Microsoft Announces Wired Xbox One Controller for Windows

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 17, 2014 - 12:55 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, xbox, xbone, xbox one, controller, gamepad

A few months ago, Microsoft released 32- and 64-bit drivers for their Xbox One controller on Windows 7 and Windows 8. This was for wireless controllers attached by micro-USB to a PC. Now, Microsoft announced a new controller for Windows: the same controller, only bundled with the required cable. In fact, it can still connect wirelessly... to an Xbox One, not a PC.

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The bundle will cost $59.95 (MSRP) and be available starting in November. As far as I can tell, the PC cannot update the Xbox One Controller's firmware; for that, you apparently need an Xbox One handy. It is possible that Microsoft will implement this, or already has and no-one is talking about it, but you might want to hold off until we know for a fact. One update adjusts analog stick sensitivity; this could be important, especially if you have multiple controllers at different patch levels. Yes, some PC games allow local multiplayer.

Firefox 29 Launches with Australis Interface and Gamepad

Subject: General Tech | April 30, 2014 - 12:52 AM |
Tagged: mozilla, gamepad, firefox

After three years' reign, the orange Firefox button has been retired by Mozilla. Firefox 29 introduces the new Australis interface, with its curved tabs and a simple menu button comprised of three horizontal lines (the "Hamburger Icon"). The interface missed its targets a few times but is finally here.

ilovetheweb.png

Obviously, Australis makes the browser look more like Google Chrome (and less like Opera). Users of Mozilla's Thunderbird will also find it more familiar as that program skipped Firefox 4's direction and immediately adopted parts of Australis as they developed. Thunderbird still lacks a few bits and pieces, its development having slowed since its transition to Extended Support. But this is not about Thunderbird -- it is about Firefox.

In terms of actual features, Australis brings a new Bookmarks button, which is basically two buttons, and is pretty slick to both add and access links to favorite web addresses. The little star-dropping animation is a subtle hint to the user that a bookmark has been added to the list, accessed by the right-most button. Many users will be upset by the removal of the Add-on Bar, a place where extensions can leave a button or two without clogging the rest of the interface. Mozilla seems to expect that extensions, if they absolutely must leave a button, will cram it next to the gigantic location bar (or less-gigantic search bar); that, or affected users will just install an Add-on Bar extension.

Also in Firefox 29 is the finalized, and enabled by default, Gamepad API. With it, web games can be controlled with devices such as the Xbox 360 controller. If you want to see a geeky example, one is available at html5gamepad.com. This website lists every compatible game input device and their current state. In my testing, Firefox 29 was able to detect both my Xbox 360 controller and my Thrustmaster T-16000M joystick -- and register their inputs independently.

There's not really anything, from the technical side of things at least, to prevent split-screen gaming in the browser. Detecting the input devices did not even require restarting the browser, although that is a good troubleshooting step, as Firefox detected it immediately after I plugged it in and pressed a button. The flight stick, probably because it has never been attached to this instance of Windows before, required the good old unplug and replug of its USB cord after Windows "Add New Hardware" finished in order to register input. It is not perfect, but still pretty good.

Firefox 29 launched in the middle of the night on Tuesday, April 29th. It is free and, if Firefox is set to automatically update, you probably already have it. If not? Get it.

Source: Mozilla
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

Thoughts about Interface Design in General

I have been in several situations where a variety of people claim the gamepad is superior for gaming because that is what it was designed for. No elaboration or further justification is given. The controller is designed for gaming and is therefore clearly better. End of – despite often being start to – discussion in their minds.

Really it is a compromise between the needs of popular games and the environment of a couch.

Interface design is complicated. When you design an interface you need to consider: the expected types of applications; the environment of the user; what you are permitted to use; what tolerances are allowed; what your audience is used to; and so on, so forth. There is a lot to consider when you design an application for a user and I could make an educated guess that it is at least as hard to design the input device itself.

The history of keyboard design is a great example of tradeoffs in input devices.

Sometimes it is better to be worse...

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The first wave of keyboards were interfaces to the mechanical typewriter. These keyboards were laid out in alphabetical order because as long as each key is accessible and the user could find the letter they wanted – who cares, right? We already have an order for the alphabet that people understands so the users should not have too much difficulty in finding the letter they need.

Another constraint quickly game to light: typists were too fast and the machines jammed.

The engineers now needed to design an input method which could keep up with the typist. Correcting the machine itself was somewhat futile so the solution was to make the typist as slow as possible. The most common letters in the English language were spread all over the place and – while possibly by fluke – the left hand is favored, as in made do more work, over the often dominant right hand.

The problem required making the most aggravating keyboard layout engineers could imagine. QWERTY was born.

What has been designed to threaten QWERTY? Read on to find out.

Go ahead, be a D-Pad on Battlefield 3

Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2011 - 10:16 AM |
Tagged: input, battlefield 3, gamepad, razer

As strongly as many feel about the keyboard and mouse interface others have been raised on the gamepad and have a strong preference to use them.  Razer is looking to attract that crowd with their Battlefield 3 branded D-Pad.  Red & Blackness Mods gave the USB gamepad a whirl on both the PC and XBox 360 and were quite happy with the performance offered on both.  So for those of you who do prefer PC gaming with a console style game pad, Razer has you covered.

razer_BF3.jpg

"Battlefield 3 is one of those killer titles which draws a lot of interest and aiming to offer those consumers something a little more interesting than the average peripheral is Razers BF3 Collectors Edition products. We have the BlackWidows Ultimate keyboard, Onza Tournament Edition controller, Imperator 2012 mouse and Scarab pad on our test bench today."

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