Gaming takes me back…

I have been on a strange and fairly pointless kick lately. I have barely turned on my Xbox 360, or even my PS3. I’ve been watching more movies, and playing other games. Games that I’ve missed. Missed in both terms of “never played” – like the games that occasionally show up in my “Backorder catalog, and also missed in terms of “just haven’t played in a while.” I went on Goozex and got a a few games like NES Play Action Football, and Silent Hill for the PlayStation. Two games that I’ve never played, but always heard good things about. I can’t wait to hook up my original NES for a play session.

I recently went on and purchased Sim City 2000 when it was on sale. I even went on Steam and loaded up some game expansions that I never completed like Half-Life’s Opposing Forces. I added my original Star Craft CD Key to my Blizzard / account. I found a rare game in my parents’ attic called Gunman Chronicles (which you can’t activate on Steam, by the way!). Another victory for Steam, I bought a special sale priced collection of games from id Software, and found myself playing a lot of DooM 3 and Quake III Arena.

I can’t explain why, so suddenly, I have been compelled to play so many classics. But I ran through a few levels of Donkey Kong Country, and even picked up the Virtual Boy I had left in the childhood bedroom where I grew up. Something is calling for me, and I can’t yet tell if it’s something genuinely retro, like my Gameboy, or if it’s something slightly newer. All I know is that right now I long for the days when controllers had wires, and you sat on the carpet about 4 feet from the TV, and you bleeped and blipped your way around a world that looked the way it sounded. I haven’t found the right thing to itch the scratch, but it’s a good gaming Friday, and I think it’s time to start the quest to find what I’m missing.

Windows Phone 8, I'm already ready!

Oh man. I’m pumped. I’m super pumped. Microsoft heald the Windows Phone Summit today and had a lot to say about Windows Phone 8. It’s the piece that ties at all together. One harmonious, Microsoft-based ecosystem. “One Microsoft Way,” as the street address of Microsoft headquarters states. And I’m one of the ten people on the planet who is all for it!

Android fans are rolling their eyes, saying it’s about time. iPhone users… well… they’re keeping quiet as upgrades to iOS are starting to lag behind the game that “big daddy M” is talking about. But when the announcement of Windows Phone 8 came today, I was at the edge of my seat. Microsoft proudly states that the software at the true core of the OS will be a shared core with Windows 8. In other words, it’s fairly straightforward that Windows RT and the Windows 8 Metro experience overtop of the Windows 8 Home and Pro desktop environments, is going to be all of the hard work that the Windows Phone team made come true. Taking the guts out of Windows CE and Windows Mobile, and turning it around to something that is this good was a lot of work, and I really hope the Windows Phone team is reaping the benefits!

Don’t take my word for it. During the very beginning of their presentation today, it was pointed out that Windows Phone 7 is really getting their biggest reward from their users. Somehow it’s still not selling, but the user reviews on Amazon rate seven of the top 9 phones on Amazon… as Windows Phone 7 devices. It wasn’t a joke, it wasn’t an exaggeration – I checked it out myself.

And what is Windows Phone 8 going to bring us? Better software – the same stuff you can get on the Windows 8 Metro store, you’ll be able to get on a Windows Phone 8. 90% of the code used on Windows Phone 7.5 can be ported to Windows Phone 8, there will be almost no effort needed to have all of the apps already in the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace will be able to make their way to Windows Phone 8. Windows Phone 8 is also going to introduce multi-core support (dual core right away, and more to come – and they’ve already tested it up to 64 cores!). Support for two new higher resolution (720p and WXGA) screens are going to help keep higher definitions coming along, while not causing massive fragmentation along the platform.

MicroSD sounds like it’s “about time” but it is still exciting to know that I’ll essentially be carrying a full-blown Windows device with a memory card in my pocket – it’s not just going to be pictures and ringtones, it is going to be just as useful as an external hard drive on your current laptop. Microsoft made a big deal of their support for NFC, something that sounds convenient when working with multiple devices, and the new “NFC Wallet” type of experience, but that’s not a huge deal for me. Not enough brick and mortar stores that I’ve been to support that. I guess everyone in Seattle and Silicon Valley must have a need for it, but not so much me.

There are a few other benefits that were described, and these really have nothing to do with the real end-user features that Windows 8 will be pushing, but the one they are quite proud of is the more customizable start screen (as seen in the screen capture at the top of the page). Microsoft has decided to take Windows Phone 7 and the Metro UI’s most powerful feature, and make it even more powerful. I can’t wait. This fall, I will have a Surface, I will have a Windows Phone 8, and I will be thrilled. If you want to know more about what to expect from Windows Phone 8, or see it in action, check out the presentation stream from Microsoft’s Channel 9.

How to use Skydrive on your Android: Browser for Skydrive

Update: Microsoft has released an official SkyDrive app for Android. Original article below.

Browser for SkyDrive is a free app for Android which allows you to access files on your Microsoft SkyDrive account. Sounds pretty straight forward, and it is.

Even though Windows Phone 7 and iOS are covered, Microsoft has yet to release an official SkyDrive app on Android. This app takes fills the need, and does so in quite a professional fashion. An easy to use, split screen interface shows your local file system, and the files on your SkyDrive. You are able to quickly navigate and transfer files of nearly any type back and forth. It is easy to trust the application made by a third party with your Windows Live ID password because it actually takes you take a Microsoft logon page where you authorize the app access, rather than just entering your password and letting the app store it however it wants and send it wherever it might. All in all, it’s a very professional, and very well done replacement (or at least placeholder) for an official Microsoft app. I’ve used it a few times and have been quite happy with it.

A small, non-resource-intensive banner ad at the bottom of the application keeps the app free. I click on it from time to time to support the developer. I encourage everyoen to check out Browser for SkyDrive by Bolero on the Google Play Store.