? All Tech Radio Episode 372
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  • Microsoft's next Xbox console will have all sorts of bells and whistles, including Blu-ray, broadcast DVR, and-eventually-augmented-reality glasses, according to one report. Xbox World, a magazine published in the United Kingdom, has published a long feature article on what it believes Microsoft's next console will be like, citing "industry experts and Microsoft's own leaky boat." The report is based in large part on leaked planning documents that surfaced in June-eventually taken down at the request of a law firm that represents Microsoft-but with additional comments from industry sources. The magazine claims that the next Xbox-often referred to as "Xbox 720," but possibly just dubbed "Xbox"-will launch in November 2013, and top developers are already making games for it. Here's a rundown of the features that Xbox World expects to see in Microsoft's next gaming console. Keep in mind that all of this is rumor or speculation, and Microsoft hasn't confirmed any of it: Hardware may include four hardware cores, 8 GB of RAM, four USB spots (two in front, two in back), and a removable hard drive. A "Kinect 2.0" may detect subtle finger movements and track up to four players in a single room. Augmented reality glasses could work with Kinect to create virtual reality in your living room. Hello, Holodeck. " To further enhance the virtual reality vibe, the next Xbox could have 3D sound to project audio to specific parts of a room. " Microsoft may finally embrace Blu-ray in its next Xbox, but may eventually ship a slimmer console that skips optical discs altogether, possibly around 2015. " Rumors hint at a traditional Xbox controller, but with a touch screen or programmable buttons. Xbox World's report adds some speculation from experts, but the controller still seems like major question mark. " Microsoft may try to build its own cloud gaming service, similar to OnLive and the Sony-owned Gaikai, which would let players stream their games to tablets, phones and other devices. That would certainly make sense if an Xbox Surface tablet was on the way. " The console may strive to be "always-on," so users can quickly wake it from standby and start playing. Favorite games may even be pre-loaded into memory so they start up faster.
  • Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system may be fast, and it may crash less than its predecessors, but a leading usability expert has slammed Microsoft for hiding features, making other things hard to find, introducing two separate working environments, and creating applications with an extraordinarily low information density. Jakob Nielsen, who holds a Ph.D. in human-computer interaction, has put Microsoft's new operating system under the microscope and highlighted a number of critical issues that affect usability. First on the list: the confusion caused by the use of both a tablet-oriented Start screen and a PC-oriented desktop screen. According to Nielsen, having two environments available on a single device is "a prescription for usability problems" not only because users have to remember where to go for which features, but also because switching between the two environments in inefficient.
  • Apple fans waiting anxiously for the launch of Apple's new iMacs may not have long to wait, according to sources speaking with 9to5Mac Monday. This new information contradicts reports from French site MacBidouille last week that the redesigned all-in-one desktop would be delayed until early 2013 due to manufacturing difficulties. Apple unveiled the new iMacs at its iPad mini media event in late October. While sharing the same basic design as its predecessor, Apple has incorporated several key changes, including an ultra-thin edge display, the removal of the optical drive, and new solid state and "Fusion Drive" storage options. Two design changes that enabled Apple to reduce the thickness and weight of the iMac are friction-stir welding and full screen lamination. Both are advanced techniques that are relatively new to consumer electronics manufacturing and have reportedly caused unforeseen difficulties in meeting production targets. At their unveiling, Apple stated that the 21.5-inch model was scheduled to ship in November, with the 27-inch model following in December. But during Apple's fourth quarter earnings call, held the day after the media event, Apple CEO Tim Cook cautioned the market about the availability of the new iMacs:
  • Early builds of Apple's upcoming desktop operating system, OS X 10.9, have Siri and Apple Maps integration, 9to5Mac reports citing "reliable" sources. Both features are in early stages of testing, and it's unclear whether they'll ever reach the final product. This especially goes for Siri, 9to5Mac argues, which might ultimately available only on some devices. In the iOS world, Siri is only available on newer iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. As far as functionality goes, Siri could (obviously) be used to perform voice commands on Macs, and Maps could enable developers to embed a map into their Mac App Store apps. Apple could also looking to create its own, standalone Apple Maps desktop app, as well as integrate the map into some of the OS's features.
  • A California judge last week approved a $22.5 million settlement that the FTC handed down against Google over charges that it misrepresented how users of Apple's Safari browser were having their Internet activity tracked. In accepting the deal, the court rejected a complaint from Consumer Watchdog that demanded that Google admit liability and said the injunction was inadequate and the civil penalty too small. According to the complaint, Google placed advertising cookies on the computers of Safari users who visited sites within Google's DoubleClick advertising network. Google, however, had wrongly told Safari users they would be opted out of such tracking thanks to Safari's default settings. The search giant also said it was a member of the Network Advertising Initiative, which requires firms to disclose their data collection and use practices.
  • November 18th 2012 marks the long awaited release of the new Nintendo Wii U console.The Wii U is the first Nintendo console to support high-definition graphics, capable of producing video output up to 1080p, and has 2 GB of memory with half dedicated to the console's operating system. The console was released in two versions: a "Basic" white-colored version with 8 GB of internal Flash storage; and a "Deluxe" black-colored version with 32 GB of Flash storage, which includes stand and docks. An HDMI cable is included with both versions. The Wii U's primary controller is the Wii U GamePad, which features an embedded touchscreen. The touchscreen is used to supplement the main gameplay shown on the television or, with supported games, can allow the player to continue playing games by displaying the main gameplay even when the television is off.
  • Israel's government Web sites have been bombarded by hackers in the last couple of days, logging more than 44 million hacking attempts since launching the Gaza air strikes on Wednesday. One of the attempts was successful, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told Reuters, noting that an unidentified site was off line for about 10 minutes before being resurrected. The blitz was launched by the online hactivist collective Anonymous, which said it protesting the attacks taking place on Gaza. Dubbed OpIsrael, the hacking spree also targeted retail and business sites, allegedly resulting in the defacement or shut down of hundreds of sites through a variety of methods, including denial of service (DoS) attacks.
  • Early adopters of Windows Phone 8 hardware are complaining that it reboots at random, up to several times a day, and that they're not being offered any prospect of a quick fix. The complaints relate specifically to the HTC 8X and, to a lesser extent, Nokia's Lumia 920, with Windows Phone 8 locking up or randomly rebooting on both devices for no discernible reason. Forum users on Microsoft.com and WPCentral have been gathering examples in an attempt to narrow down the problem, but with limited success. The forums run to seven pages, and are joined by those at Nokia where users report similar problems. Though it's certainly not hitting every Windows Phone 8 device it's annoying those it does hit.
  • Apple's FaceTime video chat and iMessage texting application both experienced downtime for the better part of Sunday afternoon. The outage meant that an unknown number of iPad, iPhone and iMac users were left having to find alternate methods to keep in touch with friends and family. Apple's iCloud Support page shows that iMessage and FaceTime both went under at 11:45 PT and remained down for some users for roughly five hours. Disgruntled users quickly took to Twitter to voice their concerns and judging by the number of complains, the outage appeared to be pretty widespread.
  • Just because Nintendo is focusing its energy on the Wii U launch doesn't preclude a sweet deal or two in portable gaming. Starting November 23rd, the company is bundling Super Mario 3D Land with Flame Red 3DS models at the same $170 price as the handheld by itself; it even comes pre-loaded on memory to save some of the hassles of physical media. You can be sure the limited-run console is all about goosing Black Friday sales at a time when Nintendo really needs the boost, but we don't think too many mobile gamers will mind if it means entering 3DS ownership with one of the platform's better games in hand.

email from listeners:

  • Loren from Seattle asks "I just bought an iPad mini and it broke shortly after getting it. I can't get through to Apple support. What do I do?"