Category: Computer Software

The effort has paid off for Candy Crush

Previous coverage

It is now simple to port iOS and Android apps to Windows 10

My Comments

Candy Crush Saga gameplay screen Android

Candy Crush Saga on Android

I have played the Android version of Candy Crush Saga and this has performed very smoothly on a variety of Android phone devices that I owned.

But Microsoft and King, the developer of this popular casual game, have worked together and used this game to approach the idea of porting an app from a mobile platform like iOS and Android to a regular-computing platform like Windows 10 along with the XBox One games console. The goal is to make an app or game take advantage of what the subequent platform has to offer without destroying the usage experience that the software is know for.

In the previous article, I cited the computing scene in the 1980s where there was a requirement for games developers to have a game on as many platforms as possible with the best examples being Atarisoft, Sierra and Broderbund. Atarisoft made a strong effort to port the legendary Atari games like PacMan, Asteroids and Centipede to a larger number of popular 1980s home computers while Sierra and Broderbund had games like the Kings Quest, Space Quest, Leisure Suit Larry and Carmen Sandiego franchises on platforms like the IBM PC, Apple II and Macintosh platforms and Commodore’s legendary games machines of all time. It is also very similar to how Minecraft has been ported between Windows, Macintosh, the mobile platforms and XBox One yet is still very playable.

Candy Crush Saga gameplay on Windows 10

This same game as ported to Windows 10

After installing Windows 10 on my computer, I downloaded the Windows 10 port of Candy Crush Saga to assess how this port was to turn out, especially for mouse-based play. After playing a few rounds, the experience was very much similar to what it was like on the Android version. It had reminded me of the late 80s with Boulder Dash where I had played that game on the Commodore 64 and the Apple IIe where the game yielded the same “boulder-shifting” user experience with the same graphics, sound and gameplay on both those platforms.

But the game’s interface didn’t depend on whether you used a touchscreen or a mouse, Nor did it depend on whether you had the game in a window or in a full-screen mode. Candy Crush Saga was still as playable on the Windows 10 platform as it was on the Android platform.

Microsoft is on a winner with their Project Islandwood and Project Astoria software-development kits in that someone could get a casual game across the mobile platforms and Windows to the same expectations as the late ‘80s home-computing era. This is where each platform’s assets can be taken advantage of very easily yet the user experience is kept consistent.

If Microsoft, Google, Apple and others use their software-development knowhow properly, they could encourage app developers, especially games studios, to have apps and games that maintain a consistent high-quality user interface no matter the computing platform they run on.

Send to Kindle

Hey everyone! Windows 10 will be released at the end of July

Articles

Windows 10 launches on July 29th, here’s how to get in line | Engadget

Windows 10 Is Coming July 29th | Gizmodo

It’s Official: Windows 10 Is Out On July 29, Microsoft Confirms | Lifehacker

Préparez-vous : Windows 10 sera disponible le 29 juillet | 01Net.fr (French language | Langue française)

Windows 10: Release-Termin steht fest | Netzwelt.de (German language / Deutsche sprache)

From the horse’s mouth

Microsoft WIndows

Blog Post

Product Page

Video

SoundCloud Cortana reply

My Comments

Good news everyone! Windows 10 will be released on the 29 July 2015 for those who are using a regular (desktop, laptop or large tablet) computer.

The Windows icon you will see at the bottom right of the screen

The Windows icon you will see at the bottom right of the screen

There will be a free upgrade path for existing users who are running Windows 7 or 8.1 on their regular computers or tablets and this will be available for a year after the initial launch of this operating system. Windows has made it easy for us to reserve a downloadable upgrade copy of this operating system.

Windows 10 Free Upgrade screen

This is where you will reserve your copy of Windows 10

It will mainly apply to those of you who have stuck with the version of Windows that came with your computer but also will apply to users who have climbed up the version ladder by installing subsequent versions of Windows on the same computer. Similarly, you won’t miss out if you just bought that shiny new laptop or WIndows tablet for yourself or your small business, something you would have done in Australia due to the new tax breaks.

Windows 10 reservation email screen

Fill in your email here to be notified when Windows 10 is available

It is infact similar to what Apple has been doing with their Macintosh platform by offering the major upgrades for free since they released MacOS X Mavericks and will become a way for platform vendors to keep the user base working with the latest and most secure code for their operating systems.

Here, you will see a Windows icon on the right-hand side of your Taskbar which you click on and fill in your email details to reserve your copy of the operating system. Once you have reserved that copy, you can use the slideshow that is part of that app to “bone up” on what Windows 10 has to offer for your computing experience.

Windows 10 Reservation Complete screen

It’s done!

On the day that Windows 10 is finally released, you will then have to go to that icon to download your copy of the operating system as a package suitable for your computer.

The new installs will end up costing US$110 for Home editions and US$150 for Pro editions which will mainly apply to upgrading boxes that are running Vista or older operating systems, or are setting up a new system from scratch.

Drawcards

The feature drawcard for Windows 10 users will be the new Start Menu which has tiles for the applications but operates like the Windows 7 Start Menu. It will be more about bringing the Windows 7 and WIndows 8 experiences together including benefiting from the Live Tiles “dashboard” experience.

Windows 10 will come with the Edge browser as the Microsoft-supplied option. This will run as a Universal app with all the secure sandboxing that these apps will have to have. It will also have a “reading view” which makes it easier to read Web pages like a book. Edge will also have the ability to allow you to add comments to a Web page and share these comments, useful if you are sharing that page with friends or colleagues.

Windows 10 will also have the Cortana personal assistant which is now able to work with your iOS or Android smartphone and work across your computing environment whether you use your smartphone or laptop. You can enter your requests to her by typing them in or speaking like you could with Siri or Google Now on the mobile platforms.

Another key feature is Continuum which provides an adaptable user experience for your Windows 10 tablet or convertible / detachable computer. This allows for a full-screen Windows-8-style experience if you are working the device just by touch or the desktop experience with the Start menu if you are mousing around. The user experiences can be automatically determined by what mode you are operating your computer in as in whether you flip the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro’s keyboard over, unclip the HP x2’s keyboard or pair a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to your Dell Venue Pro tablet; or you can determine what you really want to work in, especially if you operate a touchscreen laptop or touchscreen monitor.

Conclusion

What this upcoming operating system has offered is the best of Windows 7 and 8.1 plus a lot more and if you have walked along the versions of Windows, you may be able to get the hang of it easily. Those of you who have stayed with Windows 7 or a previous Windows version may find that there is a minimal learning curve if you are primarily operating Windows 10 in the “Desktop” mode with the Start menu.

Send to Kindle

It will become simpler to shift playlists between the various online jukeboxes

Article

Spotify screenshot with album tracklist

Spotify, one of the most popular online music-streaming services

How To Transfer Playlists Between Streaming Music Apps | Gizmodo

From the horse’s mouth

Soundiiz

Product Page

My Comments

There is an increasing number of online streaming-music platforms which are effectively “world-wide jukeboxes” offering your choice of music either for free under an ad-supported model or for a modest monthly fee.

But these different platforms have their own bouquets and brickbats such as having compatibility with your devices, having the kind of music you like on-hand or even offering the right deal for your needs. The problem that can crop up easily is how you have your own playlists or the ones curated by others who use the platform be playable on another platform. Some of us may even maintain subscriptions with multiple services because they have particular

The Soundiiz software which is currently in public beta is able to identify songs in an existing playlist and import them to another service’s playlist. But, like any music-management program, it can face inconsistencies with what is available on a particular streaming music service or how it is listed.

In some cases, a playlist may contain a particular version of a song such as the album version that was part of the album it was initially issued on or one of the different radio edits (7” mixes) or dance mixes offered for the song. Similarly, there are issues about which recording the song was found on when it was found such as the original album, a “deluxe cut” of that original album which has extra tracks, a single or one of many compilations, or even a live recording from a particular sellout tour.

Classical works may face certain dilemmas like a particular performance of a work listed in the playlist or composers not spelt in a consistent manner. Let’s not forget the issue where a streaming music service may contain a copy from the original production master tapes as well as one or more newer remasterings of that recording or may only have the latest remastering of that recording.

What can happen is that the recording may not be available across all of the services or it may be listed in a different manner to the other services or not available in all subscription tiers. This can lead to gaps in the playlists that you import when you use Soundiiz to import the playlist.

There are ways to work around this such as providing a granular level of tolerance for the recordings that are found when Soundiiz constructs a playlist for a particular service.

As well, for those of us who buy music to keep, whether as packaged media like records or CDs, or audio files from a “download-to-own” music service like iTunes or Amazon, this program could work as a way to identify gaps in a music collection based on playlists you listen to with a streaming music service.  This could work well with those of us who have particular music specialties or weaknesses like 70s-era Italian popular music or the smooth “yacht-rock” of the late 70s and early 80s, and are chasing content that supports these specialties.

This kind of functionality could end up being a function of comprehensive music-management software of the iTunes and Windows Media Player ilk that liaises with music-identification platforms like Gracenote or FreeDB and, perhaps maintains access to “download-to-own” music stores or streaming music services.

Send to Kindle

It is now simple to port iOS and Android apps to Windows 10

Articles Windows logo courtesy of Microsoft

How Microsoft Is Going To Port Everything To Windows | Gizmodo

Android applications will be able to run on Windows 10 | Android Authority

From the horse’s mouth

Microsoft

Welcome speech for Build 2015 – Blogging Windows

My Comments

Candy Crush Saga gameplay screen Android

This game has been the test-bed for porting to Windows 10

The Web has been awash with rumours about Microsoft allowing Android apps to run on Windows 10. The image projected by these rumours underscored ideas of users running Android APK program files in the Windows 10 environment or a gateway to Google Play on this operating system.

But Microsoft announced at Build 2015 conference a very different scenario that is more about developers being able to easily port iOS and Android apps to Windows 10 Universal Apps. It is part of a simplified code-porting mechanism that will come with this new operating system.

As you already know, a Windows 10 Universal app is designed from the outset to run on a regular desktop / laptop computing environment, a tablet or 2-in-1 in “tablet mode”, a smartphone or even the XBox One games console.

The process of “porting” an app to run on different computing platforms is about making sure that the program conveys a user experience that doesn’t differ no matter the platform that you are running it on. Rather it takes advantage of the bouquets that the platform provides like improved sound or graphics and is something I have seen in action through the late 1980s with games written by the likes of Sierra and Broderbund. In that era, there were a few different home / desktop computing platforms in circulation ranging from the IBM PC (MS-DOS) platform, Apple’s Apple II and Macintosh platforms, to Commodore’s legendary C64 and Amiga computer platforms and anyone who wanted to cover a large market with a games title had to port these titles across the different platforms.

Windows 10 Start Menu courtesy of Microsoft

Now easier to port from mobile platforms to this platform

Take for example “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego” which I had played on an Apple IIe and on an IBM-compatible running MS-DOS 3.3 . These games were ported in a way to take advantage of the graphics abilities the different platforms offered and were worked to give the same smooth operating environment for the platform you bought it for. If I had played that game on a Commodore Amiga, it would have come through with graphics and sound performance appropriate for that platform such as sharper graphics with many different colours along with a richer music soundtrack.

If you were to port an application or game to a different platform, you had to rewrite the program code from the ground up to target that platform. As well, you had to re-engineer all of the resources like the graphics and sound for that platform. This became a costly affair because you had to hire programmers who were conversant with your native computing platform and the target platform to do this job and make sure they run as expected on that platform. In some cases, the software may not run exactly as required nor would it properly take advantage of the platform’s assets.

Microsoft has made this process simpler courtesy of the Project Islandwood and Project Astoria software-development kits which simplify the process of porting iOS or Android apps to Windows 10 Universal Apps. These would allow the developer to reuse the iOS Objective C or Android Java/C++ code as the mechanism for the program and allow them to tweak the code to run smoothly in Windows 10, taking advantage of its assets like Cortana, Live Tiles, XBox Achievements and the like where appropriate.

They worked with King.com to use the new software-development kits to port Candy Crush Saga to Windows, having the gameplay experience on a Windows Phone similar to what was expected out of an iPhone.

What does this mean? It could allow a software developer to target iOS or Android for their programs then have it ready for the Windows platform very shortly after that without it being a costly affair..Who knows when a game like Candy Crush Saga could appear on the XBox One as a “quick-play” game to play on your TV?

Send to Kindle

Why is that program failing to start?

Just recently, I was talking with a friend from the church that I go to and she was telling me that iTunes for Windows was failing to start on her computer. This happened after Apple rolled out an update for that music management system which also works as a bridge to one’s iPhone or iPad.

What I suggested for her to do in this case was to use Windows Control Panel to uninstall the software, then to visit Apple’s Website to reinstall iTunes. She thought that she would lose her music library and other settings associated with the program but, after she reinstalled iTunes as I had suggested, the program worked properly and she had access to her music library.

Most software programs rely on many different library and support files for them to work properly and these are typically delivered as part of an installation or software-update routine. But all it takes is the main executable file or one of these files to be corrupted and not carrying expected data for the program to fail to start or to run abnormally and slowly. As well, an increasing amount of software is dependent on resources held by other programs for it to perform certain functions.

How could these files be corrupted especially after an update? They can be corrupted by glitches in an Internet or network connection as the file is drawn down from the download server. Similarly, a hard disk may be starting to “lose it” and carry corrupted data especially as it becomes more fragmented and full of different data and this happens more as an update procedure substitutes older runtime files for newer files which may be larger or loads extra runtime files.

But a complete uninstall and reinstall routine allows the program to reconstruct all of its files that it needs to work with and rebuild all of the data associated with its settings that affect how it runs.

In some cases, identifying a program that is failing to start or affecting other programs and performing a complete uninstall / reinstall routine on that program may fix these problems. As well, it can cause a program to run more smoothly and quickly.

Send to Kindle

Setting up a “his-and-hers” computing environment

Sony VAIO Fit 15e on dining table

A large laptop that is commonly used in a “his-and-hers” computing environment

A common situation that I face when providing IT support for couples, families and similar households is providing a level of individual operation for each user who uses shared computer equipment. A typical situation is a couple who have desktop, laptop or tablet computers that they share with each other or a family who maintains the “family” computer that is used also by the children.

On the other hand, you may make sure each of you have your own computing devices that are set up with your own operating environments. This is more so with tablets or other ultra-portable computer equipment where you want to effectively “take it with you”.

But there is a goal where each person may want to “keep their space their space”. That is to have their preferred operating environment with their preferred user-interface customisations (wallpaper, button styling, etc), preferred email client, preferred Web bookmarks and other parameters maintained while they operate the equipment. As well, they may want to keep their communications with their social community private or prevent confusion with your communications. This is even though both or all of you will have the same relatives and friends that you maintain regular contact with.

Most of you may operate on a trust-based environment where you will want to know the passwords to each other’s accounts simply as a symbol of “our love for each other has nothing to hide”. This may not be applicable for those of you who are running or working in a business where confidentiality concerning business data is so important.

How do computer operating environments handle this?

Regular computers

Create multiple Microsoft.com accounts on your Windows 8 computer to achieve a unique user experience across all of your Windows 8 computers

Create multiple Microsoft.com accounts on your Windows 8 computer to achieve a unique user experience across all of your Windows 8 computers

Most “regular-computer” operating environments such as Windows, MacOS X and Linux allow multiple individual accounts to be created. These accounts support their own username and password and allow the computer to open up to a desktop environment that is personalised for each of the users. You even have concepts like separate user folders, desktop wallpapers and themes, or, in some cases, email clients that are peculiar to each user.

This functionality has been baked in to the “regular-computer” operating environment due to the fact that these machines are used by different employees in the workplace or are used to work with data that is confidential to a particular user.

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro convertible notebook at Phamish St Kilda

Copy your Windows 8 user experience to that secondary convertible Ultrabook

Windows 8 and newer versions of the Windows operating system even takes this further by allowing you to create a Microsoft.com login account that you can take between different computers. Here, this allows you to use the same user credentials which will lead you to your same user environment on the different computers. For example, you could share use of different computer types such as a 15” mainstream laptop or an all-in-one desktop that lives at home and an Ultrabook or detachable tablet that you use while travelling or maintain as an “around the house” computer for example.

Last but not least Google implemented multiple-account operation on the ChromeOS platform which then adds most of the cheap Chromebooks to the list of devices that can support “his and hers” computing. This is through a blind update (version 37.0.2062.119) that should be in your Chromebook by 6 September 2014.

Mobile computing devices (tablets)

The tablet, typically the 10” tablet like the Apple iPad, is very much the only device that runs any mobile operating environment which ends up being shared by a couple or family.

Recent iterations of Android installed on tablets can support this kind of operation. This has been introduced to support “privileged operation environments” in the workplace. The same also holds true for tablets that are powered with the Windows 8 operating system.

The only tablet device that doesn’t support a true “his-and-hers” environment is the Apple iPad. This is bound to one Apple ID account, which affects use of the iTunes Store, the App Store and other Apple-provided apps and services. The passcode on these devices doesn’t even provide separate or unique login environments on these devices.

Email, Social Networks and Instant Messaging

Windows Live Mail client-based email interface

Windows Live Mail – an example of a client-based email interface

If these services are operated via a Web-based user interface, they can support “his-and-hers” operation as long as each user logs out of their account at the end of each session. This is more critical if both of you use the same provider.

Some client-side environments like email clients may allow you to have different sets of account credentials tied to particular system user accounts. But some other clients like a few mobile-platform or entry-level desktop clients or most social-network clients won’t allow you to keep service login parameters peculiar to a system user account. Here, you may have to log out of your account at the end of each session. As well, some client-side email programs may maintain only one address book or contact list that is available to all users.

Log out properly of Facebook by clicking "Log Out" in Settings

Log out properly of Facebook by clicking “Log Out” in Settings

On the other hand, you may be able to preserve separate email or social-network accounts by using a separate client-side program for each login. This may limit your ability to use application-driven functionality like “share this via email”. On the other hand, you could always have a practice of each user logging in to the client with their credentials for the duration of their session.

Cloud-based online storage

Most “cloud-based” online storage services like Dropbox can support different logins for each user and you can tie these different logins to a particular device-based login for most regular-computing platforms like Windows. But you can’t have two different service logins associated with one computer login unless you use premium or “business” variants of their services.

But you can create a “household” folder in these services which is shared by all of you, simply by having one account-holder create a folder and invite the other account-holders to have full access rights to that folder. The only limitation with this is that if a friend or relative outside the household wants to share resources with all of the household, they have to invite each Dropbox account to the folder they want to share.

App Stores and gaming league tables

Some operating environments like the Apple MacOS and iOS environments implement a “family-share” option for software bought through their app stores so that you can share the same content that you have purchased across multiple accounts. These features place a limit on the number of accounts you can share with, typically a number you can count on one hand.

Otherwise each user has to purchase their own content through the storefronts and only be able to use it themselves.

Operating environments that have their own gaming-league or similar functionality will typically bind your identity in that league to your user ID that is part of that operating environment.

NAS units

WD MyCloud EX2 dual-disk NAS

NAS units like the WD MyCloud EX2 can work well in a “his-and-hers” computing environment

You can create individual storage accounts on your network-attached storage to allow each member of your household to store their data on their own space in the network-attached-storage unit. Here, you also use the “public” spaces on the NAS to store and share data that is of common interest but doesn’t have a perceived disclosure risk like your file-based AV collection or, if the data is confidential to you both, you could create a private share that you grant the other accounts access to.

The multiple account feature would tie in well with the remote-access or “cloud” features that an increasing number of NAS units like the WD MyCloud EX2 are equipped with. This will maintain the “private data pools” and allow the remote access to these resources.

Some of you may want to use two or three different NAS units connected to the network so you can keep individual units as personal data stores, which may be of importance if each of you run your own enterprise or you want to set up a NAS for the teenager or young adult about to leave the “family nest”.

What can you do to achieve “his-and-hers” computing

Some of you may decide to have a one or more smaller devices that you personally use, like iPads or work-home computers but you may then have to identify devices that you want to operate on a shared basis like larger tablets, laptops or desktops. Here, you can set these up with separate accounts so you can have a unique operation experience for each of you.

If you have equipment that runs Windows 8 or newer variants of that operating system, you could then set up personal Microsoft.com accounts for each of you and use these to log in to your equipment, personalising the operating environment as you see fit. As well, if you are using programs that don’t “switch users” as you change accounts or can’t “switch users” with a program, get in to the habit of logging out when you have finished.

When managing your contacts, you may have to copy your “common” contacts between each others’ contact lists on your email and other messaging clients and keep these up-to-date as each contact changes their details.

Conclusion

Once you know how to set up a “his-and-hers” computing environment, you can be sure that you have the ability to share devices yet know how to keep your working environments “as you like it”.

Send to Kindle

Microsoft sweeps out fake apps from the Windows Store

Article

Microsoft Purges 1500 Fake Apps From The Windows Store | Gizmodo

My Comments

As I have previously covered concerning software quality in app stores, the issue of app stores filling up with poor-quality software is being addressed. This time Microsoft has taken decisive action to remove the fake apps that were littering the Windows Store and reshaping the developers’ agreement to stop the creation of paid clone apps of established software.

But this kind of problem can beset any platform that creates a download site or electronic storefront for software and there needs to be an upper hand on the quality of the software that appear in these markets. Personally, I would still encourage people to rely on “word of mouth” or spotlighted apps as a way to gain value out of the app store. As well, people using feedback and reporting mechanisms can help with rebuilding quality in to an app store or download site.

Anyone who is building up an app-store for a product, whether it be a regular-computer or mobile-computer operating system or a “smart device” like a printer, NAS or smart TV should work out how to manage the app stores and download sites that they intend to run. They would need to:

  • provide a human-driven software curating arrangement especially to draw out well-written software that does the job properly
  • define policies concerning the software that exists such as intellectual property, software behaviour, taste and decency, end-user privacy and security, amongst similar issue
  • establish a feedback and reporting mechanism to allow customers to highlight good and bad software
  • define and maintain consumer-protection policies according to what is expected by any decent person to avoid end-users being ripped off. 

Once this is done, it could engender more respect in platform app stores and the ability for users to shape their experience as they see fit.

Send to Kindle

A figurine-based video game emanates from Europe

Article

Hanakai Studio’s Prodigy uses NFC to marry the real with the digital | Polygon

Premier contact avec Prodigy, le jeu vidéo français à figurines qui voit grand | 01Net (France – French language / Langue Française)

From the horse’s mouth

Hanakai Studios

Video

Click to play

My Comments

France is advancing forward with a new video-game concept which utilises NFC technology.

The game which is called Prodigy is a role-playing game which integrates the traditional “Dungeons And Dragons” metaphors with the video and computer aspect using NFC-equipped figurines and cards. These are played on a special LED-equipped NFC-reader mat that is connected to a regular computer which runs the game.

But what do I see of this? I see this as a way where a studio outside the USA or Japan are innovating when it comes to computer gaming by offering a new concept and play methodology rather than modelling on what these “game hubs” have already been offering. Similarly, it is capitalising on the “Dungeons And Dragons” that is associated with most role-playing games

Like a lot of these projects, it will be funded by a crowdfunding campaign in the form of Kickstarter. I do see some great things coming from Europe with mobile casual games successes from Irelend (King.com  – Candy Crush Saga) and Finland (Rovio – Angry Birds franchise) and could see the powers that be in the European Union headquarters in Brussels promote European-produced games, especially from those countries where titles are just consumed in their domestic markets..

Send to Kindle

Quality control to arrive for regular-computer gaming

Article

PC Gaming Alliance Launching Certification Program in March | Tom’s Hardware

From the horse’s mouth

PC Gaming Alliance

Program Page

My Comments

Sony VAIO Fit 15e on dining table

Quality is now part of the games experience on these computers

A major part of the personal computer’s history has been about integrating the playing of games on these computers and every personal-computer platform had ended up with many different game titles available in a retail context or, in some cases, available for download. This has been the basis for heroes like Leisure Suit Larry and Carmen Sandiego in the late 1980s and early 1990s let alone people practising flying and golfing or solving puzzles on these computers as a spare-time activity.

There are those of us who still like to game on with our regular computers, be they desktops, all-in-ones or laptops or that they run Windows, MacOS X or Linux. This is although mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, along with games consoles of the XBox One and PS4 variety are being viable alternatives to the regular computer. Similarly, newer tablet and touchscreen-equipped convertible computers have been showing up, working under Windows 8.1 which is still considered a “regular-computer” operating system. This has extended to the likes of the Sony VAIO Tap 20 and its ilk which have a strong gaming appeal.

HP Envy X2 detachable-screen hybrid tablet-notebook computer

HP Envy X2 detachable-screen hybrid tablet-notebook computer – now to be a viable games machine

Of course, a significant amount of time on a regular computer is spent on various games whether they be conquering many worlds, setting up many empires, mimicking real life or engaging in car races or test flights. And I wouldn’t put it past flight attendants who work the long-haul flights to see these games being played on laptops through these flights.

But, unlike the games consoles and the mobile platforms where there is oversight through the companies behind these platforms, there hasn’t been a strong level of oversight when it comes to game quality. Some people have continued to raise issues about EA’s software quality especially in the light of the recent SimCity fiasco.

Sony VAIO Tap 20 adaptive all-in-one computer as a desktop

These “adaptive all-in-one” computers like the Sony VAIO Tap 20 are ending up as games machines

There have been a few quality-assurance programs out theire like the Microsoft “Games For Windows” program and Apple’s developer-assistance program for the Macintosh platform along with Valve’s Steam ecosystem. But the PC Gaming Alliance want to have a quality-assurance platform that is open and not bound to a particular developer in order to keep with the open nature of the regular-computing platforms.

One technical goal is to have a regular computer paint the graphics for a game to the 720p HD specification at 30 frames per second under load as a median requirement. This could allow the game to run on a modest processor like the Intel i5 processors which could typify a modest computer. Similarly, games titles that benefit from a console-style game controller as their user interface should benefit from these controllers and the games should take advantage of large-screen displays. The latter requirement would come in to its own with someone who wants to connect their laptop to a large-screen TV or projector to get the most out of their game.

Personally, I would like to see this apply across Windows, Macintosh and Linux builds of a game title so that no matter the platform, there is consistent software quality across the games. The companies representing these platforms could then be part of this alliance in order to encourage quality games development for their platforms.

Similarly, the games would have to be as though they are a part of the operating environment like what used to happen with Sierra’s and Broderbund’s output where these games worked smoothly with their host platform, exploiting what these platforms offered. It could also encompass network-game compatibility whether online or local-hosted and encompass multi-platform games where console players cam play alongside regular-computer or mobile-device players or play part of a game across different devices.

Could this be a chance for EA and others to lose their tarnished image when it comes to software quality for regular-computer gaming?

Send to Kindle

Even small businesses can benefit from a standard operating environment

Article

Even small businesses can benefit from a standard operating environment

My Comments

HP Elitebook 2560p at Intercontinental at Relto, MelbourneWhat is a standard operating environment?

A standard operating environment is a set of hardware and software specifications required for computer systems operated in a business or other organisation. This can range from a particular hardware build for the regular computers, through a particular version of the computer’s operating systems to the mix of application software that runs on these computers including the version of these programs.

Small businesses who run a few computers may find the concept of a standard operating environment very foreign because their IT situation tends to work on an organic basis. This is typically where computers and peripherals are purchased one at a time on an “as-needed” basis.

Where is this often seen?

Large organisations who maintain many computers run the computers on a standard operating environment in order for make the task of deploying or supporting these computers easier for the organisation’s IT staff. Some of these organisations also place value on the standard operating environment as a way to assure system and organisational security along with employee productivity.

Similarly, IT contractors and value-added resellers who set up computing environments for small businesses such as POS systems for retail work on a standard operating environment when supplying these systems. This is more so if the systems are being offered on a “turnkey” basis.

Why is this advantageous

The advantages offered by a standard operating environment mean that it is easier to diagnose problems that crop up on these computers, train users on how to operate these computers and deploy any newer computers.

This is facilitated with practices like installing software on a new computer from a baseline disk image that you keep or specifying to an IT supplier the make-up of your machines that you are buying. The use of group policies and similar functions supported by the desktop operating systems can be used as a tool to lock down the standard operating environment.

There is also the ability to test new software on a few machines to “smoke out” any problems with the software or test-drive new hardware specifications before you call it as being part of your environment.

Can multiple standard operating environments exist?

You can create multiple standard operating environments for particular computer-usage functions.

One way this can be achieved is through a “modular” standard operating environment that has a baseline specification for hardware, operating system, Web browser, security, office-productivity and other software; along with a list of other software that matches the computer’s function such as accounting, video-editing or other software. This would work well if your computing equipment is based on the same platform such as Windows or Macintosh.

Another way would be to create a few standard-operating-environments which can pertain to particular hardware platforms such as creating a Windows environment, an Apple Macintosh environment and an Android tablet environment. These would appeal to organisations that work with different platforms based on their prowess.

What to avoid

Inability to roll out system-improvement patches and updates

A mistake that can be easily made with a standard operating environment is to “freeze” the software specification to the exact version you are running. This habit may preclude the deployment of critical updates, security patches and other incremental revisions  that are necessary to keep a system that runs smoothly and is secure in your business environment.

There was a situation where a video-surveillance system with cameras that ran older firmware that couldn’t work with anything newer than an older version of Windows server. This system’s server which was on its own network with the cameras had been compromised due to a weakness in the software.

To avoid this, make sure that when you call a standard operating environment, you use the major versions of the software as your defined versions. As well, assess the standard operating environment every few years so you can run newer software in to the equation.

Systems that shirk the established software interfaces and device classes

Another mistake that can occur is avoiding updates or upgrades that don’t touch established interfaces for hardware and software.

Currently, we are seeing class-wide interface specifications for particular hardware and software like the Mass-Storage Class, Audio Class and Human Interface Device classes for USB connections; A2DP/AVRCP Profile, Headset/Handsfree Profile and Human Interface Device Profiles for Bluetooth; along with SMB/CIFS, DLNA and WebDAV for network-based setups.  These have allowed the use of devices that do the job better with a standard operating environment because it is feasible to upgrade the devices to suit one’s needs without deploying new software that could break the setup.

This is also important as newer hardware that will supersede your existing hardware becomes part of the equation and you find existing hardware approaching the end if its useful life. Here, you may have to run software components to allow your legacy software to benefit from the industry standards or, as I have mentioned before,, factor in the industry standards when you revise the standard operating environment.

How to go about it

This could be applied by using “downgrade rights” for operating systems that are supplied with computers if your organisation runs an earlier version of that operating system. It can also include buying equipment from the same dealer such as a business-focused computer store rather than Harvey Norman or the like.

Also identifying a “mix” of hardware and software that is working together yet is able to take the latest updates and patches that assure security, stability and performance can be a useful method for determining a standard operating environment. For a small business, this could mean identifying a computer like a laptop that you can tolerate as a “testbed” computer and using that to take updates before organising mass updates.

Similarly you can use this machine to test-drive new software versions to see how they run and whether it is worth it to deploy them in to the standard operating environment. This, along with flexibility to use particular productivity-boosting tools avoids the creation of a standard operating environment that is reminiscent of that ordinary old Ford station wagon.

One way that I would prefer for establishing a standard operating environment is to call a baseline software specification for each computing platform you are using i.e. Windows, MacOS X, etc. This covers the operating system and the desktop productivity suite that you run with. As for the class of computer to use, you could call a baseline specification for the different hardware classes such as desktops, laptops, etc. For function-specific software, you can then call a mix of software that does the job to full effect and this may be assisted by an IT contractor which focuses on the business class you are representing.

Conclusion

The idea of a standard operationg environment can come in to its own when your business matures and you start to acquire a significant number of computers and could be a way to describe a business “growing up”. But there needs to be a proper way of going about it and allowing for software performance, security and stability updates.

Send to Kindle