More Xbox silliness

OK, here’s another post nobody needs, in my continuing series about unnecessarily buying an Xbox One.

First, on the subject of Amazon’s hapless delivery system: I still don’t have the vertical stand for my Xbox, but Amazon made one more delivery attempt last night. Around 9:15pm, I got a call from a number that Verizon’s Call Filter identified as “possible spam,” so I dismissed it. But a few seconds later, I got a text message from somebody identifying himself as an Amazon delivery driver named Luigi, asking how to get into my building. So I’m guessing the call I rejected was also from him. I texted back, saying that I could let him in, if he was here, but then I got nothing further back, other than a presumably automated message saying that my order couldn’t be delivered. Now I see at least three things wrong with this: (1) having people out delivering packages at 9:15pm on a Saturday night, (2) sharing my cell phone # with random delivery drivers, and (3) said delivery drivers calling and texting me, and then not bothering to wait around for an answer. It’s possible that item 2 isn’t really an issue; they may route the calls/texts through an app that doesn’t actually expose my number to the driver. Still, I don’t recall agreeing to be contacted on my cell # at all for this stuff. (But I’m sure I did at some point. Nobody reads the terms and conditions anymore…)

On to the Xbox itself: I’ve got the thing set up, and I’ve mostly figured out how to use it. (As I’ve sometimes joked in the past, this means that my job is now done, and I can stop using it. This tends to happen to me with consumer electronics. Figuring out the user interface is more fun for me than actually playing games.) I’ve bought just one game: Lumines Live, which is one of the old “backwards compatibility” games, and cost $5. This is definitely not a game that shows off the Xbox One at all, but I was a big fan of the original Lumines game on PSP.  It’s still a fun game, and it was worth $5, I guess.

There are multiple subscription services available on the Xbox that you can sign up for, including XBox Live GoldGame Pass, and EA Access. I don’t really want to sign up for any of them, but I’m starting to waver. In looking around for some cheap games to buy, I thought about maybe buying the original Mass Effect trilogy. Mass Effect 2 and 3 are currently on sale for $6 each via the current Xbox backwards compatibility sale. But Mass Effect 1 isn’t. I think that’s because it’s included with Game Pass, so they don’t sell it separately, maybe? Anyway, only ME 1 is included with Game Pass, but all three are included with EA Access. Also, I can pick up dodgy-looking used copies of ME 1, 2, and 3 from my local GameStop, or from a used game store that’s about a block away from my apartment. That would cost about $5 per game. So I don’t know. This is one of those things where I have too many options and I never manage to make a decision. The backwards compatibility sale ends tomorrow, so if I’m going to buy ME 2 and 3 that way, I should go ahead and do it. I don’t want to sign up for Game Pass or EA Access, because I’ll probably either lose interest in the games or get too busy to do any gaming about a week after I sign up. The smart thing to do would be to sign up for a month of Game Pass, play ME 1 for however long it takes me to get tired of it, then cancel it.

I’m going to start reading War and Peace next week, as part of a Goodreads group read, so I should really just give up on the idea of playing video games. I think that will keep me busy enough. (And the Kindle version was free!)

over-promising and under-delivering

At this point, my Xbox-related blogging is getting a little ridiculous. (But here I go again, anyway.)

The Xbox I ordered from Amazon yesterday was supposed to show up today, which I was kind of excited about. I don’t generally expect one-day shipping from Amazon, but it’s cool that they’ve been trying to do it lately. I say “trying” because two of the items in my order (the Xbox and the HDMI switch) changed over to two-day at some point today, so they should be here tomorrow. And the one item that was still scheduled for today (the stand) now says “Unfortunately we had trouble finding your address.” Which is, of course, nonsense. There is no way anyone could have trouble finding my address. So, hopefully that’ll be here tomorrow too, unless the delivery exception causes it to get stuck in limbo (which has happened before). So anyway, that’s another story to add to my Amazon delivery shenanigans file. I wish Amazon would either straighten this stuff out, or stop over-promising and under-delivering on their Prime shipping stuff. Just let the good old USPS deliver my packages. They do a pretty good job!

So, back to actual Xbox stuff. I spent some time today browsing the internet, looking for stuff about Xbox games that I might want to try. I’m interested in the backwards compatibility that the Xbox One has with previous Xbox models. Here’s a recent article from Polygon about some good older games that work with Xbox One. And here’s an older blog post from Scott Hanselman, diving into some old games from the backwards compatibility list. (I always wonder how Hanselman has time for video games, given all the other stuff he does. I’m thinking either he doesn’t sleep, or there are two of him.) There’s a big sale on the backwards compatible stuff going on right now, apparently. And there’s some good information about backward compatibility on Major Nelson’s site.

Of course, I’ve never owned an Xbox before, so I don’t have any old games to transfer over to my Xbox One, but I’d like to dig into some of the games I’ve heard a lot about over the years but never got to play. The lack of backwards compatibility is actually one of the main reasons why I never picked up a PS4. (My PS3 can play PS1 and PS2 games, and I’ve used it more for those than for PS3 games, honestly.)

I bought an Xbox

Sigh. I’m going to call this post the third part of my “Xbox denial trilogy”. (First part here and second part here.) I gave up and ordered an Xbox from Amazon today, along with a vertical stand and an HDMI switch. It should all arrive tomorrow, because Amazon is now using some kind of magic shipping method that can get pretty much anything to my door in one day. I think they use the Floo Network or Portkeys or something. Anyway, the Xbox was marked down to $208, the stand was $10, and the HDMI switch was $33.

I could have gotten a cheaper HDMI switch, but Kinivo seems to have a good reputation, and I didn’t want to get an iffy one. I only have three HDMI ports on my TV, and I’m currently using them all (TiVo, Apple TV, and PS3). I’ll probably put the PS3 and Xbox on the switch. The Xbox has an HDMI IN port, so there’s probably some way I could have used it as a pass-thru, and avoided having to get a switch, but that didn’t seem like a good idea.

It’s possible that the Xbox One S is getting marked down so much because Microsoft is going to announce a new Xbox at E3 in June. I won’t be disappointed if they do. I’m not a big enough gamer to care that much about having the very latest console. (And it’ll probably cost $500, which I can’t really justify.)

So I’ll now have a console that can play current-generation games. Most of the really popular Xbox games don’t really appeal to me, but there are a bunch of oddball indie games that I’m kind of interested in. I guess I’ll need to figure out the deal with Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass. I don’t think I want to sign up for either of them, but I don’t know.

This Xbox may just wind up gathering dust, but hopefully I can get enough use out of it to justify having spent about $250 for it (including the accessories).

probably still not buying an Xbox

I’m probably still not buying an Xbox, but I’ve been paying more attention to Xbox-related news this week than usual.

  • The Microsoft/Sony deal is kind of interesting, though it might not mean much. I assume they’re still both working on their own next-gen consoles, and will continue to compete with each other.
  • This blog post from Microsoft’s “Head of Xbox” is also kind of interesting. He’s saying all the right things, though maybe it’s a little disheartening that some of them even need to be said.
  • And this article about the current pricing on the new all-digital Xbox vs the older version with the Blu-Ray drive has got me thinking again about picking up an Xbox One S with a Blu-Ray drive in it, while I can still get one for less than $250. Maybe I should keep an eye out and see if there are any really good Memorial Day sales.

As mentioned in my previous post, I did indeed pick up the Enhanced Edition of Neverwinter Nights from Steam for $4. It occurs to me that this means that I now own four copies of NWN. I have:

  1. the original PC version on CD (inherited from my brother a long time ago),
  2. a Mac version, also on CD, from the pre-OSX days,
  3. the GOG “Diamond” edition, which came out a few years ago,
  4. and now the Beamdog “Enhanced Edition” from Steam.

I didn’t pay much money for any of these. The GOG Diamond one was $10, The new one was $4, and the PC version was a hand-me-down. The Mac one was actually bought new, in a box, from an actual brick-and-mortar computer store (probably J&R), so that might have been $20 or $30. Anyway, I should install that new enhanced version and see about moving my saved game over from the old GOG Diamond edition. Maybe NWN can keep me busy and out of trouble for a bit.

Not buying an Xbox

Yesterday, my brain decided to go down a path where buying an Xbox One started to seem like a good idea. I had nearly convinced myself to buy an Xbox One S from Walmart. I occasionally get the urge to play console video games. I still have my PlayStation 3 for that, but I bought it back in 2008, so it’s pretty old. But I have plenty of unfinished (and even un-started) games for it. So that should really be enough for me.

Anyway, I’d started thinking about Stardew Valley again for some reason. I could, of course, just buy that on Steam or GOG and play it on my PC or Mac, but it seems like the kind of thing that would work best on a console. It’s available for all three of the major (current) consoles: Switch, Xbox, and PS4. I’ve mostly been brand-loyal to Sony over the years, having owned the PlayStation 1, 2, and 3, and a PSP, but I haven’t been able to get too excited about the PS4. And I’ve never had any version of the Xbox. So that seemed like maybe something to try out.

Of course, then I started thinking about all the unfinished games I have, and all the clutter in my apartment, and mostly talked myself out of it. That got me started on a little kick to locate all of those games and the various game guides I’d bought for them. And that got me to realize how much clutter has been piling up in here. So the whole thing turned into a mini-cleanup project. I managed to sort out a bunch of stuff from past San Diego comic cons, and get that all together in a basket. And a bunch of old Metropolitan Museum bulletins, which I managed to get into a neat stack. And I eventually found all (I think) of the video game guides that I own. I have guides for Final Fantasy 8, 9, and 10. I made it about a third of the way through FF8, and still haven’t (technically) given up. I decide to give it a shot once in a while, make no progress, then give up again. I never started 9 or 10. I also have a nice hardcover guide for Metal Gear Solid 4, which is the game that came with my PS3. I never started that either. And I have two copies of the guide for Neverwinter Nights, for some reason. Speaking of NWN, the Enhanced Edition of that is marked down to $4 on Steam right now, so I should probably grab that while it’s on sale. The version I have now is the old GOG version, which kind of works OK on Windows 10, but kinda doesn’t.

Or I should go outside and take a walk. It’s a nice day out!

Roddy McDowall Reads H. P. Lovecraft

Of all the people you could choose to read H. P. Lovecraft stories, how did somebody decide to choose Roddy McDowall? I listened to about a minute of this, and it’s just too creepy. (I guess maybe that’s the point.) It turns out that David McCallum has also read some Lovecraft stories. Also pretty creepy! (Though his voice seems more suited to this kind of thing.)

There’s a page listing various Lovecraft readings at I probably shouldn’t start listening to Lovecraft audiobooks. I have enough nightmares already…

JoCo Cruise

What Happens When You Put 2,000 Nerds on a Boat? – from the NY Times

I keep thinking I should go on the JoCo cruise one of these years. The 2020 cruise is March 7-14, and my birthday is near the end of that date range, so that might give me an excuse. The cruise is already 90% sold out, and the only rooms still available are in the $5000 range. That’s a bit much for me. Maybe I’ll stick with comic conventions for now. Just as nerdy and a lot cheaper!

Good line from the article above:

Mr. Sabourin and I met to talk in the ship’s casino, a place we knew would be quiet. In a lounge across the way, the JoCo planners set up more than 40 vintage video game consoles, which drew a crowd day and night. On the casino side, the dealers had nothing to do. “Everybody here actually understands probability,” Mr. Sabourin joked.

Microsoft Build

I wish I could have stayed in the Seattle area for MS Build, instead of coming back to NJ on Saturday. There have been some interesting announcements, including a new Windows terminal program, WSL 2, and .NET 5. At work, I’m still stuck using Windows 7 on my desktop and laptop, so I can’t use WSL, but I’d really like to. (At home, I have Windows 10 on my desktop and laptop, so I can use WSL at home, but I don’t have much need for it there.) Anyway, here’s hoping I can get one or both of my work machines upgraded or replaced at some point this year.

Microsoft, as expected, is pushing a lot of Azure stuff at Build. I should probably watch some videos from Build this week, but I don’t know when I can find the time for much of that. I’m already behind at work just from being away for three days last week. Maybe I can squeeze in the “All the Developer Things” clip from Scott Hanselman at some point today.

back home and (slightly) broken

I’m back home today, after spending a few days in Redmond, WA for a two-day workshop on the Microsoft Partner Center SDK. This particular API/SDK is esoteric enough that it’s not worth blogging about much, though it’s been taking up a lot of my time over the last year or so. And the actual workshop contents are under NDA anyway. For what it’s worth, it was a good workshop and I learned some new stuff. I also got clarification that something I’ve been trying to do for the last month or two, and completely failing at, is indeed currently impossible. So that, on its own, made the trip worthwhile. It turns out I’m not an idiot who can’t program his way out of a paper bag. (Rather, I’m an idiot who couldn’t realize that he’s inside a concrete bunker and not a paper bag. Maybe I’m stretching that metaphor a little too far…)

I wanted to mention the trip partly to give me an opportunity to mention that I completely missed Free Comic Book Day, since I spent nearly the entire day yesterday traveling. The Beat has a lot of coverage of FCBD; there were some some interesting books available. Maybe I could go over to my local store today, and see if they’ve got anything good left.

I also wanted to mention that I’m not missing the pre-sale for NYCC 2019, since that’s happening today at 10 AM. I had a good time at last year’s con, so I’d like to go again. A four-day pass is almost $200, so it’s not cheap, but heck, if I don’t spend my money on comic conventions, what am I going to spend it on? (Food? Rent? Nah.)

And I also wanted to check in on the subject of how broken I am after traveling to the west coast and back. I started thinking about this stuff after last year’s workshop, and tweaked some stuff in my routine when I went to WonderCon last month. I think I probably need to tweak some more stuff for the next time I have a long trip, but maybe I’m on the right path. One thing I learned after last year’s workshop is that, if I’m traveling to Redmond in the spring, I need to bring my allergy medicine. So I did that this year. I’ve also figured out that my body doesn’t adjust to time zone changes as easily as it used to. So I’m taking melatonin gummies when I travel now. (That helps a bit, but not as much as I’d like.) And I also figured out, after my WonderCon trip, that it was really time for me to give up on the L.L. Bean duffel bag that I’ve been using for luggage the past few years and get one of those ubiquitous carry-on bags with wheels and a telescoping handle. (I definitely pulled/strained/broke something from carrying that duffel around, coming home from WonderCon.) I think I’ve also broken my long aversion to taking a bag on the airplane with me, rather than checking it. Bag check now costs $30 each way, and it seems like everyone else brings a bag on the plane, so I guess I can too. And if that bag has wheels and a handle on it, it’s less of a pain to carry it through the terminal (and on the monorail, etc).

I have a bit of a residual headache this morning, and I didn’t sleep well last night, so the answer to “how broken am I?” is: Not as broken as I could be, but still more broken that I’d like.

I have enough stuff to do today that I should probably stop blogging and start doing stuff. In addition to the NYCC pre-sale, I also need to do grocery shopping, pay some bills, and scan in the receipts from my trip. So that’s it for now.