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Tech

Windows 7 on Virtual PC 2007

windows7_vpc2007_2009-06-15_2322I downloaded and installed Windows 7 as a guest OS in Virtual PC 2007 SP1. I’m running Windows Vista Ultimate as my host OS and recently downloaded Virtual PC 2007 SP1 from the Microsoft website for testing some older OSes and browsers. I’ve been hearing a bunch of hype about Windows 7, I’ve seen the youtube videos, and have even seen some in person demos but I was finally ready to take a look at the OS myself. The whole process did take over two hours (over half of it downloading the 2+ GB ISO), but because it was all virtualized I continued using my computer to surf the web in the background.

The installation was pretty straight-forward, but from what I read you should make sure you have the latest version of Virtual PC. I created a new VHD and used the Windows Vista settings. I have 4 GB of physical RAM in my laptop, so I opted to use 2GB for the guest OS. The installation process seemed to run fairly slow and I’m not sure if this is due to running it in a virtualized environment or because I was installing it to a laptop hard-drive, but I figured it would speed up once I actually got into the OS.

I was sad to find that the OS was running really slow when I first booted into it, but after reading a few more posts on the internet I heard that installing the Virtual Machine Tools would help speed things up. I did notice that before installing the tools, my video adapter was only showing 4MB of memory available from within the guest OS. After installing the Virtual Machine Tools, the Windows 7 is running much faster and all the visualizations (spinning wheel) are running much more smooth.

I probably should have taken a few screenshots of the whole process, but for now you’ll just have to live with a screenshot of the OS virtualized post-installation.

PS. the virtual machine tools also enable a number of features (such as the ability to move the mouse from guest OS to host OS without the right-alt key press)

Categories
Tech

Graphics Make Games Fun Again

As I’ve mentioned before in other posts, I’m not a really big gamer.  I use my original xbox as a media center and use it to play NES, SNES, and other old console games. Ignoring my status as a non-gamer, I decided to get an Xbox 360 elite when it came out. Microsoft finally decided to include an HDMI port and I think that’s what really set me over the edge.

Man am I glad I got it. The graphics are absolutely amazing.  Before getting one I really didn’t think of the next-gen consoles (Sony PS3, Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360) as a revolutionary change in the gaming industry like other consoles generations have been. I knew the technical specs sounded great on paper, but I didn’t think the graphics held up to my standards.  After playing Lost Planet for a few hours, I can say the graphics / visuals are definitely revolutionary. 

 

Need For Speed - Pro Street
 Need For Speed: Pro Street

The amount of “jaggies” on the screen has been reduced incredibly, the lighting technologies are amazing, and the character interaction/movement is amazing. I am really disappointed every time I play an Xbox 1 game and jagged edges on object are sticking out like a sore thumb.  This is really annoying on games like Need For Speed, where you always have a car on screen and it has jagged edges all over the curves.  The same holds true for one of my recent favorites Star Wars: KoTOR (Knights of the Old Republic) – the clothing and robes have a lot of jagged edges and really detracted from the overall graphical ambience of the game.

Regarding lighting technologies, it seems like the console can really produce much more realistic lighting.  I’m not sure if it has to do with the processing power of the multi-core “brain” of the unit, the graphics card, or some other aspect, but it looks great.  Lighting has always been one of those things that is hard to capture and reproduce – this was even a large topic in the painting class I took in college. However they do it, the 360 brings us one step closer to reality.

Lost Planet
Lost Planet – Xbox 360

I don’t think I’ve noticed a single CG scene that is a simple movie playback.  All the plot scenes look like they are all done with game objects on the fly.  In older games, like Final Fantasy on the PSX, you would play with your normal game characters with jagged edges and all their imperfections throughout all the game play. Basic plot-scenes with interaction between characters were sometimes done with in-game characters, but large / action plot scenes were pre-recorded CG being played back. In Lost Planet, all the scenes are done with in-game characters.  The graphics still look just as amazing and have a better effect in my opinion.  Instead of feeling like there was this abrupt change in styling, the whole game just flows together much better. I assume it also takes less disc space to record an action sequence with in-game characters than it does to save a CG video. 

 

Categories
Josh Lyon

Another Round of Toys

I just went through another round of buying toys and I’m not sure I’m quite done yet.  My most recent purchases include yet another large hard drive (500 gig), next-gen game console, speaker wire, and more.  

360 - Black and White ThumbThe Xbox 360 Elite edition recently came out and I had been eyeing it for a while leading up to it’s release.  It’s very similar to the Xbox 360 Premium edition, but it adds an HDMI port, black finish, and larger (120 gig) hard-drive. There are a number of reasons I decided to take the plunge and get one.  I’m not really a true “gamer” by nature, but I am interested in console modding / hacking.  My current Xbox 1 is the pinnacle of my home theater and entertainment system.  It’s modified to run “homebrew” software, copied games, and emulate older consoles. It currently has a piece of software on it called Xbox Media Center (XBMC), which serves as a dashboard from which I can launch other applications, games, and widgets or play movies, music, and pictures. I really should post an article about this to describe in more detail what it does, but for now I’ll leave it at that.

That being said, the Xbox 360 really didn’t excel at any of the things that my Xbox 1 did once it was modified.  However, the in-game graphics and technology inside the console are what really did me in. I said I’m not really a gamer, but if you know me you know I love technology and high-resolution video/graphics.  I recently bought a 56” 1080p TV and now that the Xbox 360 includes an HDMI output, I thought it would match up well.  On top of that, all my home-theater equipment is black so the console will match much better than the standard white version.  The fact that they threw in a larger hard-drive was just an added bonus.  I really have no need for it now – I already have around 2 TB (terabytes) of storage capacity on my network – but in the event that the Xbox 360 is modified to allow homebrew apps I’ll be happy the storage space is there.

Since I moved to my new apartment, the complete home-theater experience has been lacking in one area – completing my surround sound.  I have a 1000 watt 7.1 setup powered by an Onkyo high-current amp, but I only have 2 speakers and the sub hooked up at the time.  The way I laid out the apartment wasn’t really accommodating for the complete system, but I finally decided to buy the tools I needed to complete the job.  Laura has been doing some decorating and I now have a great place to hide the two rear speakers out of the way. I bought some Acoustic Research PR362 flat, white speaker wire to run to the rear locations and a fishing tool to get the wire where I need it.  I still don’t have a good location for the rear center speakers, but for the time being 5.1 will have to do. Attached is a diagram of what a 7.1 setup looks like.

 

7.1 Diagram

And what better to pair with my new home-theater and entertainment equipment than another 500 gig hard drive for the media-server.  The computer currently has an 80 gig “system” drive that is used for operating systems and applications.  I have Windows XP, Mac OS X, and SUSE Linux 10.2 loaded on it for fun – but really only use the Windows System. I keep getting larger and larger hard-drives, but there’s not much I can really do about it. Here’s the progression of the computer storage capacity:

40 GB
80 GB
80 GB + 80 GB
80 GB + 80 GB + 160 GB
80 GB + 160 GB + 160 GB
80 GB + 300 GB + 300 GB *
80 GB + 500 GB **
80 GB + 500 GB + 500 GB

* 160 GB drives went into the Xboxes
** 300 GB drives went into the Xboxes

As you can see, it will only be a matter of time before I need even more capacity. It would probably be a really good idea to have a good backup system, but as much as I change through hard-drives I couldn’t afford while I was in college. Who knows, maybe a good RAID setup will be my next purchase.