gaming, xbox comments edit

We pre-ordered ourselves a Kinect and it arrived yesterday. After spending a single evening with it, here’s what I’ve arrived at.

Setup is reasonably easy. I have an original Xbox 360 and not one of the snazzy new Xbox 360 S models, so I have it connected with a USB cable and a separate power adapter. The Kinect proper is sitting just below the TV on the TV stand. Power on, magic happens, run through a couple of calibration screens, and you’re done.

To get the Kinect’s attention, you wave to it. This doesn’t sound hard, but you can’t wave too fast or too slow, and the movement can’t be too small or too grand. If it is, Kinect ignores it. Probably good so you don’t accidentally activate things, but you do need to sort of “learn to wave” to it.

The voice commands are interesting but somewhat limited at this point. I recall seeing, somewhere, a demo where they started and stopped video playback using voice commands but I can’t figure out how to get that to work. The commands are also not entirely discoverable. For example, you say “Xbox” (to get Kinect’s attention) and then a list of commands pop up that are available - “Dashboard,” “Next,” “Previous,” “Cancel.” Sounds straightforward - go to the Xbox dashboard, next menu, previous menu, cancel the voice command. I don’t know what I said, but at one point it popped up some settings menu, which means to me that there are commands you can say that aren’t listed. Unfortunately, there’s no manual explaining it, so… hmmm.

We played Kinect Adventures! last night - the game that comes with the Kinect - and it was very fun, though it takes some getting used to. It’s similar to Wii Fit where you sort of jog in place or dodge obstacles, but rather than standing still on a pad the way Wii Fit works, you actually run around the room. The bit that takes getting used to is the whole “physical calibration” of it - figuring out where your body should be in relation to the TV in order to get things to happen. There’s also a tiny delay between you doing something and the character on the screen doing it, so you have to figure that out and account for it. Once you’ve got that down, it’s pretty fun.

There’s a feature on it that I think is cool where it knows just about the time you’re going to do something embarrassing and it snaps a photo of you. Sort of like the cameras they have on roller coasters that snap you just as you go down a scary bit. Once these pictures are snapped, they’re saved to your Xbox and you can upload them from there to KinectShare, a web site that holds the photos online for you (in private) for 14 days. From that web site, you can share the photo to Facebook or download it to your computer.

Travis playing Kinect

This is actually a decent workflow if you have an Android phone (and possibly iPhone, but I’ve not tried it):

  1. Upload from Xbox to KinectShare.
  2. Visit KinectShare on the phone browser and post the photo to Facebook.
  3. Open the Facebook app and share the photo from there - email, Twitter, or whatever.

Another cool feature is the facial recognition. You can sign into Xbox Live just by waving at the Kinect and it recognizes your face. If you’re in a game, it automatically switches profiles for the active player based on who’s standing in front of the camera. That’s pretty slick and works reasonably well.

Here’s the big downside, though, and I can’t stress this enough:


The packaging and all the documentation says you need six feet between the back of your space and the Kinect. What it should say is “If you don’t have at least eight feet between you and Kinect, you won’t get the most out of this.”

My living room looks something like this:

Six feet between the couch and the

It’s a reasonably skinny rectangle where I have an opening on on wall, windows on another, and a fireplace on yet another. That leaves one place, basically, for the TV. The couch is directly across from that, and both the TV and couch are pushed as far back as they go. That gives me six feet of space, which is great for movie and TV watching but is on the absolute minimum end for Kinect. I don’t have the option of moving furniture or adjusting anything. Rotating the TV won’t help and isn’t really feasible anyway.

What that means is that when you play, Kinect Adventures! tells you to stand in the play area and if you don’t stand with your heels right on the back of the couch, you’re too close. When you calibrate the facial recognition thing that lets you auto sign-in, Kinect tells you to step back. That had my wife and I standing on the couch, bracing against the back wall/windows. That really sucks.

As such, I’m looking at possibly moving the Kinect upstairs where there is the potential for more room in our “game room.” We’d have to move some recliners out of the way every single time we play, but it would give us about eight feet of usable space and I think Kinect would be happier. Maybe if I just leave some of those furniture slider things under the recliners so you can more easily push them…

Anyway, Kinect is fun, but we don’t have enough room. I haven’t even cracked Dance Central out of the plastic yet and I know I’m not going to have enough space.

subtext, blog comments edit

After some unfortunate problems with the handling of medium trust, Subtext has released a new version to which I’ve upgraded.

Things seem to be working reasonably well with the exception of email. I no longer actually receive emails coming from the Contact form, nor do I get notified when comments are made. I gather I’m not the only person with the problem, either.

I’m working on that, but in the meantime… sorry. Catch me on Twitter if you need to get in touch or send me email directly: tillig-at-paraesthesia-dot-com.

I do love me some Subtext, but I have to admit things like this make me lose faith. There’s a lot of “works on my machine in full trust” that sort of makes survival on Subtext in a medium trust world a bit problematic. I’m glad I have a staging machine to try things out on or I’d never be able to upgrade.

subtext, blog comments edit

As mentioned in an earlier article, I updated to the latest Subtext and was having email problems. I have the problem solved now so I do get notified when comments and contact form submissions come in.

For those more technical and interested in what happened…

…it was a lot of things conspiring against me.

  1. The Subtext contact form specifically doesn’t send you email if you’re logged into your own blog. It checks to see if you’re logged in and, if so, just skips the whole send procedure but still says “Email sent!” making for a difficult debugging experience.
  2. The whole way Subtext sends email has been changed. There’s an email service that uses email providers that do a do-si-do and an alaman left and somehow email gets pooped out the other end. I have a feeling that something in there changed without me knowing it, but since I can’t attach a debugger to it, there’s no real way to tell what.
  3. My host seems to require authentication for SMTP now. I don’t know how I was getting emails through before, but it worked in Subtext and after switching to Subtext, I was forced to set new SMTP parameters to handle the authentication. This also ran me into the fact that emails from Subtext, by default, come FROM the user sending the comment form. The new authenticated SMTP server at my host doesn’t like that. Trying to figure out the magic combination of parameters through trial and error was especially trying because…
  4. The logging around failed email sending in Subtext is lacking. It may be that there’s just nothing coming back as an exception or something down the stack is getting swallowed and not logged, but there was no indication anywhere about a failed email send.

Anyway, if you upgrade and run into the “email isn’t being sent” issue, first make sure you’re logged out. Log out of both the HostAdmin and the blog proper. If it’s still not working, THEN look at your config settings.

halloween, costumes comments edit

We had 16 more trick-or-treaters this year than we had last year and the most popular time to visit was between 6:30p and 7:00p, which is earlier than the last couple of years. We had seen a trend where kids were coming out later, but Halloween was on a Sunday so I’m thinking the kids had to be home earlier on a “school night.”

Here’s the graph:

2010: 259

And the cumulative data from this year and the other years we’ve tracked:

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Time Block 6:00p - 6:30p 52 5 14 17 19
6:30p - 7:00p 59 45 71 51 77
7:00p - 7:30p 35 39 82 72 76
7:30p - 8:00p 16 25 45 82 48
8:00p - 8:30p 0 21 25 21 39
  Total 162 139 237 243 259

As mentioned, Halloween was on a Sunday and we did the two giant bags of candy from Costco like we did last year. We had a little left over, maybe a third of a bag, so it seems two Costco bags is the magic number.

I had intended to decorate more than last year, but I ended up with only putting out the projector again. We’ve had a lot going on lately so I had to skip on the heavier decorating. I was pretty pleased with my costume this year, though, which was Sherlock Holmes:

Travis Illig as Sherlock

I made the hat, coat, and vest myself. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. I did a decent job matching up all the plaids at the seams and got several compliments, which is always nice when you put in a ton of effort.

Over the past couple of years I’ve noticed a lot more of what I’ll call “Halloween Bullshit” going on. I ended up tweeting about it as it was happening, and while it’s not like “Holy crap, this is a huge problem” or anything, people are doing stuff that, well, I feel is probably less than in the spirit of the holiday.

  • If I see a big group of kids leave your house to go trick-or-treating, you’d best leave someone at home to hand out candy. I watched as a huge family with at least five trick-or-treat age kids left the house, shut off the lights, locked the doors, and went out to harvest candy without leaving anyone at home. That’s leeching, folks, and no one likes a leech. If you’re going to go out into the neighborhood and take candy, have the common decency to leave someone at home to hand out candy, too.
  • If you couldn’t be bothered to wear a costume, you shouldn’t bother to trick-or-treat. I see this mostly in the older kids who probably shouldn’t be out trick-or-treating in the first place. Plenty of jeans + sweatshirt + flip-flops showing up with a pillowcase demanding candy. The “I’m a student” or “I’m a regular person” line to try and justify it isn’t clever or funny, it’s just bullshit. You don’t have to have some elaborate get-up, but at least put in some effort or just stay home.
  • If your kid can’t walk and/or talk, they’re not old enough to trick-or-treat. I’m not stupid. I know the candy’s for you. That kid doesn’t even have teeth with which to chew this peanut butter cup. Go buy your own damn candy and stop freeloading off the neighborhood. We actually had two ladies - not in costume - wheel a toddler - in costume - up to the door in a stroller and hold out two bags for candy. Really? There’s only one kid here. Two bags? You’re not even trying to hide it. (There was a very specific demographic of people who did this. I won’t comment on exactly what that demographic is, but experience in the last couple of years says it’s definitely this demographic that thinks this sort of thing is OK.)

Looks like Halloween is on a Monday next year so I anticipate attendance will be down slightly, and possibly shifted into the earlier times the way it was this year.

dotnet, process comments edit

I’ve spent the majority of my recent career working on fairly complex systems. Integrated services across disparate business units with different data centers. Full multitenancy for SaaS hosted solutions (remember all that Ray Ozzie hubbub back around MIX 07?)… that can also be deployed on-premise for larger customers who want to customize more than the configurable abilities in the hosted environment allow. It’s not The Most Complex System Ever, but it’s not what I’d consider your entry-level project, either.

The thing is, a lot of time gets spent doing things like…  Trying to pull configuration out of XML files and into a central service-based configuration store. Localizing for multitenancy where there’s not just culture fallback to consider but also default values and per-tenant overrides (sort of content management-ish). Correlating logs that run from the end user all the way through to the [disparate business unit] back end systems and back to the user.

Where are all the tools that are supposed to support larger apps and more complex use cases like that?

Based on my personal views and having no scientific data whatsoever to back it up, here’s what it feels like is going on:

[Where I think time is getting spent (click to

There seems to be a ton of stuff trying to get people “just starting out” up to speed… but once you get past a web site that uses LINQ to SQL or whatever to display products out of the Northwind database, where’s my tooling? Where are the solutions to the distributed configuration problem? Where’s the solution to getting resources out of .resx files? Where’s all the multitenancy support? How about even the ability to change the web.config without restarting the application?

I just feel like I spend a ton of time on infrastructure, something we all know Product Management doesn’t want to pay for because it’s not something you can see or click on, and not much time on more visible features. And I’ve mentioned stuff like this before.

Venting? Sure. But am I alone in wondering where this stuff is? I don’t think so.