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Xbox 360 Dashboard Update Confirmed For May, Gears Update Coming Too

Microsoft has confirmed that an update to the Xbox 360 Dashboard is coming the week of May 7th, and it will bring a lot of cool new features. Included will be Windows Live Messenger support, which will display your Messenger contact list on Xbox Live and allow you to send messages from your game console. As a companion to the new feature, Microsoft will sell the (poorly named) Text Input Device, a little keyboard that attaches to the bottom of the Xbox 360 controller, connecting through the headset port.

Check it out:

Messenger contacts will be able to see your Gamertag and current game status, and you can chat with up to six friends at the same time. Other new features include giving the Xbox Live Marketplace its own blade (in order to improve the interface), achievement updates will now show more information, a new low power mode which auto-shuts down after completeing downloads, watching partially download movies, and many smaller tweaks.

Here’s a video showing off many of the changes:

Gears of War got a pretty big update, too, adding a new multiplayer game mode called “Annex”, plus several bug fixes. A Gears map pack is coming, and because of Microsoft’s insistence, the pack will cost a few Microsoft Points at first, and be completely free later on (the developers wanted to release it for free).

Oh, and the Halo 3 multiplayer beta starts May 16 at midnight, and will run through the night of June 6.

April 12th, 2007 Posted by | Gears of War, General, Halo, Halo 3, Live, Messenger, Windows, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox Live | 2 comments

Thurrott Claims XP Service Pack 3 Will Never Happen, But It Probably Will

Paul Thurrott made an interesting and even plausible claim in his recent Short Takes column, saying that Windows XP Service Pack 3 will never be released, and that Microsoft has no intention of releasing it. He calls it “the worst kiss-off to any Microsoft product I’ve ever seen, and you’d think the company would show a little more respect to its best-selling OS of all time”.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft did it, as the idea of service packs is more of a psychological and milestone one, not a legitimate measure of anything, and patches would have sufficed instead of a full-fledged SP3. Wouldn’t have been surprised, yes, but it’s not going to happen. Mary Jo Foley just went ahead and asked them, and Microsoft still contends that XP SP3 is coming, scheduled for the first half of next year.

Service packs don’t mean much. The first service pack of an operating system sends an important message, and makes many companies finally try it, while later service packs do the same to a lesser extent, but the service pack itself typically brings little new to the table. There is nothing in a service pack that couldn’t be delivered as an automatic update, and it could be argued that service packs even convince a small number to not install updates until they are all bundled together.

I’m not a big fan of the idea of service packs, especially if they delay important updates (like the XP SP2 version of IE6). Still, if some IT departments need their SPteddy bear to make their lives easier, whatever to them.

Another interesting update: Windows Movie Maker for Vista 2.6. This update is not to be installed unless you are faced with this error message:

Windows Movie Maker cannot start because your video card does not support the required level of hardware acceleration or hardware acceleration is not available

I hate how buggy Movie Maker becomes on even typical hardware. It needs some sort of restart to get the codebase to run regardless of hardware configurations. I don’t care what it takes; operating system software should never ship with this many problems. Often, a codec pack will wipe out Movie Maker from functioning at all, and that’s unacceptable.

April 12th, 2007 Posted by | General, Vista, Windows | one comment