Do we really need another Android gaming console?
In today's open source roundup: Asus might release an Android gaming console called the Game Box. Plus: Watch Netflix in Linux with Pipelight, and Ubuntu 13.10 versus Windows 8 while running Portal 2
Android gaming consoles seem to be all the rage these days, and Tom's Hardware reports that Asus might be jumping into that market. This leaves me scratching my head a bit and wondering if we really need yet another Android gaming console.
...evidence suggests that Asus is jumping on that very bandwagon, possibly looking to score where a few of the current solutions have failed to hit. The device will be called Game Box, and the specs have appeared on AnTuTu while the controller struts its stuff all over the Bluetooth Special Interest Group website.
On the specs side, the Game Box will sport a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 4 (1.6 GHz – 1.9 GHz), a screen resolution of 1280 x 720, 2 GB of RAM, 8 GB of internal storage and Android 4.3 "KitKat." Storage will likely be expanded using a microSD card and/or USB 2.0/3.0 port.
Image credit: Tom's Hardware
I think this might be a mistake on the part of Asus. As the article notes there are already four or five Android gaming consoles available. I don't know the sales figures for each of them, but it seems like a crowded field already.
If Asus is going to be successful, they will need to stand out by setting the Game Box apart from the rest of the field. But I see nothing in the specs or design of their new console that would achieve that. It doesn't seem to offer anything that Android gamers couldn't get from one of Asus competitors.
And don't get me started about the name of the system. Game Box? That's the best that Asus could do? Yeah, okay I understand that X-Box turned out to be a pretty good choice on Microsoft's part, but at least it had the "X" in there to make it sound cool.
Game Box, on the other hand, seems like something that a lazy marketing department came up with because they couldn't think of anything better. Come on Asus, at least try to come up with something that offers a certain coolness factor to Android gamers.
It seems to me that Asus would do better to focus on creating a superior Steambox instead of bothering with Android in the first place. SteamOS is where serious gamers are going to be in the days ahead, not Android. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with Android games but I doubt they'll ever be in the same league as SteamOS games.
I doubt very much that Asus will achieve much with the Game Box. I suspect that it will quickly be forgotten and the company will have wasted time, money and resources on building another also-ran Android gaming console.
Watch Netflix in Linux with Pipelight
Edit: The instructions in the article cited below are out of date, please see the updated instructions here. My thanks to reader Charlie Whitman for the heads up about it in the comments section.
Unixmen has a tutorial on how to install a browser plugin called Pipelight that will let you watch Netflix in Linux.
Pipelight is a special browser plugin which allows to run your favourite Microsoft Silverlight applications directly inside your Linux browser. Netflix rely upon Microsoft Silverlight, so the Netflix video streaming service has not been supported for Linux users. However, now Netflix support is possible for Linux-based web-browsers via Pipelight.
Pipelight consists out of two parts: A Linux library which is loaded into the browser and a Windows program started in Wine. The Windows program, called pluginloader.exe, simply simulates a browser and loads the Silverlight DLLs. When you open a page with a Silverlight application the library will send all commands from the browser through a pipe to the Windows process and act like a bridge between your browser and Silverlight.
Image credit: Unixmen
I think it's great that Unixmen put together this tutorial, but it really shouldn't even be necessary. Why is Netflix still dependent on Silverlight at this point? It seems to me that the company should make sure its service works by default on Linux without Linux users having to jump through hoops to get it to work.
It looks like Netflix is making moves toward replacing Silverlight with HTML5 video. This is very good news for Linux users, but it feels like it's taking too long.
Come on Netflix, it's way past time for you to dump Silverlight. Get it done already.
Of course Netflix isn't the only company that foolishly decided to use Silverlight. Amazon has been using it for its Amazon Instant Video service. Feedback from Amazon's customers about Silverlight hasn't exactly been positive.
I don't know what these companies were thinking when they opted for Silverlight, it seems to have turned into a big headache for both of them.
Portal 2 performance: Ubuntu 13.10 versus Windows 8
I found an interesting comparison on YouTube that shows how well Ubuntu 13.10 and Windows 8 run the game Portal 2.
Video showcasing the frames per-second difference of running Portal 2 on Ubuntu versus running it in Windows 8. Both tests have Portal 2 running maxed out at 1920x1080.
On the Ubuntu side of things, I used the newest Linux driver which is 334.21.
On the Windows side of things, I used the most similar Windows driver which is 334.89.
Portal 2 was set to exactly the same settings in both situations.
Ubuntu seemed to do well at the beginning, but later Windows 8 seemed to do a bit better. It seems though that you could run the game in either operating system and get very good performance. Windows 8 seems to slightly edge out Ubuntu in certain situations in the game though. The video seems to indicate that some optimizations to Ubuntu's video drivers might be helpful.
What's your take on all this? Tell me in the comments below.