Morning Coffee 168 – E3 Edition

Yesterday, was Microsoft’s big reveal for Xbox 360 this coming holiday season. If you’re not a gamer, please move along, nothing to see here. Also note, I work @ Microsoft, but not in the games division so this is only my thoughts on yesterday’s announcements.

  • While several “hard-core” games were showcased – Fallout 3, Resident Evil 5, Fable 2, Gears of War 2 and the surprise announcement that Final Fantasy XIII – the rest of yesterday’s briefing screamed “we’re not just for hard core gamers!”  Call it the Wii effect. Even the title of the main E3 Press Release was Gameplay for Every Passion.
  • Honestly, my favorite announcement from yesterday wasn’t game related at all – it was the announcement of Netflix on Xbox 360. I’ve been hoping for a flat rate subscription plan since Video Marketplace first launched. Soon, I’ll have it.
  • I’m not sure what I think of the New Xbox Experience yet. On the one hand, the whole cartoon avatar thing isn’t really my bag. Plus, isn’t it quite the Mii clone? However, the ability to share photo and video viewing experiences – even with cartoony avatars – and the flashy + engaging navigation mechanism looks like a real improvement. Here’s hoping they improve the performance of navigating hard drive content (games library, gamer pictures, etc).
  • Congrats to my friend Matt who’s been very involved in the development of the new Primetime game show channel. I’m not that interested in “1 vs 100″, but I think the potential of that game model is pretty huge. If they created a Jeopardy game for Primetime, I think my parents would by a 360 right away.
  • Music / party games seem to have been the primary focus of the press briefing. I’m definitely getting Rock Band 2 (AC/DC woot!) and I think my wife would like Lips (she usually sings when we play Rock Band). I want to see how the “wireless interactive microphones: Featuring stylish interactive motion sensors and lights” will work. Guitar Hero World Tour looks cool too, but I’m not re-buying all new music hardware.
  • You’re in the Movies looks like a hoot, plus it doesn’t really look like a game, so much as a “party activity”. For example, while there are minigame winners or losers, “winning” takes a back seat to the final movie result. I’m guessing this will be big with the kids.
  • Speaking of kids, Patrick is really looking forward to Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts. He loves anything related to building, and building fantastic vehicles is a core part of the gameplay. As for Riley, I think she’s getting old enough to enjoy Viva Pinata – she enjoys watching Patrick and I play – though I’m not sure we need the new Viva Pinata.
  • Geometry Wars 2 and Portal: Still Alive, both coming to Xbox Live Arcade. ’nuff said.
  • Not really “new” news, but XNA Community Games launches this fall. I’ve got a creators club membership, so I’m able to experiment with this now – it rocks, though the available games are pretty shall I say “unpolished” at this point.
  • Halo Wars not coming until 2009. 😦
  • No new Bungie news, but their website is counting down to something tomorrow. I guess we’ll find out then.

Lunchtime Coffee 158

  • My friend (and hopefully my next representative) Darcy Burner is leading a group of congressional challengers in publishing A Responsible Plan To End The War In Iraq. I haven’t read the plan itself in detail, but I sure like what I’m hearing about it.
  • Speaking of politics, Obama’s speech today “A More Perfect Union” was fantastic.
  • Bioshock is getting a sequel. ’nuff said.
  • There’s a new version of FolderShare out and I’ve got mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I’ve been a regular user of FolderShare for a while so it’s nice to see it get a face lift. On the other hand, it’s been over two years since Microsoft bought FolderShare and we’re only just now getting a new version, which is literally nothing more that a face lift – this version introduces no new functionality at all.
  • I was hoping to geek out vicariously via someone else’s hacking around with Singularity. Luckily, Matthew Podwysocki provides just such an opportunity.
  • Looks like “Prism” is the new CAB. Glenn Block has two extensive posts covering a project overview and their first drop. I think it’s interesting that the Prism team is focused on building a reference implementation, and letting the framework eventually fall out. Reading thru the description, it sounds awesome. However, based on the massive increase of inbox throughput I’m experiencing since I accepted the new job, I can’t imagine I’ll have time to play with it. Maybe Matthew will start playing with Prism too! (via Sam Gentile – btw, thanks for the kind words on the new job Sam!)
  • Speaking of Sam, he points to a series by Bob Beauchemin entitled LINQ to SQL and Entity Framework: Panacea or evil incarnate? With a title like that, who can resist reading the whole series? Err, I can because LINQ 2 SQL & EF performance just fell off my radar entirely. However I gotta agree with Sam’s point that he “can’t think of anyone more qualified than Bob” to tackle these questions.
  • Tomas Restrepo blogs his dev environment PS script as well as a PS fortune script. Personally, I use Chris Tavares’ vsvars wrapper for PS, though I’ll gladly take an “official” PS based dev environment.
  • I wonder if Ted Neward will get jumped for admiring Mort the way Nick Malik did. Given that Ted called himself Mort while Nick compared Mort to agile developers, I’m guess Ted will have to go back to his Vietnam analogy if he wants to create controversy.
  • Speaking of Ted, I agree with his point that conferences are about people. As a python pre-newbie (I figure I’ll reach full newbie status by the time I actually start my new job), I spent most of my PyCon time connecting with people rather than trying to learn technical stuff. Also, I love Ted’s WHISCEY acronym.
  • Speaking of PyCon, my soon-to-be new teammate Srivatsn Narayanan blogs his thoughts on PyCon. I’ll try and get to my PyCon thoughts soon.

Morning Coffee 138

  • In writers strike news, the WGA has made side deals with Worldwide Pants (aka Dave Letterman’s company), United Artists (aka Tom Cruise’s company) and The Weinstein Company (previously known as Miramax). The WGA strategy of divide and conquer seems to me making slow progress. Update: The Weinstein Company was founded by Miramax’s founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein after they left Miramax. But Miramax is still around. Thanks to GrantC for the correction.
  • They’re still two games under .500, but the Caps completed a season sweep of the Eastern Conference leading Ottawa Senators last night. They’re only 3 games out of the top spot in the (admittedly very weak) Southeast division
  • Big tech news today isn’t coming from MSFT-land. Sun is buying MySQL and Oracle is (finally) buying BEA. Both deals seem like pretty significant culture clashes, though Sun/MySQL seems like the better fit of the two.
  • There’s a new draft of Service Modeling Language 1.1 available. If you’ll recall, this used to be called the System Definition Model, part of the Dynamic Systems Initiative. Hadn’t heard anything from those folks in a while, good to see they’re making progress.
  • Stephan Tolksdorf dropped me a line to tell me he was able to “vastly simplify” FParsec, and as a result it now runs on the current version of F#. Awesome!
  • Speaking of F#, Scott Hanselman has a new F# podcast, this time interviewing Dustin Campbell. Check out all of Dustin’s F# posts.
  • I didn’t know about the “Copy as Path” feature in Vista. Why is it hidden?
  • I was a big fan of the WDS deskbar shortcut feature – a feature that is missing in Vista. Enter Start++ by Brandon Paddock, which adds shortcuts to Vista’s search box. It also supports “iPhone apps” and scripting. But JScript? Where’s the PowerShell love, Brandon?
  • EA released the source code to the original SimCity under the GPL. Bil Simser is digging into the code and it looks like he’s going to port it to XNA. (via Ozymandias)
  • Wes Haggard has published the source code to CodeHTMLer on CodePlex. He took two updates from me: the F# language definition as well as the ability to choose the font when not using PRE tags.

Morning Coffee 124

  • While my blog was down last week, I finally finished Gears of War. I played thru on hardcore, but had to throttle back to casual to beat the last boss. I’d like to try and finish on hardcore, but I’ve moved on to Dead Rising – another game from last year I never had time to finish. I’m almost done the main play mode, though I understand there are other play modes that get unlocked when you finish it.
  • I’m forbidden from buying any new games before Christmas, so Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed and The Orange Box will have to wait. My next game will either be Blue Dragon, which a friend let me borrow, or R6:Vegas, yet another (but the last) game from last year I never got time to play.
  • I’ll skip the “giving thanks” jokes and point out that Visual Studio 2008 and .NET FX 3.5 have shipped.  Soma has the announcement and both Scott Guthrie and Sam Gentile summarize what’s new. The Express editions are available from the new Express Developer Center. The VS SDK doesn’t appear to be released yet, but I’m sure it will be along in due course.
  • Speaking of VS SDK, CoDe Magazine did an entire issue on VS Extensibility which you can read online or download as PDF.
  • Nick Malik took a bunch of heat back in June for what some thought was a redefinition of Mort, one of the Developer Division personas. Now Paul Vick thinks it’s time to retire the Mort persona, primarily because of the negative connotation the name carries. His suggestion for a replacement is Ben (as in Franklin). And did you notice how similar Paul’s description of Mort is to what Nick described? I’d say some folks owe Nick an apology.
  • I said Friday I was going to take a closer look @ OpenID and OAuth. There’s an intro to OpenID on their wiki and Sam Ruby’s OpenID for non-SuperUsers seems to be the canonical source on implementing OpenID on your own blog. Frankly, reading the OpenID intro reminded me a lot of WS-Federation Passive Requestor Profile. Does OpenID have the equivalent of an “active” mode?
  • Likewise, the Beginner’s Guide to OAuth series of posts by Eran Hammer-Lahav is a good intro to OAuth. The phrase “Jane notices she is now at a Faji page by looking at the browser URL” from the protocol walkthru makes me worry that OAuth is vulnerable to phishing. Having one of the OAuth authors call phishing victims careless and wishing for Karl Rove to “scare people into being more careful and smarter about what they do online” makes me think my fears are well grounded. I’m thinking maybe OAuth and OpenID aren’t quite ready to nail down WS-*’s coffin.
  • In researching OpenID, I came across this presentation hosted on SlideShare. I had never seen SlideShare before – it’s kinda like YouTube for presentations. Sharing basic presentations is kinda lame – there doesn’t appear to be any animation support, so the slides are basically pictures. However, they also support “slidecasting” where you sync slides to an audio file hosted elsewhere. That I like. I have a bunch of old decks + audio, maybe I’ll stick them up there.

Morning Coffee 66

Yesterday’s Morning Coffee was canceled on account of rain. In my living room. It’s fixed now.

  • Andre Vrignaud writes about MS Research’s new High Capacity Color Barcodes technology. As he points out, there’s some fascinating gaming potential for these barcodes because they have such high capacity (something like 2kb per square inch) and can be read without special equipment (a camera phone should work).
  • According to a Pew Research Center report, Daily Show/Colbert Report viewers are significantly better informed than Fox News viewers. On the other hand, they’re only slightly more informed than O’Reilly Factor viewers or Rush Limbaugh listeners so it seems like a wash.
  • Speaking of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, you can now download them from Xbox LIVE Video Marketplace. But at $2 160 points an episode, it’s cheaper to set my DVR.
  • I recently re-discovered Remus Rusanu’s SSB blog. He went dark for a few months there, but he’s recently posted a new version of his Service Listing Manager utility, presented SSB at DevConnections and showed how to implement a managed stored proc to receive SQL DDL event notifications. Event notifications is one of those features I didn’t even realize was in SQL.
  • Dottie Shaw, one of the program managers on my project, has started blogging. That leaves two team mates and one project member still not blogging.
  • Yesterday, I stumbled into some other teams morale event. They were bogarting the cafeteria, so it wasn’t like I was crashing it or anything. Normally, I wouldn’t hang around some other teams party, but they had a projector, an Xbox 360 and two copies of Guitar Hero so I had to hang out and watch them play head-to-head for a while. That looks like a fun game.
  • Chris Anderson writes at length about the primary enemy of Long Tail economics: “the absurdly complicated and expensive process of rights clearance”. His case in point is the coming DVD release of WKRP in Cincinnati, which has replaced the dozens of songs used as background music with “Muzak-style songs that could be licensed in perpetuity for a small flat fee” that apparently “sucked ass”.