Now the Xbox is gone, replaced on my desk by a Raspberry Pi, another mystery. But this is two stories, not really related. The Xbox went, after 15 months, to my grandson in Seattle, though shipping it up there felt a bit like an old cliché. After Build 2014 I tried to accept the Xbox into my life. I liked the (idea of the) Kinect, and the fact that it seemed to recognize me (though there was no other user to compare). I did have trouble getting over the fact that I had to pay extra for some things (an Xbox Live subscription to watch Netflix, which could already watch on my computers or my Rokus) but the terms changed and I tried it out. Using a controller instead of touch or a keyboard and mouse took some getting used to. In short, the Xbox worked, but it took up space, and I didn’t see the value in it, except for the Kinect, which I liked more in the idea than the application. So I thought I should try using the Xbox for its original purpose so around Christmas time I bought a couple of games at a Microsoft sale, Forza and Call of Duty: Ghosts. That’s what I ended up with. There was a buying frenzy, overwhelming the site, waits of I don’t remember how long when IE seemed to freeze. I wanted Forza because it’s not a shooter, and there weren’t many of those, but the Call of Duty was just what was available when my mouse click actually worked. It’s nice that Forza shows you how banged up your car is at the end, from hitting walls mostly, I didn’t catch up enough to hit other cars. I longed for a steering wheel. The cars were nice, but the goal of not hitting stuff was rough. Call of Duty: Ghosts was a surprise. I felt at home, literally. The scenery, the vegetation, even the houses of the opening sequence (after the story that probably connects somewhere beyond my reach in the game) were familiar San Diego suburban generic. Poway maybe, or Rancho Penasquitos, or possibly the fringes of my home city, Escondido. At first I wondered if there were versions based in different places, to make more users feel at home, and then I wondered if the locale was actually real, not generic, and if so where it was actually set. I liked that, but I had trouble walking with the controller, getting up and running straight, jumping, evading cars fleeing down the Poway-like street. Again I could have used a steering wheel. I didn’t get to a point where I got to shoot. I spent a couple of weekends before my grandson’s birthday trying to bond with the Xbox, then packed it up and sent it on. Even including the Kinect.  I hear he likes it. WP_20150726_08_59_23_Sm

Setting up the Raspberry Pi was another adventure. The hell of Linux, or Oracle, or anything else that takes more configuration than sense.

Here’s what happened. I started a blog, after Build 2014, moving forward. I went to Build expecting, of course, to learn something (Universal Apps) and to mill about with others of my ilk, whatever that is, but also, I thought, to get a phone. I’d never had one, unless you count an i-mate Jasjar from a previous conference, and at the previous Build we got two Windows 8 machines (Surface Pro and Acer 8-inch Iconia) so what was left? Apparently an Xbox One, with Kinect (good) but no bundled game.

Anyway, the Xbox was a source of some adventure while it and I were still in San Francisco (nothing exciting, but a bit of a lug-around), and when I got home I decided to keep it, at least for a while, to see what I could make of it. As it happened, not much. Here were my problems:

  1. it was unfamiliar. There was no keyboard. I’d never held a game controller before, so I had to experiment with the buttons.       There was help somewhere, but I’m not quite sure I found it.
  2. nothing came bundled with it, so there wasn’t really anything I could do, not right out of the box. At Build I watched Titanfall played on a movie theater screen, and that was exciting and impressive, but I couldn’t see spending $60 or so on a game like that when the Xbox itself was “free.” I’m not a shooter, but I would have played Titanfall or any of the others if I had it thrust upon me. I might have bought Forza, though I’m not really a road race fan either, but I couldn’t make up my mind.
  3. Xbox Live: everywhere I went I needed it, even for Netflix, to which I subscribe. Again, Xbox “free,” but a little like giving away the razor so you’ll buy the blades, or the drug dealer’s temptation. A month or so in the Xbox Live requirement was dropped for a few things, but by then I was focused on the phone I got with the “free” $500 Microsoft Store credit we also got, since apparently Microsoft couldn’t decide what to give us, or thought we were capable of deciding on our own.
  4. I’m not sure how I feel about the whole avatar thing.  I’m “Foolish Eel” something or other.

On the positive side, though, I liked the fact that I could log in by being recognized through Kinect. Though, since no one else in my house was interested, I don’t really know if it recognizes me or just a movable object about my size and shape. And, when Netflix without Xbox Gold became available, and I figured out how to operate it with the game controller, it did look pretty good.

This, of course, doesn’t really say what happened to my blog.  But more about that later.