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Archive for the ‘interesting links’ Category

Do you Twitter?

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I know I’m months behind the trendy web, but just recently I thought I would try one of these micro-blogging platforms, and Twitter is by far the most popular out there, so I opened an account and I have been micro-blogging since yesterday.

So far so good, although nobody is reading my stuff but me for now :). I’ve heard numerous stories of how people are connecting using Twitter just because it’s an open and flexible platform, so you can update from your cell phone, and it integrates very well with other web services like Facebook.

We will see how it goes a week or a month from now… if you Twitter, feel free to add me to your friends list.

Written by Julio Franco

February 26th, 2008 at 9:24 am

Interesting poll results on PC gaming and sales

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When time came to think about a new topic for TechSpot’s biweekly poll, I thought that doing something about the state of PC gaming and how sales are being generated was very timely considering the many recent headlines about just that…

The results have been very surprising to an extent:

tspollfeb08.gif

The poll is not over yet and we are not closing it until later on, but there are a few things that I wanted to point out based on the results already in from 3,000+ voters:

+ First big shock, 30% are not PC gamers. Wow. So, TechSpot is about more than just PC gaming, I get that ;). But still quite a large number of people that are simply stating, “no, we are not here for the games.” And to be completely clear about it, this doesn’t imply that these people are gaming on consoles either.
Even when I consider myself a PC gaming evangelist, I have to admit I’m very happy to see this trend going on here, as it describes in part a prominent future outlook for TechSpot with or without gaming built into the equation… it’s also about the technology, the hardware, and the innovation on the field.

+ The largest group of people (36%) still prefer to buy games at the store, hmm?

+ A minority of 7% buy games through digital distribution. I expected something in this range considering the many, many games not using this medium yet, however for a PC enthusiast site it could still be considered a low share. Personally, I don’t belong in this group either, although I bought the Orange Box through Steam, I still prefer to keep around my shiny box of Crysis and physical DVD just because…
This also gives some weight – even if minor – to the select few who pointed out a few weeks ago how PC game sales are not being measured correctly because those don’t include digital distribution. Agreed on that, also for non-hardcore casual games that are very much ignored despite of growing sales. The pain is still felt however when major development studios focus more on consoles than the PC.

+ 10% do online and boxed. Here’s where I stand, although for the Crysis case above I ran to the local BestBuy on the launch date.

+ 15% pirate games, most likely using BitTorrent. Thank you for your honesty! And no, we don’t collect your IP addresses or anything like that =)

Written by Julio Franco

February 21st, 2008 at 6:29 am

Untapping Wii’s hidden potential (video)

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Erik posted this on his NATW (News around the web) post yesterday, but in case you missed it, this is too cool to bypass just like that – see the video after my comments below…

In case you haven’t noticed, every week day we have in our frontpage the “News around the web” coverage with 4-5 hand picked items of interest that sometimes deviate from our usual news but are well worth a read. The post also features a “Five years ago in TechSpot” story from our archives, just to give you some perspective of the technology today. Then it’s all rounded up with reviews and articles from fellow websites.

Major thumbs up to Johnny Chung Lee for his creativity using Wii’s hardware. I wonder where did the millions spent in the PS3 and Xbox 360 go? Especially when the later is essentially a rebadged PC.

Written by Julio Franco

January 29th, 2008 at 3:17 pm

3dmarks per $

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The guys at Futuremark (developers of the popular 3dmark benchmark) emailed me late last week letting me know of the launch of a new service available through their YouGamers portal that gathers submitted benchmark results, system specs, and ultimately pricing information to build a table of the best values in videocard and processors.

There are obvious shortcomings inherent to the way data is being gathered (all user-submitted, 3dmark tested only, features are not considered), but from a quick glance I took to the stats, it’s at the very least an interesting thing to watch.

An obvious miss I thought was the “Best Bang for the Buck” graphics card where the GeForce 8600 GT is sitting on top, and we know this has never been a product of our particular choice, even when considering the price. But yet, the thing costs less than a hundred dollars nowadays, so perhaps we should revisit those budget choices. The quad-core CPU best value went to the Core 2 Quad Q6600, no surprises there, although it appears to be AMD Phenoms are not even getting listed yet.

You will be surprised when you see the Athlon 64 X2 3600+ getting the most CPU Marks per $, in fact all Athlon X2s were on top of Intel Core 2 Duos, which are generally better choices for gaming but perhaps this is not reflected as dramatically in 3dmark.

While there, I recommend you also check out statistics gathered for the most popular hardware used by 3dmark users in the past 12 months. Nvidia GeForce cards dominate 9 of the top 10 positions (#1 GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB/640MB), while the Core 2 Duo is also comfortably on top of the CPU chart.

Written by Julio Franco

January 28th, 2008 at 12:13 am

Vista and gaming, a bad combination?

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Last week we posted a new poll on the main site asking readers if they thought Vista is hurting PC gaming, and while I don’t necessarily agree that the question is a completely fair and valid one to ask just like that, looking at the partial results I have to say my experiment has gone just as I expected.

Despite of a mixed initial response from consumers and a growing acceptance for the OS today – after multiple patch releases and more mature drivers getting out of the door – Vista is still getting a lot of bad publicity in Internet circles, especially the blogosphere. It’s not surprising then that over 50% have responded “Yes” to the poll (that Vista is indeed hurting PC gaming). The rest of responses so far are divided between “No” and some maybes, from which the most voted is that high requirements hurts PC gaming more than Vista does or ever could.

And so, what is TechSpot’s official take on the matter?
I wouldn’t dare to say there’s one single answer that satisfies all the staff preferences – especially when we have Per refusing for so many years to upgrade to XP, for god’s sake! :). Personally, Vista has never been a problem for me bar the occasional disk thrashing nuisance, as long a I ran it on a moderately fast system, preferably dual-core setup with 2GB of memory.

Today, the OS is noticeably more polished and things can only get better with SP1, nevertheless the hardware rule still applies if you want no slowdowns and you are used to be a full throttle multi-tasker in XP. Gaming is a completely different world just because driver implementations can make it or break it, but if our recent tests are enough to make a case, (if you have a fast system) and can live with a marginal drop in fps, then you are ready for it, forget about dual booting and learn to live with the better OS.

Written by Julio Franco

January 24th, 2008 at 1:30 am

Adobe bloated software, and how to disable automatic updates

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Personally, I hate the trend of software adding bloat in subsequent versions as much as I hate people saying an application is bloated just because it’s no longer a simple one-dimensional kind of program. That said, Adobe current crop of products have to be some of the worst in this sense.

At this point I’m sure nobody doubts the deserved dominance of Photoshop in the world of digital photo editing, just like Microsoft Word or Excel are your overall best bets for documents and spreadsheets despite of its cost. But when the very creators of the PDF format ship its latest reader which takes twice the amount of time for opening files than third-party software like Foxit Reader (on a high-end PC, for slower machines it can be as much as a 10x difference!) you know something is very wrong then.

But that is just one of the many examples I can give you. The Adobe installer is just damn horrible. For a moment I thought this would be limited to the Windows version of the CS3 Suite, but when I downloaded trial versions of Fireworks and Dreamweaver for the Mac, it was quite the unwelcomed surprise to see that the bloated and painfully slow installer is also used under OS X. I have to admit that adding a bunch of ‘required’ middleware like the “Extension Manager” is not something I enjoy, but I find much worse the inclusion of the stealth Adobe Updater. You may be surprised the first time this updater pops up because it doesn’t leave any traces in the Windows registry and is not listed as a startup program. So, unless you are running a full fledged firewall (which you should but there aren’t many good ones for Vista yet), the program could run and download updates without your consent. In fact it’s quite likely you won’t notice this running unless it’s taking away your bandwidth, or CPU time (bloat, remember?) or an interruption in your Internet connection happens, which will make it complain and thus become evident it was running behind your back.

Furthermore, Adobe doesn’t give you an easy way to turn this feature off beforehand, but rather you can configure it while it’s running – there’s no access through the Adobe programs’ options menus – or you will have to manually edit a configuration file (AdobeUpdaterPreferences.dat) as detailed here. Adobe, you still make really good software, but I may have to look elsewhere in the future if you make this an on-going trend.

Written by Julio Franco

December 20th, 2007 at 1:00 am

Optimus Maximus keyboard in action (video)

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For over two years we have reported several times on this keyboard that is supposedly being actively developed by a group of russian designers and developers. So many times in fact I have pretty much told TechSpot news editors to stop posting news on this topic until we can see some actual progress…

For some, the project had already joined the leagues of Duke Nukem Forever (a.k.a. “vaporware”) but now there is a new video showing the keyboard in action, and without a doubt it looks pretty cool.

I wouldn’t hold my breath though with an expected retail price of $1,500+, you could just as well get a well equipped PC for that amount. Naturally, the Optimus Maximus is unique in that it uses tiny 48×48 OLED screens in every key which can then be customized to your desire even with small animations.

The first batch of 200 keyboards is expected to ship at the beginning of next month. Most definitely a gadget that will make it to every enthusiast’s dream PC list.

Written by Julio Franco

November 13th, 2007 at 4:09 am

Xbox 360 HD DVD drive bundled with Heroes Season 1 (for free)

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Ever since we started discussing the differences between Blu-ray and HD DVD, I always thought and assumed that when time came, I would jump to the Blue team bandwagon. After all, Sony’s format offers a larger technological leap and seems to be more data (PC) friendly…

Almost two years later, neither format dominates the market and it would appear that for the immediate future they will have to co-exist. Personally I had not been paying much attention to the whole format wars until recently that I bought a new HDTV and prices for the HD formats have been lowered to more reasonable ranges.

Making a long story short, I got myself a Xbox 360 a few months back making the upgrade to an HD DVD easier and less costly, so that’s the route I recently took. As many of you may be aware, there is a mail-in promotion offered by both Blu-ray and HD DVD manufacturers where you can get 5 free movies with the purchase of a player (this includes the relatively cheap Xbox add-on HD DVD – which also works with PCs via USB).

Well, only three weeks after I bought myself the Xbox HD DVD add-on, a new promotion is out for a limited time. Amazon and other retailers like BestBuy and Buy.com seem to be carrying it, the drive is being bundled with a free set of Heroes Season 1 HD DVDs. That’s a really good promotion if you like the TV show and were planning to buy it anyway, ahh.. too bad I missed it!

Written by Julio Franco

October 31st, 2007 at 11:21 pm

TV on the web & the GigaOm show

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One of the reasons that drove me to relaunch the TS blog was that I wanted to share with our site community a variety of things, many of them even PC/tech related, that departed from the core coverage offered on the frontpage and in our usual reviews and articles.

Take for example the current revolution of video and TV shows on the web. Sure, we do report on big things like YouTube and its billionaire Google acquisition. Joost is another promising project that for now is getting limited mainstream attention. There’s a few traditional media giants like BBC and other networks in the US that are delivering video on demand. But just like with websites in the early days of the WWW, the door has also opened for a whole new category of niche focused shows coming from independent sources and not standard media companies.

For many the ball got rolling distributing amateur video on YouTube, but there is also a number of web startups dedicated to offer unique video content. One such company is Revision3, better known for hosting the video blog of Digg.com called Diggnation. That show in particular doesn’t do much for me but there are a couple others that certainly deserve a mention.

PixelPerfect is a very cool show hosted by digital artist Bert Monroy, certainly one to watch if you are into Photoshop or want to learn some basic design tools and skills. Another great show is the GigaOM show, hosted by Om Malik, a seasoned writer for print publications turned blogger. The guy has some enviable writing skills, so his website is pretty decent if you are into web start-ups. The show tries to follow that same line of content but the interviews is what makes it great.

My favorite recent show is the one where they interview Dan’l Lewin, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for Strategic and Emerging Business Development. Mr. Lewin defended Vista really well giving an insider perspective of what the OS means to the software giant. He also mentioned how despite of the poor blogosphere reception, Vista sales were doing well (that was weeks before recent news when Microsoft stock exploded after positive financial results due to Vista in part).

At the end of each show, Om and co-host Joyce Kim read some of the feedback received by viewers. In both of the last two shows they have mentioned my own critique for Om’s socks, which has obviously put me to laugh (both times). However, after writing this blog post I will try to clarify with Om that by no means I was trying to be offensive but it was pure constructive criticism (not on his socks choice but how he was wearing them). I saw this as a fault from the production team that did not pay enough attention to the little details that could detract from the professionalism you expect on a visual medium. I know he took it very lightly but still, I wish the best of luck to him and his team, maybe there will be chance to meet at some conference in the future.

Written by Julio Franco

October 28th, 2007 at 9:51 pm

Maximum PC is back online plus a bit of TechSpot’s history

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Those of you living in the U.S. are probably familiar with Maximum PC magazine, which in my opinion is one of the few excellent print publications catering to PC enthusiasts. For a long time they had relegated their online presence which was poor decision making from its parent publishing company. The fact is, MaximumPC.com was very much alive until the dot com bust came and advertising dollars went dry. It took them until now to come back and while they are late to the online scene, they have still reopened doors offering full access to the magazine content. A lot of the articles are buried on PDF format so it’s not very easy to navigate but it’s still worth taking them a look as they have tons of information to offer.

Going to their new site also reminded me of the old days of TechSpot. New visitors may not know this but TechSpot was originally called 3D Spotlight (we mostly dealt with 3d graphics companies that at the time included 3dfx, S3, Nvidia, Rendition, Matrox, ATI, and a few others).

For a short period of time (before Maximum PC went down), 3D Spotlight was part of the exclusive “Maximum PC Network”, which gathered a select few quality technology sites; we got some extra exposure on their site and they hooked us up with A+ technology advertisers which at the time was hard to come by.

Thanks to archive.org I was able to recover an old Maximum PC frontpage where 3D Spotlight is listed as a network member and one of our articles is featured on that frontpage. Also here’s the network’s member list, and why not, an archived frontpage of 3D Spotlight that dates back to August 2000. How about this for a headline: “Nvidia announces the GeForce 2 Ultra” yay! Also 3D Spotlight’s forums are expanded to 4 sections!

Perhaps even more gratifying than tripping down the memory lane is that 3D Spotlight is still alive today in the form of TechSpot. Looking at the list of sites that used to be part of the Maximum PC network, a majority of them are gone with few exceptions like Ars Technica, Neoseeker, Storage Review and The Tech Zone.

Written by Julio Franco

October 7th, 2007 at 5:53 am

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