The fall 360 update brought with it the ability to stream video from XP to the 360 (via media player 11 or media connect.) Yes you can only stream video in .wmv format, but that is not the end of the world as I will explain.
This morning I purchased and queued up 1 HD TV show and 1 HD movie. The hope was that by the time I came home from work I would have some content to test out and report on. Well apparently MS didn't prepare properly for the bandwidth onslaught. When I came home I found my MS powered off and the TV show only at 66% (the movie download has not started yet). I kind of forgot about the 360's auto shut off feature, but still it is set to power down after 6 hours.
So I got 66% of 2Gs in around 6 hours. That works out to around 225Mb per hour. This is roughly 620.5Kbps (assuming 10bits per byte with overhead as a conservative rough estimate). Hmm, Not a very good first impression. Looks like I'm not the only one having trouble. MS even told this guy that the current issues he was having are not typical. Actually if I do the math the best I could probably do anyway would be 1G per hour at my current 3Mb bandwidth. So an HD movie would take me 6 hours to download. Assuming MS Live will eventually be able to keep up that is. It's good I'm getting more bandwidth soon.
So when I got home I quickly disabled the auto-shut off feature and restarted the downloads (it would be nice if that feature took into account the fact that you were downloading, but I digress). The system appeared to continue where I left off, but didn't really make any progress. I got some sort of error about 45 min later. I kicked it off again later on in the evening, and after a couple more hours I got a cryptic message that said "download could not be completed". This time when I restart it just seems to be stuck at 0%, so I'm guessing I won't be trying this out anytime soon.
I'm sure that this will be smoothed out eventually, but maybe they could have done some better planning? Maybe rented out a warehouse full of temporary servers? Or how about doing a staggered roll out over a couple of days to work out the kinks? Oh well, what do I know anyway? I can hear Steve Jobs laughing from here.
Attempting to download 2G TV shows and 6G movies puts a bit of pressure on your intarweb connection. I just found out that my cable company doubled the bandwidth in my area, to 6mbit, for free - over 1 month ago. Yet I am still only getting 3mb, even after several modem reboots. Hmm, that modem I am leasing is huge, old, and looks like someone drug it behind a car for a few miles. When they gave it to me last year, my first thought was "you've got to be kidding me". It is probably a 1st generation device made back in the mid 90s. Sure enough, a quick call to the cable company confirms that I need a newer modem, -one that goes to 11. Sometime next week I should have bandwidth, sweet bandwidth.
I managed to find myself with some time on my hands Friday night and Saturday morning, so I decided to fire up the single player Gears of War. Man I'm really enjoying this game. It is the first 360 game I've played that actually feels like it is taking advantage of the 360's horse power. This game is gritty, and raw. The environments are rich, the graphics are amazing and the gameplay is tense and engaging. It makes Halo 2 look like "My First Shooter" by Fisher Price. No funny little aliens crying "run away" here.
The 3rd person 'cover' system works very well and is a refreshing new element to the tired FPS genre. Although GRAW brought this style to the 360 first, it just seems to work so much better with Gears. Also like GRAW this games makes heavy use of high dynamic range. Again I think it works better in Gears, but maybe that is because I can't directly compare Gear's environment to real life (thankfully).
I don't know how long the single player game is, but already I think I've clocked in more hours than GRAWs single player is long. And it's been much more rewarding play.
We last talked about this thing here.
I managed to purchase the 'last' one at a local computer store (name withheld). I went to three places on Sat and got the same story.. they were released on Friday and either sold out that day or Sat morning. Somehow at the place I got mine one guy told me they were all sold out that morning. But another guy said, "hmmm, wait I think I saw one more in the back". I speculate that an employee had set one aside for himself, but forgot to let they other guys in on his little plan. Oh well, mine now.
Ok here is my mini review:
Yes this drive looks and feels like an afterthought hack. It is ugly and clunky, and somehow surprisingly heavy. But it seems to work very well. And is definitely the cheapest entry into HD Movies I could have made for the next 12 months at least.
Well now we get to see Microsoft’s video to your home strategy in the form of Xbox Live Video. Maybe this is the reason for Apple's pre-announcement of their iTV? Engadget has some screen shots. Also some leaked info on a larger hard drive coming soon. This looks pretty cool. Now if I could only figure out how much a ‘point’ was worth in the real world, I could decide if this is a good price or not.