Technology news and commentary by the staff

Archive for January, 2008

Removing ATI’s Catalyst Control Center from the Windows context menu

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One of the worst things about bloated software is the addition of shortcuts and context menus that are better suited as opt-in features rather than self-imposed annoyances. So, call me a purist, but when I recently switched from a GeForce videocard to one of the newer Radeon HD boards, I hated to see a new context menu option added by ATI drivers that looks plain ugly with its red icon and too-wide-to-be-true length.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about…

Looking for a solution I stumbled upon this website that offers the quick & dirty tip, if you want to disable the new link:

Open regedit and go to:
Then then remove the key named “ACE“.

Alternatively, you can download these registry files and run them to disable or enable back the ATI option.

Written by Julio Franco

January 31st, 2008 at 5:18 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

Google Maps gone wrong (video)

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Saw this on digg and I felt like sharing, geek humor anyone?

Simply hilarious. Sound effects remind me of Lost, which by the way goes back in air this week.

Written by Julio Franco

January 28th, 2008 at 2:43 pm

Posted in blog,humor,video

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

Motivations for an upgrade & Far Cry 2 eye candy video

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While I barely touched on the subject of high system requirements yesterday on my post about Vista and gaming, it got me thinking about my plans of upgrading my desktop system, where gaming Crysis is basically my only justification for upgrading an otherwise very responsive system. And I know what you are thinking, as TechSpot’s Executive Editor I must be running on the latest hardware out there but that is hardly the case, after all we are better off keeping all test hardware under the same roof (in this case, Steve’s roof!) so whenever we need to crunch some numbers and deliver the goods to you, it’s all handled as quickly as possible…

So, my last batch of major upgrades was over a year ago, when the Athlon X2 was still hip and so I’m running a 4400+ CPU with 2GB of memory on a speedy, but unfortunately very noisy 150GB Raptor HDD. Also just recently got to switch from an oldie GeForce 7800gt to a Radeon HD 3850, in fact I got two cards, but my SLI motherboard won’t let me run them in Crossfire. So, what’s the next step? Intel’s Core 2 Quad is my favorite route at the moment but I haven’t quite yet decided that, after all if my only motivation is gaming then a videocard upgrade should take precedence, but as you know both ATI and Nvidia will be playing the Multi-GPU card early this year which is not necessarily the GeForce 8800 Ultra we all wanted.

In the meantime I’m letting my plan unfold where I play Crysis as little and as slow as possible so when my upgrade finally comes, I still get to play it a bit with some more eye candy turned on :). Not to despair though, Far Cry 2 is up and coming, not to mention the wide number of good PC game releases we got last year, oh, and did you know Crysis is set to be a trilogy? Hopefully the sales will justify it.

Finally, here’s some Far Cry 2 video that recently hit the web:

Written by Julio Franco

January 25th, 2008 at 4:04 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

Burn .ISO files in Windows XP and Vista with ease

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There are a number of programs that can help you burning ISO files in Windows, unfortunately a majority of them are time-limited trials that later on you are forced to either uninstall and look for a new alternative, or just pay for the full version. If you’ve ever been faced with this dilemma or just can’t stand anymore the bloated piece of software Nero has become, then I have a golden tip for you.

Windows enthusiast (we assume) and programmer Alex Feinman offers on his humble website a “powertoy” he calls ISO recorder, available for both Windows XP and Vista that will let you burn ISO files with ease (and for free). The application is also very lightweight, just like the original XP Powertoys we used to love.

Written by Julio Franco

January 15th, 2008 at 2:07 am

Gizmodo’s CES prank gets them banned for life?

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If there was something that caught my attention during last year’s CES was the massive amount of flat panel TVs being used all around the floor. As you can imagine this year was even more packed in that sense, and it was only a matter of time until someone did not resist and did something naughty (and we must confess, very fun) about it. Gadget blog Gizmodo used a device called TV-B Gone to shut off dozens of flat screens scattered around the floor, at times entire walls and some others during presentations. They got it on tape, too (wait, is that the correct term anymore?) which adds to the fun of the prank since the YouTube video has already been watched over 40,000 times.

But then again, if you are the CEA (CES event organizers) or one of the expositors who have spent countless human hours organizing for a flawless showing, then you have to be pissed off… This added to the fact that CES is not open to the general public, but you must attend with an accredited badge can put the blog in a bad spot for immatureness or plain childish unprofessional play. If anything, Gizmodo has celebrated more the prank than apologized for it. CES organizers in the other hand have not taken it so lightly.

Whichever side you stand on, the fact is this has happened already and Gizmodo may not be able to get access to future CES expos. You can bet TV’s infrared receptors will be shut off from now on in this kind of events…

Written by Julio Franco

January 13th, 2008 at 1:58 am

Posted in hardware,humor,video

Bill Gates life after retirement (CES video)

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Written by Julio Franco

January 7th, 2008 at 3:39 am

Drivers and Windows Vista

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Mostly when people post something about Vista it’s either bashing it or praising it, however those two camps generally agree on one thing; that drivers have matured quite well since its release.

I’m gonna create a third group now; they are both wrong!

UAC, admin accounts, memory requirements and all other stuff aside, I’ve concluded one thing: unless you have a very very top of the line computer you have no business running Vista. And this has actually nothing to do with Vista itself at all, quite the shame because that leaves me out on an otherwise easy punch in the stomach :D

You might have seen my post about performance in Crysis with the 7900GT. I just ran some tests with a 8800GTS 512MB now. What I can conclude from this is that XP will give you 63% better performance in Crysis compared to Vista if you have a 7900GT, and only 16% better if you have a 8800GTS 512MB.

In other words, it’s not just Creative that releases miserable drivers, Nvidia is quite high on the list too (though they still have a long way to catch up with Creative, IMO :D)

Written by Per Hansson

January 3rd, 2008 at 4:18 pm