New and Notable – 25th June 2010

Some of the things that I’ve found interesting over the last few days…


Windows Live Essentials “Wave 4″ beta is out


Some major improvements that I like here. Windows Live Messenger has tabbed conversations, so you don’t need a different window open for each person you’re chatting with. Windows Live Photo Gallery has a neat facial recognition feature, so you can tag a person in a photo and it’ll try to find other instances of that person across your photo collection, and the marvellous Photo Fuse feature (formerly Group Shot).


I found a bug in it pretty quickly when I launched Messenger and got a message saying ‘%1 wants to be friends.’ I checked on the live.com site and of course it wasn’t somebody called %1, it was someone with a proper name, who had left a message saying ” Hi, I’m [a different name again!] and I have some sexy undies to show you if you visit my site at…” Spammers; meh.


I was quick to turn off the “underline a word if I can add content about it from the web” feature in Messenger. Oh, and one quick tip – if you don’t need the whole suite (like the Family Safety feature or Bing Bar), make sure you hit the “Choose the programs you want” link, rather than “Download now”, which gives you the lot.


Windows Live Essentials may not be totally essential to everyone, but I recommend it and would suggest you download the beta.


You don’t hold it; it holds you!


So the iPhone 4 is out. Demand it high, stock was short, queues were long. I had a chance to see what it felt like in the hand and was suitable impressed with the very, very lovely screen. It’s a really nice device and anyone who says otherwise is wrong.


Of course I intentionally held it in my left hand with my palm bridging the two metal strips in the bottom left and I saw what lots of people are up in arms about. It really does drop reception to practically nothing. Apple have acknowledged the issue, with Steve Jobs himself saying “Just avoid holding it that way.” Well that’s one answer, but it’s quite a rubbish one since the whole reason to put the antenna strips on the outside was to improve reception, and that’s a fairly natural way to hold the phone.


Now whether this is a mistake, or the reason for Apple selling iPhone 4 Bumpers (glorified rubber bands), I don’t know. It seems there are also mutterings of similar issues on older iPhones that have been updated to iOS4, when I’d say it’s fairly obvious that the iPhone 4 issue is the design and not the software. We’ll just have to wait and see.


Personally I think it’s a shame to have to cover up such a pretty device, but I’m also big into function over form too, and you probably want to protect your investment as well as your reception, so you’d best start looking for an iPhone 4 case - there are plenty to choose from.


Kinect pricing and Xbox Live Family pack


The price of Kinect for Xbox 360 was one of the things that was really missing from Microsoft’s E3 press conference. Several online retailers were listing it at $150 dollars, but nothing was official. Then Microsoft’s own online store listed Kinect for $149.99, which left everyone assuming that is indeed the price. I don’t think that’s necessarily a given, but there’s a good chance.


That is higher than I would’ve liked to see, but if you think about it – you only need one Kinect for multiplayer games, whereas if you wanted motion controlled multiplayer action on the PS3 or Wii, you’re potentially going to be buying a bunch of wand and navigation type controllers and those mount up. I have to say that if it is going to be $150, and especially if it’s going to be converted to £150 in the UK (which wouldn’t be a surprise), I’d like to see a game pack-in. I would also like a lottery win. I’m not sure which is less likely.


If you were wondering, like I was, what’s going to happen when your Kinect recognises your face and signs you in to your Xbox Live account, and you’re playing an online game, but only one of you has a Gold account and the others are Silver, then wonder no more! Microsoft are releasing the Xbox LIVE Gold Family Pack in conjunction with Kinect’s release in November. US pricing is $99 per year - the price of two Gold annual subscriptions – which give you four users.


Sounds like they’ve done some sensible stuff in terms of the primary user being able to do things like dish out Microsoft Points to the other accounts for them to buy content. The only question I have is how that ties in to my existing Gold account, which, for a variety of reasons, is paid up until January 2012!


The other interesting Kinect news is that (unsurprisingly) it’s going to be appearing in use with devices other than the Xbox 360. I want to control my PC by waving my hands at it.


SE help you find and share Android apps


The Android Market for apps is woeful. It may be getting better in newer versions, but there’s still no getting around the fact that it’s sadly lacking. It’s not surprising that 3rd parties are making the effort to help people discover Android apps.


Sony Ericsson are the latest to do this with their Mash-App.com site. People create collections of apps (mash-ups, mash-apps – you see what they’ve done there?), which can be shared and searched.


Personally, I use AppAware on my phone, which is good for showing what’s hot and what’s not, but Mash-App may be useful too – it’ll depend on the user base. One to watch anyway.


And there’s more…


You can hear me chatting about some of these stories and more with Andy and Ben in NEBytes Bytecast episode 3, which will appear at NEBytes.net in the next day or so.

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