2009 May


 I hate Microsoft

May 25, 2009

Not so much for their software, but SO much for their hardware.

I am the unfortunate owner of an XBOX360. I bought the thing as an import from Japan, before they were even available in South Africa, because Microsoft, in their *wisdom* decided that it’s ok to let South Africa only get Xboxes EIGHTEEN months later. I only bought it because I couldnt get an ORIGINAL Xbox anywhere in South Africa (and all those were “grey imports” too).

So, I had the thing sitting, not doing much for pretty much a year. I couldn’t play any of the old XBOX games, because Microsoft hadn’t release the “backward compatibility” stuff yet..

Eventually, when it became “launched” in South Africa, the games were ludicrously expensive. And — I had to bribe someone in the UK to pay for an XBOX Live voucher, just so I could use the online features of the damn thing.  Even now. Nearly four years after the XBOX launch, NOT A SINGLE PERSON IN SOUTH AFRICA CAN USE THE ONLINE FEATURES. You simply can’t pay for Xbox live access. I mean, you can’t even choose “South Africa” as the region on this piece of Microsoft fail.

Barring that, my few months of use with the infernal device didn’t last long. I started getting the infamous “RED RING OF DEATH” crap. Of course, since my Xbox was a Japan import, and older than a year, I could not get it fixed.

I’ve spent nearly 18 months with heatguns, towels, heatsink clamp replacements, and extra heatsinks on the memory chips etc,  etc. Each attempt resulting in about three more weeks of use out of the infernal device.

Reality: The thing is a piece of crap. I will never buy a piece of Microsoft, or any other mainstream (that’s you Sony) piece of hardware ever again, until it’s hit release 900 and ninety nine.

I replaced my xbox with an AMD64 Debian Lenny machine, running XBMC, and honestly — my son, and even the missus  loves it more than the XBOX. No frigging red rings of death for one…

I love the repplacement PC/XBMC  too. If some piece of it breaks, I know how to fix it. XBMC play’s .iso’s, .img’s and even .rar’ed movies, without any intervention. PC hardware in general, is also MUCH more reliable.

XBMC  wins on all the usability frontends , way more than an XBOX. It’s sad, that in the end, the most function for my XBOX was as a media player. XBMC changed all that. Yes, fine. I can’t play “Altered Beast” on the new Media PC (yet).  At  least when I tell XBMC to play a damn movie, it does so. Reliably.

Consoles have a LONG way to go, before beating general utility computers. And general utility computers simply need a replacement for XBOX Live, Apple AppStore and then we’ll see the end of proprietary bull. All that general utility computers need is a nice casing, and an HDMI or RCA output. That’s not so difficult.

I will personally pay the guys that commercialise XBMC double the  amount of money for a perpertual XBMC license, than I paid for my XBOX.  Because it works. I can tinker with it. I can fix it. All that XBMC needs now, is a good game distribution model behind it, and some web2.0 scalability and it will be good-bye Tivo-ism.

Oh, and controllers. Uhm wait. There’s many of those already. At like, HALF the price of an XBOX wireless controller.

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 Joburg is nasty

May 23, 2009

You know, I get kind of miserable when I look at blokes like Joe’s life, and pictures and his daily routine that he so succinctly posts to his blog, every damn week.

Joburg is miserable in comparison. Alternatively, I just need to figure how  Joe does to have it so neatly. 4HWW ? I wish…

Let me summarize my work week, and then we compare with Joe:

Monday: Getup, work, get home ~6:30pm, have dinner, chat with Vincenzia. exhausted, Sleep.

Tuesday: Getup, work, get home ~7:30pm, have cold dinner, brief chat, exhausted, Sleep.

Wednesday: Getup, drop Ruben at school, meetings at work, problems with crap, get home ~6:45pm, chat, exhausted, Sleep.

Thursday: See the pattern ?

Friday: Get up, have usual Friday braai at office, interrupted by problems, get home ~5:30, go out for sushi in Rosebank @ Tsunami, and then crash for sleep.

Saturday: Wake up late, make breakfast, take Ruben bowling in Rosebank, plan next steampunk invention.

Sunday: Wake up late, play “Wallace and Gromit” on the Xbox for an entire day with Ruben, braai late afternoon, crash, sleep.

Monday, rinse, repeat.

The reality is that Joburg is a very “un-exciting” place to live. I can count on my hands the few fun things to do (granted I’m not easily entertained), but there is a distinct lack of natural beauty and fun things to do.  I stay in Greenside, in a leafy, calm suburb. But really, when I leave home there’s not that much else to do. No beautiful vistas. No awesome picnics.

This is largely because everyone’s just too crap scared to actually go outside or do anything, I think. A walk at Emmarentia Dam a mere kilometer from my home, could cost you your cellphone, wallet and potentially your life.

Wtf.  I wanna *cry* sometimes. Should I look for  for a life in Silicon Mountain?

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 East Africa connectivity rocks

May 16, 2009

So here I am, sitting in Kampala, Uganda — writing a post whilst streaming my music collection from home…

And it works. Amazingly well.

Sure, I’m on the backend of a a 5mbps Wimax CPE connect to an Airspan WiMAX network, and I”m connecting to a base station 7kms away from my hotel.

The network is optimised with seriously badass caching, bandwidth management, and sattelite acceleration and compression that my company Neology has deployed.

And it rocks. Aside from the latency (which cannot be avoided until Seacom lands in Kampala next month) I have a better connection than I normally have at home.

I wish all ISP’s would focus on the little tiny details that make stuff work….

For example, we’ve developed software that makes the provisioning of a WiMAX CPE painless. And it’s only 2.25mb and a single .exe and contains the firmware for the modem!

Want a static IP address ? Simply buy one of Tangerine’s Silver packages at a CAP and speed that suits you.

Aside from Internet Slowlutions on South Africa, it’s a fairly unfound product in the South African market.

Caps ? No. All product simply throttle you to half-speed after having reached a (very gratuitous) cap of 10Gig or so.

And this is all over satellite. One of the most expensive uplink mechanisms in the world. And the economics make sense.

It makes me grumble about the pricing in South Africa.

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