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Friday, October 26, 2007

Live for India? W.. T.. F..

Gamasutra is reporting that Microsoft will be launching Xbox Live in India on November 5 this year. Now for those of you that don't know, the '360 was launched in India the day after it was launched here, at the end of September last year. While both Indian and South African Xbox 360 owners have been lobbying for Live support in their respective countries since then, Microsoft's argument has always been (to the South African community at least) that player numbers did not justify this.
What little digging I did revealed an investigation by that revealed by February this year only 839 Xbox 360 Consoles had been sold in India. This is despite a rather large and expensive marketing campaign at launch which included Bollywood-style TV ads aired on Indian TV. Even with the recent Halo hype I very much doubt that number has even approached 5000 by this date.
By contrast, South African sales numbers are estimated to be well beyond 10000, possibly exceeding 15000. An online petition by the local online community to have a South African Locale launched for Live has to date garnered over 1300 signatures. While this may not seem like a particularly impressive number, keep in mind that this is limited to people that are knowledgeable enough to have investigated the problem online and be active in the community. This does not include the countless average consumers that turned on and plugged in their Xbox 360, pressed 'Connect to Live' and gave up when the console reported there was no support for their locale, or got as far as claiming to be American and got stopped short at the address entry stage. Even taking local broadband into account, we must have more online players (and potential online players) than India.

One possible argument that has been suggested in local forums is that the cost to Microsoft (and possibly Telkom) to establish Live locally is not worth it. I have two counters for that. The first is simply that if it's worth it in India with their minuscule install base it should sure as hell be worth it here. My second argument is that the cost need not be that high. Microsoft does not have download servers and maintenance staff in every country in which Live is supported. Sure it would be nice to have a local download and matching server that could be used with a (relatively) cheap local only ADSL account, but the main call from the community is for a South African locale that would allow us to successfully use the awesome Live matching service to find local players and (legally) use our credit cards for gold accounts and Microsoft points. Let's reiterate that second part: we want to give Microsoft our money. Now anyone that has ever done any kind of web based system with multiple locale support knows that this isn't a big deal AT ALL. We're not talking support for a new language here, US or UK english would be just fine thanks. We just want that locale table in the Live database to include a row with "South Africa","en-uk" in it. Please MS, give me remote access to your DB and I'll do the damned work for you FOR FREE. I know it's not quite as simple as that, but you get the idea.
Finally, the only reason I can think of that makes some iota of sense is that Microsoft is perhaps doing this to boost sales of the console in India. If Live support in India will include video marketplace, and specifically offer the hugely popular local (Bollywood) content, I could see how that functionality would boost sales. The same can't really be said here. Microsoft can't (legally) offer us content to compete with local TV. Of course if my theory a couple of months ago that Telkom Media might use the 360 as a set-top box when it launches it's IPTV services next year, that may change-though I'm more doubtful of it at this stage as I'm sure we would have heard some whispers of this. Even if this is the approach that's being taken, it still doesn't explain how the cost (which if localized video marketplace is offered will require additional hardware and manpower outlay) is more justifiable in India than here.

Microsoft, I'm a huge fan of your platform, but you really are being bastards at this point!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Efficient electricity use in the home

As part of Blog Action Day I was hoping to post something bemoaning Eskom's blocking of alternative home energy generation solutions-but I haven't been able to find a reference proving that this is the case do for now it's just hearsay. Instead I decided to look at some basic tips for efficient energy use in the home, which is particularly relevant considering our country's current dodgy electricity situation. Most of the following is from

Use flourescent bulbs
Right next to your every day 100 watt bulbs in your local Pick 'n Pay are funny looking bulbs that look like twisted tubes. These are compact flourescent bulbs (CFLs). CFLs are available in just about every size and shape you need and typically use around 70% less energy than their traditional counterpart while providing the same light!

Use natural light
Think skylights. Many reasonable natural light systems exist that will not only  bring light into your house but will often improve air circulation as well (without making your house look like a moon base).

Ghost loads
I was surprised to discover how much extra electricity 'standby' devices like TVs, DVD players, PC's etc consume over time. New to me was the fact that chargers and other AC/DC adapters chew juice even when they're plugged in but the device they charge isn't. For a household like mine (and probably that of any other gadget whore) that means at any given time ther are probably about a dozen devices and chargers happily sucking up power while doing absolutely nothing useful.

Upgrade your stuff
Sometimes the good old fashioned way isn't the best way of doing things. Newer devices often do as good a job at the same (or lower price) than their old-fashioned equivalents. A good example of this is in-line water heaters which use less electricity than an always-on always-heating geyser.

Gas up
Gas cooking is no longer limited to the skottel-braai you haul out on summer days. When upgrading your kitchen it's possible these days to get an really nice and shiny gas equivalent to that boring old electric plate system you were considering-and you'll still be able to eat hot meals when Eskom decides it's your turn to be load-shedded. Gas based heating and lighting options abound as well, though without a gas utility system they're unfortunately not as practical locally.

First prize
Of course if you want to go all the way (I know I want to when I move into my new place), you can always consider renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. I still haven't been able to confirm if it's possible (ie legal) to augment your Eskom supply with alternate sources in SA, but at the very least your outside lights can be powered by solar charged reserves,  water for certain purposes can be heated by rooftop heating tubes and those outside plugs are good candidates for a separate 'off grid' power source. I'll probably blog more on the specifics of this when I start doing it in my new place :)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Driver's license hell

No, not mine.. but a friend's.
My coworker Dave has just started blogging his experiences with the SA licensing department in trying to acquire his license. His story is a testament to why so many people just 'buy' their licences these days :p

Good luck dave!


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