Fixing Microsoft’s Mistake With Solder!

Microsoft recently stopped making Kinects.  Since it was never a loved product, this decision made total sense.  Why keep making something no one is buying.  However, they also stopped making the Kinect Adapter for the Xbox One S and X.  This was a dumb decision.  The Xbox One X just came out, and a lot of the people buying an Xbox One X are upgrading from the original Xbox One, meaning they have a Kinect.  A Kinect that they are going to want to hook up to their new console.

I mean if you go and look on eBay the Kinect Adapter for Xbox One S and X is going for well over $100.  That is insane for what amounts to be a power adapter and a USB cable.  However, you will also notice there are ads for modding your Kinect for around $50.  Well I figured if someone can do it for $50, I can do it for cheaper, and I did.  All I had to do was watch a couple of YouTube videos.  The one below was the most useful:

If you have the tools, you can make your Kinect work with you new Xbox or PC for less then $20, and if you need to buy the tools, you have probably still spent less than $40.  Better yet, if you click through to the YouTube page of the video above he has links to Amazon for the stuff to get this mod working in the video description.  It took me a couple of times to get the solder on right, and the mic on my Kinect is a little finicky now, but hey, I can play Dance Central again and tell Cortana to turn on and off my Xbox. Which I couldn’t do before, and I wasn’t willing to pay $300 to make happen.

Listen, obviously doing all this voids warranties, and you are damaging a power cord, so I can’t actually recommend that you do this.  However, I did it, and It is working great.  The shot on the top of the page is a shot of my success.  Plus it was a lot of fun to pretend that I am some sort of electrical engineer.  So to Microsoft who screwed over all their fans, I guess it is up to us to fix your problem with a little solder.

P.S. I am also going to include a link to site that has a better shot of what the soldering should look like when you are done, here.

RPCS3 Works, But You Better Have A Beefy Rig.

I have always had fun playing with emulation, so RPCS3 has intrigued me.  The PS3 uses a very custom Power PC based processor called ‘The Cell’, so in order to emulate it on an x86 based processor it all needs to run at the software level.  The developer recommends an Intel Core i7 or better to get games running decently, but I thought I would give it a shot with my cheap overclocked AMD FX-8320.  It didn’t go well.

I couldn’t get games to run over 15 FPS, but I am guessing with a Threadripper or a an i7 I could have stabilized things a bit more.  Some people are able to get amazing performance, but most of us are stuck in frame drop city.  This is why it is incredible that the Xbox One is able to run un-recompiled Power PC Xbox 360 games so well, and even run some of them at 4K on the Xbox One X.

I am not condoning pirating, and if you are going to run emulators on your PC please buy the software first, and in RPCS3’s case, you can get a used PS3 for far cheaper than you can buy a PC that can run the emulator decently.  Not to mention most PS3 games are pretty cheap themselves theses days.  All in all, it is amazing what the RPCS3 team has accomplished, but don’t go thinking your bargain PC will be running PS3 games in a playable fashion any time soon.

A 1080p Gamer’s Day With An Xbox One X!

I got my Project Scorpio Edition Xbox One X in the mail yesterday ( a shout-out to the Blaine Washington Post Office for letting me call in and pick it up!), and I had a good time playing games one it.  If you have been following the news around the One X you will know that its primary focus is on delivering 4K games, but Microsoft has been adamant that people with lowly 1080p screens would also see a benefit.  Since I have yet to take the plunge on a 4K set, I figured I would let you know my thoughts.

So far out of the three enhanced games that I have played, Hitman, Titanfall 2 and Halo 5, the big difference is that everything just looks cleaner.  Hitman and Halo 5 got some new textures that look great.  Especially Hitman’s character models if you run in ‘Quality Mode’ instead of ‘FPS Mode’.  Halo 5 just swaps out some of the muddier environmental textures, which admittedly makes a big difference.  Titanfall 2 has no new textures, so it just runs the game at the highest resolution its dynamic scaling solution will let it, and then super-samples the image down to 1080p for a nice clean picture.  Of course I believe Hitman and Halo 5 are doing the same thing as well.

In gameplay terms, I actually saw an improvement to my play for the simple reason that I could more easily pick out enemies and opposing players.  I didn’t become a superstar or anything, but just cleaning up the picture let me see everything that much better, so the bad guys had no place to hide, even in busy environments.  I still don’t have the skill to top the leaderboard, but I was able to hold my own in all the games I played.

I also played the non-enhanced Turing Test (review forthcoming).  For non-enhanced games Microsoft is adding 16x anisotropic filtering and framerate locks to make the picture a little nicer, and while the results were not as good as enhanced games, there were fewer jagged lines and the loading times were much better, so not what you would spend $500 for, but it is still good to see that indeed all games do play a little better on the Xbox One X.

All in all, I am not sure $500 is worth it for everyone who doesn’t have a 4K TV, but for me, I like to see my games at their best, and the Xbox One X definitely does that.  Microsoft has stayed true to their word and created the most powerful gaming console of all time, and I am happy to be playing my games on one!

Shmee Takes A Listen To The Thrustmaster Ghost Recon Wildlands Y-350x Headset!

Thanks to the one and only Major Nelson, I got a new headset at PAX West 2017.  The Ghost Recon Wildlands Y-350x Headset for Xbox One and PC.  Over all it has been a nice upgrade from my Microsoft Stereo headset.  Thanks to their deep base from the 60mm over ear drivers and 7.1 virtual surround sound.  Though so far the best part is the memory foam padding keeping my ears from hurting during those long play times.  While all this sounds great, there are some drawbacks.

First up, to keep these headphones from draining the controller’s battery too quickly, Thrustmaster attached an inline power pack that you can charge separately.

The problem is now you always have this floppy thing attached to your controller, and it is always pulling your headset down.  I am not sure why they couldn’t have just made the control pad for the headset bigger, and hid the battery in that, since you can’t detach the two from each other anyway.  Speaking of the control pad, here is a look at it:

It is pretty easy to control once you get used to it, and the back lights are nice, but the problem is the back light doesn’t stay on for very long, so sometimes you have to push something real quick to turn on the back light before you can find the right setting.

The last annoyance is probably the biggest.  When you first turn on the Thrustmaster Y-350x’s there is audible hum/buzzing.  It is supper irritating.  Though once you give the headphones a slight workout the buzzing stops.  It is like they need to get a range of sound pushed through them to calibrate themselves.  Then they sound great.

All in all I like the sound and the bass these headphones are able to provided, but they are not perfect.  However, for the money they probably perform much better than other $150 headsets, and you can get them for as little as $100 if you look around.  With The Ghost Recon Wildlands Y-350x Headset you just got to learn to live with their little flaws.  Which is a shame because with a few design tweaks they could have been truly great, but since I got mine for free, who am I to complain?

Life With Hulu With Live TV!

Since Comcast has continued to raise rates and give me nothing extra for my money, the wife and I have decided to give Hulu with Live TV a try, and it has been working pretty well, with some caveats.

First off what the service gets right.  You get a good selection live channels as well as Hulu’s already excellent selection of on demand shows.  You also get a feature called ‘Cloud DVR’ which allows you to record shows, but obviously as its name suggests it stores them on the internet.  Then the big seller for us, Hulu with Live TV has most of the local Seattle stations included as well.  Most of the other streaming cable services do not.  We have to be able to watch those Seahawks!  Then you get to take this all with you.  Visiting a friends house for the weekend and your show is on, but they don’t have cable TV?  Just take your Roku Stick with you, and you and your friends can watch it (provided your friend has internet), or you can find a corner and watch it on your phone.

All this is not without its flaws.  The new Hulu interface is not intuitive.  Little icons on the top row indicate were you are, and then massive pictures and bold print tell you the names of shows it wants you to watch, but it is hard to find something other than what they are promoting.  You get used to it, but there is a steep learning curve.  Also, it seems that right now the service is having a slight issue keeping up with demand.  While for the most part everything looks great, it isn’t uncommon for the picture to get a little blurry while the stream catches up.  This doesn’t appear to be due to my internet, since Netflix and Amazon don’t also have this issue.  Lastly, and maybe most importantly for a lot of people, Hulu with Live TV isn’t that much cheaper than cable.  Though you do save some extra green because there are no random fees or cable boxes.

If you are like me, and you just got sick of all the standard cable options and want to give something else a try, Hulu with Live TV is a good choice.  They need to work on their interface, and maybe add a few more live channels to the mix to justify their price, but I gain the flexibility of taking my TV anywhere I want, and more importantly, on whatever internet provider I want.  With the added bonus of sticking it to Comcast.  So far it has been worth it.  Who knows, I may go back to Comcast, but at least then I will be a ‘new’ subscriber again and get all the good rates.