Should Xbox Live be Pay Per Use Rather than a Subscription?

I've had a lot of problems with my Xbox over the past month, for starters the day after I purchased Gears Of War 2 the machine red ringed and had to go away for repair. This took about a week and my Xbox came back with one months free Xbox Live.

The last time I used Xbox Live was over 6 months ago but with a new game I decided it would be fun to play online again. When I tried to redeem the Xbox Live Code I was given an error message and had to call Xbox Support.

It turned out that because I cancelled my credit card half way through a year long Xbox Live subscription they had locked my account (tip: always buy the pre-paid cards rather than using your credit card online). It took them a further two weeks to unlock my account.

Xbox 360 Defects - An Insider Story

The majority of Xbox 360 owners I know have sent their Xbox off for repair at some point over the past three years. Almost every time I turn mine on I'm waiting for the dreaded red rings of death to appear.

Dean Takahashi from Venture Beat has written an in depth article into the problems behind the 360 failure rate and what Microsoft (and its competitors) have learn't from it.

If your a 360 owner or had problems with your console then its well worth a read.

Read more

If my 360 failed and I couldn't get it repaired, I would most likely by a PS3 or Wii.

 

Install Internet Explorer on OS X

For those with an Intel based iMac ies4osx will install Internet Explorer on OS X. You can choose which versions you install (or select all of them) then the program downloads and installs everything automatically in to the applications folder.

A rather suitable icon.

The program works by using Darwine to run windows based applications. Full installation instructions are available on the ies4osx website.

I found Internet Explorer to work without any problems and perfect for testing websites when building them.

Windows Vista In Virtual PC 2007

I started writing this as a blog post however as it continued in length it started to sound more like an article so here goes.... For doing IT support at work we had to learn Windows Vista and while we haven't had much interest yet it is inevitable that something will go wrong for us to fix. The majority of other reviews I've read online have not been particularly positive with many people commenting on the DRM restrictions and lack of anything ground breaking.

I wanted to see for myself and of course share it with the wonderful ImAFish fans. To save reinstalling I opted to use Virtual PC 2007, it made sense as it meant I could do XP and Vista support from one computer though it made it hard to see the performance differences. My rig is an Athlon 64 3000+ with 2GB Memory, I gave Virtual PC 1gig of memory and used Vista Business Upgrade. Installation seemed to take forever and wasn't helped by the fact I had to install XP first then install Vista. Three hours later and a couple of restarts I had a Vista desktop. At this point Vista was painfully slow to do anything , I managed to slowly install the Virtual PC additions and reboot the system. This vastly improved things however I tweaked the performance settings a bit more to give maximum performance. At this point i'm sure your all gagging for a screen shot so here we go Windows Vista... (click to enlarge) Vista Small

As you can see from removing all of the high performance settings you get what looks like Windows 2000! This unfortunately made me lose the "wow" factor so I enabled "Use visual styles on windows and buttons" from the performance options.

This made Vista look like....

You probably recognise this from many of the other Vista screen shots. It's hard not to like the new theme, even without Aero its a lot more polished, smart and has an almost calming effect on what you do. Also in the screen shot is the new start menu, finally they have discarded those annoying nested menus that required pin-point mouse accuracy to follow. Start menu items now simply display below the folder title, more like files in Explorer view. Once you start doing anything you will notice lots of confirmation windows popping up, these tend to be incredibly annoying, I got 3 pop-up boxes just when trying to install Flash Player in IE7.

Fortunately these can be turned off in Control Panel > User Accounts > Turn User Account Control on or off. It will ask you to reboot but its well worth it. You will also need to turn off alerts in the Windows Security Centre to stop Vista from constantly reminding you that account control is disabled.

I tried a couple of common applications, Firefox and SmartFTP both worked fine and didn't look too misplaced within Vista, in fact IE7 looks more out of place with its annoying interface. The majority of Vista can be customised like XP and as you can see from my first screen shot its not hard to pull away the glossy interface though as I said before it is nice.

Most of your favourite tools will be in the same place such as msconfig and the command prompt though incidentally these are now run from the start search box. This can also be used for launching applications, if I was to type in 'Internet' it would launch Internet Explorer, or if I type in 'ass' it launched Remote Assistance. Search has been deeply improved, instead of it taking three minutes to search your hard drive its takes three seconds. Microsoft have redesigned control panel again but give you the option to go back to the classic view.

The majority of items within control panel are unchanged, though there are a few new additions such as the option to upgrade your copy of Vista online. The networking section has the most changes and is now branded under the Network and Sharing Center (even though I set my language to English they still cant spell centre right). At first this is a little confusing however it ends up being a nice way of organising various connections. The system tray now only shows one network icon for all your connections making it easier to forget if you keep a VPN connected by accident. The network map is also a nice tool as it shows other Vista computers and how they are connected. Useful stats such as IP address and computer name are also displayed.

Here you can see many more of the tools common in XP have not changed greatly for Vista. I could fill another four pages with Vista comments but its not really worth it, on the surface Vista is not hugely different. It's stable, has working applications and looks nice. If I brought a new PC having Vista would not put me off however I wouldn't upgrade my current desktop. Vista might be a lot different deep down but on the surface its not and for the price of

Picasa

Digital photography has become so easy and cheap that if you’re like me I have hundreds if not thousands of photos on my computer. While Windows offers some basic photo viewing and editing options it doesn’t really allow you to touch up your photos to make them even better. One option is Google’s free photo editing program – Picasa 2 (

). When first installed it scans either your documents folder or hard drive for pictures. This can be annoying if you have graphics in your documents folder as you then have to remove them from Picasa. Unfortunately as many pictures and photos share the same file types it is very hard to distinguish them. Picasa allows you to do all the basic photo editing fixes such as removing red eye, straightening the photo, cropping and altering the colour/contrast. 

 

As well as these there are more advanced options for tuning the light, highlights, shadows and temperatures as well as a range of effects including sepia, black & white and tint. Editing photos is simple in Picasa, I usually use Adobe Photoshop or Macromedia Fireworks but these can be complicated especially with the range of options available for advanced users. While Photoshop gives you more control over the photo Picasa is easier for the average user.

 

Apart from the editing functions in Picasa, it makes a good photo viewer allowing you to zoom in and out of photos as well as setting up slideshows and timelines. Picasa is similar to iPhoto on OS X while I prefer the interface in iPhoto, Picasa is more responsive when moving through a large library. Picasa provides easy ways to share your photos as well as print them. There are also options for setting pictures as desktop and screensaver.

 

 

I found the batch operations to be very useful. With my cheap Kodak camera being able to correct the colour and contrast makes such a difference to the quality of my photos. If you don’t like any of the changes made by Picasa you can revert back to the original. Picasa will work with the majority of digital cameras and is available for Windows 2000/XP and now Linux. Overall Picasa is a feature rich program that is free and will cover all the basic needs for managing photos.

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