How Windows 8 applications will handle Push Notifications

iPhones, Androids, even Windows Phone 7 devices and your old brick phones… they all had notifications to let you know if you’ve got a voicemail, text message, email, or nowadays even to suggest that your Draw Something friend has… drawn something. This all happens in the background, either on a schedule like every 15 minutes, or with a technology called “Push.” In many cases, developers need to have their own backend servers for their applications to communicate with. So how will Windows 8 do these Push Notifications? With Windows 8 development, your Windows 8 apps will use the existing Microsoft Azure servers and access the WNS (Windows Push Notification Service). In this video from Microsoft’s Channel 9, Nick Harris is here to tell you all of the details. It’s a lengthy discussion, probably more than the average person wants to know – but for geeks & developers? Some of this might be pure gold.



A free game, 10 years in the making… Wing Commander Saga

A fan project that ran for nearly ten years recently came to a close… or perhaps it’s only just begun. However you want to look at it, Wing Commander Saga is now available for download at multiple major gaming websites. There is even a torrent available for a no-waiting, download now kind of experience.

The game was made in the open sourced Free Space 2 engine, and has been polished more and more as the years went on. Since the root engine is so old, you can play it at max resolution on a current gen system and easily maintain an over-30-frames-per-second average. It’s now a full blown Wing Commander game in every sense of the word except legally. There is such strong fan support behind this that if EA, the current holders of the Wing Commander name, tries to shut these guys down, there will be an outcry from the fans. The projects been well publicized for the better part of a decade, they knew it was coming – if they try to step in now that it’s been released? It’s too late. But I won’t rain on anyone’s parade. Head on over to WCSaga.com and check out the details!

Desktops, phones, apps, and the web

I have been listening to discussions among people (and having a few conversations myself) this week, regarding the openness of the web as we know it. This is all discussion generated since the advent of the “post-PC world” Apple has told us that we live in.

I am one of the big proponents of the web. The web should be able to do it all, and as HTML continues to evolve, I feel more and more confident that it will. Apps have the problem of creating a rift in your potential userbase. You have to develop for Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, and perhaps a few other platforms like BlackBerry. It is because of this very limitation that Windows Phone 7 gets left out of the mania of new game releases. WP7 has only one version of Angry Birds, hasn’t gotten Words with Friends or Draw Something, and generally lacks the constant torrent of new apps that the other major platforms get. If all of those games were available via the web, we wouldn’t have to worry about what platform you were coming from, you could visit the site, and play!

So far, that’s just the mobile space. i have recently decided to rip some of my favorite DVD movies to my own hard drive, and stick the hard copies away in an attic. although i may some day want true “HD” versions of those movies and TV shows, my mid range Xvid rips will make me quite happy. But what tablet was going to let me accomplish that task? And then, where will I store these tons of movies? On my 32GB memory chip? Doubtful. “In the cloud!” some people suggest. Unfortunately, only SkyDrive has any reasonable capacity, and storage on the internet isn’t as cheap and easy as it always seems.

Then come the bandwidth caps. The thing that keeps me on Sprint: unlimited bandwidth. While I rarely use over 2GB per month, I certainly have on more than one occasion. when you look to see where things are going, more and more app and web driven, you have to wonder how we are going to survive with smaller bandwidth caps! A global infrastructure is going to experience growing pains for a while, until we get all the links worked out. Faster speeds, higher caps… We cannot be handcuffed if we are expected or in most cases required to work online.

For me, the desktop PC is still my safe haven. Proven and capable hardware, ever increasing internet speeds, and (so far for me) bimonthly bandwidth caps! It won’t be this way forever, and who knows what the next big thing will be… But I’m excited more and more by every change that comes our way – I just continue to hope that it is something that is open to the web, and not locked away, just for iTunes users, or Android owners, etcetera. Whatever the next step in the web is, whatever the thing AFTER the web is, it has to be for everyone.

Want to double your Android's speed? I found a way…

It’s App Wednesday! But this week I don’t have an App, I have a great story of taking back what’s mine! I set my phone back to “factory default” last week. I have an HTC Evo Shift 4G – it’s a Sprint exclusive device which only has one major down side: storage capacity. It includes only 512 MB of onboard space.

The problem with the Shift seems to be a strange setting on it. When I get below 45 MB of free storage space on the phone, it locks into a panic mode and a lot of features like background sync don’t run properly. It’s trying to prevent you from running out of storage space – but 45 MB on a device like this is still more than 10 average sized apps! I don’t get why it chokes me at such a high level of free space. So most people say, still, it’s no big deal. Just install some apps, move things to the SD card and you’ll be all set! Wrong.

It turns out, at least in my case, after performing some Over the air Updates, some of the files were left over and hogging up space in some hidden way that I couldn’t find them. Even using apps like Disk Usage, I couldn’t remove stuff from the System partition. So when it was all said and done, I decided to make sure I had contacts synchronized to my Google account, made sure pictures, etc… were all moved off to the SD card and my computer in some cases. Then? Settings screen, SD & Phone Storage menu, then Factory Data Reset.

It kept the firmware and software updates that had been pushed to the phone, and got rid of the installer files that had clearly been left behind from OTA updates. I now have nearly all of my apps reinstalled, and nearly 3 times the free space I had! Also, this thing is running like lightning. Slow down must have happened gradually, but I forgot this phone was ever this fast when I got it. But, much like Windows, the occasional reformat may prove to be a good idea! Glad I did it, and just wanted to share!

SonicWall and Cisco VPN Client Download Links

Why is it so hard to download VPN software? Too many times I’ve been in a pinch and needed a VPN client to install for someone. To get the files installed, I have to log in to the website for Cisco or SonicWall and dig around for what I need… for some reason, they lock these things down. You can’t use them without already owning the multi-hundreds-of-dollars piece of hardware, anyway, so why they keep the software under lock and key makes no sense to me. Well, I’ve found some links with the files you need – they aren’t the LATEST versions (in fact, I don’t have the exact version numbers written down), but I can guarantee they work for Windows XP, Vista, 7, as well as your 32-bit or 64-bit needs. I’ve even found a client which, I’m told (I’m not a Mac Guy) works on all versions of Mac OS X (at least up to Lion), if necessary – although with Mac users, IPSEC connections are probably built right in and will work fine. The links are reliable and have been online for a long while, feel free to post below if they ever don’t work for you.

UPDATE 1: SonicWall has gotten the hint that people are tired of hunting. While my links are still available below, SonicWall has finally provided links to the latest Global VPN Clients.

Update 2: WARNING – these downloads are available for your convenience, but please note that I have added approximate dates to files. THEY ARE OLD. They are functional, but they may not be the most compatible with newer operating systems, hardware, or may even have security flaws that have been fixed in newer versions. For the latest Sonicwall client visit their download page. To download the latest Cisco client you must have an active membership with Cisco – your IT department or contractor should be able to obtain the latest versions for you from this page. Again, local downloads are available if necessary, but you should look into getting newer, more secure versions of the software as soon as possible.


Cisco VPN Client 32-bit – 2010 or older.
Cisco VPN Client 64-bit – 2010 or older.
Cisco VPN Client DMG for Mac – 2010 or older.


SonicWall Global VPN Client 32-bit – 2011 or older.
SonicWall Global VPN Client 64-bit – 2011 or older.

Enjoy the links!

2012 – The Asteroids Galaxy Tour – Out of Frequency

It’s not often you get a new album with fourteen tracks. It’s also twice as rare for that many tracks to be consistently good throughout. The Asteroids Galaxy Tour brought us just such an album earlier this year. You may remember The Asteroids Galaxy Tour from their 2008 single, Around the Bend.

What you’ll hear from 2012’s Out of Frequency music is definitive “head-bob” music. A funkadelic ska band that is trapped somewhere between the 70’s and 80’s and blessed with the gift of time travel that lets them come forward to today and listen to our current generation of acid-rock bands like MGMT, Air France, or Washed Out.

There is no doubt in my mind that The Astroids Galaxy Tour is not for everyone. People will detest them. Psychedelic can be redundant, it can drag, it can get too “out there” for a lot of people. But I love listening to this album and hearing all of the influences that have made them in to a band. You go from a song with a church organ right into a synthesizer that sounds nearly like chiptune music, but if that chiptune song were inspireed by the disco song Kung Fu Fighting.

The album has a few misses, but beginning to end it entertains me and brings enough different influences to the forefront that the variety makes up for the songs you may not enjoy. You can tell that the band members are students of musical history, taking lessons from the chart toppers of decades past. if I were on a long car drive, I wouldn’t hesitate to have Out of Frequency
in the rotation. If you still can’t figure out what genre of music I’ve been describing, that’s because it is very hard to pin point, but I’ll simplify it for you: I can all but guarrantee that at least one song from this album will be featured in an iPhone commercial this year.

How do I disable automatic renewal of Xbox Live Gold? Here's your how to…

Maybe you’re like I was when I was young, and you were never sure how much money you would have in your bank account on a certain day which could be weeks or months in to the future. I never trusted myself enough to have “automatic renewal” tied to some sort of debit card, then suddenly one day get notice that I had overdrawn my account. It’s not fun. Or, perhaps you just don’t know for sure if you want to continue using a service which you may have just started using. Either way, or for any other number of reasons, you may want to disable the automatic renewal feature for your Xbox Live Gold subscription. Here’s how to do it from the web:

Go to the My Account page, here: http://www.xbox.com/accounts
UPDATE 11/24/2013: the instructions below have changed due to a redesign of the Xbox.com website. Go to the accounts page as linked above, then click “Subscriptions” (a large button at the top of the page) and you should be able to disable the Xbox Live Gold Subscription near the top of the Subscriptions page.

Original Article:
On the center of the page, you’ll see your current Automatic Renewal status: click the CHANGE button.*

On the next screen, simply set it to OFF.

Microsoft has the steps listed on their support page as well.
*Please note: at the time of publication, the “change” link is currently redirecting to the Contact Us page. You should be able to change the auto renew status online without having to contact customer support. I have contacted Microsoft for a response to see if this is a temporary change on the website, or if they will be making us jump through more hoops in the future. No comment, yet. I will update if I hear anything of substance.

Is Microsoft Hedging their Bet against Nintendo's Wii U?

Last week, news broke that Xbox 365 (again, my name) will not be shown at E3 2012. I’m wondering if Microsoft is playing it safe. I fully believe that they are ready for the next generation – but if they give themselves an entire year of additional time, it’s going to make their next console unstoppable.

First, I believe they’re “hedging their bet” against the Wii U. Nintendo’s silly Wii console dominated / decimated / owned sales charts for well over 2 years afters it’s release. Lately, the Xbox 360 has become the top dog. But Microsoft doesn’t want to risk playing second fiddle again. The best way to prevent that? Don’t release head-to-head with what could be Nintendo’s most anticipated console ever. By “delaying” the unannounced launch, nobody feels shocked or too disappointed (we had HOPED to see something, but knew it wasn’t entirely likely). An added benefit of the delay, internally at Microsoft, will be time to polish. Even if the hardware specs are 100% finalized (which, at this stage in the process, I hope there’s still some flexibility), there will still be lots of time for optimization and enhancement – both on the back-end and the user interface.

So, I wouldn’t say that Microsoft is running scared from Nintendo, but rather playing it smart. By delaying your console launch by a year, it gives you more time to release a more polished, and genuinely better product than the competition (taking advantage of any advancements in the technology you’ll be using), learn from any mistakes they’ve made this generation (even “simple” things like number of games at launch, console price, online infrastructure, etcetera), and avoid the head to head sales contest for the consumer’s “holiday 2012 spending dollar.” It’s a smart move. We’ll all have to wait and see if it pays off. But the key word there was “wait.”

Tablets and Desktops and Ultrabooks, Oh My!

Thursdays are my day to post about whatever I really want. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about getting myself some new hardware. I don’t do as much computing as I once did. But I feel, simultaneously, like I want to do more. I’ve become that type of geek who used to be a gamer and had to fiddle with his own hardware – now I’m the type of geek who keeps his six year old dinosaur running and also has a netbook.

So I’m thinking of killing two birds with one stone. My desktop I currently hooked up via HDMI to my TV in my living room, running at 1080p, and has a wireless mouse and keyboard (don’t ask what model, it’s embarrassing). In theory, I could replace both my ailing netbook (with a semi-functional hard drive and a broken left click) and my old desktop (which growls when you first turn it on, squeels when its accessing data, and was “upgraded” to a dual core CPU only about a year ago) with one device. And I love the look of these Ultrabooks. Super portable, super powerful, and most of them have some form of HDMI and of course a USB slot, meaning I could keep it tucked away when not in use, and it would serve as my desktop.


Yeah, that really is a functional computer, the Acer S3

These things are loaded, too! I don’t know how they don’t burst into flames. Intel i5’s, i7’s, 8 GB of RAM, terrabyte hard drives, solid state hard drives: you name it, they’ve got a model with it! I haven’t seen any quadcore i7s, yet, and the i7 models are all 15 inches and above – none are 13 inches. I believe that’ due to the necessary heatpiping used in these units, which are mostly passively cooled (heat is dispersed over a wide area, similar to the way tablet or phone “cools” itself, not pushed out with fans like a traditional PC). They carry a heavy pricetag, but everything else out there that I’m looking it is similar to “powerhouse machines” that friends of mine built two or three years ago. I feel like the progression has been towards minimizing the machine, rather than increasing the power. This is one of the reasons I haven’t bothered upgrading my desktop.

Still, the more I work on fun little side projects, the more I have cause to crunch data. I’m getting back in to various forms of media: compressing video as I begin digitzing my DVD collection (more on that later), potentially editing some video for this site, and getting back in to some audio editing and mixing has appealed to me for a while. I also do a lot of work with virtual machines, and wouldn’t you know that my motherboard is so old that I can’t use hardware virtualization on my CPU. No, not even with a hacked BIOS update. Trust me, I’ve checked. It would be nice to virtualize things a little better. In several instances, I feel like the crappy Atom CPU in my netbook does a better job than my desktop.

So, if it’s about time, I need to consider several things. Is it worth it? Is now the time? Are there deals coming down the road, or is everyone excited for tablets and the iPad specifically that there’s no point in going forward? I look at things like the HP Folio, ASUS Zenbook, Acer Aspire S3, and the Samsung Series 5 – which may be a little bit bulkier than the others, but is still impressively tiny, which I kind of like because it actually boasts a full size HDMI port.

What’s everybody else doing? Ignoring it and waiting for Windows 8 tablets? Going for first gen Ultrabooks? Building a new Bulldozer-based gaming PC for only three grand? Oh decisions decisions. I think I’m going to try and at least hold out until the vouchers for free upgrades to Windows 8 are unveiled, likely to come out some time this summer, but I don’t think I’m going to wait all the way until October when Windows 8 launches – when it’s official, I’ll probably buy a tablet. But what will I end up doing before then? I’ll keep you posted, but if you have any words of advice, leave them in the comments, I’m open to listening!