Technology news and commentary by the staff

Archive for November, 2007

A tale of a not so early adopter…

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As the Executive Editor of TechSpot it would only seem logical to assume I have to be an early adopter for anything computer or technology related, but that is not the case necessarily. While I do tend to spend thousands of dollars in new stuff throughout the year, I have to admit I keep running a somewhat old Athlon X2 system fitted with 2GB RAM and some other basics that have not received any upgrade treatment in the past 12 months. I may end up upgrading in the coming weeks/months but you get the point… instead of running a top of the line Core 2 Quad and SLI Ultras, I have kept running a moderate system that gets the job done.

Likewise, I was very reluctant to jump into the Blackberry bandwagon, or for that matter any other mobile device that kept me online and in touch with work at all times. In this case it wasn’t me not wanting to upgrade to the latest technologies but I was already finding myself checking my email dozens of times per day and so I thought getting hooked permanently would only make things worse. There were other reasons like the bulkiness of devices available at the time, the lagging speed of connections available, and the lack of a decent web browser.

And so it was only a few months ago that I got myself a Blackberry Pearl, despite of the lack of a full QWERTY keyboard, it was a nice entry into the world of true smartphones. The Blackberry puts a lot of emphasis on email functionality with some basic web browsing available, and I have to admit it works pretty well for keeping myself up to date while away from the office. As it happens the Pearl has actually provided more peace of mind that I could have ever anticipated. Now I can tell if there is something important going on, or perhaps not as many things I need to attend to immediately. If this holiday season you are having second thoughts like I did before, try to follow my advise, I just wish I had decided on making the jump much much sooner.

Written by Julio Franco

November 29th, 2007 at 1:33 am

Posted in blog,techspot is (was) down

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Update: The site is back up.
Everybody’s favorite computer store seems to be having trouble with its web servers this morning, so if you have kept hitting that reload button for the past hour or so, don’t worry it’s not your net connection.

The more time that passes the less often we see this kind of things happening to large sites, especially e-commerce that depend on its 24/7 availability. That said, when we still see Amazon’s server farms taken to a crawl when an unbelievable deal is available, we have to wonder if perhaps Newegg was carrying a bit of stock on the GeForce 8800 GT which is what caused the glitch… yea, probably not.

Written by Julio Franco

November 27th, 2007 at 12:42 pm

Posted in blog,the web

Halo 3 is a modern MDK

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While spending some vacations away from home for Thanksgiving I had the chance to play a few Xbox 360 games that my relatives owned and I personally hadn’t give them a chance for trying or buying myself. As always it was pretty fun playing Guitar Hero in a large group, and once again, Fifa was a disappointment when compared to the more realistic Pro Evolution Soccer series.

But there it was, the highly hyped and regarded Halo 3. To be honest, I had lost all faith in the Halo series when I played Halo 1 on the PC… not a bad game, but nothing compared to whatever was around at that time for other shooters. But now the series has become a major driver for Xbox console sales, and while many console owners don’t know better (when it comes to FPS), I was still pretty interested in seeing what the latest Halo game brought to the table.

Of course, this is not a review of Halo 3 but merely some impressions from a PC/console gamer that until today had completely ignored the evolution of the series.

Halo is a very linear shooter, so whatever you can like from Crytek’s Crysis freedom is not there. But you still have vast areas to explore and a very appealing mission-oriented gameplay that looks good on a large HDTV and is very well complemented with a strong musical score.

In general it seemed like a solid game, especially for a console shooter, but the buttload of reviews out there have told you that already. Now from the perspective of this long-time PC gamer and somewhat of a console gamer, Halo 3’s style of gameplay just kept me reminding me of MDK, a true gem of third-person shooter developed by Shiny Entertainment that was released back in 1997 for the PC, Mac, and later on the PlayStation.

Whatever “MDK” meant is still wide open for discussion, but if you have been around long enough and had the luck of playing the original PC version of MDK then you will know what I’m talking about. It was one of those games bleeding originality and one that you wanted to play from beginning to end non-stop. The wikipedia entry of MDK also reminded me of other details about the game like its software-based rendering engine that was developed with the Pentium processor in mind (I believe it relied heavily on MMX extensions, go figure!) and obviously did not require any type of GPU.

At the end of the day, I don’t see myself buying Halo 3 or playing it much at all. Especially when I still have work to do upgrading my PC for playing Crysis on all its visual glory (call it a PC geek guilty pleasure), but for those console lovers, Halo fanboys alike, you can put yourself to rest because the mere comparison of Halo to an old time gem like MDK can only be considered a huge compliment.

Written by Julio Franco

November 23rd, 2007 at 10:44 am

Posted in blog,gaming

GeForce 8800 GT deal…

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Update: There is a newer deal on 8800GT that I posted here.

Wait a second… getting the almighty 8800GT for the actual $250 MSRP? And from BestBuy? When a majority of desperate gamers are overpaying as much as $70 for getting one of these cards, this almost sounds too good to be true. But according to the BestBuy website you can get one (only ONE, no soup SLI for you!) for $249.99 after an instant $30 rebate, plus free shipping.

The site goes as far as saying the card can ship within a day. This is not one to pass by, better be quick if you don’t want to be left out. (Thanks Mirob in the forums for the note).

Written by Julio Franco

November 19th, 2007 at 12:18 pm

Posted in blog,deals,hardware

Crysis is AMAZING

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Every true PC gamer had this week marked on their calendars, Crysis the spiritual successor to Far Cry is out and I can tell you this is one game that will live up to the hype. By now you have probably read some of the reviews, even played the demo yourselves, and seen our videocard test where we show you a somewhat harsh reality that Crysis, being the most graphically advanced game out there, takes a toll on performance and you will need a very fast system to enjoy it to the max. Those with slower systems can still run it though as the engine scales relatively well.

But Crysis is no tech demo, the guys at Crytek have once again built a great enjoyable game upon a good engine and game software platform. I was very pissed off a few years ago when these guys did not get all the recognition they deserved for Far Cry (the original PC game) but it’s likely that won’t happen again.

I also wanted to mention that the full game happens to run a bit faster than the demo. I can’t quantify on the exact difference but from what I’ve seen on my own PC running the same first level, it seems overall smoother with a few things fixed here and there gameplay-wise, too. Looks like the developers were hard at work in the last few weeks between the demo and the full game release with last minute optimizations. On a GeForce 8800 GTS 320mb card I had to turn to some low quality settings to get really smooth gameplay on the demo, but on the full game I’m running comfortably with all at medium at 1680×1050, which is not too bad.

Finally, to get you on a positive Crysis mood here’s a YouTube video depicting some graphics capabilities using the Sandbox editor on DirectX9 with “very high” settings:

Written by Julio Franco

November 18th, 2007 at 3:02 am

ATI’s new Radeon HD 3870 is no 8800 GT killer…

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Our friends at Legion Hardware were the first website in the whole net to post official benchmark numbers for AMD/ATI’s latest videocard the ATI Radeon HD 3870. It definitely paid off living in Australia for our good friends as they were almost 18 hours early to the game…

The bad news are however that the Radeon HD 3870 is no GeForce 8800 GT killer, which is what many of us were expecting. Instead ATI will keep playing the pricing game, where its HD 3850 model will be the fastest card available on its price range (~$180), while the HD 3870 is expected to undercut the GeForce 8800 GT by some 25% at $225, offering on average the same decrease in performance.

Radeon HD 3870 benchmark

With apparently no further plans from either camp until early 2008, the mid-range cards will likely be selling like hot cakes during the holidays. And while this kind of performance has never been so affordable, neither Nvidia or ATI has brought us a true next-generation product that will let us play Crysis comfortably with any setting we throw at it, heck I wouldn’t have mind paying $500+ for such a card!

But again, whether you like the 8800 GT better or prefer to go ATI’s way, both products fall within a price range that we wouldn’t have imagined just months ago. Competition is king in this industry, now let’s just push those cards in retail, we don’t want to hear “out of stock” for the rest of the year.

Written by Julio Franco

November 15th, 2007 at 6:03 am

Posted in gaming,hardware

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

Facebook is king in the reign of the Web 2.0 ridicule

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Somewhere in between the launch of the Centrino platform and the present day I seem to have lost track on what the web means to a large share of online users, or have I? I mean, I’m cool with the “Web 2.0″ revolution, you know, user-driven content, blogging (how could I not?), platform independence, YouTube, social networking, and the list goes on…

But when I see at least a dozen sites reporting only on web startups getting serious funding like there is no tomorrow, I have to ask myself the question, did I miss something or is it 1999 all over again?

But wait, I’m not screaming it’s the Internet boom and bubble as we knew it in the past, unlike then today there are thousands of businesses relying on the web, actually doing something useful and generating millions in revenues. However I have to remain skeptical about the myriad of web businesses coming out of nowhere with big plans to take over the world… or at least become the “next Google” (phrase often used by traditional media that have no clue or online fanboys to describe a startup with the slight bit of promise, though the later prefer to say Google is now too big and too old, so the next Facebook would be more appropiate).

Ah, and there is Facebook… To be completely fair with them, I do believe they have a real stance in the web, not to mention they brought some elegance (before the open API) to a market otherwise dominated by the horrible Myspace. It’s not their fault its valuation has been catapulted to the stratosphere while today they are only trying to hang in there. You may argue how could I ever say this when Microsoft just agreed to invest $240 million for a 1.6% stake in the company, but it’s simple. A company that turns no profit and has such a limited scope in the real world cannot be valued at $15 billion. Only deep pocketed Microsoft could have invested so blindly with the only justification of getting some action where they are lacking against main web competitor Google. The latest news from Facebook? Ridiculous, of course, practically wanting to sell out your profile information and collecting further data for advertising purposes (that will then be shared with other parties).

So far the announcement is too recent to cause major reactions but what is at stake is Facebook’s own popularity when you consider social networking is very trendy and it could easily be handed off to one of its competitors if users are pissed off enough. The underlying reason to do this is that somehow, at some point, they will need to monetize its audience…

But back to the bubble talk. It’s unfortunate but investors seem to be driving this new wave of web services where not all but a large portion of startups seem to be aiming at a big acquisition (of themselves) rather than driving towards uniqueness and value.

So I leave it to you to decide, perhaps I’m just being short-sighted, only time will tell.

Written by Julio Franco

November 10th, 2007 at 12:05 pm

Posted in blog,the web

Street Fighter, the later years…

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I didn’t know if adding some humor would be a good fit for the blog, but let’s say because I’m still trying to set the tone here (and keep those updates coming), let me experiment with a video from that I just found to be hilarious. I’m sure many ten-somethings, and pretty much all twenty, thirty and forty-somethings will be familiar with Street Fighter, or so I hope…

This is only the first part, look here for the next episodes

Written by Julio Franco

November 9th, 2007 at 7:38 am

Posted in blog,gaming,humor,video

Run Crysis in Windows 2000

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Per has done it again! As far as I’m aware he was the first and only source for bringing Bioshock to Windows 2000. Crysis is yet another (great) new generation shooter that officially only supports XP and Vista, but he has managed to bypass that limitation and get the demo fully working on his trusty Windows 2000 rig…

To play Crysis on Windows 2000 you need three files, powrprof.dll, dbghelp.dll and xinput1_3.dll

You can get powrprof.dll from a Windows XP or 2003 install, the version I used which worked was 6.0.3790.3959 from a 2003 SP2 server install. dbghelp.dll is used by many games, the version I took was from my Steam directory, version

You can find the xinput1_3.dll in the latest DirectX monthly redist (or the Bioshock DVD if you followed that guide too). In the extracted archive open the file and extract the xinput1_3.dll file.

Please read the complete instructions here. You may also be able to get some support from our community if you come across any problems. In addition, here are some benchmarks he ran on Win2k, XP and Vista 64-bit. You can also get a full scoop on Crysis’ videocard performance and scalability from our article posted last week.

Written by Julio Franco

November 6th, 2007 at 5:05 am

Posted in gaming,tips & tricks