Vic B’Stard’s week in review: Xbox Live and Windows 8

Vic B'Stard
Microsoft finally sort their act out!

So I finally sorted out a tech issue that I’ve been living with for nearly seven years.

The UK launch of the Xbox 360 happened just before I moved to New Zealand. Buying a new console to drag half-way around the world was the last thing on my mind. So I waited for the ANZ Xbox 360 launch and picked one up at the midnight launch in Auckland.

I already had an XBox Live account that I used on my original Xbox. It was a no-brainer to transfer my old Xbox Live account over to the Xbox 360 and continue to use the subscription that I’d already paid for. Four months later and my yearly Live subscription was up for renewal. Added my New Zealand credit card details and  tried to change the address on my Live account to that of my New Zealand abode. I was unsuccessful.

Vic B'Stard's week in review: Xbox Live and Windows 8
Xbox Live..not just for gaming.

Whilst my Xbox Live account was happy for me have my location set to New Zealand, I couldn’t actually change my billing address to New Zealand. So I ‘phoned Microsoft support. This was 2006, and you’d think that I wasn’t the first person with a Live account to emigrate. After a long conversation with the support peeps, who were very helpful and just as surprised as I was that I couldn’t shift my region, they said they would have to call me back.

To their credit, Xbox support called me back a couple of days later with the bad news. Despite Microsoft being a multinational company, their Xbox Live service didn’t accommodate folks who moved countries. The only thing that I could do, they said, was to make a New Zealand account. I’d already spent a few months gathering enough Xbox 360 achievements that I didn’t fancy loosing them all and starting again.

About this time DLC started taking off (starting with Oblivion’s infamous horse armour). New Zealand’s DLC was cheaper that buying from the UK Xbox Live store, so I set up a New Zealand account just to buy DLC; using my UK account to play game with. It was a messy solution to a stupid problem caused by Microsoft’s short-sightedness. And that is how I’ve been doing it ever since.

Vic B'Stard's week in review: Xbox Live and Windows 8
The Xbox 360 dashboard…looks like a telephone interface.

A few months ago I heard that Microsoft could now transfer Live accounts to another regions. The process offered no guarantees that downloadable items would still be there, and your Live account was unusable whilst the process was being carried out, which (if I remember right) would take a few weeks. Microsoft’s own advise was unless it is a real problem, don’t do it. I’d been living with the problem for years and wasn’t inspired by Microsoft’s lack of confidence in it’s own process; so I left it.

The other weekend I found myself on and came across their new automated account region switching thingy. It seemed that, by simply selecting Australia (where I now reside), I could finally view the Xbox Live front-end designed for the country I was living in. Sure the were still some caveats about region-locked content, but seeing as Xbox Live in Australia is really run out of Europe, I though what the hell. And pressed the “I Agree” button. There were a few nerve-racking “are you sure” buttons, but I went through with it.

Vic B'Stard's week in review: Xbox Live and Windows 8
A modern Windows operating system?

And it worked. VicBStard UK is now an Australian Xbox Live account. I’ve been using it for a week and, so far, haven’t come across any problems.

I did have an ulterior motive for getting my account shifted to Australia; likely the same same reason that made Microsoft finally get of their arses and sort this region mess out. These days Live accounts are used for more than just Xbox gaming; they are now used with Microsoft powered ‘phones and in their fancy new Windows 8 operating system. One of the big draws for me with Windows 8 is the ability to log on to the PC my Live login and have access to a load of my desktop stuff, the online shop, Xbox Music and my Xbox 360 via SmartGlass.

Vic B'Stard's week in review: Xbox Live and Windows 8
SmartGlass…the future today?

A few weeks ago I installed Windows 7 Pro OEM on my new PC. With new PCs, in order to increase the amount of people using their (practically stillborn) Windows 8 operating system, Microsoft have been offering upgrades from Windows 7 for $14.99. The offer applied to recently purchased PCs only, and finished on 28 February.

Vic B'Stard's week in review: Xbox Live and Windows 8
Windows 8 Metro Starts screen… looks like a telephone interface.

I wasn’t really convinced that Windows 8 was for me, I’m not even a great fan of the Xbox dashboard; running a PC with an interface that looks like it belongs on a telephone didn’t appeal to me. But that didn’t mean that I wouldn’t like to give it a go. After all, change can be a good thing. If I wanted Windows 8, and at a giveaway price,I was going to have to get my skates on. So I paid my $14.99, got my key and burnt the downloaded operating system onto a DVD for installation later.

When specifying my PC upgrade I’d overlooked the fact that I’d need a copy of Windows 7 Pro in order to make full use of the 32GB of memory I wanted, and not the Home Premium edition that I’d originally purchased. This snaffu had left me with a spare OEM copy of Windows 7 Home Premium.

The PC upgrade also left me with a half-decent quad-core Q9540-based PC with a badly damaged Windows Vista OS. So I installed the Windows 7 Home Premium over the dead copy of Vista and promptly went online and purchased another Window 8 upgrade, again for $14.99. This time I went ahead and installed the Windows 8 upgrade onto the spare PC.

Vic B'Stard's week in review: Xbox Live and Windows 8
Ah, the Windows desktop, there she is!

Windows 8 is different. It does look like a telephone interface. And it is crying out to use a touchscreen (or a Kinect). However, the old desktop is still there and, as my desktop is a mass of icons anyway, I can see myself using the new Metro start screen. Xbox Music works fine, with playlists synced between my Windows 8 PC and my Xbox 360. And it is new. Fresh even. Why should a 21st Century Windows operating system still like like Windows 95?

Still, prior to committing myself to Microsoft’s new OS on my main PC, I’m gonna test Windows 8 out some more.  I’ll let you know how I get on.