XBOX Live – YouTube and OneDrive

Few months back Microsoft announced to make more services available free for XBOX Live users. This meant without paying for XBOX Live Gold subscription (around $10 per month) you can use popular apps like YouTube, Internet Explorer and OneDrive in your XBOX consoles.

I have two XBOX 360′s in house, I swapped one my son was using (XBOX 360 Halo edition) which broke down today with another one (XBOX 360 White) which was lying around unused. While doing it, I formatted the XBOX HDD, downloaded his profile and added my profile as well. After I adding my profile I downloaded the apps – YouTube, Internet Explorer and OneDrive. All of them worked brilliantly.

Using YouTube app in XBOX 360

Using YouTube app in XBOX 360

Google’s has done a fine job in authenticating and pairing devices like XBOX & TVs with your YouTube account through a code that appears on screen that you need to type in YouTube site from any device. The app in XBOX 360 allowed me to watch my favorites, uploads & subscriptions in YouTube. Once I pair a mobile device with XBOX YouTube app, I could search, select the video and play it from my iPad or Android phone and it automatically plays on the console (TV). Just like Apple TV Airplay but for YouTube. Cool.

Using Internet Explorer app in XBOX 360

Using Internet Explorer app in XBOX 360

Internet Explorer in XBOX 360 allowed me to browse the Internet easily, of course to be effective you need a USB keyboard plugged in the USB port of XBOX. Otherwise entering URLs through onscreen keyboard and controller is a pain. Unfortunately Internet Explorer in XBOX 360 didn’t display Unicode characters particularly my mother tongue Tamil. I guess in the new XBOX One console this should have been addressed as it is based on Windows 8 OS kernel.

Using Microsoft OneDrive app in XBOX 360

Using Microsoft OneDrive app in XBOX 360

Out of the 3 unexpectedly the one that impressed me was OneDrive. I can easily drop pictures or music into OneDrive account from my phone (Lumia 925) or desktop (PC or Mac) and access them from XBOX using this app, impressive stuff.

After setting this console I went back to the broken one (Halo Edition), the problem with it was the Optical Drive (DVD) wasn’t opening. From standing position I kept it flat in the table and voila, the drive opened. Now I have a working backup!!!

 

 

 

My new Workstation PC

My main PC at work was becoming slow for my usage. It was a Core i7 (Gen 1) with 8GB RAM, 500GB (10000 RPM HDD) with Dual monitors. In the last few months I upgraded the Graphics Card, 27″ inches (dual) monitors and put in a Bluetooth dongle. But there is only so much you can do to an old machine. I went shopping for a new Workstation PC.

The specification I wished for was:

  1. Intel Core i7 (4th Gen) Quad Core
  2. 16GB RAM
  3. 1TB HDD or 250GB SSD
  4. Display for Dual HDMI/Dual DVI output supporting 1080p
  5. Bluetooth 4.0 built-in
  6. Gigabit Ethernet port
  7. USB 3.0 ports (sufficient nos)
  8. Windows 8.1 Pro (please no Mac OS for work)

All the above for a price of less than Rs.1 Lakh (USD 1650). No laptops as I have a Surface Pro 1 and I was not planning to carry this anywhere.

I spent nearly 2 weeks looking around, spoke to local vendors, browsing  endlessly online. I couldn’t find any that fit my requirement. The only Desktop PCs I could find in India were All-In-One Touch PC’s, which I didn’t want for work as I prefer using Dual monitors and I have already spent on two 27″ monitors recently. OEMs like Dell & Lenovo had in their websites highend Desktops listed but when asked for quote, none of them reverted back. For the configuration I wanted I could only see laptops and I disliked the idea of spending for a laptop with a large 17″ display and not using it. Finally my regular vendor suggested I look at Apple Mac.

It looked like regular (non touch) Desktop PC market in India was dead. For Windows choice was only laptops & All in Touch.

With no other choice I looked at Apple Macs, deciding that I can load Windows 8 through Bootcamp and I can try Mac OS Yosemite as well in the sides. I narrowed to Mac Mini, as I both iMac & Mac Book Pro was not what I was looking for.  I got a quote of Rs.124,800 (USD 2070) for latest Mac Mini with 2.6Ghz Core i7, 1TB fusion drive, 16GB (vendor added 8GB), HDMI to DVI adapter & Mini Displayport to Dual-Link DVI Adapter. Mac Mini comes with all necessary ports (Ethernet, Bluetooth 4, WiFi, USB 3, Thunderbolt).

Before I placed the order I wanted to check all the features in Mac Mini works in Windows environment as well. Apple FAQ stated that drivers were available for Windows 8 including for Bluetooth, but the fusion drive will work only for Mac OS (disappointing but understandable). My support engineer suggested we try connecting two displays to a Mac Mini we already had in our office just to ensure everything works as advertised. We didn’t have Apple Thunderbolt to HDMI Adapter but we managed to connect two displays to Mac Mini, one using Mini Display Port & the second with HDMI. The two ports (Mini Display & HDMI) were close to each other in Mac Mini (unlike what you expect from Apple design) and it took a bit of effort and sampling 3-4 HDMI cables before we got the two in and the displays worked.

Connecting Dual Monitors to Mac Mini using Mini Display Port & HDMI

Connecting Dual Monitors to Mac Mini using Mini Display Port & HDMI

Seeing the above somehow I became uncomfortable. Waited for another week, luckily my vendor came back with a good news that HP has released very recently a new Desktop series that might fit my bill. Looking into it, it did match and I ordered it. The new Desktop PC came two weeks back and I am happy with the choice.

The PC I went for is “HP ENVY Phoenix 810-101in” costing Rs.90448 inclusive of taxes and with 3 years warranty.

Windows 8.1 PC with Corei7,16GB,2TB HDD,Blueray

Windows 8.1 PC with Corei7,16GB,2TB HDD,Blueray

Configuration of the PC was:

  1. Intel Core i7 4770 (4th Gen) 3.4Ghz Quad Core
  2. 16GB RAM (DDR3 1600)
  3. 2TB HDD with 16GB mSATA disk caching SSD (similar to Fusion Drive in Mac)c03750320
  4. NVidia GeForce GT 640 having DisplayPort (2560×1600), DVI (2560×1600) & HDMI (1920 x 1080)
  5. Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi (802.11b/g/n)c03784168
  6. Gigabit Ethernet Port
  7. 6 x USB 3.0 (2 each in Top,Front & Back); 4 x USB 2.0 Ports (2 each in Front & Back); Headphone ports in Front & Back; Multimedia card reader (SD and others)
  8. Windows 8.1 (no Windows Pro unfortunately)
  9. BlueRay optical disk (this was bonus but I don’t think I will watch movies at Work)

Added to above, the PC came with wireless keyboard and wireless optical mouse. For bonus the front audio output support Beats Audio for fine Audio reproduction.

Windows 8.1 Device Manager showing HP ENVY Phoenix 810-101

Windows 8.1 Device Manager showing HP ENVY Phoenix 810-101

For Windows OS configuration (not having Windows 8.1 Pro edition), I was worried that I had to format and reinstall Windows which will mean I will loose all HP default drivers and I have to spend getting everything working. It turned out it was easier than I feared. I got a Windows Pro key through our Microsoft Partnership program (you can buy Windows 8.1 Pro in retail) and inputting the key meant the PC upgraded to Pro effortlessly with all drivers and apps intact.

After solving the Windows edition issue, I proceed to uninstall all the crapware installed by default by HP. The main culprit in the list was WildTangent games, which has to be uninstalled from Windows Add/Remove Programs (you need to select manually some 39 check boxes to get rid of all games) and for each user from the Metro UI Start screen. The Cyberlink Media suite turned out to be better than I expected and I need them for Blueray playing and Optical disk writing, so I didn’t uninstall them.

Uninstalling Wildtangent games in HP Envy Phoenix

Uninstalling Wildtangent games in HP Envy Phoenix

 

At work, we have Microsoft Office 365 subscription for all team members. In the new PC, Windows 8.1 had put in a shortcut to Microsoft Office, I just entered the credentials to my Office365 subscription and voilla the copy of MS Office got activated, effortless.

Overall I am very happy with the new PC. Its fast, has all the ports I want, Audio is great and Windows 8.1 runs fantastic. Thanks HP for still producing great Desktop PCs.

Tim’s Vermeer 2013

A friend of mine living in Amsterdam recommended I watch this documentary “Tim’s Vermeer“. It turned out to be a good movie experience. After the movie I am left with questions on what’s art, what’s technology and is there a line dividing them?

The movie is about a research on how  famous Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer could have painted such photo realistic paintings in early 17th century. The lighting and shades in his paintings and the details were unbelievable. The accuracy was unseen in any of Vermeer’s contemporary artists.

The research work was a personal obsession of a wealthy video engineer in Texas by name “Tim Jenison” who was founder of Newtek which was a leading broadcasting equipment manufacturer.  Tim starts his study by relying heavily on  two earlier works. The first was by David Hockney in his book Secret Knowledge who suggested 17th century artists could have used a technique called Camera Obscura. The other book was Vermeer’s Camera by Philip Steadman.

After studying these earlier works carefully, Tim research starts in its earnest and leads him into actually painting a reproduction of one of Vermeer’s classic “The Music Lesson“. To do this Tim recreates the same interiors, tools, paints, furniture, glass work and so on in a warehouse and does the reproduction. Tim work of nearly five years, finally takes him into building a simple optical lens system that helps him to paint a Vermeer classic. The condition Tim uses could’ve existing in 17th century.

The film has Hollywood touches and exaggerations but nevertheless enjoyable.

 

Samsung Galaxy Tab 4

Tablets have become the main stream for many who haven’t used a PC or who don’t have a need for its breadth of features. My mother in law is one of these users. She got into using tablet about three years first with a Micromax Funbook entry level device, then upgraded to Samsung Galaxy Tab2 7 inches device exactly two years back (Aug 2012). Her usage is four apps-  Facebook, WhatsApp, Music player and YouTube in that order.

Recently she complained of her device being slow. I tried to factory reset but that didn’t help. So I looked at options to upgrade. She was comfortable with Android/Samsung so I didn’t want to change the platform. Another reason for ruling out iPad was no WhatsApp in that.

I went to Cromo store, selected  Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8 inches to buy which costs Rs.23500. Cromo allowed me to trade-in old Tab 2 for Rs.5000, net cost for me was Rs.18500 which was a good deal for this gorgeous device. I eye’d the premium Galaxy S 8 inch device but I couldn’t convince myself to spend another Rs.10,000 for speed and display which my M-I-L is unlikely to make full use of.

The device SM-T331 setup easily, the BSNL 3G SIM worked out of box. The display is sharp, the speaker volume and clarity is good.

 

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