Jul 23

Windows 8

(Note: my experience is based on the current release preview which may or may not change before the actual release).

It’s that time again…a new version of Microsoft’s operating system is just months away…but this version is very different from any before it.

Windows 8 has been redesigned for use not only on high powered machines, but low end netbooks and tablets with an emphasis on touch control and apps…and it will also run on ARM processors (used in some phones and tablets).

When you first start Windows 8 you are greeted with a screen similar to that of Windows Phone OS, with application icons instead of desktop shortcuts…this is the new start menu (called Metro UI), it is the biggest change from the previous versions of Windows. From the menu you can open almost any application on your PC or go back to the typical windows desktop…I say typical but there is one feature missing, the start button is no where to be seen. The start menu is now accessed by left-clicking the bottom-left corner of the screen or right clicking to get quick access to a few basic settings (control panel, disk management etc.). The new interface takes some getting used to but after a bit of practice, it starts to make sense and you find you can get wherever you want to quite quickly. If you have trouble there is a 3rd party program called Start8 that will install a more recognizable start button and arrange the menu in a familiar way.

This is a few of my likes and dislikes from my own personal testing of the new OS.

Likes – Overall the system seems more responsive, The new copy/paste and task manager systems are very well designed, the ability to sign in using Windows Live ID means you can sync settings to multiple PC’sand I like the way the Metro UI is handled.

Dislikes – The minimum screen resolution for running apps at the moment is 1024×768 (or 1366×768 to run more than one at a time) which means many netbooks will not display apps, there will be a small but annoying learning curve with the new OS and once you open a full screen app, it is a bit difficult to work out how to close it.

Although this is just an operating system, I believe this will greatly alter the tablet/smartphone scene over the next few years…I expect to see a huge flood of phones, tablets and cheap laptops sporting the new operating system, filling the gap for people that do not want iOS or Android devices, but have not been able to find a Microsoft alternative.

There are still a fair few bugs in the release preview (most notably for me was the system crashing after installing Symantec endpoint as well as some strange graphical glitches/software behavior) so I would not suggest installing it on a work PC or your main PC…although a guide to dual-booting Windows 8 with Windows 7 can be found here (source: howtogeek.com).

Windows 8 is set for launch in October this year in 4 flavours (so far): Windows 8 (standard), Windows 8 Pro, Windows RT (an OEM version for ARM devices) and Windows Enterprise (only available via volume licensing).

More info on Windows 8 can be found at Microsoft or Wikipedia

*Images from Wikipedia

Chris Thursfield

Mar 14

Playstation Vita

When it comes to consoles I have always been a Sony fan boy, from the first Playstation to the PSP I have bought each console on or near their release date and have been amazed by each one in it’s own way.

The Playstation Vita was a hard one, it is by far the most expensive handheld I have ever bought and the 2nd most expensive console overall (the Playstation 3 being the first)…and it is hard justifying (to say, a wife) spending roughly $500 on something this small…but then you get it in your hands and it all makes sense.

I first saw this device in E3 videos from last year and the graphics looked unbelievable, but I wasn’t sure how the touchscreen and touchpad on the rear of the device would be useful…and to be honest, I am still having trouble using them, they are awkward to reach and in the heat of a game it is quite easy to drop the device while reaching for them. The battery life is also not that impressive with 3-5 hours of life (this could be fixed by a battery accessory). these are really my only complaints with the console itself.

Being Sony, they have developed their own proprietary memory cards and game cartridges (they say to prevent piracy), which I wouldn’t mind, except that the price of the memory card is more than double the price of a standard SD card of the same capacity.

The Console – Feels amazing, very high quality and sturdy, the d-pad is very responsive and although small the dual-analogue sticks are very easy to use. The touchscreen is particularly bad at picking up fingerprints, but the touch works very well and the rear touchpad takes a bit of getting used to, although it works well. The front and rear cameras are terrible (not that you would actually take proper photos with it) at only 0.3 megapixels each. The unit also has Wi-Fi, Built in GPS, Optional 3G, Bluetooth and the standard Playstation buttons and shoulder bumpers.

The Games – They are hit and miss – Uncharted is easily the best handheld game I have ever played, being just as good as the PS3 version, but Ridge Racer is a hollowed out shell of a game, with only 5 cars and 3 tracks, with the option (as of February 2012) to purchase one additional track for the hefty sum of $4.25 and one additional car for $2.45….oh and if you want to play some of these games online, you need to buy a pass, which in the case of wipeout 2048 is $15.95…if these publishers are going to continue to ask for up to $70 a game and then additional purchases for features which should be a standard inclusion, the console will sell poorly (until it is inevitably hacked).

Other Features – The unit has also supports apps which can be downloaded from the PS Vita store…these are quite nice to use with the usual suspects – Twitter, Facebook and Skype being present, I am sure more are on the way. One of the features I am most excited about is remote play meaning you will be able to stream games straight from a PS3 to the Vita to use as an external screen and controller, although there are only a handful of games that support it at the moment.

Verdict – If you can justify spending a small fortune on gaming, the Vita is definitly worth it, the graphics and gameplay provide a handheld experience like nothing before and as long as developers support it, there should be some amazing games on the horizon.

*Image from thetechlabs

Chris Thursfield

Feb 16

Cancelled Game Consoles

Over the last 30-40 years there have been hundreds of game consoles released, some that did well and some that did not….but what about the ones that never had a chance. There have been many game consoles cancelled mid development, pulled off the shelves weeks or months after release or announced and then never got past the planning stages and this is just a few of my favorites from a long list.

Sega Neptune – After the costly and problematic Sega 32x add-on for the Megadrive was released, Sega began work on creating a standalone version of the 32x which also played Megadrive games (which is what the 32x should have been in the first place), but by the time the prototype was finished the Sega Saturn was ready, so the project was scrapped

Super Nintendo CD – A fairly interesting console add-on that can be credited with creating much of todays industry. During the SNES’s life, Nintendo asked 2 companies to create CD add-ons for the console to compete with the Sega CD add-on for the Sega Megadrive – the companies were Sony and Phillips…although both deals failed, Sony and Phillips used the technology they had developed to create their own consoles – the Phillips CD-i (a failure) and the Sony Playstation (one of the big 3 today).

Gizmondo – Not so much cancelled as half finished, the Gizmondo was released in 2005 by Tiger Telematics and was to be a powerful handheld capable of playing games, movies, music and have mobile phone functions such as SMS, MMS and WAP via removable Sim Card.

2 versions of the console were released in the UK, USA and Sweden – a standard one for around $400USD and a Ad-enabled version for around $229USD, the ad-enabled version called ‘Smart-Adds’ (intentionally misspelled to confuse consumers) would display a maximum of 3 adds per day at random intervals from the home screen, downloaded via the GPRS connection. Unbelievably the Smart-Adds service was never activated meaning that consumers could pay for the cheaper unit and it was exactly the same as the more expensive unit. The Gizmondo sold only 25,000 consoles worldwide and only 8 of the 14 planned games ever saw release giving it the label of worst selling console in history.

I actually have one of these in my collection and the graphics are quite good for the time, I have a prototype game called Jump (a parkour type game) which is particularly impressive. There were plans for a Gizmondo 2 announced in 2008, but the release was constantly pushed back and all but cancelled by the end of that year, and considering the company website has gone offline, and the Co-Founder has been arrested and convicted of fraud, I doubt we will see another Gizmondo.

Panasonic Jungle – The latest victim of poor business decisions is the Panasonic Jungle announced in October of 2010, the console was to be a portable laptop-like device capable of playing MMO’s (Massive Multiplayer Online games) on the go, but was cancelled by the company in March 2011 ‘due to changes in the market’ (I would say due to the Nintendo 3DS and PSP Vita).

There are many more consoles that were cancelled or pulled early…a larger list can be found at – Wikipedia (all consoles including cancelled ones) and this YouTube video I found

*Images from Wikipedia

Chris Thursfield

Dec 13

The 1983 Videogame Crash

Did you know the Videogame industry almost collapsed into nothingness?

The 1983 videogame crash was brought about by several combined factors and led to the second generation of consoles and games dying out and the market struggling for 2 years to get back on its feet, forcing many game companies into bankruptcy.

The problem was that the industry had exploded over the previous decade or so and the market was oversaturated with consoles and games….and given that there was of no internet to look up game reviews and the fact that almost anyone could publish a game for many of the systems available, there was no way to tell what kind of game you were getting until you had already paid for it…leading to a a lack of trust in the industry.

To illustrate my point….here is a list of every game console I could find that was released in just 1982-1983 (Worldwide Releases).

You’ll notice a lot of similar models published by different companies….this was also a major problem as companies would sell of the designs off their systems to many different manufacturers to make virtually the same thing.

  • Atari 800 XL
  • Atari 1200 XL
  • Atari 5200
  • Cabel Universal Game Computer
  • CGE Vectrex
  • Coleco Colecovision
  • Coleco Gemini
  • Commodore 64
  • Emerson Arcadia 2001
  • Hanimex HMG 2650
  • Hanimex SD-070 Couleur
  • Intervision 2001 Home Video Center
  • Intervision 3001 Home Video Center
  • Leisure Dynamics Leisurevision
  • Milton Bradley Vectrex
  • Miragama GMC 802
  • NEC PC 8001 MK 2
  • Ormatu Electric BV Video Spielcomputer 2001
  • Poppy 9017 Colour TV Game
  • Schmid TVG 2000
  • SHG Black Point FS-1003
  • Sinclair ZX Spectrum
  • Sony SMC 70
  • Timex Sincalir 1000
  • Acorn Electron
  • Adivision Home Arcade
  • Apple IIe
  • Atari 1400XL
  • Bandai Gundam RX-78
  • Bentley Compu-Vision
  • Brandt Electronique Jopac J07400
  • Casio PV-1000
  • Casio PV-2000
  • Coleco Adam Family Computer
  • Commodore Educator 64
  • Continental Edison-Saba Jopac J01450
  • DMS Telesports Mini
  • Gakken Compact Vision Tv-Boy
  • Hanimex HMG 7900
  • IBM PC XT 1560
  • Intellivision II
  • ITMC SD 290
  • Joueclub SD 290
  • Mattel Electronics Aquarius
  • Nintendo Famicom
  • Phillips Videopac G7200
  • Phillips Videopac +G7400
  • Polycon PG-7
  • Rollet Videocolor
  • Sega SC-3000
  • Sega SG-1000
  • Sony MSX
  • Sony SMC 777
  • Soundic SD 290
  • Soundic Soundicvision SD 200
  • Timex Sinclair 1500

As a collector, I have in my possession an add-on for a Colecovision that allows it to play Atari 2600 games…this would be like Microsoft bringing out an add-on for the Xbox that played Playstation games….can anyone say lawsuit!….but back then, the laws were not what they are today.

Only 2 brands would really recover from the crash – Sega and Nintendo (Nintendo releasing the NES and Sega releasing the Mastersystem). Atari would release more consoles, but they would all be commercial failures…Sony would remerged with the Playstation…Sega would switch to Software only after the Dreamcast and Microsoft would start with the Xbox. And we are now left with 3 console manufacturers – Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft (4 if you count Apple’s iPhone).

With dozens of games coming out each month, some people believe we are heading for another crash in the next few years…I disagree….with the advent of the internet, people are able to see reviews/gameplay of games before they make their purchase, leading to better decisions.

ET for the Atari 2600 is a game singled out for causing much of the crash (although there were many other factors involved) and has often been called the worst video game of all time – If you are interested why – click here (Source: Wikipedia)

The link below has a 20+ minute video showing over 450 consoles released over the last 30+ years:
The Insane History Of Videogames 2.0

You can read more on the Videogame Crash of 1983 here
(Source: Wikipedia)

*Image from the Videogameconsolelibrary

Chris Thursfield

Nov 25

New JPP Website

After weeks of work, the new JPP website is now complete….there were only a few bugs and one malfunctioning plugin in the end, which is not too bad at all.

I am fairly happy with the result and it now allows me to do much more with the site…as well as being able to edit/add to it from my phone.

Have a look and let me know what you think….or if you encounter any bugs or broken links.

JPP Homepage

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