Alan Wallace's Blog

Thoughts… Rants… Rave's – mostly on Tech

Xbox One Review: Careful With Those Great Expectations

Xbox One is billed as the gaming machine of all gaming machines and promises to be the tool that will centralize your living room. But careful with those great expectations. Alan Wallace reviews.

aNewDomain.net — Microsoft released its Xbox One with some really unique marketing methods. It’s billed as the gaming machine of all gaming machines and promoted as a tool that will centralize your living room. But with great expectations come expectations that are never really met, leaving one hoping for an update to come soon that will solve the problems.

Unfortunately, Microsoft also breaks tradition, where in the past it has gone the extra mile to be backward-compatible. No more. If you have a great collection of Xbox 360 discs, make sure you keep that old Xbox 360 plugged in. At least until you replace your games with the new Xbox One-compatible versions.


Uniquely Cool

Early units of Xbox One carry “Day One” branding which certainly is a unique way to instill demand for immediate purchasing before Black Friday. Some of the games carry this branding, too. Later, when you buy another controller, you will find yourself battling to see who gets to use the Day One-branded controller (which is just like the controller that does not say Day One). You do have gamer creds on the line after all.

I’m impressed with the Voice Control functions, although I’m hoping to eventually remember key phrases better than I have so far. It is odd to find yourself sitting in front of the TV yelling at it for reasons other than a sporting event or the news. Also saying, “Xbox turn on” reminds me a great deal of Captain Kirk saying something like, “Computer, put on the main screen.” Impressive, though, is its recognition of what I say at normal volume levels even if I instinctively feel that I should talk louder than normal — I don’t.

Early Support Issues

I heard one initial support issue includes a small percentage of DVD drives ejecting when you don’t want them to. I am also having issues with DIRECTV working, then not working (check cables, replace cables, works, does not work, back to the shop, support issues). The new unit works great — then 24 hours later the same error (0x8027025a) with the DIRECTV Genie HD DVR. I wonder when the update will come.

Setting Up Controls for Children

So now there is a new central unit in the living room for gaming and also for control of the TV. There are two profiles set — one for me and one for my 12-year-old. I recommend setting a password and passphrase for the master account that your kids will not know, just in case they try to log in as you.

An issue I have here is that if Junior tries repeatedly to do something he should not, suddenly I am having to reset my Microsoft passwords again, messing up all of my personal accounts, and my corporate and personal machines. I’m getting tired of that issue and hope that Microsoft will find a better solution for this. The thing that baffles me the most so far is that Xbox One Parental Controls are not even as good as those on the XBOX 360. This is really disappointing.

Could We Have Better Parental Controls?

Xbox One is billed as a central device for the living room and it really does become that when you connect your cable provider to the unit and centralize the control. What I would like to do is set access controls for everyone else. I would like parents to have one set of rules and children another. Rules would include the ability to set hours to access and the total time of use per cycle.

I would also like to have a reset time for the missing Family Timer. Setting it at midnight means kids would stay up to reset the clock — like on the Xbox 360.

I used to set hours of use for the Xbox 360 on my router. But if I do this for the Xbox One, I lose my ability to access properly when I’m still up.

I had real hopes for an integration of the Family Controls on Xbox Live with this new unit. This is disappointing. I would really like to go to a family page, for example, and define one set of rules, set the hours for gaming, phones and computers and have the rules apply where they may. But I can’t.

Say your 12-year-old wants to stay awake ‘till you fall asleep so he can play on into the night. You had better take the controllers with you to bed. Otherwise you are out of luck.

I know sometimes companies think that the more parental-type controls we put on things the less they will sell. I have been in those meetings as an exec and heard exactly that. But as a parent, my honest feedback is that the more you help me as a parent, the more likely I am to buy your product. There’s just too much junk out there.

I love the Xbox One. The graphics are amazing, the sound is so realistic and the speed is superb. I understand why this unit cannot play older games. Microsoft really stepped up the hardware. But in future updates, I would really appreciate seeing the integration of the Xbox Live Family Controls and the Family Timer. In my opinion, this is the only thing that is below par and hopefully, a fix will come soon.

For aNewDomain.net, I’m Alan Wallace.

Based in Seattle, Alan Wallace is a senior contributor and on our security team here at aNewDomain.net. He previously has worked as a London-based foreign correspondent for UPI. He also founded InterActive Agency, the first Internet-focused ad agency. Alan later joined Live365, where he served as a vice-president and oversaw its rise to the №1 Internet radio network spot. He has been a judge for the Codie Awards for nearly a decade. Got a question, comment or story idea for Alan? Email him at Alan@anewdomain.net, or contact him at +Alan Wallace.



Originally published at http://anewdomain.net on November 29, 2013.

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Microsoft New CEO: Via Ford? On Alan Mulally

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Microsoft may be ready to announce who will replace Steve Ballmer as the companies CEO. A shortlist of candidates includes Alan Mulally from Ford.

aNewDomain.net commentary- Reuters, The Chicago Tribune and other news outlets report that Microsoft may be ready to announce the CEO that will replace Steve Ballmer. They quote Nomura analyst, Rick Sherlund, who worked with Microsoft in 1986 on its initial public offering. Sherlund suggested to his clients in a note on Wednesday that Ford’s Alan Mulally would “likely” be the new CEO by December. Reports also say that four other candidates round out that list.

Xbox and Bing

Sherlund also suggests that Microsoft will sell off its Bing and Xbox business units, which really makes me question the otherwise-sensible wisdom of the Mulally prediction. Tech companies usually have loss leaders and Bing and Xbox are excellent examples of products that keep the company buoyant. Xbox’s cool factor helps attract up-and-coming talent, otherwise steered towards Apple, Facebook, and Google. Skilled geeks, gamers and such like to work for cool companies. So, unless you are looking to cash out on Microsoft’s current value for short-term gains and long-term brand destruction this prediction makes no sense to me.

Let’s think that scenario through — what would Microsoft have if it let Xbox go? What would fill the void and create interest for the average user in the area of tech toy competition? Windows Phone? Surface? The next version of Windows or Office? Really? I can see the sea of yawns coming now.

I also find the search industry to be incredibly important and valuable. It would not make sense for Microsoft to let that whole market go to Google and Yahoo. Yahoo has seen a drastic increase of use since Marisa Meyer came on board, and before her, the search engine was deemed lost and forgotten.

Additionally, Microsoft has done a great job of integrating Bing Search into its products, such as Office, and the built-in functionality has increased usage. Google took note of this tactic and is doing the same thing by integrating its own search into various products.

Google has moved into Microsoft Office’s territory with its gamut of web tools, trying to stake a claim in lightly-charted waters. They even acquired Quickoffice in 2012. Meanwhile, Sherlund’s prediction is that Microsoft should abandon the search, which would give Google another opening for more market share. That works well for Google shareholders, but not Microsoft.

While my personal preference would be to bring back Stephen Elop, I do agree that Mulally would be an exciting replacement for Steve Ballmer. However, the concept that any future CEO should or would sell Xbox or Bing makes no sense to me. It would be as bad as getting rid of the Start Button and Menu in Windows 8 and never providing a fix.

For aNewDomain.net, I’m Alan Wallace.

Based in Seattle, Alan Wallace is a senior contributor and on our security team here at aNewDomain.net. He previously has worked as a London-based foreign correspondent for UPI. He also founded InterActive Agency, the first Internet-focused ad agency. Alan later joined Live365, where he served as a vice-president and oversaw its rise to the №1 Internet radio network spot. He has been a judge for the Codie Awards for nearly a decade. Got a question, comment or story idea for Alan? Email him at Alan@anewdomain.net, or contact him at +Alan Wallace.



Originally published at http://anewdomain.net on November 11, 2013.

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MS Surface Pro: Docking Station Round Up


The Microsoft Surface Pro is way better when you use it with a docking station. Here are three stands that are worth a look — review.

aNewDomain.net — In setting up my Surface Pro 2 with 8GB of RAM and a 512GB Hard Drive, I now really have more of a need for a docking station. In reviewing my options, I first took a look at Microsoft’s Docking Station for Surface Pro.

Microsoft Docking Station for Surface Pro

The station docks the machine smoothly to the power, USB connection, and display connector on the table to provide the following:

Image credit: Microsoft
  • One USB 3.0 port and three USB 2.0 ports connect to multiple devices and peripherals
  • Plugin for an external monitor using the Mini DisplayPort
  • One network — Ethernet — RJ-45
  • Audio out and microphone in connectors
  • Charges the Surface Pro/Surface Pro 2 battery and any connected peripherals

Multiple monitor support is coming soon to Surface Pro 2 via DisplayPort 1.2 daisy-chaining.

The docking angle is also set for the angle of the original angle established by the rear kickstand. The stand works well, looks great and is easy to use, but there are a few disappointments with the stand:

  • The power connector for the stand is not like the one used to connect directly to the tablet. I wish both were the same so I could use either cord for the tablet or stand and not have to run two power cords in case I want to undock the unit.
  • I’m also disappointed that the USB 2.0 connectors on the docking station are not USB 3.0. As USB 3.0 is backward compatible and the new drives I am purchasing are USB 3.0, I would prefer to have as much current tech built into this stand.
  • I also found that when I plug into the audio connectors on the stand instead of directly into the machine, I’m over-driving the audio on my speakers and have to bring the volume down to reduce distortion. Otherwise, when connected directly to the machine and not the docking station, the audio is really well-done and enjoyable.

Surface Pro users may also want to look at these alternatives from Belkin below. They are very sturdy and the audio-out feed sounds cleaner and less-distorted than the Docking Station from Microsoft. Belkin also allows for use with other devices and does not restrict to just the Surface Pro series. The first docking station below was available for Windows 8 Tablets many months ago and is designed to work with several Windows 8 Tablets, not just the Surface Pros.

Belkin B2B043-C00


  • 2 x SuperSpeed USB 3.0–9 pin USB Type A
  • 1 x SuperSpeed USB 3.0–9 pin USB Type B
  • 2 x Hi-Speed USB — 4 pin USB Type A
  • 1 x network — Ethernet — RJ-45
  • 1 x display/video — DVI-Digital (dual-link) — 19 pin digital DVI (Dual-Link)
  • 1 x display / video — DisplayPort — 20 pin DisplayPort
  • 1 x audio — line-out/microphone — mini-phone 3.5 mm
  • Security lock slot (cable lock sold separately)

To get the best performance with this docking station I would recommend using a Bluetooth keyboard. The Microsoft Surface keyboards can be used but you’d need to purchase the Surface Wireless Adapter in order to adapt the Surface units and keyboard for this configuration.

The one thing I really wish this adapter could do is to let you change the viewing angle of the Tablet once it is in the stand. I found this fixed angle to be its key flaw, and I also believe that having a lower lip in the front better accommodates a Surface Tablet. It’s for this reason that I preferred the Belkin’s B2B044-C00 USB 3.0 Dual Video Docking Stand for Ultrabooks and MacBooks.

Using Belkin’s USB 3.0 Dual Video Docking Stand for Ultrabooks and MacBooks has advantages over the Microsoft Docking station as they also work for Ultrabooks and MacBooks — which means you can use one docking station on your desk for a variety of devices. As with Belkin’s Windows 8 Tablet Docking Station- you can get either the Surface Wireless Adapter to make the Surface keyboard work or get a separate Bluetooth keyboard that can also work well for the other devices that share this stand.

Belkin’s B2B044-C00

  • 2 x SuperSpeed USB 3.0–9 pin USB Type A
  • 1 x SuperSpeed USB 3.0–9 pin USB Type B
  • 2 x Hi-Speed USB — 4 pin USB Type A
  • 1 x network — Ethernet — RJ-45
  • 1 x display/video — DVI-Digital (dual-link) — 19 pin digital DVI (Dual-Link)
  • 1 x display / video — DisplayPort — 20 pin DisplayPort
  • 1 x audio — line-out/microphone — mini-phone 3.5 mm
  • Security lock slot (cable lock sold separately)

I also like the viewing angle of this docking stand. Plus, I get the use of an additional USB 3.0 connector. An upcoming hardware update will offer dual-monitor support to the Microsoft Surface Docking Station, something both Belkin devices can support now.

  • The Microsoft Docking Station is available at the Microsoft Store for $199.99.
  • Belkin’s B2B043-C00 USB 3.0 Dual Docking Stand for Windows 8 Tablets is available at Amazon between $146.00 and $206.00 depending on which store you prefer to use.
  • Belkin’s B2B044-C00 USB 3.0 Dual Video Docking Stand for Ultrabooks and MacBooks is available at Amazon between $144.00 and $256.00 depending on your preferred store.
  • The Microsoft Wireless Adapter for the Surface Keyboard is available at the Microsoft Store for $59.99.

For aNewDomain.net, I’m Alan Wallace.

Based in Seattle, Alan Wallace is a senior contributor and on our security team here at aNewDomain.net. He previously has worked as a London-based foreign correspondent for UPI. He also founded InterActive Agency, the first Internet-focused ad agency. Alan later joined Live365, where he served as a vice-president and oversaw its rise to the №1 Internet radio network spot. He has been a judge for the Codie Awards for nearly a decade. Got a question, comment or story idea for Alan? Email him at Alan@anewdomain.net, or contact him at +Alan Wallace.



Originally published at http://anewdomain.net on October 27, 2013.

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Alan Wallace: Microsoft Surface with Windows RT Review, Biggest Pros, Cons

Microsoft’s Surface with RT Review: Great performance and screen resolution, amazing battery life. But it’s too much like Hotel California. You can check in, but you can never leave. Here’s why … also inside, details on how to replace the Start menu and an update on a Windows RT hack.

aNewDomain.net — In my Microsoft Surface with Windows RT review, I find this tablet has all the makings of a great device: It’s a well-made, secure Windows 8 tablet with a keyboard and terrific battery life. But the biggest pro with this tablet is also its biggest con. It’s at once ultra secure and ultra frustrating — because it limits you to software and apps you get from the Microsoft Store.

Security is key, no question. So staying within the store has its upside. But there are lots of apps that I would like to run that I can’t install — like Apple iTunes and Music on Google Play, just for starters. And, while the Office 2013 offering is pretty substantial, Outlook Light is not Outlook. After putting down $499 for this gadget, I would really like to have the full version of the program. It’s true that the upcoming Windows Surface Pro from Microsoft will support the full version of Outlook — and it will let you install any compatible software, Microsoft says — but that tablet won’t sport the same superb battery life of the Microsoft Surface Windows RT tablet I review here.

Update to the Microsoft Surface with Windows RT review: There is a hack available to jailbreak this device, but that has the obvious limitations. Read more at Geek.Com.

Image credit: Alan Wallace

In an even comparison, I would describe Windows RT as a kind of Microsoft rendering of an Apple iPad. This is not to confuse it with an Apple iPod, Microsoft-style — this is no Microsoft Zune. Not at all. It’s just to say that Windows RT units, like Apple iOS devices, limit you to the proprietary company store. That makes them more secure. At a price.

Devices with Google Android on board are like this, too. But the Windows Surface with Windows RT tablet — and Apple iOS devices, too, for that matter — offer no way out. Android lets you open devices up to non-proprietary stores — stores outside Google Play. But like the Apple iPad, the Windows Surface RT tablet is the equivalent of Hotel California. You can check-in, as the lyrics to that old Eagles song say, but you can never, ever leave.

In order to help improve Windows 8, I would predict the return of the Windows Start Menu. In the meantime, I recommend the use of Third Party Tools like the Stardock replacement.

In order to help improve Windows 8, I would predict the return of the Windows Start Menu but in the meanwhile recommend the use of Third Party Tools like the Stardock replacement.

And overall, my Windows 8 testing shows this is a more secure operating system. Microsoft’s implementation of syncing with other Windows devices and the Microsoft Skydrive cloud to be a far better experience than what Apple or Google provides with Apple iCloud or Google Drive, respectively.

For a first time out — this is a first tablet entry for Microsoft, after all — the Windows Surface with RT is noteworthy in many ways. Its performance and widescreen HD 1366 x768 resolution are excellent. And its battery capabilities — that’s eight hours in mixed-use — are stellar. Considering just these factors, this device could conceivably replace my Android tablet. But the lack of a full Outlook experience and its limitation to the Microsoft store hold it back. Consider your need for Outlook and need for non-Microsoft Store apps before buying.

For aNewDomain.net, I’m Alan Wallace.



Originally published at http://anewdomain.net on January 7, 2013.

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DroidX – First Thoughts

I’m normally just ok with a new phone – happy I have something newer and hopeful that I’m not ready to give it back in the first 30 days but usually after the first 5 minutes I have figured out everything that I thought was cool and am already bored.

Today I purchased a new DroidX.  I found some nice bundles at Verizon today that helped me get better prices and thought that today was the best organized I have seen Verizon on a phone launch.  I cannot remember a previous time when I could get the accessories I needed on the same day but today was certainly the exception that should be the rule and the accessories were really cool.

Likes and Product Suggestions:
I have missed docking stations and for the DroidX there are docking stations for home and the car – I may get another one or two for the home as I like them.  I also got the rubber case for the DroidX but wish that it would still fit in either docking station when I put the protective case on – I want to use the great docking stations – but also want to do what I can to protect the phone for when I accidently drop it.

Not sure if it will replace my car’s GPS but I love how I can plug the phone into my car’s AUX jack and listen to radio stations via the IHEART app – and in fact not only the audio quality for streaming but the built in internal FM radio sounds better than the FM Radio in my Nissan.  I would like to take this time to say to all of those who doubted me when I said at the Country Radio Seminar in 2001 that Internet Radio would be in the car within 10 years – that I was right and have a year to go on that prediction (remind me to email David Lawrence)

I’m experimenting with all of the new apps and enjoying what I’m seeing so far.  I’m not sure what will happen with the Android Software Push in the near future but here that it will have enhancements for Microsoft’s Exchange ™.  I’m looking forward to seeing what will be coming but at the top of my request list – is help the phone to be able to read more than one Exchange account as I access at least two exchange environments.

Lastly it makes really clear phone calls – I almost forgot this was a phone too.

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I’m buying the DroidX on the 15th

I have been a loyal Windows Mobile user for years.  I have strayed occasionally to RIM and would have loved to have switched to the iPhone but could not comprehend switching from Verizon but as a loyal Windows Mobile User I have felt like I was missing out.  I was there from day one version 1 and still with 6.5 and a plethora of disconnected smartphones from Samsung to the Palm Treo as well as my current HTC and I am just not going to wait for Windows Series 7 anymore.  I had hoped that Apple would grace us with good news for Verizon but if Google is willing to step up – so am I.

I had a chance to try out the Google Nexus for 30 days on T-Mobile and the phone was so cool I almost forgot it was on T-Mobile but the apps were amazing and nothing like I have ever seen on a Windows Mobile device.  I had stayed with these phones mostly because I’m an Exchange user which in looking back is RIM actually offers more features than Microsoft as it’s the device that would allow me to run more than one exchange account.  Odd since MS invented Exchange and Windows Mobile and Outlook.

So Microsoft is now working on version 7 of its phone OS but just killed its KIN with only a few weeks release – so again – what is it I’m waiting for on Win Series 7?  What I find really interesting is how cool the IPhone was on Version 1 – how cool the Google Nexus was on Version 1 – the Microsoft Phone on Version 7 may be cool but I have been disappointed so many times and I’m not ready for this again.  I know I’m not switching to Zune so if Win Series 7 is supposed to be more like a Zune – it’s not a selling point for me.

So while I wish the DroidX had a keyboard like its predecessor – I’m still going to get it and hear that the screen and camera are more Incredible – than the HTC Incredible.

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