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Topic: PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft

The new items published under this topic are as follows.
 May 05, 2015 - 08:12 AM - by Michael
16-bit Star Wars
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Let's be honest here... whose inner child can't help but melt at this?


View on YouTube
 

 Jan 20, 2015 - 08:58 AM - by Michael
More Star Wars on GOG
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft GOG is keeping the hits coming - More Lucasarts games kicking out today.

Included are some really fun ones, like X-Wing Alliance and the original Dark Forces.
 

 Jan 07, 2015 - 09:50 AM - by Michael
Archive.org gives you DOS Games
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft There's not really much more to say on this - Archive.org has put up an online DOS emulator with over 2,000 games available on it. It's a beta, but still a great resource.

What are you waiting for? Get playing!
 

 Nov 18, 2014 - 09:26 AM - by Michael
GMDX, v6.3, is out. Get your Deus Ex on.
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft If you haven't seen it before more, the final version - 6.3 - of one of the most massive game re-works in some time has been released.

Fans of Deus Ex should definitely check out the GMDX mod. AI improvements, gameplay improvements, and a whole heck of a lot of bugfixes as well as changes based on what the developers might have done if they'd had the chance to fix some of the exploits or bugs found over the years.

Not that the original isn't awesome. It says something about a game when the fans love it enough to fix it up like this years later!
 

 Nov 04, 2014 - 08:48 AM - by Michael
Classic arcade, in your browser
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Just... check this out. The Archive.org Arcade.

It's really cool.

And as of this week, it now also includes arcade games. Yet another branch of the ever-expanding Internet Archive, the new Internet Arcade brings over 900 classic arcade cabinets to your browser.

Like the Console Living Room, the Internet Arcade is an effort to archive and present these games through JSMESS, a project to emulate various computer systems through JavaScript. The benefit? The games can run right in your browser and thus don't require any third-party software (like a standalone MAME emulator).
 

 Sep 11, 2014 - 08:16 AM - by Michael
So... Destiny
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft So - Destiny.

Bungie left Microsoft, and left the Halo franchise in Microsoft's hands. They decided to take their existing strengths (developed in the Marathon and Halo days) and make an online-based semi-MMO shooter called Destiny. Basically one part Marathon, one part Halo, with a little Borderlands thrown in.

Only problem: the "always on" requirements are proving tough to sell. There were actually less problems in the free open beta than there are currently trying to play online; disconnects from server are frequent and cause players to lose progress in missions, drop from teams, and generally have a bad time even while their internet connections and Xbox Live / PSN connections, team groups, and voice chat are all rock solid.

In some ways, this illustrates the problem of the "always on" model and why the Borderlands model is probably superior. Your "always on" is subject to the troubles both of server-side processing and connection issues, while a Borderlands model requires much less power to operate and isn't nearly as consumed by the single point of failure issues. As a bonus, I can play Borderlands even when the cable lines are temporarily down; the same can't be said for Destiny.
 

 Mar 05, 2014 - 10:06 AM - by Michael
Open Mouth, Insert Bootdisk
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Let's just say MS's attempt to recruit friends and neighbors to get people to migrate from WinXP didn't go as planned...

In early February, faced with a slight uptick in users on the decrepit operating system the month before, Microsoft hit on an idea: Why not recruit tech-savvy friends and family to tell old holdouts to get off XP?

The response to this earnest effort was a torrent of abuse from Windows 8 users who aren't exactly thrilled with the operating system. Microsoft has come under serious fire for some significant missteps in this process, including a total lack of actual upgrade options. What Microsoft calls an upgrade involves completely wiping the PC and reinstalling a fresh OS copy on it -- or ideally, buying a new device.


Ouch. Not undeserved, but... ouch.
 

 Feb 04, 2014 - 10:40 AM - by Michael
The Length of Copyright
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Another editorial on the length of copyright in the games/computers industry - why have a 95 year term when the medium lasts less than a decade?

Rock, Paper, Shotgun looks it over.

And in more detail... The Followup.

So before we move on to the nuances of the argument, let’s get one thing out of the way: Expressing a desire for a game to enter the public domain, let’s say twenty years after publication, does not in any sense whatsoever suggest a desire for developers to not get paid. I resent having to type this. It’s a bit like finding yourself having to say that you’re not in favour of gruesomely starving children to death because you expressed a thought that they probably shouldn’t get to exclusively eat at McDonald’s. What I am in fact saying is: “developers should get paid for the work they do, and then keep getting paid for the same bit of work, over and over and over for the next twenty years, even though they stopped doing any work related to it many years ago.” It’s not entirely apparent how the two sentiments are being confused.

Well, it is, actually – I’m being facetious. The two are being deliberately conflated by a contingent who find the possibility of cultural artifacts ever returning to the culture that spawned them to be so repellent that they must eliminate anything that treads even close to challenging what they see as their perpetual rights to profit from ancient work. (And let’s be clear here – creators are arguing for perpetual copyright here, far outreaching even the current grasp of the law.)
 

 Jan 12, 2014 - 04:18 PM - by Michael
Video Game Locations
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Something Beautiful...

 

 Sep 26, 2013 - 09:02 AM - by Michael
CTRL-ALT-DEL: Gates Apologizes
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Bill Gates is apologizing for using CTRL-ALT-DEL as the login sequence for a Windows machine.

Fair enough. Though I see the utility of those keys; it's almost impossible to accidentally press all three at once (though that does make it "hard", to lazy folks, to deliberately do so as well).
 

 Aug 08, 2013 - 08:00 AM - by Michael
Kicking the XP Habit... in China
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Strange news time: it turns out that China's got an overwhelming number of installations of an operating system that's soon not going to be patched.

This could make for interesting times. Will the Great Firewall filter them out? Will Chinese hackers begin patching the XP kernel? Will China start making their own operating system, or just start pirating Windows 7 or Windows 8?
 

 Jul 09, 2013 - 08:05 AM - by Michael
Why Valve's hit a Rough Patch
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft It's looking more and more like Valve may have some internal issues.

Like high school level cliques and drama interfering with making games.

I guess that's why they've been sucking on the teat of Steam and of being a "publisher only" for a while.
 

 Jun 18, 2013 - 08:34 AM - by Michael
Free Torchlight Today
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft I probably don't mention GOG.com enough but... Free Game Today.

Go get yours. GOG.com's summer sale has Torchlight for free today (6/18/2013) and a lot of other classic goodies.
 

 Jun 05, 2013 - 09:23 AM - by Michael
Backwards Compatibility - a real problem
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Not unique to Microsoft, BUT... this is kind of a big deal.

It impacts gaming history, it impacts computer history. A lot of history going down the drain because the data can't be read and the platforms to run the code are gone.
 

 Jun 04, 2013 - 07:40 AM - by Michael
Really fixing Windows 8?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Microsoft - perhaps happy with the status-quo that left open source groups or software like Start8 filling the void - have let slip that Windows 8.1, aka "blue", doesn't fix the glaring flaws in Windows 8.

But no reason to worry: Infoworld has their back with an ambitious proposal that every Microsoft designer and executive ought to be forced to read.

Lots of reading to do there, but it's well worth it.
 

 May 11, 2013 - 12:46 PM - by Michael
Why MS Kernel Dev Takes Ages
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Here's an interesting theory on why Microsoft's kernel isn't updated as often as the Linux kernel family is:

See, component owners are generally openly hostile to outside patches: if you're a dev, accepting an outside patch makes your lead angry (due to the need to maintain this patch and to justify in in shiproom the unplanned design change), makes test angry (because test is on the hook for making sure the change doesn't break anything, and you just made work for them), and PM is angry (due to the schedule implications of code churn). There's just no incentive to accept changes from outside your own team. You can always find a reason to say "no", and you have very little incentive to say "yes".

There's also little incentive to create changes in the first place. On linux-kernel, if you improve the performance of directory traversal by a consistent 5%, you're praised and thanked. Here, if you do that and you're not on the object manager team, then even if you do get your code past the Ob owners and into the tree, your own management doesn't care.


Now, this might be inherent to business - after all, Linux doesn't have companies demanding that patches don't break their entire business model.
 

 May 06, 2013 - 09:27 AM - by Michael
Win8 as New Coke
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft This is just too juicy an analogy not to explore.

But maybe Microsoft can turn it around, if the analogy works. And if they don't insult customers further by trying to force us into "what they think we want" rather than giving us what we actually want.
 

 Apr 11, 2013 - 08:31 AM - by Michael
Win8 a big misstep?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Word from the sales arena isn't good - Windows 8 is apparently responsible for a massive drop in PC sales.

The problem? Touchscreens are not just inwieldy in a desk environment, they add to costs of a PC.

All signs so far point to Windows 8 being a flop.

"Unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only didn't provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market," IDC Vice President Bob O'Donnell said.

The newest version of Windows is designed to work well with touch-sensitive screens, but the displays add to the cost of a PC. Together, the changes and higher prices "have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices," O'Donnell said.
 

 Mar 22, 2013 - 04:36 PM - by Michael
Happy 20th Birthday, Pentium
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The Pentium chip is now officially 20 years old.

Amazing how long it took Intel to jettison that brand name in favor of "Core."
 

 Mar 06, 2013 - 10:09 AM - by Michael
Simcity 5 crash and burn
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Well, so much for SimCity 5 being an option to play.

The online requirement for a single-player game is killing it.

Just say no to EA and online-tied games.
 

 Feb 14, 2013 - 05:33 PM - by Michael
MS Surface Pro Teardown
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft I have nothing to say other than you have got to see this.

First time I've ever seen the term "metric duckload" used to describe tape and glue.
 

 Jan 23, 2013 - 03:29 PM - by Michael
THQ, RIP
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft THQ is no more. Gone. So dead, in fact, that the internet now has the letter the CEO sent to the employees.

I remember them as the purveyor of almost universally mediocre WWF Wrestling games, but hey, they did have some other good properties in the past. It'll be interesting to see where the game properties and THQ staffers go from here.
 

 Jan 03, 2013 - 01:53 PM - by Michael
How 38 Studios Died
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Reason.com has an incredibly astute article on how many things went horribly wrong with 38 Studios and the crony capitalism that bankrolled it.

Worth a read, all around.
 

 Dec 29, 2012 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
Minimum Gaming PC
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Here's an interesting article about the old MPC spec and what a modern version might look like.

One of the main reasons people don't game on their PCs is because their graphics card is often more anemic than Kate Moss on a diet—and all hail Cthulhu if the processor doesn't play second fiddle to that. It's pretty hard to get excited about games when they run like molasses.

Old enough to remember computing in the 90s? That time when most computers only produced strings of beeps as sound, when 640x480 was a good new year's resolution (that pun is as old as SVGA, so I'm entitled to it), and when having an optical drive was a lustful pecadillo. Things we take for granted today, like spoken word and videos, were rare and exotic attractions. When technology advanced, the industry came up with a certification specification to ensure punters didn't miss out—and consequently spent more on better PCs. That spec was called MPC, short for Multimedia Personal Computer. The first version of the MPC spec said, in simple terms:

Thy computer shalt be blessed with a sound card and speakers.
Thou shalt be provided a CD-ROM drive in which to receive silver discs.
Thy processor shalt not be completely crap.


In order to do this, we have to get Intel's graphics card division discontinued. Good luck with that.
 

 Oct 30, 2012 - 09:00 AM - by Michael
AMD goes ARM
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft AMD's expanding their offerings - they've licensed an ARM chip design to be on the shelves in 2014.

AMD hopes to distinguish itself with two SeaMicro technologies -- a custom chip that integrates many components from a traditional server board onto one chip, allowing for dense server designs; and its Freedom Fabric, which can connect thousands of servers in a cluster with low latency and at relatively low cost.

"The fabric technology is the secret sauce; this is what will make AMD's server solution different from other vendors," Su said.

Intel has said it won't make ARM-based processors, in part because it doesn't want to pay ARM a royalty on each chip. But it has been working hard to reduce the power consumption of its own server chips and said it is confident of its technology roadmap.
Let the new server wars begin!
 

 Sep 16, 2012 - 01:38 AM - by Michael
City of Heroes shutting down
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft MMORPG's aren't the thing they used to be, and aging games... well, they eventually go.

City of Heroes is being shut down by NCSoft, a while after going free-to-play in an attempt to keep the game going.

Over at Change.org, a petition asking them to keep it going. If you want to read; the fanbase is small, but loyal.

I had some characters of my own, but haven't logged into the game in a good while; the last time I got in, it was a bit of a ghost town. The player-generated-content function they created sounded like a great idea, but I think it hurt more than it helped, making the game so that everyone had their own little world rather than sharing one.
 

 Jul 26, 2012 - 10:05 AM - by Michael
Valve Goes Linux Because Win8 = Fail
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Gabe Newell of Valve has put his foot down: Valve's porting to Linux fast, because Windows 8 is a train wreck.

Having tested the trial version... he's right. It'd be ok for a pad interface or phone interface, but Win8 on the desktop blows chunks. Seriously.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for the 2,500 games on Steam to run on Linux as well. It’s a hedging strategy. I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space. I think we’ll lose some of the top-tier PC/OEMs, who will exit the market. I think margins will be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that’s true, then it will be good to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality.
 

 Jul 10, 2012 - 08:35 AM - by Michael
The Wrong Way?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Paul Vixie, involved in the takedown of DNSChanger, says we go about dealing with Malware the wrong way:

"The long term risk I foresee is that some new criminal empire (or more than one) will offer services to replace ISC's, and they will easily recapture a large part of the DNSChanger victim population."
Vixie adds that there are anonymous ways to do this that don't leave tracks, so not every criminal who does this will be automatically detected and arrested.
Taking the Cornficker virus as another recent example of computer malware, Vixie predicts an uncertain future where computer users don't understand or simply don't care about the risks involved.
The usual solution is to offer user education, but he's right - what about those who don't want to be educated? Who think "well it can't happen to me, nobody would care enough to attack my computer"?
 

 Jun 04, 2012 - 08:47 AM - by Michael
Flame virus writers faked MS signatures
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Code signing? Yeah, it's possible to get around.

While these security issues are not Flame-specific, and could be used in other forms of unrelated malware, Microsoft was able to identify components of the Flame malware that had been signed with a certificate that chained up to the Microsoft Enforced Licensing Intermediate PCA certificate authority, and ultimately, to the Microsoft Root Authority.

“We have discovered through our analysis that some components of the malware have been signed by certificates that allow software to appear as if it was produced by Microsoft,” Microsoft Security Response Center’s Jonathan Ness wrote in a blog post. “We identified that an older cryptography algorithm could be exploited and then be used to sign code as if it originated from Microsoft. Specifically, our Terminal Server Licensing Service, which allowed customers to authorize Remote Desktop services in their enterprise, used that older algorithm and provided certificates with the ability to sign code, thus permitting code to be signed as if it came from Microsoft.”
MS is kicking out a patch for it right now - make sure you're up to date.
 

 Jun 01, 2012 - 10:52 AM - by Michael
Humble Bundle V
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft A lot has been going on lately, but here's something for you to grab - Humble Bundle V is out.

This one gets you Bastion and Psychonauts along with Amnesia, LIMBO, and Superbrothers. Well worth it. Plus as always you get to see some of your money go to Child's Play and the EFF.

What are you waiting for?
 

 May 24, 2012 - 06:35 PM - by Michael
38 Studios - Faceplant
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft 38 Studios has laid off everyone.

Word is this also may affect Big Huge Games, who were responsible for making Kingdoms of Amalur.

The news came as a surprise to nearly everyone involved, including the state of Rhode Island and Governor Lincoln Chafee who during an afternoon press conference said that as of this morning they hadn't heard a word about possible layoffs or a closure.

During the evening press conference Chafee attributed the sudden studio closure and financial plummet to their fist game, Age of Amalur: Reckoning, which he said "failed."

"The game failed," he said. "The game failed. That was integral to the success of the company."

He told reporters that experts told them it would have had to sell 3 million copies to break even. Schilling has said that the game sold about 1.2 million copies in its first 90 days.
3 million copies just to break even? Ouch... this may be the latest sign of a major problem in the games industry.
 

 May 20, 2012 - 11:24 AM - by Michael
Microsoft Charges For...
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Yes, MS at their Microsoft Stores is actually going to charge people to clean off OEM crapware.

This isn't viruses or goofy stuff loaded by the user; this is all the garbage that comes on an HP, Lenovo or Dell laptop.

Granted, it's not Microsoft's product - the OEMs loaded it on their own - but it still seems kind of skeezy. Maybe the OEMs should learn a lesson and put less crapware in the computers to start with?
 

 May 10, 2012 - 10:43 PM - by Michael
Wolfenstein Online
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Wolfenstein 3D is 20 years old; Bethesda has kicked up a browser-based version for your enjoyment.

Have fun!
 

 Apr 27, 2012 - 03:28 PM - by Michael
These Cliches Need To Die
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Hothardware has a great point: four gaming cliches really need to die.

Especially the suicidal NPCs.

If you answered anything but A, we're sorry -- you're just too smart to be a Skyrim NPC. Skyrim, to be fair, is far from the only game that uses this sort of mechanic, but the behavior of its NPCs stands out in what's otherwise an excellent title. Bandits and other low-level NPCs will continue to attack you on sight, despite the obvious disparity in your equipment and capabilities.
Attacking the player is suicidal, but worse is the suicidal teammates. Those REALLy need to die. Especially the "escort the suicidal idiot to point A" quests.
 

 Apr 05, 2012 - 01:08 PM - by Michael
SPACEWAR
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Here's something cool for the day.

The first ever home computer video game, emulated in a browser setting.

Time to get your Spacewar on.
 

 Apr 02, 2012 - 04:12 PM - by Michael
King's Gambit Solved?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft A major supercomputing rig and a lot of time equals... the solution for one of Chess's famous openings.

Assuming perfect play, the King's Gambit is a draw... but easily can be lost if one move is missed early on.

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4. We now know the exact outcome of this position, assuming perfect play, of course. I know your next question, so I am going to pre-empt it: there is only one move that draws for White, and that is, somewhat surprisingly, 3.Be2. Every other move loses by force.
I imagine that within the next 5 years, most other gambits will also be solved. After all, solving KG only took 4 months of computer time.
 

 Mar 20, 2012 - 06:58 PM - by Michael
Real Mechs
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft So... Anybody want to go build some Mechs?
4 years ago the Mech Warfare Competition was founded. Since then, the event has grown massively with more and more competitors from around the globe. As the competitor pool and the event itself grow, so must the arena in which these robots battle. The PVC pipe and canvas tent just isn't cutting it anymore. This year the Mech Warfare organizers want to build a lexan & aluminum armored arena to house the robot competitors.

That's where you come in. $6000 is needed to make this new arena a reality and the organizers of Mech Warfare have set up a Kickstarter Project to fund it. The project is on its way, but it still has a ways to go. Your donation will help build an arena that will house Mech Warfare competitions for years to come, inspiring competitors and spectators alike. Now we know that just the knowledge that you're promoting the robotics cause is enough to get you to donate, but there are also some great thank you gifts for backers. These gifts include listing on the sponsors page, Mech Warfare and MORAV posters, and even having your name/company/website integrated into the arena itself. Just imagine your face looking down from a billboard onto the Mech Warfare Arena! So checkout the Kickstarter Page and sign up to donate. Every little bit helps towards getting an awesome new arena for these awesome robots.

Seems like a good and worthy cause to me.
 

 Mar 19, 2012 - 06:31 PM - by Michael
Quickie: Microsoft Kinect
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Time for some hardware.

I grabbed a Kinect shortly before Christmas, and I've tried it out off and on since. A few games - sports titles, dance titles, Gunstringer, things like that.

Suffice to say, there's a lot of hype about this $150 motorized camera. It gets some really cool hype, too. Things like hackers making lightsaber fights in expectation of an upcoming lightsaber-based game for instance.

That being said... I'm just not feeling it. For one thing, the Kinect requires a TON of space. You think your gaming room is big? Got a nice 12x12 room with a couch in it, big TV? Get ready to haul that couch out of the room if you want any hope of playing this thing in 2-player mode.

But does it play well? Uhm... sorta. It wants a LOT of ambient light to do its thing; the infrared camera mode doesn't really cut it. Kinect is a light-hog, and if your game room is the standard gamer-darkness, you're going to need to drag in a few floor lamps to the corners by the TV, too.

And the games? Well, they're nice, but they get old fast, in a "Hey, Wii Sports was cool... before it got boring..." sort of way. If you're only playing once in a while when you can get friends over, or playing with your kids (hey, it's the 2010s, gamers can have kids now, hopefully growing up to be little gamers themselves) then it may not get old as fast, but it's still gimmicky, especially the "party" type games.

The final insult is the "motion sensitive interface." Really, it looks cool for about 5 minutes, then comes the realization: I'm standing here, holding my arm in the air and waving like a weirdo, when I could just use the controller and get my game started a lot quicker. Even funnier is holding your hand on your hip for the exit command... and holding it... and holding it... now STOP holding it because you're in the exit screen... oops held it too long!

I was looking forward to reviewing the Kinect more positively but - well, I'll be honest, it's a gimmick. Microsoft needed motion sensing, and this was their solution. May there be software to correct the flaws... soon.
 

 Mar 19, 2012 - 06:03 PM - by Michael
Newer, Crazier Malware
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The next level of Malware: Java drive-bys that only live in RAM.
The Java exploit's payload consisted of a rogue DLL (dynamic-link library) that was loaded and attached on the fly to the legitimate Java process. This type of malware is rare, because it dies when the system is rebooted and the memory is cleared. However, this wasn't a problem for the cybercriminals behind this particular attack, because of the very high probability that most victims would revisit the infected news websites, Golovanov said. The malicious DLL loaded into memory acted as a bot, sending data to and receiving instructions from a command and control server over HTTP. In some cases, the instructions given out by attackers were to install an online banking Trojan horse on the compromised computers.
And since many people hate to reboot their computers, this could live for days on one machine alone. Truly insidious.
 

 Mar 02, 2012 - 07:38 AM - by Michael
Words cannot express...
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft ... and time cannot come fast enough to get this game into my grubby hands.

All of a sudden, an explosion of 'Mech games, after a dearth for years? Pinch me, I must be dreaming.
 

 Jan 12, 2012 - 07:19 AM - by Michael
Search Engine Runner-Up
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft We all know: Google is king in the search engine business. But Microsoft's "Bing" search just went past Yahoo.

Yahoo queries came in with 14.5% share, compared with 15.1% in November 2011 and 16.0% in December 2010. Microsoft?s Bing?s share of searches in December was 15.1%, compared with 15% in November 2011 and 12.0% in December 2010. Since Bing powers Yahoo search, combined the two search engine?s share of searches was 29.6%, compared with 30.1% in November 2011. AOL queries declined 8% in December with 1.6% share.
Yahoo's brand loyalty is fading fast.
 

 Oct 31, 2011 - 03:40 PM - by Michael
Mechwarrior Online - Free to Play
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Well, there goes my social life.

Pirahna Games is going to launch the Mechwarrior reboot as a free to play MMO.

A tactical sim MMO.

From the interview:
MechWarrior online, in keeping with the original games, will feature a variety of maps set across different environments and climates. In a universe where heat plays such a major role, with Mechs overheating from weapons fire and local temperature, that means different weather will make for very different tactics.

But big difference from previous games will be urban combat. ?One of the things we can do these days that previous games weren?t able to do well is urban combat,? Ekman says. ?And it?s a cornerstone of MWO, this ability to actually fight in detailed urban settings.?


Pirahna Games are also already taking username reservations over at their main site. Got mine done.
 

 Sep 19, 2011 - 02:29 PM - by Michael
Deus Ex: HR
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft So... I've finished it this weekend.

I'm honestly not sure what to make of it at the moment. Sure, I played it "my way." Sure, I almost threw my mouse out the window in the first boss fight (stealth/hacking char vs hyper-raging asshole with a chaingun grafted to his arm). Sure, I enjoyed much of it.

The problem I have is... it doesn't feel like there is a way we get from "here" to the original Deus Ex. It doesn't make a lot of sense. The hacking minigame. The lack of physical lockpicks. The seriously ubiquitous augmentations everywhere dwindled to Very Few People having anything resembling an Aug by the beginning of the original game. It almost feels like an alternate-reality game, a "we rebooted the franchise" thing.

And I miss playing as JC Denton. I miss having a lot more choices, a lot more freedom... hell, a lot more WORLD to explore. This one was about twice as long as Deus Ex: Invisible War and at the same time, it feels far shorter than it should be going by how much time I spent on the original Deus Ex.

I'll have a review, eventually, but first I need to sort this out. I'm not sure how I feel about the game, presently.
 

 Aug 25, 2011 - 07:39 AM - by Michael
Gamestop Black Ops
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Bought Deus Ex from a Gamestop?

Turns out, they stole a coupon from your box.

We contacted Ivanoff on his business line and e-mail, and he refused to comment on the memo, instead asking us to take the issue up with public relations. GameStop spokesperson Beth Sharum confirmed the practice, telling Ars that "Square Enix packed the competitor?s coupon with our DXHR product without our prior knowledge and we did pull these coupons."

Some customers are reporting that they've bought the game at GameStop and received the coupon, while others are saying the coupon was missing. A comment on Joystiq alleged that the reasoning behind this move was to avoid sending customers to OnLive, as GameStop is making a strong push into the digital market itself.
Emphasis added.
 

 Aug 23, 2011 - 10:25 AM - by Michael
Deus Ex
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Deus Ex is out now. Rock Paper Shotgun does their thing with a preview.

I'll have it in my grubby mitts soon, and I'll have a review up eventually. I reserve "please be good" hopes for this one, being an eternal fan of the first and rather disappointed in the console-itis that mauled and tainted the second.

We'll see how it turns out.
 

 Aug 10, 2011 - 08:17 AM - by Michael
Perfect Emulation = Hard
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Ars has an article on the trouble of making a perfect SNES emulator. Turns out, doing it for "okay" performance is fine, but to get the behavior timing exactly right takes a lot more horsepower.

First, performance. Let's take the case of Speedy Gonzales. This is an SNES platformer with no save functionality, and it's roughly 2-3 hours long. At first glance, it appears to run fine in any emulator. Yet once you reach stage 6-1, you can quickly spot the difference between an accurate emulator and a fast one: there is a switch, required to complete the level, where the game will deadlock if a rare hardware edge case is not emulated. One can imagine the frustration of instantly losing three hours of progress and being met with an unbeatable game. Unless the software does everything in the exact same way the hardware used to, the game remains broken.
I'm reminded too of the Xbox360's "backwards compatibility" emulator, which did such things as let you see through walls in certain games that were nevertheless certified for play.
 

 Aug 02, 2011 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
How to ruin a PC port
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Ars offers up a 5-step guide to ruining the PC port of your console game..

Given the state of the industry, it'd be far better if more games started as good PC concepts that were eventually ported to console instead.

SecuROM, activation limits, and always-on Internet connection requirements?there are multiple ways companies can choose to punish customers who pay for their games. In the past we've even talked to soldiers who are kept from playing certain games by these strategies.

Diablo 3 will also require a persistent Internet connection, and Blizzard's Rob Pardo agrees that it's kind of a pain in the butt. "I want to play Diablo 3 on my laptop in a plane, but, well, there are other games to play for times like that," he told 1up.

Just so we're clear, when you're bored on a plane, and you have your laptop, and you want to play the game you bought in order to fight boredom, Blizzard's official recommendation is that you play someone else's game. That's pride, right there.
So, bad controls, horrid menus, DRM so bad it makes the game unplayable... sounds like most of the PC games industry, ports or not.
 

 Aug 02, 2011 - 07:52 AM - by Michael
Games using voxels?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft I'm not sure what to make of this story. Or the associated video.

It sure as heck looks like voxel rendering.
 

 Jun 15, 2011 - 08:39 AM - by Michael
Where PC games go wrong
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Tech Report has an amazing bit on the problems caused by PC games being too console-ified (mostly because, let's be honest, 90% of the PC gaming market are just backports of console titles).

I'll just leave this here. You should read it. No, really. No further comment.
 

 Jun 14, 2011 - 11:15 AM - by Michael
Nukem
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Duke Nukem is officially out. We think.

Reviews are not good.

Indications are:
- Console gamers face a lot of lag and long load times. So do PC gamers without a beast of a rig.
- The humor is sub-par at best. Unless you like actually, really, picking up human excrement.
- Jokes about killing pregnant women. Uh... ouch.

Sometime soon I'll have my review.
 

 May 31, 2011 - 04:25 PM - by Michael
Doom on the web
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft You can now play Doom, shareware edition, ported to Javascript.

There goes my weekend.
 

 Apr 12, 2011 - 07:42 AM - by Michael
GoG: DRM creates piracy
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The guys who run the stellar service Good Old Games have stated that they believe piracy is caused by, not fought by, DRM schemes.

According to Kukawski, the situation with restrictive DRM has reached the point where gamers often feel pushed into buying a game at full price, but then still download a cracked version to avoid the DRM. 'I know people that buy an original copy of the game just so they don't feel guilty,' says Kukawski, 'and then they will play a pirated version which is stripped of all DRM. That?s not how it should be. Let?s treat legitimate customers with respect and they will give that back.'
They run a wonderful service - DRM free and lots of extras. Take a look in their collection and see if there's something you want to pick up!
 

 Mar 15, 2011 - 07:46 AM - by Michael
Katamari Me
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Ok. It's cute, fun, and free.

Try this out.

Website Katamari.

Works in Chrome and Firefox, at least.
 

 Mar 03, 2011 - 07:52 PM - by Michael
Upgrading through Windows
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft If you've ever wondered what it takes to start at Dos 5.0 and upgrade through every version of Windows up to Win7... here you go.

Crazy.
 

 Mar 03, 2011 - 09:00 AM - by Michael
Cardboard Box Computer
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Asus has an interesting "less waste" computer idea: they've come up with a cardboard box that can double as the case for a microATX computer system.

And yes, it looks an awful lot like something seen on Thereifixedit.com.

I wouldn't put anything truly powerful in it, but it might work for smaller tasks or a media center frontend with low cooling requirements.
 

 Feb 25, 2011 - 07:23 AM - by Michael
Free Games!
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The Anonymous Game Developers have released their remake of King's Quest III.

Best of all: it's completely free.

So go ahead and grab the download - as well as their remakes of the first two in the series. And remember, the series still continues thanks to a fan project - also completely free.
 

 Feb 22, 2011 - 06:41 PM - by Michael
nGlide - version 0.95 out
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft It's always nice to get an update to the Glide Wrappers list. Zeus and the nGlide team have kicked out version 0.95 of their wrapper, and it's showing some very nice results.

From their changelog:

nGlide 0.95 changelog:

Glide2:
-added support for Actua Tennis
-added support for Kingpin: Life of Crime
-added support for San Francisco Rush: The Rock Alcatraz Edition
-fixed Clive Barker's Undying black mirrors and textures bugs

Glide3:
-added support for Divine Divinity
-added support for Return to Castle Wolfenstein
-added support for Supreme Snowboarding
-fixed Rollcage Stage 2 Ventura track crash
-fixed Test Drive 5 black car bug

Miscellaneous:
-added support for multitexturing
-added support for widescreen 16:9 resolutions
-added '3Dfx logo splash screen' option in nGlide configurator
-'Vertical synchronization' option in nGlide configurator is now 'On' by default
 

 Feb 21, 2011 - 11:34 AM - by Michael
Cleaning the fan
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Yes, laptops really are that stupidly designed.
 

 Feb 07, 2011 - 06:12 PM - by Michael
No More Bloatware
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Hot Hardware carries an open letter as an ultimatum: PC makers, stop shipping bloatware already!

It's time for companies to take note: consumers do not want bloatware. It's a royal pain from top to bottom, and moreover, it ruins your brand! When people think of HP and Dell, they immediately think of just how infuriating it is that their last "new" PC took over one minute to boot up and become useable. To these companies: why are you saddling your machines with software that makes it less enjoyable to use? Does anyone at HP, Dell, Acer or Asus actually boot up one of these machines themselves and try to use it? It's painful, and incredibly frustrating. What if I don't want a security suite on my PC? Or what if I prefer Norton, and have to spend half an hour uninstalling McAfee just to make room for my preferred alternative? Why should the first 30 minutes of PC ownership involve the process of uninstalling programs that I never wanted in the first place? And even after that, fragments are still left floating on the hard drive, further dampening performance.
Well stated. One of these days, maybe the PC makers will take notice... but I worry they won't. After all, they have all these "agreements" to push this garbage onto unwary consumers.
 

 Dec 15, 2010 - 07:08 AM - by Michael
Congratulations Commander
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Today is the 20th anniversary of the first Commander Keen game.

Good Gear Guide has a bit of a tribute up.

Anybody want to beat up on broccoli?
 

 Nov 04, 2010 - 09:07 AM - by Michael
Zeus Researchers Hit
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The researchers hunting the Zeus botnet got a nasty surprise recently: the botnet makers turned the tables and hit the researchers with a faked honeypot.

The purpose appeared to be all about providing false information. Stone-Gross says the toolkit used in the attack came with an administrative interface that acts as a hacker's honeypot of sorts, gathering intelligence about the researchers or other users who try to access the console login or hack into it.

The login system to the "admin panel" practically begs to be hacked: It accepts default and easily guessed passwords as well as common SQL injection strings, according to Stone-Gross.

Most exploit toolkits come with an admin interface that manages exploits and payloads, and tracks exploit success rates, but this fake one was a new twist, Stone-Gross says. He found the fake panel while browsing the gang's source code. "It had a directory called 'fake admin' where they stored the logs of all of the IP addresses of people who tried the console and tried to access it," Stone-Gross says. There were also comments in Russian, he says.
Yes, it's getting nastier out there. Keep your virus protection software up to date and watch where you browse.
 

 Oct 28, 2010 - 01:20 AM - by Michael
Gummy Bear Attack
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft This has to go into the all-time greats: soft candy defeats fingerprint scanners.

Principal Bob Cox told the ABC that the system was preferred over swipe cards, which students can abuse by signing-in for each other.

But a litany of fingerprint scanners have fallen victim to bypass methods, many of which are explained publicly in detail on the internet. The hacks could potentially be used by students to make replicas of their own fingerprints, or lift those of others from imprints left on the reader.

Japanese cryptographer Tsutomu Matsumoto used gelatin, the ingredient in Gummi Bears, to forge a replica finger that fooled 11 fingerprint scanners during tests in 2002. Gelatine has virtually the same capacitance as a finger's skin, meaning it can fool scanners designed to detect electrical charges within the human body.
Rather than admit he's an idiot, of course, the principal will now embark on an ambitious campaign to ban all gummi-snacks from the school.
 

 Oct 20, 2010 - 07:50 AM - by Michael
Dosbox getting Voodoo
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Dosbox may be getting significantly better soon: the team are working to put in actual Voodoo graphics emulation, getting a number of old games to run in even better graphics modes.

Right now DOSBox can?t manage Glide games by itself, and there is no such thing like a true PC emulator able to simulate the behaviour of the SST-1 chipset. The new engine by Kekko and the other contributors will dismiss the need to use a particular DOSBox build (originally created by developer ?gulikoza?) to access the Glide libraries on the host computer and the external wrappers (emulation layers designed to convert API Glide calls in native DirectX or OpenGL calls meaningful to modern 3D technologies) like OpenGLide or the Glidos commercial product based on it.
We wish them well in this!
 

 Oct 20, 2010 - 07:38 AM - by Michael
Blizzard attacks SC2 hackers
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft In another "companies going insane" item, Blizzard are suing the creators of some Starcraft II hacks - even though those hacks only affect the single-player game.

Blizzard is accusing the trio of multiple counts of copyright infringement and is demanding damages and disgorgement of any profits reaped by the distribution and sale of the hacks. The company also accused the defendants of inducing others to infringe on their copyright, saying, "When users of the Hacks download, install, and use the Hacks, they copy StarCraft II copyrighted content into their computer's RAM in excess of the scope of their limited license, as set forth in the EULA and ToU, and create derivative works of StarCraft II."
I hope they get slapped by the court. I really do. This kind of reasoning is just silly.
 

 Oct 18, 2010 - 08:50 PM - by Michael
Duke3D Forever?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Here's a fan project that just might eclipse Duke Nukem Forever quite easily. Best of all, it'll be FREE!
 

 Sep 22, 2010 - 03:03 PM - by Michael
GOG not actually gone
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Ok, so this goes in the "lame stunt" category: GOG.com is not actually gone.

First of all we would like to apologize everyone who felt deceived or harmed in any way by us closing down GOG.com without any warning and without giving access to your games. We apologize for that from the bottom of our hearts!

Now it's time we put an end to all the speculations once and for all. It?s true that we decided that we couldn't keep GOG.com the way it was? so we won?t. As you probably know by now, GOG.com is entering its new era with an end of the two-years beta stage and we're launching a brand new GOG.com with new, huge releases.
I hope they learn fast: they may have generated free publicity, but they also PO'ed a lot of people.
 

 Sep 19, 2010 - 10:25 PM - by Michael
GOG closes shop
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft GOG.com - a source for DRM-free classic game titles - has closed up shop. Their webpage now has a simple placeholder:

Dear GOG users,

We have recently had to give serious thought to whether we could really keep GOG.com the way it is. We've debated on it for quite some time and, unfortunately, we've decided that GOG.com simply cannot remain in its current form.

We're very grateful for all support we've received from all of you in the past two years. Working on GOG.com was a great adventure for all of us and an unforgettable journey to the past, through the long and wonderful history of PC gaming.

This doesn't mean the idea behind GOG.com is gone forever. We're closing down the service and putting this era behind us as new challenges await.

On a technical note, this week we'll put in place a solution to allow everyone to re-download their games. Stay tuned to this page and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

All the best,
GOG.com Team
It's sad to see they think they couldn't make a go of it - outlets for older titles, both well-beloved and lesser-known, are needed.
 

 Aug 30, 2010 - 07:44 AM - by Michael
ATI Retires
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft AMD has announced the official retirement of the ATI brand. The next round of graphics chips will be "AMD Radeon" and "AMD FirePro."

As one might expect, a major motivator is the fact AMD plans to introduce a range of new products incorporating both AMD microprocessor technology and a Radeon graphics tech on the same chip. The first fruits of the CPU-GPU "Fusion" initiative are slated to arrive soon. "Ontario," which will combine two copies of the low-power "Bobcat" CPU core with Radeon graphics, is slated to ship before the end of the year. The more powerful "Llano" APU, which mates quad Phenom II-class CPU cores with presumably a more capable GPU, is scheduled for the first half of 2011. Obviously, the combination of the firm's CPU and GPU technologies into single-chip products could create some consumer confusion, if folks were to continue to think of AMD and ATI as separate entities?especially if the ensuing marketing messages emphasize the benefits of CPU-GPU integration.
For laptops and some systems, this is probably good. For those who might want to upgrade CPU and GPU separately, not so much...
 

 Aug 19, 2010 - 08:32 AM - by Michael
Consolidation Continues
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Intel just agreed to buy McAfee for $7.7 billion.

And the consolidation in the hardware and software markets continues...
 

 Aug 16, 2010 - 06:49 AM - by Michael
BFG Denying Warranty
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Bought a BFGTech power supply or video board? It looks like that "lifetime warranty" was not worth all that much:

Some of their customers who have recently sent in BFG video cards for RMA have begun receiving the following letter from BFG:

"BFG Technologies Inc. is in the process of winding down and liquidating its business. Unfortunately, our major supplier would not support our business. As a result, we are returning your graphics card without being able to repair it. We apologize for the inconvenience."
Ouch. Be careful about trusting a "lifetime" warranty, especially in the video card business, where companies come and go on a yearly basis.
 

 Aug 09, 2010 - 07:36 PM - by Michael
$1200 damage in EVE Online
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft No, we're not kidding.

A trader in EVE Online lost $1200 in real-world money, due to an in-game pirate attack, according to Massively.com.

Last month, CCP announced changes to allow PLEX to be transported in a ship's cargo. This meant that if a ship was transporting pilot's licenses when it was destroyed, the killers could literally find game time codes in amongst the loot. Last night, players from Method Of Destruction corporation became the first to prove just how dangerous it can be to transport PLEX in a ship's cargo hold. After scanning the cargo of a lone Kestrel in Jita, "slickdog" and "Viktor Vegas" discovered that the ship was carrying a whopping 74 PLEX. Unfortunately for the trigger-happy duo, all 74 were destroyed when they blew the ship up.
74 PLEX = 6 years' worth of account extensions, or $1200. Crazy.
 

 Aug 03, 2010 - 07:25 AM - by Michael
Gaming Harm?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Rock, Paper, Shotgun have a humorous article eviscerating the so-called "research" into the harm of video games:

Owning Consoles More Serious Than Gun Crime

A lot of videogames include the use of guns. While these may not be real guns, but rather recreations made of pixels and polygons, it is obvious to anyone playing one of these ?simulations? that it is in no meaningful way different from firing a real gun in a school. But it?s far scarier than you might have first thought. Nearly twice as many Americans own gun-displaying consoles than those who own the types of guns that require a license and paperwork to purchase. No such paperwork is necessary when buying an Xbox, and yet still teenagers will kill each other in the streets.
File this one under required reading - save and print a copy to give to your friends. This is amazingly well done.
 

 Jul 26, 2010 - 12:33 PM - by Michael
iPhone Jailbreak Legal?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft According to Apple Insider, the US Government is announcing new rules to specifically hit mobile devices and make things like iPhone jailbreaking unquestionably legal:

The report noted that every three years, the Library of Congress' Copyright Office authorizes exemptions to ensure existing law does not prevent non-infringing use of copyrighted material.

In addition, another exemption was approved that would allow all cell phone users to unlock their device for use on an unapproved carrier. Currently, Apple's iPhone is available exclusively through AT&T, but unlocking it can allow for voice calls and EDGE data speeds on rival carrier T-Mobile.

Other exemptions announced Monday allow people to break protections on video games to investigate or correct security flaws; allow college professors, film students and documentary filmmakers to break copy protection measures on DVDs to embed clips for educational purposes, criticism, commentary and noncommercial videos; and allow computer owners to bypass the need for external security devices (dongles) if the hardware no longer works and cannot be replaced.
We'd still do better to kill the DMCA altogether.
 

 Jul 07, 2010 - 08:02 PM - by Michael
Apology for the Pixel?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The inventor of the Pixel has something to say:

?Squares was the logical thing to do,? Kirsch says. ?Of course, the logical thing was not the only possibility ? but we used squares. It was something very foolish that everyone in the world has been suffering from ever since.?

Now retired and living in Portland, Oregon, Kirsch recently set out to make amends. Inspired by the mosaic builders of antiquity who constructed scenes of stunning detail with bits of tile, Kirsch has written a program that turns the chunky, clunky squares of a digital image into a smoother picture made of variably shaped pixels.
Intriguing, though it still has to pass through a square-pixel monitor.
 

 Jun 28, 2010 - 04:32 PM - by Michael
King's Quest Reprieve!
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The fan-made King's Quest: The Silver Lining has gotten a reprieve - Activision/Vivendi have actually given them permission to finish the game and release it!

However, after receiving plenty of media attention and even a 3,000-signature petition, Activision has now done the honourable thing. "Activision reached out to the Phoenix Online team a few months ago with a desire to revisit their decision regarding The Silver Lining," said the game's developer in a statement.

"After negotiations, the C&D [cease and desist] has been officially rescinded, and Phoenix Online has been granted a non-commercial license to release The Silver Lining!"
I'm glad Activision finally saw the light on this one. Hopefully, more developers will take the hint in the future...
 

 Jun 28, 2010 - 09:18 AM - by Michael
3D Zelda II
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft No, it's not complete, and never will be - but if you ever wondered what Zelda II would look like in 3D, here's your chance to find out.
 

 Jun 17, 2010 - 07:25 AM - by Michael
Fallout Online?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Go take a look. It might just be what you've been waiting for...
 

 Jun 14, 2010 - 08:18 AM - by Michael
Less Tech Vampirism?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft EE Times offers up an article on a new idea: operating transistors in a lower-power mode. The idea being to use up less leaked power, or at least put it to better use than just generating a small amount of heat. Of course, it has limitations...

But operating transistors at voltages below Vt is likely to difficult and its use will not suitable for all circuits or application cases. A key factor is that it comes at the expense of frequency performance, which can be a problem for digital applications. It is easier to apply to low-frequency analog but transistor operation it is also strongly dependent on manufacturing variations in such things as oxide thickness, junction depth, and body doping, which could make analog performance hard to calibrate.
 

 Jun 14, 2010 - 08:18 AM - by Michael
Less Tech Vampirism?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft EE Times offers up an article on a new idea: operating transistors in a lower-power mode. The idea being to use up less leaked power, or at least put it to better use than just generating a small amount of heat. Of course, it has limitations...

But operating transistors at voltages below Vt is likely to difficult and its use will not suitable for all circuits or application cases. A key factor is that it comes at the expense of frequency performance, which can be a problem for digital applications. It is easier to apply to low-frequency analog but transistor operation it is also strongly dependent on manufacturing variations in such things as oxide thickness, junction depth, and body doping, which could make analog performance hard to calibrate.
 

 Jun 14, 2010 - 08:13 AM - by Michael
Apple steps in it
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Apple has censored out an app that displays a webcomic recreating the first chapter of 'Ulysses'. Apparently someone was offended by a curved line indicating a penis.

Eek. A penis! Or something.

Last time something this laughable happened, it was when Apple remotely killed copies of '1984' off of the Kindle.

The irony is, once again, staggering.
 

 Jun 04, 2010 - 07:54 AM - by Michael
Blizzard vs Glider, Again
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Blizzard vs. Glider has reached the 9th Circuit Court.
Both sides appealed. Blizzard want the founder of MDY to pay them the US$6,000,000 judgement since the MDY company itself can't pay. MDY say that Blizzard's licence agreement is garbage - if you buy the game you own it and can use it however you like; that includes running WoW and Glider at the same time. MDY have 100 years of precedent and the EFF on their side. Blizzard have the copyright industry lobby on theirs.
The EFF has an ongoing summary of the case, for those who need to catch up.
 

 Jun 01, 2010 - 07:27 AM - by Michael
Pirated game with nasty catch
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft So if you've got a Windows Mobile phone, please don't pirate the game "3D Anti-terrorist action."

It's not only a lame game, but the pirate copy has a nasty side effect: it makes phone calls to the South Pole while you sleep.

Described as a ?mobile version of the classic Counter-Strike?, the pirated title contains hidden code which has been silently ringing numbers in the Antarctic block, the Dominican Republic, Somalia and other premium locations, simple calls which cost roughly 5 euro (more than US$6) per minute from a UK mobile phone.
Ouch. Money gone fast. Dialers are an old-school gimmick, but they were gone for a while as less and less people actually had a modem connected for their internet service.
 

 May 20, 2010 - 11:21 AM - by Michael
Game Audio Evolution
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft If you wonder about how PC game audio evolved, here's a pretty awesome video using Monkey Island to tell the tale.
 

 May 18, 2010 - 07:36 AM - by Michael
Multi-monitor Intrigue
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft AMD's got some tech with a few problems but interesting potential.

Personally, I'd have trouble with letting my targeting reticle float over the space of screen bezels, but if you feel like it, go for it...

At heart, Eyefinity is fundamentally simple. Nearly all Radeon HD 5000-series graphics cards can connect to at least three monitors, and once they're connected, AMD's driver software can present multiple monitors to the operating system as one large, virtual display?a "single-large surface," in AMD's terminology. Programs, including games, see this virtual display as if it were just one big screen, and they treat it accordingly. Multi-monitor mayhem ensues.
 

 May 13, 2010 - 01:38 PM - by Michael
Rockstar a tad lazy
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Gotten that De-DRM'ed copy of Max Payne 2 off of Steam? If so, you technically have a "pirate" copy.

It turns out Rockstar were too lazy to remove the DRM themselves and just swiped a utility from a piracy group to handle the job. An enterprising user, looking into it, found part of the group's logo hiding in the new files.

Whoops!
 

 May 04, 2010 - 10:43 AM - by Michael
EVGA blocking discussions...
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft NVidia, a while back, screwed customers - if you have a GeForce card in your system for PhysX usage, but also have a non-Nvidia card, their drivers switched to disable PhysX anyways.

Needless to say, a hack to fix this and restore full function came quickly. And so did a ton of drama, since sites that are NVidia partisans like Guru3D and Hardocp started accusing the hack writer of distributing viruses, counteraccusations were made, Hardocp went through one of their pretty common forum-lockdowns and keyword-lockdowns... all the usual internet silliness.

EVGA's now banned any discussion of the hack from their forums. NGOHQ has something to say on the matter:

Dear EVGA, before you talk about "intellectual property", let's talk about "property". Consumers bought a piece of hardware that was designed to perform several tasks. After some time, Nvidia deviously crippled the product and introduced new restrictions that weren't in the "minimum requirements", that's illegal - plain and simple. It's none of EVGA's/Nvidia's business if we have an additional Non-Nvidia GPU in our systems or not.
I'm reminded of when NVidia decided to screw owners of fully functional 3D shutter glasses and tried to force people to shell out over $300 for their "new version" of the same damn thing. They've been burning a lot of customer goodwill in recent years... I don't doubt that since EVGA makes Nvidia-based boards, they have some legal obligation not to discuss hacked drivers and to quash that, but it still reeks of a bit of nonsense.
 

 May 04, 2010 - 10:24 AM - by Michael
Time for a free game!
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Mechwarrior 4's free release came this weekend - and it works well, but there have been a few hiccups. Demand was so strong that it overwhelmed Mektek's servers for a while. Now, they're back up and running - and they're promising a standalone installer shortly, that can be torrented out, to make the process quicker and easier.

*UPDATE*

We are very aware that some of you are having problems using MTX to download and install the free release of Mechwarrior4: Mercenaries. We are currently preparing a self extracting executable to install the game without using MTX.

This new release will require a new download, but should alleviate any of the issues of installing via MTX.

This new release will contain some bug fixes for Mercs, and we will prepare a patch for those of you who have been successfully installing and updating via MTX as well as executable patches to bring any version previously downloaded, up to date.

Once this new version clears our beta team, it will be made available for download in your BitTorrent client of choice. Please be patient as this may take a few days.

We will continue to work on ironing out the bugs in MTX, until then, we will provide an alternate way to acquire the game and updates through the self installing executables.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

Good hunting.
The MekTek Team.
 

 Apr 24, 2010 - 10:45 AM - by Michael
Gothic 4 Screens
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Dreamcatcher have sent along some screenshots of the upcoming ArcaniA - Gothic 4. Visually, it's looking great.
Toronto, ON: DreamCatcher Games and JoWooD Entertainment today release new screenshots from the up-coming RPG Adventure ?ArcaniA: Gothic 4? which will be released on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. The latest installment in the renowned Gothic series is set about 12 years after the events shown in ?Gothic 3?, and again invites the player to a fantastic journey through a war-torn world. The ancient, nameless hero, who by now has been crowned King Robar the Third, commands a rigorous regiment over Myrtana and the Southern Islands. Luckily, not all subordinates live in fear and submission to the King and a new hero emerges, with the intention to settle an old score: A seemingly unimposing shepherd from the Isle of Feshyr sets out on the long and perilous journey to the King?s Palace.

?Implementing a new main character is not just a consistent continuation of the given storyline, but it also allows us to add new ideas and concepts to the game,? says Clemens Schneidhofer, PR Coordinator with JoWooD Entertainment. ?Seeing your old hero as an apparently mad King, is a stimulating twist to the storyline of the Gothic saga as we see it. Players will need to be careful whom they trust ? Gothic has always been known for its unpredictable story line.?

     
 

 Apr 22, 2010 - 12:40 PM - by Michael
Ubisoft Virus Cracked
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Ubisoft's "always online" virus, also known as their DRM strategy for recent titles like Assassin's Creed 2, has apparently been cracked completely.

The hack itself removes the DRM entirely and is being claimed by a consortium known as Skid Row. It requires users to download and install a modified version of the game's executable file to their computers. These modified game files, alongside a crack that can be applied to a retail version of the game, were uploaded to various file-sharing sites late Tuesday evening.

Attached to the "readme" file that comes with the hacked content (which can be found here), Skid Row alerted other hackers that the group's methods were safeguarded against reverse-engineering in order to fend off competing hacking groups and Ubisoft itself.
Hopefully, Ubisoft will drop this insane DRM scheme now... but don't count on it.
 

 Apr 22, 2010 - 12:38 PM - by Michael
ARMing Apple?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Apple's looking to acquire processor firm ARM: probably a design to get a lock on lower-power-requirement processors like they need for iPhone/iPod/iPad lines coming down the pipe.

Apple is ARM's biggest customer and speculation is that the iPad maker wants to take chip design in house.

?A deal would make a lot of sense for Apple,? said one trader. ?That way, they could stop ARM's technology from ending up in everyone else's computers and gadgets.? Traders reckon a bid would come in at around 400p a share, valuing ARM at more than ?5.2 billion.
If they did, another chipmaker might need to step into the void for phones running Google Android, as one example...
 

 Apr 15, 2010 - 04:17 PM - by Michael
Rootkitted XP doesn't get patched?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft After Microsoft's last round of WinXP patches ran into BSOD trouble when there were rootkits, MS has gone and tried to fix the problem... by making sure the patches won't run if the machine's infested.

This is going to get ugly...
 

 Apr 14, 2010 - 06:17 AM - by Michael
D&D Online goes to the dark side
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Turbine Entertainment, in a last-ditch effort to "save" Dungeons & Dragons Online, has gone to the dark side and partnered with a bunch of scumbuckets called "SuperRewards".

Fans are reporting that it's even worse than DDO's page makes it look.

Time will tell, but this could very well be a "the bell tolls for thee" sort of moment.

[UPDATE]: As of this afternoon, Turbine have beat a hasty retreat, but are planning to try again:

Based on your feedback, we?re stepping away from the ?Offer? category for now. We?ll keep exploring alternate ways for players who want points to get them. We?ll also continue to innovate in pricing and accessibility because that?s who we are. As of today, the Offer Wall is coming down. We?ll collect all the feedback we?ve received over the last few days and will use it to guide future decisions.

Finally, there was a lot of speculation about how information such as your username or e-mail address was being used by our commerce partners. Ultimately we chose to pass the e-mail address to our commerce partners in the URL to facilitate e-mailing receipts to players. It went no further than that. Neither PlaySpan nor Super Rewards passed the information on. It was stored in the user database only and not transmitted to any of the companies who advertised via Super Rewards. Players who visited the page did not expose any new information to PlaySpan (our in-game store provider) that they did not already have.

Even though this implementation did not constitute a technical breach of our privacy policy, we certainly understand the concerns that have been communicated to us and how seriously players take their privacy. As a result, the Super Rewards team has already removed the e-mail addresses from their user database. If we decide to return to the Offer category in the future we will certainly work with our partners to implement a better system than the one we tried this week.
 

 Apr 06, 2010 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
Prefab FTW
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Looking to "open source" a closed-source program? Take a look at Prefab, a screen-aware utility option.

Rather than trying to break into the program code and have to deal with ensuing legal challenges, James A Fogarty and Morgan Dixon from the University of Washington have come up with a way of manipulating just about any software application at the pixel level and effectively redrawing it together with any user interface enhancements or controls added in. "Microsoft and Apple aren't going to open up all their stuff. But they all create programs that put pixels on the screen. And if we can modify those pixels, then we can change the program's apparent behavior," said Fogarty.

Almost everything that appears on a display is made up of prefabricated blocks of code (such as buttons, dialog boxes, scroll bars and so on). The Prefab tool looks for such code blocks as many as 20 times per second and alters the way they behave. So adding elements from one program into another is made possible without so much as touching the code that runs either.
It's not available for the public yet - but here's hoping!
 

 Apr 06, 2010 - 07:30 AM - by Michael
OpenTTD 1.0
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft You like free games, right? Sure, we all love free games! Welcome to the world OpenTTD 1.0, a free, open-source rewrite of Transport Tycoon Deluxe.

Compared to the original Transport Tycoon Deluxe, OpenTTD has improved terraforming, more airports, bigger maps, improved artificial intelligence, improvements to the building of infrastructure and better control over vehicles via more types of orders.

To play the default 100 years of the game from 1950 to 2050 takes about a day of real time. The player can optionally start earlier or continue playing indefinitely into the future although no new technology arises.
Have fun!
 

 Apr 06, 2010 - 07:28 AM - by Michael
Whither PC Gaming?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Shacknews covers a PAX East panel that offers some enlightening insights from game developers about the downfall of the PC as a gaming option for AAA-rated titles.

Of course, the usual "waah DRM waah piracy" stuff also applies. But it wasn't all bad; they had a lot of good to say about it as an open platform.

John Abercrombie: "Certainly what Joe just said is very true. The niche-y titles, the titles that work on PC gaming, games like World of Wacraft and Civilization, are going to be PC games for as long as I can see in the future."

Joe Kreiner: "Development for the PC is a lot cheaper. You're not buying development kits and going through a party to get to your customers. You go through something like Steam, you get direct access to your customers. It's easy to sell the game at a lesser price. That's the beauty of PC. That's why a lot of smaller teams that don't have a lot of development experience start out there."
 

 Mar 08, 2010 - 08:43 AM - by Michael
Ubi's Epic Fail
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Let this please, please be the end of "you must have a net connection to play a single player game" DRM: Ubisoft locked legitimate purchasers of the new Assassin's Creed title out of the product when the authentication servers went down.

Meanwhile, the DRM-From-Hell has already been thwarted.
 

 Mar 05, 2010 - 08:25 AM - by Michael
Call of What?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Activision announces they're doing like this to the Call of Duty series: a number of new Call of Duty franchise titles being pushed into production.

Meanwhile, they're getting sued. Jason West and Vince Zampella, recently fired from Infinity Ward by Activision right after the launch of Call of Duty; Modern Warfare 2 (not to be confused with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, though naming fatigue is usually a sign of a series getting the "exploit" treatment mentioned in the PA strip above), now say that Activision's claims of "insubordination" and "breach of fiduciary duty" were in fact a pretext to kick them off before the inevitable oversaturation attempt.

Ars says it best:

It means that Activision Blizzard hasn't learned anything from the Guitar Hero franchise. The rhythm game genre is in flames, mostly due to oversaturation. Activision seems to want to crank out as many Call of Duty games as possible as quickly as possible, while the name still carries weight. Infinity Ward was a developer built on quality and attention to detail; it's not surprising there is friction between the two groups.

Activision Blizzard makes its money from a few large franchises, sprinkled with the modest success of other titles. If Guitar Hero can't be brought back to its previous highs and Call of Duty becomes mired in legal action or low-quality sequels, the company will have burned through two of the three series that enable its success. After that, we can only hope Blizzard isn't the next on the list for profit-maximization.
Let's not forget what they did to the Tony Hawk series and O2 Sports line... I fear a reality check is needed somewhere.
 

 Mar 04, 2010 - 09:28 PM - by Michael
25 hours.
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Yes.

In 25 hours, Ubisoft's new "you must be online to play this single-player game" DRM was rendered useless.

So much for that. Either it gets worse, or they give up. I believe the former to be more likely.
 

 Feb 05, 2010 - 07:44 AM - by Michael
Internet Drivers' License?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Say what now? An Internet Drivers' License?

Meanwhile, Dick Brass has an op-ed in the Times about Microsoft's troubles in innovating, caused by (what he sees as) a corporate culture where groups sabotage projects that compete with them.

Interesting reading...
 

 Jan 27, 2010 - 10:33 AM - by Michael
Ubisoft Suicides
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Y'know, I can't think of this as anything other than business suicide.

Really. Single-player games that freeze if you lose your internet connection? No way.

The price we pay for not requiring the CD in the drive, and for being able to install a game we?ve legally bought on as many machines as we want, is to be permanently online when playing Ubi games. It will authenticate itself online each time you load it, and then save remotely every time you save. This is, to stress, a game perhaps bought in a shop. So from now on, beginning with Settlers 7, potentially all Ubi PC games will require you to check in with them to let them know you?ve started playing their game, and then tell them every time you save, send them all the data in doing so, and then say bye-bye when you?re done playing for that day.
The price Ubi will pay, is nobody in their right mind will buy their games anymore.
 

 Dec 31, 2009 - 10:33 AM - by Michael
Note to Engadget
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Another silly article about the "end of the decade" (which still has a year to go)...

But hey. Here's ten gadgets these guys like. Maybe we should give them an eleventh. It's called a "Calendar." It correctly tells you what day it is and when the decade would actually end - 11:59:59, December 31st, 2010.
 

 Dec 22, 2009 - 09:04 AM - by Michael
How Duke Got Nuked
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Wired looks at how Duke Nukem Forever finally didn't make it:

It was never completed. Screenshots and video snippets would leak out every few years, each time whipping fans into a lather ? and each time, the game would recede from view. Normally, videogames take two to four years to build; five years is considered worryingly long. But the Duke Nukem Forever team worked for 12 years straight. As one patient fan pointed out, when development on Duke Nukem Forever started, most computers were still using Windows 95, Pixar had made only one movie ? Toy Story ? and Xbox did not yet exist.

On May 6, 2009, everything ended.
Read up - it's one hell of a postmortem.
 

 Dec 16, 2009 - 10:59 AM - by Michael
Intel Gets Smacked
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The FTC has formally charged Intel in court with a set of anticompetitive practices:

The commission says Intel (INTC, Fortune 500) has acted to keep rivals from competing with the company in the semiconductor marketplace. The chipmaker allegedly threatened the biggest computer companies like Dell (DELL, Fortune 500), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ, Fortune 500) and IBM (IBM, Fortune 500) to coerce them not to install rivals' microchips in their PCs. Intel then manipulated its costs to price out competition, according to the complaint.

The FTC also says that Intel made software that was deliberately designed to function better on a computer running an Intel processor rather than a competitor's. The FTC said competitors had superior products but Intel stifled its competition by using illegal methods.
Evidence in the cast - most notably records from the threatened vendors - is pretty damning.
 

 Dec 02, 2009 - 11:35 AM - by Michael
Black Screen By Malware?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Microsoft says the "Black Screen of Death" is caused by malware; Prevx agrees and has cleared MS's November updates of suspicion.

PC Pro has ongoing coverage - specific malware to cause the issue may be nailed down soon.
 

 Nov 11, 2009 - 04:10 PM - by Michael
Bad Patent
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft According to Groklaw, Microsoft's patented the Sudo command, or something similar enough to make Linux users shout "prior art" from the hilltops. And so on and so forth:

Please don't ever again write to me that software patents are good for us because they include full disclosure, so others can build on the "invention".

And to the USPTO, whose representative just argued in oral argument in Bilski that software should be patentable and that software can make a regular computer a special use computer, and all that drivel, please put those thoughts together with this patent, and consider the market implications of giving anyone that kind of monopoly, and especially the implications of giving it to a monopoly named Microsoft. It's like giving a serial killer his very own machine gun, stronger than any gun his intended victims are allowed to purchase. You have to ask, what were you thinking?

Obviously, if they could figure that out, they'd never have issued this patent in the first place. The fact that they did, without realizing the implications, or the obviousness, or the prior art, tells us that the USPTO simply lacks the foundational technical information, or the awareness of technical history, to make wise patent decisions about software and patents.
 

 Nov 04, 2009 - 01:28 PM - by Michael
Intel Antitrust
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Intel is up bleep creek: the New York Attorney General has filed a major antitrust case against them.

The case is made that Intel made illegal deals and kickbacks in order to keep PC makers from making AMD-based models.

According to Cuomo's statement, a January 2005 email from a IBM executive said: "I understand the point about the accounts wanting a full AMD portfolio. The question is, can we afford to accept the wrath of Intel...?"

An internal Dell email in February 2004 said Intel was "prepared for jihad if Dell joins the AMD exodus. We get ZERO [rebates] for at least one quarter while Intel 'investigates the details.'"

Cuomo said Intel "attempted to erase the most obvious traces" of illegal activity "by camouflaging language" in written correspondence.

A 2006 Internal email from an Intel executive said: "Let's talk more on the phone as it's so difficult for me to write or explain without considering anti-trust [sic] issue."


Ouch. This does not bode well for Intel...
 

 Oct 13, 2009 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
Does Free Work?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Ars covers D&D Online's shift to a "free and buy content" model, and says it might actually save the title.

After HQ moves, I may give it a re-try. After all, it's free.

It's fascinating to see this in action. One of my gaming buddies organized a small four-person LAN party to play the game. Everyone had a good time, and better yet, no one had to sign up and give out their credit card to get a group together. They simply downloaded the client, created characters, and started adventuring. A week later, he purchased his first content pack to play with other people he met online. This is someone who would never sign up for a monthly charge, but this business model?in short order?made him get his wallet out. The difference is, it all happened on his terms.
 

 Aug 26, 2009 - 08:49 AM - by Michael
Dirty Code
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Gamasutra discovers some dirty coding tricks that developers have used to get their games to "pass" QA and get out the door at the time... many of which came back to bite expansion pack or community programmers later.

These are really some gems, too. I love the "frame count" bit.
 

 Aug 25, 2009 - 02:57 PM - by Michael
WinXP 4GB memory limit illegitimate?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft An interesting article indicating that Microsoft could easily patch XP to use more than 4GB of RAM, but chooses not to do so in order to push sales of Vista and Win7:

Yet although Dell?s statement is true, it is not the whole truth: there is something that Microsoft does not tell you, and perhaps does not tell Dell.

That 32-bit editions of Windows Vista are limited to 4GB is not because of any physical or technical constraint on 32-bit operating systems. The 32-bit editions of Windows Vista all contain code for using physical memory above 4GB. Microsoft just doesn?t license you to use that code.

Well, to say it that way is perhaps to put words in Microsoft?s mouth. I say the restriction to 4GB is a licensing issue because that?s how Microsoft?s programmers evidently have thought of it. The 4GB limit is retrieved from the registry by calling a function named ZwQueryLicenseValue, which is itself called from an internal procedure which Microsoft?s published symbol files name as MxMemoryLicense. If you remove this check for the licensed memory limit then a restriction to 4GB is demonstrably not enforced by other means. Yet I must admit that I have not found where Microsoft says directly that 32-bit Windows Vista is limited to 4GB only by licensing. The supposed License Agreement doesn?t even mention the word memory. What, really, is going on?
Ouch.
 

 Aug 13, 2009 - 08:44 PM - by Michael
RIP, Les Paul
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Lester William Polsfuss - also known as Les Paul - died today.

For a man who was one of the quintessential "hardware hackers" and who helped revolutionize a section of the music industry, we offer a moment of silence, followed by one hell of a power chord.
 

 Aug 11, 2009 - 08:44 AM - by Michael
Classic console goofs
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Technologizer offers - through the "lens of history" - a group of consoles they think had bad design flaws.

Not all of these are really flaws; yes, the Intellivision's side buttons were awkward, but a lot of the Int's old games really did make good use of the keypad (Tron Deadly Discs, for instance, used it as a 9-direction "fire button" allowing the player to shoot in a direction other than they were moving, or switch to a directional blocking move).

What Were They Thinking?

The designers at Mattel responsible for the Intellivision controller probably thought they were being clever and innovative. They probably felt that the numeric keypad lent the console an air of futuristic savvy. Sadly, they were wrong. Many players suffered through the controllers anyway, as the Intellivision hosted a large share of great games. Like proponents of other bad-but-classic technologies, those who defend the Intellivision?s knucklebusters primarily do so out of nostalgia (i.e. we walked uphill both ways on nails and we liked it).
 

 Aug 07, 2009 - 03:47 PM - by Michael
FPS with bullets?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Someone's figured out a way to rig up a real gun and play FPS games.

Me, I'm thinking they could just play paintball. Plus, the sun really washes out their screen. Awkward to only be playing at night.
 

 Aug 06, 2009 - 03:01 PM - by Michael
Rebuilds
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft There comes a time in each computer's life when it needs to be rebuilt, piece by piece.

For my main computer, that time starts tomorrow.

Normal operations will hopefully resume shortly after the weekend.
 

 Jul 13, 2009 - 04:59 PM - by Michael
This Flash Drive Will Self-Destruct
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft How many spy movie references will this one inspire?

It?s the ?first and only USB storage device to achieve FIPS 140-2, Level 3 validation? and delivers advanced Cryptochip featuring AES-256, tamper-resistance and self-destruction circuitry.

Yup, you read that right: a self-destructing USB flash drive.
I'm left wondering... does it merely zap the memory chips, or does it come with a very small load of C4 just in case?
 

 Jul 11, 2009 - 10:31 AM - by Michael
Free game from Bethesda
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft You can now download Daggerfall for free straight from Bethesda.

No support provided but they did offer a PDF on how to run it in DosBox.

Enjoy the free game!
 

 Jul 09, 2009 - 02:35 PM - by Michael
Mechwarrior Returns!
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Smith & Tinker are working on a new Mechwarrior title - and also about to release Mechwarrior 4 for free.

If you're a Mech fan, you may also want to check out MechCorps (Houston podbay, for real VR Battletech fun) or find a podbay closer to your own area at Virtual World.

It has been WAY too long since Battletech fans had a good game, and even more insulting since the last two games (MechAssault and MechAssault 2) were so abysmal.

Well, we can confirm that the title is in development. Forget what you've played before; say hello to MechWarrior. That's its full title, there's no 5 or V after its name; this is a complete reboot for the famous franchise. To learn more, we have an exclusive interview with Smith and Tinker co-founder Jordan Weisman and Russ Bullock, president of Piranha Games. Weisman was also the co-founder of FASA and a co-creator of the BattleTech universe that MechWarrior is based upon.
The trailer kicks butt, too.
 

 Jul 07, 2009 - 08:37 AM - by Michael
Incandescent bulbs back?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Afraid of Mercury? Don't like the light from CFL bulbs? Philips is trying to make incandescent work again within energy efficiency restrictions:

The first bulbs to emerge from this push, Philips Lighting?s Halogena Energy Savers, are expensive compared with older incandescents. They sell for $5 apiece and more, compared with as little as 25 cents for standard bulbs.

But they are also 30 percent more efficient than older bulbs. Philips says that a 70-watt Halogena Energy Saver gives off the same amount of light as a traditional 100-watt bulb and lasts about three times as long, eventually paying for itself.
Let's see. Three times as long = 75 cents worth of bulb. Energy savings between a 100-wat and 70-watt, 30% over that time period. I don't know if the "paying for itself" holds up under the math.
 

 Jul 03, 2009 - 10:35 PM - by Michael
MMO hits real world money
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The BBC covers the recent embezzlement case in which EVE Online's economy has taken a major blow:

"Basically this character was one of the people who had been running EBank for a while. He took a bunch of (virtual) money out of the bank, and traded it away for real money," Ned Coker, of Icelandic company CCP which runs Eve, told the Reuters news agency.

...

Ricdic has now been thrown out of the game as trading in-game cash for real money is against Eve Online's terms and conditions.

The rules governing play within Eve would not have sanctioned Ricdic if he had simply stolen the cash and used it in the game, nor if he had bought kredits with real dollars.
Meanwhile, the bank's administration is doing their best to "reassure" players that the game is still playable. Massively also offers up a bit of coverage, including some questions on how it affects the game world.
 

 Jun 19, 2009 - 09:36 AM - by Michael
Laptop Battery Lies
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Newsweek covers AMD's recent "truth in battery life advertising" campaign, but the reporter seems a bit biased to Intel:

AMD claims MM07 was created in Intel's labs and rigged so that Intel chips would outscore AMD chips, since AMD chips draw more power when idle. (AMD says that in real-life usage, laptops using its chips perform comparably to Intel's.) AMD also points out that the president of BAPCo happens to be the head of performance benchmarking at Intel.

Intel says this is all hogwash. An Intel spokeswoman says that just because the consortium's president is an Intel exec doesn't mean Intel has special influence. Meanwhile, she can't resist taking a crack at AMD: "You will often find that companies who are behind in performance sometimes challenge independent and standards-based benchmarks," she says via e-mail.

Intel and AMD are the Bickersons of the computer industry, with AMD always complaining that Intel is cheating, and Intel always responding that AMD should quit being such a crybaby.
 

 Jun 15, 2009 - 02:07 PM - by Michael
Classic design mistakes
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Way back when, about everything wasn't standardized - as a result, there were some doozies of design mistakes.

They still go on - Dell, for instance, ships no machine with a PCI-Express Power connector on their power supplies. But these are real classics.

The Apple III?s lack of power supply fan caused system to heat up, warping the motherboard and unseating certain socketed chips.

According to Apple insiders, Steve Jobs? zeal for a simple and silent computer design forced the Apple III team to exclude a cooling fan for the power supply. Apple later suggested a simple fix for the heat-warping problem: raise the Apple III a few inches off a hard surface and drop it, hopefully re-seating the chips in the process. Fortunately, that advice wasn?t required for later Apple computers that lacked fans.
 

 May 11, 2009 - 08:50 AM - by Michael
EU to slap Intel
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The EU is about to slap Intel around as a monopoly, for doing things like treatening companies into scrapping AMD-based products:

The Commission will state that the violations occurred during a period stretching back eight years, they said.

In committing the first violation, Intel set percentages of its own chips that it wanted PC makers to use, the sources said.

For example, NEC Corp was told that 20 percent of its desktop and notebook machines could have AMD chips, the sources said.

All Lenovo notebooks had to use Intel chips, as did relevant Dell products. The figure was 95 percent for Hewlett-Packard's business desktops, they said.
And now we know why it's been so hard to get your hands on AMD-based computers from the manufacturers...
 

 May 10, 2009 - 10:10 PM - by Michael
More Duke
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Here's a heck of a page going over the Duke Nukem Forever post-mortem...

In 2002, 3D Realms hired new programmers, and decided instead of switching to another 3D engine, they would just develop their own, making this the fourth engine change since the initial announcement of the game. Broussard eventually came out to say that at this point, "95%" of the already designed levels had been scraped, and had they remained on track they would have been "two years" off from releasing Duke Nukem Forever under the Unreal engine.

In early 2003, the CEO of Take Two, 3D Realms' publisher announced Duke Nukem Forever would be released by the end of the year. This eventually changed to "by the end of 2004" and then "in the beginning of 2005." In September of 2004, GameSpot.com revealed a rumor that Duke Nukem Forever had made its fifth 3D engine change, this time using the Quake III engine. Broussard denied the rumor, but announced only a few days later that they had switched to a different physics engine for the game.
And so on, and so forth, until eventually, the end came.
 

 May 07, 2009 - 08:23 AM - by Michael
Duke Nukem Never?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The final punchline for Duke Nukem Forever might very well be that the acronym turns into Did Not Finish.

Yep. It might be the ultimate vaporware. Rumor has it that 3D Realms are about to close their doors. Press releases are flying fast and furious... and a 3D Realms forum post indicates it's true.

More to follow, of course...
 

 May 06, 2009 - 03:44 PM - by Michael
Robots on Stairs
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft One of the harder things to do in robotics is train a robot to navigate stairs. There are a lot of options.

This particular examination has several videos of successful designs, as well as one of the Honda Asimo "falling short."
 

 May 04, 2009 - 08:32 AM - by Michael
Office 2007 Hates ODF
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Office 2007 is "technically compliant", but completely non-interoperable, with the ODF standard.

Amazing how Microsoft can pull something like that off. The article has a ton of detail on it:

The new entry to the mix is Microsoft Office 2007 SP2, which has added integrated ODF support. Unfortunately this support did not fare well in my tests. The problem appears to be how it treats spreadsheet formulas in ODF documents. When reading an ODF document, Excel SP2 silently strips out formulas. What is left is the last value that cell had, when previously saved.

This can cause subtle and not so subtle errors and data loss. For example, in the test document I presented above, the current date is encoded using the TODAY() spreadsheet function. If the formulas are stripped, then this cell no longer updates, and will return the wrong value. Similarly, if Maya tries to continue her ledger of expenses by copying the formula cells from column E down a row, this will cause incorrect calculations, since there is no longer a formula to copy, so she would just be copying the prior balance. In general, SP2 converts an ODF spreadsheet into a mere "table of numbers" and any calculation logic is lost.

In the other direction, when writing out spreadsheets in ODF format, Excel 2007 SP2 does include spreadsheet formulas but places them into an Excel namespace. This namespace is not what OpenOffice and other ODF applications use. It is not the ODF 1.2 namespace. It isn't even the OOXML namespace. I have no idea what it is or what it means. Not every ODF application checks the namespace of formulas when loading documents, but the ones that do reject the SP2 documents altogether.
Emphasis added, of course.
 

 Apr 30, 2009 - 09:13 PM - by Michael
Simulating a CRT
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Here's something a long time coming - a project to make emulation better by re-creating the oddness of a CRT (bleed, distortion, etc) in emulation.

Afterimage. The phosphor glow padding a bit of time to "burn off" and leaves more of an afterimage on the human retina compared to an LCD display. As a result, images might linger after they had moved or changed. Atari programmers took advantage of this feature to "flicker" objects between frames.

Color Bleed. The edges of sprites and scanlines appear as sharp edges in an emulator. But on a television, luminance from these areas would bleed into neighboring sectors, both softening the hard edges of pixel-objects and blending colors together.
We used to call this "poor man's anti-aliasing", and it's the main reason old games on an emulator often look a lot more pixelated than you remember them being as a kid.
 

 Apr 30, 2009 - 03:40 PM - by Michael
MS's bad conduct
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft ECIS have a 33-page document, detailing precisely how long Microsoft have been a very naughty set of monopolists.

Seriously far back - this hits early key points, such as the deliberately destructive behavior that killed DR-DOS and WordPerfect, before covering the modern day.

If you want a reminder of why holding MS accountable under anticompetitive practices laws is so important, this is a must-read.
 

 Apr 22, 2009 - 03:42 PM - by Michael
Good Enough?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft PC World offers an interesting post to their "Linux Line" blog - a fictional account, set 25 years from now, of the demise of Microsoft due to recession, changes in the market, and PC users deciding they really only needed something "good enough" rather than bleeding edge.

Makes for an interesting theory...
 

 Apr 21, 2009 - 11:15 AM - by Michael
Windows 7 gets restrictive
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft MS has released interesting news - Windows 7 "Starter Edition", planned for laptops and lower-power PC's, will deliberately only allow you to run three "applications" at once.

No word on what qualifies an "application" as opposed to so many things like Quicktime that like to dump a "helper" on the system.

 

 Apr 18, 2009 - 12:12 PM - by Michael
Shadowbane dies
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Ubisoft has announced that Shadowbane is going to be shut down.

And thus dies another MMO. How many more till the market gets to a manageable level?

Events giving the individual player or entire nations the choice to side with Order or Chaos, and politicking in the political arena to posture for an advantage using the power of the pen instead of the might of the sword are just the beginning of countless memories that we can remember and keep with us for years to come. Adventures through the many Ages have lasted over 6 years for some, while other?s adventures were still a new experience. No matter if you were a seasoned veteran or a fledgling still learning the ropes you poured yourselves into your quests to find Shadowbane. Unfortunately, the Sword has slipped into the Void never to be found again.
 

 Apr 09, 2009 - 10:36 AM - by Michael
Conficker gets worse
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Conficker, the nasty little "get in and wait" worm, has started to drop the other shoe. It's downloading components to sniff passwords and turn machines into spam zombies.

Check your computer, and be safe.
 

 Apr 08, 2009 - 08:29 AM - by Michael
XP gets "end of life" marker next week
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft WinXP's hitting another of its "end of life" markers next week - a bit odd for MS to do this, since it's still their best selling product (and they just extended OEM sales windows again). But still, as of next week they go into "security fix only" mode:
"The only thing extended support buys you is creation of new non-security fixes, at a hefty fee for each one. After all these years, most people figure that most of the functional bugs [in XP] are already worked out," he said. In the past, most customers would already have moved to a newer platform before this deadline arrived. But because there was such a long gap between XP and Vista, customers have had only a couple of years to make the transition. Many customers have also chosen to skip Vista and go straight to Windows 7, once this becomes available. Microsoft said that companies now have an opportunity to look at their options for a transition away from XP.
 

 Mar 26, 2009 - 10:58 PM - by Michael
Old OSes
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Computerworld offers up a look back at 10 semi-forgotten operating systems that helped shape the computing world today...

Today we want to honor a handful of the most memorable operating systems and interfaces that have graced our desktops over the years. Some of them lasted for years. Some of them had remarkably short lives but inspired trends that we are benefiting from to this day. And a few of them ... well, they were just cool for school.

The world may have left these operating systems behind, but some of us didn't. A few die-hards are hanging onto ancient hardware just to keep those beloved operating systems running. Others have reverse-engineered the OS code in open-source projects. And some of us still have those old Install disks, waiting for the right computer to come along so we can relive those days of yore.
It's nice when some of them pop up in virtualized format as well... ever fired up an Apple II/e emulator?
 

 Mar 17, 2009 - 09:05 AM - by Michael
Fixing Undersea Cable
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft REAL hardware men at work - Popular Science has an article on the guys who fix things like intercontinental undersea cable and how they do it.

The cables regularly fail. On any given day, somewhere in the world there is the nautical equivalent of a hit and run when a cable is torn by fishing nets or sliced by dragging anchors. If the mishap occurs in the Irish Sea, the North Sea or the North Atlantic, Rennie comes in to splice the break together.

On one recent expedition, Rennie and his crew spent 12 days bobbing in about 250 feet of water 15 miles off the coast of Cornwall in southern England looking for a broken cable linking the U.K. and Ireland. Munching fresh doughnuts (a specialty of the ship?s cook), Rennie and his team worked 12-hour shifts exploring the rocky seafloor with a six-ton, $10-million remotely operated vehicle (ROV) affectionately known as "the Beast."
Ever wondered how your email gets to Europe and back, and how much maintenance it all takes? This is a great look into that world.
 

 Mar 17, 2009 - 08:55 AM - by Michael
Office Depot's troubles
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Office Depot's laptop sales are Just the tip of the iceberg - apparently there's FTC troubles in the industry, relating to federal law:

?The federal law says you cannot make deceptive statements,? Greisman said. ?If somebody says a product is out of stock when it?s in stock, and they lied because they want to induce you to purchase a bunch of add-ons that you don?t want, there may be cause of action under federal law.?

Greisman also said that, even if a large retail chain has an official corporate policy which bans a sales practice, it can still be held responsible for employees who violate the written policy.
Some OD employees are also being told, apparently, to alter price tags in attempts to hide listings for things like warranty add-ons.

Office Depot needs to clean up their act. And I suggest people don't shop there for laptops!
 

 Mar 16, 2009 - 01:39 PM - by Michael
Battery Performance a lie
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Ever wonder why your "battery life" indicator is always way off? Basically, the model it uses for calculations is next to worthless:

In the same vein, I think we are talking about battery life all wrong. In our discussions at AMD and our messaging on the subject, we?re going about it in the wrong way. And we?re not alone ? see Rob Enderle?s thoughts on the matter here.

Have you experienced a difference between your devices? actual battery life relative to what the manufacturer tells you to expect? I thought so.

I find people often ask what my battery life is on my 3G iPhone, and I tell them I don?t know because I always try and keep it charged. If you ask Apple they will tell you the 3G model has 300 hours of standby time but only about 5 hours of talk time ? and less it you activate Wi-Fi, GPS or other features.

Given this, it?s interesting to look at how PCs are rated on battery life. Typically you only get one number ― and most people have no idea what that number really means in terms of how they will actually use the device: is it city or highway, talk-time or standby? More to the point: does this number represent the PC?s battery life with the machine in use, or sitting idle?
Welcome to reality, folks. Battery life isn't what you think it is.
 

 Mar 05, 2009 - 02:04 PM - by Michael
Visualize Data Storage
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Max PC have a great photo illustration of the changes in data storage through the past few decades.

Yeah. We actually used to use punch cards. Now, we can fit more data than we could ever visually read (if it were all pure ascii text) onto a single chip that we could easily swallow by mistake.
 

 Mar 02, 2009 - 08:00 AM - by Michael
Affordable solar power?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft This could be interesting - Popular Mechanics says that The $1/Watt solar power barrier may have been broken.

That's the price we need to have solar power "efficient" for home usage on a wide scale. The problem? They may have the process but lack enough raw materials to deliver to the demand:



First Solar's eventual goal is "grid parity," a phrase that refers to making solar power cost the same as competing conventional power sources without subsidies. Right now the cost of making panels accounts for a little less than half the total cost of installation. The company estimates that it needs to get manufacturing costs down to $0.65 to $0.70 per watt, and other installation costs down to $1 a watt in order to reach grid parity?goals First Solar plans to reach by 2012.

The question, though, is whether First Solar or any other solar manufacturer would be able to handle the flood of orders that would ensue if they reached competitive cost. At that point, it comes down to a matter of having enough of raw materials.
Intriguing. The other side we need is battery technology - most people aren't home during the time when these would be producing most heavily and will need some hefty battery storage in order to put it to use during the mornings/evenings.
 

 Feb 26, 2009 - 12:26 PM - by Michael
MS not listening to beta testers?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Sad news - a lot of Windows 7 beta testers are not convinced MS is really listening to their feedback:

Meanwhile, some testers are getting feedback from Microsoft, though it's not necessarily all that welcome. The beta edition is subject to Vista-style activation requirements: after three days without activation, users get a reminder every four hours until the 30th day, on which there's a reminder every hour.

After this there are frequent reminders designed to be even more annoying, and the desktop switches to a plain black background (supposedly designed to embarrass users when other people see the copy is not activated). Naturally, users won't -- in theory at least -- be able to activate a pirated copy of the final release.
Yeesh. Activation is one of the worst "features" of WinXP on upwards. The heavier they make it, the less likely I am to want to use the OS.
 

 Feb 12, 2009 - 01:39 PM - by Michael
Academic Emulator
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft A university in Britain is trying to create a universal emulator to allow old games of all sorts to be preserved and played in the future:

"Early hardware, like games consoles and computers, are already found in museums. But if you can't show visitors what they did, by playing the software on them, it would be much the same as putting musical instruments on display but throwing away all the music. For future generations it would be a cultural catastrophe," according to Dr David Anderson from Portsmouth University, who is heading up a remarkable new project to save all the digital info and games created since the 1970s.

...

"People don't think twice about saving files digitally -- from snapshots taken on a camera phone to national or regional archives," comments Dr Janet Delve.

"But every digital file risks being either lost by degrading or by the technology used to 'read' it disappearing altogether. Former generations have left a rich supply of books, letters and documents which tell us who they were, how they lived and what they discovered. There's a very real risk that we could bequeath a blank spot in history."
I really can't add more to that. I hope, fervently, that the program is released to the public.
 

 Jan 19, 2009 - 06:31 PM - by Michael
CoH double XP coming
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft If you're into City of Heroes, they've got a Double XP weekend coming up:

Once again the big weekend is coming to Paragon City? and the Rogue Isles?. Roughly twice a year we turn up the dial and invite players to rack up XP at double the normal rate. For an entire weekend, Hero and Villain characters will receive double the XP, Influence and Infamy for all of their accomplishments in the game.

The fun begins Friday, January 23rd! Take advantage of this opportunity to level up your favorite Heroes and Villains twice as quickly as normal. Good luck and have fun!

Double XP Event Timing:
Start: Friday, January 23rd 2009, at 8:59am PST / 11:59am EST
Finish: Sunday, January 25th 2009, 8:59pm PST / 11:59pm EST
 

 Jan 17, 2009 - 08:00 AM - by Michael
Circuit City toast too
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The upside: probably some real bargains if you can go hunting at "going out of business" sales. In a few months, however, there won't be a single Circuit City store left.

Circuit City said liquidating the stores should last through March, after which they will be closed. A small staff will keep working at the corporate office through that process.

The company's inventory has a retail value of about $1.8 billion, said James Schaye, president and CEO of Hudson Capital Partners, the liquidator. He said sales will begin with up to 30 percent discounts and will be adjusted as the liquidation continues.
Happy Shopping!
 

 Dec 31, 2008 - 04:29 PM - by Michael
Antivirus 2009 hitting plenty
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The fake "Antivirus 2009" has infected a lot of people: over 400,000 removals according to Microsoft.
 

 Dec 23, 2008 - 02:30 PM - by Michael
XP gets another reprieve
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Microsoft's given users yet another reprieve, allowing OEM's to ship out WinXP rather than the Vista Virus until right before Windows 7 is scheduled to be released. The goal? Let people skip Vista entirely.

Vista truly is Windows ME 2.0.
 

 Dec 21, 2008 - 09:33 AM - by Michael
Abit's Obit
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Abit, the old "standby" for a value motherboard, will officially cease to be as of Dec. 31, 2008.

Abit was once known as a supplier of the world?s best motherboards. The company?s products were praised by enthusiasts and overclockers due to their excellent quality as well as precise tweaking capabilities. Due to the dramatic popularity rise of high-end hardware early this decade, Abit became a very serious player on the motherboard market; however, questionable management practices have caused the company to leave graphics cards business first and then to sell the vast majority of assets as well as Abit brand name to Universal Scientific Industrial in 2006.

USI, which originally specialized on mainboard manufacturing for branded PC makers, could not eventually resurrect Abit brand that began to lose popularity back in 2004 ? 2005 and this year Universal Scientific decided to shut down the legendary Abit motherboard business.
Aaaand another one goes. This may continue for a while, folks.
 

 Dec 17, 2008 - 05:35 PM - by Michael
IE Patches
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft If you run Microsoft Internet Exploder, please make sure you're updated. There've been quite a few high-profile problems recently.

Thanks, and Web Safely.
 

 Dec 04, 2008 - 07:48 AM - by Michael
Valve and DRM
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Valve's trying to defend their DRM by attacking others, missing out that all DRM is bad:

Newell doesn't have kind words for the use of digital rights managements. "As far as DRM goes, most DRM strategies are just dumb. The goal should be to create greater value for customers through service value (make it easy for me to play my games whenever and wherever I want to), not by decreasing the value of a product (maybe I'll be able to play my game and maybe I won't)," he wrote. "We really really discourage other developers and publishers from using the broken DRM offerings, and in general there is a groundswell to abandon those approaches."

It's easy for him to say; Steam is its own form of DRM, one that makes programs like SecuROM redundant.


Emphasis added - and it really hits the point of why I don't use Steam, despite all that Valve's been trying to push and push and push to get people like me onto their system. They should never have the right to kill-switch a single-player game that I've purchased.

Read the full article, seriously. Game company executives should be tied down, their eyelids forced open, and MADE to read it over and over again until they finally understand why DRM is bad.
 

 Dec 01, 2008 - 11:11 AM - by Michael
Vista Aftermath
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft CW UK has an interesting blog piece saying that Microsoft screwed up with Vista because the "we don't want it" backlash has been strong enough in the corporate world that people are realizing they didn't actually need a forced "new version upgrade" of Windows.

What's really important about this is not so much that Vista is manifestly such a dog, but that the myth of upgrade inevitability has been destroyed. Companies have realised that they do have a choice ? that they can simply say ?no?. From there, it's but a small step to realising that they can also walk away from Windows completely, provided the alternatives offer sufficient data compatibility to make that move realistic.

That may not have been the case before, but the similar poor uptake of Microsoft's OOXML, taken together with the generally good compatibility of OpenOffice.org with the original Microsoft Office file formats, implies that we may well be near the tipping point for migrations to free software on the desktop.
I'm not sure that the "free software yay" portion of the blog post is that right (my own experiences with Linux and MythTV being less than stellar) but he has a point; MS can no longer count on legions of people going "ooh shiny" and buying the new OS just because it's new.
 

 Nov 18, 2008 - 01:16 PM - by Michael
HP pissed at Intel, MS
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Intel pushed Microsoft to lower the "requirements" for a Vista Capable sticker.

HP is really pissed off about that, since it got them caught in the latest round of lawsuits and problems with machines shipping labeled "Vista Capable" that were anything but.

Srinivasan was concerned that business customers would be misled by "enterprise guidelines," telling them what it would take for computers to be Vista-ready.

Specifically, he was concerned about statements suggesting the 915 chipset would provide "for an optimal Windows Vista experience."

"When I met with Intel yesterday to review this page, I clearly told them that including Intel 915 chipset under mobile graphics category makes me uncomfortable. The 915 chipset for mobile does not provide an 'optimal Windows Vista experience' and this is clearly misleading. It should not even be in the list of recommended hardware for Windows Vista," he wrote.
Yet another reason to be concerned about Vista...
 

 Nov 17, 2008 - 08:41 PM - by Michael
Spidey
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Spider-Man: Web of Shadows review is up. Check out the bar above or go straight to it.

They're getting better again... not perfect, but a lot better than the last couple of Spidey titles.
 

 Nov 12, 2008 - 01:11 PM - by Michael
Why LCD's were expensive
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Ever wonder why laptops cost so much and why LCD monitors were so expensive so long?

Price fixing. Philips, Sharp, and LG were all colluding.

And there you have it.
 

 Nov 06, 2008 - 11:31 PM - by Michael
Spore
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Nothing left to say on Spore, really - I'm disappointed. Even with all the DRM problems, if it had been a stellar title, Will Wright might have been forgiven (eventually) by the gaming community.

Where we expected depth, we've got a pretty shallow set of mini-games that connect only in the most disjointed fashion. I gave it several tries, but I just couldn't possibly manage to get into it.

To Will Wright: better luck next time, bub.
 

 Nov 03, 2008 - 10:00 AM - by Michael
"Scientific" BS
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Another year, another flawed and worthless "scientific study" claiming video games cause violence.

They'll never learn, because some crazy with an agenda funded their "research." Sigh.
 

 Oct 30, 2008 - 09:47 PM - by Michael
EA to Remote-Kill Games
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft This just in from EA: if you "break their TOS", meaning you complain too much about their bad coding or their DRM problems, they will simply kill your game completely.

Your forum account will be directly tied to your Master EA Account, so if we ban you on the forums, you would be banned from the game as well since the login process is the same. And you'd actually be banned from your other EA games as well since its all tied to your account. So if you have SPORE and Red Alert 3 and you get yourself banned on our forums or in-game, well, your SPORE account would be banned to.
In other words: Shut up you puny peon, or we'll remote-kill the game you PAID for and your only choice will be to buy another one (or of course, get a pirate copy). And not just the one game, but every EA game you ever bought that has that DRM.

And they wonder why piracy is so rampant on EA's DRM-laden games...
 

 Oct 24, 2008 - 10:33 AM - by Michael
Bioshock 2
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Bioshock looks to be getting a sequel, with a trailer released for your viewing. No concrete details (just rumors) on the storyline currently.
 

 Oct 21, 2008 - 08:14 AM - by Michael
Somebody who Doesn't Get It
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Over at VideoGamer, an interview with Randy Stude, the "president of the PC Gaming Alliance", which mostly degenerates into whining about "piracy" rather than addressing the real reasons PC gaming's having trouble.

VideoGamer.com: Would you suggest that for some publishers piracy is their own fault?

RS: Yeah. Any publisher today who's making any game that's going out on any platform and isn't thinking about the potential of piracy with the widespread availability of broadband and the patience that people have to kick-off a download that may take a day or more, if they're not thinking that's a real problem for them or a potential problem for them, then they're going to have challenges and they're going to act like it's a big surprise. It's like anything else in business. If you're not aware of the guy who's trying to steal your product then it's going to get stolen.
Yet another person who misses the larger picture - the "thieves" are a vast minority, and you're turning away tons of paying customers who don't want to be treated like garbage and forced to infest their computers with DRM viruses just to play the game.
 

 Oct 17, 2008 - 08:22 AM - by Michael
EA Lying
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft EA is producing statistics produced by rectal extraction about how people supposedly don't really mind their DRM.

?We implemented a form of DRM and it's something that 99.8 per cent of users wouldn't notice,? claimed Riccitiello, ?but for the other 0.2 percent, it became an issue and a number of them launched a cabal online to protest against it.? The use of SecuROM in EA?s recent PC games, including Spore, Mass Effect and Crysis Warhead, has caused a lot of controversy on the Internet, resulting in hundreds of one-star reviews on Amazon.
99.3% of statistics are made up on the spot, 89.5% of statistics are pulled from someone's butt, and... oh yes... it's incredibly easy to lie with statistics.

EA ought to learn better. PC gamers are TIRED of our platform being killed because of morons who make stuff that just plain doesn't work or tries to mess with other parts of OUR computer systems. And we're tired of the PC getting no love from developers because so few people buy PC games any more... because of all the nonsense you have to go through to get them to work.
 

 Oct 14, 2008 - 08:26 AM - by Michael
NVidia problems spreading fast
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The startling high rate of NVidia GPU failures has worked its way into HP's product line as well.

This is painful for all concerned - equipment manufacturers, consumers, software companies counting on people trusting their computers.

Earlier this year, Nvidia complained it was being prevented from revealing the full scale of the problem with its GPUs by its PC partners. "The truth is our obligations to our partners limit what we can say," a Nvidia spokesman commented. "We need to leave announcements to our partners like Dell and HP."

...

Nvidia is currently being sued by its shareholders for allegedly covering up the problems with the faulty GPUs.
I use an NVidia GPU so that my old 3D stereo glasses work. If I didn't have that to deal with, I'd probably be jumping ship back to ATi as soon as my next round of upgrades happens.
 

 Sep 24, 2008 - 04:00 PM - by Michael
M$ Bait and Switch?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Word coming out is that the "New Windows 7" will probably be just a repackaged Vista:

No matter what they actually ship in the box, Microsoft will claim that Windows 7 is a truly new OS that solves all the problems they now deny exist in Windows Vista.

So how can you tell if Windows 7 is really a new operating system or if it's actually Mojave -- Windows Vista in disguise?
It'll be interesting to see how things turn out - after all, they claim Windows 7 will somehow ship in 2010. That looks like they're dumping Windows Vista, aka Windows ME 2.0, almost as fast as they dumped Windows ME.
 

 Sep 24, 2008 - 03:15 PM - by Michael
Classic Error Messages
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Technologizer offers up some gems - the thirteen greatest error messages of the past.

And of course, the BSOD is there. But so is "Abort, Retry, Fail?" and Vista's beta Red Screen of Death.
 

 Sep 17, 2008 - 01:20 PM - by Michael
Nvidia's "New" 3D Tech
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft NVidia's trying to take over an old tech - 3d glasses.

Only this time, they're desperate to tie it to incredibly-expensive hardware instead of making it work with normal hardware. A damn shame, too, because I'm using my GeForce 7800 these days with my old VRStandard glasses and a standard CRT monitor and they're still stunning.

Q: How much more expensive will 3D-supported panels cost over regular displays?

DB: Depending on the type of 3D implementation chosen, the additional cost on the monitor side could range anywhere from $100 to well over a thousand dollars. ViewSonic is targeting to launch our first ?pure? 120Hz / 3D desktop product at an end user price range reflecting a premium at the lower end of that scale. For the performance improvement we will deliver, we believe that gamers, graphics professionals and enthusiasts will be excited to put one on their desktop. The Controller and Glasses will be sold separately.
It'll be interesting to see if someone can hack together support for our older glasses out there - I really don't feel like having to re-buy my 3D glasses (and a freaking monitor) just to keep playing in true 3D.
 

 Sep 09, 2008 - 08:18 AM - by Michael
Wardell: How to Save PC Gaming
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Brad Wardell, of Stardock (famous for his proposed Gamers' Bill of Rights among other things), is offering up more: a plan to save PC gaming.

Brad Wardell: It did? But you know how to fix that stuff, right? Basically his solution was to reinstall Windows. And he says, "I'm done." He's not buying games from anybody, because he doesn't know what uses it and what doesn't.

And another guy bought a game, and he's in the armed forces, he's in Iraq actually. And the people there, not everybody there is in combat all the time, they're just stationed there, and they often don't have internet access. So he gets a game, it's single-player only--you can probably guess what game it is, pretty big-name game. And he can't play it because it insists on connecting to the internet to play it. And he's just like, "That's it. I can buy an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3, and I'm not putting up with this. It just works."

So we collected all these things, and over the last couple years we started changing our own policies to fit this. Because it's easy to go and say how the game is and how it should work if you're not going to walk the walk.
As a former PC man who's been burned way too many times by DRM... I salute a developer willing to put his money where his mouth is and treat gamers as customers rather than thieves.
 

 Sep 08, 2008 - 01:59 PM - by Michael
Spore targeted for DRM
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Spore might wind up in the tank quick - there's an organized campaign to shoot it to rock-bottom in ratings on sites like Amazon in response to EA's asinine DRM setup.

As things stand right now, the Amazon.com review page for Spore is pretty grim reading for any EA executives keeping an eye on how the game has been received. Out of 135 reviews currently posted to the site, 116 rate the game at 1 star (the lowest rating on Amazon.com), with 6 reviews giving the game 2 stars, another 6 giving it 4 stars and 7 giving it the full 5 stars (however, two of these reviews are from 2006 - dating back to when the game was announced). The average rating now stands at 1.5 stars.
It's a shame that was looks like a decent game needs this treatment... but EA needs to learn to dump the DRM. Wander over to Amazon and let your voice be heard!
 

 Aug 28, 2008 - 08:37 AM - by Michael
Wind Spike
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The New York Times covers the big flaw in the recent Wind Power hype - wind power is completely inconsistent in its generating capacity.

Apparently it's so bad that wind farms are having to turn off, cutting their output, just so they don't overload people's homes.

The basic problem is that many transmission lines, and the connections between them, are simply too small for the amount of power companies would like to squeeze through them. The difficulty is most acute for long-distance transmission, but shows up at times even over distances of a few hundred miles.
 

 Aug 27, 2008 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
RAM for Free
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft An interesting piece in IEEE Spectrum pops up on an experimental technique for getting more RAM. Basically, it's performing data compression before things are stored in RAM.

Reminds me a lot of the "Ram Doubler" type programs on the old Mac OS... but hey, if they can actually make RAM more efficient through software with a relatively small performance hit, it could do wonders on devices like the memory-stripped PSP.



If software designers yield to temptation and ask for more memory than they could possibly need, they risk wasting a lot of money?even pennies matter when you're producing millions of units. Or the product could end up being too power hungry. Yet if they skimp on RAM, they may prevent the unit from running some new killer app that would allow the gadget to beat the competition. Such mistakes sometimes force companies to redesign their hardware, a process that is enormously costly and time-consuming.

We have spent the better part of three years trying to give designers of embedded systems a third option: to increase effective memory by compressing the data stored in RAM using just software.
 

 Aug 25, 2008 - 09:00 AM - by Michael
LED Carcinogens
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft California's just classified gallium arsenide a carcinogen: ironically, it's one of the components that makes things like LEDs work, and California is trying to standardize on LED lights to replace old incandescent bulbs.

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) of the California Environmental Protection Agency is adding gallium arsenide to the list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer and hexafluoroacetone, nitrous oxide and vinyl cyclohexene dioxide to the list of chemicals known to the state to cause reproductive toxicity for the purposes of Proposition 65. The listing of gallium arsenide, hexafluoroacetone, nitrous oxide and vinyl cyclohexene dioxide is effective August 1, 2008.
Expect a mishmash of "disposal regulations" and red tape to follow.
 

 Aug 11, 2008 - 10:00 AM - by Michael
VIA quits chipset business
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft This will mess up the hardware market something fierce - VIA is quitting the chipset business.

Speaking to Custom PC, VIA?s vice president of corporate marketing in Taiwan, Richard Brown, explained that: ?One of the main reasons we originally moved into the x86 processor business was because we believed that ultimately the third party chipset market would disappear, and we would need to have the capability to provide a complete platform.?

?That has indeed come to pass,? said Brown. He also added that ?Intel provides the vast majority of chipsets for its processors and, following its purchase of ATI, AMD is also moving very quickly in the same direction.?
I've had a lot of VIA-powered motherboards over the years, though my most recent have been NForce. It's sad to see the industry lose some competition, though. Expect prices to jump.
 

 Aug 08, 2008 - 08:23 AM - by Michael
Vista Security = nonexistent
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Microsoft's much-vaunted Vista "security" has been fatally torpedoed.

While this may seem like any standard security hole, other researchers say that the work is a major breakthrough and there is very little that Microsoft can do to fix the problems. These attacks work differently than other security exploits, as they aren't based on any new Windows vulnerabilities, but instead take advantage of the way Microsoft chose to guard Vista's fundamental architecture. According to Dino Dai Zovi, a popular security researcher, "the genius of this is that it's completely reusable. They have attacks that let them load chosen content to a chosen location with chosen permissions. That's completely game over."
Ouch. Seriously, just... ouch.
 

 Jul 29, 2008 - 09:27 AM - by Michael
Devices Lie
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Over at Dan's Data, an article on something most techies know - those status indicators are not what they claim to be.



A high-signal strength is like your friend shouting at you. A high noise level at the same time is like your friend shouting at you while you both stand in the front row at a rock concert.

(Actually, for phones and Wi-Fi, it's often more like your friend shouting at you while you're both attending a rock concert in an echo chamber.)

So if you've ever wondered why your phone can work fine with one rather unsteady bar of "signal", or be noisy and cut out when it's got five bars, that's why. The ratio of signal to noise can vary wildly from second to second, in many ordinary mobile-phone situations.

It's within the bounds of possibility that there's some phone out there whose "signal bars" actually do give a realistic estimate of the actual signal quality (rather than mere quantity), but you shouldn't count on that display telling you anything really useful if you're not actually on a call at the time.
 

 Jul 17, 2008 - 10:15 AM - by Michael
Getting a laptop with XP
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft PC World sent a reporter out to buy laptops with XP and managed it, but only by fibbing on a number of occasions:

The verdict? Downgrade policies are all over the map, and more than a few rank-and-file sales reps have a sketchy understanding of those policies. Some notebook PC sellers make getting XP preinstalled on a new laptop a snap; others don't offer it under any circumstance. As a rule of thumb, your odds of finding a machine with XP and a sales rep who knows how to configure a machine with that OS are far greater if you call the business sales line instead of the consumer sales line. (Be prepared to fib and say you're planning to buy 25 computers during the next 12 months.)
Suggestion: get it by the end of the year, or risk a laptop incurably infected with the Vista virus due to lack of XP drivers.
 

 Jul 16, 2008 - 05:00 PM - by Michael
City of Heroes/Villians Merge
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft If you still play a City Of" game, be advised they've now completely merged:

It?s All Access for City of Heroes and City of Villains

NCsoft readies the number 1 super-powered MMO for more

There is a reason for the rejoicing in Paragon City and the Rogue Isles. It is official ? NCsoft has completely merged the two games into one game universe. All current subscribers who only had one of the games (City of Heroes or City of Villains) now have access to the features of both games. Additionally, all City of Heroes and City of Villains games for sale at retail or online will grant access to both games.

This is the final step needed in preparing the IP for future projects, to be announced later this year. Paragon City and the Rogue Isles have always been a part of the same game universe. When City of Villains launched in 2005 as a stand-alone game, it did not launch with an extra subscription fee, so there has always been this feeling that they are closely related. What?s different here is that NCsoft has taken down the barrier where players had to have a City of Villains serial code to make a villain, and vice versa. Now, it doesn?t matter if you bought Heroes or Villains, you can make characters from either faction and experience their unique game content. Additionally, Heroes now have access to base building, which was previously only available if you had purchased City of Villains.

?In setting the stage for our upcoming plans for the IP, we felt the time was right to truly consolidate the City of Heroes and City of Villains universe,? said Brian Clayton, General Manager and Executive Producer. ?We have removed all restrictions that were created when City of Villains launched in order to make way for some really cool content and features we have in the pipeline. This is an evolution of the IP that lays the foundation for what?s to come.?

The most recent game update, Issue 12: Midnight Hour, launched in May and included a wealth of features, including a new Greek and Roman inspired zone, Villain Epic Archetypes, Powerset Proliferation, as well as more character slots so that players can try out the new character powers and Archetypes.

?We know that character variety is one of our greatest strengths and that?s why our players love to create new characters? said Matt Miller, Lead Designer. ?Even former players who reactivate will be pleasantly surprised to see new open character slots waiting for them.?

Uniting the City of Heroes universe enables the development team to focus on other features slated to come in future installments. Improvements to Supergroup Bases and raids, an offline character reward system, and the previously revealed Mission Maker are just some of the systems that will see the benefits of a unified City of Heroes game.
 

 Jul 07, 2008 - 09:01 AM - by Michael
Five Pipe Dreams?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Silicon.com's Tim Ferguson offers up a bit of a dream that Microsoft, now that Bill Gates has officially stepped back, might make some serious changes:

1. A greater acceptance of open source:
Microsoft has been coming under increasing pressure from open source software, especially as more and more web-based activity relies on open standards. The company risks looking increasingly out of touch if it continues to keep everything to itself.

...

Nobody's suggesting Microsoft will release code for its big name applications in the near future but some industry watchers are speculating that post-Gates, open source and interoperability will become increasingly part of the Microsoft culture.
More likely: linux people will continue cracking more of Microsoft's code and making compatible apps on the linux side.
 

 Jun 30, 2008 - 07:39 AM - by Michael
Diablo 3
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Not really much to say on the matter.

Here's the website.

When will it be out?

It's too early to estimate Diablo III's release date. As with all Blizzard Entertainment games, our goal is to create a game that is as fun, balanced, and polished as possible. We intend to take as much time developing Diablo III as is necessary to ensure the game meets our own high expectations and those of our players.
Translation: sometime before Duke Nukem Forever.
 

 Jun 18, 2008 - 07:41 AM - by Michael
Those Wacky Japanese
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The Japanese have actually built a robot girlfriend.

Don't worry, it's scale model... for now.

"Strong, tough and battle-ready are some of the words often associated with robots, but we wanted to break that stereotype and provide a robot that's sweet and interactive," said Minako Sakanoue, a spokeswoman for the maker, Sega Toys.

"She's very lovable and though she's not a human, she can act like a real girlfriend."
Perhaps they haven't seen the propaganda film?
 

 Jun 17, 2008 - 05:38 PM - by Michael
Mass Effect DRM still sucks
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft EA still haven't gotten that their DRM ways will kill the market for their games on PC.

This is proven to be true by a guy over at the Mass Effect forums. He registered and started to play the game (Activation #1). Well, when he tried to play the game he had strange artifacts on his screen. Thinking it was an OS-related issue, he reinstalled XP and reinstalled the game (Activation #2). Finding out that it didn?t help the problem, he soon figured out it was his graphics card struggling. Well, he bought a brand new card and that solved the problem (this triggers Activation #3). Game ran fine for a short period of time (2 days) and he played thru it and completed the game. Well, a week after that, he decided he wanted to run thru the game again.
Here's to "piracy" - unlocking the games legitimate users paid for and saving us from morons who put in DRM.
 

 Jun 16, 2008 - 07:24 AM - by Michael
Ray-Tracing QW
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft In their bet that ray-tracing will be the wave of the future, Intel's showing off screenshots of a ray-traced version of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.

The screens are quite nice at least, but a bit distorted due to not being actual screens (they're pictures of a computer screen instead). Also, don't expect this anytime soon; they just got non-square resolutions working, and they're getting 14-29 fps on a timedemo setup only, where the camera path is tightly controlled and was probably hand-picked ahead of time.
 

 Jun 05, 2008 - 08:44 AM - by Michael
MS hammered by "Save XP" calls
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft MS is apparently getting a ton of phone calls denouncing Vista and asking them to go back to Windows XP.

Microsoft said it is not running any kind of XP-related poll, a company spokeswoman said today in an e-mail reply to questions. "Microsoft is not organizing any official petitions to extend sales of Windows XP," she said. "The phone numbers claimed on Neowin's Web site as capable of logging calls requesting an extension for Windows XP are actual Microsoft support numbers. They are designed for people seeking technical solutions and help; they are not intended to receive official complaints or suggestions regarding the life span of our products."

She also urged users to stop dialing. "As a courtesy to customers in need of technical assistance, we ask callers not to call Microsoft Customer Support Services to request an extension for Windows XP."
As a courtesy to the sane people of the world... I suggest you keep calling. Call enough, and MS will figure out how badly Vista sucks.
 

 May 19, 2008 - 03:22 PM - by Michael
AMD hits Game Standards
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft AMD's trying something MS tried a while back: evaluate games to make it easier to "certify" they'll run on your home machine.

AMD already thinks that the "Enthusiast" segment is saturated and doesn't need the assistance that the "Mainstream" gamers require to really adopt higher end gaming hardware. The problem is, as we have well known for a long time, is that PC gaming hardware can be a much more complex problem when compared to the simplicity of console gaming. It is this middle segment that the AMD GAME! initiative hopes to address with a couple of pseudo-standards to point potential gamers in the right direction.
Simple answer: if you have an intel video chip, chances are you can't play anything better than 4 years old or worse.
 

 May 19, 2008 - 12:40 PM - by Michael
MS betrays customers (big surprise?)
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft MS's come out and admitted they are looking over your shoulder and preventing you from using your hardware as intended if you've got Vista Media Center Edition:

The courts struck down the FCC's proposal in 2005, saying the regulator lacked the authority to tell electronics makers how to interpret the signals they receive. Since then, Microsoft and other manufacturers have retained the option of whether to honor the flags.

News that the world's largest software maker has voluntarily agreed to help broadcasters control the recording of their shows is bound to outrage enthusiasts of digital video recorders, as it represents the biggest threat to the practice known as time shifting since the FCC's attempt to require flag adherence.
Strike one against Vista Media Center...
 

 Apr 10, 2008 - 02:06 PM - by Michael
Multi-GPU
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft I thought the industry had learned how foolhardy this was back when 3dfx folded, but no, the silliness of multi-chip boards is making more of a comeback.

If the X3 were destined to be a retail product then Asus would doubtless work on a more elegant solution, but this conspicuous cooling system is a worthy reminder of the huge amount of power that's being wasted as heat for the sake of a few extra frames a second. And that's to say nothing of the power expended in dissipating that heat. Green computing it's not.

The X3 is an interesting demonstration of engineering potential, but its real value is as a demonstration of how fundamentally inefficient multi-GPU gaming is.
 

 Mar 28, 2008 - 06:07 PM - by Michael
Obsolete Ports
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Over at CNet, Crave spotlights 10 very obsolete PC ports.



For some reason, despite the incredibly shaky start USB had -- we can surely all remember the near certainty that plugging in anything in the early days of USB 1.1 would result in either a blue screen of death or some other virtual plume of smoke -- it still managed to beat FireWire to be the most popular data-transfer system. Sure, you could argue popularity isn't everything, but try telling that to all the dorky kids at schools across the world.

For the time being, FireWire lives on as a way of transferring video from camcorders to PCs, but as time goes on and USB gets ever better, and wireless, we'll see the eventual demise of FireWire. At the very least, it's on the verge of obsolescence.


I still use some of these - and I'm sure you do too.
 

 Mar 24, 2008 - 02:00 PM - by Michael
Seagate to sue?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Seagate is telegraphing lawsuits if solid state hard drives catch on: apparently they think there's some patent violation in other makers' designs.

But in case flash prices continue to plummet and the flash drives really do catch on, Watkins has something else up his sleeve. He?s convinced, he confides, that SSD makers like Samsung and Intel (INTC) are violating Seagate?s patents. (An Intel spokeswoman says the company doesn?t comment on speculation.) Seagate and Western Digital (WDC), two of the major hard drive makers, have patents that deal with many of the ways a storage device communicates with a computer, Watkins says. It stands to reason that sooner or later, Seagate will sue ? particularly if it looks like SSDs could become a real threat.
 

 Mar 11, 2008 - 09:46 AM - by Michael
Sweeney slams PC gaming
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Over at TG Daily, an article in which Unreal franchise creator Tim Sweeney slams PC gaming and hardware companies:

Retail stores like Best Buy are selling PC games and PCs with integrated graphics at the same time and they are not talking about the difference [to more capable gaming PCs]. Those machines are good for e-mail, web browsing, watching video. But as far as games go, those machines are just not adequate. It is no surprise that retail PC sales suffer from that.
I've got to agree with a lot of his assessment; my rig's aging, but still serviceable as long as I tweak it and test the game settings - but when I sit down at a console, I don't have to do any tweaking before I get to enjoy actually playing the game.

Oh, and I agree on his assessment of Intel's crap onboard "video" chipsets, too.
PC gaming is in a weird position right now. Now, 60% of PCs on the market don't have a workable graphics processor at all. All the Intel integrated graphics are still incapable of running any modern games. So you really have to buy a PC knowing that you're going to play games in order to avoid being stuck with integrated graphics. This is unfortunate, and this is one of main reasons behind the decline of the PC as a gaming platform. That really has endangered high-end PC game sales. In the past, if you bought a game, it would at least work. It might not have been a great experience, but it would always work.
 

 Feb 26, 2008 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
Green PC
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft If you're building a new PC, Ars have a tutorial on how to get it made to use a little less power.

I might come to this when I do my next rebuild. I'm more interested in making my rig whisper-silent, though; probably time on the next rebuild to invest in a water cooling system.
 

 Feb 20, 2008 - 09:54 AM - by Michael
Microsoft is desperate.
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft No, seriously, they have to be desperate. Nobody but the desperate would put up something this freaking lame.
 

 Feb 18, 2008 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
Software patents to finally die?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft If it ever came to it, it'd be amazing - but the Supreme Court looks poised to get rid of software and "business model" patents.

10 years of abusive patenting could soon die... now if only they'd fix the rest of the patent system.
 

 Feb 15, 2008 - 10:57 AM - by Michael
Quake Wars 1, Punkbuster 0
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Well here we are - I've been working on reviewing Quake Wars for a while now. One of the oddities of reviewing an online-only game (no seriously, it has NO single-player, not even a decent tutorial) is trying to separate the game mechanics portion from the graphics from the players from the bolt-ons.

The worst bolt-on, alas, is PunkBuster. PB causes all sorts of issues in how far it gets into the OS. Worse yet, what it does in the case of a non-easy uninstall.

MY issue: a hard drive failure that took down the installed files from PB. End result? A stream of constant lockups until I was able to copy the data over in safe mode to a new drive and re-sync the drive lettering.

I can honestly say, if you're looking for a nice fun online game, Quake Wars is probably for you. At the same exact time, every QW server out there requires PunkBuster, which (should you ever experience a hardware/filesystem issue at all) will make your problems 100X bigger than they need to be.
 

 Feb 12, 2008 - 10:00 AM - by Michael
Vista SP1 Revolt
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft MS's done it again - among those unfortunate enough to need to test SP1, there's a revolt by people forced to pirate it in order to do their testing.

Virtually none of the 131 comments posted thus far defended Microsoft's decision, and many were extremely blunt. "[Microsoft] has done some really boneheaded stuff, but this ranks right up at the top," said Pete Mitchell in a comment added to the blog Monday.

Another user identified as "PopePeter" put it differently: "Microsoft in its infinite wisdom has chosen to kick its core user base right where it hurts."
PopePeter's words could equally describe the decision to release Vista in the first place.
 

 Feb 12, 2008 - 08:26 AM - by Michael
Poor Man's SP3
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft If you're reinstalling XP, you know it takes forever - fortunately there's a nice project aiming to streamline the process significantly. APC Mag give them a nice review:

A better option which we?ve just discovered is the innovative work of Alek Patsouris. Entitled ?Project Dakota?, it?s a self-contained boot CD which contains all the necessary updates to automatically patch a Windows XP SP2 system with all the patches available at the CD?s build time. It also contains Service Pack 2, so you can use it to bring non-SP2 systems into compliance, and it comes bundled with other third-party applications like Firefox and Quicktime.
 

 Feb 05, 2008 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
MS lying again
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Michael Geist catches MS blatantly lying in a canadian op-ed about "copyright reform":

One year ago (almost to the day), Microsoft issued a press release trumpeting a win at the Federal Court that led to one of the highest statutory damages awards in Canadian copyright history - $500,000 in statutory damages and an additional $200,000 in punitive damages. Funnily enough, the company didn't argue that it wasn't protected in that case (update: note that if Microsoft is claiming that there is no protection for the ideas rather than the expression of the ideas, then this is correct, though it's true for all countries since copyright protects the expression, not the ideas themselves).
 

 Jan 28, 2008 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
Windows 7 to be smaller
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft MS is finally figuring out that bloatware is bad, mmkay.

Acknowledging criticisms that the Windows operating system is "bloated," a senior company official said the software maker has adopted a new, modular approach to OS development that will yield more streamlined products beginning with Windows 7 -- a successor to Windows Vista that's expected to be available some time in 2010.

...

"A lot of people think of Windows as this large, bloated operating system. That's maybe a fair characterization," said Traut, who was speaking last week at the University of Illinois. A video of his presentation appeared Friday on the blog IstartedSomething.com.
If you're unfortunate enough to be on Vista, there's a tool to slim it down a bit available too.
 

 Jan 22, 2008 - 08:34 AM - by Michael
Vista successor coming fast?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft MS may be out to supplant Vista quickly, possibly with something even worse.
If Windows 7 is released in the second half of 2009, this will be three years after Windows Vista which went RTM in November 2006. A three-year major product cycle would take the Windows operating system out of cycle with Windows Server, which is on an approximate four-year cycle.

The big question is who in the market will respond to an early release. The transition to Windows Vista seems to have caused a lot of angst amongst users, but I think has far more to do with moving out of the Windows XP comfort zone, rather than any indication of Vista?s quality or stability.
Memo to Bannan: no, Vista just sucks.
 

 Jan 18, 2008 - 09:35 AM - by Michael
Bad dog, Don't Fetch
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft OC Modshop offers up some advice for those unfortunate enough to be saddled with Windows Vista: get rid of that ridiculous "superfetch" thing.

If you're a multi-tasker, then SuperFetch does have significant performance advantages, but you need butt-loads of memory. The performance advantages really only show themselves if you have more than 4GB of RAM, and because of that, you should be running a 64-bit version of Vista to see all of that extra RAM.

In our testing SuperFetch only offers performance enhancement if you have 4GB of RAM or more, and even then you only shave off fractions of a second when loading programs. If you open up Task Manager you will probably notice very little Free Memory, and nearly half of it taken up as Cached.
Superfetch runs as a "service" in Vista - so run services.msc, stop it, disable it, reboot, and enjoy the increased speed.
 

 Jan 15, 2008 - 11:00 AM - by Michael
EU to smack MS around some more
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft At Ars, news on yet another antitrust probe by the EU against Microsoft.

One would think MS would take the hint.

The EC will also fully investigate a complaint filed late last year by Norwegian browser maker Opera. In it, Opera accused Microsoft of illegally tying Internet Explorer to Windows operating systems and not following "fundamental and open" standards for how web browsers render pages. Opera wants the EC to force Microsoft to begin offering versions of Windows without IE installed and to make the browser more standards-compliant.

Opera will get what it asked for, and more: the EC's investigation will go beyond just Internet Explorer. The Commission will also look at desktop search and Windows Live as well in addition to other products. The EC says that its investigation will "focus on allegations that a range of products have been unlawfully tied to sales of Microsoft's dominant operating system."
 

 Jan 03, 2008 - 07:52 AM - by Michael
Teeny Tiny Projector
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Depending on price, these might even turn into real possibilities for home theaters (especially if they can get them up to 720p or 1080p resolution): a laser projector.

Bite-sized, too.

Dubbed SHOW, the lensless PicoP projector is designed for the home and business use, and uses tiny lasers to shoot a WVGA (848 by 480, roughly DVD resolution) image on virtually any surface that isn't a dark color or textured. It can even project onto curved and uneven surfaces. So, from a distance of two feet, it could project a two foot diagonal, full-color image on a white T-shirt. From five feet away, it could show a five-foot image on, say, a white wall or ceiling.
 

 Dec 19, 2007 - 08:21 AM - by Michael
HP, Staples sued over ink
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Another reason to go for laser printers - ink is costly enough and the big companies are being caught colluding to keep the price fixed.

The companies have also turned to using the ink equivalent of DRM, the use of microchips embedded in ink cartridges that work with a corresponding technical mechanism in the printer that blocks the use of unauthorized third-party ink. Adding insult to injury, most printers are lying, filthy ink thieves, according to a recent study, misreporting that they are low on ink when they are not.
Ouch... the article also touches on an earlier study that showed inkjets reporting their cartridge as "low" when they had more than half their ink left.
 

 Dec 18, 2007 - 08:17 AM - by Michael
Vista the Biggest Disappointment
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Over at PC World, the annual year's biggest disappointments list pegs Vista at #1. Other notables: the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD format war and the iPhone (vastly overrated by Apple geeks everywhere).

No wonder so many users are clinging to XP like shipwrecked sailors to a life raft, while others who made the upgrade are switching back. And when the fastest Vista notebook PC World has ever tested is an Apple MacBook Pro, there's something deeply wrong with the universe.
 

 Nov 27, 2007 - 10:00 AM - by Michael
Vista part of top 10 "Worst Tech"
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Before reading on, check out this brilliant YouTube of Apple's new commercial:



As it turns out, Vista's so horrid, it actually earned a spot on Crave's Top 10 worst tech products ever. Right next to Apple's hockey puck mouse.
 

 Nov 26, 2007 - 02:56 PM - by Michael
Deus Ex 3 coming
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Eidos has apparently formed a new studio and set them hard at work on another Deus Ex sequel: here's hoping they go back to the roots of why the first one worked and the second one had problems.
 

 Nov 26, 2007 - 10:00 AM - by Michael
BSA abuses Ernie Ball
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The Business Software Alliance raided music company Ernie Ball, and then used the moment to have member companies send around threat letters to the rest of the industry.

What's worse - they've been pulling this extortion racket a lot recently.

In the U.S., the largest software market, piracy rates have not budged in years. BSA critics say that is because making examples out of small businesses has little deterrent effect, since many company owners like Gaertner don't even realize they're violating copyrights.

"If they were going after actual pirates, that would be a different story, but they're going after hardworking companies," said Barbara Rembiesa, head of the International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers.
...
In one case, a BSA raid on musical-instrument maker Ernie Ball Inc. cost the company $90,000 in a settlement. Soon after, Microsoft sent other businesses in his region a flyer offering discounts on software licenses, along with a reminder not to wind up like Ernie Ball.

Enraged, CEO Sterling Ball vowed never to use Microsoft software again, even if "we have to buy 10,000 abacuses." He shifted to open-source software, which lacks such legal entanglements because its underlying code is freely distributed.
 

 Nov 26, 2007 - 08:30 AM - by Michael
XP still better than Vista
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft MS just keeps having troubles - hopefully Vista will go the way of WinME soon, so we can get DX10 ported back and forget about the nonsense.

I mean, seriously - XP actually is getting a speed boost and already runs Office (along with just about any other program) faster than Vista does.

According to the Office performance benchmarks, Windows XP SP3 is also considerably faster than Vista SP1. "None of this bodes well for Vista, which is now more than two times slower than the most current builds of its older sibling," said Barth.
 

 Nov 19, 2007 - 10:00 AM - by Michael
I want this theater
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft A home theater modeled on the USS Enterprise bridge?

Oh yeah. I want one of these.
 

 Nov 19, 2007 - 09:01 AM - by Michael
Vista struggles some more
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft At Computer World (UK), a survey that shows IT professionals really don't like Vista:



"The concerns about Vista specified by participants were overwhelmingly related to stability. Stability in general was frequently cited, as well as compatibility with the business software that would need to run on Vista," said Diane Hagglund of King Research, which conducted the survey for systems management vendor Kace. "Cost was also cited as a concern by some respondents."

The survey, echoing one from Forrester last week, shows most IT professionals are worried about Vista and that 44% have considered non-Windows operating systems, such as Linux and Macintosh, to avoid the Microsoft migration.
I'm sticking with XP.
 

 Nov 12, 2007 - 11:04 AM - by Michael
Windows "random" isn't
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Security researchers have found a hole in MS's random number generator, sufficient to predict encryption strings:

The researchers found the security loophole in the random number generator of Windows. This is a program which is, among other things, a critical building block for file and email encryption, and for the SSL encryption protocol which is used by all Internet browsers. For example: in correspondence with a bank or any other website that requires typing in a password, or a credit card number, the random number generator creates a random encryption key, which is used to encrypt the communication so that only the relevant website can read the correspondence. The research team found a way to decipher how the random number generator works and thereby compute previous and future encryption keys used by the computer, and eavesdrop on private communication.
Whoops!
 

 Nov 05, 2007 - 09:37 AM - by Michael
Replacing Batteries
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft IEEE Spectrum looks at what could eventually replace your batteries: a tech called 'ultracapacitors'.

This approach allowed the engineers at Standard Oil to build a multifarad device. At the time, even large capacitors had nowhere near a farad of capacitance. Today, ultracapacitors can store 5 percent as much energy as a modern lithium-ion battery. Ultracapacitors with a capacitance of up to 5000 farads measure about 5 centimeters by 5 cm by 15 cm, which is an amazingly high capacitance relative to its volume. The D-cell battery is also significantly heavier than the equivalently sized capacitor, which weighs about 60 grams.
It may be a while.
 

 Oct 29, 2007 - 08:23 AM - by Michael
Memory tech gets a new boost
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft A new tech could wind up putting out terabyte thumb drives and more;

PMC memory stores information in a fundamentally different way from flash. Instead of storing bits as an electronic charge, the technology creates nanowires from copper atoms the size of a virus to record binary ones and zeros.

In research published in October's IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices, Kozicki and his collaborators from the J?lich Research Center in Germany describe how the PMC builds an on-demand copper bridge between two electrodes. When the technology writes a binary 1, it creates a nanowire bridge between two electrodes. When no wire is present, that state is stored as a 0.
If it turned out fast and durable enough, this might replace hard drives (at least in laptops) altogether.
 

 Oct 23, 2007 - 12:07 PM - by Michael
Change Hardware, Kill Vista
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Apparently, it is possible to kill Windows Vista by simply changing your video card's drivers:

They sent me some special utilities to run which gathered the history of hardware changes on that machine since activation, and it turns out that my disk controller had changed, so the graphics card change was the final change which tripped deactivation.

The only problem? I had never changed my disk controller at any point. Apparently because I had upgraded the Intel Matrix Storage Manager application, this was reported as a major hardware change event.
Another reason techies over the world do not recommend Vista under any circumstances.
 

 Oct 15, 2007 - 10:35 AM - by Michael
MS Update: Trust Missing
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft At ZDNet's blog section, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes hits it on the nose: MS has betrayed user trust in Windows Update too many times.

To feel comfortable with having an open channel that allows your OS to be updated at the whim of a third party (even/especially* Microsoft ? * delete as applicable) requires that the user trusts the third party not to screw around with the system in question. This means no fiddling on the sly, being clear about what the updates do and trying not to release updates that hose systems. While any and all updates have the potential to hose a system, there?s no excuse for hiding the true nature of updates and absolutely no excuse for pushing sneaky updates down the tubes. Over the months vigilant Windows users have caught Microsoft betraying user trust on several separate occasions and this behavior is eroding customer confidence in the entire update mechanism.
Personally, I stopped trusting them when they pushed this "Windows Genuine Advantage" spyware/crapware garbage. If they really were against virus propagation, they wouldn't have done something that (A) causes more machines to lack patches and (B) constantly breaks and stops the patches from getting out in a timely fashion even to legitimate users.
 

 Oct 15, 2007 - 10:00 AM - by Michael
Dell happy with Linux sales
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Yep - you heard right, Dell is happy with the way its Linux servers are selling:

Speaking at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Dell said his company has seen Linux uptake for servers increase faster than Windows server products, despite Microsoft's claims.

He said: "On the server side Linux continues to grow nicely, a bit faster than Windows. We're seeing a move to Linux in critical applications, and Linux migration has not slowed down."
Now if only there'd be a desktop flavor of Linux that was usable for the common user (not just the uber-geeks).
 

 Oct 09, 2007 - 10:56 AM - by Michael
Unbundling Microsoft
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Australia's Cybersource has a great argument for forcing PC makers to un-bundle Windows:

Secondly, by limiting consumers who prefer not to run Windows to only those computers which ship without an operating system, you are limiting those consumers to a fraction of the potential range of computer hardware otherwise available. This is less than fair. Most systems, most options, most hardware innovations, are therefore not made available to consumers who want unbundled PCs.

Yes, these consumers could buy a PC with Windows and then wipe Windows, but then that means they are paying, as we note above in the Acer case, possibly hundreds of dollars/Euros, needlessly. And all this does is benefit Microsoft, essentially establishing a 'tax' on a product category - a category which sells over 100 million units globally every year. This is a vast distortion of the principles of an open marketplace.
If you ever wondered what the arguments were, here's your best chance to get a quick, concise understanding.
 

 Oct 02, 2007 - 08:32 AM - by Michael
30 year battery? Nope!
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Over at ZDNet, Rupert Goodwins takes on the recent "30 year laptop battery" hype... which is all it is.

Lastly, they're not very good batteries. Even the latest devices, which are very clever in the way they saturate a porous structure with the gas and thus usefully capture quite a large number of the energetic electrons, have an energy density of the order of twenty five watts per kilo. Lithium ion batteries, the sort you have in your laptop, manage 1.8 kilowatts per kilo. That's 72 times more bang per gram. Do you fancy carrying a battery 72 times heavier than the one you have at the moment, especially if it's hotter than a sixty watt light bulb?
 

 Sep 27, 2007 - 03:51 PM - by Michael
Time for Vista to go like ME?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Don Reisinger says it's Time Microsoft puts Vista out to pasture like they did with Windows ME.

The first indication that Microsoft should abandon Vista is its poor sales figures. According to a recent report titled "Windows Vista Still Underperforming in U.S. Retail" from NPD, Vista sales are significantly behind XP sales during its early days. Even worse for Redmond, some are reverting to XP, citing issues with compatibility and overall design. And if that wasn't enough, Macs continue to surge and with the impending release of Leopard, Microsoft may be in for a rough holiday season.

With each passing day, it's becoming blatantly clear that Microsoft released Vista too early and the company's continual mistakes and promises that can't be kept are further annoying the Windows faithful.
I'd tend to agree. Vista's pretty, but it'd be just as easy to code a skin for XP and a few PowerToys that do the same thing Vista's Aero interface does.
 

 Sep 24, 2007 - 10:23 AM - by Michael
Relaxation as gaming
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Here's a new twist - a controller setup that degrades your performance if you're not relaxed while playing.

It'd be interesting to see these a bit more varied, or use the feedback on how stressed you are to alter game mechanics. But the tech's still in its infancy.

If you relax, the dragon spreads its wings and flies. If not, it stumbles all over the place. Schaefer said that some people, including his wife, have the ability to ?shut off? the stress they feel at work when they come home. When they?ve played the dragon game together, his wife?s dragon always flies speedily to the end, while Schaefer?s dragon futzes around at the starting line - in part because he?s still stressed from work.
 

 Sep 13, 2007 - 09:12 AM - by Michael
MS does sneaky "update"
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Confirmed - last night, Windows XP and Vista downloaded files... without your consent.

The stealth updates do not appear to affect PCs using WSUS (Windows Server Update Services) the same way as those using Microsoft Update/Windows Update. Typically, Windows would give some notification before installing updates and, presumably, install nothing if Windows Update is turned off. But, in testing, Dunn found that Microsoft was updating Windows XP and Vista systems even when automatic updating is turned off.

"Microsoft is bypassing the normal automatic update control," Dunn told me this afternoon. "The problem is that users don't know that."
 

 Sep 12, 2007 - 10:00 AM - by Michael
Office gets Linux props?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Linux.com has a shootout between MS Office 2007 and OpenOffice, and they actually give MS marks for improvement.

Admittedly, they'd be a bit biased, but it's nice to see them take the evaluation seriously.

As in the previous two comparisons, Writer emerged as the winner in the majority of categories. However, in many categories, the decision is not as obvious as in previous comparisons. For the first time in several releases, Word's designers seem to be making significant changes. These changes are not always successful -- in fact, the reordering of menus into ribbons might be seen by the cynical as an attempt to hide some long-term embarrassments, such as the ongoing problems with master documents. But at least the effort is being made.
 

 Sep 12, 2007 - 08:35 AM - by Michael
Chips that like the heat
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft NASA's working on silicon carbide, trying to make circuits that can withstand unbelievable temperatures and keep working.

In the past, integrated circuit chips could not withstand more than a few hours of high temperatures before degrading or failing. This chip exceeded 1,700 hours of continuous operation at 500 degrees Celsius - a breakthrough that represents a 100-fold increase in what has previously been achieved, NASA said.
Go NASA!
 

 Sep 10, 2007 - 10:00 AM - by Michael
Iphone on even when it's not?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Imagine this - you take your phone (turned off) on vacation, and when you get back, you find out it racked up thousands of dollars in overseas roaming charges anyways.

That's what someone got after going on a vacation with the iPhone.

They didn't use their phones, but when they got back they had a 54-page monthly bill of nearly $4,800 from AT&T Wireless.

The problem was that their three Iphones were racking up a bill for data charges using foreign phone charges. The Iphone regularly updates e-mail, even while it's off, so that all the messages will be available when the user turns it on.
Note to Apple: if it's "updating", it's not actually off.
 

 Sep 10, 2007 - 09:00 AM - by Michael
Barcelona launches
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Let the shootout begin - AMD's officially launched their quad-core processors.

AMD, however, appears unfazed by its competitor's head start and is confident its "native" quad-core design will trump Intel's version of quad-core processor in terms of performance and power efficiencies.

"Choice is good, [and] customers should have choice. Let the best platform win," John Fruehe, worldwide business development manager for AMD's server and workstation division, said at a media briefing held here last month. He noted that since the first Opteron was introduced in the market three years ago, 90 percent of the systems manufacturers that cover the addressable market server offer AMD's Opteron.
Here's hoping AMD can pick things back up.
 

 Aug 27, 2007 - 12:13 PM - by Michael
Gateway gets swallowed
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Gateway's about to be swallowed up by Acer: the once-mighty powerhouse (who've turned into a joke almost as bad as Packard Bell) now sitting well below $2 a share.

Under terms of the agreement announced Monday, Acer will purchase all of Gateway's outstanding shares for $1.90 per share. The deal has already been approved by the boards of directors at both companies and should be completed by the end of this year, subject to government approval, Acer said in a statement. Gateway's shares ended at $1.21 Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.

"This is the biggest acquisition in Acer's 30 year history," said J.T. Wang, Acer's chairman, speaking at a news conference in Taipei.
At one time, Gateway was well known for customer service and good computers. These days, they're known as something to stay away from.
 

 Aug 26, 2007 - 11:21 AM - by Michael
Sony Rootkit Fiasco Again?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Bioshock - not just the retail title, but the downloadable demo, has been caught installing unwanted software.

Sony is the publisher - last time they tried it, it was on music CDs. It's Sony's "SecuROM" scheme rearing its ugly head again.

2K Games recently issued at statement addressing the DRM protection and widescreen problems for the BioShock PC game. In the statement 2K reveals a change in number of activations available with each copy of BioShock. Consumers are now allowed to activate their copy of BioShock a total of five times via the SecuROM network. Problems have already surfaced on the third-party severs preventing users from activating their copy of the game.

What 2K has failed to address is the the SecuROM service installed on your computer when installing BioShock, which is also included in the demo.
 

 Aug 19, 2007 - 01:23 AM - by Michael
A Vista Defection
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The editor of PC Magazine is quitting - and he's given up on Vista too.

The brand-new dual-core system I built a few months ago totters off to sleep but never returns. I have to cold-start it to bring it back. This after replacing virtually every driver inside. It's gotten so bad that I've actually nicknamed it Chip Van Winkle. And I've nicknamed my primary Dell notebook Philip Marlowe.

...

Networking, too, gives me huge headaches. In XP, a simple right click on the system tray icon put me one click away from IP settings and connections status. Now that same icon brings up a menu of options that ultimately lead to the Network and Sharing center?sharing in the Sirius Cybernetics, "Share and Enjoy" obfuscation mode, not any sort of network sharing I'm familiar with. I've configured every PC on my home network to share drives and printers, yet owing to some undiscovered element, there's no guarantee that any of them will be visible at any given time.
Previously, he was one heck of a Vista-booster. Microsoft's in big trouble with this new "OS" as they call it.
 

 Aug 03, 2007 - 08:30 AM - by Michael
Spore "When it's Done"
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Spore will ship "when it's done", EA and Will Wright have announced.

"It's one of those breakthrough products that might come across the industry every three, five, seven years.... We could not be more bullish for the potential of the franchise as we are right now," said Riccitiello.

He said that he still expects the game to ship in the "March, April, May" 2008 timeframe.
Anyone want to be it still ships before Duke Nukem Forever?
 

 Jun 28, 2007 - 09:00 AM - by Michael
MS Security "Worst Job"
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Computer World notices that Microsoft Security has become one of the worst jobs in the world:

Moyer said Microsoft's Security Response Center (MSRC) made the grade this year because the job is just so hard and thankless. "It's one of those classic jobs, which isn't gross or dangerous in any way, but the overwhelmingness of the task at hand makes it so daunting that only the most intrepid would venture there."

The MSRC ranked near the middle as the sixth-worst job in this year's list, published in the July issue of the magazine. "We did rate the Microsoft security researcher as less-bad than the people who prepare the carcasses for dissection in biology laboratories," Moyer said.
The phrase "close second" comes to mind.
 

 Jun 27, 2007 - 07:18 PM - by Michael
Saitek's new Joysticks
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Saitek - makers of some really nifty looking game controllers - are announcing another new set: the Pro Flight Yoke and Pro Flight Quadrant.

They shot us some images; the Yoke is on the right, Quadrant in the middle. On the left is the optional foot rudder pedals.

TORRANCE, Calif. (June 26, 2007) ? The Saitek Group has further committed to those who love to fly by adding new and advanced products to the company?s Pro Flight Series. The company today formally announced the addition of the Pro Flight Yoke and the Pro Flight Throttle Quadrant which ?took off? with rave reviews from hard core flight-sim enthusiasts. These newest models are designed to compliment and work in tandem with Saitek?s Pro Flight Rudder Pedals that ?landed? late last year and became instant best-sellers.

?As hardcore flight sim enthusiasts ourselves, we are especially excited about these new controllers,? said Mark Starrett, product marketing manager of Saitek Group. ?The level of reality achieved with the new yoke and throttle is truly amazing; they look and feel like they were yanked right out of a Cessna or 747 aircraft. These additions to Saitek?s flight controller line push us to a whole new level of dominance in the flight sim world and we?re pleased to bring this level of entertainment and reality to flying enthusiasts around the globe.?

Pro Flight Yoke

The Pro Flight Yoke System, priced at $149.95, aims to replicate the control system of a real-life airplane. Designed using direct feedback from seasoned pilots, the USB-powered Pro Flight Yoke has an integrated chronometer for in-flight timing and an ultra-stable two-position desk clamp to keep the system sturdy for a steady flying experience. Crafted from precision stainless steel, the yoke?s shaft is solid and sturdy ? designed to last for thousands of flight cycles. The included throttle controls can be positioned independently for a realistic experience. In addition, the yoke includes an integrated three port USB 2.0 hub and mounting points for additional components ? future-proofing this must-have flight controller system.

Pro Flight Throttle Quadrant

The Pro Flight Throttle Quadrant, priced at $49.99, is the only throttle on the market to feature three independent levers which are used for various axis commands, such as throttle, fuel mixture, prop pitch, etc. In addition, the lever ends are removable and independently color-coded for custom rearrangements (cockpit personalization is important to true flying aces). All total, Saitek?s Pro Flight Throttle Quadrant includes three independent axis levers, nine button controls (six toggle buttons plus three additional buttons that work in concert with a lever move and can be programmed to perform additional flight controls) and a two-position desk clamp to enable the quadrant to be mounted in front of or on top of the desk so that users can customize the experience to best fit their body and flying position. Also included in this flight, is Saitek?s Smart Technology programming software for total access control and customization. Put together, these stand-out flight sim features make the Pro Flight Throttle Quadrant the most realistic controller for the ultimate in immersive flight. The Saitek Pro Flight Series includes the X52 Pro, priced at $199.95, the Pro Flight Rudder Pedals, priced at $129.95 in addition to the new Pro Flight Yoke and Pro Flight Throttle.

 

 Jun 26, 2007 - 09:41 AM - by Michael
MS afraid of Apple?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Ars has an interesting take on Microsoft's forbiddance of running Vista in a virtual machine: they're afraid of Apple.

Now imagine Apple running adverts on the TV that say: with a Mac, you can get the best of both worlds by adding Windows Vista to your Mac for $99. "Get a Mac, then add a PC for $99!"

And imagine that users don't need Boot Camp to use Vista but can legally fire up a VM at any moment. Apple and their "geniuses" would, in fact, happily help you get Vista set up in a VM so the "switch" could be that much more convenient.

All of this paints a picture in which Apple could use OEM pricing to offer Windows for its Macs at greatly reduced prices and running in a VM. The latter is absolutely crucial; telling users that they need to reboot into their Windows OS isn't nearly as sexy as, say, Coherence in Parallels. If you've never seen Coherence, it's quite amazing. You don't need to run Windows apps in a VM window of Vista. Instead, the apps appear to run in OS X itself, and the environment is (mostly) hidden away. VMWare also has similar technology, dubbed Unity.
 

 Jun 21, 2007 - 08:39 AM - by Michael
The Inkjet Lie
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Ars has an article on studies showing that your inkjet status bar is lying to you:

That's the first problem. Printers routinely report that they are low on ink even when they aren't, and in some cases there are still hundreds of pages worth of ink left.

The second issue is a familiar one: multi-ink cartridges can be rendered "empty" when only one color runs low. Multi-ink cartridges store three to five colors in a single cartridge. Printing too many photos from the air show will kill your cartridge faster than you can say "blue skies," as dominant colors (say, "blue") are used faster than the others. Therein lies the reason Epson backed the study: the company is singing the praises of its single-ink cartridge approach, an approach which is necessarily more efficient in terms of wasted ink because there's only one color per cartridge, and thus only one cartridge to replace when that color runs out.
I own a laser printer - and that's one of the reasons why.
 

 Jun 20, 2007 - 08:38 AM - by Michael
MS begs you to get Vista
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Microsoft is begging people to get Vista now.

My response: go to hell. We aren't waiting for SP1: we don't want Vista.

"Some customers may be waiting to adopt Windows Vista because they've heard rumors about device or application compatibility issues, or because they think they should wait for a service pack release," the company said in a newsletter.
...


What we do know, however, is that Vista service pack 1 is, in the company's own words, designed to address "deployment blockers and high impact issues", suggesting that until the release of SP1, you will have to contend with ... deployment blockers and high impact issues. Hardly the basis for proceeding with confidence.
 

 Jun 18, 2007 - 08:44 AM - by Michael
Working Dell
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The Consumerist has a great analysis of how customers can get a better deal from Dell, but it turns out Dell didn't like that so much; they filed a bogus takedown demand.

If you're worried, you might consider copying down the article just in case lawyers get involved.

It contains information that is confidential and proprietary to Dell.

While not all aspects of the entry are accurate, ostensibly an ex-employee posted Dell's confidential information in violation of his or her employment agreement and confidentiality obligations (which prohibit the disclosure of such information both during and after the period of employment).
"Proprietary"? Good for a laugh... and Dell's behavior definitely failed the laugh test - they even turned around and admitted it (on the Dell Blog) today.

Ok, we goofed. We shouldn?t have sent a notice. To my earlier point, we appreciate the reminder from the community. Point taken. Yesterday, we also responded to a related IdeaStorm idea from user jmxz. To see more, take a look for comments from our own dell_admin1 and my good pal richard_b.
 

 Jun 06, 2007 - 10:00 AM - by Michael
Inkjets in trouble
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The NY Times reports on a new issue for consumers: their old photo prints are dying fast.

The cause? Inkjet printers were never designed for printing things that would last.

Traditional color prints have an advantage over inkjet prints. Dyes that make up images in traditional prints are suspended in three layers of gelatin, well below the surface.

Photo inkjet paper is generally coated to prevent the printer ink from soaking into its base, which would create a blurry and discolored photo. But that coating usually leaves the ink sprayed by the printer directly on top of the print, where it is vulnerable to light, humidity, pollution and scratches.
 

 May 30, 2007 - 08:31 AM - by Michael
Touch Computing
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft A new bit of hardware from Microsoft - a 30-inch touch screen that can operate like mouse or keyboard.

Warning: not for use while eating fried chicken or other greasy foods. For some reason, though, they actually want to market these to restaurants for order-taking.
 

 May 23, 2007 - 09:30 AM - by Michael
Apple sued for Macbook screen
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Apple's getting sued again - this time for false advertising. Apparently the Macbook's LCD screen didn't measure up for a few users.

At the heart of the case is plaintiff's claim that rather than delivering 16,777,216 colors with an 8-bit LCD, Apple chose a cheaper route, delivering the illusion of millions of colors using a 6-bit LCD and dithering.

What makes the complaint sound especially familiar to longtime Mac users, is that to buttress their case, Greaves and Gately have copied and pasted long stretches of exchanges from discussion threads on apple.com support and other online fora. They tell stories of dismissive Apple geniuses telling them they are being "too picky," of off-the-street tests performed at Best Buy and Tekserve, of ordering replacement computers and being afraid to open the box, of exhausted phone support reps encouraging users to "take the refund."
Dithering is a common technique, but they have a point - a dithered pixel area may look vaguely like the right color, but it's not that color.
 

 May 21, 2007 - 08:58 AM - by Michael
Piracy Raids in India
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Microsoft's doing some pirated-OS stings in India, and the shops aren't happy about it.

"Since we are are not charging anything extra for installing the software, it means that we are actually not trading in pirated software. For us this is just a sewa (selfless act) that we are offering to our customers. Besides, the pricing of their operating systems is way too high for the Indian markets."

The resellers have also planned boycotts against Microsoft. Those participating in the strike agreed to stop all purchases of Microsoft products for this quarter.
It'd be interesting to see if the strikes have any impact on Big M$, but don't count on it.
 

 May 21, 2007 - 08:58 AM - by Michael
PPC architecture boost
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft IBM's claiming they can get the Power6 to 5 GHz; they've already hit 4.7.

The Register thinks that's favorable for them.

The benchmarks arrive just ahead of IBM's Power6 server launch. The rumor mill says IBM will unveil its Power6 gear, starting with midrange systems such as the p570, on Tuesday.

Thus far, IBM has been reluctant to discuss the Power6-based systems' performance. But, with chips running at 4.7GHz, IBM should clean up on a wide variety of benchmarks even if customers don't recompile their software as is needed for absolute best results with Power6.

A number of skeptics have told us that IBM will struggle in the near-term to produce 4GHz+ chips in volume. IBM, however, has been telling customers that it will have plenty of speedy chips to go around.
This is important for the business side, but not relevant for the desktop crowd. And it's highly unlikely you'll see Apple switching back to IBM chips anytime soon.
 

 May 10, 2007 - 12:18 PM - by Michael
Secrets of Atlantis
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Adventure Company are announcing another new title: Secrets of Atlantis.
TORONTO, Canada. May 10, 2007. The Adventure Company, a leading publisher of PC adventure games in North America, today announced that it will publish the Nobilis game: The Secrets of Atlantis for Windows(r). A must-play for every adventure game fan, you'll climb aboard the famed Hindenburg Zeppelin aircraft to begin a quest that will take you to some of the most exotic locations in the world in search of answers to a mysterious forgotten civilization...

Scheduled for release on May 22, 2007, The Secrets of Atlantis will sell throughout North America for a suggested retail price of $29.99 USD.

Storyline:
It's 1937 and Howard Brooks, a young aeronautical engineer, returns from a conference in Germany. On board the Hindenburg Zeppelin taking him to New York, Howard is attacked by members of an occult sect. He soon learns that these evil-doers covet the mysterious secret of a forgotten civilization of which, it seems, he is an heir. Convinced that Howard possesses a key element of their research, they decide to set a trap for him.

Caught up by his past, Howard sets out on an adventure that leads him to fascinating locations around the world: Macao, an Indian Palace, a temple in Mesopotamia and the Empire State Building in New-York. Each location has its own unique culture, landscape and secrets.

Features

* A fascinating quest full of surprises: set out in search of the lost continent and make discoveries beyond your wildest dreams.
* Your chance to journey the world in a zeppelin: New York to Mesopotamia, via India and China, travel the world and experience its enchanting landscapes.
* High-quality cinematographic production. An atmosphere so captivating, you'll feel like you're really living the adventure.
* More than 30 characters to keep you company on your travels. Watch out - not everyone is totally trustworthy!
* Dozens of puzzles and enigmas that will challenge you for hours.
* Total immersion: puzzles are combined with an original soundtrack, short video sequences and charismatic characters.

Filled with mystery and set in a unique film-noir style, The Secrets of Atlantis is a unique adventure game that will give you the feeling that you are really aboard the Hindenburg Zeppelin racing off to the world's most exotic locations in search of answers to a forgotten civilization...

They also passed us a few screens:
   
 

 Apr 23, 2007 - 05:15 PM - by Michael
Vista officially a flop
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The Register concludes: Windows Vista is officially a flop.

And they explain why by mentioning Microsoft's "other" completely failed OS:

WITH TWO OVERLAPPING events, Microsoft admitted what we have been saying all along, Vista, aka Windows Me Two (Me II), is a joke that no one wants.
...
This is classic abusive monopoly behaviour, Microsoft wrote the modern book on it. It pulled all the major OEMs in by twisting their arms with the usual methods, and they again all fell into line. Never before has anyone backpedalled on this, to do so would earn you the wrath of Microsoft.

But Dell just did. This means that Me II sales are at least as bad as we think, the software and driver situation is just as miserable, and Dell had no choice but to buck the trend.
 

 Apr 23, 2007 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
AMD recovery plan
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft TG Daily have a list of ways AMD are trying to recover from the last quarter:

President Dirk Meyer explained that the company experienced a ?perfect storm? of challenges in Q1 that resulted in declining shipment numbers and a decrease in average selling prices. The company is still trying to recover from delivery issues in the channel, where many retailers switched to Intel, as AMD neglected smaller customers in Q4 and provided preferred treatment to new and larger customers such as Dell and Lenovo. Pricing pressure remained intense, as Intel ?did everything in its power to protect its monopoly,? Meyer said.
Expect more price cuts and some layoffs.
 

 Apr 16, 2007 - 01:00 PM - by Michael
Intel's next big leap
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Intel's got another big leap coming - but it's a refocusing on single threads. It seems multi-core processors aren't quite taking up the slack because too many programs can't use them:

"The idea is the following," explained Eden. "If you are running a single threaded application, one of the cores can go to sleep, and the left over power can be used by the other core - we give it a turbo boost; the ability to run faster than it used to.

"This is not overclocking. Overclocking is when you take a chip and increase its clock speed and run it out of spec. This is not out of spec. Here, it is within the spec of the dual-cores, we just identify when one core is not using the headroom and we give it to the other core.
 

 Apr 16, 2007 - 10:00 AM - by Michael
Apple's changing focus
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Crave over at Cnet has some interesting things to say about Apple's immediate future:

Apple is a hardware company through and through, however. Its computers and software are ubiquitous among media professionals. The iPod is ridiculously successful with consumers around the world, with over 100 million sold so far. But the iTunes Store is almost monopolising online music retail and is proving to be a huge player in bringing video content to millions. Apple TV links all these technologies together and brings everything into the 21st century living room -- although it remains to be seen how successful it will be.
 

 Apr 16, 2007 - 09:32 AM - by Michael
Fixing Vista
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft If you're unfortunate enough to have Windows Vista, good news - there are ways to get some older programs to work as revealed by InformationWeek.

They recommend rewriting some programs entirely - but for others, some tweaking may suffice.
 

 Apr 12, 2007 - 02:45 PM - by Michael
All backup drives are not equal
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft ComputerWorld looks at the world of backup external hard drives, but not all is well: they found problems with every one, from dodgy power switches to some not-so-happy transfer speeds.
 

 Apr 12, 2007 - 12:43 PM - by Michael
The death of Print Screen
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Tom Yager sees one of the ugliest things that could happen, coming up in AMD's newest hardware - the loss of personal control of the computer.

It will ship with software that plays movies on Blu-ray discs. The AMD rep spelled it out in words that would have been undiplomatic coming from me: He said that the new chips will ?block unauthorized access to the frame buffer.? In short, that means an unauthorized party can?t save the contents of the display to a file on disk unless the content owner approves it.

There is a short list of parties who will be unauthorized to access your frame buffer: You. There is a long list of parties who are authorized to access your frame buffer, and that list includes Microsoft, Apple, AMD, Intel, ATI, NVidia, Sony Pictures, Paramount, HBO, CBS, Macrovision, and all other content owners and enablers that want your machine to themselves whenever you?re watching, listening to, reading, or shooting monsters with their products.
To those who came up with this at AMD, you just gave me and many others a reason not to buy the new AMD GPU chips.
 

 Apr 10, 2007 - 09:39 AM - by Michael
Blizzard off the deep end?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Blizzard have filed an interesting legal brief, claiming that accessing the copy of World of Warcraft in your own RAM while running the game compromises their "copyright."

Interestingly, the EFF has previously branded Blizzard's "Warden" software - the stuff they use to try to prevent external programs from touching WoW - as "spyware."

It's just going to get worse before it gets better... but Blizzard are obviously doing what they have to do. Too many games (Asheron's Call, FFXI to name just two) have been destroyed by botters.
 

 Apr 04, 2007 - 01:36 PM - by Michael
Scared of Vista yet?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The [H]ard guys have taken a long look - 30 days, to be precise - at Windows Vista, and they're not impressed.

We can hope this gets ironed out with service packs, but I'm still in the "don't move to Vista" camp, and really hoping MS will cave and give us DirectX 10 for WinXP.

Any consideration of the fine details comes in second to that one inescapable conclusion. This is an unstable operating system.
Ouch.
 

 Apr 03, 2007 - 12:06 PM - by Michael
x86 here to stay
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft News.com(.com) offers up insight as to why the x86 architecture's not going anywhere.

Backwards compatibility, anyone?

The warm embrace of AMD's Opteron x86-64 processor (later duplicated by Intel) was the final blow, relegating EPIC and Itanium to the high end of the server market where it makes sense to port applications to take advantage of the performance offered by Itanium.

As with most things, it all came down to money. Billions of dollars have been invested in software written for x86.
 

 Apr 03, 2007 - 12:06 PM - by Michael
Best products in history?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft PC Magazine offers up an interesting list - the best 50 products to grace the PC world.

They name some cool, and some forgotten things like the floppy-disk Mavica camera.
 

 Mar 27, 2007 - 10:13 AM - by Michael
More Vista nightmares
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Looks like Vista takes an incredibly long time to copy or delete files:

According to a thread on Microsoft's TechNet site, Microsoft has issued a hotfix for the problem, but it has failed to quell the outrage. For one thing, individual users must get Microsoft's approval before the fix can be downloaded, according to our tipster. And for another, hotfixes are more of a pain to install than patches.

We've contacted a Microsoft spokeswoman, who promised to see if a patch for the problem in the works. Meanwhile, Vista users continue to grumble.
Another downer for those who moved early.
 

 Mar 12, 2007 - 03:37 PM - by Michael
MS not really into games for Windows?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Valve Software seem to think Microsoft's current "Games for Windows" advertising is something they can't rely on: not surprising since MS abandonded the PC arena entirely a few years ago, flipping the middle finger to fans of dozens of good series while pushing crappy "adaptations" and "remakes" to the Xbox...

"To really back a platform is a sustained effort over years and years, so we'll see if in two years Microsoft is still spending money to put Games for Windows sections in retail, and having PR people preach that message that the PC isn't dying, it?s actually bigger than all the consoles put together."

"You know, if it were to sign up for that, that's great. If it's going to use it to promote sales of Vista, that's really not good for the industry, it's good for Microsoft in the short term," offered Lombardi.
 

 Mar 09, 2007 - 07:43 AM - by Michael
PRAM starts to exist for Intel
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Intel's experiment into PRAM - a similar tech to what Macs used for the longest time - is coming to fruition:

Intel says they plan to ship the first PRAM modules as a straight-ahead NOR flash replacement so that they can work the kinks out of the design before trying to move it up the memory hierarchy. The company claims a much higher number of read-write cycles (100 million) than flash, as well as a potential 10 years' worth of data retention. NOR flash is typically used as program storage memory for mobile devices like cell phones, while more durable but slower (for random read access, but not sequential bursts) NAND flash is used for mass storage in devices like the iPod nano.
 

 Mar 06, 2007 - 09:07 AM - by Michael
AMD: Intel destroyed antitrust evidence
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft This could be painful for Intel if true: apparently Intel allowed some of the subpoenaed evidence in AMD's antitrust case to be destroyed.

Destroyed evidence is REALLY frowned upon by the courts.


AMD alleges that more than a third of 1,027 case-specific Intel employees did not receive instructions to retain their data after the 2005 case initiation. Of the individuals who retained data, AMD alleges the majority did not retain "sent" emails. These employees, dubbed "custodians," are persons of interest in the legal proceedings.

According to Intel, 217 of these 1,027 custodians have been "identified," and must retain all data as per instruction of the court. AMD has the right to identify another 254 employees for court scrutiny of data -- to date AMD has already identified 74 of those 254.
 

 Mar 05, 2007 - 02:00 PM - by Michael
Coprocessors to return?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Both AMD and Intel are apparently working on external coprocessors again, to add specialty capability to home computers:

Coprocessors originally went away quickly, as chipmakers saw benefits in getting everything onto the same die. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.
 

 Mar 02, 2007 - 01:54 PM - by Michael
US DOT: No Vista, No IE7
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The US Department of Transportation are wary enough of Microsoft's new offerings to prohibit their employees from moving to them:

Among the concerns cited by Mintz are compatibility with software applications currently in use at the department, the cost of an upgrade, and DOT's move to a new headquarters in Washington later this year. "Microsoft Vista, Office 2007, and Internet Explorer [7] may be acquired for testing purposes only, though only on approval by the DOT chief information officer," Mintz writes.

The memo is dated Jan. 19. In an interview Friday, DOT chief technology officer Tim Schmidt confirmed that the ban is still in effect. "We're analyzing different client software options and also integration issues," says Schmidt. Among the options the Transportation Department is weighing as a possible alternative or complement to Windows Vista are Novell's Suse Linux and, for a limited group of users, Apple's Macintosh hardware and software, he says.
No matter what the reason, that's got to be a painful thing for MS to be hearing.
 

 Mar 02, 2007 - 12:20 PM - by Michael
The Vista Trap
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The BBC's got a great article on how people upgrading to Vista right now are going to get screwed:

However, there are still plenty of wrinkles. The Windows "sidebar" may look nicer than Google desktop, but it crashes regularly and infuriates me because its "gadgets" can not be customised.

I've had two Vista crashes so far - not a blue but a black screen - and that really shouldn't happen. I can't even remember my last XP crash.

And everywhere I look, there are blogs and forums full of people who have problems with software drivers and suffer the poor customer support of the hundreds of hardware and software vendors that make up the Windows ecosystem.
Yeah. Stay off the Vista till you have to build a whole new box, then do the upgrade cleanly.
 

 Mar 02, 2007 - 07:44 AM - by Michael
WoW character database
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Wonder what your friend's character is like on WoW? Now you can get a realtime search of their database, and see how people are doing.

What are the Character Profiles?
Every character on every realm in World of Warcraft that is at least level 10 has a detailed Character Profile. Each profile includes the character's basic info, such as their name, server, and guild name, as well as their equipped items and their talent build. Simply type in a character name or part of a name, and the search results will display all matching players with that name.
 

 Feb 21, 2007 - 09:20 AM - by Michael
MS to sue Linux for patents?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft ZDNet Australia has an interesting piece on Steve Ballmer threatening to start lawsuits against Linux-using businesses for violations of Microsoft patents:

In a clear threat against open-source users, Ballmer repeated his earlier assertions that open source "is not free", referring to the possibility that Microsoft may sue Linux vendors. Microsoft has suggested that Linux software infringes some of its intellectual property, but has never named the patents in question.
More coffee with your FUD, folks?
 

 Feb 20, 2007 - 09:51 AM - by Michael
Crazy new stuff for tech
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Infoworld offers up 12 ideas that could have an interesting effect on the computing world:

The warm, humming bricks that convert AC from the wall to the DC used by electronics are finally drawing some much deserved attention ? from datacenter engineers hoping to save money by wasting less energy. The waste must often be paid for twice: first to power equipment, then to run the air conditioner to remove the heat produced. One solution is to create a central power supply that distributes pure DC current to rack-mounted computers. But will cutting out converters catch on, or is the buzz surrounding DC to the datacenter destined to fizzle?

Researchers at the Department of Energy?s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have built a prototype rack filled with computers that run directly off 380-volt DC. Bill Tschudi, principal investigator at the lab, says that the system uses 15 percent less power than do servers equipped with today?s most efficient power supplies ? and that there can be even greater savings when replacing the older models still in use in most enterprises. If the server room requires cooling, as it does everywhere except in northern regions in the winter, the savings can double, because the air-conditioning bill also can be cut by 15 percent.
 

 Feb 19, 2007 - 11:58 AM - by Michael
Blizzard sues WoWGlider
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Blizzard's officially gone off the deep end - not content with banning accounts, now they're suing WoWGlider.

Count 2: Contributory Copyright Infringement. Blizzard is claiming that when Glider launches WoW and bypasses Warden that Glider has just reproduced a copy of WoW and thus has violated the copyright. WoW. That's a pretty interesting statement. Is that kinda like me using my TiVo to record a show and watch it and being told I've just violated the copyright of the show? I'm not sure if that is a good analogy or not. But it's the first thing I think of. If I were charing copies of the program I TiVoed then ya. that would be an issue. But watching it myself. I don't think so.

Also under count 2. Blizzard claims that they knew they were violating copyright because they sold keys for Glider. Huh? How does selling keys for an application that you built show that you intentionally violated copyright in another program? This is a stretch.
 

 Feb 15, 2007 - 02:00 PM - by Michael
Who wants a better MMORPG?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Red Herring asks: what could be a better mmorpg than WoW?

The problem is that no one knows what the next WoW killer will look like. Creating a hit video game, which combines strong characters, a compelling story, and top-notch production values, is part art and part inexact science. Making a hit game can be much more difficult than producing an Oscar-winning movie. After all, the hit video game must be compelling enough to keep players coming back for more. ?There are so many moving parts in these games that they are more likely than not to fail,? says Mark Jacobs, co-founder of Mythic Entertainment, the highly regarded MMO game developer acquired last year by EA.
Other MMO's have their fan bases, but WoW is the undoubted leader for now. Like EverQuest before it, it'll take a lot to knock off the top, too.
 

 Feb 15, 2007 - 01:00 PM - by Michael
What can quantum computers do?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Apparently, they can play Sudoku very quickly.

For the demonstration, he says D-Wave operators remotely controlled the quantum computer, housed in Burnaby, British Columbia, from a laptop in California. The quantum computer was given three problems to solve: searching for molecular structures that match a target molecule, creating a complicated seating plan, and filling in Sudoku puzzles.

Rose says D-Wave plans to submit its results for peer review at a major journal. He notes that experts will be given a chance to inspect the system, and that the company plans to make its prototype available online free of charge to stir interest. Users would enter a problem to be solved, and the device would send the solution from Canada.
Coming to home computers somewhere in, oh, 2060.
 

 Feb 15, 2007 - 11:00 AM - by Michael
AMD cuts prices
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft AMD might be the price point leader again - they're slashing prices to take another stab at Intel, after Core2 Duo turned out to be very popular.

As Intel took a technological lead late last year, AMD responded with "frantic price cuts" after a weak start to its first quarter, Needham analyst Y. Edwin Mok said in a note to clients on Tuesday.

Mok contends AMD has cut prices three times in three weeks to spur demand.
 

 Feb 14, 2007 - 10:41 AM - by Michael
IBM speeds up DRAM
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft DRAM gets a big boost today - IBM's figured out how to speed it up to nearly <a href-:http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/20070214/sram-edram-dram-ibm-memory.htm">SRAM speeds.

IBM said it has been able to speed up the DRAM to the point where it's nearly as fast as SRAM, and that the result is a type of memory known as embedded DRAM, or eDRAM, that helps boost the performance of chips with multiple core calculating engines and is particularly suited for enabling the movement of graphics in gaming and other multimedia applications. DRAM will also continue to be used off the chip.

"A lot of people have been trying to do this," Su said. "As we look into the processor roadmap, this is one of the most difficult things to solve. We were basically memory-limited in the high-power processors, so this has been very significant for us."
 

 Feb 13, 2007 - 12:14 PM - by Michael
Secrets of the Ark ships
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The Adventure Company have sent us word that their next title, Secrets of the Ark, is shipping out. Enjoy the screenshots, too!
After reluctantly battling dragons, Mayan gods and becoming a Knight of a long lost Holy Order, unwitting hero George Stobbart settles down to the life of a mundane 9 to 5 desk job. Who would have thought that a mysterious and beautiful woman would enter his life; a woman whose sudden disappearance draws him into a desperate search for a nefarious artifact of great and terrible power known as ?The Angel of Death? ? its primitive blueprints hidden inside the Ark of the Covenant.

Moses was the last to unleash this deadly weapon on the ancient Egyptians during the Exodus with terrifying effect ? it was the most horrific of the Great Plagues. Uncannily, it seemed to be able to kill selectively, leaving the Israelites unharmed. Later, when the Ark was stolen from the Israelites, the killing recommenced and continued until the Ark, along with the secrets of Moses? awesome weapon, was lost? Features

*Built upon an entirely new engine, Secrets of the Ark promises a greater level of detail and realism to characters and game world *Cutting-edge proprietary Virtual Actor System enables the player to read character emotions and develop close relationships with the heroes and diverse cast of characters *Hollywood style globe-trotting featuring extremely rich and varied environments from around the world for players to explore *Challenging but logical puzzles *Intriguing and gripping story based on a mixture of fact, fiction and conspiracy theory *Authentic ancient artifacts and historical references blur the boundary between fact and fiction

As the fourth installment of the Broken Sword franchise, ?Broken Sword: The Angel of Death? has been renamed to better appeal to the North American adventure gaming market, and to reflect the mystery at the heart of the adventure ? the Ark of the Covenant. Developed by Revolution Software and Sumo Digital, Secrets of the Ark is rated ?T? for Teen by the ESRB.

 

 Feb 13, 2007 - 09:26 AM - by Michael
Vista not playing nice
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Vista's causing pains for FPS Gamers:

"Formatted PC, installed Vista, updated any drivers possible. Now half [of my] games will not run, or run with corrupt graphics," lamented one poster on Jan. 31 in a discussion forum at graphics chipmaker Nvidia Corp.?s Web site.

"You installed Vista. You deserve your problems. Heh," replied a second poster.

Most of the problems have been found in popular first-person shooter games such as CounterStrike, Half-Life 2, Doom 3 and F.E.A.R.
As with any new Microsoft OS... don't even think of installing it until a year after release, so that the driver problems get worked out.
 

 Feb 12, 2007 - 09:12 AM - by Michael
Teraflop processors?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Intel's apparently managed to get Teraflop performance out of one of their cores:
At 0.95 volts and 3.16 GHz - the clock speed that was indicated at the fall developer forum - the processor provides a data bandwidth of 1.62 Tb/s and a floating point performance of 1.01 TFlops, according to Intel. About ten years ago, Intel needed more than 10,000 Pentium Pro processors to achieve a similar performance. Even more impressive than the chip's speed is its power consumption: At 3.16 GHz, the CPU consumes 62 watts, which is less than the firm's current Core 2 Duo desktop processors and about half of the firm's 2.66 GHz quad-core Xeon X5355 processors (which are believed to provide a floating point performance of about 50-60 GFlops).
The glitch: you have to specially code to make use of an 80-core chip. Plus, it's just a "research" chip, and won't be on the market any time soon.
 

 Feb 06, 2007 - 09:33 AM - by Michael
Will Vista run your games?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft ExtremeTech take a good look at whether Vista will run the games of this year, last year, or two years ago. The answer? Maybe.

I wouldn't upgrade to Vista yet, if you're a gamer. DirectX 10 isn't worth it, and you're going to want to wait 6 months for the drivers alone to come together.
 

 Feb 05, 2007 - 10:01 AM - by Michael
Office hit with 0-day exploits
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft ZDNet has the usual: Office 2007's out, and there are a number of 0-day security exploits being used to attack Windows systems.

Surprisingly, however, Office 2007 is unaffected; these bugs are in the older versions of Office.

Confirmed vulnerable: Microsoft Office 2000, Microsoft Office XP, Microsoft Office 2003, Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac, and Microsoft Office 2004 v. X for Mac.

The vulnerability cannot be exploited on Office 2007 or on Works 2004, 2005, or 2006.

This is the fourth known zero-day attack against the ever-present Microsoft Office suite since early December 2006. The three previous attacks, all aimed directly at specific targets, used rigged Microsoft Word .doc files.
 

 Feb 02, 2007 - 12:34 PM - by Michael
Dell sued over Intel exclusivity
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Reuters has word that Dell's being being sued for collusion with Intel to keep processor prices up..

It seems Dell's account books are hiding something, possibly cash bribes from Intel made to keep them from offering AMD-based PC's.

The lawsuit accuses Dell of artificially inflating profits "by secretly receiving approximately $250 million a quarter in likely illegal rebate kickbacks payments" from Intel in return for an exclusive deal to purchase Intel's microprocessors, class-action lawyer William Lerach told Reuters.

The plaintiffs also contend that the company and its executives participated in a "widespread, long-running scheme to defraud" shareholders and inflate Dell's stock price, said Lerach, head of law firm Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins LLP in San Diego.
Painful for Dell...
 

 Jan 31, 2007 - 03:00 PM - by Michael
Linden Labs Approves Parody
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Good to see a company with a sense of humor - Linden Labs have sent a "proceed and permit" letter to GetAFirstLife.com, recognizing it as a parody and promising no lawyers or lawsuits, ever.
Moreover, Linden Lab objects to any implication that it would employ lawyers incapable of distinguishing such obvious parody. Indeed, any competent attorney is well aware that the outcome of sending a cease-and-desist letter regarding a parody is only to draw more attention to such parody, and to invite public scorn and ridicule of the humor-impaired legal counsel. Linden Lab is well-known for having strict hiring standards, including a requirement for having a sense of humor, from which our lawyers receive no exception. In conclusion, your invitation to submit a cease-and-desist letter is hereby rejected.
 

 Jan 24, 2007 - 09:52 AM - by Michael
Sacred Rings Screens
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The Adventure Company have sent us some screenshots of their next title, The Sacred Rings. Enjoy!
 

 Jan 21, 2007 - 10:34 PM - by Michael
Spam worse than ever?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft MSNBC's got an article saying that Spam is worse than ever.

I can't argue. We had a quiet time over summer, but since the fall began, I've seen spam volumes at work rise by a factor of at least 20.

Worse yet is that they're starting to evade even the "learning" spam filters again.

The tactics are working. There are 62 billion spam messages sent every day, IronPort says, up from 31 billion last year. Now, spam accounts for three of every four e-mails sent, according to another anti-spam firm, MessageLabs.

Image spam is a big part of the resurgence of unwanted e-mail. By using pictures instead of words in their messages, spammers are able to evade filters designed to detect traditional text-based ads. New computer viruses have contributed to the uptick, also, particularly a surprisingly prolific Trojan horse program called "SpamThru" that turns home computers into spam-churning "bots."
 

 Jan 20, 2007 - 08:04 PM - by Michael
Star Trek: Legacy
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft You may remember, originally I was very upbeat concerning Bethesda's PC/Xbox360 title, Star Trek: Legacy.

After playing it for some time now, I can't even dignify it with a review. I feel that 1/2 star of 5 is too good of a ranking for this game.

What's wrong with it? I'll admit there are good points. The voice acting and name actors are strong. The graphics, except for when they're running a cutscene while still loading the light maps and bump maps (bad developer! no cookie!) on the Xbox360, are great.

What's wrong is: everything else.

The ability to customize ships, advertised until the last minute, was cut. This, alone, I could overlook.

The fact that newcomers will buy the toughest ships, and only then find out that they have no command points for the next segment? Inexcusable.

The fact that so much storyline is cut that we have no idea how half the captains even are involved in the story? Also inexcusable.

But worst of all is the fact that the AI is permanently set on moron. They don't follow orders. They constantly have to be reminded. Set one ship to "run away" and "repair itself", start commanding the rest of your fleet, and before you know it your ship that you set to run away will have come back and gotten itself blown up, all because the AI is too stupid to do what you explicitly told it to do.

There are some good missions in this game. There are some missions that are merely winnable. There are a couple missions that can be played, if you ignore the computer's "helpful hints" and go for the objectives your own way.

But save yourself the aggravation, and skip the game entirely.
 

 Jan 18, 2007 - 02:15 PM - by Michael
Free games!
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft 1up's got a list of 101 free PC titles that you might actually want to play.

A few of them are classics, too, like Star Control II.
 

 Jan 18, 2007 - 08:58 AM - by Michael
MS violates settlement?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Groklaw says that Microsoft may have violated their antitrust settlement:

Plaintiffs in the current Iowa antitrust trial against Microsoft told the court yesterday that it is in possession of certain materials, obtained in part in discovery in that case, that they believe is evidence of Microsoft failing to disclose APIs (application programming interfaces) to competitors in violation of the 2002 Final Judgment [PDF] in United States v. Microsoft.

Because there is a protective order in this case, in order to inform the Department of Justice about the evidence, they needed to bring a motion to get the court's permission to let the authorities know about Microsoft?s alleged failure to comply fully. The court granted [PDF] the Plaintiffs' motion, which by my reading gives the Plaintiffs' attorneys and expert witnesses, like Ronald Alepin, the right to inform the Department of Justice that it has certain materials that may be relevant regarding Microsoft non-compliance. If the Department of Justice then requests the information or subpoenas it, they are now free to reveal all such information.
 

 Jan 09, 2007 - 09:59 AM - by Michael
Solid Cap Motherboards
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Gigabyte's trying something new - motherboards that use only solid capacitors.

While both capacitors store and discharge electricity when needed, solid capacitors contain a "solid" organic polymer as opposed to the liquid electrolyte used in electrolytic capacitors.

In terms of performance, solid capacitors generally last longer than electrolytic ones, especially at lower working temperatures. At 65 degrees Celsius, for instance, the average lifespan for a solid capacitor is more than six times greater than an electrolytic capacitor.

Solid capacitors also last longer with an average lifetime of 23 years compared to only three for electrolytic capacitors, according to Gigabyte.
 

 Jan 08, 2007 - 09:36 AM - by Michael
Tech winners and losers
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft IEEE Spectrum offers us their idea of the good, bad, and worse in 2006 technology.

Hooray for the omnivorous engine - keeping in mind of course, that (as Mythbusters showed) an internal combustion engine will "run", though perhaps not particularly well without some tuning, on just about any explosive air/fuel mixture including straight Hydrogen gas. Now if only we could get conversion kits in the US.
 

 Dec 18, 2006 - 09:24 AM - by Michael
SiN Episodes dead
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Kotaku says SiN Episodes has gone belly-up because most of the programmers left for greener pastures.

So much for that.
 

 Dec 13, 2006 - 11:54 AM - by Michael
Wrong.
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Just... very, very wrong.
 

 Dec 12, 2006 - 11:40 AM - by Michael
Please say it's not so
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Bethesda's forums came back today, and it turns out that Star Trek: Legacy saw a ton of its storyline cut:

Actually, with as much as we wrote on this, and the backstory that was created...we would love to have novelized it. Now that the game is out, perhaps we can see about getting out more of the intended elements of what the story was supposed to be like. I started a thread in the spoilers section regarding questions on the storyline and such so I could help fill in the gaps that were left out so that the overall framework makes sense. I'll be responding to questions there so as not to spoil anything for anyone who doesn't want to know until after playing the game. I think the community deserves to hear the details on the story...so if you guys want to post some questions in that thread, I will be more than happy to answer them.
Ouch... that's just painful. I'm tempted to switch to buying the PC version in hopes of a KOTOR2/V:TES Bloodlines-style repair patch from the community.

The official complaint thread doesn't look good either:

Also what happened to the promised customizable ships, crew and captains? This was promised as late as the day it came out until it was removed from the Bethsoft website. That was a big draw that was thrown out.
 

 Dec 12, 2006 - 11:28 AM - by Michael
Is your firewall leaky?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Might want to be cautious about software firewalls; Matousec did some testing, and they leak like sieves.

Another important result of our tests is firewall scoring against FPR. FPR stands for Fake Protection Revealer. This leak-test was implemented to reveal cheating on leak-tests. Outpost Firewall PRO 4.0 (971.584.079) was convicted of such cheating. It passes all leak-tests except FPR because of the implementation of user mode hooks (ring3) for security purposes. Our article Design of ideal personal firewall clearly says that ring3 hooks can not be used for security critical features. FPR does nothing but unhooks ring3 hooks which is always possible and thus bypasses such protection. This means that Outpost Firewall PRO cheats to be very strong against leak-tests but in fact it is very weak against real malware. The vendor of Outpost claims that Outpost is strong against the malware on this field but the reality is quite different. Other firewalls that use ring3 hooks improperly are Sunbelt Kerio Personal Firewall 4.3.268 and Look 'n' Stop 2.05p2. However, their hooks did not affect their test results that much. And unlike Outpost, their hooks were not implemented to mislead the end-users.
 

 Nov 14, 2006 - 02:10 PM - by Michael
Lamest consoles ever?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Gamedaily looks into the past, with new consoles about to arrive, and pontificates on the lamest consoles ever:

Many would rightly argue that Sega's 1995 foray into 32-bit gaming played host to several classic outings like NiGHTS and Panzer Dragoon. But from the perspective of sales performance/general popularity, Saturn stunk harder than Sonic the Hedgehog's presumably gold ring-scented droppings. First, it's revealed at annual May biz convention E3 that the unit shipped early, irking journalists and retailers (who'd received no earlier warning) that expected machines a full six months later. (The latter of whom responded by refusing to stock it...) Worse, the system promoted 2-D graphics when 3-D was the first PlayStation's biggest feature, leaving its days ironically numbered.
 

 Nov 13, 2006 - 09:40 AM - by Michael
Guitar Shirt that Plays
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft SMH Australia spotlight a <a href=http://www.smh.com.au/news/technology/air-guitar-down-to-a-t-shirt/2006/11/13/1163266457568.html">shirt that lets you play air guitar and actually hear the notes.

"The left arm chooses a note and the right arm plays it," said Richard Helmer, a CSIRO chemical engineer who led the project. The arrangement can be reversed for left-handed musicians.

"You can play with yours hands above your head," said Dr Helmer. "You can turn around and jump. Whatever you like."
Coming Soon: Air Guitar Hero for the PS3. Maybe.
 

 Nov 10, 2006 - 02:26 PM - by Michael
But will Vista work?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Ars Technica took Vista, loaded it onto a couple older machines, and tried to see what happened.

The result? Not encouraging in any case.

They also tried some applications, with the standard result of "doesn't work."

Short version of the basics? Same as any Microsoft OS. Wait until it's been out at least a year (and a service pack) before upgrading to it, and then if possible, do a clean install instead of an in-place upgrade.
 

 Nov 08, 2006 - 04:25 PM - by Michael
DirectX 10 cards hit market
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Expensive, but if you have to have them, BFG Tech have announced the "world's first" DirectX 10 graphics cards (other cards based on the chipset should be out from other vendors soon). $699 for the 768 MB and $499 for the 640 MB versions.



Lake Forest, IL ? ( November 8, 2006 )? BFG Technologies?, Inc., the leading North American and European NVIDIA supplier of advanced 3D graphics cards, motherboards, power supplies and other PC enthusiast products, announced today the BFG NVIDIA? GeForce? 8800 GTX 768MB PCI Express? and BFG NVIDIA? GeForce? 8800 GTS 640MB PCI Express? graphics cards, the first with Microsoft? DirectX? 10 support.

?PC enthusiasts looking for the next level of reality in gaming will be amazed at the performance of the new BFG NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX and BFG NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS graphics cards with HDR lighting effects and full-scene anti-aliasing? said Scott Herkelman, EVP of marketing at BFG Technologies. ?With full support for DirectX 10, these cards are ready for the next generation games while making easy work of today?s top titles.?

Next Generation Features Today

BFG Technologies is world-renowned for innovating free, 24 hour expert technical support and the True Lifetime graphics card warranty, which have been in effect since the company?s inception. Their OC? line of graphics cards are built using some of the best components and manufacturing processes, and are ?overclocked-out-of-the-box?, giving end users an extra boost in performance at no extra cost. Many of the company?s employees are gamers and PC enthusiasts, which allows them to create and support graphics cards for an end user community that they understand extremely well. This focus on building quality graphics cards with value-added services to both end users and retail customers has won the company not only market share leadership, but a series of awards and accolades from industry experts.

Features include:

* Full Microsoft DirectX 10 Support: World?s first DirectX 10 GPU with full Shader Model 4.0 support delivers unparalleled levels of graphics realism and film-quality effects.
* Built for Microsoft? Windows Vista?: NVIDIA?s fourth-generation GPU architecture built for Windows Vista gives users the best possible experience with the Windows Aero 3D graphical user interface.
* NVIDIA Unified Architecture: Fully unified shader core dynamically allocates processing power to geometry, vertex, physics, or pixel shading operations, delivering up to 2x the gaming performance of prior generation GPUs.
* OpenGL? 2.0 Optimizations and Support: Ensures top-notch compatibility and performance for OpenGL applications.
* NVIDIA Lumenex? Engine: Delivers stunning image quality and floating point accuracy at ultra-fast frame rates.
* NVIDIA PureVideo? Technology: The combination of high-definition video decode acceleration and post-processing that delivers unprecedented picture clarity, smooth video, accurate color, and precise image scaling for movies and video.
* NVIDIA Quantum Effects? Technology: Advanced shader processors architected for physics computation enable a new level of physics effects to be simulated and rendered on the GPU ? all while freeing the CPU to run the game engine and AI.
* NVIDIA nView Multi-Display Technology: Advanced technology provides the ultimate viewing flexibility and control for multiple monitors.
* NVIDIA ForceWare Unified Driver Architecture (UDA): Delivers a proven record of compatibility, reliability, and stability with the widest range of games and applications.

The BFG NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB and BFG NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB retail for $699USD and $499USD respectively and are available today at leading etailers and retail outlets throughout North America and Europe.
 

 Nov 08, 2006 - 10:12 AM - by Michael
Dell UK pays Windows refund
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft It's possibly a first - Dell in the UK have refunded a Linux user for the copy of Windows XP they never used.

The language in the version that Mitchell received was slightly different. It read, "If you do not agree to the terms of this EULA, you may not use or copy the software, and should promptly contact manufacturer for instructions on return of the unused product(s) for a refund in accordance with manufacturer's return policies."

Mitchell ordered his Dell laptop on Oct. 21, and it arrived on Oct. 27. He sent a postal letter requesting a refund to Dell's Bracknell, UK office on Nov. 1, received a phone call two days later, and his refund today, he says.
 

 Nov 07, 2006 - 05:22 PM - by Michael
How heat pipes work
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft OC Modshop have a nice primer for those who wonder how the latest heatsink tech works: the Heat Pipe explained.

When heated above a certain temperature, all of the working fluid in the heat pipe will vaporize and the condensation process will cease to occur; in such conditions, the heat pipe's thermal conductivity is reduced to the heat conduction properties of its solid metal casing alone. As most heat pipes are constructed of copper, an overheated heatpipe will generally continue to conduct heat at only around 1/80th of their original conductivity.
 

 Nov 01, 2006 - 11:39 AM - by Michael
RAID performance analyzed
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft HardwareSecrets have posted an interesting analysis on what performance gains a RAID stripe array might give:

How this disk performance increase reflects on overall system performance? It will depend on the kind of application you run: programs that make a lot of disk access will be the ones most benefited, of course. On PCMark05 this increase was between 4.44% and 8.82%, while on SYSmark2004 the best result was on Communication batch, where we saw a 15.25% performance increase. On this same program, Office Productivity performance was increased up to 6.52%, while we saw a performance increase up to 8.52% on 2D Creation batch.
Now, when arranging these, be careful; RAID 0 setups have been known to be more vulnerable to data (or worse yet, full drive) failures and a simple RAID 0 array is not a good candidate for your boot drive because of it.
 

 Oct 31, 2006 - 04:15 PM - by Michael
Adventure Company ships Tunguska
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The Adventure Company have shipped out another one - The Secret Files: Tunguska.

Toronto, October 31, 2006 - Reveal fascinating conspiracy theories behind the true historical Tunguska phenomenon that occurred in 1908. As Nina, an adventurer in search of her missing father, uncover many independent theories and try to explain this event that remains a mystery to this day?

Before his disappearance, Nina?s father was involved in a research expedition to Siberia in an attempt to reveal the cause of the mysterious Tunguska catastrophe of 1908. Nina soon discovers that powerful adversaries are interested in her father's findings which are veiled in a shroud of secrecy.

Help determine the cause of the event ? was it an asteroid or a comet or a meteorite as many theories suggest? Why were there no signs of a crater left behind? Is the idea of a real ?doomsday? that remote for the human race?

With its widescreen perspective and cinematic storytelling, The Secret Files: Tunguska plays out like a mystery movie. Explore some of the most fascinating corners of the world: Berlin, Moscow, Cuba, China, and the Antarctic, as you uncover the secrets of the historical explosion in Russia during the early 20th century.
 

 Oct 30, 2006 - 10:45 AM - by Michael
Blizzard's trinket fiasco
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft GWN point out precisely how much those "nifty" game items from the World of Warcraft card game will cost you.

This means that in order to get these trinkets, one would have to purchase 9 BOXES of cards for the fireworks and 21 BOXES of cards for the ogre. What does this mean? Want a fireworks trinket? Sure, it is only going to cost you $900.00. Want an Ogre trinket? No problem, it is only going to cost you $2,100.00. Bear in mind that these items are purely for show off purposes and give no in-game advantage to players.


You know, with that kind of money, I could buy the game and a 5-year subscription, and have money left over for an Xbox360...
 

 Oct 18, 2006 - 11:00 AM - by Michael
DVDs and a dongle?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Ugly, pointless, and really bad: a DVD that requires a USB dongle to get access to the data.

But why bother inserting a chip into a DVD or CD in the first place? Aladdin thinks it could provide a clever way to digitally lock content sold on optical discs. Music, video or data can be stored optically and read by computer's CD or DVD player, while encryption keys can be stored on the embedded chip and read by USB. The encryption keys could be used to lock information so that it can only be played having plugged the original disc in to the USB.
Time until someone cracks the system and rips the coding keys off the chip, or writes a program to do it? A couple of days. Maybe.
 

 Oct 17, 2006 - 09:48 AM - by Michael
Neverwinter 2 Gold!
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Word in from Atari: Neverwinter Nights 2 has Gone Gold!

NEW YORK, October 17, 2006 - Atari, Inc (Nasdaq: ATAR) and Obsidian Entertainment
today announced that the highly-anticipated Neverwinter Nights 2 has gone gold
and is on schedule to ship to stores nationwide on October 31 in North America
and on November 3 in Europe. Neverwinter Nights 2, the sequel to BioWare Corp.'s
best-selling and genre-defining role-playing game, is set in the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS
Forgotten Realms universe created by Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro,
Inc. (NYSE: HAS), and will transport players back to the embattled city of Neverwinter.
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is under license from the Hasbro Properties Group, the intellectual
property development arm of Hasbro. Neverwinter Nights 2 will be released for
the Windows platform.


Developed by Obsidian Entertainment, Neverwinter Nights 2 features a new, extensive
single-player game with deep character development and a powerful new toolset
that provides players with unprecedented ability to create their own universes,
quests and storylines


"Neverwinter Nights 2 has been an incredible game to produce, as we have aimed
from the beginning to develop an immersive gaming experience that will satisfy
both the RPG and modding communities," said Feargus Urquhart, Obsidian Entertainment's
CEO. "Now that Neverwinter Nights 2 has gone gold, we are proud to say we are
delivering a game that should exceed fans' expectations."


The Neverwinter Nights franchise has sold more than two million copies worldwide,
is translated into 10 languages, sold in more than 40 countries and features
one of the largest and most active fan communities in all of gaming. To date,
fans of the franchise, which includes Neverwinter Nights, Neverwinter Nights:
Shadows of Undrentide and Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark, have created
nearly 4,000 modifications to the original game using the original, award-winning
Aurora Toolset. A more robust toolset will be included with the release of Neverwinter
Nights 2.


More information about Neverwinter Nights 2 can be found at www.nwn2.com, which
includes user forums, project news, development updates and more.

 

 Oct 07, 2006 - 08:30 AM - by Michael
A bleeping reformat
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft My audio died - the behavior I'm seeing has error reports on various forums going back at least a year and a half, but no patch or repair method from Microsoft was available.

So... reformat time.

Things may be delayed as I get everything reinstalled, it's a pain to do.
 

 Sep 20, 2006 - 05:51 PM - by Michael
USB Batteries?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Trusted Reviews have a look at something very odd: USB batteries.

They say that 1300 mAH is "in line" with ni-cad and alkaline batteries: I say they're wrong, unless they're scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Do yourself a favor. If you need rechargeable batteries, just buy a set of sturdy ni-cads and a charger.
 

 Sep 13, 2006 - 01:41 PM - by Michael
Neverwinter Nights 2 gets preorder
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Atari's kicking out a preorder bundle "limited edition" version for Neverwinter Nights 2, due in October:

NEW YORK, Sept. 13, 2006 - Atari, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATAR), one of the world's most
recognized brands and leading third-party video game publisher, today announced
the special limited edition version of the highly-anticipated Neverwinter Nights
2. In development by Obsidian Entertainment, Neverwinter Nights 2 is set in
the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Forgotten Realms universe created by Wizards of the Coast,
a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. (NYSE: HAS), and will transport players back to
the embattled city of Neverwinter. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is under license from
the Hasbro Properties Group, the intellectual property development arm of Hasbro.
Neverwinter Nights 2 Limited Edition, which includes various collectible items
that further transport gamers into the Forgotten Realms universe, is available
for pre-order at participating retail stores nationwide.

Neverwinter Nights 2 Limited Edition includes a robust array of detailed collectibles
such as:
-A powerful new feat called Blessed of Waukeen will grant a bonus to all saving
throws, two special items, access to a unique weapon, and a magical golden aura
that surrounds players' characters
-Detailed cloth map showing in-game locations
-Book of art, depicting characters and scenes from the game
-Two silver antique rings: Good & Evil
 

 Sep 05, 2006 - 12:38 PM - by Michael
Bestselling games since 2000
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Next Gen looks at the 100 best selling PC games of the new century so far. Interesting bits on there.

Note that they did it by unit sales, not dollar sales, to give equal chance to value titles. And a few got up there in the list, too.

The Sims at #1, no surprise. Frogger at 27? Surprising.
 

 Aug 28, 2006 - 11:13 AM - by Michael
DRM in Windows Media beaten again
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 Aug 21, 2006 - 10:24 AM - by Michael
Fun with Mechs
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Videogame Blogger has word that you can get all three Mechcommander games for free right now.

No word on how long it'll last, but hey! Free games are good. MechCommander 2 was a pretty good title, and user-created scenario runs made it even more fun.
 

 Aug 18, 2006 - 10:16 AM - by Michael
Dell breaks Intel monopoly?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft In hardware, Dell's let slip: no longer just an Intel shop.

That's right - you can soon expect consumer-level PC's from Dell that have AMD processors.

The Dell-AMD deal may be a blow to Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel, which is hamstrung by a glut of PC chips and weaker sales. The world's largest chipmaker has been cutting prices on its PC chips to rid itself of excess inventory.
Before the announcement, which had been speculated in the financial community and the press, Morgan Stanley analyst Mark Edelstone wrote in a research note: "It should have a negative impact on Intel and it could be a large offset to the expected benefits from Intel's restructuring efforts."
AMD, which has become a more formidable competitor to Intel, has been expanding its manufacturing capacity, a sign that it expects to be shipping more chips. Its chief goal is to put itself in position to supply 33% of the global microprocessor market by 2008.
 

 Aug 03, 2006 - 09:00 AM - by Michael
Rambus an illegal monopoly
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft After years of legal battles, the FTC has ruled definitively today: Rambus is an illegal monopoly.

The ruling stems from Rambus's deceptive conduct that got their patents included in the current RIMM and DDR SDRAM memory standards.

?Rambus withheld information that would have been highly material to the standard-setting process within JEDEC,? the opinion continues. ?JEDEC expressly sought information about patents to enable its members to make informed decisions about which technologies to adopt, and JEDEC members viewed early knowledge of potential patent consequences as vital for avoiding patent hold-up. Rambus understood that knowledge of its evolving patent position would be material to JEDEC?s choices, and avoided disclosure for that very reason.?

?Through its successful strategy, Rambus was able to conceal its patents and patent applications until after the standards were adopted and the market was locked in,? states the opinion. ?Only then did Rambus reveal its patents ? through patent infringement lawsuits against JEDEC members who practiced the standard.?
Hopefully, this might bring RAM prices down a bit more as companies stop having to pay royalties to Rambus.
 

 Jul 21, 2006 - 11:29 AM - by Michael
Microsoft advocate bitten by WGA
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Microsoft, could you NOW please cut this nonsense out?

Paul Thurrott - one of the 'net's better known Windows advocates - has been bitten by WGA, which is messing up his PC by assuming his copy of Windows XP is pirated.



Truthfully, I can only imagine what triggered these alerts. The software was installed to a VM a long time ago and archived on my server. I no doubt used a copy of XP MCE 2005 that I had received as part of my MSDN subscription. If the WGA alerts are to be believed, it's possible that Microsoft thinks I've installed this software on too many machines, though that seems unlikely to me. I can't really say.

Anyway, that's what it looks like to be a suspected pirate. Like many people who will see these alerts, I don't believe I did anything wrong. I'm sure that's going to be a common refrain in this new era of untrusting software and companies. Ah well.
Congratulations, Microsoft. Keep it up and I'm sure you'll start driving people to Linux out of disgust.
 

 Jul 19, 2006 - 05:26 PM - by Michael
Portal
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft You just have to watch this.

Trust me.
 

 Jul 12, 2006 - 01:00 PM - by Michael
MS gets $280M Fine
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Microsoft's gotten a large fine from the European Commission for not following the rules:

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said she had "no alternative but to levy penalty payments" against Microsoft, adding that "no company is above the law".

"I regret that, more than two years after the decision... Microsoft has still not put an end to its illegal conduct," Ms Kroes said.
The behavior in question: failing to give rival companies proper access to make products for Windows, and failure to debundle Windows Media Player.
 

 Jun 30, 2006 - 09:35 AM - by Michael
MS sued over WGA
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Is WGA "spyware"? Depending on your definition, sure. And now MS is being sued over it.

The suit by Los Angeles resident Brian Johnson, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Seattle, seeks class-action status for claims that Microsoft didn't adequately disclose details of the tool when it was delivered to PC users through the company's Automatic Update system.

Windows Genuine Advantage is designed to check the validity of a computer user's copy of the operating system. But the tool became a subject of heightened controversy earlier this month, after PC users began noticing that it was making daily contact with Microsoft's servers without their knowledge, even if their software was valid.
There's some more info on Groklaw including minor legal analysis.

21. However, WGA can malfunction and mistakenly identify a licensed Windows XP copy as unlicensed when, for example, a user transfers his legitimate Windows XP copy to another system with different hardware or significantly changes the hardware on the original system (e.g. installs a new hard drive). In this way, WGA impinges on users' fair use rights under 17 U.S.C. Section 117(a)(2) to use legally space-shifted Windows XP copies

The best outcome, of course, would be to see WGA disappear entirely. I've run into this nonsense three times now when trying to rebuild my system doing a motherboard/processor upgrade.
 

 May 23, 2006 - 12:23 AM - by Michael
Hitman demo available
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Got a PC and want some Hitman action? Eidos have kicked up their demo of Hitman: Blood Money.

This demo lets you play the first mission of Hitman: Blood Money, teaching you the basics of what it takes to enter the world of high-stakes contract killing. Your mission is to eliminate the man known as ?The Swing King,? who has been located at an old broken down amusement park now functioning as a drug lab. Though your objective is clear, it is up to you to determine the best way to perform the execution.

The latest installment of the popular Hitman franchise, Hitman: Blood Money, features enhanced artificial intelligence, a massive arsenal of upgradeable weaponry, as well as the new Blood Money system which allows characters in future missions to react to Agent 47 based upon how much his presence was noticed in the past. Hitman: Blood Money is set to ship May 30th, but you don?t have to wait to find out if you have what it takes to control the world?s deadliest assassin... download the demo now at www.hbmdemo.com and prepare to make a killing!
Have fun with it, folks.
 

 May 18, 2006 - 12:02 PM - by Michael
Suing over fake land
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Wired looks at the first virtual-property lawsuit in America, launched when Second Life cut off someone's account.

Bragg v. Linden Research, a civil complaint filed May 1 in West Chester's local district court, charges that Linden Lab "breached an auction contract by allowing the land to auction, accepting online payment, and then suspending plaintiff's account."

...

Bragg says Linden Lab created the online auction pages that allowed him to buy land at the abnormally low prices, and that any responsibility for problems with the system rests with the company. But the hacker-like method he used to exploit the auction system may hurt his case. Bragg copied the URL for a legitimate auction, then swapped in the ID number for land not yet up for sale publicly, so there would be no minimum bid and few, if any, competing bidders.
 

 May 15, 2006 - 12:28 PM - by Michael
Carmack explains megatextures
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft From the programming guru himself: how megatextures work.

My core comment here is that any repeating use of a texture is just very specialized data compression. Any time you have one set of texture data, and it?s present in more than one place on the screen, it?s really an approximation to what an ideal infinite resource video game would provide. Because in the real world, there aren?t any repeats?even things that look like they repeat, like bricks or dry wall, are uniquely different. The subtle differences that you get are the things that distinguish a rendering, especially a game rendering, from something that?s very realistic.
 

 May 04, 2006 - 09:59 AM - by Michael
Bethesda: ESRB screwed up
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Bethesda Software have responded to the ESRB's faulty re-rating of Oblivion:

There is no nudity in Oblivion without a third party modification. In the PC version of the game only - this doesn't apply to the Xbox 360 version - some modders have used a third party tool to hack into and modify an art archive file to make it possible to create a mesh for a partially nude (topless) female that they add into the game. Bethesda didn't create a game with nudity and does not intend that nudity appear in Oblivion. There is no nude female character in a section of the game that can be "unlocked." Bethesda can not control tampering with Oblivion by third parties. Bethesda is taking steps to ensure that modders can not continue to hack into Oblivion's art archives to create partially nude figures.
 

 May 03, 2006 - 11:43 AM - by Michael
On DirectX 10
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Hardocp get ATI's take on the benefits of DirectX 10.

Keep in mind that DX 9's been around for some time now.

One of the biggest limitations is API object overhead. In fact game content developers are currently being bottlenecked by this overhead. Out of all the improvements that could be pushed into DirectX 10, the issue at the top of the list for most game developers was to lessen API object overhead.

What we mean by API object overhead is that the API is using CPU cycles to achieve tasks necessary for rendering before being output to the video card for drawing. When rendering a game, the application first has to call to the API and then the API calls to the driver before it ever interacts with your video card?s GPU. These calls are all handled by the CPU, using valuable resources and creating a potential bottleneck.
 

 Apr 26, 2006 - 11:43 AM - by Michael
Windows Genuine Nagware
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft As of the latest update, Windows will now drop a popup window on you every few minutes if they "think" your copy of Windows isn't licensed.

The windows will also kill your ability to get needed security updates.

The Inquirer has more:

Microsoft says that every time a notification is displayed, the user will receive detailed information about the specific validation failure. The information includes steps that can be taken to resolve the problem.

These don't seem to include, "try Linux instead".
 

 Apr 24, 2006 - 10:00 AM - by Michael
Reprogrammable co-processor for Opteron
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft A small start-up has a nifty idea to get more bang for the buck from Opteron processors:

The tiny DRC works out of a no frills Santa Clara office, producing technology that has the potential to give servers based on AMD's Opteron chip a real edge over competing Xeon-based boxes. DRC has developed a type of reprogrammable co-processor that can slot straight into Opteron sockets. Customers can then offload a wide variety of software jobs to the co-processor running in a standard server, instead of buying unique, more expensive types of accelerators from third parties as they have in the past.
 

 Apr 18, 2006 - 09:51 PM - by Michael
Reverse Multithreading
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft An interesting concept from AMD - reverse multithreading, designed to let single-processor programs take advantage of multiple processor power:

Of course, better out-of-order execution techniques render HyperThreading - Intel's version of the simultaneous multi-threading (SMT) technique - less important. Put simply, they ensure there are fewer parts of the pipeline going unused at any given time, so there's less performance to be gained by throwing extra threads at the processor. Indeed, Intel's briefings on its next-generation architecture, due to debut in Q3 as the 'Conroe' chip, play down HyperThreading and talk up out-of-order execution.

But Conroe, so far as Intel is admitting, still appears as two CPUs to the host OS. So is there anything to be gained by making it appear as just one processor? Well, operating systems already do a good job of scheduling hundreds of threads on a single-core CPU let alone a dual- or quad-core part, and AMD may have found that OS is so good at this that it can make up for the apparent reduction in parallelism, particularly in cases where one thread predominates, in a game, for instance.
Still in the concept stages, but definitely worth a look.
 

 Apr 13, 2006 - 03:53 PM - by Michael
Wiping out gold farmers, phase 2
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft PC Gamer writer Gary Whitta wants to see a bold step: get the community to shun not only gold farmers, but those who buy from them.

... I propose this as an unofficial second phase of the Vede Vendetta: Let?s start outing the players who use farmers? services. If you know of someone who paid money to shortcut their way to max. level, expose them in the online community. Once it becomes known that people who engage in these sleazy practices will be considered virtual lepers, maybe the stigma created will be enough to disincentivize the use of these ?services? and really start making those who provide them feel the pinch.
And if enough did it, it just might start to help.
 

 Apr 13, 2006 - 10:03 AM - by Michael
Vista to phone home
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Bad news for pirates, and maybe for legitimate users who just fall under glitches: Windows Vista will phone home before you get to see the flashy side of its interface.

But before Vista will display its showiest side, known as Aero, it will run a check to make sure the software was properly purchased.

"Those who are not running genuine Windows will not be able to take advantage of the Windows Aero user experience," a Microsoft representative told CNET News.com on Wednesday
 

 Apr 04, 2006 - 12:20 PM - by Michael
Infection Equals Reformat
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Eweek has some news from Microsoft, saying that recovering from virus/malware infections may be increasingly harder to do.

Where I work we have a standard "reformat on infection" policy for fear of undetected backdoors coming with your virus, and we're not the only business out there with such a policy.

He cited a recent instance where an unnamed branch of the U.S. government struggled with malware infestations on more than 2,000 client machines. "In that case, it was so severe that trying to recover was meaningless. They did not have an automated process to wipe and rebuild the systems, so it became a burden. They had to design a process real fast," Danseglio added.

Danseglio, who delivered two separate presentations at the conference?one on threats and countermeasures to defend against malware infestations in Windows, and the other on the frightening world on Windows rootkits?said anti-virus software is getting better at detecting and removing the latest threats, but for some sophisticated forms of malware, he conceded that the cleanup process is "just way too hard."
 

 Mar 29, 2006 - 02:53 PM - by Michael
Adventure Company ships Keepsake
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Adventure Company send word of another title shipping out - Keepsake.

Toronto, March 29, 2006 - The Adventure Company, a leading publisher of
PC adventure games, today announced that KEEPSAKE has been shipped to
retailers across North America. In the enhanced North American version,
players will be immersed in an enchanting world of mystery reminiscent
of King's Quest(r) and Syberia(r) with a touch of Harry Potter(r).

The adventure unfolds as you take on the role of Lydia, a young girl
headed to the gates of Dragonvale Academy to become an apprentice. The
Academy is an institution of magical research - a place where the arcane
arts are taught to a new generation of mages. Upon Lydia's arrival, she
discovers something is terribly amiss... She finds the keepsake she gave
her best friend Celeste, but Celeste and the other scholars are nowhere
to be found. In this world of mystery, beauty, and unparalleled
imagination you will explore and master the forces of magic to uncover
the secrets that lie beyond the gates of Dragonvale Academy. Challenge
yourself to solve the mystery behind the strange disappearances, the
beloved keepsake, and the treachery that lurk the halls of the
prestigious Academy.

Features:

* Deep and involving storyline where suspense and mystery await at every turn
* Navigate easily throughout the vast campus using the new in-game map
* Interact with an intriguing cast of characters with the addition of fine-tuned dialogue to minimize repetitive scripts
* New voiceovers have been added including: Mustavio, Celeste, young Celeste, Elvander, and Zak
* Explore stunning environments designed in intricate detail using dynamic lighting and shading
* Unique in-game 'Active Hint System' helps players progress further into the game without being stumped by difficult puzzles
* Easy to use interface that evolves as new feature becomes available
* Compelling 3rd person gameplay powered by a state-of-the-art graphic engine
* Learn to cast spells, understand the secrets of the runes and glyphs, and overcome daring trials designed to test your wits rather than your dexterity
* Enlarged 'hotspots' making navigation more fluid and intuitive
 

 Mar 29, 2006 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
Datacubes are coming
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft In the world of hardware, it looks like holographic storage has been achieved - half a terabyte per cubic inch for the start.

Densities in holography are achieved by different factors to magnetic storage. Density depends on the number of pixels/bits in a page of data, the number of pages stored in a particular volumetric location, the dynamic range of the recording material, the thickness of the material, and the wavelength of the recording laser.

In this demonstration there were over 1.3 million bits per data page, and 320 data pages spaced 0.067 degrees apart were stored in the same volume of material.
 

 Mar 28, 2006 - 10:39 PM - by Michael
Quake4 1.1 Patch Recalled
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Activision's just sent out notice that the recently released version 1.1 patch for Quake 4 has been recalled, due to an issue that could damage widescreen monitors.

If you've already installed the patch, take your game off widescreen mode.
 

 Mar 28, 2006 - 11:00 AM - by Michael
Windows slowed by legacy?
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The NY Times say that Windows is being slowed by being tied to legacy support.

Their arguments are valid, but their push for MS to adopt Apple's "who cares about legacy support" philosophy is misplaced. I'd be really pissed if any number of old programs ceased to work (and a good many already have, due to DirectX changes and other alterations).

Windows runs on 330 million personal computers worldwide. Three hundred PC manufacturers around the world install Windows on their machines; thousands of devices like printers, scanners and music players plug into Windows computers; and tens of thousands of third-party software applications run on Windows. And a crucial reason Microsoft holds more than 90 percent of the PC operating system market is that the company strains to make sure software and hardware that ran on previous versions of Windows will also work on the new one ? compatibility, in computing terms.
 

 Mar 22, 2006 - 11:25 PM - by Michael
Dell swallows Alienware
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft It's official.

Weep.

Prediction: quality at Alienware will suffer, and their great AMD-based systems will die due to Dell's backroom Intel-exclusivity deals.
 

 Mar 22, 2006 - 01:49 PM - by Michael
IE7 to decouple from Windows
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Microsoft might be learning their lesson on browsers - word on a Businessweek podcast is that Internet Explorer 7 will be decoupled from Windows Explorer and will make the changes even to Windows XP machines.
 

 Mar 15, 2006 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
WoW goes overboard on user
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Interesting stuff for you WoW players - user banned for using a programmable keyboard.

have already explained that the use of WINE might affect the software you use to detect third party programs. For example, applications run on WINE do not show any process lists because it isn't really Windows which is running underneath. Most likely all that would show is WOW.EXE in the procss list.

I have also apoligised in advance if using a programmable keyboard violates the TOS - but your TOS does not say anything about using such keyboards. Even manufacturers say that their keyboards are usable for World of Warcraft; see the Logitech page for their G15 keyboard for example ( http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/products/details/US/EN,CRID=2166,CONTENTID=10717 ). However, I have not even gotten an explanation for why I have been banned. All it says is "Witnessed and confirmed use of third party software".

If you are saying that playing World of Warcraft on Linux is using "third party software" and is illegal, then why isn't it in the TOS? And how can it be botting? Is the use of programmable keyboards botting? Is the repeated use of macro keys on a keyboard botting?
Apparently to Blizzard... everything is botting.
 

 Mar 15, 2006 - 11:00 AM - by Michael
Dell might buy Alienware
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft If it happens look out - I don't trust Dell as far as I could throw them, Alienware's great AMD-based products would be out the window.

But it could happen. Dell might, even as we speak, be buying Alienware.

An Alienware PR representative did not deny the claim but instead forwarded us a prewritten statement from the company that said: "At this time, Alienware will not comment on any speculative stories or rumors concerning Dell and Alienware's association. While we do believe that news stories like this are ultimately a strong positive reinforcement of the Alienware brand and the company's success, we will not comment on speculation or potential future events. As always, Alienware is committed to offering consumers and businesses with the best high-performance, innovative PC products on the market and we remain manically focused on that goal."
Whoops.
 

 Mar 13, 2006 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
Razer gets four Red Dots
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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Razer, the mouse people, walked away with no less than four red dot awards at this year's product design awards in Germany:

  • Razer Copperhead? 2000 dpi gaming laser mouse
  • Razer Tarantula? gaming keyboard

  • Razer Pro|Solutions? Pro|Click? v1.6 professional precision mouse?a 1600 dpi optical infrared mouse
  • Razer Pro|Solutions? Pro|Type? multimedia keyboard?the first to integrate an iPod dock onto the keyboard?s design for charging and synchronizing.

  • Congratulations, guys!
     

     Mar 13, 2006 - 10:00 AM - by Michael
    Everglide launches Big Mat and Power Mouse
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft In the world of mousing hardware, Everglide have decided to go big, launching a big mouse mat and a 1600-dpi gaming mouse:

    First the mat:

    Co-developed and endorsed by top professional gamer, Brian ?destrukt? Flander (also known as ?DKT?) the ultra-large Everglide Titan? MonsterMat? - DKT Edition improves any gamer?s speed and precision control.

    Defined and developed with avid gamers in mind, this ?ber-cool gaming surface uses Everglide?s? award-winning Fibertek? surface technology; making it one of the most advanced mousing surface in the world today.

    Everglide?s Fibertek? technology employs special woven fabrics to ensure precise tracking at minimal traction, allowing for high performance gaming with enhanced speed and control.

    The gaming surface?s ultra-large dimensions (444mm X 355mm X 4.3mm) provide the user with an enlarged surface to accommodate broad and spontaneous movements.

    The non-slip backing ensures a stable gaming surface, allowing an uninterrupted gaming experience.
    And then the mouse:
    The Everglide? g-1000 professional gaming mouse is specially designed to optimize gaming performance and user-comfort. Ergonomically designed for maximum comfort, the Everglide? g-1000 promises extended hours of gameplay without stress-related strain.

    With an impressive image processing speed of 5.8 megapixels-per-second, the Everglide? g-1000 promises instant and no-lag response for quick reactive response during fast-paced gameplay.

    The Everglide? g-1000 features high speed performance capabilities that include a speed of 1 megapixel-per-second and acceleration of 15g (gravitational force).

    The Everglide? g-1000 has up to 1600 dots per inch (dpi) optical resolution adjustable between 400, 800 and 1600 dpi for customizable precision with easily accessible buttons.

    User customizability is further enhanced by the seven independently programmable physical buttons included on the mouse.
     

     Mar 09, 2006 - 07:31 PM - by Michael
    Razer launches audio line
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Razer, the amazing mouse people, have launched an interesting audio products line this week, the "Barracuda" line featuring a 7.1 sound card and headphones.

    Hannover (Germany), CeBIT 9 March 2006? Razer?, the world?s leading brand in professional computer gaming peripherals is proud to launch the Razer Barracuda? Integrated Audio System (IAS) comprising of the Razer Barracuda AC-1 Gaming Audio Card and Razer Barracuda HP-1 Gaming Headphones at CeBIT in Germany.

    Designed and engineered from ground up by the Razer engineering team, the Razer Barracuda AC-1 and HP-1 are integrated as a single, pure gaming audio system ? the Razer Barracuda IAS is the world?s first integrated audio system built specifically for gaming.

    Powered by Razer Fidelity?, the Razer Barracuda IAS delivers optimized audio signals directly from the computer game to the gamer, creating the most realistic gaming environment possible. The Razer Barracuda IAS also features proprietary Razer audio technologies including the patent pending Razer Enhanced Sonic Perception? (ESP) architecture and Razer?s 3D (720?) Positional Gaming Audio Engine.

    Razer? believes that audio solutions today fall short of demanding gaming requirements as most existing soundcards and headphones are built for music playback and then repackaged as a gaming soundcard or headphone. Pre-requisites for gamers such as accurate positional audio and expanded dynamic soundstages are poorly integrated into the current audio solutions, often as an afterthought. Audio card software drivers are repeatedly built over legacy code that was designed for music playback, resulting in bloatware that slows down computer systems and compromises overall audio quality during fast paced gaming sessions.

    Enlisting the help of top audio experts, designers, engineers, audiophiles and pro-gamers, Razer? re-engineered audio hardware chipsets to remove unnecessary hardware components, optimized and upgraded the essential audio components as well as streamlined drivers to specifically focus on gaming applications.

    Over thirty top pro-gamers worldwide were tasked to stress test and critique the Razer Barracuda IAS in the course of its development. Based on their various comments and contributions, voluminous lines of code were thrown out, circuit diagrams redesigned and components selected to provide top notch gaming audio performance.

    Razer?s President, Robert ?Razerguy? Krakoff says: ?Audio cards that were built for listening to music have been repackaged as ?gaming soundcards? to take advantage of the burgeoning gaming market?Razer is the world?s first company to focus on designing and engineering an audio solution from ground up. We didn?t bother focusing on either the soundcard or the headphones but developed the Razer Barracuda IAS as a single audio system to create the world?s best gaming audio.?
     

     Mar 07, 2006 - 10:28 AM - by Michael
    Fuel screenshots
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Dreamcatcher have sent us some nice screens for their upcoming title Fuel. Enjoy!
     

     Mar 02, 2006 - 09:06 AM - by Michael
    "Scratches" Ships out
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Got Game have shipped out Scratches, a suspense-adventure PC title:

    WESTON, CT ? March 2, 2006 ? Got Game Entertainment today announced that ?Scratches?, an atmospheric suspense-adventure game for the PC, brimming with eerie twists and terrifying surprises, has shipped to game retailers across North America. Developed by Nucleosys, ?Scratches? is set in and around Blackwood Manor, a lonely Victorian mansion concealing a terrible secret, where a long forgotten story from the past emerges to haunt the present. As the wretched noises echoing throughout the walls of this cryptic mansion grow ever louder, you must set about solving a dark mystery. ?Scratches? is available for a frighteningly value-packed suggested retail price of $19.95 (USD) and is rated ?T? for Teen by the ESRB for Alcohol and Tobacco Reference/Blood/Mild Language/Mild Violence.

    In the role of horror writer Michael Arthate, you find yourself isolated by a washed out road, with a telephone as your only means of communication. In search of clues, you delve into every dark corner of the manor and its untended grounds via a point-and-click interface. Examining, probing, and hunting your way through musty rooms, an overrun greenhouse, a sinister chapel, and a forbidding crypt, your investigation deepens, and you slowly become aware of one terrifying fact: you are not alone.

    A careful combination of inventory-based and deductive-style puzzles, integrated with a riveting storyline, non-linear gameplay, intricately detailed graphics, and an entrancing soundtrack by Cellar of Rats, immerses you in a haunting gothic atmosphere until the final shocking revelation.

    ?This game is the perfect storm of story, puzzles, and suspense,? said Got Game President Howard Horowitz. ??Scratches? is sure to have you leaving a light on at night.?
     

     Mar 01, 2006 - 04:11 PM - by Michael
    AMD calls Skype to stand
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft In the hardware wars, AMD is calling up Skype to testify in their antitrust case against Intel.

    The reason? Skype's newest "feature" that enables 10-person calls, but only if an Intel CPU is detected; Skype's boilerplate answer says only Intel's chips can handle it, but AMD disagrees.

    A Skype executive declined to comment earlier this month when asked whether the company had tested the performance of its software on both Intel's and AMD's dual-core chips. An Intel representative confirmed that there are no instructions that specifically enhance the performance of voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) software like Skype's in Intel's dual-core chips. He also said that Skype's software is using a function called "GetCPUID" to permit 10-way conference calls only when that function detects an Intel dual-core processor on start-up.
     

     Mar 01, 2006 - 03:21 PM - by Michael
    Savage 2 goes online-only distribution
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The makers of Savage 2 have decided to cut out the middle-man and sell their game online only, but they've dropped the price point a bit in the process.

    (Rohnert Park, CA) ? March 1, 2006 - Developer S2 Games today announced that it will be foregoing traditional methods of publishing and distribution for Savage 2: A Tortured Soul, making it only available for purchase as an online download on the S2 Games Website. The triple-A title, which is the highly anticipated sequel to the critically acclaimed Savage: The Battle for Newerth, will be available in the Fall of 2006 at a price of $29.99.

    S2 Games is planning to demonstrate how an independent game developer/publisher can create a triple-A title at a fraction of the budget of some comparative titles and be able to pass much of that savings on to the consumer. The development team at S2 will also have the luxury of working within their own timeline and not having to rush to meet publisher/distribution deadlines, ultimately creating the game they want to create. Additionally, S2?s unique publishing methods will enable it to publish Savage 2: A Tortured Soul at a much lower price point than comparative titles as they will not have to share revenues with retailers or traditional publishing networks. S2 is anticipating that its success will open many doors for other Indie teams to focus on quality of product combined with creative marketing in order to achieve the same results. At the end of the day, S2 Games will have a game where the ?hype? is only centered on the actual gameplay.

    ?If the game was sold through retail stores, we would be forced to set a higher price point like the other triple-A titles out there,? said Marc DeForest, co-founder and lead designer, S2 Games. ?By circumventing traditional publishing methods, we're able to pass the savings directly on to the consumer as well as have much greater artistic license with our game.?
     

     Feb 27, 2006 - 09:24 AM - by Michael
    Six versions of Vista
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Let the headaches begin; which version will you need?

    The Home Basic version is intended for those who only want to use their PC to browse the net, use e-mail and create and edit basic documents. It will also include desktop search and security tools.

    Vista Home Premium includes everything in the Basic version and adds the new graphical interface called Aero.

    Microsoft said it will also have improved media handling abilities so it can help users organise and enjoy their digital images, music and movie collections. Also included will be tools to help people author and burn DVDs.

    PCs running the Premium edition will also be able to connect their machine to an Xbox 360 gaming console.
    Wake me up when the nightmare's over and they go back to just two versions and a server version, please.
     

     Feb 24, 2006 - 10:00 AM - by Michael
    Worst controllers of years past
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft IGN take a look back through the ages and hammer on some really bad controller ideas.

    I remember some of these, and they were interesting. you certainly could do some things with the Intellivision controller that are still hard to emulate with modern two-joystick controls, and the slide-in control overlays were a nice touch.

    And lay off the Xbox360 "fat" - it fit my hands better than the "S" does.

    On the other hand, they got the TI-99 right:

    Anyway, you had the choice of controlling these games with either A) the keyboard, or B) one of the crappiest, most unresponsive, piece of junk joysticks ever produced. But hey, there were two of them!
     

     Feb 20, 2006 - 04:00 PM - by Michael
    What WoW got right
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft For once, a positive article, as Treasure Tables look at What World of Warcraft got right, and the lessons other game makers - or tabletop game DM's - should learn from them.

    8. It?s okay to make changes after the campaign begins

    WoW?s developers tweak the game through patches ? many players would say they tweak it too often, but the principle is sound: Don?t be afraid to change things that aren?t working, add new elements or otherwise alter the game after it begins. Just don?t forget to include your players in this process!
     

     Feb 14, 2006 - 01:00 PM - by Michael
    Magnetic processing, the new hotness
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Wired puts a focus on the new possibility for the future: magnetic transistors.

    As transistor-based microchips hit the limits of Moore's Law, a group of electrical engineers at the University of Notre Dame has fabricated a chip that uses nanoscale magnetic "islands" to juggle the ones and zeroes of binary code.

    Wolfgang Perod and his colleagues turned to the process of magnetic patterning (.pdf) to produce a new chip that uses arrays of separate magnetic domains. Each island maintains its own magnetic field.
     

     Feb 13, 2006 - 02:00 PM - by Michael
    Intel planning of the future
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Hold on to your butts - it looks like Intel are trying to add on to their chips again:

    Viiv is less technology and more a shopping list of technologies. Aimed fair and square at the home entertainment market, it defines the latest generation of media centres that are capable of playing anything from MP3 songs to high-definition films.

    One of the features of Viiv is a very fast boot-up and switch on.
    Thanks to the Beeb for letting us know.
     

     Feb 03, 2006 - 10:51 AM - by Michael
    Dungeon lords Collectors Edition hits retail
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft If you want it, it's out.

    Dungeon Lords' "Collectors' Edition" that is.

    Toronto, February 3, 2006 - DreamCatcher Games, an award-winning
    publisher of PC and console games, today announced that Dungeon Lords
    Collector's Edition has shipped to retailers across North America.

    One of the best-selling RPGs in 2005, the Dungeon Lords Collector's
    Edition includes all of the latest updates as well as new quests, rare
    items to collect, spells, effects, monsters, areas to explore and
    amazing new heraldries and character customizations to take your RPG
    experience even deeper. The Dungeon Lords Collector's Edition comes
    packaged in a limited edition painted metal casing that is sure to look
    great on any collector's shelf.

    Also being released today is the highly-anticipated Update 1.4 for the
    Standard Edition of Dungeon Lords, allowing players to customize their
    characters to a greater degree.

    The Storyline

    Dungeon Lords blends the depth of an Epic Fantasy RPG with the
    flexibility of an FPS-style control system. Gamers journey through a
    land of ancient castles and dungeon lairs to engage in real-time
    tactical combat with a variety of deadly foes. It's not just about the
    battles though, as magic spells and hundreds of powerful weapons and
    artifacts play a huge role in the game.

    The game features an abundance of personal missions and quests along
    with numerous characters to interact with. Players can customize an
    extensive variety of skills and special abilities for their heroes,
    including race, features and class specializations. The simple and
    intuitive design will thrill RPG and action fans alike and supports
    cooperative multiplayer for up to eight players.

    Dungeon Lords Collector's Edition Game Features:

    * The depth of an epic Fantasy RPG with the flexibility of an
    FPS-style control system.
    * New quests, spells, effects, monsters, heraldries and
    character customizations.
    * Packaged in a limited edition painted metal case.
    * 7 playable races including humans, elves and dwarves and also
    a number of non-human "demi-goth" races.
    * 4 schools of magic - Arcane, Celestial, Rune and Nether.
    * Co-operative multiplayer, supporting up to 8 players at once
    over LAN or Internet.
    * Created by award-winning developer, D.W. Bradley and Heuristic
    Park.
     

     Feb 02, 2006 - 03:00 PM - by Michael
    DNF - finally coming?
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft More smokescreen, or genuine this time? Joystiq has word - Duke Nukem Forever might finally be in production.
     

     Jan 20, 2006 - 01:43 PM - by Michael
    Scratches Screens
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Got Game Entertainment have graced us with some screens from their upcoming title Scratches, a budget mystery title for the PC.
    Their description:
    "Scratches" is an atmospheric mystery adventure game for the PC, brimming with eerie twists and terrifying surprises. Set in and around a solitary Victorian mansion concealing a terrible secret, a long since forgotten story from the past emerges to haunt the present. A careful combination of inventory-based and deductive-style puzzles, integrated with a riveting storyline, non-linear gameplay, intricately detailed graphics, and an entrancing soundtrack, immerse you in a haunting Gothic atmosphere until the final shocking revelation.

    As famed horror writer Michael Arthate, you arrive at Blackwood Manor, your newly acquired home, an old Victorian house lost in the outskirts of a small English market town. While the ominous weather bodes of darker days, you are initially charmed by this peaceful and quiet place. The pleasant stillness is soon broken, however, as the rooms of this exquisite, if faded glory, mansion speak of past events, their tales echoing through its walls. As the odd noises in the basement grow ever louder, you set about solving your sanctuary's long-held mystery.

    Isolated by a washed out road, and in search of clues, you delve into every dark corner of the mansion and its untended grounds via a point-and -click interface. Examining, probing, and hunting your way through musty rooms, an overrun greenhouse, a sinister chapel, and a forbidding crypt, your investigation deepens, and you slowly become aware of one terrifying fact: you are not alone!

     

     Jan 20, 2006 - 08:00 AM - by Michael
    Itanium loses x86 hardware
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Cnet has news that Intel is scrapping the Itanium's hardware support to get more silicon space.

    "IA-32 EL provides much better performance and flexibility for 32-bit applications on Itanium," spokeswoman Erica Fields said of the choice. "With Montecito, we took back the silicon area that was being used up by the x86 hardware support."

    The change, which Intel had refused to discuss until now, reflects the company's diminished Itanium ambitions, which cast the chip as being only for higher-end servers. Intel's retreat to that market segment was in part because Itanium couldn't run x86 software effectively, which imposed major transition burdens on software companies and server customers.
     

     Jan 19, 2006 - 05:00 PM - by Michael
    What the Intel Mac costs Apple
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Looks like Apple's move to Intel is necessary, but costly - seems the new macs cost a bit more to make than the old ones.

    Silicon Valley research firm iSuppli conducted a teardown analysis of the $1,299 17-inch iMac containing the Intel chip. Researchers use such analysis to estimate how much a computer maker pays for components and what profit may be wrung from sales (see BW Online, 10/25/05, "Inside IBM's Xbox Chip"). It costs Apple $898 to assemble the iMac before loading it with software and packing it in a box, iSuppli says.
     

     Jan 19, 2006 - 03:00 PM - by Michael
    AMD market share going up
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Good news for healthy competition - AMD's market share is up.

    Sales of Intel-based desktop PCs fell 22.3 percent during the fourth quarter, according to Current Analysis. As a result, sales of AMD-based desktops took the lead during the pivotal fourth-quarter holiday shopping season. AMD chips were found in 52.5 percent of desktop PCs sold in U.S. retail stores during that period.

    Intel partially blamed poor demand for desktops for its fourth-quarter earnings results that were below expectations. But desktop shipments grew 13.4 percent among U.S. retail customers during the quarter, Bhavnani said. Last month, IDC predicted the entire U.S. PC market would grow only 8.3 percent during 2006.
    Disclaimer: I run a self-built Athlon64 rig and an Athlon 1.3GHz rig as my media machine.
     

     Jan 18, 2006 - 12:38 PM - by Michael
    Scissors vs Thompson
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Running with Scissors - the makers of Postal - have responded to Jack Thompson:

    "Unlike other violent videogames on the market, Postal makes no attempt to defend or justify violence committed by the player. Points aren't awarded for shooting someone in the face. There are no missions based on slaughtering innocent bystanders. You play in a detailed environment and are given simple tasks such as buying milk and cashing a paycheck. As in the real world, the player may find weapons in that environment if they seek them. And, just as in the real world, the choice of what to do with those weapons is yours. Misuse results in severe consequences, in Postal you're always held accountable. In our opinion that makes Postal 2 the most politically correct game ever made."
     

     Jan 12, 2006 - 09:33 AM - by Michael
    Dreamcatcher to publish Fuel
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Dreamcatcher games send us word that they'll be the publisher for FUEL:

    Toronto, January 12, 2006 ? DreamCatcher Games, an award-winning publisher of PC and Console games, today announced it will publish FUEL, its upcoming racing game, a motor-head?s action vehicular marathon, on Windows? (worldwide) and Xbox? (North America only). The game will ship worldwide in May 2006.

    Off-road it, use an ATV or personal watercraft and hustle your way to the finish line at top speed! Play as one of ten characters from around the world and race in your choice of over 35 vehicles. There are no rules in this all out frantic race. This is a no-holds-barred, free-for-all, action-packed game, with one goal ? get to the finish line first! ?and scoring points along the way would help!

    Game Features:

    * 3 different racing games in 1 ? Off-Road, ATVs and Personal Water Crafts!
    * From the Caribbean Islands to Morocco to the Snowy North, travel around the world as you compete in the wildest races ever!
    * Collect as many points as possible to help you gain fuel boosts!
    * Over 70 single player tracks are available and un-lockable.
    * Drive anywhere and do whatever it takes to finish the race!
    * Featuring Split-Screen, 4 Player Multiplayer mode, and Free Roam mode.
    * Over 35 distinct vehicles to choose from!
    * Use your skills, and show-off with up to 20 stunt tricks to acquire more points!
    * Smash anything and anyone to get more Fuel points and improve your time.
    * A motor-head?s action-thinking, vehicular marathon!
     

     Jan 10, 2006 - 12:07 PM - by Michael
    Storage Woes
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Computerworld has news that your burned CD's might not be the best way to store data.

    The problem is material degradation. Optical discs commonly used for burning, such as CD-R and CD-RW, have a recording surface consisting of a layer of dye that can be modified by heat to store data. The degradation process can result in the data "shifting" on the surface and thus becoming unreadable to the laser beam.

    "Many of the cheap burnable CDs available at discount stores have a life span of around two years," Gerecke said. "Some of the better-quality discs offer a longer life span, of a maximum of five years."
     

     Dec 21, 2005 - 01:00 PM - by Michael
    PC gaming not dead?
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft I don't think it's dead, but definitely ailing - Next Generation tries to spin PC gaming a little more positively:

    Yet the PC gets no love from retailers, and little more from some of the major publishers. Shelf space contracted in most of the major retail chains. EB Games suspended its policy of accepting PC game trade-ins. Unwilling, or perhaps unable, to separate the overall decline in PC retail sales from the growth in the triple-A high end, publishers were tempted to throw in with retailers in a large-scale abandonment of the category.
     

     Dec 21, 2005 - 11:00 AM - by Michael
    Seagate buys Maxtor
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Ouch - looks like Seagate are now the reigning power in hard drives:

    Under terms of the deal, which is expected to be completed in the second half of 2006, Maxtor shareholders will receive 0.37 shares of Seagate common stock for each Maxtor share they own. Seagate shareholders will own about 84 percent and Maxtor shareholders will own about 16 percent of the new combined company.
     

     Dec 14, 2005 - 12:01 PM - by Michael
    The Sacred Rings screenshots
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The Adventure Company have sent out some screenshots for The Sacred Rings, the sequel to Aura: Fate of Ages.

    Hope you like them, they're looking quite nice.

    Info on the game:
    * Three vast regions to explore: No Man's Land, Manula Valley and the Keeper's Land.
    * Easy to navigate mouse-driven, point-and-click interface.
    * Numerous original and creative puzzles to solve and challenge you.
    * A proprietary engine that blends together beautiful pre-rendered graphics and environmental interaction with immersive special effects.
    * More than 40 minutes of incredible cut-scenes.
    * More than 400 beautiful locations to fully-explore.
    * Numerous characters to interact with.
    * An astonishing musical score with 8 varied themes to compliment gameplay.

    The Sacred Rings, the sequel to Aura: Fate of the Ages has an anticipated ESRB Rating of 'T' for Teen in North America and a planned shipping date of June, 2006.

     

     Nov 16, 2005 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
    USB-USB PC Connections
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Hardware-Secrets have kicked out an interesting tutorial on faking a network with a USB-to-USB cable.

    The first thing you should be aware of is that there are several different kinds of USB-USB cables on the market. The one used to connect two PCs is called ?bridged? (or ?USB networking cable?), because it has a small electronic circuit in the middle allowing the two PCs to talk to each other. There are the so-called A/A USB cables that, in spite of having two standard USB connectors at each end, don?t have a bridge chip and cannot be used to connect two PCs. In fact, if you use an A/A USB cable you can burn the USB ports of your computers or even their power supplies. So, these A/A USB cables are completely useless. A/B USB cables are used to connect your computer to peripherals such as printers and scanners, so they also won?t fit your needs.
     

     Nov 14, 2005 - 11:00 AM - by Michael
    The New Rig
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The new gaming rig is up and more or less stable.

    SATA adapters are a pain in the rear.

    Slim possibilities exist that the machine may get rebuilt yet again if I find a good sale on real SATA hard drives of decent capacity.
     

     Nov 08, 2005 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
    Socket F pics
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Foreign language, but tweakers.net have a pic of AMD's upcoming Socket F layout, intended for multi-Opteron systems.

    Have a look if you like.
     

     Nov 07, 2005 - 02:00 PM - by Michael
    The "Gaming Room" a reality?
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Here's some ambitious hardware - how would you like a vibrating sofa, or fans that blow directional wind on your face?

    Ambitious for sure, but AmbX are trying to do it.

    The technology uses a scripting language to enable games to send signals to compatible hardware such as lights, fans, heaters, and even furniture. This means that in a game the lights in your room will match up to the environment you are gaming in. E.g. Green for jungle and blue for the ocean. Strobes of white light could simulate a lightning storm and a burst of air from a fan could make huge jumps feel more realistic.
     

     Nov 03, 2005 - 01:00 PM - by Michael
    SWG to take massive changes
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft f13.net have some news on SWG's next massive overhaul as Sony tries to fix the problems in this oft-derided game.

    SOE and LucasArts are 100% behind this. The goal is to make the game more fun, to make you feel like a part of the Star Wars universe.

    This is not something that will be done a week or even a month from now. From what schild can gather, we're looking at 6 months or more before this is rolled out to every server. The entire game is changing. No "classic" servers, everything will be the revamped game.

    In order for them to implement collision detection, every art asset in the game has to be gone through. That's why we're looking at 6+ months.
     

     Oct 18, 2005 - 02:00 PM - by Michael
    Multiple Networks at once - it's possible
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft MS Research have let out version 1.0 of a nifty tool to allow users to hook into multiple wi-fi networks at once using a single wi-fi card.

    VirtualWiFi works over the latest drivers of these wireless cards:
    # Lucent Orinoco Silver WiFi Card
    # Lucent WaveLAN IEEE 802.11b Silver
    # Lucent Orinoco Gold WiFi Card
    # Buffalo AirStation WLI-CB-B11
    # Compaq Wireless LAN W200
    # Netgear MA 521 Wireless PC Card
    # Cisco 340 Series 802.11b card
    # Netgear 802.11a/b Wireless Adapter WAG511
    # Netgear 802.11a/b Wireless Adapter WAB501
     

     Oct 10, 2005 - 02:00 PM - by Michael
    Down with photorealism?
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The traditional time is here - time to make fun of photorealism once more as we wait for the next generation of machines and the rush of fall games:

    In what appears to be a fit of turnabout, gamers often murmur "Of course, it's all about gameplay" when graphics blunder oafishly into the conversation. Well of course, interactivity is more fundamental to the medium than most if not all other parts of it. We'll always stand by gameplay: but it's graphics that will be handcuffing us to the bed during our next "business trip".
    Graphics pull people to buy the game, gameplay holds them in.

    I've taken more than my share of games to Gamestop because the gameplay just doesn't hold up.
     

     Oct 04, 2005 - 05:27 PM - by Michael
    This DVD will self-destruct
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Microsoft, after the laughable way other "self-destruct" DVD systems died, are trying their take.

    The revolutionary product could be on the market as early as next year, with the new DVD players needed to view them. Microsoft hopes it will help the company dominate home entertainment as it dominates the desktop computer market.
    Can you say, Divx?

    [Update]: Okay, we were fooled, it's a hoax.
     

     Sep 20, 2005 - 12:30 PM - by Michael
    MS response to MGS4: Wait and see
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft MS has responded to the word on Metal Gear Solid 4, and they are acting unconcerned.

    Still, who could have known Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots would make such a splash? The slickly cut trailer even acts as designer Hideo Kojima's commentary on the console wars, pointing out the PlayStation 3's Cell processor as the key advantage over the competition.

    Microsoft, however, isn't so sure. "Cell processor or not, when I look at the technical specs, I don't see anything that concerns me overly from a performance point of view," said Peter Moore, corporate VP of worldwide marketing and publishing for Xbox in an interview with GameIndustry.Biz.
     

     Sep 12, 2005 - 04:00 PM - by Michael
    MS vows to do better on PC gaming
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Microsoft is admitting openly that they have failed to invest resources in PC gaming and hurt it as a result, and vowing to do better.

    Here's a hint, guys: Crimson Skies 2. A *REAL* Crimson Skies game, not the Xbox pseudoaction thing. Oh, and put Mechwarrior 5 back into production, you could do amazing things with today's hardware.

    There's two canceled projects, right off the top of my head, that should never have been abandoned.

    ?It?s our biggest ever investment in Windows gaming,? said product manager Kelly Stanmore. ?The Windows business is down 10 per cent year-on-year and we?ve lost shelves of space. We?re killing off that community without the retail support.?

    Microsoft has neglected PC gamers as it pushed forward with Xbox, but the advent of 360 will mark a defining moment for its gaming ambitions.

    ?We?re putting the ?game? back in Windows,? explained group manager Chris Donohue. ?We?re over the hump with Xbox 360 so now ready to build Windows as a platform.?
    We'll see if you mean it.
     

     Sep 12, 2005 - 10:00 AM - by Michael
    16 GB of Flash Memory
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Samsung's released its 16 GB flash memory chip, and it's a good thing.

    The firm's announcement does not only increase the pressure on other Flash companies, but on harddrive manufacturers as well. The iPod nano, replacement for the iPod mini, shows that Samsung is serious about driving harddisks out of the sub-5 GByte segment - and extend the reach of its memory chips in other consumer electronics devices with similar storage needs. "The new 16 Gbit memory device should accelerate further expansion of the NAND flash market across mobile and portable digital applications as an alternative to mini-harddisk drives and even harddrives for laptops," the company said.
     

     Sep 06, 2005 - 01:00 PM - by Michael
    MS firewall flawed
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Techworld has news on Microsoft announcing a flaw in its firewall:

    The flaw is in the way Windows Firewall displays exception entries, created by administrators to allow incoming network connections. If an exception is created in the Registry, it won't be displayed in the Windows Firewall user interface, meaning users might not be able to spot the exception entry.

    It's unlikely that such a Registry entry would be created under ordinary circumstances, and a user couldn't create one without administrator privileges, Microsoft said. "It is more likely that an attacker who has already compromised the system would create such malformed registry entries with intent to confuse a user," Microsoft said in the advisory.
     

     Sep 01, 2005 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
    S2 Announces Savage 2
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft S2 Games, makers of the excellent online RTS/FPS hybrid Savage, have announced the sequel:

    (Rohnert Park, CA) - August 31, 2005 - Developer S2 Games today announced it will be releasing the much anticipated sequel to Savage: The Battle for Newerth. Set to launch in the summer of 2006, Savage 2: A Tortured Soul, will feature the same style of beautiful, expansive environments that truly immersed players in the critically acclaimed original, however an entirely enhanced combat system, animation features, and gameplay elements will catapult Savage 2 light years beyond its prequel.

    From the same core team that conceptualized and created Savage, Savage 2: A Tortured Soul will transport PC gamers to the next level in multiplayer gaming. The sequel will feature enhanced character models, higher quality animations, bump mapping, realistic, reflective water effects, dynamic shadows, point lighting, and an enhanced particle/spell effect system.

    Gameplay will be greatly superior as well due to a vastly improved melee system, an enhanced, officer-based battle grouping system, 20 unit class based system, FPS fast action paced gameplay for certain types of characters, third person RPG slower paced gameplay for others, better items with more RPG elements, and an improved spell casting system. The game will also feature a comprehensive single-player tutorial/training ? something that many Savage fans requested and S2 Games feels is necessary in order to shorten the learning curve of a detailed game such as this.

    ?Our goal at S2 Games has always been to create the most compelling and fun PC game out there ? the kind of game that we would never get tired of playing,? said Marc DeForest, co-founder and lead designer of S2 Games. ?Savage was our opening salvo into the PC game market and we?re happy to have the opportunity to follow it up with an even greater game in Savage 2.?

    Like the original Savage, Savage 2 is a truly unique gaming experience that enables the player to opt for either the fast-paced, run-and-gun action of a FPS or the more cerebral and tactical planning of a RTS (playing as a Commander). With the creation of a new gameplay genre, the RTSS, the original Savage expertly redefined the first-person shooter and real-time strategy genres by combining elements of both into one cohesive experience. Savage 2: A Tortured Soul will preserve all of what made Savage a hit while continuing to deliver bleeding-edge innovation to the gaming audience.

    ?Savage was really our baby, the game that we as an independent game developer cut our teeth on,? said Jesse Hayes, co-founder and lead designer at S2 Games. ?We learned a great deal with Savage and that experience, combined with great advice and constructive criticism from our audience means that A Tortured Soul is going to completely blow gamers away!?

    For more information on Savage 2: A Tortured Soul, please visit http://savage2.s2games.com.
     

     Sep 01, 2005 - 11:30 AM - by Michael
    Nibiru Ships
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The Adventure Company have shipped out their latest, NiBiRu:

    Toronto, August 31, 2005 - The Adventure Company, a leading publisher of critically acclaimed adventure games, today announced NIBIRU: Age of Secrets for Windows? has shipped to retailers across Canada and the U.S.

    From the creators of Black Mirror, comes a riveting new graphic adventure. The game begins with the discovery of a mysterious World War II tunnel unearthed while building a new highway in Bohemia. What begins as a short expedition to Prague turns into a dangerous and thrilling mystery involving murder, the deep dark secrets of the Nazis, and the demise of the Mayan civilization. Playing as Martin Holan, you?ll find yourself reeling into the heart of an exhilarating adventure.

    Multiple chapters of intense storytelling unfold across more than 80 breathtaking locations created in rich photo-realistic detail. Encounter and interact with over 35 interesting and highly detailed non-playing characters. The atmospheric visual effects, captivating musical score and sound effects will you immerse you deeper into the enthralling plot.

    NIBIRU uses the AGDS (Advanced Graphic Development System) engine. Apart from the standard elements, AGDS enables several graphical effects including: rain, lightning, fog, etc. The primary graphical mode is 32 bytes, but there is also a less demanding 16 byte mode to accommodate players with lower system configurations. The engine was first developed for the Black Mirror horror adventure game.

    Developed by Future Games, NIBIRU: Age of Secrets, has been rated ?T? for Teen by the ESRB. For more information visit www.NibiruGame.com.
     

     Aug 25, 2005 - 01:00 PM - by Michael
    Terabyte DVD recorder is coming
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Hitachi's come up with a DVD recorder that can store 1 terabyte of data.

    I just want a 1-TB hard drive. It would solve my storage needs in my computers.

    Hitachi, Japan's largest electronics conglomerate, is still a relatively small player in the DVD recorder market, trailing industry leaders Matsushita Industrial Co. Ltd. (6752.T), Sony Corp. (6758.T) and Toshiba Corp. (6502.T).

    But it hopes its new line-up, which also includes models able to store 160 gigabytes, 250 gigabytes and 500 gigabytes of data, will help boost its market share and turn its loss-making DVD recorder business profitable in October-March, the second half of the business year.
     

     Aug 16, 2005 - 11:00 AM - by Michael
    "Players" vs. Blizzard
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft As it turns out, some of Blizzard's latest anti-cheat tools have irked some users. The problem? They're actively scanning the hard drives of users for known cheating tools.

    But as many bloggers have pointed out, it's up to players to trust the company on that point, and that's not an easy thing for any privacy advocate to swallow. The thing Blizzard has going for it is that the company has maintained a level of transparency surrounding the issue, a lesson Verant Interactive learned the hard way when it quietly launched a similar program with its popular online game "EverQuest" in 2000. But even the way Blizzard divulges the scanning policy to users is problematic. It appears in the game's End User License Agreement, and who in the world reads EULAs?
     

     Aug 12, 2005 - 02:30 PM - by Michael
    Intel tries for new architecture
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Intel's going to shoot for a new architecture, again:

    "A big emphasis is going to be performance per watt," said Bill Calder, an Intel spokesman. "That is a very big deal."

    The company isn't disclosing more details now. But Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at the market-research firm Insight 64 in Saratoga, Calif., said he expects the new technology to begin arriving in computers in about 18 months, and be well suited for packing more processors on a piece of silicon.

    "I assume they will be able to go from two to four to eight cores on a chip in a fairly smooth and nondisruptive manner," Mr. Brookwood said.
     

     Aug 12, 2005 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
    Laws of MMO Design
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Next Gen's got an interview with Raph Koster on the laws of designing an online world:

    Koster's Law (Mike Sellers was actually the one to dub it thus)
    The quality of roleplaying is inversely proportional to the number of people playing.

    Hyrup's Counter-observation
    The higher the fee, the better the roleplayers. (And of course, the smaller the playerbase.)

    Enforcing roleplaying
    A roleplay-mandated world is essentially going to have to be a fascist state. Whether or not this accords with your goals in making such a world is a decision you yourself will have to make.
     

     Aug 11, 2005 - 03:00 PM - by Michael
    MS Spam settlement goes to fighting cybercrime
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Well how about that - MS is doing the right thing with their settlement money from Scott Richter.

    After covering its legal expenses, Microsoft will dedicate US$5 million dollars to helping law enforcement agencies address computer-related crimes, Smith said. "In appreciation of the role of the New York Attorney General, another US$1 million of this settlement money will be directed to New York state ? to expand computer-related skills training for youths and adults," he said in the letter.
    Gotta give them credit for it when they do something right.
     

     Aug 10, 2005 - 10:38 AM - by Michael
    NiBiRu gone gold
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The Adventure Company's latest, NiBiRu, has gone gold:

    Toronto, August 10, 2005 - The Adventure Company announced today that NIBIRU: Age of Secrets has reached gold status. NIBIRU will begin shipping in North America at the end of this month.

    A mysterious World War II tunnel is unearthed while building a new highway in Bohemia. Martin Holan, a linguistics and archeology student has been contacted to examine the fascinating discovery. Upon his arrival to the site, Martin soon uncovers a mysterious murder and a potential connection to the enigmatic tunnel. What begins as a short expedition to Prague turns into a dangerous and thrilling mystery, where the deep dark secrets of the Nazis, and the demise of the Mayan civilization, have our hero reeling into the heart of an exhilarating adventure.

    NIBIRU uses the AGDS (Advanced Graphic Development System) engine. Apart from the standard elements, AGDS enables several graphical effects including: rain, lightning, fog, etc. The primary graphical mode is 32 bytes, but there is also a less demanding 16 byte mode to accommodate players with lower system configurations. The engine was first developed for the Black Mirror horror adventure game.

    Game Features:

    *A riveting new graphic adventure from the creators of Black Mirror
    *80 breathtaking locations created in rich photo-realistic detail
    *Multiple chapters of intense story telling
    *Highly detailed and fluid 3D character animation
    *Over 35 interesting NPC characters to interact with
    *Atmospheric visual effects including: fog, rain, daytime and nighttime gameplay sequences
    *Captivating musical score and sound effects immerse you deeper into the plot
     

     Aug 09, 2005 - 04:00 PM - by Michael
    GamerDad and the Duping Market
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft GamerDad's gotten into EQ2, and he's got some comments on the recent duping revelations:


    After reading that, you might get angry at them or applaud them for turning an exploit into real world money. No matter how you feel, the story itself creates so many questions about virtual property. Who owns the items in these games? Does the game maker ultimately own all the goods you "earn" through playing because they created it all in the first place? If they don't, then are they liable for damages if they have a catastrophic server crash and lose all your virtual goods in the process? If you ultimately are the owner, then selling these goods online seems like an ok thing to do. What about this specific case? Most people would probably agree that a banning is ok due to using an exploit to manufacture virtual goods, but is it? The player was playing within the code established by the game maker. It's not the player's fault that some program was written incorrectly and it allowed him to generate goods at will. Considering there was a process involved in the actual duplication, as chronicled in the article linked above, it could be argued that this gamer had a sort of assembly line of goods production that he then used to generate real-world income. If you don't answer the question of legality regarding who owns the goods themselves, then it's hard to argue this player should be banned for producing goods through a method discovered in the virtual game world, however intentional or unintentional it was.
     

     Aug 09, 2005 - 12:30 PM - by Michael
    MS settles with spammer
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft MS's lawsuit against Scott Richter will be settled soon.

    Microsoft said that as part of the settlement Richter and his company agreed to pay $7 million to Microsoft.

    Richter and his company will file a motion on Tuesday to dismiss bankruptcy proceedings they filed in March in the U.S. bankruptcy court in Denver, according to a joint statement by Microsoft and Richter.
     

     Aug 08, 2005 - 05:00 PM - by Michael
    MMO exchange rates
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft CNet looks at MMO currency exchange rates, once again delving into the seedy side of MMO gameplay.

    Given that millions of real dollars are being spent every year on these virtual currencies--perhaps as much as $880 million annually--buyers could well be getting short-changed if they're paying sellers more than the true value, whatever it is, for their gaming gold. While some game companies try to keep a tight lid on rates of exchange between real dollars and fantasy coins on their own sites, they can't control the impact of secondary exchanges.

    Here's how it works: Since most multiplayer games allow players to transfer their virtual gaming possessions, enterprising players can temporarily leave the gaming world and buy and sell their virtual currencies on exchanges like IGE and auction giant eBay.
     

     Aug 08, 2005 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
    Picking an inkjet printer
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The standard advice for this is "Don't, go with a laserjet instead" but if you MUST have an inkjet printer, CoolTechZone's got a guide up about picking the right one.

    They're also slashdotted, but it should be back up later.
     

     Aug 05, 2005 - 01:00 PM - by Michael
    CoolTech: Give MS some respect
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft I already do - when they're doing something right - but CoolTechZone gives us some reminders about the old love/hate relationship we all have with Microsoft.

    I love my Xbox :)

    I understand the criticisms about the security of the software, the critical flaws and what not but again, we must look at things in the proper perspective. More than 95 pecent computers in the world use one form of Windows OS or another. The remaining being divided between Linux, MAC etc. now lets say MAC has 1 percent, does it make sense for a hacker to create a virus that can at best infect just 1 percent of the computers in the world? It doesn?t, therefore you don?t have as many security threats for other software as most of the people developing Linux probably sit at night writing up malicious code for windows!
     

     Aug 04, 2005 - 05:00 PM - by Michael
    Intel kills "cheaper" chipsets
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Get 'em while they last, folks... or not. ZDNet's reporting that Intel has killed the 910GL, 915GL and 915PL chipsets.

    An Intel representative dismissed reports suggesting the company was exiting the low-end chipset business altogether but said the company was in the middle of making changes to its manufacturing plants to make way for more mobile-focused and high-performance products. Despite reports of which products would be phased out, Intel declined to officially state which chipsets would be put on the back burner.
     

     Aug 03, 2005 - 10:00 AM - by Michael
    Apple's new mouse
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Apple gives us the latest in overdoing it with the "mighty mouse" design.

    Pressure sensors and a "scroll ball"? I think they're going too far.

    Ars Technica's got a review of the thing too:

    However, regardless of the results of various usability studies, the tech world refuses to relent and geeks around the world demand the versatility of the multibutton mice that they've come to know and love, just not from Apple. Critics have long teased Apple users for their distinct lack of mouse buttons, and Apple users are constantly attempting to either defend themselves by saying "nuh uh, I bought a separate multi-button mouse!" or by taking the trickier route of attempting to explain the HCI theories behind one-button mice, all the while secretly resenting Apple for putting us into that position.
     

     Jul 28, 2005 - 04:17 PM - by Michael
    Windows with Zero Services
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Granted, this will probably kill some of the things you'd like to do (like play games) but as it turns out, Windows XP will actually run in a "zero services" configuration.
    The following steps, which you must follow carefully to achieve a minimal Windows system, were derived by Dave Solomon through experimentation, and when he discovered that Windows was usable without all the core system processes we were dumbfounded. After figuring this out he and I polled senior Windows experts like the vice president of the Core Operating Systems Division, the technical lead of the Virtual PC team, and a lead Windows security architect to see if they thought that Windows would function at all, much less if Internet Explorer would work, without the support of Winlogon, Lsass, and services, and the unanimous answer was ?no?. Even after we showed them the demonstration I?m about to share with you they all thought that we?d staged some kind of trick.
    Nifty.
     

     Jul 28, 2005 - 10:00 AM - by Michael
    EA Speaks back regarding Sims 2
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft EA's speaking out against the nutjob Jack Thompson, who was going on about The Sims 2 being "evil"...

    ?This is nonsense,? said Jeff Brown, spokesman for EA. ?Reasonable people understand there is nothing improper in the game. Reasonable people recognise what mods are. A consumer who chooses to use a mod does so without any kind of agreement with the company. There is no nudity. There is nothing improper or vulgar in the Sims 2.?
     

     Jul 27, 2005 - 02:00 PM - by Michael
    BuildSilentPC
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft BuildSilentPC wants to help you do just that: build a silent (or at least low-noise) PC.

    I may have to do this when I upgrade my video box in the living room.

    Sitting there, enjoying your sweet new PC, you can't help but notice how incredibly LOUD this PC is. The video card is whirring away, trying to keep cool. The CPU is pushed to its limits, and requires pretty hefty cooling. The hard drive is fast, but spinning at 7200 RPM full time, it does nothing but add to the overall noise. Of course there are the several case fans you have going to keep everything cool, not to mention the power supply, which may have 2 or 3 fans itself!
     

     Jul 27, 2005 - 12:30 PM - by Michael
    Age of Empires Q&A
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft 3DGamers have an interesting Q&A with the Age of Empires 3 designers: included in the discussion is their plans for random maps instead of just a collection of pre-generated maps.

    We think random maps are one of the hallmarks of the AOE series and one of the things that keep our fans coming back to the game over and over. Random map games have a lot more to do with exploring the world and responding to what you find out there rather than memorizing and executing a precise series of mouse clicks (though sometimes that is important too).

    To make random maps work, we developed a scripting language similar to what we used on AOK and AOM. This allows designers (rather than programmers) to decide how big a lake is, or how many cliffs to put on a map. Then it's a matter of trial and error to make the random maps work consistently. We have some nice tools and shortcuts to make the maps look as great as hand-painted scenarios. Rivers automatically add currents and oceans automatically add waves, for instance. You can paint mixes of different terrains rather than having to lay down each terrain by hand, and eye candy like bushes or rocks can be added automatically. This lets designers focus on the maps' unique hooks and balance (which we're good at) rather than on making the maps look good (which is best left to artists).
    Random maps have always been a nice touch in the series; I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out.
     

     Jul 26, 2005 - 04:00 PM - by Michael
    Dawn of Fantasy
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The website for Dawn of Fantasy by Reverie Entertainment has gone live: it looks interesting as fantasy RTS games go.
     

     Jul 25, 2005 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
    GamerDad: Don't write off the PC
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft GamerDad tells us not to write off the PC as a gaming platform so quickly.

    I agree - there are any number of good games for the PC, and for many considerations it's still my primary choice - provided the game's designed with PC in mind and isn't just a port from a console version. He's got an excellent point on control schemes too:


    As an aside, I learned this lesson years ago playing the original Quake. I was in a clan (Mayhem, Inc.) and our top player was an all keyboard guy. Just about everyone else used the keyboard too. He played under the name MasterFett and he was able to run roughshod over most all of us. I held my own but never felt I was as good as this guy. One night I was playing on a server with another fellow who used the mouse and keys. He completely schooled me. I finally got to talking with him and discovered that was his "trick" for beating me so handily. He suggested I try to learn that control scheme (something that seemed so unnatural at the time) and that it would improve my play tremendously giving me easy access to things like the rocket jump and more. I took his advice and within a couple weeks, I felt I had it figured out. Our clan would just play online together to practice and one night all that was left was myself and Fett. I switched to mouse and keys and finally was able to beat him. I hit him with rockets at angles I never even considered shooting at before. Of course he learned to use the mouse shortly thereafter and the rest is history. I beat friends locally using the same controls and it didn't take them long to drop the gamepads and keyboard-only controls for the mouse too. The superiority of the mouse/keys cannot be denied.
     

     Jul 20, 2005 - 05:07 PM - by Michael
    NIBIRU Screenshots
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The Adventure Company have sent us the press release and a few creepy screenshots from their upcoming title NiBiRu:
    Toronto, July 20, 2005 - The Adventure Company, a leading publisher of PC adventure games, today announced it will publish NIBIRU: Age of Secrets for Windows? across North America. NIBIRU will begin shipping September 2005.

    Martin Holan, a linguistics and archeology student has been contacted by his uncle to examine a mysterious World War II tunnel unearthed while building a new highway in Bohemia. A friend of Martin?s uncle is supposed to meet Martin upon his arrival to brief him on the mysterious discovery, however when he arrives in Prague he discovers she has been murdered. What begins as a short expedition to Prague to examine an enigmatic tunnel turns into a dangerous and thrilling mystery, where murder, deception, the deep dark secrets of the Nazis, and the demise of the Mayan civilization, have our hero reeling into the heart of an exhilarating adventure.

    Game Features:
    *A riveting new graphic adventure from the creators of Black Mirror
    *80 breathtaking locations created in rich photo-realistic detail
    *Multiple chapters of intense story telling
    *Highly detailed and fluid 3D character animation
    *Over 35 interesting NPC characters to interact with
    *Atmospheric visual effects including: fog, rain, daytime and nighttime gameplay sequences
    *Captivating musical score and sound effects immerse you deeper into the plot
     

     Jul 20, 2005 - 01:00 PM - by Michael
    MMO's and the Business Model
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Next Generation's got an interesting critique on how Guild Wars plans to make money:

    It?s impressed the reviewers and it?s topped the sales charts. But Guild Wars has an awesome task to perform. ?We have to sell at least five times more copies than a subscriber-based online game in order to get to about the same level of profitability,? says Garriott, matter of factly.

    NCSoft, raised in the hothouse of Korea?s 1990s game-room phenomenon, has never been shy about matters of scale. Its entry into the U.S. market four years ago was positively Cleopatran. Its Lineage series is the world?s most popular online RPG. It has attempted to shift playing habits from elves and wizards to cars and capes with Auto Assault and City of Heroes.
    It's an interesting proposition - other companies have managed without monthly fees, but they're not MMORPG companies, merely ladder-based setups like Blizzard's Battle.net who don't host the game on their own servers.
     

     Jul 19, 2005 - 04:04 PM - by Michael
    WoW hit by dupe bug
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft World of Warcraft has apparently been hit by a duplication bug involving the instancing method for the game. Servers are down while they check for anyone who was exploiting it.

    Ouch for them.

     

     Jul 19, 2005 - 01:00 PM - by Michael
    Catalyst 5.7 performance
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Elite Bastards take a look at the performance of the 5.7 Catalyst drivers, and they pronounce them solid.

    Upgrade warily depending on your game of choice and your need for the highest framerates.


    As per usual, ATI have brought us another solid, stable driver set in CATALYST 5.7. Although we didn't test it explicitly here, performance of CATALYST Control Center does seem to have improved since the 5.5 driver release as promised, and everything feels just that little bit zippier when working with the driver settings.

    As far as performance is concerned, there certainly isn't any bad news from this driver set for users of 128MB (And we can assume 64MB, if there are many of those still around) boards. However, gamers certainly shouldn't expect the kind of spectacular framerate increases promised in the release notes at the settings they are likely to be playing at. I have no doubt that ATI's quoted improvements at 1600x1200 with 6x anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering are correct, but let's be honest - Who uses 128MB boards at those settings?
     

     Jul 18, 2005 - 11:30 AM - by Michael
    The upcoming AMD/Intel Fight
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft ZDNet takes a look into the upcoming AMD/Intel legal fight happening all around the globe:

    While AMD is leaning on Charles Diamond, a lawyer at O'Melveny & Myers and AMD's lead outside counsel, Intel has named Bob Cooper with Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and antitrust lawyer Joseph Kattan to argue its case. Both men were hired to represent Intel during the FTC's antirust probe of the company between 1998 and 2000.

    Intel also said it is using the services of Washington, D.C., law firm Howrey Simon to help with the antitrust defence and attorneys with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom to assist Intel KK in Japan.

    "Talk about a declaration of all-out war," said Tom Horton, partner, Thelen Reid & Priest, and a former Department of Justice attorney who also worked at the Federal Trade Commission from 1984 to 1987. "I think the companies have hired the best and the brightest to argue their cases. These people know their stuff."
    So far, AMD's officially filed cases in the USA and in Japan, and rumors are they'll be doing so under the EU's antitrust laws as well.
     

     Jul 15, 2005 - 11:00 AM - by Michael
    Intel's antitrust case tougher in Europe
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The hardware wars between AMD and Intel heat up more, and it turns out that Europe may be the most likely spot for AMD's antitrust lawsuits to win.

    The comparisons with the Intel-AMD situation are striking. Much of AMD's argument is built on the allegedly predatory impact of Intel's market-development fund" rebates (often known as "Intel Inside") to PC makers, which are calculated based on sales volumes.
     

     Jul 14, 2005 - 02:00 PM - by Michael
    AMD posts profit
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Unexpected, but good news on the hardware side: AMD has posted a quarterly profit.

    Computer chip maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc. on Wednesday posted an unexpected net profit as strong microprocessor sales offset weakness in memory chips used in consumer electronics. AMD, of Sunnyvale, California, reported a net profit for the second quarter ended June 26 of $11.3 million, or 3 cents per diluted share, compared with a profit of $32 million, or 9 cents per diluted share, in the quarter ended June 27, 2004.
     

     Jul 11, 2005 - 04:00 PM - by Michael
    Transmeta not going under after all?
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft There may be life in Transmeta yet, according to some new financial reports.

    In May, the former chip maker said it would reduce its negative cash-flow to under $5m, and the company was quick to point out that its Q2 numbers will be better than expected.

    "We have surpassed our first goal of substantially reducing our cash burn, and in fact I am now able to comfortably say that we will report positive operating cash flow for the 2005 second quarter," said Transmeta's CFO, Mark Kent, in a statement.
    A couple months ago, predictions were the company would go bankrupt - if they can turn it around and get their processors on their feet, it could be very good for the mobile market.
     

     Jul 11, 2005 - 02:00 PM - by Michael
    Countdown to a Format War
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The NY Times once again looks at the upcoming DVD format war and it's not pretty.

    It never is when reputations and egos are on the line.

    Compounding matters, many Hollywood executives have staked their reputations - both corporate and personal - on one technology or the other, making it politically difficult for them to switch sides.

    ...

    "Both sides have so much vested in their technology that no one wants to blink, given the potential upside," said Mr. Lesinski, whose studio, Paramount, is a division of Viacom. Paramount, along with Warner Home Video and Universal Studios Home Video, will release 89 movies this year in the HD-DVD format.
     

     Jul 11, 2005 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
    MS: Is Claria spyware or not?
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft It seems MS is denying allegations that they 'downgraded' Claria's software from spyware status in the latest version of their spyware remover:

    The news comes at a sensitive time as Microsoft is reportedly in acquisition talks with Claria.

    While the statement admitted Claria asked Microsoft in January to review AntiSpyware's classification of its products, the former said Redmond determined continued detection was still appropriate, and would give users the choice whether or not to remove Claria software. This was a change from the previous policy in which AntiSpyware recommended users remove Claria products.
    They definitely changed something... If it were anyone but MS, I'd have wondered if Claria were threatening lawyers.
     

     Jul 07, 2005 - 02:00 PM - by Michael
    How important is FPS?
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Boomtown look at the age-old question: How important are frames per second?

    For reference: cheap video can go as low as 12 FPS and still sort-of fool the brain.
    Movie-quality video runs at approximately 24 FPS.
    Television-quality video, approximately 30 FPS.

    They also go into some of the more common gamer "health" concerns:

    Some people experience motion sickness and get nauseous from playing computer games. Why is that, and is there any way to avoid this?

    Motion sickness arises from a discrepancy between the brain?s balance centre (that tells you you?re moving) and the eyes (which see stationary images from the cabin below deck on a boat for instance). This is why it usually helps to go up on deck and fix your eyes on the horizon.

    A similar phenomenon can occur if the eyes see movement but the body is stationary (most notably in an Imax theatre or if you sit too close to the computer monitor). This is called opto-kinetic nausea (sight movement sickness). The cure consists of closing your eyes or turning them away from the screen. Headaches usually arise from sitting too long with the head in a fixed position causing tension in the neck, shoulders and arms. This is best cured through exercising, getting massage and relaxation.
     

     Jul 07, 2005 - 01:00 PM - by Michael
    AMD wins again
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft In addition to being granted subpoenas on computer makers' discussions with Intel, AMD also was granted a no-shred order preventing the companies involved from shredding documents related to the case.

    Of these, 14 companies have responded and nine of those indicated they would work with AMD to preserve documents, AMD said. The nine companies were Acer, Gateway, Lenovo, NEC, Rackable Systems, Sony and Sun. The others are distributor Tech Data and the retailer Circuit City Stores.
    It gets more interesting as it goes on - this may take a while, but it'd be nice to see a level playing field for their processors.
     

     Jul 06, 2005 - 04:00 PM - by Michael
    CPPM Cracked
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft DVD-Audio's encryption method has been thwarted, and DVD-Audio discs can now be reencoded to other formats.

    It was not long ago that DVD-Audio playback software came to the PC. For example Creative's SoundBlaster Audigy 2 comes with a DVD-Audio as well as WinDVD 's DVD-Audio add-on. So, rather than try to compromise the DVD-Audio's encryption itself, someone has succeeded in making a patch that uses WinDVD to perform the decryption and playback, but instead pipes the decrypted audio output to the hard drive instead of the sound card. The patch which includes several tools requires WinDVD 5, 6 or 7 to work.
    Note that it's not a DeCSS-style full hack, but rather a workaround which extracts the audio from WinDVD itself.

    Still, it's interesting.
     

     Jul 06, 2005 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
    AMD gets docs in lawsuit
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Another pain for Intel - as part of their antitrust lawsuit, AMD will get access to documents from the companies they say Intel was bullying even if the companies refuse to be parties in the suit.

    Before it is all said and done, the antitrust suit filed by AMD against Intel may rival the Department of Justice vs. Microsoft battle of years gone by in terms of length, scope, and press coverage. AMD won a small victory today when the US District Court for the District of Delaware granted AMD's request for subpoenas to be served on third parties (e.g., PC manufacturers).

    The subpoenas will require the companies to preserve documents that may relate to AMD's antitrust case against Intel, instead of applying usual corporate document-retention policies that may lead to the destruction of such documents. In addition, the 32 companies named will also need to ensure that other evidence related to the case is not lost.
     

     Jul 05, 2005 - 04:00 PM - by Michael
    Indie Games mid-year report
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft GameTunnel's got their mid-year report on independent game titles.

    The verdict? Some good stuff coming, but the crop is thinner than previous years. Lots of sequels, too.

    This year has been a little different for Indie games. In our Monthly Round-Up there hasn't yet been an Editor's choice winner, and until we hit April we were starting to wonder what kind of year we were going to experience in Indie games. Thankfully April showed off a good number of quality indie titles, and the rest of the year looks to improve on that strong month with a number of sequels that we are excited about. Often the games that we don't hear about until they are released end up being the most amazing, so keep your eyes here for things to come.
     

     Jul 05, 2005 - 10:00 AM - by Michael
    MS Antitrust Continues
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Every time they settle one case, another pops up. This one's New York Times, so registration or bugmenot will be necessary.

    The lawsuits, which accuse Microsoft of attempting to "kill" Go in the early 1990's, were filed two days before Microsoft announced a settlement with I.B.M. for $775 million in cash and a $75 million software credit related to its anticompetitive actions in undermining OS/2, a desktop computing operating system pursued by the two companies in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

    Founded in 1987 by S. Jerrold Kaplan, the former chief scientist of the Lotus Development Corporation, Go set out to develop a class of portable computer controlled by a pen rather than a keyboard.

    A portion of the case hinges on the behavior of Microsoft's engineers after they had been given access to Go's technology under a nondisclosure agreement. The lawsuit cites Microsoft documents that suggest the engineers were gathering intelligence to help Microsoft develop a competing product.
     

     Jul 01, 2005 - 09:00 AM - by Michael
    The 12-minute Timer
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Got that? It'll only take 12 minutes for a unpatched Windows box to get hacked by something if you're not setting up behind a firewall.

    Rather, 12 minutes is the time spot where there's a 50% likelihood you'll be hacked. It COULD take as little as 30 seconds if there's a worm-ridden PC near your IP address. That's the word from Sophos.

    Highlighting the increasing speed of online attacks in research covering the last six months of virus activity, the vendor said the news was mostly grim.

    Authors of malware such as spam, viruses, phishing scams and spyware increased both the volume and sophistication of their assaults, releasing almost 8,000 new viruses in the first half of 2005 and increasingly teaming up in joint ventures to make money. The new-virus figure is up 59 percent on the same period last year.
     

     Jun 30, 2005 - 02:00 PM - by Michael
    Xbox-capable Televisions?
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Sort of like those embedded video game systems you find in hotels, but available at home?

    Forget the video game console ? your TV could already have the brains to play those games. A coy Microsoft Chairman
    Bill Gates hinted Thursday that his company might license the software underlying its
    Xbox gaming machine to a variety of outside companies in a bid to expand the market share for the Xbox machine ? a platform that trails the sector's No. 1 Sony PlayStation.

    The U.S. software company is considering offering "the basic software" for Xbox, although no decision has been made, Microsoft Japan spokesman Kazushi Okabe said Thursday, confirming the Gates' comments reported in Thursday's editions of Japan's top business daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun
    More likely than not, this is not going to hit many home gamers. Savvy electronics buyers try to keep their TV separate from other units like the DVD player and game systems, and sometimes even the sound system - that way, if one piece breaks, the rest is still usable.
     

     Jun 30, 2005 - 01:00 PM - by Michael
    AMD VS Intel: round 2 in Japan
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft AMD's mirroring their American antitrust lawsuits with a similar lawsuit in Japan.

    Well, at least they're consistent.

    The latest action in Japan follows a March ruling by Japan's Fair Trade Commission (FTC) that Intel had violated antitrust laws by offering rebates to five PC makers that agreed either not to buy or to limit their purchases of chips made by AMD or other rivals.

    The five computer makers are Hitachi Ltd., Sony, NEC Corp. T> , Fujitsu Ltd. and Toshiba Corp.

    "AMD Japan suffered serious damages, losing all of its sales to Toshiba, Sony, and Hitachi, while sales of NEC and Fujitsu also fell precipitously," AMD Japan, a wholly owned subsidiary of the California-based parent, said in a press release.
     

     Jun 28, 2005 - 01:00 PM - by Michael
    AMD files Antitrust on Intel
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft It's official on Groklaw - AMD has filed antitrust on Intel.

    AMD's press release has more:

    The 48-page complaint, drafted after an intensive investigation by AMD?s lead outside counsel, Charles P. Diamond of O?Melveny & Myers LLP, details numerous examples of what Diamond describes as ?a pervasive, global scheme to coerce Intel customers from freely dealing with AMD to the detriment of customers and consumers worldwide.? According to the complaint, Intel has unlawfully maintained its monopoly by, among other things:

    * Forcing major customers such as Dell, Sony, Toshiba, Gateway, and Hitachi into Intel-exclusive deals in return for outright cash payments, discriminatory pricing or marketing subsidies conditioned on the exclusion of AMD;
    o According to industry reports, and as confirmed by the JFTC in Japan, Intel has paid Dell and Toshiba huge sums not to do business with AMD.
    o Intel paid Sony millions for exclusivity. AMD?s share of Sony?s business went from 23 percent in ?02 to 8% in ?03, to 0%, where it remains today.
     

     Jun 27, 2005 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
    Athlon64 FX-57 hits
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Reviews are wandering out the door left and right on the Athlon64 FX-57 chip, supposedly the fastest x86 chip out there.

    It apparently beats Intel's current line pretty handily, too.
     

     Jun 23, 2005 - 05:00 PM - by Michael
    MS Pushing Sender ID
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Despite the fact that it's not really a standard yet, MS is trying to strongarm everyone into using Sender ID.

    I'm against this. Trying to maintain SPF on a smaller server is a lot more than MS thinks it is, and the spammers will just find a way to spoof SPF.
     

     Jun 22, 2005 - 02:00 PM - by Michael
    Battletech at home?
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Yes, it's true.

    You can have your own Battletech pods for $2000 apiece and play Battletech:Firestorm at home.

    MechJock.com has secured exclusive rights to market and sell the Virtual World Tesla II System (TM) for home use.

    MechJock.com, the longest running private owner of Virtual World BattleTech VR systems, has struck an agreement with Virtual World Entertainment, LLC to market Tesla II cockpits individually for home and other private use at an estimated cost of $2,000.00 per cockpit.

    This is the first time BattleTech VR cockpits have been available to be purchased individually, allowing home consumers the exhileration of the ultimate BattleTech experience at home!

    The Tesla II System allows the home enthusiast to play against up to seven computer generated combatants or 'bots', or the player can compete against other "Tesla@Home" owners and operators across the Internet.

    Multi-cockpit owners would also have an option to purchase hardware to convert the Tesla II cockpits to the original Tesla system, allowing the owner to run Tesla 4.X BattleTech and Red Planet.

    MechJock.com, in cooperation with Virtual World Entertainment, will support the systems, offer installation guidance and develop 'pod owner' communities to further develop the BattleTech VR experience.
    Yikes. And me without ridiculous amounts of cash on hand.
     

     Jun 22, 2005 - 01:00 PM - by Michael
    So you want an HDTV...
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft DesignTechnica's got a great resource for buying your new HDTV - and how NOT to go about it.

    A lot of good stuff in there, as well as some consumer watch-out tips.

    A good high-def display minimizes motion artifacts without any assistance. When you?re eyeballing sets at the store, to assess the quality of their video processing circuits, just look for rapidly moving diagonal lines. If diagonal lines appear jagged, the set?s video processing is doing a poor job. An American flag fluttering in the wind is perfect demo material. Even a facial closeup can be revealing: Do the pores and lines on a speaking face remain mostly in focus?
     

     Jun 21, 2005 - 11:00 AM - by Michael
    Bram Cohen slams "Avalanche"
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Well, that was quick.

    Bram Cohen says that "Avalanche" is complete garbage.

    First of all, I'd like to clarify that Avalanche is vaporware. It isn't a product which you can use or test with, it's a bunch of proposed algorithms. There isn't even a fleshed out network protocol. The 'experiments' they've done are simulations.

    It's a bad idea to give much weight to simulations, especially of something so hairy as real-world internet behavior. I spent most of my talk at stanford explaining why it's difficult to benchmark, much less simulate, BitTorrent in a way which is useful. But we can look at their simulation to see if it might at least be ballpark.
    There you have it.
     

     Jun 20, 2005 - 04:00 PM - by Michael
    Elder Scrolls IV interview
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Telefragged has an interesting article on the upcoming Elder Scrolls IV:


    Todd Howard: With our AI system, we give the NPCs goals and we can conditionalize those for anything, the big one being "time of day". Such as "sleep here at night", "eat here from 12 to 2", those kinds of things. So for the E3 demo, we packed a bunch of goals together so you could see various things the NPCs could do back to back. She eats, she reads, she sleeps. So the only really hand-done parts were to squeeze it together. Can they light their pets on fire? Sure. Do they do it often? No. That was just to show it can happen and to get some laughs.
     

     Jun 16, 2005 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
    Black & White 2 gone Alpha?
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft They announced it, we report it... Lionhead is "proud" to announce that Black & White 2 is into Alpha stage.

    The land, however, has transformed itself. The inhabitants of this breathtaking 3D world have lost their innocence and developed new weapons and technology. As you enter this warring world, will you make tribes coexist peacefully; encouraging villages and towns to grow into sprawling metropolises, or prompt them to inflict their will upon others by, creating and commanding large armies that seek to dominate and conquer?
    Don't hold your breath, the game itself is a couple years away at least.
     

     Jun 15, 2005 - 02:29 PM - by Michael
    Divx 6 hits the market
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Tom's Hardware goes over Divx 6.0, newly out on the market.

    It'll be interesting to see how many torrent groups start using it, and for what.


    As J?r?me "Gej" Rota, DivX's popular and beloved creator and chief engineer, told Tom's Hardware Guide, his team achieved these performance improvements by paying close attention to the codec's key variable, which designates the tradeoff between file size and playback quality: "There's a mode called 'Insane,'" Rota told us, "which is the best mode of the codec that gets you 20 to 40% smaller file size [than with DivX 5]." Newer picture analysis techniques, Rota stated, reduce the distortion rate of a video frame prior to reducing its size, thus enabling the compression algorithm, he said, "to squeeze more of the bits it's going to allocate into a particular piece of the picture."
     

     Jun 15, 2005 - 09:52 AM - by Michael
    Echo Gone Gold, and Screenshots
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The Adventure Company have let us know that their new title Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern has gone gold.

    Toronto, June 15, 2005 - The Adventure Company, a leading publisher of adventure games, today announced ECHO: Secrets of the Lost Cavern has gone gold for Windows(r) in North America. This unique adventure game will ship to retailers June 21, 2005.

    In ECHO: Secrets of the Lost Cavern, uncover the mysteries of a forgotten time. Delve into an inspiring world of exploration and enlightenment as you embark on a quest filled with puzzles and intrigue. Venture across beautifully rugged landscapes and use your wits and keen awareness of the terrain to survive the vast wilderness. In a harsh and primitive world, take on the role of Arok, a young boy who embarks on a perilous journey that leads him away from his clan to the heart of one of mankind's forgotten wonders. Encounter many fascinating characters along the way, but only help from a chosen few will reveal the secrets of the lost cavern.

    Game Features

    * Solve a multitude of engaging puzzles and participate in enchanting shamanistic ceremonies
    * Explore captivating photo-realistic environments including far-reaching landscapes and the depths of magnificent cave systems
    * Use your resources cleverly to survive the wilds of nature: hunt, fish, and fend off predators that may threaten your quest
    * Create masterful works of art whose stories will help you along your journey
    * Access the in-game encyclopedia filled with historically accurate data on the Paleolithic period

    They've also given us some nice screenshots to enjoy:

     

     Jun 14, 2005 - 05:00 PM - by Michael
    Gaming's Original Sin?
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft IGN's got an op-ed on why we get more sequels and less original games every year, and it's quite good if long-winded.
    During his long career at LucasArts, Tim saw the company begin with a specific mandate to create new properties -- "We could not make Star Wars games. George [Lucas] wanted the company to be able to stand on its own" -- which was eventually supported by careful use of big licenses like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. "For a while, it was a really great combination, because you had the original properties which were fun to work on -- both types of games were fun to work on." But Tim believes LucasArts' eventual financial woes were a result of dropping most of its original properties. Many of the most creative people at the company left, he said, which hurts the quality of games, hurts morale, and ultimately affects sales.
    I like seeing original games, but I also like sequels - especially when the sequels are well-done or (sometimes) even better than the original. There are a good number of long-running series that manage to stay fresh and fun.
     

     Jun 14, 2005 - 01:00 PM - by Michael
    The Lost Art of Class Balance
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft MMO Journal takes on the lost art of Balancing player classes in an MMORPG.

    Bad class balancing has been an endemic problem to MMORPGs--unfortunately especially in games where PvP is a major component. Dark Age of Camelot tanked the usability of the original classes with the emergence of Vampiirs in the ill-reputed Catacombs expansion. Users were incensed when Creature Handlers ruled the universe in Star Wars Galaxies--then angered even more when the class was beat down with the nerf bat in subsequent patches. Class disarray continued for SWG: Tera Kasis then ruled with their Vibroknucklers until the ingenius inclusion of Jedis ...who then littered the landscape in time when Jedi's were supposedly hunted to extinction (Vader has been too busy sipping Galactic Grande Lattes in the Emperor's Retreat in Naboo).
    Part of the problem is the inevitable tug and pull between PvE (player vs environment) and PvP (player vs player) gameplay. Skills that are broken in PvP may be underpowered in PvE, and vice versa; Skills that are then nerfed to "balance" PvP become nigh-useless in PvE.
     

     Jun 14, 2005 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
    Freeware Mario, grab it while it lasts
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Press The Buttons highlights a freeware Super Mario game that actually looks pretty entertaining, but which might get shut down shortly.


    Created by HermitGames without permission from Nintendo, Super Mario Pac puts players in control of classic 2D Mario. Equipped with the FLUDD water pack, Mario must collect pieces of a warp pipe, assemble them, and then exterminate the Piranha Plant living inside. FLUDD functions as both a jetpack and a weapon, and when the water supply runs dry Mario must get a refill at the local water hole. Download this one while you can; Nintendo will probably unleash the lawyers sooner than later and it's definitely a keeper, so don't wait too long.
    It looks like they stripped out a lot of Super Mario World's graphics, which is likely what'll get them in trouble if Big N comes calling.
     

     Jun 13, 2005 - 06:00 PM - by Michael
    Longhorn Graphics Exposed
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Digit-Life has news on Microsoft's changes to driver configuration for graphics in Longhorn, and it's a doozy.

    Long, too. Grab a soda for while you read this one.

    Perhaps, if all goes well and we are lucky, ATI or NVIDIA will manage to implement WGF 2.0 functions already in the next generation (NV5X and the like from ATI) and even publish some demos. But our sad experience with NV3X and Shaders 3.0 shows that it's not easy to forecast final specifications beforehand. It will be most likely only the next generation (NV6X and the like from ATI) that will be truly WGF 2.0 hardware. And considering application development, we may just as well speak of NV7X generation at the end of 2007. That's all right ? operating systems have a long life and they don't enter the market right away, WGF 2.0 will be available only for Longhorn and the next operating systems on its basis.
     

     Jun 08, 2005 - 01:30 PM - by Michael
    IGDA to Devs: Kill Crunch Mode
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft On the topic of bugs in games, the IGDA has an article detailing why the industry should eliminate crunch mode.

    Mostly, it's the cost, but the wear and tear on developers is something to consider too.

    When used long-term, Crunch Mode slows development and creates more bugs when compared with 40-hour weeks.

    More than a century of studies show that long-term useful worker output is maximized near a five-day, 40-hour workweek. Productivity drops immediately upon starting overtime and continues to drop until, at approximately eight 60-hour weeks, the total work done is the same as what would have been done in eight 40-hour weeks.

    In the short term, working over 21 hours continuously is equivalent to being legally drunk. Longer periods of continuous work drastically reduce cognitive function and increase the chance of catastrophic error. In both the short- and long-term, reducing sleep hours as little as one hour nightly can result in a severe decrease in cognitive ability, sometimes without workers perceiving the decrease.
    Anyone else notice that a higher percentage of good, low-bug games come from studios that run on a "it'll be done when it's done" philosophy?

    Of course, there's the flipside - they have to actually be working during that time. Waiting for Duke Nukem Forever to be "done" is far beyond a standing joke these days.
     

     Jun 08, 2005 - 12:04 PM - by Michael
    Thief2 Expansion Released
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Thief2X, a fan-made expansion for Looking Glass's classic Thief: The Metal Age, has been released.

    Based on the critically-acclaimed Thief series, T2X is an unofficial expansion building on the technology that made Thief 2 a classic with critics and fans alike. More than 60 artists, designers, writers and programmers from the gaming community have contributed their talents to realize a fresh new Thief experience.

    - Thirteen full-length missions take the action through city streets and rooftops, ancient tombs, hotels, museums, cathedrals and more in a gripping tale of vengeance and deception

    - Ten new weapons and tools provide the means to evade, outwit, and out-fight your opponents, as well as bringing unprecedented levels of emergent gameplay to the Thief series

    - Hundreds of new models, textures and sounds: 3000 lines of new dialogue

    - Four beautifully-rendered cutscenes and twelve new briefings in the original Thief style

    - A new main character with a fluid, immersive narrative that grips the player until the last scene
    Time for me to dig out my copy of Thief 2...
     

     Jun 07, 2005 - 03:34 PM - by Michael
    Looking Back on Win2K
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The Register takes a moment today to look back on Win2K and examine what it did right and wrong.

    I think that Windows 2000 has probably been one of Microsoft's greatest sources of bad press in the entire history of the company. But it also defined the company into what it is today. Windows 2000 was meant to be their most secure operating system ever but it turned out to be an absolute security disaster. Somehow Microsoft managed to not only recover from that disaster but also to turn security into one of their greater assets. It turns out, then, that Windows 2000 was their most successful failure so far.
    When Win2K first hit, I was still running Windows 98.

    The biggest difference I saw was stability - Windows 98 just had a tendency to die, as creeping bugs slowly brought the system to a halt. The more you installed or changed in the system, the more times your drivers were updated, the more likely something would break. Win2K, once most companies got their games working on it, was much better.
     

     Jun 07, 2005 - 10:30 AM - by Michael
    Cooltechzone on AMD's dilemma
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Cooltechzone's got commentary on the AMD dilemma, which might be charitably compared to the Red Queen's Race.

    Basically, they're stuck - in order to compete and get OEM's on board, they need to find a way to produce a lot more chips.

    The vicious cycle for AMD operates somewhat like this: AMD wants to expand ? AMD can?t expand due to limited revenue ? AMD proposes OEMs to offer PCs equipped with its chips ? OEMs decline due to lack of enough chips ? AMD is back to square one. Clearly, this is neither AMD?s nor the OEM?s fault. AMD wants to supply its chips, but OEMs need enough quantity to cover the millions of PCs they retail annually.
     

     Jun 06, 2005 - 05:18 PM - by Michael
    Music Licensing meets SWG
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Want to play music in SWG? Wired has the word - too bad, it's not allowed.

    The reason? Copyright fears, apparently.

    Players can play Wookiees or bounty hunters and even musicians -- like those in the cantina band from the original Star Wars.

    As musicians, the characters play pretend, virtual instruments like the slitherhorn, ommni box or the nalargon, but are limited to a handful of canned tunes. Lawyers at Sony Online Entertainment and LucasArts envision a legal nightmare if musicians were to re-create music copyrighted in the physical world.

    "If we allowed someone to play anything they want, they could play a song by Madonna and then we'd have licensing issues," said Julio Torres, a producer for Star Wars Galaxies at LucasArts. "We don't want to give them the option to try, because the bottom line is, if we open that gate, they will go through it," he said.
    Ouch.
     

     Jun 06, 2005 - 03:51 PM - by Michael
    It's official - Apple Going Intel!
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Good news for Intel stockholders, bad for IBM: Apple is officially transitioning to an Intel-based hardware platform.

    The move marks a major shift for Apple, which has long relied on PowerPC chips from IBM to drive its computers. To help with the switch, Apple also announced the availability of a Developer Transition Kit, consisting of an Intel-based Mac development system along with preview versions of Apple?s software, which will allow developers to prepare versions of their applications which will run on both PowerPC and Intel-based Macs.
    The days of a triple-boot Windows/Linux/Apple machine are now within reach...
     

     Jun 06, 2005 - 03:00 PM - by Michael
    The NYT on Joysticks
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft The NYT takes a look back on the origin of the humble Joystick.

    No, it's not just a computer thing.

    While some researchers have assumed an X-rated origin, Michael Quinion, a sleuth of international English and editor of the Web site worldwidewords.org, suggests that a G-rated definition is more likely: "The exhilaration felt by an early pilot's journey into the air," is how he describes it. As for the device itself, some argue that the credit should go not to Mr. Esnault-Pelterie, but to a Missouri pilot and inventor, James Henry Joyce - thus, "Joyce stick."

     

     Jun 02, 2005 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
    Dell to install "spyware"?
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Techdirt has news that Dell might be planning to make their technical support apps a little too active in the near future.

    Someone on Dave Farber's Interesting People list is complaining that Dell is about to automatically install what appears to be a piece of "spyware" on many Dell computers. The app in question is a support app, like many that are becoming increasingly popular from various computer makers. In this case, though, the app will continually report back to Dell various information about the computer's setup. Other support apps do the same thing -- but the user has at least some say in whether or not the app gets used. Apparently (and this has not been independently verified, other than the email on the mailing list), the Dell app cannot be stopped using the normal "add/remove" functionality -- despite the app itself telling people to remove it that way. Instead, since the app runs on its own separate partition, Dell's pricey tech support told the guy the only way to remove it is to format that extra partition.
    I'm betting that this is either confusion over what exactly it does, or that Dell will patch it shortly. They're relatively good about tech support, unless you get an Indian call center.
     

     Jun 01, 2005 - 05:00 PM - by Michael
    Prey Q&A on IGN
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft IGN has an interview with Human Head Studios regarding Prey, and it's a hell of a read. I'm off the fence and actively looking forward to this one... launching before Duke Nukem Forever gets done, that is.

    IGN: We're glad game designers aren't following the American TV premise that all lead characters have to be straight white males. Why did you chose a Native American, and what are the implications of his heredity in the story?

    Chris Rhinehart: We chose the Cherokee because they have a fascinating mythology and are a proud people, despite an incredible amount of hardship and strife. One of the themes of the story is about Tommy, the protagonist of Prey, rediscovering and accepting this heritage.

    Tommy is an average guy. He's working a dead-end job, he's stuck on a reservation that he hates. He has rejected the beliefs of his people. His girlfriend, Jenny, is the one thing keeping him from leaving.

    He's not the average square-jawed hero who is there to save the day. When Tommy and Jenny are abducted by the alien ship, Tommy is only concerned with finding her and getting the hell off the ship, not about trying to stop the aliens from destroying the planet.

    Hence the tag line: Earth's Savior Doesn't Want the Job.
    Okay. If they can pull this off, it'll be a classic.
     

     May 31, 2005 - 01:30 PM - by Michael
    Intel tries to sneak in DRM
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Say goodbye to end-user rights; Intel has quietly slipped DRM into the 945 chipset according to Digit Magazine.

    While Intel steered clear of mentioning the new DRM technology at its Australian launch of the new products, Intel's Australian technical manager Graham Tucker publicly confirmed Microsoft-flavored DRM technology will be a feature of Pentium D and 945.

    "[The] 945g [chipset] supports DRM, it helps implement Microsoft's DRM ... but it supports DRM looking forward," Tucker said, adding the DRM technology would not be able to be applied retrospectively to media or files that did not interoperate with the new technology.
    Just another reason to go AMD.
     

     May 31, 2005 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
    Free Game, Free Game
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft Absurdus has released their 2002 game Eye of the Kraken as a free title.

    Go ahead and give it a try if you want a new adventure title to play around with.

    The story looks interesting:

    The Glutomax will take a week before arriving at Hyade Island. Until then, Abdullah will have to discover which of the suspicious and anachronical passengers has stolen the Eye of the Kraken. This is a very important task for if the thief makes it to the Island, it will be possible for him to awake the Great Kraken and then rule the world. And that would be bad.
     

     May 25, 2005 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
    IBM makes Cell processor wide open
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    PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft EETimes has the word that IBM is planning to release the full specs of the Cell processor to the world, in hopes of stimulating open-source software development for the new chip.

    The three developers of the Cell processor are preparing to release full chip specifications and software libraries in an effort to rally the open-source community around the device that powers the Sony Playstation 3. With the outlook for the multicore chip's use beyond Sony's internal systems cloudy at best, the partners are hoping to spark its uptake in applications ranging from HDTVs to supercomputers.

    The IBM Corp. fellow who led the design team said his company currently has no plans to make Cell-based chips for its own systems or for the merchant market. Instead, IBM has set up a team in its engineering services division to help others custom-design versions of Cell that could be made in IBM's fabs.
    The specs could also make porting Linux to the Cell a lot easier; I'm guessing they're hoping to see Linux-enabled PS3's shortly after launch.
     

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