Month: October 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Weekly Digest

Life
Busy week ahead. Work is super packed all week and I’m potentially on jury duty at the High Court in Glasgow from Wednesday. Better than twiddling my thumbs I guess. End of the week will see new 4K TV and amp delivered – cabling ahoy!

Media
Battlefield 1 is the real deal. Still enjoying it.

PinOut on iOS and Android is worth picking up. Endless pinball with tron like graphics and sounds. Addictive.

Links

Mojo

I recently wrote about being 10 years on a Mac. It’s been a remarkably stable time with access to a lot of great software and hardware. However there’s no getting away from it – Apple have been stagnating when it comes to Mac’s.

Going back 10 years and there was a marked difference between buying a Mac and buying a PC. Apple owned the software and hardware process and there were very few product lines compared to the hundreds of PC’s available and the crapware that afflicted every PC from Dell to HP, Dan to Acer. They all did it and it stunk. No virus or malware issues either. And for me the difference in how the hardware was designed was massive.

PC or Mac from 2006. Which would you have rather had?

PC or Mac from 2006. Which would you have rather had?

This was also the time of the Mac vs PC adverts that went on for a few years. How times have changed.

This week saw Microsoft and Apple launch new desktop and laptop products. The difference between then couldn’t be more stark and shows that Microsoft have got their mojo back…and Apple are looking a little lost.

The problem for Apple is iOS. It’s a great problem to have, but Mac and iOS are two very different platforms that share quite a bit in common. iOS is the rising platform, dominant in sales and very much the future of computing. Mac is much loved amongst the Apple community but sales in the desktop and laptop market are going down. Global PC sales have declined for eight consecutive quarters. End users aren’t upgrading their PC’s as often – my desktop and laptop are over 5 and 4 years old respectively and still going strong.

However iOS is Apple’s touch driven environment and Mac’s have been left behind in that regards. Is it the right approach? Well Microsoft don’t think so and having messed up so much in the past on mobile they’ve bet on having a unified operating system. So Windows 10 works anywhere, mouse or touch driven, so you can take advantage of your hardware depending on the situation you are in. They are also hitting their stride when it comes to hardware. A few years ago the Surface Pro was a nice device but version 4 is great and with the Surface Book and now the Surface Studio there’s a real wow around Microsoft’s hardware from a design perspective.

Microsofts Surface Studio

Microsofts Surface Studio

Microsoft are courting creatives. IBM have rolled out Macs across the enterprise. Microsofts new devices are not cheap unlike Windows products of the past. Good design costs money and the small creative market are willing to pay to get the best devices. Software is not really locked to platforms. Adobe allow you to work on Mac or PC and the experience on both is pretty much identical. The Mac App Store hasn’t done the Mac platform any favours. Equally the emerging VR market is a Windows exclusive right now. Apple hardware isn’t powerful enough to drive any of the VR platforms and they’ve yet to show their hand when it comes to AR or VR apart from Tim Cook verbally favouring AR.

Whats frustrating for me is that Apple look to be slowing down. Stagnating. The Mac market is getting smaller so is the ideal market to innovate in. In contrast last weeks announcements were pretty snooze worthy. Pricey laptops, confusing naming strategy coupled with a lovely new Touch Bar. The laptops aren’t using the latest chips and the RAM looks stingy. Add to that a greater than three years old Mac Pro, and ageing iMac and Mini. What’s going on?

Worse for us in the UK is that all Mac prices rose last week thanks to Brexit. While I can understand the rise for the new MacBook Pro’s and the iMac’s, it’s a disgrace that the ancient Mac pro rose by £500. Poor decision Apple or don’t you care? Seeing as the Mac Pro website still references Aperture, a product that Apple killed over 12 months ago, I’m thinking they don’t care.

Or has Apple got too big? The video above from Steve Jobs is prophetic and could describe todays Apple. This years iPhone is undoubtedly a great phone but it’s safe. Compare it to the Xiaomi Mi Mix which is a gorgeous new Android device and shows some true innovation with regards design and materials.

Xiaomi Mi Mix - stunning new Android phone

Xiaomi Mi Mix – stunning new Android phone

Apple for me right now feels conservative. Undoubtedly making bundles of cash but hedging bets and not as exciting as they once were. However the likes of Microsoft, Google and Samsung have some great products out there. As a tech lover I’m spoiled for choice. Earlier in the week a colleague said they were worried at Apples approach. I’m personally not worried as it’s easy to move platform so I’ll always have access to the best hardware and software…but that should give cause for concern for Apple. Over time if people start to move away, especially developers and creatives, then it could be the start of a slow decline. Hopefully Apple will prove me wrong in 2017. They need to find their mojo again.

Weekly Digest

Life
An up and down week that ended better than it started. Starting to plot a 4K TV purchase in the not to distant future.

Media
Westworld is starting to hit it’s stride – really enjoying it. Also enjoyed the first of the new Black Mirror episodes on Netflix.

Battlefield 1 on the Xbox One is an excellent game. Operations mode on multiplayer is epic, some of the best multiplayer I’ve played on this generation of console. Coupled with a strong story mode and a range of multiplayer options make it a great purchase.

Mini Metro is a cracking game on iOS. It’s a subway building game which is just made for a touch interface. Just £3.99 but a really essential buy if you enjoy gaming on iOS.

Links

Playstation VR

It’s been over a week since the Playstation VR came out. I picked one up on day one thanks to a very early pre-order on Amazon along with a couple of move controllers, a camera and a copy of Rigs. I’d been really looking forward to this as the Oculus and Vive were just too big a purchase alongside a gaming PC and VR is of real interest to me. The Playstation VR is the affordable way to get into VR…but how good is it?

Unboxing
Opening the kit is the first surprise. Sony really have pulled out the stops and made it a treat to unbox. You lift open the main lid and there’s a box inside. Inside that box there are smaller boxes holding cables. Lift those off and you finally get to the headset itself.

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It felt like opening a Russian doll crossed with tetris. What was also slightly surprising was the amount of cables. A bit unexpected but Sony had done a good job of numbering them all to make installation pretty straightforward.

Design
The headset itself looks fantastic. It looks like something from the future in contrast to the Vive/Oculus headsets which are a bit more utilitarian. More importantly they’ve made it the most comfortable of the VR headsets to wear.

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The band on top of your head supports most of the weight and hence for me feels more comfortable than the other headsets. It also works better for glasses wearers like me. You press a button on the front of the headset to move the screens forward and press in a button on the back of the headset and then pull forward to extend the headband. You then place the headset on and press in the front button to bring the screens over your eyes/glasses and then use an adjustment screw to tighten the headband.

It sounds harder than it is but it’s very comfortable to wear.

The cables are unavoidable really as it’s an add-on to the PS4 and the bandwidth required to get data to and from the headset is more than wireless can cope with right now but there’s no getting away from the mess it makes. There is a audio out and some controls close to the headset so you can easily control volume and plug in some buds of your choice.

The camera and headset tracking leaves a little to be desired. The camera and move controllers are 6 year old tech and it definitely shows in comparison with the Vive. I found during use that the tracking would lose alignment especially during daytime so curtains closed/lights out are the way to go to try and improve reliability.

The most important factor of any VR headset is screen quality and performance/framerate. The screens are pretty good given the price. Not up there with the Vive but good enough. I’ve found watching a video on the Playstation VR pretty jarring but gaming is generally OK. Coupled with the comfort of wearing the headset then most folk should be OK when gaming with the Playstation VR.

Games
Despite some worries a couple of months ago I thought the launch lineup of games was really strong coupled with every headset having a demo disk so you can try a variety of games easily on day one. One tip – download the demo disk from the PS store as it’s the American version so has double the amount of demo’s compared to the UK disk. Anyway, some thoughts on my pre-orders:

Rigs – 3 vs 3 sports game in an arena where you are in a mechanised rig. Graphics are clean and detailed enough and frame rates excellent. I really enjoyed the game and reminded me of a VR version of Speedball.

Thumper – This is a fast paced rhythm game with great graphics and looks stunning in VR. Probably my favourite game of the launch titles.

Rez Infinite – A great looking and sounding game, if you liked Rez from 10-15 years ago you’ll love this in VR.

Driveclub – I loved Driveclub and was looking forward to playing this in VR but for me it was unplayable. Choppy and poor graphics and some real frame rate issues for me. Left me spinning!

I also enjoyed Battlezone and felt the graphics were well realised and fitted the style of game but that £50 was a bit steep for the game. In fact if there was one criticism of the launch titles it that some had a demo like feel to them so the pricing was a bit steep.

Reality
On my first nights play I ended up being physically sick. This was unexpected as I’d had no issues with the Oculus or Vive or with any motion sickness with games previously. Third corner on Driveclub left me feeling terrible so I instantly switched off, grabbed a sugary drink and waited for the feeling to wear off. It didn’t and 15 minutes later I waved goodbye to my dinner. I do suffer from migraines from time to time and do have some other health issues at the moment so wasn’t too put off.

The next day went a lot better, probably because I stayed away from Driveclub, but after just an hour I was left with a sore head and pain in my eye similar to a migraine kicking in. I tried one more session the following day with similar results.

Clearly the Playstation VR didn’t work with me.

I had checked the calibration, ensured it was setup properly but there’s just something about either the headset or me that was causing issues. After three attempts and having similar results each time without much sign of improvement I decided to return the Playstation VR to Amazon for a refund. I wasn’t prepared to train my brain or persevere to get to a point where it worked and in the meantime be repeatedly sick.

Overall
The Playstation VR is a great VR platform. Not as good as the Vive, comfier than the Oculus but importantly has a great launch lineup with the hardware available at an affordable price. Despite it not being for me I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it to other PS4 owners.

Weekly Digest

Life
Autumn starting to kick in and you can see and feel the change – wonderful colours and carpets of leaves around Glasgow. It also means darker mornings and nights. Need to make a bigger effort to get out during the day.

Media
Playstation VR delivered this week but I’ll keep my thoughts on that for a future post apart from saying this – it’s very good. I’ve also been playing some Battlefield 1 and it is wonderful. One of the most atmospheric shooters yet.

Links

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