It will soon be feasible to control your XBox Series S and X games consoles using your TV’s remote control or have “one-touch” access to your games session.
This feature is currently in pre-release testing and is to be part of an upcoming major feature update for the XBox games consoles’ operating systems, It is to be dependent on your TV supporting HDMI-CEC functionality under its various names like Simplink, Anynet+, Viera Link or Bravia Sync. This is something that respected TVs should be equipped with in order to simplify the user experience when you have multiple video peripherals.
You could even use the TV remote control to watch Netflix on your XBox Series X or S console.
There is already some HDMI-CEC functionality going on with these consoles where the TV will switch on and switch to the input you have connected the XBox to when you switch on your console. But this is about extra functionality with both the TV’s remote control and the XBox game controllers.
Firstly, it will be about using the TV remote controller’s D-pad to navigate the XBox’s menus or any menu to do with content-streaming apps on that console. It may also be about using the transport buttons (play, pause, etc) to start and stop video content you are watching on the XBox. This will come in to its own for those of us who use these consoles for watching Netflix or similar video-streaming services using the XBox S or X.
But it will also mean that the “XBox” (stylised green X) button on the game controllers will also be a way to switch the TV and audio equipment on and over to the XBox console ready for some gaming. Here, it may be advantageous where you just leave the XBox on so it can download game updates or newly-purchased games as necessary but either turn the TV off or “switch away” to another source like broadcast TV or another media player between games. That leads to purely a “one-touch” experience when it comes to wanting to get going with your favourite XBox games.
What I see of this is you being able to use the appropriate control device for the activity you want to use the XBox S or X console for. That means to lounge back in the armchair with your TV remote if you want to watch Netflix or to use the game controller if you want to play that game.
An issue I raised in a previous posting regarding computer and video games, especially console games, is that it can be difficult for some people to learn how to play a video game.
One of the situations I was thinking of was where a younger game player was showing an older person who is interested in cricket how to play a cricket video game on his console. He then offered the older person a try at the game but the older person found it difficult to work out what effect the different buttons on the control had on the gameplay.
Here it may be about dealing with which buttons to use on a particular controller to achieve a particular result, especially has today’s game-console controllers have many different controls on them and it may be difficult to work out which button, joystick or trigger does what if you are now to these devices.
As part of Microsoft releasing the XBox Adaptive Controller, they also added to the XBox One and to Windows a “co-pilot” mode. This isn’t just part of running two controllers with two different operation methods together. But it could be to allow an advanced game player to give a helping hand to a novice game player. It is similar to the practice followed by most driving schools where the driving school’s fleet of cars are equipped with dual-controls. This allows the driving instructor to control the clutch and brake in order to override what the learner driver is doing in case of an emergency, thus being a safety net for novice drivers.
Here, you have to have at least two controllers connected to the XBox or Windows computer to have Copilot Mode active. The rule with the Copilot Mode is that the first controller you turn on ends up as the primary controller for setting up this mode. As well, it is a good idea to do the initial setup routine with your typical XBox controller, now seen as the primary controller if you are using something like the XBox Adaptive Controller as your complementary controller.
XBox One games console
Connect the secondary controller to your XBox for copilot use. The copilot doesn’t need to sign in with their XBox account for this to happen. As well, the primary player is able to record their achievements on the XBox leaderboard.
Using the primary controller, press the large X button to open the Guide, then select the Profile & System menu. Select Settings, then Ease Of Access, then Controller in that menu.
Choose Copilot Settings and select the “Turn on Copilot” option to enable this mode.
You will see the secondary controller listed. Here, select that controller to work in Copilot mode.
At this point, your XBox controllers are linked as if they are dual controls.
When you are done with Copilot mode, go back to the Copilot settings menu and select “Turn off Copilot”. Both controllers then work as if they are for separate players.
You need to follow this method if you want to maintain access to and control of any advanced features that your secondary controller may have. This may be to support custom button mappings or enable vibration to provide haptic feedback during gameplay.
Connect the secondary controller to your XBox for copilot use
Go to the My Games And Apps menu then select XBox Accessories. You may have pinned the XBox Accessories app to your home screen perhaps to have more control over game-controller customisations.
Using the XBox Accessories app, assign the secondary controller to your current login
Go to the top menu on your XBox Accessories app, then select the three-dot option on your primary controller.
In this menu, you select the Turn on Copilot option to enable this function on your controller.
At this point, your XBox controllers are linked as if they are dual controls. You also maintain customisations for each of the controllers like vibration feedback or custom button mappings.
When you are done with Copilot mode, go back to the Copilot settings menu in the three-dot option for your primary controller. Then click “Turn off Copilot” to return the controllers to normal dual-player operation.
Windows 10 computers
Here, you need to download and install the XBox Accessories App from the Microsoft Store. This will provide increased control over any XBox controllers you have connected to your computer.
Connect both controllers to your Windows 10 computer as mentioned in the prior article. This can be done via USB or wirelessly and you may find that the latest controllers will support Bluetooth connectivity.
Run the XBox Accessories App whereupon you will see both controllers represented on the screen.
Click the three-dot option under your primary controller. Then click the Turn on Copilot option in that menu to enable this function. This will only apply to the two controllers.
When you are done with Copilot mode, run the XBox Accessories App and select the three-dot option under your primary controller. Then select the Turn off Copilot option in that menu to return to normal two-player operation.
If you are helping someone handle that game, it may be better to take a similar approach to how driving instructors help and teach novice drivers even when using dual-control vehicles. That is to allow the novice to do the controlling themselves but take the reins when things become difficult.
As well, it may be about allowing the novice to familiarise themselves with the button layout on the controller and allow them to work the game at their own speed.
If the game does have any online play abilities, you may find that playing the game in a manner where the computer is the only effective opponent may be what you need to do when you are helping a novice game player. This means that you aren’t playing against real people at remote locations who may not be understanding about novice or occasional game players.
Could a NAS like this QNAP 2-disk NAS – be used as storage for a games console?
The games console that connects to your TV is still relevant to video gaming, especially where the idea is to be able to lean back during gameplay or have a dedicated games machine to use in the living room or recreation room.
The key trends affecting video gaming
Video gaming is becoming a data-thirsty activity where there is emphasis on having a large amount of data being available to the players as they continue to play these games.
Download rather than packaged media
But there are key directions that are affecting video and computer games, especially those targeted towards games consoles. Primarily, they are being made available to download from online storefronts rather than being sold as packaged media or the packaged media is sold as a “get-you-going” option.
A continual supply of extra content available for download
Game players for all game classes are being able to benefit from free or premium downloadable content that is being continually authored by the game studios. This continued availability of extra content is providing for continued playability beyond the first rounds or sessions of the game. In some cases, some studios are even providing time-limited bonus missions or seasonal content in order to keep the players interested.
It extends to most of the games studios working on a high-quality-control regime which includes the supply of frequent updates for each of these games.
Games needing extra data as they go
Games consoles like the Sony PS4 will need to benefit from extra storage offered by a NAS
More games are requiring extra data as you keep playing them. Typically with games of the “open-world” kind, some strategy games or adventure / role-playing games, this is about loading extra scenery, missions or other data that facilitates further game play. In some cases, you completing a mission in a game brings down extra data.
The best example of this would be Forza Horizon 4 which is set in the UK. Here, players complete race challenges to buy individual cars, or they could buy a property to gain access to further challenges and further vehicles. In some cases, they may have access to so-called “barn-find” cars that are discovered when they visit particular buildings and they have to restore these vehicles so that they can be used as competition vehicles. The game even adds seasonality with particular
These portable USB hard disks are seen as a way to expand storage capacity on a games console
vehicles, areas and challenges available during particular seasons.
What is being done to answer the problem
USB hard disks or aftermarket hard-disk upsizing
But most setups are requiring the connection of USB hard disks to these consoles as a way to offload extra game data from the console’s hard disk. Or third-party repair shops simply upsize games consoles with newer larger-capacity hard disks and solid-state drives to improve performance or create extra storage space.
A problem that will easily surface with USB hard disks or aftermarket hard-disk upsize installations is the maximum capacity that a games console’s firmware can address for any mass-storage device that the console can handle. In the case of USB hard disks, there will be an expectation that these disks are a single logical volume, something that is common with consumer-electronics and similar devices that use USB mass-storage.
What could be done here
Use of network-attached-storage devices
But games-console manufacturers could look towards using network-attached storage devices as another way of storing extra game data. Here, the NAS system could be about “parking” games data if a game isn’t being played including data for missions and levels yet to be played, to share common data across games machines on the same network for multiple-player multiple-machine gameplay.
It could be feasible to share common data between a regular computer and a games console if the data is the same format for both devices. This would appeal to platforms like the XBox One where there is a strong effort to maintain a common codebase and common data between regular computers and games consoles to avoid duplication of effort in a game’s lifecycle. It is important where the goal is to port a game to as many platforms as possible.
Here, this may be about keeping player-specific data like gameplay-specific data or common data like game assets relating to a specific game. But some game assets such as games or premium downloadable content may be particular to a player or console as a way of binding it to a player who had bought the game or DLC or won the bonus content.
The advantage that a NAS can offer is that the NAS simply defines the maximum storage capacity available to the client device such as through an account-specific quota or a maximum volume offered by that device.
The main problem associated with games consoles and NAS units
Onboarding games consoles to NAS units
Integrating a NAS device may be about a difficult path with the use of the SMB data-sharing protocol being supported in these consoles. It will then require users to supply share names and username / password credentials to their consoles to make use of these network shares. In some cases, the player may have to create a player-private user account on the NAS for player-specific data.
An easier path that the games-console industry and NAS vendors could work towards is a simplified provisioning and device-discovery setup protocol. This could allow for the creation and allocation of player-specific and common data space on a NAS device for storing game data over the network. Such a protocol could be based on the UPnP AV / DLNA protocols for device and content discovery. As well, it could be facilitated on existing equipment through firmware updates or add-on apps for both the NAS and the games consoles.
Of course, there is the issue of being able to draw upon one’s own multimedia content library which would be hosted on at least one DLNA-compliant NAS. This could come in to its own with, for example, open-world car-racing games where you can equip your in-game car with a “virtual car radio” that plays audio content from different online or network content sources.
Another direction that may be looked at with higher-performance NAS units of the QNAP or Synology ilk would be to run them as games servers for LAN-based multiplayer multi-machine gaming. The idea may be about a purely local game that is independent of an Internet-hosted online service or it could simply be about creating localised competition elements in addition to the Internet-hosted online competition elements.
A network-attached-storage device can be considered a relevant device for console-based video gaming as an approach towards offloading or backing up video-game data. It can also be used as an approach for sharing common game data amongst multiple consoles or other devices that are playing the same game.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One 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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