Monday, November 21, 2005

Why I am not getting an Xbox 360 (or renewing my Xbox Live subscription)

Microsoft's great hardware, software and services hope, the Xbox 360, as just about everyone remotely interested knows launches tomorrow. I will not be getting one for a number of reasons. Sure, Wow's Impact has something to do with it, but it's not the whole story. I have gone back to the Xbox recently to give Star Wars Battlefront II a run through and I am totally enjoying it. The most startling aspect, load times are quick compared to my summer of PSP loading hell, and I don't think I can deal with the PSP load times at all anymore, since completing my Madden 2006 season (a total non-event, not even a trophy ceremony) I haven't touched the PSP. Back to the 360, here are my reasons for not wanting this box:
  • Too Expensive. MS knows the $400 price point is too much, so they offer the $300 version, which you can't even save to or play previous Xbox titles because you have no storage. The cost/benefit it heavily in favor of the $400 version, and that is too much.
  • Not backward compatible enough. I know, 215 titles, but no Battlefront I or II, the game I am playing, and something smells funny
  • No Must Have Game. I am really disappointed that all the games are just re-treads of previous versions or sports titles, and the only thing being upgraded is the graphics. Maybe I am getting old on this, but I expect the graphics upgrade, there is no surprise, the gameplay hasn't changed, so I am disappointed.
  • Need a TV upgrade SDTV has a fixed resolution, the 360 graphics can only get so good. The Xbox Classic already looks pretty good, so to really see the 360 outclass the Xbox, I need an HDTV, bringing the price for gaming nirvana into the thousands. Ah, no thanks.
  • None of my friends are actually playing Xbox Live. This is the main reason I am not renewing my Live subscription. Everytime I boot the Xbox to watch a movie or play some Battlefront II, no one I know is playing anything. Most of them are hard-core into WoW or won't play on Live because they are hardcore mouse and keyboard control freaks. I like the Xbox controller, but I appreciate the mouse and keyboard precision.
  • I am tired of subscriptions. Here is another reason I am not renewing Live, I am really done with the whole subscription model. I feel this need to try and use whatever I am subscribing to as much as possible so that I feel like if I run the breakeven analysis, I am paying a fair price. I know, Live is only $4.16583333 a month, but if I don't use it that month, I get nothing for something, and that doesn't sit well with me. A subscription is always constantly on the mental To-Do list somewhere, and I just don't need anymore of those.
  • I am waiting for all next-gen consoles to ship. Sorry MS, but I saw this story before and believed the hype of the last great white hope, the Sega Dreamcast. Unlike the 360 though, the Dreamcast actually had extremelly compelling games that I wanted to play, like NFL 2K, which redefined video game football. Sorry, Madden 2006 Another Console Edition, is not on my buying list. Plus, you never know if Sony can pull off greatness in the PS3 or if Nintendo redefines console caming with Revolution.
  • I am holding out for all the next Apple gear. This one is much much lower, cause I could make new Apple gear happen if I wanted to in the 2006 and get a 360, but the coming Intel Mac's are really affecting my buying decisions.
  • I am not repeating the Sony PSP. Same kind of games were out at launch (seasonal sports titles adjusted) for the PSP as 360, and then nothing forever. Call me crazy, but I suspect this is the best MS and partners could do for now and we won't see anything truly new until say March or maybe next fall (Halo 360?). Sure, some stuff will trickle out that will be decent, but I haven't heard of a true system seller yet (Gears of War?).
To anyone getting a 360, I hope you enjoy the system and feel like your getting your moneys worth. I saw a demo of King Kong attached to a Samsung HDTV, it did look good.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

My first SQL Server 2005 Experience

I got SQL Server 2005 installed yesterday in a relatively painless experience. Told the installer to dump everything it had onto my system in a named instance so I could run SQL Server 2000 side-by-side, it all seemed to work. I launched the SQL Server Management Studio and connected to a remote SQL Server 2000 database. In the Summary tab, I double-clicked down to Databases, and then tried to double-click into a table, when I received the following error: Once I get this error, the whole ListView is busted and doesn't work. I have to relaunch the application to get this working. Maybe I have some crazy config, but this would seem like one of the top cases that must be tested against, and I really can't believe this is a shipping product.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

GotDotNet is so frustrating and How many developer sites does MS need?

I don't go to GotDotNet because I frequently find that when I do, something just breaks and I can't be bothered. I went today to the FxCop Team Page to see if they had a tool to parse the FxCop logs to create a report in Excel. I want't to get the trend of FxCop violations over several months of automated reports. An additional wrinkle is that my FxCop reports have been merged into my CC.NET log files. So I go to the FxCop Team Page, then click on link for FxCop area within GotDotNet User Samples and I get the following error: This is in IE6 too, not sure that matters. If I refresh a couple times I can see the forum, but it's totally unreliable. How many developer sites does Microsoft need (GotDotNet, MSDN, Channel 9,,, I know I am missing some)? I am tempted to build the FxCop Excel Report Generator myself, I built an FxCop parser at my last company, it was easy using xsd.exe to generate classes from the schema files, but if it's already out there, I am not going to bother.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sony PSP Media Manager

Shoutout to Paul Thurrott for bringing the Sony PSP Media Manager to my attention. You can buy, that's right buy, the Sony PSP Media Manager here I can't believe Sony is charging $19.95 for the download, $29.95 for the boxed version with a special introductory offer of $24.95! This is terrible, Sony should be giving this away with the PSP, it should just be a free download. Completely evil. Paul also posted a link to the software release notes. Notice that it requires Quicktime 7 and it's a .NET application, both of which I find interesting. And that's right, the final strike against this software, before I have even seen it live, is that it doesn't work on OS X. That's it I guess, I have been waiting for the FREE Sony software for the PSP to do what iTunes does for the iPod, obvious now it's not coming. Scott Hanselman has a good post on manually getting TV content onto your PSP with Windows tools, and I just saw he updated his post with a link to the Media Manager software. After reading Hanselman's post, it seems Handbrake for Mac and Linux can do the video encoding work, you would just have to get the videos onto the PSP manually, which still of course sucks because of Sony's folder and file naming scheme. Maybe a weekend project to try, though video has to be small, I am not spending the money on the 1 GB memory stick until I can get a test done. I am still not paying for software to complete the scenario of getting media on the PSP, no wonder Sony has lost the MP3 player race to Apple, they just don't understand completing the user experience.

Possible file corruption for NTFS volumes on Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1

I subscribe to the Windows Server 2003 Knowledge Base feed to see what issues have been discovered, if my current environment might be impacted, and if a fix is available. This has already saved me hours of troubleshooting as I discover a KB article for something I know we have seen in our environment. Sometimes you get something scary, like this: Potential file corruption problem on NTFS volumes during extensive stress tests in Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 Microsoft explains in the KB article that the scenario that causes corruption is very rare in real world scenarios. Still this should scare anyone in a large environmnent using file services, because Microsoft does not say the probabilty is zero for the unlikely cases, just that it's low. Low! What does that mean? 1%, 5%? If you think you meet the likely criteria, you can either not install Windows Server 2003 SP1 (which is where the problem lies, but I think most organizations have moved forward with deployment already since the "bake in" period is well over) or, uh, MS let you know when then have a hotfix. I wonder if a root cause of the late discovery of this issue, relative to release date for SP1, is the maintenance team building the service packs. I am sure they are all very bright people, but let's face it, the service pack team at Microsoft are not the starters, they're not the A-Team, they're the second string. Microsoft calls it the Windows Sustained Engineering group at least as of 2003 in one reference I found. It is normally this group that produces hotfixes and service packs, but for extraordinary times, like for Windows XP SP2 the main Windows development team is brought back into the fold. Think of this normally as two tracks, the main Windows development team, and the Sustained Engineering team for hotfixes and service packs. The people that wrote Windows are not usually the ones that fix Windows. This isn't to say there is no interaction, I don't know of course, but it is a different team without as much experience on the code when the work is done. Service Packs are also not looked at as major Windows versions (XP SP2 excluded), they're just maintenance releases. I would put money on them being tested less rigourously, not by the test team, but by the outside people the project that really uncover the kruft of the code. Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 was based on XP SP2, but XP SP2 certainly wouldn't be stress tested for NTFS corruption. The Windows XP KB feed has no mention of a potential NTFS corruption issue. I am not saying lack of testing or less experienced developers caused this issue, but I am saying NTFS stress tests didn't reveal any potential corruption in Windows Server 2003 RTM and its there in Service Pack 1.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

MSDN Subscription Transition Update #4

Ugh, now this is just annoying. I received another response from MSDN this morning:
Hello Dave, This is -Name Removed To Protect the Innocent- and I am taking ownership of this case. I apologize for the issue that you encountered in the MSDN North America Visual Studio Team Transition Preference Login page. The site is now working correctly. You should now be able transition your MSDN Universal Subscription to a Visual Studio Team Subscription through without difficulties. If you need further assistance in transitioning your subscription, please call MSDN Subscription Services at 800-759-5474, 5:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday – Friday, except holidays. Did I complete completely address your issue? Please let me know by replying to this e-mail. Please do not hesitate to write back should you have other concerns. Thank you, -Name Removed To Protect the Innocent- Microsoft Online Customer Service Representative
*Sigh* The site is still down as of this post.

Sony DRMed CD's Install Virus/RootKit/Malware

Mark Russinovich with his SysInternals site and tools has to be one of the smartest people on Windows (any version) working today. No one has done more outside MS to make Windows systems maintanable. If you don't already go download his Process Explorer, FileMon, RegMon, Autoruns, and RootKitRevealer tools. You will need them one day and be glad you have them on your system. Some go so far as to have the latest version of all these tools on a USB stick in case shit happens Mark has outdone himself with an amazing piece of detective work that reveals that Sony installs DRM software on Windows with their copy-protected CDs that is for all intents and purposes spyware/malware/virus because of the techniques used to install and evade detection. I think a boycott of Sony is in order, this is just unacceptable, looks like the PSP is going on the auction block. I don't like DRM software at all, but of all the schemes out there, seems like Apple with FairPlay on their music and video files strikes an acceptable balance between consumer and content provider. This is one of the core reasons Apple has been so successful with iTunes, the DRM is largely transparent.