a coder – you just need to know what information you want to collect and drag the control that will hold that information on to your form. Some examples of controls include:

Once your form is created, your team can submit the information you require in a format that is not only consistent and the way you want it – but that can be merged and exported to allow you to get up to date faster and more efficiently. Thus giving you more time to help your team with their issues rather than just asking them about them.

Example 2: Using Your Forms on Your SharePoint Team Site

InfoPath really works great when tied together with Windows SharePoint Services. You can publish form templates to a team site for everyone to access and the information can be presented in just about any format you wish.

Using the scenario from Example 1, let?s imagine that you have published your form to a SharePoint ?Form Library? which is basically a SharePoint list containing your form information and all the custom data (metadata) related to it. Your team can just enter the site and click a button to display a new fresh copy of your form to fill out. Once the form is completed they can save it directly into a folder on your team site. You can even create special views that filter and group your information in a manner that is useful to everyone. Some examples of custom views you might use include:

  • All active leads grouped or filtered by each individual team member sorted by value or opportunity.
  • All outstanding issues for a particular time period such as the past week ranked by severity.
  • Personalized views of information for each team member (showing only their own information and not that of the others)
  • You can then display these views from within the form library or from within Web Parts that can be placed throughout your team site. Thus increasing the visibility of important information and improving the quality of collaboration available to team members.

    For a little more information on how InfoPath can work, try visiting the demo available for viewing on the Microsoft site.

    The potential an application such as InfoPath for an information worker is pretty substantial. By simply opening up a few of the almost 25 ready to use templates that are included with your installation, you can get a pretty good feel for how the forms work. Once you get the basics down, then you can start designing your own forms. For some more advanced things you may want to contract the help of a more advanced user or developer, but this is still miles ahead of most situations which would require 100% of the work to be done by such users.

    To learn a little more, try visiting the MSDN site to complete a few of the labs.

    Also if you have any questions or would like some help getting started, drop me a line. I love any opportunity I get to help people with this stuff. Even if I don?t have an exact answer to your question, I can probably help you track it down.

    Also don?t forget that if you haven?t already done so you should install the Service Pack 1 Preview. It has some great new features and offers a lot more flexibility with respect to form design for both beginners and advanced users.

    Family Gaming

    I just finished playing my niece, Samantha in Links 2004 on the Xbox. We had a couple of games and I have to say that if there is anything that makes my Xbox Live subscription valuable to me – it’s the fact that I can come home after a hard day at the office and log on to Xbox Live and have a game with my niece or brother (or both).

    This is a feature that I don’t think most non-gamers think of when they hear Xbox. But the real-time communication (excellent quality too) while having some good old fashioned fun is truly priceless. It’s not so much about the game and competition (unless it’s my bro) as it is about the experience. It’s hearing her say the funniest things after she misses a shot. Or hearing her little brother calling out “WAH-BOX” in the background because he wants to play too. (A fan since the ripe ol’ age of 18 months)

    Which leads me to my next question? How come there aren’t more games and controllers created for really young kids. The learning type games that you see all the time for PCs – the ones that teach them numbers, letters, colours and play music. It can’t be because noone would buy them. Just look at all the movies / videos that parents buy their toddlers. Besides the perceived value of a console would have to be higher if it was considered a tool / toy for everyone in the family (not just the teenager). I don’t know – I might be missing something here.

    I realize that the game development industry is a tough and expensive one. Every day I am reading stories about games getting cancelled several stages into development. But there should be some incentive to widen the demographic a little. Besides when it comes to these learning type games – we aren’t really looking for super slick graphics and crazy effects.

    NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Models

    Nvidia announced that their 6800 models of video cards have been widely accepted today. I really can’t say I’m surprised. Pretty impressive reviews.

    I haven’t been much of a Nvidia fan as of late. Mainly because I experienced a lot of driver issues with my last Geforce card (Those last detonator drivers really sucked for me) and after purchasing the Geforce 4600 for Shane – I didn’t notice nearly half the greatness I had expected. In fact I can’t really remember the last time I was truly blown away with the improved performance of a video card. (I’m sure if I had to go back to using the TNT or TNT2 Ultra cards that I had a few years ago I would have something different to say).

    I have to admit after reading up a little, I am starting to get intrigued. I could be tempted by a sweet Alienware box with one of those beauties in it. But my ATI All in Wonder gives me everything I need for now. I don’t do much gaming on my PC anymore and I’m more interested in video capture and editing these days. Plus there is just something sweet about watching the playoffs on your PC while working on a report.

    My bets are Shane will probably have one of these cards within a month or two. He can justify it a little better anyhow since video performance is a huge part of how he makes a living.

    Lookout!

    I have finally got around to installing Lookout tonight. I know Steve – it took long enough!!!

    Anyways it’s quite worthy of an install. I could go into details about it, but Adam has done a much better job blogging about it than I could ever do. Besides he’s the Outlook / Exchange content man – it’s more his domain than mine. :)

    My work mail account is a beast and while I have everything incoming very well organized (sent isn’t so impressive) – there are just somethings that can’t be easily browsed or retrieved using the “Find” tool. A lot of times, I won’t even bother searching for something because it’s too much of a pain and takes too long. Since I rarely have enough time in the run of the day to get everything I need to do done – I need to limit the amount of time I spend doing repetitive tasks or tapping my fingers while waiting for something to finish.

    So I installed Lookout tonight first on my home desktop for my personal email. Wow! Very impressive. It passed the “it’s all about me” test. (What’s this you ask? Well I will explain below so you can check it out then.)

    So then I installed it on my laptop so that I can check it’s power chugging through my work email. Again still very impressive and definitely a keeper. I just cannot get over how quickly the queries are executed. It IS very much like having Google in my mailbox. Given that I have people walking into my office everyday asking me for things that I know I have already sent someone else – this could really save me some time. (Voila – here is where the “ME” requirement comes is met)

    Explanation of the “It’s All About Me” Test:

    Well Jeff Sandquist has the “7 Day Test“. I have the “it’s all about me” test. Basically when it comes to software, I don’t care if YOU like it. I don’t care if you spent a long time designing and coding it. I don’t care if it looks good. I don’t care if it uses the 1337357 technology on the planet and is totally revolutionary. I don’t even care if all the cool kids are trying it and saying it’s great.

    If it doesn’t make MY life easier and subsequently make ME happier – it’s nothing to me. So get it off my system and don’t come back till it solves some of MY problems. Don’t get me wrong I love technology and test LOTS of new software (sometimes too much). But when it comes down to it – it can’t just be technology for the sake of technology – It’s got to remove some pain or make something better for ME. However if something does pass my test, I am willing to endure some of the pains of being an early adopter (alpha or beta) just so that I can master an application early and enjoy the benefits immediately.

    Lookout has passed the “it’s all about me” test and will remain installed on my machine. If you want to see if it passes your own personal test, you can download it here.

    The New Bungie.Net

    Bungie has launched their new site. It’s very sweet looking and has a new screenshot for Halo 2 and some other kickin features/downloads.

    But don’t take my opinion, Check it out Yourself!

    They even have a new contest to celebrate their launch:

    “To celebrate the launch of our new website, we’re giving away a lot of stuff! If you’re picked as the grand prize winner, you and a friend will get a trip to Redmond, WA to come inside our secret lair and get a behind-the-scenes look at Halo 2. Heck, we’ll even treat ya to some grub in the award winning Microsoft Cafeteria. (actual awards may vary). We’ll fly you out here, put you up in a hotel and show you some really cool stuff that hardly anyone outside of Bungie has ever seen before. As a parting gift, we’ll send you on your way with a tasty Tijuana Mama to snack on during your retrun flight. ”

    Of course the contest is not open for lowly Canadians like myself (grumble) but looks like a good one if you happen to be an American so read up.