Category: Games consoles

Your XBox One now has direct access to your Dropbox media pools

Article

XBox One games console press photo courtesy Microsoft

Now you can have access to the pictures and videos on your Dropbox account through this games console

Dropbox Debuts App for Xbox One | Windows Supersite

Dropbox Now Has An Xbox One App | The Verge

From the horse’s mouth

Dropbox

Blog Post

Download Link

Microsoft Store (Free)

My Comments

Some of you may be exploiting Dropbox as a media pool for the various special occasions in your family’s or friends’ life. This is because of the ability to share photos at best quality with those you want to share them with, including the ability for you to have people contribute photos and videos to the same Dropbox folder you have for that purpose.

In HomeNetworking01.info, I had outlined how you can integrate your Dropbox media-pool folders with your DLNA-capable NAS and Smart TV by copying them a folder on that same NAS. The use cases I was calling out regarding Dropbox media-pool folders include special occasions such as weddings or major birthdays, the children growing up including pictures of the new baby, or memorialising a loved one who had passed away including choosing the pictures to show at their funeral.

The Dropbox app for XBox One

XBox One connected to Dropbox concept diagram

This is how the XBox One can fit in to the Dropbox ecosystem

But you can have direct access to these media pools thanks to Dropbox’s first effort to target consumer-electronics devices. Here, they wrote up a native client program for the Microsoft XBox One games console. It has been achieved thanks to the ability provided by the Microsoft Universal Windows Platform to allow one to create a piece of software for a Windows 10 regular computer, a Windows 10 phone or an XBox with minimal effort to cater to that new device.

What you can do is that you can view the photos and videos and play audio files in all of the folders in your Dropbox account through your large-screen TV connected to the XBox One.

Here, you can operate its user interface using one of the XBox game controllers or the XBox Media Remote, presenting that kind of user interface expected for consumer-electronics devices such as heavy reliance on the D-pad buttons on the remote. As well, the visual interface is optimised for the 10-foot “lean-back” experience associated with the TV screen and software destined for that use case.

Ability to use USB storage devices with the Dropbox app on XBox One

You can also upload files from attached USB Mass-Storage devices to your Dropbox using this same client, which can come in handy when you want to deliver photos from your digital camera’s SD card to that media pool.

Similarly, you can download and copy the files from your Dropbox account to an attached USB Mass-Storage device. A use case for this function would be to copy choice photos from that Dropbox media pool to a USB thumbdrive that you hand over to a digital print shop like most of the office-supply stores or camera stores so you have snapshots to put in that album or show to others; or to show in an offline environment.

The ability to transfer files between your USB storage device and your Dropbox folders using the Dropbox app on the XBox One means that the largest screen in the house makes it easier to make a better call about what pictures and videos should be contributed or taken further. This is due to the fact that two or more people can see a larger image to make that better call.

Conclusion

What Dropbox is doing with their XBox application is to prove that they can write a native front-end program for their online storage service that is relevant to consumer-electronics devices and is presented with the 10-foot “lean-back” experience. Who knows if Dropbox will develop native client software for other smart-TV, set-top box and games-console platforms to allow users to gain direct access to this online service from the biggest screens in the house.

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Having trouble with Apple or similar headsets and your XBox One controller?

Article

Use Apple Earbud Headphones with Xbox One Controller Without the Buzzing Feedback Sound | OS X Daily

My Comments

JBL Synchros E30 headphones

Not all headsets may work fully and properly with all devices due to different wirings

The article showed a compatibility issue when it comes to using different wired stereo headsets with different communications devices, whether they be computers, smartphones or games controllers.

How are the headsets wired?

There are two ways of wiring a stereo headset’s plug where both of them use a 4-conductor 3.5mm phone plug. The tip and first ring in both wirings are for the stereo sound to the headset speakers but how the second ring and the sleeve are wired differ between the wirings.

XBox One games console press photo courtesy Microsoft

You could set the XBox One to work properly with your Apple or similar headset courtesy of a workaround

The CTIA wiring that Apple, Samsung and Sony uses for their phones and a great majority of headsets implement wires the second ring as the common or ground and the sleeve for the microphone. Conversely the OMTP wiring that Microsoft uses for their XBox One controllers and manufacturers like Nokia and a few Android handset builders has the second ring used for the microphone and the sleeve for the common or ground.

This problem can cause headsets that observe one of these wirings not to work properly with phones or other devices that observe the other wiring, such as with excessive noise or the microphone not working.

There are some ways to work around the problem. Firstly, you could purchase an OMTP / CTIA headset adaptor which is a plug-in jack adaptor that reverses the wiring so that an OMTP headset can be compatible with a CTIA device and vice versa. This can extend to having the headset’s plug wiring modified by a knowledgeable electronics technician to suit your device, something that could be done for “beer money”. If you have headphones that come with a headset cable, you could purchase another headset cable and have that modified to work with another device.

When I review headsets, I have raised this issue when it comes to headset connectivity and have suggested that headset manufacturers either supply a CTIA/OMTP adaptor plug or integrate a changeover switch for the affected connections into their headset or microphone pod designs. Similarly, device manufacturers could design their devices to work with both CTIA and OMTP headset wirings, something that can be facilitated at software level such as through a setup-menu option or auto-detect routine; or on a hardware level through a changeover switch on the device. The recent Lumia Windows smartphones have answered this problem by implementing a “universal headset jack” design.

There were other compatibility issues raised between headsets targeted at Apple devices and headsets targeted for other devices even if they were wired to CTIA specifications. This came in the form of the microphone’s impedance or how the buttons on the microphone pod send control signals to the host device.  But most of the other device manufacturers are answering this problem through the use of microphone-input circuitry that adjusts itself to the needs of the microphone that is connected to it. Similarly, the headsets are being required to effectively have their main control button short the microphone and ground (common) connections to signal the device for call-flow or media play-pause control.

Dealing with your XBox One’s controller

The headset jack on the XBox One’s controllers happens to be wired for OMTP which is also a common wiring method for regular computers, especially laptops. But, as highlighted in the OSX Today article, the Apple headset was wired up to CTIA standards.

But the author recommended a workaround to this problem by disabling microphone monitoring through the XBox One’s configuration menu. This is to reduce the buzzing associated with an electret-condenser microphone wired the wrong way, but may limit the headset’s functionality as a chat device when you play an online game for example.

Here, you have to enter the XBox One’s setup menu by double-clicking the XBox button on the controller, then select the “gear” icon to access the “Settings” menu. Then you have to turn the “Headset Mic” setting off and turn the “Mic Monitoring setting down to zero” to achieve this goal.

Personally, I would look towards purchasing a CTIA/OMTP adaptor online or through an electronics store and use this with the XBox One’s controllers so you can use the microphone on your Apple or other CTIA-compliant headset when you game online.

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XBox One joins the Microsoft world for blind updating on Patch Tuesday

Article

XBox One games console press image courtesy Microsoft

Now can be updated every Patch Tuesday

Hello XBox, Welcome To Patch Tuesday | Supersite For Windows

My Comments

Due to a very strong security reality, the IT industry ins pushing a requirement for companies who make dedicated-purpose devices like games consoles and network infrastructure devices to have a continual software-revision process.

This is involving a requirement to develop and deliver software updates and patches as soon as they are aware of any bugs and security exploits. The preferred installation for these updates is to have a totally hands-off approach that occurs whenever the device is connected to the Internet.

This is becoming more important not just to protect games software against piracy, but to protect users’ privacy especially as games consoles are being capable of working with cameras and microphones and being part of online-gaming ecosystems where players’ details are being hosted online or on the device’s secondary storage. Similarly these devices are being part of the online-entertainment and home-network ecosystem which gives them access network-connected devices and online services.

Microsoft has extended the approach they have with the Windows platform and brought the XBox One games console in to the software-update rhythm that is known as “Patch Tuesday”. This is where Microsoft delivers all the software updates and patches for the Windows platform on the second Tuesday of every month rather than on an ad-hoc pattern. It creates a level of predictability when it comes to keeping your computer’s operating software up-to-date and in most home and small-business setups, it is effectively a hands-off “blind update” but may require a computer to be restarted.

It is part of running XBox One on a Windows 10 codebase which will expose it to the same kind of vulnerabilities as a “regular” computer. As well, the XBox One will also end up being one of the platforms covered by Microsoft’s bug-bounty programs where computer users are paid to “smoke out” bugs in their computer software. This places importance on having operating software that is kept regularly patched and updated. It also shows that games consoles, like other computing devices can be vulnerable to bugs that can expose security weaknesses or can be vulnerable to “zero-day” security exploits that aren’t discovered by the software developer.

What could this eventually mean for software updating as far as games-consoles and similar devices go? This could put the pressure for manufacturers to develop a continual software-update rhythm including bug-bounty / vulnerability-reward programs and even push for longer software life cycles.

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The Apple TV gains gaming ability

Articles

Apple TV 4th Generation press picture courtesy of Apple

The new Apple TV

Dancing in the dark with the new, improved Apple TV | Engadget

Apple TV supports ‘Guitar Hero Live,’ ‘Disney Infinity’ via Bluetooth | Engadget

The new Apple TV brings apps, Siri and a touchpad remote for $149 | Engadget

Will the New Apple TV Replace Your Gaming Console? | Tom’s Guide

From the horse’s mouth

Apple

Press Release

Video

My Comments

Apple have just premiered the fourth-generation Apple TV set-top box which has answered various predictions concerning it gaining games abilities. This is amongst it premiering the iPhone 6S family, the large iPad Pro and the iPad Mini 4 – devices that Apple fanbois will be waiting outside the Apple Stores for the first sale.

This device comes with a more capable remote control which includes a microphone so you can speak to Siri. This is a similar natural-language personal assistant like you have on your iPhone or iPad.

But it is based on the tvOS operating system which will also have a development platform and app store similar to what you experience with iOS-based devices. This will also encourage the development of games for this platform.

How are you going to control the Apple TV when you are playing advanced games? These devices will use MFi-compliant Bluetooth controllers as your advanced control devices and Apple is trying to snap at the XBox One’s, PlayStation 4’s and Nintendo Wii’s heels. As well, Airbnb, Gilt and other non-entertainment companies are putting up apps for this platform. This is a function you won’t be able to gain on your existing Apple TV device, which will simply earn its keep with Netflix, iTunes, AirPlay and similar applications.

The Apple reps had demonstrated games like Guitar Hero Live to show the Apple TV’s gaming prowess and had made it feasible to continue playing games across the Apple iOS platform. The good question to raise is whether the games that are offered are as good as what is offered for the XBox One or PlayStation 4, or will they be like most smart-TV / set-top-box fodder like casual games? Similarly, could this be another attempt to open up paths for independent games studios to write games for the big screen?

What I see of this is Apple jumping in to a market that is already owned by Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo and, like the Android-based consoles that have shown up before, could become very difficult waters. As well, they could work alongside Microsoft to use their regular-computer heritage to free up the big-screen gaming environment by encouraging independent games developers to write games for these devices.

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North American XBox One users can receive over-the-air TV via their console

Article

XBox One games console press photo courtesy Microsoft

The XBox One now to be DLNA-capable

Xbox One Digital TV Tuner hits the US and Canada today | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Microsoft XBox

Press Release

Hauppauge

Product Page

My Comments

Microsoft had integrated in to the XBox One software access to broadcast TV via add-on tuner modules or broadcast-LAN tuner devices as part of making it a general media hub rather than just a games console.

But, for a year, Microsoft offered a USB-connected DVB-T tuner module for XBox One consoles used in Europe and Oceania where DVB-T digital broadcasting is the norm for over-the-air TV broadcasts. This put its home market, the USA and Canada, at a disadvantage because these countries use ATSC for their over-the-air TV broadcasting.

Now Microsoft and Hauppauge have worked together to develop a USB TV-tuner dongle for the XBox One so it can work with over-the-air TV in North America. They are even offering a package with this tuner module and an indoor HDTV antenna so you can get ready to go if you don’t have an outdoor TV antenna.

Microsoft’s addition of TV-broadcast support allows for “picture-in-picture” viewing, an integrated program guide with social-media support, “pause-live-TV” functionality along with the ability to change channels by voice using Kinect. It cab also allow you to stream over-the-air TV to your smartphone or tablet courtesy of the XBox SmartGlass app for iOS, Android, Windows and Windows-Phone platforms. The current limitation is that it can’t work as a full-fledged PVR to record over-the-air content.

In the US, this feature has some appeal to the “cord-cutting” community who prefer to watch TV content from online sources or the over-the-air networks rather than cable TV. Similarly, this also may please those of us who have the XBox connected to an HDMI-capable monitor or projector and want to use this to watch broadcast TV.

It is furthering the idea that a games console can be used as an entertainment hub rather than just for gaming.

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The XBox One to be the first console to support home-developed games

Article Project Spark Editor screenshot press image courtesy of Microsoft

Microsoft’s Project Spark Finally Out Of Beta | Tom’s Hardware

From the horse’s mouth

Microsoft (XBox)

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

Project Spark screenshot press image courtesy of MicrosoftOne item that Microsoft has had as its foundation stone was to allow people to develop their own computer software through the provision of the necessary tools to do this.

This started from Bill Gates writing a BASIC interpreter for the Altair microcomputer and effectively writing the BASIC interpreters for a few subsequent personal computers of the era like the Radio Shack TRS-80 and the IBM PC. In the 1990s, Microsoft had developed the Visual BASIC software to allow one cost-effectively develop software for the Windows platform that took off through that era.

Now Microsoft have fully released Project Spark which is a software-development kit to allow one to develop games for the XBox One games console along with regular computers running Windows 8.1 . People who have tinkered with the earlier beta versions of this software have used it to create extra game levels for their favourite games.

It may appear that you would have to work within boundaries when building a game or level but I would see this as a way for Microsoft to work on a games-development platform for both regular computers and the XBox One games consoles. This may also lead to a marketplace for “lean-back” console games which are developed by individuals and independent studios and, hopefully open up the console-gaming world.

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