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Halo 3: Finding Skulls, Multiplayer Info, and Leaks

If you are playing Halo 3, you might know that there are skulls scattered throughout the game that you can collect for extras and higher scores. If you want some help finding them, watch this video (and if you don’t want spoilers, just don’t click play):

Also, if you want a detailed article explaining everything about Halo 3 multiplayer, including matchmaking and matchmaking playlists, vetoes, experience points, Bungie’s got some good reading for you. And if you’ve got a modded console and desire to steal the game, apparently it was leaked and available on file sharing networks before the game even hit store shelves.

October 1st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Halo 3, Halo, Xbox 360, Xbox | one comment

Vista Home Premium: $86 Shipped

Good deal at Micro Center: The OEM version of Windows Vista Home Premium for a mere $80, 1/2 or 1/3 of the retail price and $22 less than Newegg’s normal price. With $6 shipping you can be enjoying Vista on the cheap. Just remember that, as an OEM version, it can only be installed on one computer and cannot be moved to another PC later on.
(via Ben’s Bargains)

October 1st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Vista, Windows | no comments

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Microsoft Extending Vista Downgrade Options

Microsoft is offering better downgrades from Windows Vista to older Windows XP for buyers of new PCs. Purchasers of new PCs with Vista Business or Ultimate, but not the consumer home versions, can get an XP disk in the box with their new computer. Owners of those version can, at any time, choose to install a free version of XP instead under their license rights, but the disk in the box makes it even easier for those who really don’t like Vista.

Microsoft is also extending the deadline for computer makers to sell new PCs with XP installed, from late January all the way to June 30, 2008. This is just another way people can choose to say no to Vista. I don’t get it. I’m a big fan of Vista, although there are some driver issues on older systems, not the new PCs these affect, so why would people want XP for the same price?

Microsoft is failing at selling Vista if people still want XP. Vista is their best operating system yet, regardless of any limitations, and if people want XP then that’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed. What does it prove? That early adopters, the people who bought upgrade disks and then had terrible experiences, are the most important customers Microsoft had, and that bad drivers are costing the company billions of dollars and its entire future as an operating system company.

October 1st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | XP, Vista, Windows | 6 comments

Rock Band Bundles Cheaper, 360 Still Screwed

MTV has announced the pricing for Rock Band, and unexpectedly it will be $30 cheaper than earlier reports. The Xbox 360 and PS3 bundles will cost $170, not two hundred, wonderful news for those eagerly anticipating the game (myself included). The bundles will hit store shelved November 23, and the Xbox 360 version will, sadly, be saddled with a wired guitar compared to the PS3’s wireless for the same price (a PS2 bundle will ship 12/10 for $10 less).

If you have a Guitar Hero-compatible guitar, supposedly you can use that with the game, so pick up just the game for $60. You can’t pick up standalone peripherals until January 31 of next year, so at this point your only option is to buy the bundle or use an older guitar, which is annoyingly stupid. The standalones all combine on the 360 for $250, meaning there is no point in even considering the wireless guitar for the 360 version, unless you want it as your second guitar.

Think about it, buying the drums, microphone, wireless guitar and game seperately will cost you $250, but buying the wired guitar bundle plus a wireless guitar costs $250, and you wind up with two guitars. Sounds better to me.

October 1st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Sony, Xbox 360, Xbox, General | one comment

Soapbox Becomes Part Of MSN Video

Microsoft is in a consolidating mood, rolling MSN Soapbox, its user-uploaded video site, into MSN Video, which makes complete sense, since the two have been using identical (and excellent) interfaces for months. Besides the new combined branding, the latest release of Soapbox includes user notification when videos have been flagged and removed for copyright violations, much faster encoding times (so your videos go live sooner after you upload them), and a new mini-Showcase, where editors show off the best videos on the front page.
(via LiveSide)

October 1st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Soapbox, MSN | one comment

Halo 3 Launch Nets Record $170 Million

Microsoft did better than it had hoped, selling enough copies of Halo 3 in just the first day to beat Spider-man 3’s opening weekend with an astounding $170 million. Halo 3’s launch is being called the biggest launch in entertainment history, netting more money than any movie weekend or music release, though the higher cost of video games makes it likely that they moved fewer units than some other record holders.

Still, Microsoft pushed for the biggest opening ever, and they pulled it off. Unless there’s a Halo 4 on the way, expect it to be a long time before we see a phenomenon like this. Hopefully the Xbox division can start making a profit now.

There’s also some concern over the Halo 3 Limited Edition disks coming scratched, as I mentioned last week. If you find a scratched disk, Microsoft has set up a replacement program, but shipping roundtrip takes two weeks (an interminable amount of time if you want to finish the damn fight). I recommend opening up your copy at the register the second you purchase it, and exchanging it in-store if there’s a problem. You take it home, you’re asking for problems (though lets not forget, this defect is still Microsoft’s fault).

Sony, meanwhile, is talking smack (or rather, sitting in the corner and whispering a little), saying that “We’ve never been dependent on any one game”. Yeah, that’s right, the PS3 right now depends on a mere two really good games, neither of which is all that classic, while the 360 has a ton of great games. And lots not forget the Wii, which is still missing a single major game release since it was launched.

October 1st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Sony, Nintendo, Halo 3, Halo, Xbox 360, Xbox | one comment

Office Live Workspaces Announced

Microsoft unveiled another portion of its Office Live web-based companion to Microsoft Office; Office Live Workspaces. While it isn’t a web-based Office Suite, Workspaces adds a lot of free online functionality to Office. You get to store over a thousand of your documents online and access them from anywhere (no emailing yourself or carrying around a Flash drive anymore) and collaboratively view and edit your documents with anyone you invite.

The collaborative features are designed to erase the only real advantage Google’s Docs has, letting you work with others on your documents in real-time, instead of emailing around documents and then going through the “fun” of merging changes. Files can be opened and saved to Workspaces directly from inside Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and Outlook events, contacts and tasks can be synced to the cloud.

All in all, it sounds like a great addition to Office, and it will be completely free (though it may be ad-supported). Sign up for the beta now so you can get in soon. The beta is supposed to launch in about a month.

Some perspective: While Google Docs is free and has collaboration and online storage, now you have Office, which is not free, getting collaboration and online storage. One way to truly remove any advantage of Google’s? Take the free version of Microsoft Works that we hear might be coming, and make it work with Office Live Workspaces as well. Do that and what’s left for Google?

Todd Bishop has a good explanation of what Workspaces is not.

October 1st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Office Live, Live, Office, Windows, Applications | one comment

Live Search 2.0 Launches

Last week at the Searchification event, Microsoft launched the new version of Windows Live Search, also revealing a very different focus for the division. The new Live Search is powered by a more advanced algorithm and search index, featuring an index that is four times the size of the old one (reportedly containing 20-30 billion objects, very much comparable to Google). Relevancy and speed have also been improved, and that is noticeable if you run a search right now.

The results page is not that much different from before, though it features more of a move to the “universal search” method favored by Google (with lots of integration of news, image, and other search verticals into the main results). It also now features a list of important pages within the site that gets the top result, another feature Google is known for. The results page is cleaner, though, due to the removal of the Live “flair” that is happening in all Live Wave 2.0 releases.

One thing that is new is the video search engine. It features two different views you can toggle between, a grid based view or a regular results view with lots of text, and mousing over a preview thumbnail actually starts playing the video, complete with sound. What’s surprising is that the page doesn’t take more than a second or two to load, so they’ve found a brilliant way to put 20 video previews on a page and load them instantly.

Microsoft also announced Live Search will be focusing on four search verticals going forward: Entertainment (images and video), Local (maps), Shopping and Health. LiveSide has a look at the new Entertainement and Shopping search experiences.

Microsoft is also now saying that its goals for Live Search are very different. Rather than focusing all their efforts on catching Google, the new focus is on playing to the needs of the 70 million people who already use Live Search, giving them more reasons to stay and reasons to run more searches. Once those people become truly happy customers, they’ll push the growth by telling their friends. The goal isn’t growth, but rather retention and more searches per user, which should put the focus squarely on the quality of the product, and not the product as it relates to Google’s.

October 1st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Live, Windows, Search | 2 comments

Digital Life: Microsoft Unveils New Media Center Extenders


I was at Digital Life Sunday, and I got to see the new Media Center Extenders Microsoft was introducing at the show. There are two actual products that have been announced, the Linksys’ Media Center Extender with DVD player (DMA2200) and without DVD player (DMA2100), and the D-Link DSM-750 MediaLounge HD Media Center Extender. The DMA2100 will be $300, while the others will be $350.

The new Extenders will be able to do exactly what we were told a month ago they could, including stream from Windows Vista and protected HD content, play XviD/XviD, have the latest wifi technology and all sorts of new features.

Niveus was also showing off an Extender, but I’m not sure what to make of it, especially since it’s the size of a full PC, or even an original Xbox.

Some other pictures from the Microsoft booth. I’ll be posting more Digital Life stuff all week.




October 1st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Media Center, Windows | 2 comments

Sprint Users Get Cool Live Search App

Engadget writes that owners of high-end Sprint phones will be getting a sweet-looking Windows Live Search application. The rich client will allow voice-powered mobile search, letting you speak into your phone to run searches, and using cell tower triangulation to determine your location without the need for a GPS and showing you nearby results without asking you where you are.

The app is Java-powered, so while it isn’t for Windows Mobile, someone could probably find a way to run it on non-Sprint phones, though it may rely far too much on the hardware to work anywhere else. It also utilizes TellMe’s technology on the voice recognition. Check out Search Engine Land for screenshots.

October 1st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Live, Windows, Search | no comments

Office Mobile 6.1 Details Leaked

Jason Langridge posted about Microsoft Office Mobile 6.1, the coming upgrade to Office for Windows Mobile, which would allow mobile users to work with documents created with Office 2007 file formats. His post, which was later removed, said the upgrade would allow viewing and editing of Word 2007 and Excel 2007 files, plus the playing of PowerPoint 2007 slideshows, enhanced viewing of Excel charts, Smart Art viewing in PowerPoint, and the ability to view and extract from .ZIP archives.

October 1st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Windows Mobile, Office, Applications | no comments