A Gamer Geek's Cogitations, Conjectures and other Cortical Experiences

Category: Technology Page 1 of 14

Biggs On: Microsoft Acquires Activision Blizzard

The gaming community was rocked today when the news broke that Microsoft acquires Activision Blizzard. Assuming this deal actually goes through, and the DOJ doesn’t intervene with another antirust investigation, how does this affect me? I’m quite vocal about my distrust and distaste for anything Microsoft. This news makes my toes curl.

However, Activision Blizzard hasn’t exactly been a paragon of virtue. While Microsoft has their faults, their employees are not running around groping co-workers. I have respect for a company that provides some innovation, but I cannot respect a company that exhibits such disgusting behavior.

Maybe This Is The Right Change

Optimistic as Microsoft Acquires Activision Blizzard

Activision Blizzard has been struggling for over 6 months now to repair the damage caused by the scandal. During that time the community suffered and many players, including several of my friends, have left the game. After every step forward, new information is found, and we go two steps backwards. Perhaps this is the dramatic change that needs to happen to rectify the sins of the past.

I’ll admit, I was feeling dead inside when the news broke. My wife had an interesting way to explain it though. It’s like when Disney bought Star Wars. At the beginning I had mixed emotions, but now I’m overjoyed. I hope Microsoft makes the right changes to repair the community and bring the game back to life. I imagine Microsoft will be cleaning house of all the people that should have already been fired.

I’ll admit, the gaming division is the lesser evil at Microsoft. As long as it’s XBox that runs the show, I will be cautiously optimistic. My biggest concern is if Microsoft can’t fix the damage. World of Warcraft is the longest running title at Blizzard but its been hemorrhaging players and money for a while. If Microsoft cannot stop the bleeding, WoW might be the first to go.

I’m hoping for the best.

Please share some of your thoughts.

Biggs’ Top 5 Epic Microsoft Fails

I’m going a completely different direction for the August Top Five. Technology. It’s pretty well known among my peers that I am Microsoft’s biggest critic. While I do make a living using their technology that doesn’t mean I drank the proverbial kool-aid. Granted even Apple and Google have had their technical slip-ups but their list isn’t quite as embarrassing as Microsoft’s. The lesson Microsoft seems to fail to learn is that just because someone else is already doing it doesn’t mean they can do it better. X-Box is about the ONLY success story. I digress. Here are my top 5 epic Microsoft fails.

  • Zune – MP3/Music player. This is the default fail everyone thinks of when they think of failed Microsoft products. EPIC FAIL!
  • Windows 8 – If you thought Vista was bad, that “start screen” is a dumpster fire of Teletubby vomit. FAIL!
  • Windows Phone – iPhone/Android competitor. I called this fail out back when it was first announced. Poor Nokia. FAIL!
  • Microsoft Band – FitBit/Garmin competitor. Did people even know Microsoft made a fitness tracker. Probably not. FAIL!
  • Microsoft Teams – Slack/Zoom competitor. The ONLY reason this product is surviving is the pandemic; without COVID this would be (and may still be) another pathetic footnote of failed products. FAIL IN THE MAKING.

The honorable mentions may be fairly obvious; Bing and Internet Explorer/Edge. IE has been a thorn in developers side for decades. Writing code to meet its sloppy standards has made it hated by many in the tech industry. Microsoft should have gotten out of the browser business decades ago. Bing is the Microsoft search engine to compete with Google. So few people were using Bing that Microsoft is actually trying to PAY people to use it with Microsoft Rewards. In fact you even get bonus rewards for using Edge. They are even paying you to use Edge!!! PATHETIC FAIL!

/cheers

I Have Spoken!

Biggs’ Labs: Home Automation Progress Update

Smart Home

It was November the last time I talked about my Home Automation and Lab projects; it is time for some updates. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot to tell. The last eight months have been busy on the work front and on the home front. If you know me at all you know that November through the end of December is my craziest time of year. There were a few things I had to sort out that were pretty significant changes to my work and home life. Changes that also require some time to adjust and acclimate. Here is a quick reminder of the projects I have on deck and in progress:

In Home Network

MythTV, Plex and FreeNAS (DVR and Media server)

Home Automation Phase I

Home Automation Phase II – with Raspberry Pi integration (still in progress)

Home Automation Phase III (still in draft mode)

Best Laid Plans …

I am behind, to say the least. I guess I try to do too much in a day and when there is time to work on these projects, I often don’t feel like sitting in front of the computer. There is also the little problem of the SD Card reader I bought to use on my main PC to install the Raspberry Pi software. It doesn’t appear to be working properly. It is either that or the SD card I am trying to use has gone bad. Either way, it’s a huge roadblock!

I also discovered that my Plex server suddenly stopped allowing me access to my own movies. Typically this issue can be resolved by updating the plug-in within FreeNAS. Unfortunately that isn’t the case this time. There are several people who I have given access to my movies so fixing that has taken a higher priority. On top of all of that work has increased in intensity thus I am working late hours.

So all that to say, I’m behind. I’m trying to catch up and I don’t really have anything else to update.

halI’m putting myself to the fullest possible use. Which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do” – HAL 9000

 

When It’s Not Biting The Hand That Feeds You

Biting The Hand That Feeds YouEveryone knows the old idiom “Don’t Bite the Hand that Feeds You”. It is often used in the context of criticizing someone or some place that helps and/or pays you. It is also often used against me when I’m on one of my Microsoft tirades. Yes, the majority of my job requires me to use Microsoft tools and technology. I think my years of experience, however, gives credence that my rants are not “biting the hand that feeds you“. In my opinion, it’s “biting the hand that’s punching you in the face”. I am going to pick on Microsoft again to illustrate my point because they are the easiest target. However, to be fair, any of the big tech companies can just as easily serve the same purpose.

I have been working in .NET for more than 12 years. I have been developing solutions using a plethora of Microsoft products dating back to Visual Studio 2003. Since I am using Visual Studio as a point of reference to establish a time frame, I will start with that particular tool. In fact Visual Studio is a great way to start on a high note because I love Visual Studio. I don’t think there is a comparable product out there that makes developing any easier. Combining the two database management tools into one tool, i.e. SQL Server Management Studio, was brilliant and again incomparable. I loved Windows 7 and Windows 10 isn’t too bad either. So while I do have a few kind things to say about some of Microsoft’s tools, it hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows.

The Products That Bludgeon

Yes, for someone who makes a living using Microsoft products I sure do like to pick on them … a lot. I am quite vocal on Facebook, Twitter, at work, in a store about some of the crap Microsoft has created or caused in my life. These are the times when I have had that old proverb quoted at me. After working in the industry for over a decade, I think I have earned the privilege to speak my discontent. I have been on a huge rant about Internet Explorer lately because I think that is Microsoft biggest mistake. If they had followed the same versioning model as younger browsers then perhaps IE wouldn’t be the most hated browser in the industry. The fact that I have to try to code around 8 different versions of IE but only one version of Chrome and Firefox makes me hate my life. Edge was their second biggest mistake; hello re-skinned IE. Obviously Microsoft thinks we’re all a bunch of idiots.

Internet Explorer is the worst offender and the one that lingers. The other asinine business mistakes they have made are already dead or dying. As the joke goes, every even version of Windows was total garbage (Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows Vista, Windows 8) where Windows 8 is probably the worst one to date; not only was it awful functionally but it was aesthetically disgusting. SilverLight was a complete failure. Bing, Zune and Windows Phone are complete jokes. I remember when Windows Phone was announced; I predicted its demise on Day One. What makes Windows Phone especially irksome is it took Nokia with it. Granted Nokia was already struggling but they could have gone a smarter route (like Android) to save their business.

News Flash! Microsoft Doesn’t Walk On Water!

Working with a company’s technology every day doesn’t mean I should be worshiping them like a god. Apple, Google and Microsoft are often referred to as the “Titans of IT” but not everything they make is gold. If a product is total garbage I won’t go around heralding it just because “it’s Microsoft”. If you make a dumb product or a dumb decision then I’m going to call you out on it. Pretending its great is obtuse and not only are you misleading yourself but your clients and customers. I’m not going to try to sell a client/customer/developer lead on a half-baked product when a third-party product is a better fit. For example, I’ll advocate for Slack before Microsoft Teams because its far easier to use and much more well thought out.

Furthermore, I will not advocate for a technology that is going to make my life a living hell. For example I will never suggest SilverLight to anyone! I may be a masochist but SilverLight is a steaming pile of garbage and I’d rather write VB6 for eternity then edit another XAML file. So it’s not “biting the hand that feeds you” you when that “hand” is causing you nothing but daily anguish and regret.

apple_logo-263x300“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do”
– Steve Jobs

 

The Era of the Wearable has Plateaued

Wearable has PlateauedThis coming January will mark four years since I started using FitBit’s fitness devices. During that time we have seen the rise (and fall, in some cases) of other wearable tech devices; Apple Watch, Pebble, Microsoft Band (**snicker**), Garmin. While FitBit wasn’t the first company to create a wearable they certainly figured out how to be a catalyst. A couple of weeks ago one of my co-workers told me FitBit wasn’t doing as well. Today I noticed their stock has been steadily declining. Perhaps the era of the wearable has plateaued.

It isn’t a surprise that the wearable tech fad is starting to wane. FitBit did a brilliant job marketing the device and by creating such a successful brand, Apple joined the market. Unfortunately when a corporation like Apple joins the party, they take it to another level. A level FitBit didn’t seem prepared for. The Apple Watch took a fitness device and made it much more functional, however even Apple saw mediocre adoption. Everyone either had a FitBit or a Garmin, or people didn’t want to pay the premium price for a watch. The slow adoption in-and-of-itself is unfortunate because I’ve talked about how much I enjoy my Apple Watch (while still using a FitBit).

What’s Next for Wearable Tech?

I know plenty of people who still use their FitBit but half the people on my friends list have been inactive for quite a while. FitBit’s recent acquisition of Pebble leads me to believe that they are not out of the game yet. My hunch is they will use the Pebble software and design a new FitBit to compete with Garmin and the Apple Watch. In fact I foresee all of the fitness tech companies researching the next modernization in wearable tech. It seems the wearable has plateaued just as your weight-loss can plateau. If you want to keep losing weight you have to make a change (more reps, reduce calories, etc). We have barely tapped the surface of biometrics and biotechnology, so there has to be something new that can be implemented into a wearable.

I hope FitBit pulls out of its downward spiral. I love my Apple Watch and all but I don’t want to lose all that fitness data I’ve accumulated over the past 4 years. These devices can already measure your activity level, your steps, your elevation, your heart rate, our sleep, etc so I imagine finding the next metric is going to be challenging. An article I spotted on CNET leads me to believe that wearable technology still has a future and where it goes next is going to be interesting.

/cheers

apple_logo-263x300The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do
– Steve Jobs

Biggs’ Labs: Smart Home Phase I [Complete]

Smart Home

The summer presented some additional challenges which pushed back phase I of my smart home project. I am also adding another phase to the project. Every time we see some new appliance or module we immediately start to budget to add said module. Be that as it may, I have updated the project checklist:

In Home Network

MythTV, Plex and FreeNAS (DVR and Media server)

Home Automation Phase I

Home Automation Phase II – with Raspberry Pi integration (in progress)

Home Automation Phase III (in draft mode)

There are many flavors of home automation you can choose from and several factors you should consider before you choose one. How dirty do you want to get your hands? How user-friendly do you need the system to be? What other technology will you want to be able to integrate with (i.e. iPhone, Google, Echo, etc)? If you haven’t figured it out by  now, I’m not talking about professional installation of a home automation system; I’m talking about a Do-It-Yourself kind of project. When you are deciding on a product you should also be aware of which protocol it supports. The protocol is important when you are selecting additional modules and other peripherals.

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