project spark

Want to create your own games? Now you can with Project Spark

create your own gamesMicrosoft studios have announced a digital canvas where you can create your own games.  This “game maker” game is called Project Spark and was developed by Team Dakota for the Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Window 8.  Which is fabulous, far more games need to be available cross platform, I hope this is the way forward.

This game is still available on Beta on Windows 8.1 and Xbox One users were recently added to the beta, but sadly 360 users still have to wait.

Create your own games with Project Spark

With Project Spark you can use either the Xbox controller, your keyboard or even your touch devices to create worlds, stories and games of your own.  Add your own landscape, mountains, rivers, towns, people and it doesn’t stop there, you can make the people or items react to certain actions.  This means you can might them fight, pick up items, drop items, collect objects, everything you do place in  your world can be altered, re-sized, changed in colour there are so many options available and although it sounds very complicated, there are great tutorials and lots of guides which walk you through each step.

projectsparkbeta

Sharable Worlds

Similar to other games, once you have created your world this becomes sharable so other players can enter your world and create a duplicate world if they want to add to it or change anything, so you needn’t even start from scratch with your world.  Its a good idea even to browse the other worlds available at first, to give you an idea of what exactly you can achieve creatively with Project Spark. There are some very clever and imaginative players out there!

Project Spark has so much depth and creativity

This “game” is so impressive! There are so many features and endless possibilities to unleash your creativeness, I don’t think I can explain any further, you need to just see it for yourself – check out the video below for a sneak preview.

 Can I get a beta key for Project Spark?

Anyone can apply for the Project Spark Beta – just go to – Join Project Spark they say they are sending out beta keys in batches so you might have to wait a little while, if you are selected you will get an email with detail on how to get going.  I was lucky enough to get a key from my friend who used to work at Microsoft – Thanks Vince 🙂

Once you have your key you have to actually download and install the game on your device from the Windows Store or from the Xbox Store under games.

If you have any problems with the game, as its in beta, make sure you let the support team know.

Unlike many other Beta games this game has no non-disclosure agreement – so this means I was able to write about it here, and to tell you how great it is.

projectspark

System requirements

  • Minimum: Core i5 CPU, Intel HD4000 video card, 4GB RAM, 2GB hard drive space
  • Recommended: Core i7 CPU, Nvidia GT640M or AMD HD8850M or better, 8GB RAM
  • Project Spark requires a connection to Xbox Live for initial login and some features

Project Spark Beta is in closed preview, users will be prompted for a registration key upon product launch. Please go to http://projectspark.com to sign up for your free registration key!

Microsoft Xbox 360 Live launches a new generation of TV

Today Microsoft announced that it plans to roll out the next generation of TV entertainment on Xbox live in over 20 different countries over the holiday season.

We have been waiting for this for some time now, and finally it appears to have arrived.

AT&T, BBC, Comcast, HBO, Rogers, Telefónica, Televisa and Verizon are among providers rolling out new TV entertainment services on Xbox LIVE.

On a Microsoft press release seen today they talk about this being a major step towards Microsoft realising their vision to bringing you all the entertainment you want, shared with the people you care about. Stating that you will be able to switch from games to music to live TV and more by using your Xbox 360.

Starting this holiday season they are giving US customer 26 live channels including MTV, Spike, Food Network, Comedy Central, HBO, CNN and Nickelodeon — with more to come.

Highlights of the Xbox 360 TV Experience 

Unified Dashboard for Xbox LIVE

Xbox LIVE now has a unified dashboard for greater, easier navigation, whether customers use Kinect or a controller. Access more entertainment content for everyone in the family from numerous providers.

Comcast Xfinity Direct to Your Xbox 360

Starting this holiday season, customers will have access to world-leading TV and entertainment providers such as Comcast Xfinity. Get access to over 10,000 episodes of catch-up TV.

Lots of Live TV on the Way for US Customers

Starting this holiday season customers in the United States will be able to watch live TV with Verizon FIOS. Get Verizon FiOS TV with multiple live channels like MTV, Spike, Food Network, Comedy Central, HBO, CNN and Nickelodeon — with more to come.

Searching for Entertainment? Bing, It’s There!

With Kinect for Xbox 360, there are no remotes, no buttons, no worries. Powered by Bing, customers can search across Xbox LIVE for games, movies and TV content from different providers, to find what they want to watch instantly.

Voice-Powered Search

With Kinect, you are the controller. Find TV shows fast, and use your voice to pause and rewind movies and TV shows. Just say what you want to watch and Xbox finds it with voice search powered by Bing. Want to find the latest X-Men movie?  Simply say “Xbox Bing, X-Men” and Xbox finds it.

More Entertainment Options Instantly

Xbox LIVE now brings customers more entertainment options to enjoy movies, TV shows and sports, instantly. Find new movies on the Zune marketplace or explore the latest videos on YouTube.

Entertainment Apps Galore for the Holidays

This holiday customers will get more apps with movies, TV shows and sports from top providers such as ESPN, Netflix, Syfy and YouTube.

Sharing With Xbox LIVE Community

Customers can connect with the Xbox LIVE community to show what games they’re playing, movies they’re watching and music they’re listening to, as well as invite others to join in — even post game achievements and info about favorite movies directly to their Facebook wall from Xbox LIVE.

Experience What Xbox 360 Brings to Music

Customers can easily discover new music, artists and albums and share with friends and family from the comfort of their couch.

What gives this a fantastic futuristic feel to it is Kinect,  I love the fact that there are no remotes or buttons, you will just have to talk to your TV and tell it what you want.

Entertainment Partners on Xbox

ABC iView – Australia
AlloCiné – France, Germany, Spain, U.K.
Antena 3 – Spain
Astral Media’s Disney XD – Canada
AT&T** – U.S.
BBC – U.K.
blinkbox – U.K.
Bravo – U.S.
BSkyB** – U.K.
Canal+* – France, Spain
Channel 4 – U.K.
Channel 5 – U.K.
CinemaNow (Best Buy) – U.S.
Comcast – U.S.
Crackle – Australia, Canada, U.K., U.S.
Dailymotion – Available in 32 markets
EPIX – U.S.
ESPN** – U.S.
Facebook** – Available in all 35 Xbox LIVE markets
FOXTEL** – Australia
GolTV – Spain
HBO GO – U.S.
Hulu – Japan
Hulu Plus**– U.S.
iHeartRadio (Clear Channel) – U.S.
Last.fm**– U.K., U.S.
LOVEFiLM – Germany, U.K.
Manga Entertainment – U.S.
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment/Real Sports – Canada
Mediaset – Italy
MSN with MSNBC.com – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Spain, U.K.
MUZU.TV – France, Germany, Italy, Spain, U.K.
Netflix**– Canada, U.S.
Rogers on Demand – Canada
RTVE – Spain
SBS On Demand – Australia
Syfy – U.S.
Telefonica – Spain
Televisa – Mexico
“The Today Show” – U.S.
TELUS** – Canada
TMZ – U.S.
Twitter** – Available in all 35 Xbox LIVE markets
UFC – Canada, U.S.
Verizon – U.S.
VEVO – Canada, U.K., U.S.
VimpelCom** – Russia
Vodafone Portugal** – Portugal
YouTube – Available in 22 markets
ZDF – Germany

You probably need an Xbox gold membership and I expect fees for the new entertainment, so we will have to wait and see those prices before we get too excited, but it sounds interesting so far.

Hope this helps.

How to protect your PC and remove spyware, malware for FREE

With so much malicious software around at the moment that is getting better at tricking us into opening a page, an email or clicking at link,  we all need to make sure that we are protecting ourselves and our computers, laptops and tablets the best we can.

This can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be, there are many  free programs around to download which work perfectly well but you have to be careful where you download them from as some of the links on the net can contain nasties themselves, (so I’ve included some good links for you).  Then there are the evil pop ups that you have a virus and to use their scanner, normally what  happens is you use it and they tell you you have to pay to remove it. Now you are infected and also if you put your card details in, they have your information as well.

Free software, utilities and tools to protect your system from malware or to find the infection or virus or worm, and to help you remove it. I have most of these and they work well.

You must use protection.

First there is the wall of protection, the Firewall!

ZoneAlarm Free Firewall – This is what I use now after trying both Norton and McAfee – this one just seems to suit my system better. I like the interface, its easy to use – if you need to change settings and allow certain programs or networks, popping up warnings along the way.

Antivirus Software

AVG Free Previously I used this and it kept me safe from harm. Its a free Anti-virus software, that has basic protection for surfing, searching and social networking. It does ask you now and then if you want to upgrade to the paid version but you just say no, if you are happy with free.

Microsoft Security Essentials This is arrived at the end of last year and has had many million downloads, and has good reviews, its the one I’d be thinking of changing over to. Its nice to get something free from Microsoft for a change. After all they can afford it, or maybe not so much now they have purchased Skype for 5 billion pounds.

To complete your protection, the following will delete or fix an malicious software that has been missed by your anti-virus program.

Why do you need this as well? – because sadly most or even all antivirus software doesn’t detect spyware or doesn’t always remove everything.

Spybot Search & Destroy – This rocks, its found many a problem for me. It searches your whole computer, or you can choose a file or folder to scan. After the scan you can choose which items to fix or just fix all.

Ad-Aware Free – A brilliant free real time anti-virus and spyware removal software.

SpywareBlaster – Prevents spyware and adware from infiltrating your system you can run this at the same time as Avg and Ad-ware.

Cleanup – If you are still using Internet Explorer and its running slow of you think you have a problem then this is a cool tool which cleans temporary files from IE and Windows, empties the recycle bin plus much  more. (Please read the instructions)

HiJack This – This is a little bit more confusing but its very useful to have. If all else fails and you still have a persistent pest camping out in your system, you can use it to generate a scan that shows browser helper objects and certain types of registry keys. You might use this to post on an forum such at PC-PALS for a techie to help or look them up on the web to see if the entry was suspicious.

You may need to run a scan in Safe mode to remove some particularly bad boys.  (Sometimes even system restore needs to be turned off).  However there is usually no need to panic they can be removed.

Also always remember to get your system updates, this is important as they sometimes have fixes on them.

To check for updates

Click Start – All Programs – Windows Update.

 

Hope this helps!

 

 

Nokia N8 Smartphone – Personal Review




As we know, I love to try out different phones or gadgets or applications and I will give my honest view, in the simplest terms for people to understand.  This time I’ve been lucky enough to trial a Nokia N8 Smartphone, thanks to Womworld/nokia.

From opening the box…….  

Hardware
The N8 is extremely pleasing to the eye, its sleek, slender style and the courageous metalic green colour gave me visions of a Porsche or a Ferrari racing car racing around a track. A truly beautiful design.  It felt good in my hand, a comfortable size and it doesn’t have a plastic feel to it as some phones do. This phone feels light and floaty whilst also feeling strong and sturdy. Astounding quality.
Dimensions
  • ·                       Size: 113.5 x 59 x 12.9 mm
  • ·                       Weight (with battery): 135 g
  • ·                       Volume: 86 cc

Fabulous, I loved the look and feel of the N8

There were however two small things I didn’t like about the design,


The flaps at the side covering the slots for the microSDcard and the SIM card: I found them difficult to use and they don’t look like they would take much pulling around before they came off. Also it was tricky to get the cards in and out, how you’d manage without nails, I’m not sure.
 I also noticed that when I typed or pressed on the screen while using an app there was a vibration of the screen moving in the casing, maybe this was misuse from a previous tester, I’ve not heard of it this problem before.
Its not as easy to set up as some mobile phones I’ve used.  I was stupidly struggling with the T9 keyboard  due to my impatience to get going with it and I didn’t realise until someone mentioned that if you turn it landscape you get a lovely qwerty keyboard.  I never learn to just read the instruction booklet first!  Having to turn the N8 to Landscape every time I needed to type was a bit of a pain to be honest, maybe I’m just fussy.

Then I had the problem where I couldn’t connect to the gateway – which I wrote about at the time. Finally finding out it was the simple fix of just setting the date.
Once that was all sorted, I could get on with playing around with it.
Camera
There  have been countless blogs, pictures and articles on the web about how brilliant the camera is on this phone. Head over to James Burland’s site Nokia Creative to see these amazing N8 photographs .   I agree the specs on the camera are great for a phone. Even though as I’ve mentioned before I didn’t get fantastic photo’s from it as I expected, that’s just me. I seem to fair better with a standard Camera.
What would you expect with these specs of the N8 Camera.
  • ·                12 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics
  • ·                       Large 1/1.83″ optical format image sensor
  • ·                       Fullscreen 16:9 viewfinder with easy-to-use touch screen parameters
  • ·                       Xenon flash with automatic red-eye removal
  • ·                       Face tracking/detection software
  • ·                       Autofocus
  • ·                       Focal length: 5.9 mm (equivalent to 28mm in 35mm film format)
  • ·                       F number/Aperture: F2.8
  • ·                       Still images file format: JPEG/EXIF
  • ·                       Zoom up to 2x (digital) for still images
  • ·                       Zoom up to 3x (digital) for video
  • ·                       Secondary camera for video calls (QVGA, 640 x 480 pixels), still image       and video capture
  • ·                       Favourite settings feature
  • ·                       Still camera manual controls for white balance, scene mode, exposure compensation, colour tone, viewfinder framing      grid, sharpness, contrast, flash control, light sensitivity (ISO), self-timer, face detection

  
Display
The screen size is good, its big enough for most things, and the picture and colours are sharp, bright and clear. I was surprised at this because reports had said that pixels are much less that other Smartphones. Even though the N8’s touchscreen is more responsive than the N900 that I trialled  I still found that I had to press harder than I wanted to get a response.  Something you get used to I’d imagine, as I have with my Android Tablet.
Software
I know a lot of people that are extremely happy with the Symbian^3 operating system and others that aren’t so.  My own personal experience of it was that it was extremely clunky and sluggish and I found the whole menu system complicated and difficult to navigate. There doesn’t seem much point as this time to say any more than that. 

It is difficult in two weeks to try out all of the applications and features of the N8 but I did love the music library – and the sound that came from the N8 was brilliant using the BH 905i   Nokia headphones.  
I did not want to focus on the partnership with Microsoft and Nokia, 
1) This isn’t a blog about that  
2) I do not completely know the background and politics involved and 
3) Of course we are all concerned about peoples jobs. 

However I can’t help being excited  to see what Nokia’s fabulous hardware like the standard of the N8 would be like a with a different OS, such as Windows Phone.  I’ve not used WP7 but it sounds like there are updates and new features that might challenge Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android mobile phones in the future. 

To Summarize briefly – Outstanding Hardware – Software would take some getting used to. 
Photo’s taken with the iPhone 3gs!

How to check your DirectX version in Windows 7

I was concerned that I didn’t have the most upto date DirectX and for a moment I couldn’t work out how to check.  After the interest in my other “How to” blogs like the YFrog post,  I thought that other people may have the same problem, so here are the instructions on how to find out what directx version you are using. 


The DirectX technology has grown alongside improvements in graphics processing hardware, so you can get the best possible PC gaming experience on Windows. Windows 7 helps you stay right on top of your game, with the best possible visual effects. With DirectX 11, your warp-speed races and mind-bending, inter-galactic feuds can look incredible. Of course great graphics aren’t all about games. With high-end graphics hardware, you’ll also get an unprecedented visual experience for your non-gaming applications.
http://www.microsoft.com/Windows/windows-7/features/directx-11.aspx




How to check what version of Microsoft DirectX you are using.

  • Click Start
  • Click Run or Search Run and Click. 
  • Type dxdiag press Enter 





And there you have the DirectX Diagnostic Tool


Look at the bottom of the list of specs.





DirectX Version: Mine shows it as being Version 11 – which is the latest version. 


Microsoft Download Centre. 


ATI Radeon. 
HOWEVER …. The first DX11 card from ATI was in the 5000 series. 


So you will also in some cases need to check if DirectX 11 is supported by your graphics card. 
Thanks to @BartekWodyk who pointed this out. 

Hope this helps 🙂

Microsoft Arc Mouse Review




I must admit  this mouse was a total impulse buy – its curves, angles and smooth design caught my eye and I had to have one.
I am a bit fussy when it comes to using a mouse – its something I use a lot as I’m not really a keyboard shortcut person, I’m a scroller and a clicker. I also draw and design with my mouse so its really important that a mouse has a good feel, is comfortable and responsive. I usually take a while to choose a new mouse but this impulse buy seems to have been a good one.
The arc feels luxurious in my hand , its so silky and comfortable I forget its there. I’ve read articles where people thought it was too small, I’m not sure what bucket sized hands they have, mine aren’t exactly small and it is absolutely ideal for me.
Even though essentially the Arc was designed for the purpose of being portable and wireless this wasn’t even a factor for me, I didn’t need it to be either of these, but I am enjoying the wirelessness and I may well  use it with a notebook in the future. It folds down really small and the USB receiver fits inside perfectly.
The Arc laser senor was so responsive and fast at first, it did feel a bit out of control.  However after adjusting the settings to slow it down slightly it was precision perfect everytime.


It isn’t a cheap mouse but not as high-priced as the Logitech gaming mouse that I had which although very good, was enormous and so uncomfortable I often got cramp in my little finger?
The only downfall with the Arc is the thumb button. It is positioned so far forward I never remember to use it, and it would actually be uncomfortable to do so without totally moving your hand.
Being an ambidextrous mouse I thought I might try using my left hand to see how I got on, as I am actually a lefty but have never used a mouse in my left hand. Sadly it felt truly unnatural, I think its too late for me now to get used to using the left hand, the upside of using the Arc this way is that is that the thumb button is then in a better position for your finger.
The Arc’s buttons and scroll has a nice firm click and bounce to it which I like too.
All in all a very pleasurable mouse in style, design and comfort.

Photo’s – Me and my iPhone.